i came back to long distance running in late september 2008 [after a 17 year sabbatical]. the inspiration came via facebook connecting with marathoning high school classmates. when i walked away from running, at 19 years-old, the longest distance i had covered in one outing was 22 miles. my comeback hope was to get myself into recreational marathoning shape [a conventional marathon is 26.2 miles].
about 2 months into my return to running, i got my hands on a copy of “ultramarathon man: confessions of an all-night runner” by dean karnazes. i had heard of foot-races beyond 26.2 miles, but this was the first time i had read someone’s detailed accounts of such events. this book stirred something in my heart and the hope of someday being an ultra-marathoner sprung up inside of me.
i actually got my first taste of an ultra-marathon prior to my first taste of a conventional marathon. on april 18th, 2009 i participated in the frisco 50k ultra-marathon that traveled the frisco highline trail from willard, mo. to bolivar, mo. i came into that event with a long run personal record of 22.5 miles. needless to say, i really got stretched over the last few miles of that 31 mile event. i even discovered my native name over the last few miles: skinny bear.
on september 11th, 2009 i covered 50 miles at a timed event in olathe, ks [the patriots' run]. coming into 2010, the desire to participate in a 100 mile event was strong. the event that looked like it would fit best into my schedule was the lean horse 100 at the end of august in south dakota. due to the price of registration i decided to hold off a few months before pulling the trigger. during this time, jason, a friend of mine from dailymile, brought the kettle moraine 100 to my attention. the event was going to be his first 100 and when i looked at the details I found myself thinking the kettle might actually fit into my schedule pretty well. i checked with my ultra-marathon friend kurt decker and he informed me that it was an excellent event and that it was his first 100 miler back in 2002. soon after that conversation i was registered and started making plans for the trip.
0ne of the other factors that got me to go for the kettle in 2010, instead of the lean horse, was i was concerned that i would likely over train this summer and end up coming into the lean horse with a stress fracture. i lack both self-control and i am weak in the area of practicing delayed gratification.
thursday 06.03.2010: 2 days in counting
thursday was the last day of a very productive week for me at work. i was wanting to get a good chunk of work done so i could head to wisconsin with minimal thoughts following me regarding my work responsibities.
once robin and i were home from work, my awesome in-laws arrived with their r.v. and we loaded it up for the trip.
thursday evening we got well past st. louis before pulling into a rest stop to grab some sleep. i got myself into conserve-energy-mode and spent most of the traveling time listening to tunes and taking naps. i did not sleep the greatest thursday night due to not finding a bed that i could fit my 6' 4" body into.
friday 06.04.2010: 1 day in counting
i woke up friday with a road-trip-headache and didn't shake it all day. i continued the day in my conserve-energy-mode. we made excellent time getting to our campground in the kettle moraine state forest. we actually got settled into our campground hours before packet pickup opened at 4 p.m.
i did play one game of chess with jake. chess can be an energy drainer, but i tried to play as low key as possible. while playing i was thinking of how the game might relate to the challenge of a 100 miler. i thought of how a hasty move in the opening could be costly at later stages. this actually came back to me early in the race the next day.
a few minutes after 4 we headed to packet pickup. on the way we swung by the location of the race start so we could be familiar with the route and get a good estimation of travel time for saturday morning.
the line at packet pickup was pretty substantial. caleb kept me company in line. i had requested him to join me so he could capture a portion of the experience on video. while i was waiting in line i was getting very intimidated. a few places in front of me i recognized coleen voeks from kansas city [i have been following her blog for a few months]. immediately in line behind me was cheryl zwarkowski who was wearing a badwater 135 shirt, and rich limacher who was wearing a barkley marathons shirt. i didn't have much of a resume to share with these runners and i did feel a bit like the new kid on the block. i did experience some waves of doubt during those minutes waiting to get my race packet.
