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Kettle Morraine 100k

June 7, 2009

I remember my quads.  Really.  They used to be these great muscles that would let me bound down hills with ease.

So, I had only done one 100k (62.2 miles) beforehand, and that was almost a decade ago.  I prefer 50 milers, honestly, as I like finishing before dark and getting a full night’s sleep.  But, getting ready for a 28 mile ultra in Utah in three weeks, I realized a few weeks ago that I could sign up for the 100K and get in a close ultra and, hopefully, ratchet my endurance up so that I can also do King’s Peak the day before I do Logan’s Peak (I’m nothing if not stupid).

My training had been going really well, including several strong back to back weekends, including a 24/24/24 over memorial day and a 21/43 weekend that saw me run across Dupage County, twice.  I’m slow, and I could still stand to lose 10-15 pounds, but I was feeling good in my conditioning.  So while the week before the race was filled with equal amounts of trepidation and excitement, I also felt pretty confident.

The Kettle Moraine 100 is actually two races – a 100k and a 100 mile (there’s also a 38 mile “fun run” at night to help keep the 100 milers from feeling lonely).  I wussed out and did “just” the 100k.

The race seems to have grown a lot in recent years, and it took the better part of an hour to get my bib (216) and schwag at packet pick-up.  The race directors for the race – Tim Yanachek and Jason Dorgan – do an outstanding job, and while it took a while to pick up the packets, this was due entirely to the large mob of people descending on La Grange, Wisconsin.  I head back to Delavan (hotel), eat most of a large pizza hut pizza, and am asleep by 8:30 PM.

4:40 comes early, but I hop out of bed quickly, get dressed and am on the road.  It’s already light out at 5:00, but the weather is overcast and about 55 degrees – which winds up being the weather pretty much for the entire day.  I finally find some Chicago Ultrarunners (CHUG – long overdue, many more of us than I had thought!), we get a group picture, and we’re all heading towards the start area when the race begins.

Chicago Ultrarunners at the start of the Kettle 100

Chicago Ultrarunners at the start of the Kettle 100. Photo by Geoff Dunmore (I think!)

For those who are unfamiliar, the Kettle Moraine of Wisconsin is a very interesting geographical area, as the tail end of glaciers shaped the area here into oddly steep and bunched up hills.  Some of the hills are almost volcanic in shape, and while none are particularly tall, there are tons of ups and downs.  There’s a line in The Shepherd of the Hills, describing the Ozarks, that “Lord only knows how much land you would have if you was to roll it up flat.”  That’s pretty true here, too – the word “undulating” is definitely appropriate.

The first five miles seem easy, with a lot of nice grass trails and some nice ups and downs.  I jog slowly but wind up passing many people on the hills (why I’m a good uphill climber I’ll never know, though it helps explain my successes in stair climbs!)  I wear a full camelbak and carry my own fuel, so I run through the first two aid stations and am feeling pretty good.

Kettle - mile 7.3

Mile 7.3. Photo by Kelly Roe

Ironically, the run out to the 31.5 mile turnaround at Scuppernong was pretty uneventful (absent two nice falls, but fortunately people were nearby and able to enjoy them).  I felt really strong until about five miles from the turnaround (a technical section of about a mile insisted on knocking me over the head with the very simple lesson:  Do hill training or else).  I finish the last four miles running with a nice Aussie from Melbourne, back for her second attempt at the one hundred mile.  I finish the first 50K in about 6.5 hours, restock from my drop bag and head back out.

I hit the technical section and I realize that my quads are completely shot.  Uphill is no problem, but anything downhill hurts like the dickens and is very unsteady.  As time goes on, fears of falling become worse, as there’s a chance that if I fall, I won’t be able to get back up.

The first fifteen miles after the turnaround were somewhat long, but fortunately not too taxing.  Several miles on this stretch are in open meadow, and the rain helped keep everything cool. Strangely, we only had about a half hour of rain, and it came at a nice time and helped me cool down.

Kettle - mile 47.3

Mile 47.3. Photo by Kelly Roe.

