Category: Ultramarathons

Potawatomi 200

My first 200 mile attempt I failed. I traveled all day and didn’t get enough sleep the night before the race. I was miserable and quit at 100 miles. But after a 19 hour break, I got back in and tried to sprint the last 100 just to stay ahead of the cutoff. I bit the dust at mile 168. Last time I checked, Viaduct Trail in Pennsylvania didn’t have the 200 mile option anymore. But Potawatomi did. However, instead of a 79 hour cutoff, it was 64. This year there was no chance I was going to be able to sneak in a 12 hour nap…

2014 Potawatomi - bad ankle

2014 Potawatomi – bad ankle

I’ve dnf’d a few races and when I do I have a subtle uneasiness that sits with me. That feeling grew last year when I attempted another 200 – at Potawatomi – and failed again. My training was light and my ankle couldn’t hold up to the hills as a result of it. I stopped at 140 miles while Melissa ran brilliantly to finish her 150 mile race. My excitement to see her finish overshadowed any disappointment. I knew I didn’t put in enough training so I got the itch to really try. Meaning plan it, train for it, and show up prepared to really see if I could do it. If I really tried, I think the uneasiness would go away, whether I crossed the finish line or not.

I am not uneasy anymore.




After a back injury in December and not running for a few months, my training plan this year started something like this:

Tuesday – Rich McCaleb has a bib available for the Frozen Otter. Melissa petitions him to transfer the bib to me. All parties accept.

Wednesday – 8 mile run

Thursday – 6 mile run

Friday – massage

Saturday – 64 miles (walked the last 7 miles)

2014 Frozen Otter

2014 Frozen Otter







It was a rough start but the “couch to Otter in 4 days or less” plan worked. I wrote a training plan for the next 3 months and the first month was building a base with strength training. I did plenty of cross training like cycling and swimming, and made sure my diet was clean. The next 5 weeks were building aggressively and the last 3 weeks were taper. I had a day of speed intervals, a day of hill intervals, 2 days I lifted weights, midweek long run, and back to backs on the weekends. I peaked at 100 miles and felt strong.

Did I mention that while I was training, Melissa was about to have our baby? When she hit 40 weeks, we were getting nervous that I might have to put off my race until next year. Baby Emilia was born April 1st so I got to enjoy our beautiful baby for 9 days before the race started. As I gazed at her time and time again that first week, I vowed to show her that anything is possible if you really try. I want to be a father that tries, all the time, at everything I do.



And while all this is going on, my thoughts are with my sister and her family. Just after my Potawatomi attempt last year, my nephew Nick passed away suddenly. We were all so sad and I could only think that after all my days of excess, I should have been the one to go, not Nick. And I wished I could have taken my sister’s pain away. I resolved to finish this race in memory of him.

Our plan was to leave for the race Thursday morning, pick up an RV on the way, and set it up early enough to get a few hours of sleep before the race, which happened to start at midnight. I didn’t want to do what I did at Viaduct Trail. I planned on two 45 minute naps. Maybe at 100 miles and at 150 miles. I needed to be well rested in order to run that night, the next day, and part of the next night before my first nap. Helping me to carry out my immaculate plan was Melissa, Jack our dog, and baby Emilia. Her sister Marlene and boyfriend Delfino were coming Friday to help Melissa with the baby and crew me. I felt that I needed attentive crew rather than pacers for success.

The plan started falling apart before we even got there. The RV rental company was going to change our trailer plug but had trouble with it which set us back a few hours. By the time we got to Potawatomi, it was almost sunset. As we started to set up the RV, we could not get the electric to work on it. It turns out they forgot to install the battery. That cost a couple more hours. It was about 10:30 when I was ready to lie down. I figured an hour was better than nothing, but all I did was stare at the ceiling wondering if starting the race with no sleep would be critical to finishing or not.


The Race

I gave Melissa and Emilia a kiss before I left the trailer just before midnight. I made a few bottles and had my nutrition laid out on the table. The first 12 hours were self-supported so I would be coming to the trailer after every loop until the 150 mile start at noon on Friday. We had a canopy but it was too windy to set up. I wanted to keep my loops under 3 hours including breaks and come in under 60 hours. If something went wrong, I had 4 extra hours to work with and still make the 64 hour cutoff. The 10 mile loop is hilly (1600 ft elevation gain) with 2 water crossings and a steep climb called Golf Hill. It has a rope which I heard becomes handy when it rains and is muddy and slick. Brian Gaines and Tiffany Dore were also attempting 200 as well as Ryan Dexter. I didn’t know the other 6 racers.

The first few laps were going fine. I lead for 2 laps and then Ryan blew past me on the 3rd loop. He gained 1.5 miles on me that loop. Part of that might be because my headlamp died about 3 miles into the loop. I knew the trails there well enough to navigate in the dark but Golf Hill was tough in the pitch black. Its a miracle I didn’t fall or even trip. I was only taking in calories at the trailer between loops with the exception of my bottles of CarboPro, so I was starting to loose energy after a couple laps. I had never used it before but Melissa said it was good so wanted to try it out. I drank an Ensure every lap with a tablespoon of olive oil in it. Then I would try to get a little bit of something solid in me before heading back out. After the 5th loop the 3 aid stations on the course were open.

