Monday, December 9, 2013

Miyajima "Cross Country" 15km


Miyajima is a very iconic Island in Japan. So much so that it has been deemed a World Heritage Site. I remember even as a kid, seeing pictures of the famous shrine called Itsukushima on the island. The Miyajima “Cross Country” 15km race brought me here.

Found out about this race not long after arriving in Japan and thought it would be a good chance to see Miyajima. Anybody who visits me in Japan, I am taking them there. So beautiful.

Miyajima means “shrine island” and this place has a lot of history. Unfortunately, I don’t know much about it but have been inspired to learn more after visiting.

With the name of this race being Miyajima Cross Country 15km, I was expecting the course to be off-road trails however, the weekend of the race, Paul Walsh informed me that it was 99% road.

A month ago was the Hiroshima Peace 10km and since then I have been doing relatively low mileage with averaging around 20 miles a week.  However, have been doing a ton of elevation (for me) with running/hiking Hiyama a few times a week.  

Slowly hiked/ran Hiyama Friday with Okada-Sensei and then slowly hiked with Ishihama-Sensei on Saturday.

Woke up 5am Sunday and had the perfect combo of my special oatmeal n’ coffee.
Living out in the sticks, it takes a considerable amount of time to go anywhere. Here was the schedule for the commute the day of the race.

Bus- Kurahashi-> Kure
Train- Kure-> Miyajimaguchi
Ship- Miyajiimaguchi to Miyajima Island

With nobody riding the bus at 5am on a Sunday, it felt like we were crawling around the island It was a bit stressful going slower than I could be going by bike. Met mountain hiking friend Kawamoto-san at Kure station and began to ride the train to Miyajimaguchi together. It was a fun train ride because we saw many runners also on their way to Miyajima.  Japan is so compact so you often run into people you know and the same people again and again (at least in my experience). For example, on the train ride to Miyajima, a friend Maki and her friends boarded the same train we were on. The ship ride was super fun as it was my first time taking a ship for public transportation. How fun to have a ship deliver a mess of runners to such an iconic island for a running race.  As we shipped over, we could see the shrine in the distance basking in the light of the sun. Very energizing.
We arrived in Miyajima Island around 9am with the race race start being 10:50am. Had some time before and ran into Kazuya from Kure City and a group of his foreign friends. Kawamoto-san and I settled our stuff near him and kind of putzed around the race hangout area and soaked up the energy of the approaching race. It was a bit chilly out so stayed in windbreakers until the sun became stronger and it was closer to the race. It was turning into a perfect day. Drank some warm lemon water drink they were passing out and saw Maki with her friends again. Ran into Kaori and her husband from the RUN+ group trail run I went on last week.

There was lots of excitement as over 2600 runners were here for the events. The spot we settled our stuff was near the highschool band that was playing. Very mood seting. After the school band finished, a M.C. led a jazzercise type of exercise warm-up and I joyfully participated. With about 40 minutes to the race, did some warm up jogging around the start area and a school-yard that was nearby. Decided it was a bit early to do a full warm-up and waited until about 20minutes before the race to do much of a warm-up. Didn’t do much besides jogging around 50-60% and probably would have benefited from doing more of a substantial warm-up.  With about 5 minutes to the race I snuck in line around 40th place or so. Was curious of the level of runners of the people around me. Was very aware of how much bigger (taller+thicker) I was than everyone and tried to not think that I would be hauling an extra 40+ pounds than most people. Saw Paul Walsh whom I had been following on Strava prior to coming to Japan.  He snuck in up towards the front. Was excited to chat with him. The announcer gave 3/2/1 minute warnings and then we were off.

Here is the race elevation profile:
It was cool to hear a few people cheering my name on the sidelines whom I had met earlier in the day. It’s fun to start meeting members in the running community out here. It didn’t take long before we started the first climb on the road. It wasn’t super steep but knowing the race elevation profile, knew it was important to keep the legs fresh and stay within a conservative pace. Thankfully the Hiyamas have made my legs pretty conditioned to uphill running however, in hindsight, it would have been smart to do a little more intense interval work running up Hiyama in preparation for this race. The only intervals I had done on Hiyama were 30sec repeats to the top. Such a killer but might have been smart to do 1min repeats and maybe 400m repeats. Will experiment from now on.

Came up on Paul a few minutes after the start and it was pretty cool to be running with him. He is signed up for UTMF for the 3rd year in a row and I looking forward to running w/ him in the future. It seemed like others around me on the climb were breathing pretty hard and selfishly recognizing this, I tried to relax even more and run quicker/smoother. Sometimes, someone would pass me on an uphill later matched by me passing them on a flat. This would repeat on the different climbs with different runners. Seems like each runner has their strength. Definitely, I felt more comfortable running the flats but enjoyed watching how tired others got on the climbs. It was pretty tough to run uphill, then having to transition to keeping a quick pace running downhill. Haven’t done much downhill training and usually just slog on the way down when running Hiyama. Could tell the quads were taking a  royal beating from the downhills. From 3k to 4k there was a 118m climb (in U.S. units that’s 387ft in .6 miles). Nothing too crazy but tough in race conditions and also tough with the race being 15km.

Saw about 20 people heading back to the start before I made it to the turn-around. The return trip was energizing as we could see many other runners making their way to the turn-around. Saw Paul not too long after turning around and then Kaz. High fived him and kept trying to cruise along. Seemed like the crowd of runners behind me was thinning out a bit and passed a few runners on some of the flats. To my surprise there was much less flats than I expected. It seemed like we were either climbing or descending for the majority of the race. Tough to get in a grove with this kind of terrain but kind of fun just to have to react to course.
the 1% of course that was flat and cross country!
As a few of us were nearing the top of the 387ft climb, a volunteer was calling out our position in the race. He said 23 to me and 24 to the guy quickly catching me from behind. As that guy passed me, I gave him a firm push up the hill and said “23!” He let out a good laugh and shouted back “24!” to me. Told myself I would overtake him and say “23” again to him but he started to storm the downhill after we reached the top. Think I passed a few runners going down as well even though the quads were taking not feeling so hot.  This was my first time ever really pushing it on downhills and in race conditions. 
The last few climbs were tough but kept a decent pace. Surprisingly, I was able to speed up a decent bit towards the end, even though it felt like I was starting to crawl. As we finished the decent saw the “23 guy” way ahead on the flat and knew he was outta reach.
With the last mile or so, the calves were starting to get dangerously close to cramping, making me take quicker strides and consciously try to run from the quads more. It was a fun finish with some spectators near the finish line.

