Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Kettle Moraine 2015 100M Report

I'll be honest, for a while I thought I would never write a blog post title again with the words Kettle Moraine.

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.
Once the race started, I was blown away by how many people went out "fast".  The pack which took off in front of me was incredible.  At least 150 people going out hard (for both 100k and 100M)

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
And many more

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

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Zumbro 100 2015 Race Report

My good friend, Nick, has a great life lesson and analogy to what kind of person we are.

When Nick was young, he was a fighter in school.  He got into a lot of trouble and one day came home to his father saying "you think you are a tough guy?  well, come with me"

His dad took him to a boxing gym.  Awaiting for him in the ring was a younger, smaller kid.  This keep proceed to thoroughly kicked Nick's butt.

The owner of the gym told his father "one of 2 things is going to happen when you get home.  1 - His mom will wipe the tears and blood off while they cuddle and eat ice cream.  2 - He will be back tomorrow wanting to know how to fight like that"

Rewind to Superior 100 2012 - Aid Station at County Rd. 6 - 41 or so miles into the race

Me and my "friends" were lying around puking, aching, complaining, etc.  I went out too hard and put myself into the DNF (did not finish) category.  I DNF'd this same race 2 years prior, and the Zumbro 100 in 2010.

I had come off a great 2009, setting PR's (personal records) all over the place and thought I was becoming a great ultra runnenr

But then 3 100 starts in a row, 3 DNF's.  I went on to DNF 4 50 mile races, and the one I managed to finish was not a pretty performance.

At first I made it a joke.  I even had a white oval sticker on my car saying DNF.

But one must be careful of what they mock.  That DNF sticker defined me.

I still tried to put a season together, but never quite shoved my chips "all in".  It effected my a lot.

I stopped blogging.  I stopped going on runs with my friends.  Avoided the group events where people would ask "what race is on your calendar next"

I had given up, just never said it.  Sure, I had a lot of excuses (which people made for me!)
  • You travel a lot for work, that must be hard to train for anything
  • You have 4 kids
  • Your work is stressful and demanding
  • Your getting older, your body can't do what it could even a few years ago
  • blah
  • blah
  • blah
I started believing them.  I knew they were cop-outs, but they sunk in.  Then my buddy, John Maas, turns 50 and sets a US record for 12 hour timed, comes in second at Lean Horse 100 with a blazing fast time, and WINS Kettle 100 (thanks to me, cough cough).


I spent 3 years with my buddy Andy S. running the Crosby Manitou (mile 62) aid station at Superior watching my peers achieve what I used to be able to do.

I inside watching while my friends were out playing.

I tried to be Nick going home, crying to mom, getting coddled and eating ice cream.

Well, guess what......  I hated that!  I wanted to learn to fight like that kid who whipped Nick.  I wanted to be an Ultra Runner again.  I wouldn't even say yes when people asked if I run these.  I would respond "I used to".

Monday, September 8, 2014 - Monday after Superior 100 races.

I email "the boss", John Storkamp, Race Director of Superior 100.  I basically tell him its time for me to get my act together and I WILL be racing next year, time to give the aid station away (Maria B. was waiting for it).

I pushed my chips "all in"

I knew 2 things I had to do
  1. Build a HUGE aerobic base by following the Phillip Maffetone method
  2. Get my diet in order.  For me, that meant going hard core Paleo
  3. Lose weight
The adjustment was not easy.  I had to cut out a lot of bad habit foods and check my ego on running (Maffetone requires a lot of slow running ).  I had to be disciplined.  I had to be consistent.  I had to be patient.

Thursday, April 9th, 2015 - One day before Zumbro 100 mile
  1. I just finished my best winter training period, maybe ever
  2. I have been 90% Pale for 7 months (not telling you what that 10% is made of)
  3. Scale said I was down 26 pounds
I had also in the months between signed up for the Gnarly Bandit Ultra Series.  I have thought about it every year since its inception, but it was just not in the cards for many reasons.