With no sleep going into the race, I seemed to be able to hold the pace I wanted. Until mile 70. I was having trouble staying awake as it turned to night. I fiercely wanted to hold off on sleeping until about 4 a.m. I figured I would get to 100 around that time. If I went to bed too early, I might need a 3rd nap later. I also didn’t want to face going out into the cold night at 3 a.m. after napping in a warm car. I would rather it be light out. I pushed through those last couple laps and at times falling asleep while running. I would find myself running off the trail and snap out of it, go back to the trail and start running again before falling asleep again. This happened the last few miles. The hallucinations were a step up from what I’ve experienced before. These were in Technicolor as opposed to just seeing something move out of the corner of my eye, or see shapes that resemble random animals or monsters. I was dreaming while running. It’s hard to explain properly. When I got to 100 miles at 4:30 a.m. Saturday morning, I had been awake for nearly 48 hours. We decided my naps should be 1.5 hours so I started again just after 6 a.m.

raw feet

raw feet

When I changed my socks my feet were raw. Running with wet feet was taking its toll. After a couple loops on Saturday, I ran into Kamil. I didn’t realize he had come down with another friend, Randy, to help him complete his first 50 mile trail run. We ran together for 2 loops before they finished their 50 and left.


At this point I am at 140 miles and am calculating what time I need to finish the last lap before my 150 mile split. I wanted to redeem my 150 mile time from a couple of years back and maybe beat Melissa’s 150 time from last year. Melissa’s time was 45 hours and in order to have a chance at a 60 hour finish I would need to finish 150 in 45 hours or less. I finished in just under 45 hours and decided to take my second nap at 170 miles – just 2 more laps. Again, I wanted to sleep during the darkest, coldest part of the night so I would start when the sun is coming up. However, those last 2 laps before my nap were exceptionally difficult. My feet at this point had deteriorated to the point of raw flesh and I was falling asleep while running again.

At 160 it was around midnight Saturday night. I felt that was the time I decided whether I was going to finish or not. I told Melissa that I wasn’t sure I could go on. The pain in my feet were so painful I didn’t think I could go one more lap. I needed to finish 170 by 4:30 in order to sleep for 1.5 hours and have 10 hours to finish the last 30. I believed that not finishing by 4:30 Sunday morning would mean defeat once again. I needed the sleep and I needed 9-10 hours to finish the last 3 laps. Melissa suggested getting a pacer for the next lap and Scott Laudick was at the right place at the right time. He agreed to go with me even though we warned him it would be 3 or 4 hours. He accepted without hesitation so we bundled up to accommodate the slow pace. During the first mile there is a loop in the field before going back by the start/finish area then heading into the woods. During this loop I realized what I really needed was to re-engage and run this lap just like I had the last 16 times. I needed to fight, the way I wished Nick had fought for his life. Pain became secondary to the goal once again and I asked Scott if he could take my extra layers of clothing back to my crew area. This would ensure that I would continue to run and commit 100% to finishing this lap, and the race. I had my focus back so I headed into that lap without Scott. But the focus was only good while I was awake to act on it. About halfway through the loop I started falling asleep and dreaming while running. I kept running off trail into the woods before waking up. About 6.5 miles into the lap I stopped and tried to calculate how much time I had left to get back in time. I fell asleep there standing up for about 15 minutes. If I didn’t find a way to stay awake I wasn’t going to make it so I started talking to myself as I ran. It worked! By keeping a conversation going with myself I was able to not doze off for the rest of the lap. I got back about 4:40 and immediately went to sleep.


After every lap, Melissa, Marlene and/or Delfino were there to take care of me. They helped dial in my nutrition and take care of all the details that were essential to continue. They put me to sleep, woke me up and gave me my bottles all day and all night for as long as I needed them to. I never felt they wanted me to quit in order for them to get relief from crewing. They were as committed as I was every step of the way to finish no matter how difficult it became. They woke me up just after 6 am Sunday morning to help me through the last 3 laps. At this point I know that 60 hours won’t happen but I would be very happy with a finish under the 64 hour cutoff. I felt that because I forced myself to finish 170 the night before, and got a good nap in, the pressure was off. The hardest part of the race, the part that made me question whether I had what it took or not, I got through in the middle of the night. The last day was to be relaxed and enjoyed. But I still needed to keep focused because one mistake could mean the difference between finishing or not. I was having issues with my right knee off and on throughout the race so I was hoping it would hold out for 30 more miles.