following packet pickup, we traveled to the town of whitewater. we did some shopping at walmart and then stopped at rocky rococo pizza and pasta. i was not the only runner that opted for a rocky rococo dinner. on the way in i met andy kinney emerson from columbia, mo. and then two runners with tc running company shirts came in. i informed them that my good friend kurt decker manages the store and they responded by asking me if i was rob horton. i loved that. these guys, brian peterson and paul holovnia, actually train with kurt and he had asked them to keep an eye open for me. i informed them of kurt and i's old skateboarding days and they seemed to get a kick out of that. we sat next to a runner from iowa and his family, but i did not catch his name. the food was awesome!!!
saturday 06.05.2010: race day
my sleep in the r.v. the evening and morning prior to the race was similar to the first night in the r.v, that is, i had difficulty finding a bed space i could fit into comfortably. i slept for about 4 solid hours and then the remainder of the morning i just listened to some tunes and rested. just before 5 a.m. i turned off all 4 of the alarms i had set (prior to them going off), and i woke up darrel so that he could drive me to starting location. the good news was that my headache was finally gone.
when we got to the parking lot of the nordic trailhead (the location of the start and finish), i experienced some anxiety while i was getting dressed and grabbing all of my gear. i was still getting dressed during the pre-race briefing. i started to panic and that made it more difficult to efficiently finish my preparation and get out the door of the r.v.
i finally emerged from the r.v. 8 minutes before the 6 a.m. start. i continued to move about in a panic while i attempted to find where to put my drop-bags, inquired about timing chips, and then attempted to put my timing chip on. darrel helped me get my timing chip on as i was attempting to slide it on like a sock and was not having any luck. i managed to get to the starting line just prior to the 1 minute warning.
start @ nordic trailhead to aid station #1: tamarack: 5 miles
at the "go" directive i started both watches and took off at a nice easy pace. the first 8 miles was primarily on a nordic ski trail, which equals basically running on a grassy hilly path. it was cool when the first little climb appeared and everyone in sight walked it. during these miles everyone seemed very chatty. my first conversation was with a couple of guys who were doing the 100k as part of their preparation for the burning river 100 at the end of july. i did not catch their names, but i saw a lot of them during the first 50k of the race.
about 3 miles in, i met 100k participant matt nees and we ran together and conversed until the 2nd aid station. i paused at the tamarack aid station only long enough to get one of my handheld bottles refilled and to grab an extra gel.
mile splits: (1) 10:15, (2) 10:31, (3) 12:10, (4) 12:55, (5) 12:08.
tamarack aid station to bluff aid station: mile 5 to mile 8
i recall a touch of humidity on this portion of the nordic trail. i was diligent to stay on top of my h2o and my electrolytes via thermolyte tablets. as we came into the bluff aid station we were greeted by plastic pink flamingos marking the trail. this was the first aid station where crew was allowed and it was a fully stocked station. i was disappointed that my family did not make it to this aid station. i grabbed a couple of ham and cheese sandwiches and some oranges and consumed them as i walked on.
mile splits: (6) 11:36, (7) 12:13, (8) 13:14.
bluff aid station to horseridders aid station: mile 9 to mile 13
after consuming my sandwiches i returned to running and soon we stepped upon the ice age trail. this was my first taste of the ice age trail and immediately i enjoyed it. i soon found myself running behind a couple from orlando, florida: adam gifford and lindsay scheiwiller. i found myself running near them a few times during the first 50k and even caught them on video during one of my video taping segments.
during these miles i noticed that my left big toe was starting to take a beating on the downhills. i believe this is related to my running gait which emphasizes my left side [this gait may have emerged while i was relearning to walk @ 12 years-old after badly breaking my right tibia]. i was also trying during this section to get scott griffith on the phone so i could have him take over my facebook account for the day and update my status at various times.
around mile 11 i got a bit annoyed by a couple of guys from colorado who were talking very loud. during one of my attempts to get a hold of scott, i stepped aside and yielded the trail to them. a little bit after that i was overtaken by a runner who charged up behind me breathing very heavily. for a future reference i will refer to him as the-heavy.
before i got to the next aid station i actually got into drinking from my second handheld bottle and was glad i opted to carry two. my plan was to have two for the first few hours of the run to help me deal with the heat.
