Friday, May 16, 2014

The Memories Are Priceless - Kettle Moraine 100 Miler

     The Memories Are Priceless
Somewhere near Madison, WI
June 1st, 2013

     After finishing the Hallucination 100 Miler, my friend David sent me a congratulations card and a keychain with "100" laser cut into it.  David had also finished his first 100 miler at Woodstock.  It was the first time we met in person, but we had been Facebook friends for a few years prior.  In the card, David said if I considered doing the Kettle Moraine 100 Miler he would come pace me.  How do you say no to an offer like that?  You don't, you just get back on and give your credit card number.  

     The last long run was done at Outrun24.  100K was in the books.  Once again the RV was packed up and we drove to another race.  We had several other friends that would be at the race, so it would be like a running family reunion.  This race would also be an actual family reunion for me too.  My brother Dean drove in from Iowa to crew and be Assistant Sherpa to my husband Erick.  My parents have never been to one of my races.  They drove down from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and my mom stayed up all day, night, and part of the next day to watch the event unfold.  She still tells me that this was one of the coolest things she has ever seen and she would love to see it all again.  
Mom, Dean, me and dad.

Pre-race packet pick up was easy and I saw lots of familiar faces.  David drove to the campground and we had a nice pasta dinner and discussed the race.  I felt ready for it.  I knew it would be harder than my last 100 miler, the course had more elevation change and the trails would be more technical.  

     Race morning we met up at the start line.  It was a humid start which would turn into some brutal heat on the prairie sections later in the afternoon.  I enjoyed visiting with friends along the trail.  Many of the earlier miles were spent with my friend Mike.  He lives near me and we enjoy running trails together.  The trail was in good condition and the morning passed by fast.  

My buddy Joan (we met at Outrun 24)

     As with a lot of races the middle part turns into a blur for me.  I might remember something like the train that was passing through and I had to stop and wait for what felt like five minutes (but was probably one minute) until I could cross the track.  I remember Mike tripping three times in less than three minutes and hoping I could keep myself from doing the same thing.  I also remember the sucking mud and heat on that prairie.  But a lot of the day just runs together. 
Unlucky number 13?

     My aunt and uncle surprised us by driving up from Milwaukee to see the family and watch me run past them at an aid station.  They probably had no idea that when you go to watch an ultra runner at a race, you really only see them for about a minute or less.  It really isn't much of a spectator sport.  Unless you are crew, then you get to see the "best" a runner has to offer.  It's been said that CREW stands for Crabby Runner, Endless Waiting.  Pretty much true.  David decided he wanted to crew all day for me then pace me.  Now that is a guy who loves ultras and trail running.  I wish I could bottle his energy and sell it. 

      I was allowed to have my pacer after the 100K mark or 6:30 PM.  I came into the an aid station at 6:20 PM and Erick decided that it would be best for me to hang out for ten minutes and take David with me instead of heading to the next aid station and picking him up there.  Heck, someone tells you to hang out and relax for ten minutes in an ultra, heck yes!  Sounds good to me.  I took the opportunity to get on a clean shirt and hat, and we left shortly after.  About five minutes later it was pouring out, so much for that fresh shirt.  The rain was coming down in buckets and it was getting pretty dark as the storm came on.  The trail (of course) was very technical in this area and had steep drop offs.  I had to slow to a fast walk to avoid slipping in the mud.  We came around a corner and heard some crazy noise.  I had no idea what it was and when I saw the source of the noise I was even less sure.  David quickly identified the baby raccoons on the side of the trail that were born at most hours ago.  We moved a little faster to avoid a mad momma raccoon.  
    The course is designed as two somewhat looped courses and shares the start/finish as the 100K point.   We arrived at the and I told Erick that I hadn't been eating much.  He forced a half of a PB&J down my throat.  David and I left and headed back on the trail.  About a quarter mile later my stomach decided the half sandwich was not a good idea and rejected it.  A minute later I felt like a million bucks.  David was astonished how someone could go from vomiting to feeling great in a matter of minutes. I see my buddy Mike coming into the 100K mark where he takes a finish after blisters got the best of him.   David and I are off and running.  We later came to the top of a hill and David told me to switch off my headlamp and look up.  I saw more stars that I have ever seen in my life.  Then minutes later I heard the call of a whip-or-will for the first time in my life.  We push on down the trail.  I start to have a few hallucinations and David tells me what is real and what is not. We run along and I think I see an aid station.  Turns out it's a lake.  We press on.  The words written in stone on the trail spelling out "Hola-Hola", that was real.  Some people, yup-most of them were real.  

      I feel something on my ankles that I think might be blisters.  We stop at an aid station and my brother Dean takes a look.  He's an athletic trainer at a university and knows his stuff.  He shines his light on my ankles as my mother yells at me for sitting down.  I told her that I'm not allowed to sit down-she's just doing her job.  Dean reaches over and pops a blister on each ankle with his fingernail.  Yikes! I didn't see that coming but he tapes them up with precision and tells me to move on.  I feel a lot better and we start chasing cut offs.
     My pace is slowing and I'm not sure there is much I can do about it.  My feet are very swollen and each step is beyond painful.  We come to each aid station with only 10 or so minutes to spare.  I only know this because I see less food out and people are packing things up and there is no hot soup left on this cold night.  This discourages me, everyone lies to me and says I have plenty of time left, but they still push me out of the aid stations fast.  
     Daylight is here and I should feel recharged.  Instead I just keep moving, not feeling especially hopeful.  David forces me to eat when I don't want to by telling me I can only walk when I am eating or drinking.  I listen to him but at some point the rest of my race turns into a death march.  We get to an aid station or what should be an aid station and only find a port-a-john and a table that was supposed to have water jugs on it.  Guess they closed the aid station early as David knew we were still on time at this point.  A few miles down the trail we encounter a runner headed towards us.  Turns out it is one of the race directors.  He says that at this point I am not on pace to finish in time.  He gives me the opportunity to take a 100K finish.  Not much of a choice now, is there?  I knew my pace was too slow and wouldn't improve enough to make up for time lost.   We continue heading into the next road where my husband and mom are waiting.  The relief on their faces astonishes me.  Like worry washing away.  Later they tell me that the race director had someone sweeping the course for stragglers and they did not see us.  Erick feared that we I fell off an embankment and David was trying to get me out.  When the sweepers came in and said no one was left on the course, Erick challenged them and they admitted to skipping a section of the course and taking a ride in a car and that they did not actually clear the entire course.  I'm surprised my mother did not have a heart attack at the thought of me lost or injured.  The race director was obviously not happy with what happened and came out on the trail on his own to find us.  We weren't lost, he just wanted to know we were ok.  
Me with the RD and David 

     Did I get a 100 mile buckle?  No.  Did I wish the next day I could have run faster or tried harder?  For sure.  But did I have a great time seeing my parents, aunt and uncle and my brother?  Absolutely.  Will I try a 100 miler again?  You know it! 

My Facebook post on June 4, 2014

     "This weekend I saw 93 beautiful miles of a gorgeous state park on a glacial trail. I spent 52 miles of it with an amazing friend. I had very dear family members along to cheer me on and support me. I ran between fields of wild flowers followed by hot and humid prairie. I trekked through the woods in a thunderstorm at dusk. I ran through a perfectly starlight, cloudless sky hours later. I encountered a baby raccoon only a few days old on the side of the trail and heard a whip-poor-will for the first time. I witnessed the sun coming up after running more than 24 hours. Yes, I missed 7 miles of my race because I am not a fast runner. But looking back now, I don't regret a minute of it. The memories are priceless. "

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