Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Kettle Moraine, WI: Oh My QUAD!

The shirt I really should own!
I can't help but to feel disappointed at making it 77 miles and dropping due to the time cut-off to the next aid station and back and some blown out quads. And at the same time, I know when I am beat, and I have a new sense of what matters to me in these challenges. There will always be that unknowing sense of where I will end up and what will happen on the course. That's part of the appeal in the adventure for me and I think most ultra runners as well. I am not in it to win it. Amazingly enough, that has never happened. I am in it to do the best I can with what is dealt and it's going to be a ROUGH challenge. I expect it.

By mile 77, my quads were shot and there was no way I could make the splits happen without out-of-control descending down rocks. Every step down screamed and I was taking the downward slopes and rocky steps straight legged at this point. I still had the power climbing ability—probably thanks to the Jacob's Ladder training. But the stepping down reached beyond my pain threshold and continuing on and trying to catch myself through the rockiest part would have become dangerous and like having no brakes in a getaway car. I just want to remind myself of the reality of that as I write this. The "in hindsight" we do after a race plays tricks and amnesia alters the severity of what was reality in these experiences.

Although Evie, my BFF pacer, didn't want me to know the cut-offs and still go thru the next section regardless, my other pacer, Gina, pointed out that I couldn't even bend my legs which became extremely laughable in my mind. Literally running down hill and rocks with pencil legs. I knew that the crazy needed to be pushed no further. One hematoma with a longer recovery has been enough for this runner's life time. And the thought of crashing down? I think I might have fainted from the pain that could have caused, because these brakes called "quad"s were completely stripped, close to none existent—GONE.
Sunset from our cabin the night before and me making avocado sandwiches the morning of the race.

THE START and the Nitty Gritty

The day started off with me very calm. There was nothing else I could have done in that moment and maybe being my second 100 miler, I have already learned to just chill. We woke up in the smelly mothball cottage (the smell was enough to make me run to the start line!) on a near by lake that was just 8 minutes from the start. The closeness and lake view was the best part. I booked it on VRBO which actually was everything I expected besides the surprise disclaimer when we got there of, "Don't take long showers" or flush the toilet often. I believe the manager's exact words were, "If it's yellow let it mellow. If It's brown, flush it down." Uuuu, yuck.

Upon awakening, I made avocado sandwiches with low glycemic bread while Evie made the grilled cheese sandwiches. The final items were packed in my over stuffed packs with pickle juice, date samoa balls, GUs, VESPA, coconut water, Tailwind, coconut coffee shots, Starbuck protein coffees, ginger candle, Pepto tabs, vinegar and salt chips, chocolate, socks, clothing, bandages and a couple safety pins—prepare for everything and anything. That is ultra. My crew, of Evie and my husband, were meeting me about every other aid station where they were permitted and assisting me with my bags. I was welcoming the help this time. It's a hard lesson to learn.

The night before we tried to pick up my bib and I was told we were 2 minutes too late even though our phones said it wasn't 7:00. Apparently there is a strict cut-off for obtaining a bib and it's at the discretion of one person's watch. It didn't feel very welcoming at all. But trying to stay positive we tucked out tail between out legs and moved on down the road.
Left to Right:
Bib pick up: Picking up my bib the morning of the race since I was told I couldn't pick it up 2 minutes after 7:00 pm the night before. Our phones showed it wasn't 7:00 yet but apparently packet pick up is on race time to who ever works the station. These cut-offs are serious! Don't mess with them!
Bag drop: My husband and pacer Evie at the start. These bags are over the bag drop size described in the manual. Note for next time to ignore stated size in manual.
First 10k into the race: a happy moment eating oranges and fueling.

Insert Mantra: First 50 miles, do no harm

They sent us off in a mob of 100k and 100m runners down a wide two-track surrounded by some of the tallest and greenest trees I had been by. I felt a little like a hobbit. I didn't know who was in the 100m vs 100k without asking. I started out easy—real easy. While other people raced down the hills, I pulled back. About 20+ miles in, right before entering the meadows another runner was feeling sick, so I gave him my Pepto. I was feeling great. I was sorry it was covered in GU gel, but individually wrapped and safe. ICK!

