Sunday, April 11, 2010

Zumbro 100 Race Report

Sometimes the shadow is the voice of doubt in the back of your head.
Sometimes the shadow is the controlling force preventing you from embarking on a journey or challenge which you know will push you to your limits.
Sometimes the shadow is voice rationalizing everything which should not be rationalized.

And what I just realized today is that the shadow can take over all operations and start saying and seeing things you would not have otherwise said.

Bill P. has had a few conversations with my shadow, and he had one Friday night/Saturday morning.

When I pulled the plug at Zumbro, it was not my shadow taking over. I actually rolled into the 3rd aid station on the 3rd 20 mile loop with the full intention to fix what was going wrong. Problem is, I still don't fully understand what went wrong.

My strength felt fine. My legs were a little sore, but what is to be expected past mile 50. I had no blisters, no chaffing, and only a sore knee to worry about. Somehow, I managed to get dehydrated.

I did not think I was dehydrated when I arrived at AS 3, I just thought I needed the right mix of food/calories/protein/fat. I even thought "Get a quick 15 minute nap, and that might do the trick". So I laid down on one of those 5 ft. long log benches (I am 6ft tall), and that did not work well. I then asked for a tarp, and rolled up in it next to the camp fire. Maybe a 30 minute nap.

People kept bringing me stuff to eat and drink, but the mere though of food brought me to the edge of puking. I even dry heaved in the fire once.

I started to realize I was probably done. I have been at this physical spot before, and it is not a quick recovery. Once I realized that, then the shadow took over.

The Shadow speaks

"I am glad I have not signed up for Kettle"
"Why do I do these races"
"No more races over 50 Miles for me"
and the cliche
"Never doing this again"

Not sure if I said any of these things, but I was thinking them.

I think I regained control at about 8am this morning.

So that is what happened. From about 7pm - mile 45 or so, until about 7:30 am the next morning, I only consumed about 4 ounces of liquid. Believe me, I tried. No dice. Dehydration was the symptom. I believe the disease was too much electrolytes.


I decided to take a different tone for the rest of this.

I did not want this to be a report where I describe getting to the cliff of death, and barely surviving. I actually want people to come away reading this with a "You know, that actually sounds like fun" attitude.

So it is all positive from here.

Hopefully some of the readers see this as a "I have to do one of these" reads.


What is the difference between a Marathon and an Ultramarathon?

Marathon - Pre race - night before

You show up to a crowded arena, pick up a packet full of crap you don't need a talk about what 5 minute gap you are hoping to fall into. You cram your mouth full of pasta and go home or to a hotel where you try to sleep, but fail to.

You never see any of the top runners, because they have a different area to check in. They even get their own staging area, possibly their own warm van and even their own bathrooms.

Ultramarathon - Pre race - night before

Sitting around a camp fire with Brent, Adam, Chad, and Donnie. The daughter of the "elite" runner comes over to our tiny little fire and says "My dad says you can come over to a real fire instead of these twigs". 1 hour before we saw him chopping wood with a Grim Reaper style double sided axe. I think I even yelled "Keep that up, we need every advantage possible".

We had a few beers, talked about running, talked about the course, and talked about upcoming events.

Anybody willing to put themselves out there on the start line or willing to volunteer is pretty much automatically accepted into the "club". I think the only rule of the "club" is "You have to get it".

You either "get it" or "you don't". If you have to ask why, you won't understand the answer.

I met to newcomers to the "club", Misty and Chad. Misty will be debuting 100M at Kettle. Chad, not sure, but by the look of the fun he had on his face I give him 1 year max before he is doing something like this.

Sun goes down, off to bed.

My tent was about 50 yards from the start line. Can't do that in a big marathon.


Morning comes - Aside from the turkeys, coyotes, owls, and other animals I can not identify, it was pretty quiet.