Lap 18: No problems

Lap 19: Still no problems

Lap 20: Knee stops working at mile 196


Going into my last lap, my family arrived to see me finish and share the victory so I knew they were waiting for me at the finish. Melissa and crew, after 3 days of relentless support, were there as well as all my ultrarunning friends, including Alfredo. He made the extra effort to come down to see the finishers at a time when mobility was difficult. But with a running community that is always willing to help each other out at any time of the day or night, we can do more together than what we can do alone. I hobbled as fast as I could the last 4 miles and came in 47 minutes under cutoff. It was a very tight margin considering I pushed the pace at all times, knowing there was no room for any significant errors. We celebrated, took pictures and felt successful from our massive effort. Except for lack of sleep going into the race, we did many things very well. My nutrition worked great. I used the entire container of CarboPro, somewhere close to 6,000 calories. I took in about 7,000 calories from the Ensure, 2,000 calories from olive oil and maybe another 1,000 calories from peanut butter. The aid station food was maybe another 2,000 calories for a total of approximately 18,000 calories. My training worked very well too. I would have preferred another month of training but maximized every workout. After the race, I was interviewed by Scott Kummer and Cory Feign for the podcast “Ten Junk Miles.”  From the time I woke Thursday morning until the end of the race 80 hours later, I slept 3 hours. Finish time 63 hours 13 minutes.




My awesome crew! Delfino, Melissa and Marlene

My awesome crew! Delfino, Melissa and Marlene





Ten Junk Miles interview

Ten Junk Miles interview

Completing this race would not be possible without the following people:

Rich and Eric Skocaj – Knowing I wanted to finish a 200 miler and not finishing last year’s unofficial attempt, they made an official race this year. This is my favorite race course and they are the best race directors out there.

Marlene and Delfino – With nothing in it for them, they crewed me selflessly all the way.

Melissa – She wanted this as much as I did. She bought me shoes, took on extra responsibility during my heavy training, and even gave up her socks during the race when mine weren’t working. She was there from start to finish whether I was going to finish or not. Oh, and she birthed our daughter too…

I would also like to thank the race volunteers. They got me through many tough spots and are so humble. And thanks to Kamil and my family for coming to see me. And finally Nick, Allyson and family. Allyson gave me a letter to read upon completion of the race. I waited a couple of days to read it and one part has really stuck with me. She believes Nick knew they loved him. I hope Melissa and I can say that about Emilia when she gets older.


finish results

finish results

Heaven's Gate aid station volunteers

Heaven’s Gate aid station volunteers









After not finishing Kettle 100, I decided I needed to sign up for another 100 mile race right away before concentrating on my triple iron triathlon training. It had to happen in the next couple of weeks so I chose The Mohican in Loudonville, Ohio. The description stated 15k of elevation with a 32 hour cutoff – much hillier than Kettle. Finishing this one would give me the confidence I needed for the triple later in the year. The course consists of 4 loops. The first 2 loops are the same at 26.9 miles each and the last 2 loops are the same at 23.3 miles each. The first 2 loops have an extra 3.6 mile section that averages 235 ft/mile. Much steeper than the overall course average of 149 ft/mile. The Mohican is 2 weeks after Kettle and I figured since I only got to about mile 55 at Kettle, I would be recovered enough. On Thursday night before leaving for Ohio on Friday, I got a call from Judy telling me that a friend of mine, Frank Vavra, had died that week. I’ve known Frank for about 25 years, he was one of my first foremen at work when I started to learn electric. He had died on Monday and no one could get hold of me to tell me of his wake on Friday. Fortunately, we found out and decided to stop by the next day on our way to Ohio. We arrived before the official wake at Frank and Pat’s (his wife) house early Friday morning. Frank had a number of complications that he had been dealing with for many years such as hepatitis and Lyme. His liver had shut down and his intestinal lining had ruptured. Frank was a unique individual – he was so animated and passionate about everything that once you’ve met him, you would never forget him. This reaffirmed my necessity to live each moment with passion and drive, something I needed to apply to my race the next day.

After leaving Pat’s and heading to Ohio, I got a call from Kamil. He reminded me that he was coming to pace me for my 4th loop. I had vaguely recalled him mentioning something like that but no definite plans were made until hearing him tell me to “be ready for him on the last loop.” I was very happy to hear that he was coming – he’s a good friend and training partner and has finished a couple of hundreds himself.


We got to Loudonville in the afternoon, I picked up my race packet, and we got in line for the pre-race dinner before the course talk started. Unfortunately, the pasta was taking a long time to cook, so we ended up waiting for about an hour in line. I nervously shoveled the food down while heading to the course talk. We were late and there was standing room only. It’s easy to get freaked out when everything isn’t just right, going into a big race. I’ve been to enough course talks to know that most of the time there isn’t any information that is too terribly important, so I relaxed and contemplated my plan for the next day. My plan was to stay hydrated and keep my heart rate low. These are the 2 things I failed at just weeks before at Kettle 100. If I didn’t achieve success at the Mohican, I would forgo any further attempts at 100 miles until the following year since my training had to turn more triathlon specific immediately following this race. And I thought about Frank…

Loop 1

Start of 100 mile race

This race had a 5 a.m. start so it was quite dark when we started. I decided at the last minute to not wear my headlamp since it would get light out soon and I didn’t want to carry it for the entire loop in case Judy couldn’t find me for some reason. So I handed my headlamp to her just before the start. She was filming this race so she would try to follow me throughout the day and meet me after every loop at the start/finish area. Within a quarter mile we headed into the woods on single-track and the usual bunching up was happening. Some of the 50 milers were getting impatient but I was fine going whatever pace the congo line dictated. Luckily, there was enough light from everyone else’s headlamps to light the path because it was quite technical in spots. After the first couple of aid stations, it got light out and the traffic lessened. I started peeing right away which was a good sign that I had enough fluids going in. As the sun came out we were shaded by the trees. It was so beautiful there that it made running effortless. I was consumed by the beauty and my only concern was watching my hear-rate. I was keeping it between 127 – 130. Occasionally it would go higher, but I quickly adjusted my pace when that happened. The trees kept the temperature reasonable in the woods, but they also held in the humidity which was getting bad early on. I was drenched and kept drinking as much as possible.