I enjoyed the conversations about running with several runners. It's always a running interview. Come to find out, Pat and I had the same training plan from Relentless Forward Progress. He is in his 50s and has completed a few 100s. I felt like we were paced well, but after mile 31 things became more challenging and I got a little nauseated in the woods. I lost him and Steve. Pat was obviously stronger than me. I am not sure why the nausea happened yet again—the whole nauseation thing blows my mind since I don't get sick training.  I have also never seen so many other ill people on the side of the trail taking a time out. I ended up fighting in and out of this state for the rest of the race, but more so in the heat of the day. It was 80s with high humidity of 90% or more. Not a good mix. I ended up placing ice in my hat, shirt, and light neck gaiter from INKnBURN. The ginger candy seems to really help calm my sick feeling, but then I needed to GU and was sick all over again. GU...how I hate you. I think we need to separate.

Side note: As noted by my pacer, Evie, this race was easy to navigate through as a crew member. They had no problem finding the stations and they even allow the pacers access to food and drink at the stations.

I began really looking forward to when I would run with Evie and by mile 44 I had lost my banked 30 minutes. IT WAS HOT IN THE MEADOW coming back in the sun. I hiked the heck out of much of the meadow at under a 15 minute mile pace up and down the mowed path. It's a very runable part,but damn the sun was beating us down now. I started having to use the porta potty more. And the fun just kept on rolling. I had two blisters that needed popping and duct tape was the best remedy after the blister pads failed to stick well with my sweat—I did pack everything.

Insert Mantra: I can take it.

I picked Evie up a little behind schedule and we were off on the trail. I can't tell you how great it is to have a pacer pointing out the rocks, tree roots and bumps as the sun goes down. The trail is not really that technical but every little bit of assistance helps as the heavy forest made it seem a lot darker than it was, and the sun started going down.

Insert Mantra: I can take it.

We kept on going and about mile 55 I really noticed my quads aching on the steps downward. It was painful! Fast speed forward and we were at the Nordic Trail Head—the start and finish for mile 63. I saw the Director and asked him about cutoffs. I didn't know what time it was since my watch failed hours before, but I knew I was off. We were under the cut off by 31 minutes and had to hustle now to get back out! This was awful news. Beat the clock was on! I changed clothes remembering the freezing issue I went thru at Superior and we headed back out. The Director hollered, "100 miler going back out!" and the crowd cheered and blinking lights and sirens when off. They do know how to make it exciting.

Although we were running, we went back to a speed walk and Evie made calls on the trail to tell my husband and next pacer, Gina, where we were and to find out how much time we had.We saw two head lamps ahead and one looked like he was aiding the other just by the way they were huddled and not moving. They started running as we approached and as we were next to them, Evie asked if the one that had the movement of a non-pacer—slow and weak—if he was running the 100 mile. His response was, "Bite me!" Apparently the hours of "good job," "keep it up," "great work," "way to go," from other runners had broken him.

I was looking right at him at this point, feeling disbelief from his answer and seeing someone in pretty bad shape. His pacer was very chatty and Evie and him went ahead of us running in conversation. As we went up a small hill I noticed the runner had disappeared and I called to his pacer that if he was with that guy, he had lost him back there somewhere. He quickly thanks me and headed back to find him.

We approached Bluff where I picked up Gina, my old college roommate, who had been waiting too long—which I am truly sorry about—but she was in great spirits and we set off to try to get through the next couple of aid stations in 3:40. I knew it would be hard to do as I wasn't moving well. The forest rockiness was more than I could keep up with at night and in the pace we needed. Just keep moving…I began really doubting making it and even getting to Rice Lake and then I thought if I had to continue just to see the sun come up I would. I was at a point of just enjoying her company.