Marathon - Start

> Wait in line for porta potties
> Get to the start line 15min-1/2 hour before start so you don't get behind 10 min milers lined up in the 7 min block.
> Pee behind a dumpster
> Listen to cliche pre race songs over the loud speakers "Born to Run" and "Chariots of Fire"
> Get into an almost starting block stance so you can nail that first mile as planned

Ultramarthon - Start

> Race director informs runners of markings and special weird parts of the course. Example, "Flags will always be on your left, except when coming on the out and back section. If you come to an intersection in the trail, and there are no markings, you are off course. Go back to the last flag and get back on course". My favorite pre race RD speech went like this 3 years ago at the Superior 50 Mile race. "....... then go out to Cramer Rd and come back" (the out was 25 miles, as well as the back).

> No worries about going to the bathroom because you are going to have to go bathroom sometime soon anyway.

> Staging for proper pace in line? Well, in this case, if you didn't like it you could get in that spot right away.

> No music.

> Hopefully not a lot of thinking about what you are about to do.


And the game was on.

Almost immediately John Storkamp takes off (as instructed) but gives us the "look back". The big question at that point was how many people would risk going out at a Storkamp pace. I may not be smart, but I know from experience that a certain percentage of those front runners DNF as a result of going out too fast. That is the most dangerous game to play, yet the most rewarding for those who succeed.

I fell in with Brad Birkholz, Zach Pierce, Daryl Saari (Brownie), and a few others. Same old same old.


The field spread out.

Blah, blah, blah. None of you actually care about what happened the next 20 miles. But I will tell you this. I learned Daryl's nickname is "Brownie", and that he HAS been chicked by the Mrs. Could there be a Mr. and Mrs. Granly Bandit this year? Daryly might have to give his pants to his lovely wife, Lynn.

Adrian, the stud from Illinois was with us for a while. This guy has some serious mojo. He decided to run this 2 DAYS before the start. With a Badwater under your belt from the previous year, as well as a McNaughton 2nd place finish, I guess nothing is out of the question.

I tried to manage coming into one of the aid stations elbowing Brad or Zach to show I was actually ahead of them at one point. Like that really matters.


Loop 1 = 4 hours. No problem.

Here is how stupid some of us are. We start thinking (and actually saying) "Yeah, 4.5 hour loops... no problem.

(loop 2 was 5 hours, and I was 7th or 8th).


Loop 2 - It starts to get warm. The "sand coulees" and rock cliffs sure capture some radiant heat. It got down right hot for a few hours. Luckily I layered, and stripped down. I was managing the clothes perfectly (although it is time to buy a white compression shirt, instead of black).

Damn it is HOT.

Somewhere around mile 30, Zach and I roll into A/S #2. John Gustafson is keeping an eye on us. We both look and feel like crap. We both ugged our way out of there and spent about the next hour in near silence. This sucks. Funny how you can bond a friendship without saying a word. I felt things would get better if we stuck together.

At A/S 4 he decided to do a big stop to change, and I went on with the plan to do the same at the next one. I fully expected him to catch back up as I was finishing.

I rolled into the 2nd loop finish in pain, but still together. Helen had my video camera and caught on tape. It is actually very interesting to see what state I was in. Bill was there to help out and learn how to open a trunk on a Volvo.


Loop 5 - Okay

First A/S. Bill gives me some ginger and I take my first pill of "Vitamin I". Just to take the edge off. I was sick to my stomach. I asked for a small baggie of "the pills" so I could take one every 2 hours. Good, smart plan. I take them. Put them in my side pouch where they actually fall straight to the ground. 2 hours later I was in shock.

But.... leaving that A/S, I felt good. I ran the next 2-3 miles no problem. Maybe more. I was recovering. I was better.

I saw Adam, a first timer at the next A/S. He was pulling the plug. I felt better so I gave him the "fellow runner" pep talk and instructions. 2 hours later I was in the same spot.

Basically, I went from fine, to miserable from mile 45 to 52. Not brain miserable, stomach stopping. Cement was in my stomach. Dry heaving. I can't get any water down. I can't drink anything.

I made it to A/S 3 with the full intention to take a break, and get it back. I got worse.

The Negative Part

I ended up curling up under a tarp by a campfire. What I thought was 1/2 and hour was actually 2.5 hours. I remember Larry making some comment about me under a tarp, and then he was gone. Just a few moments later, Bill P is calling my name (wow, those guys move fast!) These guys tried to get me to eat and drink stuff, but I could not.

