After running two 50 milers and five 50ks, I felt ready to step up to the 100k distance. The Kettle Moraine Endurance Runs is a highly regarded Wisconsin ultra, so I figured it would be a good choice for my first 100k. While the timing isn’t great (the last week of school, and the end of the golf season), I was excited about the course. It’s run mostly on the Ice Age Trail, and has great mixture of technical single track, open meadows, and rolling hills. The race starts at the Nordic Trailhead which is the same as the T Bunk Challenge I ran in November.
I once again used the Relentless Forward Progress training plan that I’ve used successfully for most of my earlier races. Since the bulk of my training would be during the golf season I chose the lower weekly mileage version of the training plan, but focused on getting higher quality runs including more hill repeats. During the winter and early spring I did most of my hill training on the Heritage hills. Once Baird Creek was in good condition, I did most of my long runs there.
Overall, my training went well. I did have a few minor issues in March with my left calf which caused me to miss some runs (and freak out that I wouldn’t be able to race), but after that I hit most of my weekly mileage goals. Sarah and I ran the Chippewa 50k in late April which I used as a long training run to test things out.
Gear is ready to go
The forecast for the weekend was for heat, humidity, and thunderstorms. The weather was the biggest cause of pre-race stress. I felt good with my training, but wasn’t sure how the weather would affect me on race day. After much deliberation, and driving Sarah crazy talking about it, I decided to wear a hydration pack (Ultimate Direction TO 2.0) instead of handhelds so I could carry more hydration and nutrition. While it would be warmer and increase the likelihood of chafing, the extra room for calories and electrolytes won out. In retrospect, it was the right decision.
I went with my well used and comfortable Brooks Infiniti II shorts, a C9 tank top, Injinni socks, and Altra Superior 3.0. With an out and back course we have access to our drop bags three times (miles 15.7, 31.6 & 47.4). In addition to standard drop box items (s-caps, gels, Clif bars, body glide, and Tailwind), I packed an extra pair of socks, shorts and a shirt in each drop bag so I could change out of wet clothing.
After a decent night of sleep, we arrived at the trail head around 5:15am. Breakfast was a Clif bar and bad hotel coffee. The trailhead was busy since the 100m and 100k race both start at 6:00am. There is also an accompanying 50k, and 38m night fun run, but those start later in the day. I love the energy that’s in the air before the start of the race. We had great running conditions to start the race, low 60’s and overcast.
Owen is not excited about the early race start.
Nordic – Bluff: Miles 0-7.6
This section is mostly wide cross country ski trails and has many roller coaster hills. The wide trail allows people to settle into a comfortable pace and not worry about the conga line that happens with single track. This section is mostly the same as I ran in the T Bunk. There’s one unmanned aid station a little less than 5 miles in, but I didn’t need anything so I didn’t stop. With the impending heat and humidity, my goal was to eat and drink early and often. I started with Tailwind in both bottles so I could drink some calories early. In the past, I haven’t done a good job of eating early enough so I wanted to make sure I did a better job. At Bluff, I ate a PB&J, drank some ginger ale, and refilled my bottles.
Bluff to Emma Carlin: Miles 7.6-15.7
This section was one of my favorites. It was more technical with a lot of rocks and roots. The temps were still comfortable, so it was tempting to run a little faster before the weather worsened. During this section the clouds were darkening and you could tell rain and thunderstorms were on the way. There was another unmanned aid station in between Bluff and Emma Carlin, but I had enough water so I just breezed through.
Emma Carlin was the first time we had access to our drop bags. I restocked with gels and tailwind, grabbed some food at the aid station and quickly headed back out. I told Sarah to meet me at Emma Carlin, but I arrived ahead of pace so I missed her. This was partly due to running faster than planned, but it was also not 15.7 miles from the start as stated. It was just over 14 miles.
Rocky horse trails
Emma Carlin – Hwy 67: Miles 15.7-24.8
Right as I left Emma, it started to rain. At first it was just a nice refreshing light rain which felt good. I was looking forward to some rain since I knew the rain would keep the heat away, but what I didn’t know was that it would rain for the next two and a half hours. There is also a railroad crossing in this section. As I approached it I could here a train coming. I just kept thinking “you have to beat this train!” I didn’t’ want to get stuck in the rain waiting for a train to pass. Luckily I just made it before the train.
After the Antique Lane unmanned aid station, we entered the meadow section. The rain started to increase and was coming down pretty hard now. There was also more lightening than I was comfortable with. Most of it was cloud to cloud, but once in awhile one would strike down, but it never got really close to us. Since the rain had been coming down for awhile now the course started to get very muddy.
I ran this entire section with a few other runners. I tucked in behind and just let them set the pace, which was nice to turn off the brain and just follow someone. Other than the standard “where are you from” conversation we didn’t talk much.
Hwy 67 – Hwy ZZ: Miles 24.8-26.6
More rain and more mud pretty much sums up this section. At the aid station I started to switched to Heed instead of water since I knew the heat was coming, and I wanted to stay on top of my electrolytes. I prefer Tailwind, but it was just easier to use what they had at the aid stations instead of bringing it with me. I also continued to eat a gel between aid stations and then real food at the aid stations.
This wasn’t even close to the muddiest section
Hwy ZZ – Scuppernong: Miles 26.6-31.6
The rain started to diminish, but the hours of rain made this section really muddy so it was slow going up and down the hills. We also started seeing some of the runners on their way back from the turnaround. I was looking forward to my drop bag at Scuppernong so I could clean my feet and change socks. I texted Sarah at the Hwy ZZ aid station to give her an update. She and the kids were planning on meeting me at Scuppernong. They had missed me at the other aid stations. Heavy rain, two kids (one in a wheelchair) made it difficult for them to see me more often.