GAP=Grade adjusted pace

Believe finished 22nd in 57:45. Definitely feel like can get in better shape.

Walked around for a tad and went to the finish line to watch other finish. Saw Paul, Kaz, Toshiya, Maki, Kaori and Kawamoto-san finish and enjoyed hanging out in the perfect weather. Chit chatted with Paul for a bit a snapped a photo together. Funny how it was our first time meeting, but we were chatting about the race as if we’d been friends for a while. Love how quick runners can become friends.

Met up with Kawamoto-san and went over to get the post-race oyster soup. 
It was burning hot and delicious. Could have had 10 bowls but found out this year the race decided to limit the runners to one bowl instead of having it all you can eat. L Came to Japan one year late.

After the oyster soup we headed over to a small room in the community center building that there was women in Kimonos passing out traditional Japanese tea and treats. We then quickly hurried over to a bath shop closer to town. It was funny entering the bath area seeing all the shoes were running shoes. What a cool group of people!
Such a great feeling soaking up in the hot bath and warming up from the chilly air outside. After the bath, we did some site seeing around the island. It was funny because all over the island, there were what seemed like domesticated deer walking around and begging for food. Couldn’t help but laugh over and over at how silly of a site that was to see deer just hanging around in such populated areas.

Checked out the shrine for the first time in person. It was much larger than I had anticipated and can’t believe it was build 1500 years ago. How they constructed such a massive piece of architecture that long ago, I have no idea.
When then hiked to Momiji (Fall leaves) Park. It was so beautiful with the fall colors only slightly past peak season.
Was getting pretty hungry after not really having a meal after the race. Kawamoto-san said that the hungrier we are, the better the food will taste. I laughed pretty hard at this, partly because how hungry I was, and partly because how true his statement was.

Another testament to how often you see people you know in Japan, saw another ALT whom had become separated from her visiting bf from newzealand and needed to use a phone to facebook him. Kinda silly.

Arriving back in the town area, we found an oyster shop to eat at called Kakiya. It was pretty busy and had a long line out of the door. Kawamoto-san said it was the most popular oyster shop on the street. Ran into Maki again with her friends and they ended up joining us for lunch. Ate a delicious set lunch of fried oysters with a cold beer. Kept thinking how lucky I was to be experiencing all of this.
Kawamoto-san and I said goodbye to the girls and we slowly made our way back to the fairy. Another fun ship ride later and we hopped on the train back to Kure city. By this time, was starving again so bought a boxed dinner, some nuts and chocolate. Saw some students from Kurahashi Gakuen middle-schools while I was waiting for Ishihama-Sensei to pick me up.

 It’s funny being here only 4 months and always seeing people I know.  Surprisingly, ended up spending 4 hours in Kure city shopping around and going to dinner at our favorite hole-in-the-wall Okonomiyaki shop Hayato.  Warm Kimchi type of soup and another beer later, we drove back to Kurahashi island. Ate some more food at home and was too lazy to properly unpack from the busy day so just scattered stuff across apartment.  Accidently slept past two alarms but luckily made it to school on time the next day. Actually kind of fun having to rush.

Miyajima 15km was a super fun experience and am surprised at the outcome of the race. Despite running half my typical mileage lately, am getting faster. I’m sure it's a combination of taking my first extended break from running in five years, doing Hiyama 30 times, eating relatively healthy out here, and the weekly yoga at the local doctor clinic. I’m really enjoying the yoga and need to continue going. The best part is doing partner shiatsu massage at the end. J Did I mention I’m the only guy there. Can’t wait until yoga tonight!

Kind of bummer the next running event is in 1.5 months. Was invited to run in the Kurahashi Ekiden (relay) January 12th. Will have some good time to recover and get some speed-work in. Also, looking forward to meeting up with new friends I’ve met in the trail running community out here.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Hiroshima International Peace 10km

Can’t believe the last time I wrote a report was back in June for the Grandma’s Marathon. Fast forward three months and not much running later, and I’ve been settling in a rural village named Uwagi in Hiroshima, Japan.

As you can see, have not been running much and/or updating Strava------->

I had signed up for the Mikan 10km that was October 21st but finding out that week, I had school obligations attending a culture festival, I was unable to run it. Luckily 2 weeks after that, I was signed up for the Hiroshima International Peace “Marathon” (10km) with that being the longest distance available (In Japan they consider every distance a marathon}).

After running Kettle 100 June 1, and Gma’s June 24th, my legs felt like garbage for a long time. Don’t think it was very smart to run a 3:04 just a few weeks after my first 100. Tried taking sometime off after Gma’s but kept finding myself trying to run. Once arriving in Japan at the end of July, my legs still didn’t feel normal but I could occasionally go out for a few mile jog. It was strange because I would struggle through a 5-miler and be sore the next day. It was a scary feeling how setback I felt and it left me wondering how long it would take to feel “normal” again. The heat was another challenge here with it being 88degrees and. over 80% humidity.

The legs didn’t have much spring but I still continued trying to run. September rolls around and I set-up a 10km training schedule to shoot for a PR at the Mikan 10km race. After a tempo, interval and hill workouts on consecutive days (pretty stupid), I tried to do a 5km time trial that weekend and ended up walking home after a few minute warm-up jog. Decided it was time to officially take break from running. :(

 Put the GPS watch in the back of my closet and didn’t officially run for almost a month. Would often walk in the AMs, bike to school or into Kure city, hike up the mtn near my apartment but no obligated running. Think I was getting so excited to see fast numbers on my Garmin Connect site that I was completely disconnected with my body and how it was feeling. It was a struggle to take off so much time from running. I realized it was my everyday stress reliever and essentially what I was living for.  I felt pretty lost without that release and was anxious all the time. That led me to move in other ways whether it was biking/hiking.