I can't explain it. This was not one of those mental crashes. I spent the whole time trying not to puke. I was mad. What did I do wrong? I drank lots of water, took plenty of S Caps (what I thought was less than a moderate amount), and ate consistently (which now I think was too much). My whole body started cramping up (this never happens to me). I really screwed up.

I finally decided this is not worth it. I am not that tough to just duke it out. I can handle the running and bodily pain, but not the stomach pain. I also don't like the idea of trying to cover the next 3 mile leg without drinking any water.

On the short walk back to Bill's car, I realized going to the bathroom how dehydrated I was (you can tell by the color).

I returned to my tent, still in my running clothes (and gloves) plus extra warm stuff and slept. Woke up at 2 am, tried to drink some water, couldn't.

End of the Negative Part

Woke up at around 7:20 to hear Storkamp finishing.


I thought about changing the name of my blog to "A Guy Who DNF's", but even that is too much self deprecating humor for my blood.

My original plan was to use this as a training run. Try new method's, new things, new strategies.


What went right

I pretty much nailed the clothing part. No cold hands. Never cold (it was cold at times). When it got hot, I put on (it was put on me) sunscreen, and went down to a tank top. No Chaffing. No blisters. No black toes... yet. Could have one.

I went out at the right pace. It is sooooo easy to go out harder than you should on these, and run some of the easy hills. I did not. I never felt like my body could not run. I never lost the strength.

The strength training gave me strength in posture and an overall solid feeling I am not used to. I am used to flab and organs sloshing around, which eventually takes its toll.

There are other things which I think I did right, but may have been mistakes. Still thinking about that.

What went wrong.

Zero heat acclimation. It got hot enough where this became a factor for a few hours. Damn.

Hydration & Electrolytes. Missed by a long shot. Maybe it was the way the race director mixed the drink

Food. Tried new foods. I think they might have been okay, but in the wrong quantities.


At least I can say this. I have a long training run in so I can go hammer at Ice Age.

There are a lot more thanks and congratulations I should put here, but there are so many.

Bill, thanks for covering helping when I was down.

Brad, that was an awesome finish.

Zach, repeat age class title and 3 in a row against me. Look out at Ice Age.

Larry, you dedication to putting on these races is amazing. You and your family are a cut above.

There are more to think, but just trying to get this one posted tonight.

100% sure about Ice Age, 50/50 for Kettle right now. It is not good to run an engine completely dry of gas. Once or twice is okay, but soon things go real bad, especially if the oil goes too.


Oh yeah, did Crossfit Endurance work? The heck if I know! I tell you this, I was doing air squats yesterday no problem and I can run up and down stairs today. We will have to wait until Ice Age to see. Fran, Murph, Griff.... here I come (they are CF names).


Helen said...

GREAT race report Matt. I don't know that we ever fully figure out the 'what went wrong' stuff but you definitely know how to get across the ups and downs on these races. Congrats on getting out there, running smartly and ultimately making the smart decision. Recover well and you'll be in great shape for Ice Age.

p.s. I suspect Bill will be hearing about the trunk for a while to come...

Helen said...

p.p.s. very funny rd picture!

brothergrub said...

Funny how in this sport we can feel like a "failure" for running ONLY 52 miles... Weird little corner of the world we live in...

Great report and observations... You probably just needed more stairs. Get Larry to put some on the ant-hill!!

Bill P. said...

Good race report, Mr. Patten. Sorry for the stomach issues, but you made the right decision.

From someone who has witnessed you in a number of races, I think the Cross Fit is going to pay major dividents down the road. You were running a smart race and one of the "unpredictables" came into play. For those running Ice Age, beware and be scared! Matt's will have to be reckoned with!

As for my inability to open a Volvo trunk, a shout out goes to Helen's help or I may still be out there searching the car for that elusive latch.

On a side note, once I got the trunk open I found a copy of Matt's Cross Fit "training" video of him and Ron Bero.

And you thought long slow distances were the key to winning ultras. :-)

Julie B said...