after flying down a pretty substantial hill the horseriders aid station appeared before me. this station was primarily for refilling water bottles but also included a bucket of sponges in water. i refilled and applied a sponge to the back of my neck. next to the aid station was a bunch of campground sites with horses tethered therein. i am guessing this is why this aid station is titled: horseriders.
mile splits: (9) 13:40, (10) 12:59, (11) 13:20, (12) 13:41, (13) 14:31.
horseriders aid station to emma carlin aid station: mile 14 to mile 16
as i was leaving horserider i saw the-heavy returning to the trail after apparently missing the trail and taking a little detour. i fell in behind him and again he took a wrong turn. fortunate for both of us, another runner noticed this and quickly got our attention before we headed too far down the wrong trail.
once i got a couple hundred yards down the correct trail, i was attempting to get out a couple of thermolyte tablets and accidentally dropped half of my supply on the trail. with the heat i judged it to be too high risk not pick them back up, thus, i took the time to retrieve them. after i retrieved them i heard back from scott and was able to recruit his help with my facebook.
during mile 15 i saw matt nees stopped along the trail. he informed me that he was having problems with some cramping. i have yet to get confirmation on how the day turned out for him. according the race website his last recorded split was at the outbound emma carlin aid station.
coming into the emma carlin aid station we crossed over the first on course timing mat [i reportedly crossed this mat after 3h 18m 60s (a 12:35 average)]. while i was grabbing some more sandwiches i was looking about for my family and was not having any luck. i was planning to sit down with them and check my toe. i had a drop bag at this aid station, but opted to keep rolling and not access it at this point.
mile splits: (14) 13:55, (15) 13:30, (16) 13:20.
emma carlin aid station to antique lane aid station: mile 17 to 19.
i departed emma carlin in a bit of an emotional funk. i was really expecting to see my family and was upset that our schedules were not lining up. i called robin and she informed me that they had all fallen asleep. i asked that they met me at the next crew accessible aid station and bring a chair so i could check my toe.
this section of the trail is where i had the first taste of the meadows. i did not like the meadows. the meadows were humid, open to the sun, and the grassy trail was demanding on the ankles. i believe it was during this section of the trail that i turned on my mp3 player for the first time.
i refilled my h2o at the antique lane aid station and grabbed a handful of green olives. this was my first time hitting green olives on a run and i enjoyed them.
mile splits: (17) 12:19, (18) 14:33, (19) 12:33.
antique lane aid station to wilton road aid station: mile 20 to mile 22
i stayed with the burning river 100 guys during this section. they were doing a 4 minute run 1 minute walk pattern. i think they opted for this due to the fact that this section is pretty flat and does not have many climbs to prompt walk segments. my goal for the day was to stay between a 14 minutes per mile to 18 minutes per mile pace and thus far i was not having any issues staying on that pace. the primary goal for the day was completion, but my preference was to be close to 24 hours.
mile splits: (20) 12:28, (21) 12:25, (22) 12:13.
wilton road aid station to highway 67 aid station: mile 23 to mile 25
this section was primarily meadow. it was hot and even muddy in a couple spots. i ran most of this section with adam and lindsay from orlando. i found out that this was lindsay's first attempt to cover 100 miles.
i was encouraged to see my family when i came into the highway 67 aid station. caleb helped me get my handhelds refilled and i took a seat on a bench to check my toe. it was apparent that i was going to lose the toenail that i had just recently grown back. i wrapped some tape around it to see if that might help. i grabbed some sandwiches and fruit and left the aid station feeling charged up and ready to roll.
mile splits: (23) 13:43, (24) 12:22, (25) 18:31
highway 67 aid station to county zz aid station: miles 26 to mile 28
about 200 yards out of the highway 67 aid station i stopped to remove the tape from my toe. it felt too tight and it didn't seem like it was going to be helpful.
the next three miles were in the woods and seemed to be primarily uphill.
at the county zz aid station i was surprised to see a fully stocked aid station so soon. i grabbed handfuls of food and a cup of mountain dew.