During that period, the trail community lost a great friend, inspiration, leader, and all around stud in February.  Aaron Buffington lost his battle to cancer at the age of 42.  He finished the Bandit series 3 years ago, and was claimed by cancer 2 1/2 years later.  As cliche as it sounds, I was reminded that life is short and I could die tomorrow.

I had the chat with my wife, and she said "Bring me home one of those pictures with you on it"(it's what you get for finishing all 5 face as well as some $$ from Bill Pomerenke).

Okay!  But I have screwed up every race I have started in 6 years.  She acknowledged I had put in more time and effort she has even seen me put in.  She believed in me.  Oh yeah... she went on Paleo as well and lost 25 pounds!  And looks hot.  (she did anyway)

So I committed, and we are back to day before race day.  My son agreed to come with me to help and be general support for me and the race.  Have my 16 year old there gave me more reason to focus.  I told people "At some point in the race, I will be faced to show my son what kind of father he has".  Yes, heavy burden, but I really needed to get this monkey off my back!

The last things I did before leaving for the race were
  1. Cleaning the old stickers off my car (DNF, Aid Station Wench)
  2. Getting a real belt for my Superior 100 belt buckle I earned in 2008
Funny, nobody saw the buckle on Thursday as my sweatshirt covered it.  But the mojo was there.

Race Day

For those who don't know anything about what a 100 mile race like this is, check out this link.  In short, you get 34 hours to finish six 16 .7 mile loops.  And these loops are not easy.  Each loop has 2,342 feet of climb.  And lots of technical running.  Lost of rocks, mud, and even some flat spots where you can run.

Heavy rain the night before put me in nervous mode.  I don't like cold rain.  I can handle it for a while, but not 20+ hours.  I knew the forecast said it would clear, but I also knew the course.  I knew there would be some serious mud slide sections.  Well kids, that's trail running.  I was prepared for rapture if that were to happen.

Before the race started, Brain, Rick and I put a picture at the finish line (Photo from Zach Pierce).  Being a looped course, we would see this guy staring at us each loop.  This would remind us things could be a lot worse.  The plan was to tap the picture after each loop.  I was told many other runners did the same.

8 am.  The race was on.

When one embarks on 100 miles, the key is to run the first 30 or so REALLY EASY.  I used my heart rate monitor to keep my pace in check.  It meant falling back when I wanted to be farther ahead.  It meant being patient and focusing on what I was supposed to be doing.  I spent a lot of time with Jeff W, Brian W, and a few who I didn't know.  I had the opportunity to chat with the legendary Susan Donnelly for a while.  We shared stories of people outside the running community reading "Born to Run" and asking us why we have not run Western States 100 or why we don't run in Vibram 5 Fingers.  She made me laugh hard by saying "At least I {she} have run Leadville 100, if they get that far down the list".  The way she said it was priceless, like that isn't even an accomplishment.

2 loops down - 34 miles in

Everything is going perfect.  I have my first glimpse of true confidence.  At the Start/Finish aid station, mile 34, more than 1 person says "you look great.  You don't even look like you have run".  Well this means 1 of 2 things.  1, they are lying or 2, the 5 people who came in before me looked like crap.  I could tell by the look of the runner who came in just before me that it was number 2.  I was finally running a smart race.  I can finally relax and get this done

I pushed forward and ran a tad bit harder than I should, but still under my planned heart rate.

My third loop ended up being faster than my second.  50 miles - 12 hours - I still felt pretty darn good.

My good friend Jim Wilson "the rockstar", said he would pace me for loop 5.  Great thing to look forward to.  Jim just came off a lifetime accomplishment of finishing the Arrowhead 135.

At mile 53 I had a much needed sock change and shoe shake.  Bill Pomerenke and Zach Pierce had the honors.  Both of them told my son "This is not the first time we have changed your fathers socks".  Strange sport this is.

Then the stomach started to turn.  Stomach issues are my Kryptonite.  I slowed down before things got really bad.  Maybe if I just walked, my stomach would correct itself.  I hate puking.

Normally at this point, I start dry heaving, and my body becomes paralyzed when I try to walk.  I have no energy to go forward and I convulse.