She was really taken back by how cheery and happy people are in an ultra. Yes we paid to suffer, and we embraced it to an extreme point.Well, most of us anyways…I wondered if "Bite me" man dropped.

Side note: It wasn't so great when headlamps were coming in fast at us with the 38 mile fun run going on. Trying to not get knocked over on a single track trail, at night, after a full day of running was the last obstacle I wanted to deal with. 

Evie, myself and Gina at the end of my voyage at mile 77.
It's going to be okay. I am so grateful that these two were there.

THE FINISH, but not my end…

Gina and I talked the entire time. We heard the birds awaken before the sun was up and saw a Luna moth fly in front of our headlamps and land near us on the trail. It was way cool. The frogs croaked and owls hooted thru the early a.m. We were now so far behind that the sun was coming up as we
headed in to HWY12. At roughly 22hours and 30 minutes I was 77 miles in and out of time to to get to Rice Lake and back.The aid station leader was unbelievable. He was energetic and wasted no time to tell me how great I had done just to reach his station.
Mantra burned. My quads can not take it.

To my husband's relief, he didn't have to rush me through 11 miles of rockiness. He said he didn't know how he would have done that anyways. His eyes were bloodshot from being up 26 hours and he wasn't feeling well. He didn't look well either. It takes a lot to crew and stay awake too—physically, mentally and emotionally. He did great. But let's take a moment and laugh now at the fact that I WAS THE ONE RUNNING THE ENTIRE TIME.

100k buckle if you make the cut-off. The Kettle Moraine recognizes the
effort while other races do not and the runner gets NOTHING.
When I approached the Co-Race Director, Tim Yanacheck at the start line to claim my buckle instead of the kettle, my husband commented to him that he personally had never had an all-nighter even in college...that was just funny to watch him say that looking like a pale ghost with bloodshot eyes—and I wish I had it on video. Again, here are all these ultras up all night and running huge distances, feeling as alive as they can in the moment. That's ultra living.

Tim proudly and sensitively handed me the 100k belt buckle and said, "I know this isn't the metal you wanted. I'm sorry." I felt he truly was sincere empathized for all of us who did not have the finishing race we worked for—all 46% of us that registered for 100m and fell short for what ever reason. I love the fact that this race is so different that they want you to walk away feeling like a winner for putting it all out there.

A friend of mine told me that not everyone can finish 100 miler. I am not sure that's true but began pondering it that day because amnesia had not set in yet. So much has to come together at once just like hitting a PR or barely squeaking in to Boston as some do—not this girl, but some do.

My dear man who encourages and has my
back and ass in this cra cra adventure called ultra
even though all-nighters are NOT his thing.
I could really beat myself up over this one—and you know I will—because I know where the bottom fell out and where I felt the weakest points and I certainly thought I could finish it...Oh my QUADS! I had dropped hill repeats and strength training—as in squats—from my training to focus on mileage and climbing. That was a mistake for a 100 mile trail run. I need it all! Trekking Poles may have saved some quad strength as well. And as Gina suggested when I picked yer up on the trail, "Can you stretch?" "OUCH!!! It was far too late. I should have tried that sooner.

I walked away really enjoying this particular race and I have thoughts to come back. The course is all trail like I expected it to be and they really did have all the aid stations packed with all the items they promised. The volunteers were A-MAZING! 77 miles isn't 100 but it's far more than where I dared to dream 7 years ago. I left it all out there with what I had on that day with my body blowing up before my mind.

So here I go again…making this average Jill train like a bat shit crazy mother runner, because amnesia set in a day later. It's called Resilience as well and it's the best thing I got.

1 comment:

  1. Jill- Congrats on being such s super Bad Ass mother runner. You always blow me away. I love your spirit. I know I'm so behind on reading your posts, but please know I think of you often on my runs. You have such heart in everything you do. So glad to see you have a wonderful support crew. That's HUGE. Keep on moving forward. You are such s rock star in my book. A true inspiration.

    Sending you love from MD.


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