mile splits: (26) 14:44, (27) 15:18, (28) 17:14
county zz aid station to scuppernong aid station: mile 29 to mile 32
as i ate my goodies i discovered that a handful of green olives and m&ms is not a very tasty combination. this was another hilly (primarily uphill) and shaded section. this section seemed to go on forever. this is where the reality that the 100k loop is actually a bit longer than 100k started to sink in.
i was so glad to finally see the scuppernong aid station appear. i stepped over the timing mat [reportedly after 7h 2m 9s (13:21 average)]. my family was there and ready for me with a chair and my drop bag. carla (my sister-in-law), brett (carla's man), and tyler (their love child) were also there with their encouraging presence.
mile splits: (29) 13:57, (30) 14:42, (31) 13:12, (32) 20:50
scuppernong aid station to county zz aid station: mile 33 to mile 36
it was so nice to be turned around and heading back to the finish of the 100k portion of the race. i took my time during the first mile to finish eating and i was able to urinate for the first time. i was concerned about this with the heat. i knew i was borderline hyperthermic. i was being wise with my pace and my hydration to avoid getting full heat sickness. i have historically been easily susceptible to heat sickness.
i was glad to have family support again when i returned to the county zz aid station.
i sat down again at this aid station to make an effort to get some calories in me. real food was going down great. i also was officially renewing my addiction to mountain dew.
i believe i confessed to my family at this point that i had let go of my 24 hour preferable finish time and was holding on to the completion focus.
mile splits: (33) 17:38, (34) 13:21, (35) 13:28, (36) 16:07
county zz aid station to highway 67 aid station: mile 37 to mile 39
this section seemed pretty efficient. a bunch of downhill sections equaled a bunch of running segments. it seemed like the clouds were cooling things down. i was desiring a wardrobe change as my clothes felt heavy with all the water i had been pouring on myself all day.
i sat down again with the family at the highway 67 aid station and focused on taking in some more calories. i no longer could force myself to consume any gels so i wanted to take advantage of all the opportunities i could to get some food into my system.
mile splits: (37) 17:54, (38) 15:49, (39) 14:07
highway 67 aid station to emma carlin aid station
(through wilton road aid station and antique lane aid station)
mile 40 to mile 49
going back through the meadows i was pretty much alone, though i did have comments coming to me via my facebook friends and family to keep me company and provide encouragement. i continued to walk the uphills and run the downhills and flats. i did notice that anything that even looked somewhat uphill was judged worthy of being classified as walk worthy.
i am not sure exactly when it started raining, but i know it started when i was heading back through the meadows and it progressively got stronger in nature. at first i judged it to be refreshing, but soon i found myself concerned about how the heavy rain would effect the condition of the trail.
by the time i made it back to the emma carlin aid station it was pouring rain. i noticed robin, carla, and caleb sheltered near the restrooms. i reported in and informed the race officials that i was going to change clothes and eat prior to heading back out over the timing mat.
i took my drop bag into the restroom and then things really started moving slowly. the restroom floor was a muddy wet mess which made it very challenging for me to change clothes without getting my new wardrobe all wet and messy. i resolved to take my time and make sure i did things right knowing i didn't have access to another drop bag until i got back to the nordic trailhead. i was so slow that caleb come in to check and see if i was ok.
i stepped out of the restroom and sat with the family for a little bit. i was not liking what i was going to be facing heading out of this aid station. the temperature had dropped, it was pouring rain, and i was going to be heading into it with one layer of clothes and no rain gear. i said my goodbyes and then headed over to the tent to find some consumable calories.
after the reality that the rain was not going to ease up sunk in, i ran out of the aid station and over the timing mat [apparently no time registered for me when i went out over this mat]. this mile # 49 with my wardrobe change, fueling, etc. took 42 minutes and 51 seconds.
mile splits: (40) 21:07, (41) 15:13, (42) 17:32, (43) 15:11, (44) 14:15, (45) 15:25, (46) 15:25, (47) 15:57, (48) 14:42, (49) 42:51
emma carlin aid station to horseriders aid station: mile 50 to mile 52
once i got my legs rolling after departing from the emma carlin aid station, i noticed that i was actually feeling pretty fresh. maybe that slow transition had helped me recover a bit. i soon realized that the trail was an absolute mess. the fresh socks i had just put on were wet within 5 minutes. i was bouncing from left to right trying to avoid going directly into the water on the trail. after a half mile of this my bum started to really feel painfully chaffed.