I got to the turnaround in just under 6 hours and in 30th place. I wasn’t overly concerned with what place I was in. I just wanted to make it to the turnaround feeling good, but it’s still a race after all and the competitor in my wanted to do well. I was feeling great, except for my feet. I have toe issues at times, and the hours of wet muddy stocks weren’t helping. My energy level was good, and my legs felt strong. At the aid station, I refilled my bottles with Heed, restocked my gel supply, and changed socks. The new dry socks felt so great!
After talking to Sarah and the kids for a bit (Elsie was more focused on a pair of dogs), it was time for the return trip back to Nordic.
Elsie made friends with a couple dogs at Scuppernong
Scuppernong – Hwy ZZ: Miles 31.6-36.5
It was now just past noon, the rain stopped, the sun was coming out, and it started to warm up. My focus here was to be vigilant about my hydration, electrolytes, and nutrition. I started taking s-caps every hour, continued to eat gels between aid stations, and eat real food at the aid stations. I stuck with PB&J, potatoes dipped in salt, and pickles because I know those work for me.
The course was now extremely muddy with many areas of unavoidable standing water and mud. The kind of mud where you are afraid you’ll lose a shoe. This section was slow going due to all of the mud and people coming towards the turnaround.
Hwy ZZ – Hwy 67: Miles 36.5-38.4
While this is a short section, it was the last one before the open meadows. Nothing too special here except more mud and it was starting to get hot!
Hwy 67 – Antique Lane: Miles 38.4-44.3
The dreaded open meadows in the middle of the day with the sun bearing down on us and high humidity. I did well to stay on top of hydration and nutrition all morning knowing this was coming. This section was about stubborn determination. Block out all the negativity and just run. I was happy that I was able to run this section well, and passed many runners who were struggling in the heat and humidity. While hot and humid, it’s flat and was less muddy than other sections so it was very runnable. At the unmanned aid stations I started to use a sponge to cool off my head and the back of my neck. I also started to fill my hat with ice and put ice down my back between my pack and shirt. This was a life saver.
Open meadows in the heat and humidity
Antique Lane – Emma Carlin: Miles 44.3-47.4
We finally got back to some shade in this short section. I was counting down the miles to Emma Carlin since it’s our last chance to access our drop bag. The plan was to meet Sarah and the kids here, and I was looking forward to seeing them again. I cleaned my feet and changed my socks while Sarah restocked my supplies. I eat some food, iced up, and headed back out. Mark and Tommy were at the aid station and helped me with some much needed ice. Thanks!! I tried not to take too long at the aid stations. I don’t like to stop if I’m feeling good because I’m afraid if I stop my body may not want to start up again.
Assessing the sad state of my feet while changing socks.
Emma Carlin – Bluff: Miles 47.4 – 55.6
This was my worst section of the day. The heat and humidity started to sap my energy supplies. My legs still felt strong, but I just couldn’t push myself to run fast, and my pace started to slow. This section is also one of the more technical and rough parts of the course. I ran this section alone. I was hoping to have some other runners around to push me, but I only saw a few runners who were struggling and mostly walking. At the unmanned aid station, I continued to sponge down and load up with ice.
Bluff – Nordic/Finish: Miles 55.6-63.1
At Bluff I met Tommy again, and he gave me more ice to fill my hat. I followed the same aid station routine, ate some food, drank coke, and filled my bottles with Heed. Bluff was a mental check point where I told myself to suck it up and push to the finish. After a rough patch entering Bluff, I needed to flip the switch and reset. After I left Buff, I was lucky to run a little while with two 100m runners who were running well, and I tried to feed off of their energy.
Waiting at the finish line.
Finally back to the Nordic Loop. I hiked all of the hills, but I was able to run the rest of this section strong. After Bluff I started to do the mental math to figure out if I had a chance to finish under my goal of 13 hours. That was my pre-race goal if everything went well. I figured it would be tough to make it with the rain, mud, heat and humidity. I tried not to think about my time/pace all day, but now that I was close it was too tempting. Once I realized that as long as I could run most of this section I was going to beat my goal, it gave me another energy boost which helped me finish strong.
62+ miles in, and almost to the finish line. Photo by Focal Flame Photography
Finished! 12:45:05 – 15th place
My legs felt great all day, and my hydration and nutrition were spot on. The only issues were my toes, and some fatigue between Emma and Bluff. As with most races, I worried if I was trained enough, did I do enough hill repeats, and did I put in enough mileage. Then we had to deal with rain (wet=chaffing), mud (wet+mud=blisters), heat and humidity.
I’m so happy with how the race played out. I really enjoyed the course, and the extra challenges that the weather provided. I can’t thank Sarah and the kids enough for the sacrifices they make to allow me to train and race.
Kettle Moraine is a well organized race with great race directors. There are many well stocked aid stations with amazing volunteers. I highly recommend running this race. They had very detailed maps with aid station locations. They even provided driving directions to each aid station, and GPS coordinates to make it easier for family and crew.
It’s been a few days after the race, and my recovery is going well. My toes were really beat up and sore for a few days. There’s a good chance I’ll lose both big toenails, but that’s the price to pay. I did a lot of walking the week after the race because I had a player qualify for the state golf meet. Sunday was rough, but my legs and feet felt better each day. I was able to go for a short run on Thursday, but won’t get back to training for another week or so. Planning to do some cycling and a few short runs while I let my body recover.