Humid race day

A couple of hours into the loop, we came to a small waterfall and followed the riverbed for a bit until reaching a point where the trail went up a steep section with huge roots coming out of the ground. We had to climb the large roots like a staircase to get out of the riverbed and continue back on single-track. Most of the uphills were steep and significant in length, while the downhills were generally easy. However, near the end of the loop, an incredible hill loomed out and intimidated all of us. Steep and never-ending, I went up to find that it went up again – and again. I dreaded that hill during every loop, but I also knew that the end of each loop wasn’t much further after each climb. I finished the first loop in just under 7 hours. My average pace with rest stops was 15:19. I felt very comfortable with no fatigue.

Beautiful single-track

Loop 2

While at the start/finish area after loop 1, Debbie, a friend of mine and Judy’s showed up. She lived a couple of hours away and came out to show her support and see what goes on at these races. I got some extra calories with Muscle Milk, some energy with Monster, hung out for maybe 10 minutes and then headed back out for another loop. I was mostly using the HEED that the course was providing to keep hydrated and electrolytes up. I was also taking gels throughout, in addition to the food at the rest stops. During this loop, the hottest part of the day came and the humidity stayed very high. That combination along with the steep, technical terrain was killing a lot of people. I started to see racers sitting on the side of the trail and the look of exhaustion on their faces. I was watching my heart rate like a hawk and incessantly drinking, knowing that I couldn’t let Kamil down. He was coming all the way from Illinois to pace me so I needed to stay in control of my pace and energy levels. Looking back on it, this was probably the most crucial part of my race. I climbed the root staircase and then later, the big hill near the end of the loop again. My small flashlight got me through the last few miles as it turned to evening. Debbie cheered me in before taking off. My 16:28 pace was only slightly slower than my first loop since this includes my long stop at the start/finish area. After nearly 54 miles I still felt good. I had made it through the hottest part of the day, although the humidity was refusing to drop.

Loop 3

I decided to change some of my clothes after 2 loops and again, drink Muscle Milk and a Monster to help with calories and energy for the next loop. I was ready to don my headlamp but we couldn’t find it anywhere. I figured my flashlight would have to do. By this time a lot of 100 milers were dropping from the humidity. Two pacers sitting by me told me that the racers that they were pacing had just dropped. They asked if I was going back out and I said yes, definitely. Amanda and Marc asked if I would like them to pace me for the third loop. I said sure, so we headed out into the night. These next 2 loops are only 23.3 miles so it cuts off the hilly section of roots by the riverbed. We were making good progress until mile 63. My tibia muscle next to my shin bone seized up on me, probably from the hyper-extension of my ankle while running downhill. It was in a big knot and I couldn’t run on it. I tried stretching and upping my fluids to no avail. Maybe I was low on electrolytes so I opened a couple of Endurolytes into my mouth and washed it down. That didn’t work either. Nor did massage. After a few miles of walking and stopping occasionally to administer another solution, I was getting worried that my running race was over and I would have to walk. With over 30 miles to go, walking did not seem possible. A little frustrated and down, I continued to try and keep a positive attitude. Amanda and Marc suggested I try Advil. We asked some other runners for some and they obliged. A mile or two later, my knotted muscle released and I was able to start running again. What a relief! For the rest of the loop I was exuberant over my ability to continue my quest. Occasionally, someone would ask who Frank was. I had some duct tape on my CamelBack with the words written with a Sharpie: “Rest in Peace Frank Vavra.” I would explain he was a friend of mine that had just passed away that week. Usually there was a reverent silence that followed. Nothing else needed to be said. And I was glad to honor him this way.

RIP Frank

Amanda and Marc were a great team. One would be keeping pace while the other was watching my intake of fluids and food. When I finished that loop, I felt energized from the sheer joy of running with them. It was the energy I needed going into the last loop. My pace slowed to 19:27 on that loop because of the walking, but I was still in good shape. My time at the start/finish area was getting longer each time but my loop times were between 7 – 7  1/2 hours.

Final Lap

By this time it was about 3 a.m. Kamil had driven to Ohio after work and was sleeping in his car. Since he had to stop and pick up a headlamp for himself, he got me one too. After waking him and getting my last regimen of calories and caffeine, I put on the new headlamp and we headed out for 23 more miles.

3 a.m.