This time, different.  I got my body so good a burning fat, I didn't have to force food.  As it happened, I ended up walking 30 miles with consuming only a 100 or so calories.  My body knew how to burn fat stores, and it did it.

I walked most of 4.  I DID NOT want to go out for a 5th lap, but knew I had to.

Lap 5

I walked into the start finish and announced "Jim W, you have a huge burden on your hands.  You have to get me through loop 5".  John Storkamp heard or hear about that quote and found it seriously amusing.

We were off.  Jim and I have run together for close to a decade now.  He knew me enough to just give me what I needed.  Somewhere in loop 5 puked and just sat on the road/trail convulsing.  Once I got it done, it felt better (not normally the case for me.

Here I was 70 plus miles into the race.  I was walking, but maybe I could run again if my stomach came back.

Jim said little, but gave me much needed support.  Every aid station was a near nap, but I managed to not waste too much time (maybe I did).

The sun came up, we finished 5.  He said I was on my own.

I felt better.

Lap 6

Before I went off, there is a whole gang of people at the start finish.  Bill, Larry, Lisa.  Larry said I better get going if I am going to finish before him (he was running the 17 miler - one loop - starting in less than an hour).  Larry "The Oracle" is a legend.  He started this race 7 years ago and is just an awesome person in the community.

Could not let him beat me.

Lisa (Wildknits) asked "think you got a sub 5 hour loop in you?"  I think so.

I ran
I ran
I ran

I had ups and downs right away, but damage has already been done.  I can wreck myself.

Soon the 17 milers came.  I was wearing the first year Chippewa 50k shirt on the final loop (no plan, was just the right shirt).  Lead 17 miler flies by me but gives me a double take.  Took me 15 minutes before I realized "That's my buddy Wynn Davis... the founder of Chippewa 50K".

Lots of 17's passing me.

It was all about "3 more big hills" "2 more".  Climbing the "Picnic Rock" hill, I was in a train of 17s, keeping up with them.  To get fired up I had to yell "How about this, hundo keeping up with the 17s"

I needed any mojo I could conjure up.

It felt good, though.  I was running.  I wanted to be done.

I ran the whole last flat section coming into 1/4.  Bill Pomerenke sees me and says I'm done, but who's going to run me in?  I said come with me.

Fully clothed in warm aid station clothes, he ran the last 3 with me.

Bill has seen me suffer first hand for 6 years.  He would call me when I was not wanting to be out there, but he forced me to come out and run.  He has heard me say each Fall "I'm going to come back in the Spring and do Zumbro".  Thanks Bill for helping me get there.  We crushed the final 3.

My Son met us in the final 1/4 mile to run across the field together.  Very special.  We all crossed the field together and I got my finish in 28:37.  14th place.  I was ecstatic.

I finally got the monkey off my back.

I got to sign the banner and got to tell people "I'm and Ultra Runner again"

So many people to thank (The Mrs. and the kids for putting up with my training).  But thank you to all who kept telling me to get out there.

I'm fired up to be a good runner again.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Building Blocks of a Comeback

When I decided to get my act together back in September, I was not sure what was in store for me.

I wanted to compete again, not just chalk up finishes (which is a great accomplishment in of itself for Ultras)

I knew I had to do 3 things
  • Get my diet back in order
  • Rebuild my base by the "Maffetone method"
  • Run A LOT of miles
I seem to do better if I put on a lot of consistent miles over just about anything else.

So.... fast forward almost 6 months.

  • I'm down 22-24 pounds (depending on the day)
  • I'm almost completely Paleo (except beer), and have been for this time
  • I spent 4 months strictly only running at my "MAF" heart rate (which most people would find dreadfully slow
  • I ran more miles over the winter than I think I ever had
For the first time, I put in a training week of over 100 miles.  I almost did it 2x, but decided to listen to my body instead of racking up the miles (I was run down).

Most of my weeks in the last 3 months have been 70+ miles.

Results - My body has been transformed.

