I would like to rewind the clock to last summer when I attempted Burning River 100 in late July and I came up short. I was proud that I made it 74 miles but disappointed that a pain in my foot slowed me down and not making a cutoff prevented me from finishing, although the pain was so bad that even if I made the cutoff I probably would not of continued anyway. The biggest reason for the disappointment is that I dedicated 6 months of my life to training for the event. Countless hours driving to and running on the trails and also running around our neighborhood, all so I could achieve my newest life goal and get a 100 mile finisher buckle. In the later miles of Burning River I kept thinking that maybe I am just not cut out for doing 100 miles but I was caught up in the moment. Two days after my emotions settled down I was already plotting to find another 100 mile race to jump into. I knew I needed a few months to rest and recover from Burning River so I thought I could begin training in late fall for a spring race. Indiana Trail 100 is in late April and a relatively flat course with a little over 5,000 feet of elevation gain throughout the 100 miles so I thought it would be perfect.
I signed up for the race and I went out to one of the organized training runs in October last year to preview the course. The course is at Chain-O-Lakes State Park in Albion, IN and is a 16.7 mile trail loop that you run around 6 times to complete the 100 miles. The guys that put this race on (Mike Pfefferkorn, Jerry Diehl, Tom Landis, and Don Lindley along with several others) are extremely dedicated to the community, trail running, and the parks. They donate most, if not all, of the proceeds from the event to Chain-O-Lakes State Park. They are out there every weekend doing training runs, maintaining the existing trails and also helping to create new trails. The Indiana Trail 100 facebook page shows evidence of how dedicated they really are. They hold training runs every week throughout the year. They offer advice and even set up aid stations at many of the training runs. They do all of this for free out of their love of the sport and their community. This is very refreshing to see because with the ever increasing popularity of ultrarunning there are many businesses trying to capitalize by putting on races for profit which completely goes against the community driven values of trail ultrarunning. After running the trail, meeting these guys, and learning what they represent I was super excited that I signed up for this event.
Going into my training I kept in mind the valuable lessons I learned from my attempt at Burning River and I planned on putting that knowledge to use for Indiana. I changed my shoes in hopes that pain in the arch of my foot would not return in the later stages of the race. I went a step up from my Altra Superiors to the Altra Lone Peak 1.5's. I did this because the Lone Peaks have a bit more cushion which I thought would be valuable to preventing foot pain late in the race. I know this goes against everything I have said about the benefits of minimalist shoes for the last four years but after a lot of experimenting I have found what works for me. Minimalist shoes taught me proper form and are great for shorter distances but they do not provide the extra cushion I need for the longer distances of ultra marathons and Altra shoes are the best of both worlds. They have a big toe box which lets the toes spread out rather then getting sandwiched in the front of the shoe. Altra's are also zero drop which means they are flat from heel to toe. This help to keep good form because it does not promote heel striking like a raised heel would. So in a sense they are minimalist shoes with cushion. Sounds weird but, hey, when in Rome.
Another lesson I learned is that I was over trained going into Burning River. My plan for that race had me doing three hard weeks and then one rest week at lower mileage and this four week pattern was repeated all the way through the 26 weeks of training. The hard weeks got harder as the training went on and I was pretty burnt out going into the race. I wanted to try a new training plan and I found a 24 week plan from the book Relentless Forward Progress by Bryon Powell. The per week mileage goes up throughout the plan but you are not continually doing three hard weeks at a time. The mileage varies from week to week and it spreads it out nicely. I thought this would help me prevent burnout and also get a lot of miles in. The week day runs of Bryon's plan were longer then the weekday runs of the 26 week plan from before. The weekend runs were generally not as long which was the best part about it. Anyway, the reason I switched my shoes and training plan is this: the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I was mentally happy about my changes and was optimistic they would provide me with positive results.
|Winter training run|
Most of my long training runs were on the snow covered roads of our neighborhood. I don't think I seen the pavement all winter long on our residential streets. Over 7 feet of snow had fallen and accumulated throughout winter. I even had to join my local gym to run on the *gulp* dreadmill when the snow was too deep or the temps dropped below 10 degrees Fahrenheit. I don't have a problem running in 10 degree temps but the wind was usually blowing hard and lead to wind chill temps of 20 or 30 degrees below zero. I was on a run one cold evening and the liquid in my eye balls froze which was my final push to join the gym. I did not miss very many miles in my training plan and I did not feel the extreme burnout that I had with my previous 100 mile training even though the total mileage of both plans was similar. I was once again in great shape and leaner then I have been since high school. I put in the hard work and battled through an epic winter, now it was time to see if I have what it takes to finish a 100 mile endurance run.