I had taken an unusually long break and that was probably why my muscle seized up again. Kamil suggested we try walking fast instead of running to get my muscles loosened up again. After 3 or 4 miles of this, I was having a hard time going fast since those walking muscles were primarily what I was using all day up the steep hills. I decided to give running a try even if it hurt. I was able to stay running which was good but was getting really tired. I found myself yawning uncontrollably and feeling sleepy. Kamil started giving me coke at the aid stations which took the yawning away. Without my pacers there doing some of the thinking for me, I might not have thought to take Advil or coke. The more brain-dead I became, the more valuable it was having those people with me, unselfishly helping me achieve my goal. The early morning grey started to seep into the woods and I noticed that in one part of the trail, it smelled like cucumbers. I verified this with Kamil, so I know that wasn’t a figment of my olfactory nerves. I continued to take Advil and drink coke while we counted down the number of aid stations left to the end. We were really getting into a groove and running quite well. We were passing a lot of racers for 10 – 15 miles. Eventually, the fatigue and exhaustion was starting to set in.


At the last aid station, I was so glad to be almost done, but I didn’t have the energy to really appreciate it. My mind and my body still needed that energy for the last 4 miles. This is the point where I was looking for anything that would motivate me to just keep moving. With 3 miles to go, we passed a guy in a red shirt. Over the next mile, as my pace was slowing, Kamil pointed out that the guy we passed was catching back up to us. That was the motivation I needed to keep moving. I told Kamil that I wasn’t letting anyone pass me from here on out. That forced me to keep motivated and stay running the last 2 miles. Except for the massive hill! My last challenge to get through before finishing was this hill – almost sneering at me and saying, “I’ll let you finish, but not until you pay me first.” I paid my dues to that hill for the 4th time and knew the end was near.

50 feet from the Finish with Kamil

With 1/4 mile to go, we came around the corner and I saw Judy there with her camera filming the end of this battle, my victory over the beast. She was another one who dedicated her time and energy to help me with my goal. I certainly didn’t do this alone. Which was even more evident as I came to the last turn before heading to the finish line. Frank had gotten me to the finish line as much if not more than the others. My desire to honor his memory would only be there because of our friendship. It was the humility I needed to accomplish what I failed at 2 weeks before.


I crossed the finish line nearly 29  1/2 hours later. My average heart rate was 128 and I burned between 10 and 11 thousand calories. The DNF rate was 67% most likely due to the humidity. But the one thing I take away that cannot be measured is the experience. Races are not completed alone. Life is not an individual sport. Look around and appreciate the people in your life – hopefully that is where we do not come up short.

Judy and Chuck

Watch the Video:


Clinton Lake was one of those races that happened by chance. A friend couldn’t go and offered his bib to me (yes I’m one of those guys). My friend Kamil was also running so that helped me make the right decision. Up to that point I had only 2 long (kinda) runs under my belt, a half-marathon race 2 weeks earlier and a 15 miler the week before. I was however, on a steady training plan for about a month and felt I was losing my off-season fat at a good rate. I took an unusually long off-season this year. I couldn’t get motivated to sign up or start training for a few months into this year. Slowly, I’ve made a racing schedule that is quite challenging.

After the Triple Iron last year the most asked question was, “What are you going to do next?” I didn’t have an answer for many months. For me, I needed to talk to other athletes and find out what they were doing to find what was right for my racing season. I made a wish list and then over time, added some and deleted some. But there’s always room to add an unexpected race like Clinton Lake in there. They are more for training than racing, but I get cool race swag to prove I was there!

Kamil, Erica and I headed down to Clinton late Friday night and got there around midnight. The Garmin can sometimes send you the long way and that’s what we did. No worries, it’s just a training run, right? We slept in the car and woke up 6 hours later to volunteers getting prepared for the race. Judy had plans already and couldn’t come with, so no video this time. We saw Lee, Keith Daniels and Holly Bochantin in the morning and headed to the start line just a minute or two before start time. While waiting for the start, I saw John Lopez, a buddy who seems to be at all the races I show up to. We wished each other good luck and headed off at start time. We told Lee that we were going to just “take it easy,” which really doesn’t mean anything for us. Half the time we end up running hard when we say that anyway. Clinton Lake is three 10 mile loops. It’s very hilly and there are aid stations every 5 miles. About 6 miles into the run, Kamil picked up the pace and we lost Lee (sorry). We finished about 1:47 for the first 10 miles. Not too fast. The second loop was a bit different.

The second loop had less traffic so it was more convenient to push the pace between catching other runners. The first loop felt pretty easy so we had some spring in our step and used it on this loop. We finished that loop at about 3:25 into the run, almost 10 minutes faster than the first loop. We were both feeling it by then and knew the 3rd loop was going to hurt. Of course, every race ends up that way. We see how much pain we can endure and for how long. There is a fine line that we ride throughout a race, especially the 3rd loop of this one, where we find the balancing point between being able to finish at the current pace and blowing up at a faster pace. There is a constant determination to find the pace that is faster than what is comfortable, that I can maintain. Doing this while in pain is a difficult thing to do. Your brain says to slow down – that pain is not a good thing. To override that and expand our capacity for pain to become a better athlete is the essence of endurance racing for me. We finished at 5:12 which was the same pace as the first loop.

So we finished 13th and 14th overall and only got chicked by Christine Crawford. I’m fine with that. 1st and 2nd guys in our age group got 1st and 2nd overall. So our 3rd and 4th age group got us on the podium (overall winners don’t count in age group awards). But those are just numbers. The real beauty is riding that wave, balancing the effort and finishing.