the first steep downhill i encountered really scared me. i almost went down about three times and had to grab onto trees to make it down. this was really upsetting me because i knew it was killing my pace. now instead of running the downhills to help keep my pace within the alloted time frame, the downhills had become a major time drainer.
at some point between these aid stations i made the decision that a 100 mile finish was going to be out of my reach in these conditions. the focus became making it to the 100k finish. i had read that 100 milers would have the option of dropping down to the 100k and getting a kettle. the 100k kettle became my focus.
mile splits: (50) 21:07, (51) 19:48, (52) 22:43
horseriders aid station to bluff aid station: mile 53 to mile 57
coming through the horseriders aid station i noticed some horses that were freaking out in response to the weather.
the next few miles were extremely difficult. in many locations it was like running through a never ending creek crossing. to the left and the right of the trail i encountered thistles that drove me back into the water. my body temperature was dropping and i started to get concerned about the possibility of hypothermia.
i was big-time glad to finally see the bluff aid station. i ducked in under the tent and enjoyed a quick cup of chicken noodle soup and some more mountain dew. i gave up on olives after they upset my stomach going into the meadows.
mile splits: (53) 19:56, (54) 19:36, (55) 18:31, (56) 20:04 (57) 20:50
bluff aid station to tamarack aid station: mile 58 to mile 60
i put my headlamp on heading out of the bluff aid station. the rain started to slow down and eventually stopped. i would have moments wherein i would consider the possibility of shifting back to the 100 mile pursuit, but those moments would pass quickly when i would slip and slide down a muddy hill.
miles splits: (58) 16:40 (59) 17:51 (60) 19:10
tamarack aid station to 100k finish
at the tamarack aid station i grabbed a handful of peanut m&ms and inquired into the distance back to the nordic trailhead. i was hoping to hear 3 miles, but instead i heard 5 miles. i did really well for a couple of miles and then i felt an explosion of pain on the bottom of my right foot. it felt like something stabbed deep into my foot. at that point i officially became a walker. prior to that moment every mile i have traversed had included segments of running.
the last 4 miles of the nordic trail had mile markers laid out. i was desperately wanting to see the 1 mile marker appear. when it finally did i took a moment to capture it on film.
during the last mile i experienced some waves of nausea for the first time in the race. when the 100k finish appeared, i went ahead and got the camera back out. i was shocked to discover how close i was to the 18 hour cut off.
after i crossed the finish i was greeted by robin and caleb. i just wanted to get my kettle and get out of there.
mile splits: (61) 19:44, (62) 22:08 (63) 24:17, (64) 26:18
my garmin had me traveling 64.7 miles. historically, the garmin consistently shorts me on distance in the woods. i have decided to give myself credit for travelling 64 miles. this is a new distance personal best by 14 miles. the race itself does not have anything recorded for me beyond the emma carlin aid station. they actually have me back at that aid station at 17 h 20m 34s.
according to reports it rained for over 6 hours and dumped 3.5 inches of rain during that time. 51 100 milers out of 155 starters found a way to make it to the 100 mile finish.
how others did that i met out there
the guys from minnesota that are friends with kurt decker ripped it up. brian peterson won the 100k event with a time of 9 h 49 m 47s, and paul holovnia was 3rd overall and 1st in the male masters division with a time of 10h 51m 47s.
andy emerson finished his first 100 miler with a time of 21h 21m 22s, 4th overall, and 2nd in the male masters division.
the couple from orlando, adam gifford and lindsay scheiwiller, dropped at the bluff aid station due to getting hypothermic.
coleen voeks dropped at the 100k finish (she made it there just under 15 hours)
cheryl zwarkowski dropped at the 100k finish (she made it there 3 hours before i did).
rich limacher appears to have dropped after 86.3 miles
the black toe
the painful one
the shirt (brilliant design that covers the relay, the 100k, and the 100 miler)