Even though I am writing this post in my “race diary” blog, I didn’t really consider it a race as far as preparation is concerned. The last time I was even able to run 6 miles before this race was more than a month ago. Even on short runs, it was strange to feel my heart beat after jogging just a mile or so but the legs were starting to feel better. I’ve done relatively a ton of hill work hiking Hiyama a few times a week since arriving here. Usually it is just a slow jog/hike on the way up and slow jog back down wearing sandals. Definitely a nice cathartic get-a-way experience doing that.

The day before the race was filled with 7+ hours of commuting and 5+ hours of hiking a mtn and waterfall trail (BLOG soon). Usually the legs feel fine walking around the day before a race so was looking at the hiking as a good way to stretch the legs out. Thankfully the day ended at a hotspring and was able to relax the tired legs.

Woke up the day of the race and commuted from Kurahashi to Hiroshima City. Unfortunately, it was raining which made the commute in sandals a bit sloopy. Had a bit of a mix-up on the train to Hiroshima and ended up having to take a taxi to the Coca-Cola Stadium. Thankfully, the race started at 11:20am so there was time to spare. Picked up the race packet and ran into a group of about 6 other JETs.  Found a spot in the stadium and continued to meet more JETs. It was very comforting being with such a large group of people and nice to communicate in English so effortlessly.
 Hung out and tried to stay as dry as possible. About 1.5 hours before the race I ate a riceball, pizza-man, and had a cup of coffee for breakfast. It was nice to have some warm food and especially the coffee after being out in the chilly rain for some time.

With about an hour before the race, put on running clothes and did some warm-up laps around the grass field inside Coca-Cola Stadium. It was only my second time wearing the new RC1700s and they felt awesome. Headed over to the start and did some warmups down the side streets. Was already regretting wearing the USA t-shirt because the air felt very humid and warm once beginning to move. Lined up for the race and there was a 5 minute speech were everybody was in the squatted position listening. The announcer led some stretches and warm-ups. Without much warning or announcement everyone was off.

It felt so good to be finally running a race where my only job was to run as fast as possible. Without much running in the prior months, I wasn’t sure what kind of pace was possible so was just running on feel. Looked down at the GPS watch and saw 5:35min/mile and knew I had to slow down. My PR before this race was 5:56min/mil so planned on hitting around that. Felt the speed plateau and looked at the watch again to show 5:45s. Didn’t feel like slowing down much so in the midst of all the excitement, decided to maintain and see what happened.

  Unfortunately, it didn't take me long to realize that I forgot to lace up my right shoe completely Usually before a race I don't like to tie shoes until it is necessary because it is more comfortable to have them loose fitting. Not much could to about it now though. 

Tried to relax and keep a quick cadence. Runners were starting to fall back at about the 1.5 mile mark,  as well as a guy dressed in a business suit with dress shoes and all. At about the mile 2 mark, I was surprised to come up on another JET ALT whom I hadn’t known would go out this quick. Was curious to see where he would end up! Nearing the turn-around I was surprised to see the leaders were not a crazy distance ahead of me. Had I been in decent shape, I felt like I could have ran with them. At the turn-around, was still maintaining about a 5:45 pace aside from during a few rolling hills. It was funny to hear several runners w/ super goofy breathing techniques. Passed a few of those “in-labor” sounding runners and saw a few JETs on the other side of the road.

Looked at the watch and only had about 2 miles left and knew I could maintain the pace . Breathing was controlled but the legs were not feeling very fresh. Just kept trying to NOT think about how little I had ran in the last 3 months. Starting seeing signs indicating 4km left, 3km left, and was getting tired. Was trying to speed up but it seemed that the additional effort was needed just to maintain the pace. As we got closer to the stadium there were more spectators which made it a bit easier to keep pace. Cruised into the stadium and finished relatively strong.
does it say "Do not copy"?

GPS said finish time was 35:11

a tad short^

  Was happy to be done and walked around the track feeling semi-confused how I just pulled off a PR with the least running I’ve done in 5 years. Regardless, I was happy and excited to watch the other JETs finish. Found out Mark finished at 37minutes which is awesome. Cheered with Danny and Mark until near the end of the race and headed back to grab our stuff in the bleachers.
 It’s pretty funny that everyone just left their stuff unattended during the race. It’s a comforting feeling knowing you don’t have to worry about someone stealing any of your stuff!  After a cold return trip to Hiroshima Station, went back to Marissa’s place in Kaitaichi and had ramen and coffee. MmmmM
Now it’s 4 days after the race and the hammys are still sore but the joints feel OK. Excited to start trying to run more and sign up for more races. Want to actually train for a 5k or 10km. So fun to race in Japan. Such a different atmosphere.
this photo from the race website captures the spirit of this race quite well!

Big differences:
Many costumes
Everyone dressed in fancy work out clothes, matching brands, many people seem very overdressed
Many skinny people, most people look like elite distance runners

Next Races:
December 1st: Miyajima 15km Cross Country Race
January: Need to find a race near/around Tokyo because plan on spending 2 weeks up in Honshu.
February 23rd: Souja Kibiji Marathon 42km
March 30th: Setouchi Trail 22km
April 25th: UTMF 161km
May-July: Prob just hiking and easy running

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Grandmas's Marathon 2013

Initially, I was going up to Duluth, MN to watch Dan, Edward and many others run the Grandma's marathon. This race is one of my earliest memories of learning what a marathon is. My Aunt Sharon and Uncle Randy were running these when I was in elementary/middle school and it was beyond me how anyone ran 26.2 miles, however, I wanted to be able to do it. My Aunt bought me a marathon training book the summer of 8th grade and I began to try and follow a marathon training schedule. I struggled with consistently keeping to the schedule and found excuses not to run. Fast forward 7 years later and my buddy Lucas convinced me to sign up for a marathon training class at the U. The rest I guess, is just history.

As we were heading out the door of my apartment Dan told me to bring my lightweight Gel Hyper-Speeds. Thought maybe it would be nice to get in a run up in Duluth w/ them.