Current Race List

April 15   McHenry County Human Race 5K (run)

April 22   Earth Day 50K (run)

June 2-3   Kettle 100 (run)

July 5-8   Viaduct Trail 200 (run)

August 11   Dairyland Dare 300K (bike)

September 9   REV3 Ironman Ohio (tri)

September 27-29   Tejas 500 (bike)

October 22-November 1   Deca Ironman Mexico (tri)

Lakefront 50 Race Report

Lakefront 50 Mile Race - Chicago

Each race is unique in its own way. This race was 3 weeks after my triple iron race and proved to be a much bigger challenge than expected. I knew I wasn’t fully recovered from the triple but my muscles weren’t too bad. I figured I could get to at least 30 miles before it got difficult – 20 miles of pain isn’t so bad. So Wednesday night I signed up for Saturday’s race. The night before the race I couldn’t sleep. My mind was mentally preparing for the race during my body’s rest time. I got up around 3:15 and met up with Steve to head down to the city. We got there and picked up our race packets, got prepared and waited for the start. Joy joined us in the car to wait with us and before we knew it, it was time.

Lap 1 

I met Craig Redfearn finally (instead of Facebook) and we started the race off together at the front of the pack. One guy (Flaherty) shot off the front with another also pulling away from us. Within the first couple of miles Craig stayed at the front while I eased back into 8th. I would not see sub-8 minute miles for the rest of my race. I was feeling ok but knew this pace was too fast. At the New Leaf aid station, I was glad to see everyone and lost a place or two while jabbering with them. Brian Gaines told me to go. I quickly regained my position and got through the first loop (12.5 miles) in mostly 8 to 9 minute miles. I felt that this was a reasonable pace but I could feel the pain starting around mile 7. By the end of the first loop, I knew that the pain would only get worse and my pace would only slow. Kinda grim. So my plan was to slow down a little for the next two loops and try to push hard the last loop. Lap 1 – 1 hour 45 minutes Pace 8:24


Lakefront 50 Mile Race – Craig Redfearn

Lap 2

I slowed to just over 9 minute miles and tried to settle into a comfortable (relative) rhythm. I needed to use the restroom but the start/finish aid station had huge lines for the porta-potties because the 50k runners were about to start. So I found one along the path and ended up spending a good 10 minutes in there. Yes, I went earlier in the morning. Not training for the last 3 weeks has affected certain “functions”. Anyhow, when I started up again, my legs weren’t working. I dropped into 11 minute miles and it was getting worse. I thought that a few miles would get everything back in working order but it didn’t. My legs felt like concrete and the pain was getting nearly unbearable. At our trusty New Leaf aid station on my way back (out and back course), I asked for Advil and got some from Royal. He asked how many do I need and I said 4. Luckily that was what he had. My race changed after that. My pace stayed in the 11’s but by the time I got back to the start/finish (mile 25), the legs loosened up and the pain had diminished enough to be able to continue. Without the Advil, I might have given up. Lap 2 – 2 hours 20 minutes Pace 11:10


Lakefront 50 Mile Race - Loop 2


Lap 3

Joy had caught up to me at the start/finish aid station after lap 2. I knew she could run solid through the entire race – I’ve seen her do it before. So when she asked if I wanted to run with her, I figured I would not be able to stay with her. I wasn’t convinced that the pain would be gone for very long so I said I would try to catch her on the last lap. I stayed within 100 feet of Joy for the first mile (we were doing sub 10 minute miles) and then started to feel good. I picked up the pace to sub 9’s and decided to go with it. Not long before that I was close to quitting, so deciding to pick up the pace right after I started to feel good did not seem like a wise decision. However, I remember Dave Scott telling me that if you feel good during a race just go with it. When I passed Joy I said, “My heart rate is 188 and I don’t care!” I would try to use the momentum from this surge to carry me through the last 2 laps. Even though the pain began to return from pushing harder, I was able to stay in the 9’s for the rest of the lap and even dipped into the 8’s a couple of times. Lap 3 – 2 hours 2 minutes Pace 9:44

Lakefront 50 Mile Race - New Leaf aid station

Lap 4

I tried not to stay at the start/finish aid station very long. I wanted to keep riding the momentum as long as possible. When pushing hard, calories become very important. I didn’t eat enough at that aid station so by the time I got to the New Leaf aid station, I was bonking hard. I took the time to chew up a cup of peanuts for some protein and got back to it. Even though my momentum was there psychologically, my physical body was running out of energy. On the way back from the turn around, I got a knot in my right calf. It was a struggle to keep the pace and I was using other runners to keep motivated. By trying to keep position I stayed consistent with my effort. At the New Leaf aid station on the way back (last aid station – 3.6 miles from finish) my goal was to go hard and pass as many 50 mile runners as possible. I knew there were 3 or 4 within my reach. I ignored the pain in my calf and ended up passing 5 or 6. The last 2 miles I had my sights on this guy with a bright orange shirt. I was gaining ground on him but not sure if I could pass him by the finish line. With a mile to go I was probably a quarter mile behind and gaining. My 9:30 pace was everything I had for the last 3 miles. As I came up to the viaduct to cross Lake Shore Dr. to get to the finish, I knew I wasn’t going to catch him but finished within a minute. Racing helps me to push way beyond my comfort zone. I found out that the guy in the orange shirt was Scott Smoron, one of our crowd. Lap 4 – 2 hours 13 minutes Pace 10:38

Lakefront 50 Mile Race - Scott Smoron

This race was much harder than any of the other 50 milers I’ve done this year for the simple fact that I wasn’t physically 100% ready for it. But I was definitely mentally prepared to put myself through the pain in order to finish. Mental toughness can get you through a race. Without it, you won’t.

