10 June 2019

2019 Bunkhouse 50k

For the first Saturday in 2019, I had a free Saturday morning.

Between basketball, and then soccer, and mix in some baseball and some Cub Scouting or family events, my calendar was full. With the soccer season not over, but taking a weekend off for Memorial Day, I was fortunate to find a run last Saturday relatively close to home. I hadn’t run a race since New Year’s Eve, and this time of year in Wisconsin is a great one. There are several pretty big races going on right now. Last year, in fact, I ran the Ice Age Trail 50k in honor of my dear friend Kim. And the first weekend in June is the “Kettle 100,” an event that features several distances from 31 miles to 100 miles, and is one of my favorite events. That first weekend of June has soccer on the schedule for my family, and we are leaving for camping “Up North” on Sunday, so it didn’t work. Therefore I gladly took the opportunity and the “OK” from the family to get away for a race last Saturday, May 25.
The Bunk House Trail Runs offer 50K, 30K, and 10K distances for runners of all abilities. This event is dedicated to the legacy of Tom and Loraine Bunk, who have been a cornerstone of the trail running community in Wisconsin for a long time. Construction of a year-round shelter building at the Scuppernong Trailhead was started in June 2017, with all proceeds from this event donated to the shelter project ($13,866 to date); future proceeds will be used to complete the shelter, and other projects in the Southern Kettle Moraine State Forest. Being from the Northern Kettles, which are often referred to as the “Better Kettles” by those who live up by me, I enjoy events in the Southern Kettles, and the people I get a chance to see and catch up with.
The course is a challenging 10-kilometer loop (the loop is considerably longer than a 6.2-mile 10k); 50K runners will do multiple loops, reversing direction each lap. There was a fully stocked manned aid station with various food and fluids located at the start/finish area, and I had a chair set up with a cooler full of everything I thought I’d need for this Saturday morning adventure, planning to access it between each of the five loops.
Friday night was a rowdy one with some pretty impressive storms working their way throughout the state (I’m glad I wasn’t camping!), and unfortunately Saturday morning brought one of the very first “warm” days of the spring. Normally I would never, ever complain about 70 degrees. But to have a hot and humid day on my first long race of 2019...well, the timing could have been better. Oh well. Mother Nature is impervious to criticism, so we take what she provides. 
Race morning proved to be humid. At 7 a.m. we were off and running, and the first loop felt pretty good. Unfortunately, by the middle of the second loop I was beginning to feel that I had overestimated my training and fitness, and underestimated the difficulty of the course! My legs were feeling the constant hills, and my mindset and mood had soured. I simply wasn’t having fun. I started to come up with reasons to quit. My legs hurt. I was hot. My stomach wasn’t processing calories. The mental list of reasons and excuses lengthened with every hill. I managed to finish the second loop, regroup, grab some more sports drink, and head out for my third loop. I was currently in second place and was on pace to finish in under five hours (which was my goal), but my mind had already checked out a bit, and I was pretty sure that I’d quit the race after completing the third of the five loops. I was fully invested in a self-pity party and continued to add to my list of reasons to quit.
The only real reason was...this just wasn’t fun. I wasn’t having fun. And you know what? That’s an OK reason to stop. I have run over 60 races like this...and this one, with my lack of training and the difficulty of the course, this one was especially “not fun.” So as I worked my way through loop three, I was pretty content with getting back to the start/finish area, packing up, and heading out. In addition, the temps were getting hotter and it was even more muggy out.
Then...it started to pour. It rained hard for about 45 minutes. In that rain, I thought to myself, “well, there goes that excuse about being too hot,” but I was still 99.9 percent sure I was going to quit. It was still raining when I reached the start/finish line. I sat down for a moment, then started to pack up my supplies and my cooler with water bottles in it. Then a friend who was there watching his girlfriend noticed me packing up, and walked over, in the rain, and asked how I was doing.
My reply was pretty much a grunt. But Craig wasn’t having any of it. He offered me different foods. Then he started in with some simple math.
“You have three loops done. So then you just have one more to go. Then you’ll only have one more to go.”
While that sentence sounds odd, it made perfect sense to me. He was convincing me to keep going. I didn’t like the sound of needing to cover another 13 or 14 miles...but if I just started my next loop and took it one step at a time...then it seems a bit more manageable. Finally, he closed the deal with the following:
“Your brain will deal with all of this a lot better if you finish.”
He was right. Quitting after three loops would have made my body much happier. But my mind would have known I had quit. And that would have bothered me for a long time. So...I went back out.
I finished. Those last two loops weren’t fast. They weren’t all that fun at times. But I finished. There were some brights spots too...I got to play in the mud. I had a new pair of shoes on, and they weren’t so bright by the end, but they worked well. I also came within about 10 feet of a Baltimore oriole, which was beautiful. I also was able to come to terms with not meeting expectations in terms of time. And I was taught once again that our bodies are capable of a lot more than our brains allow. Our brains want us to quit long before our bodies need to quit. 