It was a super fun drive up to Duluth w/ Dan as we rocked music from my iPod w/ the windows down. Man, how fun are road trips with a good buddy. We made a quick stop at Jay Cooke State Park
and it was tooo fun. It was so invigorating being up in the cool Duluth air and seeing these unbelievable views. Ended up finding a bib through one of Jeremy's clients and looked like I would be running it.
Jay Cooke State Park (Dan Laplante)

We made it to Dan's house and later met a bunch of people at a restaurant. Hung out there for a while and at about 10pm we went to Little Sleezy to get a pizza for me. 

Not the biggest fan of meat but it was the only pizza they had left after they were technically closed. Felt pretty full but ate a protein bar for shits (pun intended) and went to sleep.

Woke up in the AM and was still full from the night before. Had a cup of coffee for breakfast and thought about what it was going to be like running my first marathon (aside from during Ironman) without orthotics and in addition, with a shoe that was 30% lighter than my regular shoe I put my orthotic in. Common sense would have ruled most people away from running in circumstances like this but it's always fun to test the limits.

Drove over to where Edward and Alicia were staying and we got dropped off at the start line. The weather was cool and super super super foggy. We could barely see the street lights from 20ft away because of how thick the fog was. Made it to the start line and met w/ some others before starting off.

Was starting to think about if I should just try and run w/ Dan/Edward trying to get 3:05 even though I knew I would not be able to keep pace. Impulsively, decided to start w/ them and was going to find out what would happen. In the previous three weeks, I had not been able to do much running and the legs were pretty trashed from the hundo and was real curious as to what was going to happen. 

When we were in the starting shoot I ran into my co-worker from the running room Wilder and wished him luck (nice job getting 2:56!).

Edward, Dan and I started off the race hitting about 7-min miles and were keeping things relaxed. It was exciting having the train on our left side blowing it's horn. Immediately, the shoes felt amazing due to having no orthotics in and such lightweight shoes on. This was the first time in the last 3 weeks I ran over 3 miles at a 7min pace and although the legs did not feel fresh, the pace did not seem unbearable. 

At around mile 10, Edward decided to slow his pace down and Dan and I were wondering if we should stick it out with Edward or go on and still try to get 3:05. We continued on at a 7min pace and just held onto that for a while, following the 3:05 pace group. Dan kept on commenting how amatuer the pace-leader was which was kind of funny.  It was a blast goofing off w/ Dan as the miles slowly ticked by however it was a bit intimidating running w/ him as he's done like 50+ marathons and has a humungous running base. Not knowing how my body would respond later in the race, just kept on and was looking forward to the first gel station at around mile 17. Ate one and grabbed a couple for the road and the legs were starting to feel it. My calves were starting to get really sore from running more on my mid-foot. My furthest run in the Hyper-speeds prior to this was 3 miles and the calves were definitely getting a new type of workout. Around mile 20 or so I needed to use the bathroom but was able to thankfully hold off (perhaps because all of the excitement once getting into town). Soaked up a lot of the energy as we got closer to the finish and Dan helped me keep onto the 7min pace.
The calves were dangerously close to cramping up and was able adjust the stride a little bit to avoid that. Made our way into town and passed the 3:05 pace team with the last mile or so to go. Sped up a decent amount and kept fighting the calves from cramping. The feet were also a little sore as I now think size 10.5 shoes are too small for me. Finished in 3:04 something and it felt good to stop. Took some pics after and walked around the finish area. It began to get super cold after we stopped running and thankfully we had a drop-bag we picked up after the race. Might start taking advantage of these in the future.

Edward finished not long after us and we all hobbled over to a pizza restaurant real quick before Dan and I headed back to his house to grub. Ate some fish and snacks and his mom had an awesome sushi set-up w/ tons of different food. We ate and drank, later making our way down to the Canal for the post-marathon festivities. There was not many people up there yet, as it was still pretty early and the temperature was not very ideal for outdoor concerts. Dan ran into a ton of people he knew and we putzed around town for a while and had some drinks. Met some of the Elites in the band tent. Met another Elite J1 and his gf at a restaurant for a bit. Hung out w/ his buddies in bars for a while then headed back to his house. It felt good to get back and sleep. Woke up with the legs not feeling the best but nothing unexpected.

It was an ongoing joke that weekend to call running "jogging" and on the way home we stopped to jog on some of the Voyageur course on the Superior Hiking Trail. Need to hang out w/ Dan more to do fun stuff like that. 

Happy and grateful I was able to run this race and experience another year at Grandma's. Was surprised that the legs were able to hold onto a pace that is only 5 minutes away for a PR which either tells me one of two things: either I sandbagged a 2:59 back in October at Twin-Cities and should be able to run relatively much quicker with proper training and/or made fitness gains during the 100 that translated to a decent time at Gma's.

The last couple weeks since Grandma's, I have taken the most extended break from running that I have within the last couple years. Want to make sure the legs recover and are ready for some running in Japan. Have been active though biking/rollerblading and walk commuting once in a while to work. So excited to do some shorter/faster runs within the next few weeks. Really miss the Hyland Friday AM runs and speeding up at the end with a bunch of guys. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Kettle Moraine 100-Mile

June 1st 2013

Starting to write this blog is making me almost as anxious as starting this race, knowing I won't be able to capture all of the feelings (yes, I preface every blog post with this but for this one especially!). 

The Kettle Moraine 100-Mile is a trail-race out in eastern Wisconsin starting in La Grange. Most of the race is on the Ice Age Trail which spans across Wisconsin and is the same trail (further East) that I ran the Chippewa 50k at the end of April. Decided to sign up for this race in April, not too long after finishing the Zumbro Midnight 50-mile. 

Edward Sandor once told me, if I wait until I'm trained/ready to do a 100, I will never do a 100, and so I found myself signed up for my first 100-mile race and definitely did not feel trained to one and knew it was going to be a survival event rather than a race. My previous 50s had been survival events and at the end of both, someone couldn't have paid me to run another mile. 


Not really being able to put in perspective how long a 100-mile race was, I knew that it would require more running than I had been doing in the past. Decided to use other races as middle-effort long runs to help with the build up. My relatively long taper consisted of doing the Zumbro 50-miler, followed by the Chippewa 50k two weeks later, followed by the Eau Claire Marathon the next week. Keeping these at relatively low intensities, I was able to "recover" from them and continue to run throughout the week and to work. I was trying to run/walk to work as much as possible to get extra time on my feet.  I would be pretty beat at the end of a day from run/walk commuting to work 8 cumulative miles along w/ standing for 10+ hour although I kept telling myself it was preparation to be able to "run" for 24+ hours. 