Time – 8:20 Pace 10:00 Calories 4600

Lakefront 50 Mile Race - Anastasia

June 4th, 2011

All Pumped Up!

The Kettle 100 this year was my first attempt at running 100 miles. There’s always something special about first races and this one definitely falls into that category. I constructed my own training plan for this race which was primarily running with biking and swimming for cross training. The most I had run on average prior to this training program was about 30 – 35 miles per week. This program had me in the 60 mile range for a while and then up to 80 before tapering. I realized that trail running was very different than road running and I had to make many changes to my program along the way. I consistently ran trails with the experienced M.U.D.D.’s (awesome group that has lots of belt buckles (ultramarathons give out belt buckles for 100 miles (I’m not sure why they give out belt buckles since only Texans wear them))).

My Plan

On the Trail!

I felt confident in my training and felt I could finish in about 24 hours. The plan was to go out a little quicker knowing I would slow down at night in the dark.

Kettle’s Plan

Weed out all the unexperienced fools that have “plans.” The fools (I’m in that group) are the ones that set a pace based on finishing time rather than heart rate. Add heat and humidity to the mix and watch them drop, one by one. I have used pace based on finishing time before for shorter races and it has worked. I seem to be able to race for about 12 hours, even while dehydrated, and get through with puking, mild heat stroke, etc.

The Gun Goes Off!

I start at a 10:30 or 11 minute pace on flat and downhill wide grassy trail. The temps are climbing into the 80’s already and very humid. There’s a possibility of rain for the afternoon. I’m loaded up with a camelback with Perpetuem, gel flask and phone so I can call with special requests to my wife and crew, Judy. At the minimum, she will meet me at the first turnaround at Scuppernog Trailhead (31.6 miles) and Nordic Trailhead (63.2 miles) to replenish my camelback and gel flask. My heart rate was a little high starting out and I attributed that to the B-12 I took earlier that morning. Usually after a couple of miles my heart rate lowers and stabilizes. I felt really comfortable and carried on. Jake passed me at 1.5 miles and I felt good that he was ahead of me because I kept thinking,”am I going too fast?” The only other memorable things in those first miles was that I was sweating profusely and I passed a guy that was running barefoot. I found out later that this was Tenderfoot’s first time running barefoot. It looked painful. Maybe I should’ve been more conscious of my heavy sweating?

deep forest

Getting to Emma Carlin Trailhead (15.8 miles)

On shorter races I often skip the first rest stops which I did this time too. Tamarack (5 miles) and Bluff (7.5 miles) seemed very close to the start and I wanted to use up what was in my camelback to lighten the load. Instead of eating I was taking lots of gels. Looking back I needed more substantial food earlier on as well as taking in Heed at the rest stops to keep my electrolytes high. Eventually, I caught up to Jake and then pulled ahead a little. I didn’t stop at Horserider’s very long (12.7 miles) since they didn’t have any food. I ran out of gel so I put in a special request for Judy to meet me at Emma Carlin to replace my gel flask. I was still going at an easy pace (11 to 12 minute miles) but by the time I got to Emma Carlin I could feel the ache in my muscles from dehydration. I was also hungry which I knew meant that I was too late in eating. I refueled as best I could and decided to slow down a little in order to rehydrate better.

The Sauna

After refueling at Emma Carlin, I felt better and headed out with the hope that if I kept drinking enough and slowing my pace I could bounce back. In just a couple of miles the trees fade away and everyone goes through the open prairie lands with no shade and extra humidity to boot. By this time it is in the 90’s and somehow my camelback is empty! My plan to rehydrate is foiled by this miscalculation. Somehow, I am drinking twice as much as expected but it is still not enough. When I get to Antique Lane (18.9 miles) I fill up my camelback and head back out. Wilton Road (21.6 miles) is another unmanned aid station with only water on the way to Highway 67 (24.1 miles). Finally, the open prairie lands end and it’s back to trails.

Open Prairielands

Just get to the Turnaround!

It was great seeing Judy at a lot of the rest stops. I think she was a little worried because I was struggling so early. I got only 3 hours of sleep the night before, the humidity surprised everyone and I wasn’t acclimated to it. I figured this is why I was feeling the deep ache in my muscles only 25 miles into the 100. So, I did what I usually do. I pushed on – towards the turnaround at Scuppernog Trailhead (31.6 miles). I stopped quickly at Highway ZZ (26.6 miles) aid station on the way. The temps and humidity kept climbing as well as my muscle fatigue. Since this was an out and back, I saw the leaders run towards me. Zach Gingerich, who holds the record at Kettle and also won Badwater last year, was passing so I said, “good job.” He replied, “keep it up.” By the time I got to Scuppernog, I was really doubting myself finishing this race. Judy saw the pain in my face but was still being upbeat and supportive. I took about 30 minutes at this aid station so I could get back on track with nutrition and hydration.

