Friday, September 12, 2014

There have already been a ton of really good blogs/recaps posted about the 2014 100 mile race.  It has been fun to read them; each experience unique and inspiring.  I am going to try and spare you the repetition and take a different angle.  Perhaps my perspective will aid someone in the future who is considering entering this thing!

First, consistent with the other recaps of the experience in 2014:

The race was very well run.  Heart and soul, elbow-grease, and a commitment to safety and knowledge-sharing by all personnel involved make this event a success.  This effort is spearheaded by John Storkamp and his wife.  Thank you, and each of the volunteers that contributed in many ways.  In no way should my brevity on this matter be seen in any other way than it has been stated and repeated several times already  by others...this is a top-notch event put on by passionate volunteers and organizers.

The 2014 weather:
The weather was ideal in 2014.  The weather was perfect.  Which was both good and bad.  The good, I wouldn't overheat as several did last year.  The bad/reason why "perfect weather" sucked; it removed an excuse.  I was looking for excuses very early in this thing.  The more things that were "perfect" decreased the number of things I could eventually blame.  So the weather was removed from my mental list about a week out as the forecasts indicated "dry, cool, and perfect for finishing a 103.3 mile race." 

The course:
The course is difficult.  Some runnable sections, but those sections were often interrupted with deep, muddy areas, or dangerous rocks, fallen trees, bees nests, or aid stations. 

The course stretched from Gooseberry Falls and followed the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) for 103.3 miles to Lutsen Ski Resort.  From the little I recall, the most challenging sections were some of the descents where you had to make a split-second choice as to which slippery rock you were going to aim for, or the ascents which involved some major crotch-stretchers. 

Hardest part about the course:  It is 103.3 miles long and isn't flat; it takes a long time.  And Oberg ascent was tough.  Other than that, there is no section that you couldn't power-hike.  I would estimate I ran 60% of the course.  The other sections I power-hiked (I believe I am a fast hiker) or wept in fetal position.

My start:
I started near the front, wanting to avoid an early log jams that formed.  I had a headache which I attributed to the 5 hours of sleep and little amount of coffee I had drank.  So there I was, 2 bodies deep from the start.  My plan was to stick with Michael Borst for the first part of the race.  Turned out, as soon as the race started, he had a different strategy.  His strategy involved running a lot faster than me.  He managed to stick with his strategy for the entire race. 
I was forced to adjust strategies 3 seconds in.  My plan B was activated.  It was going to run my "own race" and walk the hills.  As I approached the first hill, that strategy also went out the window.  Even as I know better, the 4-year-old inside me said "go for it, what do you have to didn't come here to finish 2nd!".  The energy of those around me took over and I found myself shuffling up the first (tame) few hills.  Victory was mine.

Tip #1:  If your race is more than 5 miles, you don't need to worry about log-jams and getting out front early. 

My Plan C was quickly initiated:  This strategy was to take it easy for the first half and rely on natural things; powerbars, a slower pace, Heed (what a cruel joke that stuff is), etc.  My second half would be to rely on my music and GU packets.  Natural for the first half, chemicals and music for the 2nd.  Precisely how I intend to live my life.

At the 1st aid station, still caught up in the excitement, I stopped with others for no more than 1 minute.  Grabbed a PBJ sandwhich and drank a cup of water, filled my 2 10oz. bottles, and rejoined the group that I entered the aid station alongside.  My head still hurt. 

Tip #2:  Don't start a race dehydrated.

I had a splitting headache for the first 3 hours.  Couldn't figure out what it was...but attributed it to lack of caffeine (AM coffee). 

I had this pre-race idea that "lean and mean" was a good approach.  I wore loose clothing, went with my lightest shoes, and only carried 2 small handhelds (Nathan 10oz. quickshots).  I had failed in losing the 10lbs. I was envisioning in the months prior, so this was my "throw all unnecessary weight overboard" solution.  Terrible idea.

There was not a single aid station that I approached where I had any remaining water.  In most cases, I was dry for the 2nd half of each segment.  "Lean and mean".  My first pee was dark yellow, only about 6 miles in.  I figured it was due to something I ate before the start (powerbars, beef jerkey, bagel). 

At the Co.Rd. 6 (around 43 miles) I was in good spirits approaching the aid station.  Was running behind Cory Mahlke and doing a pretty good job of annoying him with bad jokes.  I also vividly describing my desire to grab a 6-pack of light beer at the next stop and throw a few back before night starts.  As I got into the aid station, I saw my crew.  My wife handed me a Gatorade, which I quickly put back (still thinking about the beer).  I almost finished it, but then was hit with nausea I had never experienced.  I sat down.  Almost puked.  Wanted to puke.  Aid station sharks (to their credit) started swirling, "you OK?"  I didn't respond.  Instead I sat in a chair and put a shirt over my head?  The sun was bothering me.  Voices all around me.  What the hell?  I've done this distance 20 times and never felt like this...was this course that much more challenging?  Didn't seem like it...but something was off.