My finish time was 5 hours and 18 minutes, good for third place overall. After resting a bit and then hosing off my shoes and legs, I made the drive home and blasted loud music, and relaxed. My brain allowed me to be satisfied with my morning—I hadn’t quit!


21 January 2019

2018 Run Your Past Off

On New Year's Eve of 2017, I took part in the Inaugural "Run Your Past Off" 6 Hour Endurance Run at High Cliff State Park.  It wasn't my smartest decision, as the temperatures bottomed out at 25 Below Zero that night. The event runs on the trails of High Cliff from 4:00 PM to 10:00 PM, and by the end of the night, some layers of my clothes were literally frozen in to my beard.  My goal was to run my 'age' in miles (My birthday is December 30th), and in 2017 I succeeded.  Due to some fatigued brain function, I actually ran .5 miles beyond my goal, finishing with 37.5 miles on the night.  It only took about 15 minutes next to the roaring fire in the shelter to actually detangle my beard hair from my neck warmer upon finishing.
This past New Year's Eve, I returned again. Once again, I was hoping for my 'age' in miles.  I worked at the office that morning before running a couple errands (or, "aarons"...as my mother would say) and then heading up to High Cliff for the 4:00 start.  Leaving Kiel, it was raining.  By the time I arrived at Sherwood, it was snowing.  Heavily.  While it was very pretty, I actually had to move in to 4 wheel drive toward the end of the trip to get up the 'cliff' to the shelter (the one near the tower, if you've been to High Cliff).  
It looked like once again Mother Nature was going to make this event...interesting.  At 4:01 we were off an running.  Well...not all of us, as some of the participants didn't make it to the start on time on account of the snow and road conditions and especially that road that goes up the big hill at the park!  
It was just cold enough for the snow to remain snow...but plenty warm for it to melt pretty quickly.  For the first hour or so of running, I was constantly wiping my eye lashes and eyebrows with my gloved hands to remove the snow...and resulting in drenched gloves from the snow immediately melting.  Nonetheless, I kept moving, pretty much "post-holing" those first 4 or 5 miles through the snow.
Every 4 miles the runners would 'check in' and have their mileage verified before heading back out in to the woods and the trails.  By the second or third loop the course had been packed down by the participants, making the footing surprisingly steady, and allowing me to kind of look around at how truly beautiful it was out there.  It seemed every single tree trunk, branch, and twig, had been outlined in snow.  As the sun set and the snow continued, it only became prettier.  
In addition to the 6-Hour even, there was also a 3 hour event this year.  I happened to be checking back in at the shelter right at 7:00 pm, and I was feeling some definite fatigue and I was also just flat-out WET.  It actually snowed steadily until about 9:00, so I only really had 2 options:  keep going to keep running and keep some warmth...or quit. 
I'll be honest.  The thought of quitting was a pretty strong thought, especially when seeing all the 3-hour runners warming up and smiling and chatting.  I'm glad I still had the ability to weigh the consequences though, and one aspect that kept me going back out of that warm shelter was that if I quit...then I'd need to leave and drive home...and those roads were going to be terrible.  So, I might as well just keep running for another 3 hours, right?  Seemed logical at the time...
As the night kept ticking away minute by minute, I kept covering miles step by step.  I was even treated to some New Year's fireworks along the shores of Lake Winnebago below...and the trees and forests only became prettier.  Each time I was back in the shelter, I spent a bit more time in there warming up, trying to dry off my gloves or clothes, and grazing at the aid station food (RAMEN NOODLES--YUM!).  
In fact, a bit too much time.  Eventually 10:00 rolled around, and I fell a bit short of my goal.  I finished with 36.5 miles--not my age of 38.  Then again, maybe I'll just tell everyone I'm 36 and a 1/2 this year!
The drive home was also an adventure.  The roads hadn't improved really at all, but I managed to stay safe and stay in my lane, and I was heating up some pizza in my kitchen when I heard a firework go off outside and realized it was midnight.  
"Not a bad New Year's Eve," I thought to myself.  

I haven't run all that much in 2019 as of yet.  Between those miles and then hovering my right foot over the pedals on the drive home, the top of that foot has been kind of sore.  I don't have any additional events on the schedule as of now, but I was happy to end 2018 at High Cliff and hope to return next year.  I can't say enough nice things about the event and would encourage any of your to consider it!  You don't need to run your age...or run for 6 hours...or even run for 3 hours!  In fact, some of the listed finishers tallied between 4 and 8 miles in total.  All you have to do is start.  You can stop at any time.  Just take an opportunity do something new and put a new twist on New Year's Eve!  