My awesome parents really came through and brought their camper to the state park. We were planning on tent camping but having an indoor place to lay out all my stuff and feel organized proved it's weight in gold. After checking in we ate dinner in the camper then it was time to lay down and attempt to get some sleep. I passed out around 11:00 PM but awoke with anxiety around 2:00 AM. I knew I had a few hours before I had to be up but I could not go back to sleep. I did doze off for about a half hour before my alarm started yelling at me. So I had a little over three hours of sleep and I was about to be up for at least another 30 hours. I was very amped for the race so I had no problem jumping out of bed and getting ready for my challenge ahead. A few concerns before the race were lack of sleep and my stomach was sort of bothering me all week leading up to the race. I thought my stomach problem may be a part of all the phantom pains that pop up in the two weeks leading up to a big event which are mostly mental.
|Ready to roll!|
|8 miles in and ready to ditch the fleece|
|Lap one done! Only five more to go.|
|24 miles in and feeling good|
|Coming into mile 50, half way done|
|Fresh Shoes, fresh socks, fresh shirt and my fleece, ready for the second half.|
|Mile 54, it was to warm for the fleece|
Starting loop four I was definitely getting tired and was doing a walk run walk run routine. I was way ahead of my plan so I could afford to do a decent amount of walking. At the halfway point on loop four, mile 58, my sister Corrie and her husband Craig were there which was awesome to see. The emotional boost of seeing family and friends during these runs is extremely valuable and I really appreciate everyone support. Even on facebook I later seen there was a ton of people following my progress and cheering me on which is a testament to all the great people in my life. Before leaving the aid station Jess told me that Nick had called her and he was breaking all kinds of traffic laws to get there in time to pace me for loop five. That put a smile on my face knowing that my friend was excited for me to finish this race and was going all out to get there in time to help me. She said it will be close if he will get there in time but I had faith that he would be there. This news and the excitement of how well everything was falling into place really got my momentum going for the rest of loop four. Darkness fell and I switched on my flashlight for the last few miles of this loop. When I came in off loop four, mile 67, my whole crew was there and Jess told me that Nick just got into the park. I was really pleased to hear this news. I had plenty of time to spare and I was able to refill my water and get some food while Nick got ready.
|Mile 58, still moving forward!|
The next 8 miles were the true test if I was going to be able to endure the rest of the race. Several things happened which hurt my momentum but luckily Nick was there to help me through these issues. Temperatures dropped quite a bit after leaving the aid station at mile 74 and since we were mostly hiking my body temperature dropped as well. I began feeling cold, tired, and my right calf muscle was seizing up big time. I kept having to stop every few minutes to rest and when my calf pain reached a maximum thresh hold I told Nick that it was killing me. He knew exactly what to do. He pulled a $40 tube of essential oil out of his running vest and let me put some of that on my calf. It started heating up and then Nick dug his thumbs into the knot on my calf which shot the pain level up even more but that pressure plus the magic of the mineral oil actually took care of the problem! The pain was gone and we were power hiking once again. When we got to the mile 80 aid station I was super tired and exhausted. The awesome volunteers got me some coffee and chicken broth which immediately gave me new life. They also had a huge bonfire going which helped to take the chill out of my body and warm up my hands. Nick called Jess to let her know we would be done with loop five in about an hour. She didn't sleep much and was already getting ready to pace me through the last loop.
|Fletch manning the crew vehicle, I am at mile 92 and tired!|
|Jess leading me down the home stretch|
|Victory!! Such a relief crossing that finish line.|
|The Buckle is finally mine!|
|My All-Star Crew, I am so grateful!|
|My man Nick! Thanks for everything|