I had read the many blogs/recaps that stated, "you just got to push through it...get back out there and get moving."  So that is what I did, after about 15 minutes.  I threw on my jacket, grabben my headlamp, and departed....slowly. 

I hobbled down the path, having been passed by about 8 people during the last station.  Suddenly, and surprisingly, I had the urge to urinate. 

My second pee, nearly 10 hours after I started, was the color of root beer.  I was mortified; either I was going to be really rich ("this guy pees rootbeer!") or really dead, really soon.  The worry actually quickly turned to hope...if I could get some water down and keep it down, along with some food, I would be able to get back to 100%.  This became my objective.  I shed my jacket, and power hiked the balance of the segment so as not to sweat.  I pounded my 20oz. of water right away, thinking that my body was deprived and the well needed something if I had any hope of feeling OK until I could get to Finland (50 mile Aid Station).

Tip #3:  If the aid stations are close to 10 miles apart, you should carry more water than 2 small handhelds. 

Also, if you have a history of missing aid stations and resultantly being alone in the dark woods without warmer clothing, you'd think you would be more careful in planning in the future, right?  Enter Nisswa MN's Chris Hanson.  As I approached the Finland aid station, it was completely dark.  With about 0.5 miles to go, I though I had spotted my first firefly...only to realize that instead it was another runner.  This guy was using a pen-light to make his way.  In my delirious, one-cough-away-from-shitting-and-puking-at-the-same-time state, I felt bad for this guy.  We partnered up and made our way to the Finland aid station.  He was working on his 9th/10th finish of this race.  The reason for the uncertain finisher count (9 or 10)?  He was DQ'd one year for accidentally bypassing an aid station.  As he described how it happened, it became very apparent it was an accident; as he managed to make it to the next aid station wearing "day running clothing", no lighting device, no water...9 hours later (4.5 miles).  Still makes me laugh.  And it did when he first told me, and it distracted me as we paired up and made our way.  I forgot about my nausea for a while, feeling instead a sense of comfort running with a great, honest guy who had done this successfully so many times.  Chris, I enjoyed running with you.  I was pleased to reconnect with you later in the race.  I only wish I could have stuck with you...but you crushed the last few segments.  Impressive.  Wily veteran.  :) 

Tip #5:  There are lots of people that sleep in cars during long races.  Check before undressing between parked cars.  My apologies to Bethel, Maude, Kevin, Aiden, and Teagan.  Not to Angus, I am pretty sure he enjoyed it.

I spent 1.5 hours at Finland Aid Station.  My goal was to sip water until my nausea dissipated and I peed clear.  It took about 55 minutes.  Quite a few glasses of water.  A concerned, but patient crew.  I paced around the gymnasium of the Rec. Center.  Finally, my body recovered and I told my pacer/brother-in-law that his 4 -hour trip was not wasted.  He shrugged with excitement.

Tip #6:  Have a pacer for the night.  Thank you, Geoff (brother-in-law).  Your burping and farting motivated me to stay ahead of you.  Your constant sliding and near-falls lightened my spirits.  Your broken leg actually became quite annoying. 

We cruised.  I wanted to make up lost time.  We outran our headlamps in several sections.  We made up quite a bit of time.  We stopped a handful of times to appreciate the tall pines, illuminated by our headlamps from one side, and the near-full moon from the other...against the backdrop of millions of stars.  It was beautiful.  It was Minnesota. 

We burst through the night.  I was very lucky to have him.  Every once in a while, we would gain another, which was fun.  We enjoyed running with a few other people at various segments.  I was somewhat surprised at how many people we saw without pacers.  It is true what they say, you can meet a lot of great people in the woods in the middle of the night. 

Tip #7:  Use more lube than you think you need (especially true when trail running).  There was a lot of conversation about blisters and foot issues.  I wanted those.  My "thigh-gap" was aflame.  The monkey's at the zoo would have envied my ass.  I actually adjusted my stride to angle outward with each forward a wheeler-dealer comin' at 'cha... pedaling heavily lubricated raspberries.  The worst part, my system was now working...pee was clean and suddenly the #2-action was knocking.  I was pleased to sense the plumbing was back and operable...but also nervous about what was about to happen.  I told Geoff that I had to go; he was kind enough to hold up.  I found a tree to rest against.  Kicked a leg out of the shorts to clear some space. 