23 October 2018

Fall 50 Report

Already kinda cold...and it's only the Start Line!

"Okay...20 miles done.  Let's just get through another 20 miles just like that...and then you'll have 10 miles to go."

That's what I said to myself at Mile 20 of the Fall 50, which I participated in last Saturday.  Immediately upon finishing that thought, I laughed at myself. What a crazy statement.  What a crazy idea...run 50 miles...in this weather.

You see, the forecast for Saturday hadn't been all that great, but as I woke up on Saturday morning, it was 44 degrees and wasn't raining.  I could definitely handle that.
Unfortunately, by the time I reached Gills Rock at the northern tip of Door County, it was about 15 degrees colder, windy, and raining.  

Well, time to make the best of it!  I kept on the windbreaker I was planning on ditching at the start.  I overheard that the rain was supposed to be done for the day within about 2 hours, so I was optimistic the weather would turn around a bit!
With the blast of a shotgun, I was off and on my way to Sturgeon Bay, via 50 miles of scenic Door County roads.  These first couple miles are always filled with some excitement, a pace that is probably a bit too fast, and all kinds of emotions.  The 'big day' is finally here!  I had thoughts of Kim going through my mind--at my previous 50 Miler in May, she was able to surprise me at the finish line.  This time I knew that wouldn't be the case due to increased pain and fatigue recently.  Fortuanately, I did have my kids and family along for this crazy day of running.  Ellie would be maintaining some semblence of order with the kids while I made my way South, my parents acting as my 'crew' and helping out at aid stations.
Despite the constant rain and wind, the first 5-10 miles pretty much went smoothly.  I was far from too hot in my windbreaker, and while my feet, shoes, and socks were getting soaked, nothing else seemed all that uncomfortable.  At Mile 11 I made my way through Sister Bay and dared to take out my phone and take a picture--the rain had subsided!  While I was pretty soaked, I was drying out with each step, and it had stopped raining!  Dare I say the sun even peeked out a bit.

Then, not more than 2 miles later, it started to sleet.  Then snow.  Welcome to Wisconsin.

Working my way through Ephraim now, that snow had passed.  I worked my way past a fellow runner named Kevin, and we shared some "good lucks" and "yep it's cold and WET" as we made our way south.

Next up was a beautiful 5 miles through Peninsula State Park.  My stomach wasn't doing so great at this point.  It didn't seem to want to process the food and water I was putting in to it.  While I had never actually done this in previous races, I decided that at the next aid station I was going to STOP, sit down, change my socks, regroup, and then get going again.  I really don't like doing this because it's obviously just idle time where I'm not taking any steps (literally) toward the finish line, but in this case, I was mentally tired, my tummy wasn't happy, and my body was cold.

It was a great idea, and leaving the aid station at Nicolet Bay (Mile 19), I felt so much better.  It's truly amazing what the little things--like a dry pair of socks--can do!  I remember reading once to "not sweat the little stuff, and it's all little stuff."  This came in to my mind at this point.

Just a couple minutes later and I was thinking to myself the quote that I started this column with.  I had 20 miles done.  I could focus on taking care of myself as much as I could over the next 20 miles...and then I'd only have single digit miles remaining!  The State Park really was beautiful as well.  I guess, in a way, the wet pavement made the colors of the leaves shine a bit more.  Don't get me wrong, I prefer the sun, but sometimes one has to play some mind games!

Leaving the state park and entering Fish Creek put me at the half way point.  Seeing my family at the Mile 24 aid station was a boost to the spirits as well.  I went through the half-way point in 3 hours and 12 minutes.  I had about 300 calories of gels on me and I was planning on taking those calories in while I hiked up the biggest climb of the entire course.  It's "Cottage Row" Road, just south of Fish Creek right on the water.  The road goes so steep that it actually has a "switchback" in it!

Upon arriving at the base of the steep hill, I started to hike up the road and pulled out my bottle of Tailwind Nutrition--sort of like gatorade.  At this point I was pretty disappointed to see that the cap of the bottle wasn't on quite right and the majority of the bottle's contents had spilled out over my shorts (and the pocket my phone was in) and my legs.  Yuck.  Also, no more calories.
And then, right on cue, the wind picked up and it started to snow.  So now I'm cold, low on calories, and soaked.  I decided to just 'get through' it and keep moving forward.  That's what Kim would say.  So, one step at a time.