Halfway back to the start (3/4 through the race) I hit the Emma Carlin aid station.  This is about 47 miles into the race, and I knew, walking painfully up and down some of the downhills, that getting out of this aid station would be the make/break point of the race for me.  After all, I was reduced to a walk, I was slowing down even more, the hardest hills were ahead of me, I was out of my own sports drink and had to use the race-provided Heed (which tastes like tums-flavored water, and I had had some unpleasant experiences with it before) and I was looking at a fair amount of time in the dark. If I was going to drop out, this was the place to do it.  I take my time making sure I get everything I need – full bottle of Heed, camelbak refilled with water, eat a gel, put my headlight in my camelbak and head through the stinging nettles out of the aid stations.  The first 31.5 miles took 6.5; the next 15 took 4.5, and the last 15… even more.

The section from Emma Carlin to the next aid station, Horseriders, was worse than I remembered, with a lot more up and down, but also a lot of flat ridge walking where I could get my pace back up.  After leaving Horseriders, I was looking at what I thought would be the crux – the five miles to Bluff aid station.  This has the highest point on this section of the course and several pretty nasty switchback hills to contend with.  I push through, and cover the five miles in a decent amount of time.

The first seven miles of the race (and miles 56-63, 63-70 and 93-100) all follow the same initial trail system, so when I’m about seven miles out I start seeing the 100 milers on their way back out on the course (they do a separate 38 mile out and back).  With my shot quads, I was glad I was not them, but we all offered each other encouragement as we went.

The last seven miles all seemed to be mostly uphill – which was good, as uphill is five times easier than downhill for me at this point.  The next two miles to the Tamarack aid station are wide and grassy, with darkness closing in on me fast.  The Tamarack aid station is top notch though, and I manage to get a bratwurst (hot + grease + salt = bliss), plus meet Ian, a fellow CHUG runner (the group is fairly new), who is manning the aid station.   I thank the volunteers and head out for the final five miles…

I have to switch my light on soon after this, and even take off my running shades (the amber lenses weren’t really doing much after dark).  I had noticed them going out, but I’m excited to see something a mile after the aid station – MILE MARKERS!  Even if it’s just the last four miles, it’s great knowing how much further you have to go.  I manage to keep my pace up and cross the line about three minutes before 10:00 PM, almost 16 hours after starting.  Tim (the RD) comes over and gives me a copper kettle finisher’s award, and I look around for fellow Chicagoans but, seeing none, I decide to gather my drop bags and head to the hotel for another fun night of having my toes charlie horse continually.

Despite the hamstrings (and being incredibly sore today), my body held together really well.  My internal thermostat is messed up today (I needed HEAT last night, and now I can’t get cool enough), but that’s not too surprising.  My feet felt fine the entire day (I was worried as they felt HORRIBLE after the 42 mile run a few weeks ago), and I had no blisters and, despite the awkward downhills, my toenails all looked good too.  I stayed hydrated the whole way, and managed to finish without caffeine (I’ve now gone four months without any caffeine, woot!)

Thanks to fellow CHUGers Torey and Kelly for providing support/energy/pictures at many of the aid stations, and of course fellow CHUG runners Brian, Tony, Greg, Vishal, Ed, Dominic, Jason E, Matt, Keith, and Geoff (even if I didn’t get to meet a few of you this time!)  Thanks also to Ian for the volunteer work, and Tony (not sure if you were able to volunteer after running the 100k – very impressive!)

Lesson:  Do not neglect hill work!  (Palos here I come!)

4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 7, 2009 6:06 pm

    Great report, Jason!! Congratulations again on the finish, that’s awesome 🙂

  2. Chijane permalink
    June 8, 2009 4:54 am

    Jason – sounds like a brutal run that you accomplished with your fabulous outlook on life and stubborn perserverance. Good job! Thanks for sending the update! Let me know if you need support for future runs. -S

  3. jwarner permalink
    June 8, 2009 1:03 pm

    Very cool, I enjoyed reading the report. I still think you are crazy and am definitely impressed!


  4. Michael permalink
    June 16, 2009 2:28 am

    Dude, you can’t be the Jason W I know… no caffeine? Wimp! 😉

    Seriously, I couldn’t run a mile, who am I to talk.

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