I have never vacated so much in one movement.  I checked both arms to see if they had deflated.  I actually thought that I'd dropped so much excess baggage that winning may now be a possibility again.  I had located a few large leaves within reach, and with the first wipe, was reminded that I had been giving birth to a raspberry plant for the last 16 hours.  In one felt swoop, I had removed all of the Vaseline and was left with my shorts down and sheer panic on my face.  My next pass was much more intentionally precise.  

Gone was my fear of bear.  Gone was the fear of bees.  Didn't care about wild cats.  The only fear was another bowel movement.

Tip #8:  Keep going.  Not really a tip.  But it seems I am due for another tip.  And that one, as simple as it sounds, is a good idea.

The end was nearer in one way or another.  Each step brought me closer.  That is what drove me.  And the sausage patties.  The stations were stocked with positive vibes and a cornucopia of food options.  Out of context, if someone talked about eating a spicy pickle from an older man with a really long white beard in the middle of the woods at'd expect a different conclusion.  Thank you, Larry.  That'll forever be our spot. 

Morning came and was accompanied by the boost which others had mentioned.  I had spent about 4 hours trying to tell myself I wouldn't get one...for fear that I would bank on it and only be disappointed.  It does occur.  And it is nice.  I still felt tired, but I knew that within that day I would be finishing/finished. 

I was able to convince myself, now that the Saturday sun was up, that I was just out for an early morning trail run (which would be the first time ever).

I was able to push forward.  I believe that I had made up most of the time that I spent resetting my body's water table at Finland.  And eventually I was able to catch back up to Chris Hanson.  We talked about the starters for the 50 and marathon...when they'd come by and who would tackle which one.  As we strategized, with him ahead of my by about 10 meters, he seized up and slapped his calf.  Hornet!  I watched to see if more would hit him; but nothing.  So I went for it...

The worst thing about getting stung on a run like this is not knowing if you will be able to breathe in a few minutes.  That would really hurt my chances of winning.  I was pretty sure I am not allergic, but in my head I kept hearing, "you can become allergic at any point in time, and with each sting you become more prone to a full blown death (or something)."  Anyways, a hornet sting, coupled with my anxiety, had me running like a mother fucker.  I shoved a gasping, swollen Chris Hanson out of the way and down a cliff.   After what seemed like a 10-minute full-out sprint, I came to stop.  I was in 32nd! 

I didn't actually shove Chris.  And he wasn't swollen (from the sting).  :)   But we both did get stung.  I haven't been stung in a while.  God, does that suck.  It hurt.  And it has itched for 4 days now.  Why do we have hornets?  They are like super-dick bees.  Bees are bad enough, right?  But they die after stinging  you.  There is some honor in their martyrdom.  They were willing to die to protect their hive.  I get that.  But wasps/hornets?  Who invented those?  Unnecessary. 

The rest of the race was purely mental for me.  Once I got to 80 miles, I knew that I would finish...barring a slip on a rock and sudden death.  Oberg was a beast.  I took a few breaks.  There were marathoners cruising by me.  I would try to block their path but had too little energy in most cases.  I did get some money out of a few of them.

I got emotional at one point.  By myself.  I was proud and happy.  I stared thinking about the great support for such a stupid endeavor I have from loved ones.  I thought about my 2 boys; praying that they do this and that they don't do this race.  I'd be happy knowing that they could say that their dad did this.  And it was happening now.  I was going to do it.  I had to ground myself, as I hadn't finished.  There was still treachery remaining.  However, over the last few miles, I floated.  I talked with several other runners.  I felt good.  Excited.  I was able to stomach 2 Gu packets; and the caffeine helped push me to a very fast (felt like a sprint, I am sure it looked like a death-stumble) finish down the home stretch.  How long is that fucking road???  Totally underestimated that...but had already started sprinting and now there are people watching.  Idiot! 

Finished at 30:43...I was filled with joy and happiness.  I was excited to be done.  That lasted for about 15 minutes.  I ate chili (too much), it was delicious!  I ate bread.  I had water.  I stared, worriedly at hornets that were 30ft away.  My wife was kind enough to drive the whole way home.  She was also sleep deprived...but was a trooper.  Poor girl.  I farted and moaned for 4 hours and she was stuck in the car with me.  Raspberried ass up.  I owe you!

Final Tip #:  Climb that mountain.  Go for it and enjoy the adventure. 

Thanks for reading.  Hope to see many of you in the future.  What great fun the whole experience was.  

To my wife, Britt: thank you for supporting me.  I love you so  much.  You were and are my goal.  We are out of milk. 
And my parents:  thank you for being there for me during our journey. 
Geoff (pacer):  you're up.