Finally, I reached the next aid station in Juddville.  Just under 30 miles done.  I restocked my supplies and had some warm soup, and switched out gloves with my dad (thanks Dad!).  My mom actually offered her gloves to me initially, but my soaked hands were not fitting in those leather gloves.  Insert the OJ Simpson joke here...

Leaving Juddville, I also told them that I wanted to change clothes--completely--at the next aid station.  I've never done that at an race, but I was thinking back to how wonderful some dry socks felt, so let's go with dry everything (not my underpants...I didn't have a spare pair of them packed, or I would have changed that too!).

About 30 minutes later, I'm arriving at the next aid station and can't wait for some warm clothes.  During this leg of the route it once again snowed and sleeted, and the shirts I'm wearing under my windbreaker feel like they're 10 pounds heavy.  I walk in to the aid station, and my mom points me in the direction of a porta-potty.  By this time, however, I have very little modesty left, and decide to just sit down right there on that nice folding chair next to the tables with the cups of water and Coke and Gatorade and get busy.  First are the shoes, which isn't easy with frozen hands.  Then come the socks, which are pretty much a science project by now.  Then the shorts, and the windbreaker, and the undershirt.  Turns out that undershirt really was close to 10 pounds! 
After getting dressed again, I head out.  It's mile 41.  I've reached single digits remaining!  I actually feel pretty darn good in new clothes as well.  And...it's not raining.  And...wait, is the wind at my back?!  And...look ahead--there's the 5th place runner.  I'm catching him!

It's amazing how the little things can make a difference.  Wait, I already said that.  It's also amazing how quickly things can change.  You see, about 2 miles after leaving that aid station, blizzard-like conditions commenced.  I wish I had a hat, as I could have used the visor to keep the snow out of my eyes.  The snow was thick, was blowing in pretty much every direction, and the wind was approaching 40 mph gusts.  In the span of less than 1 mile, I went from feeling great and actually passing that other runner and taking over 5th place, to walking.  Frozen.  Drenched.  And my shoe was untied.  Good grief.  

This was a truly low point.  I had a packet of gel on me, but my hands didn't work.  I could not even manage to get the soaked gloves off of my hands to try to open it.  I had entered a slog of a walk and I was quickly overtaken again by the other runner.  This was a low point, to say the least.

My overall pace for the entire 50 miles was 8 minutes and 38 seconds per mile.  My 43rd mile took me just under 18 minutes.  And the 44th mile was 11 minutes.  Yikes!

I finally made my way to the Mile 45 aid station where my family was waiting.  Ellie had passed me in the truck with the kids and gave me a hat.  My parents had passed me also along the road and my mom gave me a very stylish vest to wear too.  As I entered that aid station I was quite the site to behold, and a very enthusiastic 8-year-old Estelle almost knocked me over as she ran up to me!

5 Miles to go.  It couldn't possibly start to snow again.  I'll dry out and I'll finish.  I literally have no dry clothes left to change in to, so I might as well just get move.  One step at a time.  A couple hugs and I was on my way.

Those last 5 miles featured a stronger and more noticeable tailwind.  My legs desperately wanted me to walk, so it was a nonstop battle between my legs complaining "we are tired!" and my brain telling them to "Shut Up and do your job, Legs."  

I took a couple glances over my shoulder in the last 2 miles to see another runner gaining on me.  That was all them motivation I needed to just keep running, no matter how slowly or awkardly it looked.  So I did.  As I turned in to the finishing area I noted that the tent where the after-party is looked really odd.  It was an odd angle and was really blowing around.  I didn't really think anything of it and just focused on taking the most DIRECT route through the last couple pathways to the finish line...and a CHAIR.  It turns out that the heavy gusts had actually knocked the tent over, closing it to all participants until the wind calmed down several hours later.  

After 7 hours, 11 minutes, and 22 seconds, I was across the finish line in 6th place, and 3rd in my age group.  I promptly fell into a pile of blankets at the finish.   Then the kids piled on top.  It was a wonderful feeling!

Looking back, I don't believe I have run in such extremes of changing weather conditions.  It was by far the worst weather the Fall 50 has had in its 13 years, and I can say now that I'm glad I was there to witness it first hand.  Next time, though, I'm bringing more extra pairs of socks.  And underwear.

I can't thank my family enough for the help and can't thank my staff at the office enough for putting up with a kind-of cranky and distracted running chiroprctor.  Most of all I can't thank Kim enough for the motivation, the friendship, and the spirit that she shares daily!  

4 pairs of socks.
2 pairs of shorts.
4 shirts.
2 pairs of shoes.
2 pairs of gloves.
4 Gu's
4 Tailwind Packets
8 SCaps
1 Patagonia Airshed Pullover
1 Womens Vest from Talbots

Strava Sez.

Photo from "zyia.momma.runs" on IG