The week prior to the 100, just went on one easy short run and the legs were not feeling the best. I was trying to convince myself they were taper pains rather than nagging overuse injuries or anything of that sort. However, this taper felt much different than a lead up for a typical marathon. Didn't have much of a spring to the step and the leg muscles felt pretty sore. Taper pains..right?! 

Drive out:

During the Eau Claire Marathon, I met and ran 13 miles with John Taylor who is a very accomplished ultra-runner. He told me that he was going out to Kettle as well and let me carpool with him and Allan Holtz (another very accomplished ultra-runner).
Epitome of ultra-runners
It was a real treat to hear them telling such wild stories. Everything from John chasing a bear up switchbacks during a race, to Allan talking about his 4 Barkley attempts, I could have listened for years. Thankfully, being w/ two guys that epitomize ultra-running it gave me a distraction from what was going to happen the next day.
@Olive Garden
We listened to Alanis Morissette Pandora the whole way out and stopped at an Olive Garden in Madison, Wis. Ate 5 breadsticks, 3 salads, 3 bowls of soup, and finished up the Chicken Alfredo entree that was mistakenly brought out for regular Alfredo I ordered (mainly vegetarian but when presented with this, I couldn't resist). Nearly being needed to be rolled out of the restaurant, we headed out to La Grange for the packet picket. We arrived at the Nordic Start/Finish of the race to pick up our race bibs and chat with some other runners. John introduced me to Logan Polfuss who not even in his senior year of high school was picking up his race bib for his 4th (?) 100. Crazy! We chatted with the race director Timo and he kindly wished me luck and assured me he was confident I could finish (despite not even knowing him, he sounded so sincere and was sure I could {sometimes it helps to have someone else believe in you before you believe in yourself!}).

We left the packet pickup and headed to Whitewater where we would be staying the night at a hotel. As I was driving towards the sunset, it was quickly starting to hit me of the event that was going on Tomorrow. My adrenaline was starting to rush and it would have been nice to start the race right then. We checked into the hotel, I ran over to Walmart to pick up breakfast for the AM (bagel and banana) and we were getting our final things situated. Fortunately, I was pretty tired so it wasn't that tough to get to sleep (minus the AC was broken in the hotel). Woke up several times during the night and was wide awake worried if it would be possible to go back to bed. Thankfully was able to fall asleep after the times I did wake up and at 3:30AM Allan Holtz's industrial alarm clock he brought with went off. I laid on the floor and tried to slowly wake up as we still had heaps of time until we headed out to La Grange.  Stayed laying down for about a half hour and got up and took a shower. Ate the bagel and banana and watched John and Allan make final preparations for the race.
Allen and John prepping 
Despite already being able to feel my heartbeat in my chest,  I was trying to internalize how calm cool and collected John and Allen were. We got all of our stuff packed and ready to check out and headed out of the hotel. It was about as humid as I ever felt it outside and was forecasted to stay humid throughout the day. Now it was 5:00AM and we were on our way to the start of the race. The sun had began to rise and the I was feeling the beginning of a very long day ahead of me. We arrived at the start and there was already quite a bit of other people there. People kept pouring in and it was crazy to think that all of were either embarking on the 100mile or the 100k. 233 people would be starting the 100 mile and 76 were running the 100k. Greeted with some of the TCRC guys and spoke with Adam for a bit. I was surprised how how how upbeat and chatty everyone was prior to the start. Found myself being quite because of nerves and just was watching everyone else around me. Timo gathered everyone at the start and gave a quick race briefing. Only thing I remember was a joke he made about not littering on the trail. We had about 10 minutes until the start of the race and I was getting more and more anxious. Finally Timo called us over to the start and it was time for him to send us out. 

Race: 6:00AM

Couldn't believe it but I was finally running! It had been such a freeing feeling after not running much the weeks leading up, and with this race one of the only things on my mind that last few months, it was nice to finally be in progress of it. Started out about as slow as I could and found myself around John Taylor and Bill Pomerenke. Knowing that John finishes all the races he is in, I was tempted to stick with him but figured I needed to run my own race. Decided to not wear a GPS since the battery would only catch 1/5 of the race. Was kind of nice to just rock the chrono watch like old times though. Bill who had a GPS said that we were running too quickly and suggested that we need to be hitting around 13min/miles and needed to conserve more. Conciously tried to slow down as much as possible but my body kept telling me otherwise. However the fear of what the legs would feel like at mile 60/70/80/90 miles was a good governor and kept my pace relatively conservative and slow.

For the first few aid-stations all I grabbed was HammerGels and occasionally fruit. Didn't want the stomach to get sloshy yet and wanted to try and keep the amount of nutrition I was putting in consistent. Started off taking a HammerGel every 45 minutes but quickly changed to every 30 minutes. I remember reaching the Emma Carlin aid-station which has the first drop bag and just left my extra pair of socks. I believe prior to this aid-station I had linked up with another guy from Minnesota, Steve English. He is a teacher from Saint-Paul and we were clicking pretty well on the trail together. It's funny how easy it is to feel so close to someone when you are doing an event like this. It's easy to be "friends" with someone for years and not really know them on the type of level as when you are on a 100-mile survival run together. We began to run as a team and were planning on running the majority of the race together. Once in a while we would get a little separated from taking bathroom breaks or one of us leaving early from an aid-station early but generally we kept close. It was nice to have another companion to run w/ and chatting w/ someone else diverts your attention away from any fatigue (at this stage).

Not long after Emma Carlin we ran through a 7-mile or so section of open trail that didn't have any tree cover. It was impossible to not get the feet wet at this point and just kind of accepted it and knew I would be able to change socks and any of the bag drop locations. Another thing that many people thought was tough about this section was that it had no tree cover and was exposed to the sun. Thankfully it was mostly cloudy as we ran through this section however occasionally the sun would slip through the clouds.

 Ran some sections of the trail with Logan and ended up getting lost for a few minutes, until realizing we had veered off the Ice-Age Trail. Thankfully once a group of about 8 of us found ourselves standing at the Scuppernog parking lot, we headed back and got on the trail we needed to be on. With how much distance and time we would have been out on the trail, it would have been silly to get roused up from the 10 minutes or so we lost.