Nice report Matt, sorry you didn't finish. At least you are running Ice Age and not saying screw it all. Have fun hammering it! That's a positive, right?

Kel said...

Heh, I remember that picture of Larry mixing up the drinks from Chippewa last year :)

Sounds like you had a tough day (and then some) out on a tough trail. I hope you are able to figure out what went wrong so that you can avoid repeating the same scenario down the line.

I had a similar experience at Lean Horse last year in 100 degree heat with the nausea, dry heaving, etc. Started the day feeling great, then quickly went downhill before literally passing out at an aid station. All symptoms of heat exhaustion. I finally decided that the only thing I did different that day was use an oil based sunscreen - I wasn't sweating. You might want to check the sunscreen that you used and see if it's water based or oil based. Was it after putting on the sunscreen that you started feeling lousy?

Another thought - taking ibuprofen before or during endurance exercise is asking for trouble, even in therapeutic doses. Taking 200 mg every two hours for several hours is beyond therapeutic. Taking it while already dehydrated is even worse. Ibuprofen (and other NSAIDS) prevent your body from producing prostaglandins, which can cause GI distress, nausea, even more difficulty managing electrolyte & hydration balance, and in extreme cases, kidney failure or GI bleeding. Luckily you dropped the bag of pills :)

Recover well, figure it out, and have fun at Ice Age and Kettle!

Matthew Patten said...


Thanks for the concern. I should have been more clear on the "bag of pills". They were ginger and Ibuprofen.

I only took 1 200mg pill the whole race. The plan was to take 1 every 2 hours for about a 6-8 hour period. This falls well into the dosage guidelines. I took the first one at about 12 hours.

The problems I have read about NSAIDS in every case are a result over dosages over the recommendation. Usually WAY OVER.

The doctors I have consulted with on this have no issues with the way I use them. SPARINGLY.

Too much water can kill you as well. It's all in the correct dosage.

Thought I would clarify so people don't think I am some druggie.

Zach said...

I'm truly sorry your day ended the way it did, after I took too long to catch up the last time, I didn't think I'd see you till the finish, it sucked to run into you under those circumstances. However, I really enjoyed hanging out the first 40 or so. It was nice to have someone to trudge along with when everything started going south as well.

P.S. Didn't you say Birkholz was supposed to slow down eventually so we could catch him?? I think you had that backwards :D

^chewie said...

Matt! You may have it right about me; I was indeed having a lot of fun. No, I had a blast. Two days later, I thought my legs and hip would be killing me, but I feel stronger and more energetic than ever. Who would have thought pacing for 20 miles in the middle of the night on a "Larry Trail" would have me thinking past Grandmas and on to something like North Face or Sawtooth. My family already thinks I'm crazy! Who knew that Ultra running would respark my interest in hiking, camping and by your lead, cleaning up my carboys and corney kegs to have a go at a nice Heffe. :) Apparently you did, so thanks for sharing!

I have no doubt you'll knock out the next 100 in style!


Adam said...

You sure put down a lot of the thoughts that were in my head at the time. Much better than I was able to put down. Thanks for the great report, and we'll get 'em next time.


Psyche said...

That was a very insightful report.I love the comment, "If you have to ask why, you won't understand the answer." Awesome.

You learned so much, and the insights will keep coming to you, I'm sure. This was undoubtedly a very important experience.

I thought Kels' comments were fascinating- really, really "inside info" when it comes to ultra's. Who woulda thought about the implications of sunscreen? Or Advil?

Your report did, indeed, affirm that I want to do one of those things!

Your Chuck Norris jokes were HILARIOUS! A CPA friend told me the tax one is: "When Chuck Norris fills out his taxes, he sends in blank forms with only a picture of himself, crouched and ready to attack. Chuck Norris has not had to pay taxes, ever."

Best wishes for a speedy recovery!

Scott said...

That heat was crazy, caught me by surprise, too. I think you nailed it about the sand - thats like running on a mirror in some ways. I felt like I strugggled with hydration/electrolytes, too.

Glad I got to see you at least once on the course, but sorry about the reason. At least when you go out, its with a bang! It wouldn't be as interesting if you just said you were spent and dropped. ;-)