Yesterday I ran a 40 miles at Afton State Park and for the first time ever in a really long run I thought at the end "I feel good, I should keep going".  I was alone, and already pushing the time limit on when I should be home.  But feeling solid at 40 sealed the deal

I'm Back

Oh yeah, I'm signed up for the Gnarly Bandit Ultra Series.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A New Years Resolution

After 4 months of consistent low intensity base training along with eating well, I can confidently say 2015 will be a good year.

I am down 20 lbs
My base pace is up 1.5 minutes per mile since September
and I want to run

I have many ideas for a 2015 schedule, but am also fairly gun shy.

But.... it is starting to come around.

I may even blog consistently again.

To a great 2015...... it will be for me

Friday, September 12, 2014

Motivation & Priorities

One of my struggles in the past few years has been a complete lack of desire and motivation to run (more specifically, train)

One of the sports I really enjoy outside of running is football.  I love this time of year with college & pro.  I spent 4 years at Northwestern University watching a team lose, and 3 years was spent in the marching band forced to watch them lose.

I gained a strange love for college ball during those years, and I still carry it today.

I also used to really enjoy motivational speaking and books.  I was one of those guys who would find a way to find something good in all of the bad which can happen around you.  This goes pretty deep into my psyche and childhood.  That is for another day.

This summer, I was commenting about some funny quotes Herm Edwards had said.  In my search to find his "don't press send" quote, I found this gem.

If you need to get your house in order, your mind in order, your life in order, watch this.
Part 2
Part 3

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Testing..... 1, 2, 3

Just curious if anybody reads this anymore or is interested in it going active again.

I stepped away for a while because.....

A - I just could not put the pieces together & did not want this to be a pity party blog
B - I lost my desire to be a runner..... for a while, at least
C - Had some personal issues I just did not want to be public about

Reasons for contemplation on getting the blog active again

A - After spending this weekend at the Superior Trail Races (volunteering), I am reminded of what this sport is about.... And I am still not sure I can explain it.
B - I am disappointed in where I have let myself get with diet and exercise
C - I am not ready to hang it up yet

So that is what the year and a half (okay, almost 2) break was about.

Stay tuned?

    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    1st Week in the Books

    Man, what I week.

    The mileage challenge started this week, and I set the bar pretty high for myself.  The problem, though, was my first run on Monday did not go well.  I decided to treadmill it (sometimes harder for me than running outside).  I got on, and was not into.  I was hoping for 10, and quit at 4.  I fully intended on making it up..... but we all know how hard that can be.

    Managed 10 miles each day Tues-Friday.

    P90X came this week, and my 8 year old was super motivated to do it with me.  So we did the fitness test on Thursday night, and did the first workout on Friday.

    I have to say it is kind of fun.  It is even more fun to have an 8 year old saying "come on dad, BRING IT"  He loved it.  I hung in there.

    It is easier than Crossfit so far, but a lot different.  This is more manageable for the average human.

    Saturday brought the famous "Donut Run" organized by Jordan.  I was not going to do it, but Bill P and Adam have been making a sport of gaming me on my lackluster performance lately.

    The Donut Run is a fun run where you run through South Minneapolis, stopping at a multiple of Donut Shops.

    I was to join them on the 17 mile loop (the long distance).  I needed more than that, so I arrived early and did 3 loops around Lake Nokomis (about 7.5 miles total).

    It was a blast.  Got to see a bunch of friends, but around mile 20 started to suffer.  Add in a few overshoots on which street to turn, my total was 25.8 miles.  If I knew that, I would have gone for the 26.2 (or actually 26.3) just to say so.  But once I stopped, I was done.

    Woke up this morning and did the Plyometrics P90X workout with my 8 year old.  Wow, what a great workout, but not a good idea 24 hours after a long run.  I toasted me.  But, this disc alone, is worth it for any ultra runner.  All of the moves are great supplements for ultra training.  And it is actually kind of fun.  I can't believe my kid just plows through it.  He is a red belt in Karate, and wants to be a professional athlete already.  He can beat me on a lot of stuff, but I still think I have better form (deeper squats).

    So my total for the week
    70.25 miles
    Long run = 25.8