Around mile 20 or so I remember asking Steve how his legs were doing and he replied with an "Eh", and I felt the same way.  At this point it was not realistic to think of the entire distance we would be needing to do but we just would focus on getting to the next aid-station and boy was that starting to get more and more exciting. I started to eat some potato chips at the aid-stations and I began to really look forward to them during. Attempted to save the other foods such as PB&Js until later but near the turn-around at mile 30, I was eating just about everything.

The exciting part was that we had 1/2 way completed with the first 100k section of the race. Mentally, I broke the race down into different segments. On the grossest (no pun intended) scale, it is a hundred mile race. For this specific race I broke it down into two smaller sections, the first 100k lollipop, and the remaining 38 miles. From there it can be further broken down into aid stations and it seemed as the race went on, I continued to break it up into smaller parts (sometimes just getting through the current negative state of mind was as far ahead as I could see).

Now Steve and I were on our way back towards the Start/Finish and my motivation was getting to be able to run w/ Jeremy who would be waiting for me at the 100k mark. The scenery had been spectacular and it was such a pleasure to be able to do what we were doing. Sometimes as Steve and I were running, I would just start laughing at both how enjoyable it was what we were doing, and also the magnitude of the distance we would be running. Somewhere between mile 30-45 (sad how big of a range this is..) Steve and I were separated and I was running some sections of the trail alone. I believe Bill Pomerenke was right in front of me during our return sections in the meadows and remember the sun was beating down on us. Ended up getting quite a bit of sun during the day and didn't realize I became a little sunburnt until a later event..

Around mile 45, I was began to get a bit discouraged as I was not running w/ Steve anymore, the legs were pretty dang tired, it was beginning to get dark, and I forgot what aid-station I was at but it started to pour. Only wearing a pair of spandex shorts I was exposed to the rain and after a day in the sun, it was instantly refreshing but also made me worried how cold I would be once leaving the aid-station. A volunteer asked if I had a jacket or anything and I replied I didn't and asked if I could wear a garbage bag. After putting the bag around my head and having multiple volunteers cutting holes in it simultaneslouly for my arms/head, I began to leave the aid-station. I remember a young girl huddled under the aid-station tent watching this whole situation take place and as I ran past her to get back onto the trail, she seemed to have a concerned or worried look on her face (like is this for realz?! look) and I just burst out laughing thinking to myself, yes this is for realz and I'm loving it. I definitely think that biking to work at 4:45am in blizzard conditions and biking to work in pouring rain without splashguards or rain-gear really prepared me to embrace this situation. As it was raining, I was graciously thanking myself that I didn't need to arrive at work in soaking wet clothes. This time, my job was to just keep running and finish up 60 more miles.  Surprisingly, the garbage bag was doing a marvelous job at keeping me warm. During races in the past, I've never used garbage bags or the space blankets they pass out after just because for whatever reason I thought it was dorky but this garbage was saving my rear end from miles of running frigid on the trails in the rain.  As I was alone on some long stretches of trail by myself I was loudly singing songs. As people would pass coming the other way, I would progressively quiet my singing to make it seem like I wasn't screaming female songs in falsetto by myself but that was more for their sake than mine.

It was beginning to get dark and I was starting to get worried that I would not reach Nordic (Start/Finish, 100k, 62miles) before sundown. The rain stopped after a while and after running with the garbage bag for some time, realized the reason I was sweating and becoming quite warm was because of the garbage bag I was still wearing (seems like a simple deduction right now, but for some reason it took me a while to figure this out at that point..) My feet were feeling pretty tender at this point I was just trying my best to get to the 100k to be able to meet Jeremy. Even though I knew this was a dangerous mindset, I was telling myself all I needed to do was get to the 100k mark. Knowingly that a number of people running the 100mile, do decide to drop at the 100k I kept in the back of my mind the remaining 38 miles that needed to be done after even arriving at the 100k mark (however, very far in the back of my mind). Right now I just needed, so needed to get to the 100k mark and everything would be fine, or so I thought.

Finally arriving at Nordic, it felt like I had finished up a race. There was many people celebrating their finish of 100k, and many 100milers taking an extended break at this point. Here I kept a drop bin with an additional pair of road shoes and extra clothing. After not having anything besides socks at any of the other drop bags, it felt like I had the world at my fingertips having my drop bin with a few items in it. Grabbed my headlamp, long-sleeve, new pair of socks, and the road shoes and sat down at a picnic table to start changing the shoes. Never realized how much effort it took to change a pair of shoes until this point in my life. I was afraid to take off my current pair of shoes and socks because how tender my feet were and for what it would feel like to put socks and shoes on again after. Thankfully, Vicky B was there to assist me in this process. She so so SO graciously washed my feet after I was able to slip off the shoes and socks and Jeremy put vaseline on my hotspots and I put my socks back on. Hesitated  a bit before putting the shoes on again. After taking a deep breath and putting the shoes on, it felt spectacular how dry and clean they were after being in the same shoes the previous 62 miles and many hours, but my feet felt so constricted in the shoes. I was attributing this pain to the swelling that might have taken place during the time I had my shoes off so decided to just deal with it and hope it would get better as we started running. While looking in my drop bin if I needed anything else (didn't really have much left in my drop bin besides dirty shoes/socks and some protein bars for after the race, I bumped into Steve. It was relieving to see he was still in the race and we hugged and exchanged words of encouragement. He seemed pretty tired and I assured him that his pacer would be able to get him to the finish. After getting more food and waiting until Jeremy was done taping Logan's ankle, we headed back out onto the trail.
Jeremy and I at mile 62.     38 to go!

