Sunday, June 8, 2008

Kettle Morraine 100 report (sort of)


I guess I better get this one out of the way.

The short version......
I dropped at the mile 31 aid station.

The long version

I always like starting reports with funny quotes.

Timo (the race director) at the pre-race briefing. "There is severe weather in the forecast. There is no way to call off the race or signal danger, so get to a low spot if bad weather is near" not an exact quote, but that was the jist of it.

The quote I remember after the ordeal was over goes something like this (not verbatim)
"a man's character is revealed not through his success and achievements, but how he deals with failure and adversity".


"Sports don't build character, they reveal it"


As of today I will not whine, complain, bitch or moan, make excuses, or feel sorry for myself. I don't attempt these races for glory or to gain points at the water cooler.

So here is what happened.

The drive down on Friday was uneventful. My family and Jim Wilson shared a cabin on Friday night, so we got to bond. I also met up with Brent at packet pickup, and we chatted, and discussed the weather.

I think I actually said somewhere in one of these meetups, "I am not too worried about the heat, because I am not running fast tomorrow, just far." I normally get destroyed by heat when racing. I had this idea that if I slowed down enough, heat would not hurt me. AND, I was not racing.

Famous last words. I was not even nervous.

Jim and I headed off to the start, and were there around 5am. We met up with the Aussie, and learned some Aussie vernacular. "Good On Ya" Jim and Brent! I was puzzled when she asked Jim "What do you reckon we do abouth mossies?" She was asking about deal with the mosquitos.

I found Brent and headed to the start. I shook Mark Tanaka's and Joe Kulak's hand, and wished them luck. They literally DID toes the start line, and started the thing like it really was a race. They even had the 100k runners beat off the line.

My plan was to take an s-cap every hour until it got really hot. Then every half hour. I had no desire to ingest 20,000 mg of sodium in 24 hours. I think this was my first mistake.

My plan was also to run my own race. I quickly realized that Brent and I were running different races, so he pulled away at mile 2. I was in no hurry. People were passing me. That was cool. 100 miles is a long way.

I was trying hard to keep my foot on the breaks during the first hour. I believe I did, but was still averaging 10 min miles. That would be a fast pace if I maintained it. I kept slowing every opportunity I had. I knew my heart rate was below 140, so I was not concerned. I was sweating a lot, but drinking and taking electrolytes.

The course looks quite different than 4 weeks ago. Much more vegetation growth. I felt relaxed and focused. I ended up behind a runner who kept asking if I wanted to pass. I said "not really, I am not in a hurry". Turns out this guy has run it before, and posted some good times. 3 weeks ago he ran Greenbay marathon in 2:55. That did not scare me, as often one has nothing to do with the other. I made sure I stayed behind him after he said "we are on a 20 hr pace". Not for me. He pulled away from me shortly after.

I soon found myself pacing a pack of 7 runners. I kept urging them to pass, but they said this was a good pace. Now I was responsible for something... uh oh.

One of the women behind noted that the section from 15 miles to 25 miles is killer. It is flat, but in the prairie, no shade, and hot hot hot. "How bad could it be?"

I will have nightmares about that section for some time.

The section was rolling meadows, with some grass growth. All of the humidity was amplified by the grass. Plus, the recent heavy rains made portions of the running surface boggy. The sun was out and not a cloud in the sky (maybe). No wind. After 10 minutes of this, I was feeling it. There were occaisional breaks of wooded shade, followed by more of that. I was sweating BUCKETS. I had to adjust my plan. I started walking. I decided to walk until the shade, and then run. I figured running in the meadow was wated energy. I was walking fast enough where the runners in front of me were not even pulling away from me that much.

I look down at my shoulders and they were bringt red. Not good. It was 10:30 am, and I was sunburned like a lobster. I did not expect this. I was hot, sunburned and running out of fluid. By 2pm I would be burned beyond a crisp. And I only had tank tops to change into.
(what I did not know, was that my skin was turning red due to early signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. I am still trying to figure that one out, as heat stroke comes after heat exhaustion).

All I can say is, I was not sunburned. Not at all. Maybe I was seeing things.

So, at the next checkpoint, I was surprised by my family. I told my wife "it is very hot". Duuuuh!

She took some pictures of me looking like an idiot. I did find a Moose Mtn t-shirt in the car (thanks Larry), so I put that on. By the time I left that aid station, I actually felt good. I took it real easy for the next few miles.

I was alone, and saw nobody for a while. I started to worry if I was on the right trail. I crossed a road at one point, and was afraid I was lost. I turned around and looked at the road, and sure enough, there were course markings. I was starting to loose my mind. I was only 1/4 of the way there.

I rolled into the next aid station with another guy who I somehow caught up to (or he to me, I don't remember). I looked at the marker, and it said 26.5 miles. I turned to him and said in a sorrow tone "we have only run a marathon". I look at my watch. 5hrs and something.

I asked "How long to the next aid station?" The answer was "a slow 5 miles". I was wondering what exactly that meant. But I was off.

I don't know when it happened, but about 1/2 hour after that my body shut down. It would not deliver energy to my legs. I would start jogging slowly, and immediately I would have to stop. Every time I took water I felt like I was going to puke. I was getting dizzy and disoriented. My hands were swollen. My fingers were turning blue! Bad. I knew I was done.

