Kettle Moraine 100 is one of those special races for me. I group KM 100 with Ice Age 50 as special pair of races. They are a month apart, cover the same trails (KM covers more), and are home to my first 50 Mile finish, my 50 mile pr (2009), my 100 mile pr (2009), my first 100 mile attempt (2008....crash & burn), my 50k pr (first 50k of the 2009 100M), 100k pr (1st 100k of 2009).
But the best part of the races.... the people. These races are in the back yard of the Lapham Peak Trail Runners. Years ago this group welcomed me with open arms as one of them. They have given me friendship, support, houses to stay in during races, and some of our families have even "camped" together. These friends have seen me achieve success beyond what I thought was possible, and they have seen me at my worst. I was the first Minnesotan to have an LPTR bumper sticker (which has since been sent to the salvage yard). I am honored to be one of them.
But I have been somewhat absent from the group. As the previous posted said, I had a 6 year slump. One of my lowest points of my entire lifetime of running happened a few years ago here, at the Ice Age 50M. I had suffered a couple of years of terrible race performances. I had dropped in almost all of them. I thought I was actually improving, all to see during a race I was worsening. I was past disappointed. I was starting to believe my body & mind couldn't do it anymore.
During one of these Ice Age 50s, about 3-4 years ago, I was at mile 30 something and just obliterated. I couldn't believe I wasn't even able to walk the 50. I was cursing myself, mumbling, and may have been crying. I came to a road crossing, and my buddy Marty KC was manning the crossing. He asked how I was doing, and I really don't remember what I said. Well, at the next road crossing, there was Marty. "Matt, you're done".
I was pulled off the course. (he let me go the final small section to the next aid station..)
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever be pulled out of a race. It was only a few short years before that when I won my age class at the same race.
So coming back as a new person was a big deal. I had finally finished a big race at Zumbro, but I also had to make sure it wasn't a fluke. And I also wanted another copper kettle.
KM 100 2015
This was almost a flashback to 2009. I had Bill P crewing for me again. I felt I was in great shape. I felt magic could happen. The weather was looking to be close to ideal.
KM 100 is one of those tricky races. I have heard many a runner call it an "easy 100". What is funny is that nobody I know who has finished it think it is easy. Only those who have not finished it call it easy. I think because it is 80-90% runnable and has some historically fast times.
What people do not understand are the unique challenges to the race. And for me, the most terrifying section, THE PRAIRIES.
The Kettle Moraine Prairies, some call them the marshes, are an approximate 7 mile section (mile 17 - 24) each direction (39-46) where you run through a boggy marsh. There is no shade and tall grass marsh sandwich the trail which sucks in heat and humidity. If it is 70 degrees in town, it can be 85 in the prairies just 5 miles away.
To compound the difficulty, the return trip through the prairies happens in late afternoon when every species of bug known to man is out playing drone attack on runners. I was thinking the book of revelations. THESE BUGS WERE NASTY.
But I digress.
So on race day I had a great plan.
- First 50k - Run at or below a heart rate of 135 BPM.
- Do everything possible to mitigate heat
- Keep my head in the game and don't let the daunting task of the Gnarly Bandit Series play pinball with my mind.
I knew better. Stay calm. Stay cool.
Probably the hardest thing for me to do at this point was to ignore my pace from 6 years ago. I couldn't help but doing the math. I knew early on I was behind the 2009 pace. I knew it was what I should be doing..... but it was SO HARD.
Hey, if I want to hang one out there and put a race on the line..... there is always next year. Not this year.
So I stayed patient. I rolled into first 25k around 3 hours. Everything calm. Bill P had the best parking spot.
At that point, I put on my awesome ice bandanas my wife made. It is a bandana, folded into a triangle, and sewn together. One end is left open. We fill with ice, tie it off, and wrap around my neck. This creates an ice wrap around my neck. While the ice melts, the ice water drips down my neck and back. So nice.
This, along with holding my heart rate below 135 got me through the prairies easily. On the way up to the the 50k turnaround, all I could think about was how much slower I was running. GET OVER IT!
The way back through the prairies were a lot harder. The bugs were attacking, it was hot, and its mile 40 something. But the ice bandanas made it manageable.
I actually made it to the 50 mile mark in just over 10 hours. I was happy with that as I have run the Ice Age 50 slower than 10 hours. I thought everything would go automatic for a while.
Around that time a runner comes from behind blazing past me. It was like a blur. I figured it might be the first 50k runner. I asked, and yes it was.... few! But I didn't know it was my buddy Nic Giebler! He ended up winning. Great job Nic.
So everything was great....... Then I could see it coming. The stomach problems were coming. The trek to the 100k turnaround became a 3 mile death march. Oh crap. I knew the turnaround would help. Change of clothes, a quick lie down, and a general reset.
So I made it to the turnaround. Bill brought out the air mattress after I changed everything. Lying down helps me a lot. He got the General on the phone for a quick pep talk. Thanks Bud! Tina gave me some could laughs. I never gave the impression I was done, I was just hurting and not having fun.
So the race director announces I was going back out for the final 38 miles, I wave to "Buff", and I'm gone. I'm over the hump. I can still make up good time. I make it about 2 miles. I see a bench on the left. I sit down.
And throw up everything left. Kathy J came up behind me during that time. Pretty funny. She watched me hurl.
I felt better, but I new it was going to be a while before I felt better. I ended up puking pretty much the rest of the race.
But something I learned from the last race, I can get through sickness. I will suffer, but I will get through.
So Bill joined me around 75-85, and the final 7. The night was all walking, a bunch of puking, and just thinking "get there". Once the sun was up, we were at the last aid station (95), and I can run a little bit. At this point, it doesn't really matter.
I remember telling Bill in the final mile "Every finish is a major event.... these are really hard"
I crossed at 26 hours and 12 minutes. A good 6 1/2 hours from 2009, but I was thrilled. I'll take it!
Lots of people to thank,
- Bill Pomerenke - Crewed, and put up with me. Watched me hurl
- Wild Knits - Great mojo at each aid station. She knows how to keep you focused
- Bud - Pep talk on speaker phone. Nice to hear another voice of reason, from a guy who wins 100s
- Kathy J - Well.... see above
- The other aspiring Gnarly Bandits - great bunch
- Tina Johnson - Hold on for 1 more day & lip synching
- Angela Barbara - The eternal happy camper
- Joel Lammers - Letting me mess up his house
- The Warden/Park Service official - I will keep that story to myself
- John Maas and crew - I aspire to be over 50 and run like him (18 hrs and change for him)
- John Taylor, Allan Holtz, Susan Donnelly, Dary Saari - The legends
- And more importantly, my awesome wife
Maybe I will post more, with pics and other training pieces, but that's the race.
Black Hills in 2.5 weeks
No proofreading - so excuse the tipe o's