It was very slow at first after taking such a relatively long break from running but it felt nice to have Jeremy with me. Within a couple minutes we caught up to Steve and his pacer who headed out of the aid-station before us. After running together for a couple minutes, Steve quickly retired himself to a comfy looking downed tree to take a seat and have a break. I remember thinking well why can't we do that, but realized why it would not be the best idea to do so. Unfortunately, this was the last time I saw Steve during the race even after looking for him during out and back sections of trail.  Despite having my feet all cleaned up and switching shoes, they were hurting more than before I had even switched. Continued to believe this was because of the swelling, but getting further and further into the trail, I realized they must just be way too tight. I told Jeremy that at the next aid-station that I needed to loosen the shoes and for a good portion of this 5-mile stint to the next aid-station I remember complaining about my feet. Thankfully, Jeremy was patient with me and put up with all the complaints. Once arriving at the aid-station I loosened up the shoes and realized that I had left them at the tightness of when I don't wear my orthotics (however I was now wearing them which made the shoe super tight). It felt worlds better after loosening them and I was in good spirits at the moment.

To the next aid-sation it was only 2.5 miles away and I was excited for how quickly we would be able to knock that aid-station out of our way of the remaining 10 or so we had to go through to reach the finish. Although it was only 2.5 miles I remember after a half hour or so thinking how long we had been on the trail and there was no sign of the aid-station yet. No longer was 2.5 miles a quick 18 or so minutes (on road) but now it was challenge to just do a couple miles. This worried me quite a bit because some of the aid-stations close to 5 miles apart and some of them only had water at. At this time of night, any energy was helping me just get through the trail. Jeremy had been talking a bit and asking me questions but I found myself not wanting to respond because it was taking energy just to answer. A simple question such as "How's the job at the Running Room?" would lead to to almost saying "How the hell do you think it's going man, just fine!", however I would respond with quick answers and felt bad for not elaborating more.  We continued to run (need to put a disclaimer out that when I say run at this point, it is pretty dang close to a walking speed) we could and there was starting to be more and more walking points. Now, I was no longer just walking the hills but would find myself seeking relief in slowing down to a walk and finding negative things to say. Thankfully Jeremy was always there to put a positive spin on things and tell me to shut-up when I needed it. Found myself getting more and more negative out on the trail at night and Jeremy sure put up with a lot and remained patient with me. It was nice having him tell me when to start eating/drinking because it was helpful to give less cognitive energy towards things. I did get a little upset because he was giving me endurolytes every half-hour or so and I had not been taking them at all during the day. I wasn't cramping yet and found no need to take them however, Jeremy was stern on giving them to me and I knew if I fought this, he might not continue telling me when to eat so I succumbed and began pill popping whenever I was handed them.

The aid-stations began to feel further and further apart and I was starting to lose ability to concentrate on getting to the next aid-station. Just getting up small climbs became big obstacles of their own (note my pessimistic attitude seeing them obstacles rather than achievements).

The week prior to the race, I abstained from caffeinated coffee beginning Wednesday in attempt to have a a strong caffeine effect when I reintroduced it to my body around midnight during the race. After getting through the caffeine withdrawal headache on Thursday and the mental fatigue and brain fog Friday, I was believing that having caffeine included coffee during the race would be a fix-me-all solution. After finally getting some coffee at an aid-station I was convinced I would start feeling much better, be able to run faster, and overall feel just better. Despite my high hopes, the only effect I was feeling from the coffee was more awake and aware of how tired I was.

From this point I don't remember a ton until getting closer to mile 90. I do remember lots of struggling and wondering if at some points I would be able to run anymore of the race. Many times I would try to do the math in my head to see if I could just walk to the finish and finish in time. I was walking many sections of the trail and was very discouraged with myself. I'm supposed to be doing this 100 "run" and I'm complaining even as I walk sections of it.  I thought that after starting so slow and taking it so easy that it wouldn't be this hard to continue running, but boy was I wrong. I was having pretty low lows that were matched by high highs after. One moment I was slugging through walking a section of the trail muttering complaints to myself as Jeremy had became sick of hearing them, and the next I was running and telling Jeremy stories like a school-girl. I began to realize these lows/highs were getting more extreme and would be worried when I started to feel good because I knew the low that was about to accompany it. Each time I was able to run, was followed with a walking phase that was lasting longer and longer and becoming harder and harder to get going again. On some of the sections I was able to run, it was starting to become difficult to distinguish between if it was an uphill. It was nice to be able to follow Jeremy at points, but with my energy and mood, being all over the place, it began to get too hard to even follow him. Jeremy at one point was running in front of me and I asked him to slow down a little bit and he said I can't run any slower than this. Haha. Sometimes it helped to have the Iron Fist out there with me.

 I began peeing every 5-10 minutes partly thinking it was because of just wanting a break and partly because of all the electrolyte pills I had taken. For some reason, I thought it was a good idea to take a few steps continuing on the trail as I went to the bathroom, but if anything this just lost me more time, and made me look pretty foolish.

Over and over again, I was thinking how excited I was to take some time off running when I finish this race (if I finished!). Was thinking 1 week.., 2 weeks, heck maybe even a month or longer. Around mile 80, finishing seemed too far away to even consider and was curious how Jeremy was so sure that we would even finish at all. I kept asking him questions like "Do you think I can even finish this?" and "What time do you think we will finish?". He kept assuring me the time didn't matter and we just needed to keep going. He would sternly answer "Yes, we will finish" and I would 1/2 laugh and 1/2 sigh at how easy he made it sound. As we approached aid-stations from the woods, there were some that had glowsticks beginning about 100 meters away from it. This was nice to know when the aid-stations were but unfortunately road crossing were also marked with the same fashion and it was deflating to believe I was arriving at an aid-station several times to only have to cross a road and get back on the trail again.