If this were mile 62 or later, I would have done something to get me through (jumped in a lake). But I was at about mile 30. I could see no way how to "tough it out" for 70 miles.

I was worried that I would be in danger between aid stations, like not making it and needing medical treatment.

I did consider jumping in one of the lakes on the way back. I was serious. Then I realized that one might do this late in a race as a last resort. Not in the first third.

The last mile to the 50k turnaround was a death march, but I made it. It only took me a few minutes to say I was done. Many others were making the same decision there.

I asked the race officials if there was a DNF bell I could ring (a la navy seals), but none was to be found. I think they should have something like that in the future. I was about to cry. I sat down with my family, and my 3 year old said "daddy, you STINK". Thanks Todd.

I was embarrassed that I only made 31 miles in a hundred mile race. I knew I was only allowed to feel sorry for myself for a few hours. I did. I am done with that.

Here is the crazy part. I felt worse at that point than any of the 50 miles or 50k's I have finished. I was toasted at the end of IA 50 this year. But I was still able to run (slowly) at the end. I was totally incapable of running at the spot I dropped here.

I was severly dehydrated. My core temperature was way up. I needed a shower.

It took until Sunday morning for my fever to break, and even then my wife said my face looked swollen. I looked at my shoulders, and there were no burns. I was still drinking as much as I could.

I felt guilty that when I went to bed on Saturday night, Jim and Brent were still out there. There were sever t-storm warnings, a tornado watch, and buckets of rain coming down. I was hoping they would make it.

Brent came in at 25 hours plus some, and Jim was the last to finish with 18 minutes before the cut.

About 120 started the race, 37 finished. Some look at last place as a bad thing. Jim made Rockstar status in my book for finding a way to get there before the cut off. Brent too.

The winner last year (Mark Tanaka) was 4 hours slower this year, and still managed 2nd place.

What is next

I am not sure, but I still plan to run Superior 100. Afton 50k and Voyageur 50 mile make me nervous due to the heat. I might work on heat acclimation for the next month. I quit early enough in the race as to not destroy my psyche and season. I am not tough enough to be stupid.

Congratulations to Adam Harmer for winning first at FANS 12 with 75 miles....IN THE HEAT!


Runnin-from-the-Law said...

Glad you knew when to quit and weren't stupid enough to try to tough it out when you were obviously having heat exhaustion issues. Scary stuff. You will reach 100 miles, it's just going to be later this year!

MN Ultra Runner said...

Great job and great decision.

Carl Gammon said...

I had a couple of Kettle weather updates during FANS and I was thinking of you. You may not have reached that goal yet, but every race is an accomplishment. You probably learned a dozen things that will help you next time -- in September!

brent said...

Wise decision Matt. I knew you were having a rough time when we met on the trail...but I didn't realize the full extent in our short conversation out there. Self assessment(medical) is very difficult and you made all the right moves. Let's get together for a run when we both are healed up!

SteveQ said...

I told you the 100 is a different animal! I didn't make it either; we'll both have to lose our virginity at Superior.

Delane said...

whoolly crap Batman, just even trying a 100 mile race is a victory in my book.

GL on your next race, I'm sure you will accomplish your goals.

keith said...

those were pretty brutal conditions for a first 100. i think you made the right choice. live to run another day or something like that.


there aren't any bells at superior either!! let's hit afton in a couple weeks!

Kel said...

Some times it takes more guts to stop than to keep going. Sounds like you did the right thing by calling it at 31 miles. Recover well!

phillip said...

Donny Clark gave the following words of advice which have been very meaningful to me and might be to you and your readers, too.

"I have respect for anyone willing to step to the line and start a 100 miler."

In other words, one is a winner by trying.

One may not finish first, but there is no losing.

Phillip Gary Smith


Good job Matt! Smart and difficult choices you made.
Be careful in the near'll probably be a little more at risk to the heat for a while.

RunWesty said...

Great effort, dropping is always the toughest decision. I look forward to hearing about your next attempt at the 100 and someday hope to try the distance myself. Heal up and get back out there.

Julie B said...

Wow. Isn't that something? To feel those symptoms of heat exhaustion so soon! To not feel any energy in your legs so early (relatively speaking), not that a marathon is so early to most. It amazes me how difficult it is to run without being acclimated to the heat first had. I had never fully realized how difficult until FANS. Now we know. Hopefully next year we won't have such a cool spring and we'll be in heat shape to do some heat running. Good decision, there is another 100 miler waiting for you in the fall :)

Ultrathoner said...

Great (and accurate) post. I was was tough.

Sometimes dropping is the right thing to do, as hard as it is.

Myself, I turned around just beyond Hwy 67 at mile 39. Quite honestly, we were afraid of entering the meadow during the violent lightning and thunderstorm.

We even saw a funnel cloud! It was north of Eagle on the way driving back to Nordic to let them know we had dropped.

It sucks because I was having a good day despite the awful weather conditions. I know that I could have finished.

Good luck on doing 100m. I am planning on attempting the Lean Horse Hundred here in SD as my first 100m in August.

davidultra49 said...

Nice report man. It sounded like you had a real rough time. From the sound of it you need to take more salt during your runs. One S-cap per hour usually works fine for me. helps the stomach process the fluid and keeps away the nausea feeling when you drink. also helps with the swelling issue. Thanks for the comment about my son. He'll only be 4 on July 16th.