Around mile 92 or so was when I knew finishing was possible. At this point the sun had began to rise and we were able to shed the headlamps which felt so good. I was getting a new feeling of energy I had not felt since before the race even started. Holy smokes, I'm actually going to finish this thing, I thought. Early in the AM we began to come up on another woman on the trail and as we approached her she turned around vivaciously and told us she was doing the 19-mile relay. It was amazing how much energy she had and how peppy and positive she was. I leached onto this and stuck with her as we made small talk. She had so much spring to her step that it was starting to make my legs move faster. She was power hiking the hills and running the flats and I found myself obliged to do so as well. I remember at one point my spirits being so high and enjoying her company so much that I looked back at Jeremy and we both laughed to each other and appreciated this God send. I was so used to being with my military drill sergeant Jeremy, that it was such a change of pace to have this valley girl (from Cali) talking with more energy than I've ever seen anybody have (not only because of how tired I was, but this girl really had some energy). We began passing people who looked like they were barely moving. My legs were starting to come back and I was running faster than at any point during the race. My feet were still super tender but just tried my best to stick w/ the girl. We ran several miles together and at the aid station I filled up my water bottle quick and headed out and told them to catch up. About 5 minutes later Jeremy caught up and I knew the girl would have a tougher time to catching up as our pace was continually increasing. She slowly made progress on catching us on a big climb that we had but we ended up dropping her. Jeremy and I were still passing people and I was wondering where all of the energy came from. Where was this energy when I was down in the dumps for several hours during the night? Everything was tired on me but nothing like the fatigue during the night. Around 95 miles or so I began to get pretty tired again and wished I had conserved a little bit as we still had 5 miles to go. We slowed our pace and decided to save the energy for the final 3 miles or so. We cruised through the last aid-station and all I had been thinking about was the finish line for the past few miles. Jeremy had turned his watch GPS watch on with about 13 miles left so it was nice to continually be able to ask about how much mileage or what pace we were hitting. With several miles to the finish, the trail wrinkles all around so we could hear the finish line with around 3 miles left. This was tough because at that moment, we did not know how much until the finish but could here it so close from us.  The last couple miles we were hitting a pretty quick pace (around 8min miles) and were crushing the hills we came up on. One guy heard us coming from behind and turned and asked if we were doing the Fun-run (38-miles) and I proudly said "if you call 100 miles fun" and think he was surprised to see how fast we were going. With probably 2 miles to go we noticed it would be a close call to finish under 26 hours so we really began to hammer.  Kept wondering when there was just 1 mile left and when Jeremy said there was we started to really kill it. Unforunately, after a few minutes of thinking there was only 1 mile left, we came upon a sign that said 1 mile and it was right before this that I thought I lost a toenail.  My right pinky toe was searing in hot pain by the nail and I had to change my running gait to prevent it from hurting too much. At this point I thought there was no way to reach the finish in under 26 because there was like 6 to 7 minutes left. I kept telling Jeremy my foot was hurting as he set a heavy pace. His reply was "Well run faster then!". Gosh I love him. This was the first part in the race it felt like we were actually racing and wow did it feel good. Jeremy said we were hitting a 6:50 pace it seemed like it was going to be a super close call to finish under 26. Ended up sprinting to the finish to try and make it under 26 and saw the sign just under 26 as I finished.

The first thing I did after crossing and was immediately take my right shoe off to see if my toenail was somewhere in my shoe. Thankfully, it was just a blister that popped on top of my toe so all my nails were sparred. There was so much adrenaline going on the I didn't even realize what was going on. Hugged Jeremy and was given the copper kettle by someone. The race director Timo came over and congratulated me and told me he knew I could do it. It was cool to see him after all of the support the day before the race, during the race, and then now after finishing. Oh my gosh did it feel good to be done. Despite it being pretty chilly I stayed in just my spandex for a while as I cooled off from our last kick. I was still confused how we were able to keep the pace we did at the end there and was wondering why I wasn't able to give more energy during the night. All I knew, was it felt so nice to be done. My feet were so raw that it hurt to take the shoes off and I could barely put them in sandals after the race.
Jeremy and I after the finish
Tried to clean the feet up as much as possible. Would have paid lots of money to go in a ice bath at this point but was almost just as content with sitting and not having to run anymore. Watched several people finish and started to get a bit chilly. Had some warm chili soup and other foods at the finish line and continued to watch others finish.  Went inside the cabin thingy near the finish line and laid down on a cot. Jeremy said you're gonna fall asleep and I assured him I was just resting. He said you'll be out in less than two minutes and I shut my eyes and to prove him wrong I started counting. Before getting to 30 seconds I was asleep and woke up an hour later feeling like I had just blinked my eyes. I was pretty tired but wanted to see John Taylor finish so went back outside.

Within the hour, I quickly turned into a 99 year old and walking anywhere became a chore. Ate some more soup and other snacks and watched people finish for a bit again. Jeremy said he was heading back to the cities and with me needing to get back to the cities trying to make it to my grandpas birthday party, I decided to ride back with Jeremy. We stopped at the local general store and had a couple sandwiches. Jeremy had to go to the bathroom so I laid down outside on a bench and when I sat up I realized my back was all sticky. Thought it was gum or something so went to the bathroom to check out the back of my sweatshirt. Took off the sweatshirt and saw it there some some sticky stuff on the lower back part and realized that it was the HammerGel from inside the back pocket of my spandex. I looked at my lower back and it was covered in the gel so began wiping it away. Proceded to find HammerGel where noone should ever have it.. and after taking a bit of time to "freshen up" in the bathroom, rushed to the car where Jeremy was waiting. We began driving home and stopped again for food at the Mcdonalds not too far away from La Grange. Boy was that good. Fell asleep in the car for an hour or so and woke up to "Just Give Me a Reason" being played on the radio and Jeremy and I duoed it up.

Arrived at home and realized noone was there (or were any cars) so I wasn't able to make it to my grandpa's bday party :(

Ate again at home, showered and hoped into bed because I had work the next morning at 5:30am. grr

Looking back on it, it feels like I didn't have much time to reflect on the race. Maybe that's why I decide to write Race blogs so I can formally remember the races. Happy I decided to write a blog on this race and wish I could have remembered every detail. It's amazing reading other people's blog and seeing how much they remember during 100milers.

I remember after my friend Jeremy had got behind on blogging two of his 100s and after me pestering him to get them done, he told me he hated doing them and would rather just run another 100. I thought he was nuts to say this but after giving several attempts to write down what I can remember, I'm almost ready to sign up for another.. And probably will not be writing as long as a blog post as this one, however I'm grateful to have taken the time to write down what I did.

After a week of binge eating Mcdonalds, Chinese Food, Taco bell, Little Caesar's (one of the days I had all of these) and running zero miles, I am pretty excited to start running again. Plan on doing the free week of CorePower Yoga with John the week after this and looking forward to the Hot Yoga. Not quite sure when my next 100 will be but I know there will be much more training going on next time around.

last 15 miles (last few miles not very accurate)