The Sauna – Again!

When I left Scuppernog, I was feeling much better. The long break was therapeutic and I was super-conscious of slowing down and keeping up with

In the Open

my hydration. This was working well. I went back through Highway ZZ (36.6 miles) and Highway 67 (39.1 miles) at a nice easy pace. Judy saw me and said I looked much better. Yes! I was feeling hopeful of seeing this through to the end. I think it was that hope that got me through the sauna again. Another 10 miles of open prairie lands with high humidity and heat was grinding me down, down, down. Just before Wilton Rd. (41.6 miles), I started to get dizzy so I stopped and put my hands on my knees to catch my breath. That made the dizziness worse so I pushed on to the aid station. When I got there, 3 of my friends (Dorn, Steve and Robin) were there. Dorn had dropped so as to not jeopardize his upcoming race at Western States. Steve had dropped and so had Robin. Apparently, Robin had thrown up some blood which I responded with, “Cool! ” I’m always impressed at how far we can push. While I’m filling up my camelback and thinking of heading back out in the sauna, I start getting dizzy again so that’s when I started again, thanking them and hoping just to make it to Emma Carlin, which was still 5.8 miles away. Those were a long 5.8 miles. I went through the Antique aid station (44.3 miles) and finally to Emma Carlin (47.4 miles).

War Zone


Getting to Emma Carlin took everything I had. For some reason, I felt if I only made it there, everything would be alright. When I got there, the realization that I was just under halfway was disturbing. I was groggy and not interested in food. I tried to drink but really every part of me wanted to stop this madness and rest. And it was sooo hot! Judy was telling me of all the runners that were suffering and dropping. Looking around I could see people getting iced down and being tended to, like a war zone. Meanwhile, some other friends came into the aid station, Mike and then Michele and Brandi. Michele was looking to place high in the 100k and was doing a great job of pacing and nutrition, something I didn’t have a handle on all day. She looked like she was ready to really turn it up these last 15 miles. Judy asked the volunteers if I could lay down under their canopy for a little bit. I had to try whatever I could to bring my heart rate down and cool off. So I layed there for about 20 minutes. I kept asking myself, “Is this the end of my race?”  My wife (and Mother) have always told me how stubborn I am. I try to be stubborn at times like these. So I got up and started eating, drinking and preparing to head out as best I could for as long as I could. I tried not to think of how much farther to go but that I needed to keep going. Judy looked totally surprised that I was even thinking of going. Mike was also hurting a lot but was ready for some more hurt. So Mike and I headed out and I felt like I really needed to run in order to keep my body in that rhythm, if I could find it. Mike wasn’t ready to start running yet, so we split pretty soon after leaving.

To the Very End

After I began to run again, it didn’t take long for the suffering to start again. I was walking more and running less. At Horserider’s (50.5 miles) I was not feeling all to well. I did have to urinate and as I’m going, I’m realizing that this is the first time all day. And it’s dark brown. At this point I can


only walk, running is out of the question. Martha comes running up from behind and tells me Mike was sprawled out on the trail. She got him on his feet and now caught up to me. She asked, “Do you want to run together for a little bit?” I think I said no, my pace would slow her down. So she heads off and runs the next hill and out of sight. My walking is getting slower and slower until the dizziness comes again. I’m stumbling through the trails for a little longer till I spot a rock in the middle of the trail to sit on. As I sit, I realize I am about to pass out so I go to grab my phone (special request: please make this stop. Can I get off this merry-go-round now?) and it rings. Judy is asking me if I’m going to get to Bluff (55.7 miles) soon.

I’m telling her that I’m passing out and I’m not sure where I am when a guy with a really orange fluorescent shirt comes up and asks if I’m ok. I lose consciousness and then come to with the good samaritan getting me to stand up. He has given Judy our location and is encouraging me to walk to the next road. Young Rd. is about 2 miles away. He gives me one of his walking sticks and heads off, he has a race to finish too. Judy has called for help and isn’t sure what shape I’m in or if I can walk all the way. Robin (blood puker), Steve and Brandi head out on the trails for a reconnaissance mission. They locate me and help me to Young Rd. where the madness is finally over.

Juan, Jake, Michele, Me, Mike, Steve, Robin, Karen, Annastasia, Holly, Martha and Mark


Most of my friends didn’t finish this race and I can see why. Juan, Annastasia, Mark, Steve, Robin, Karen, Dorn, Mike and I cashed it in early. The heat and humidity were punishing all of us. A few of us did finish and even did well. Jake, the guy I was running with early on, went on to finish in 22:49 hours. Martha (27:09) placed 3rd female masters and Holly (29:10) placed 3rd female open. Michele (15:11) snagged first female masters for the 100k. I’m ok with not finishing because I know I pushed as far as I could go on that day. I also know I need to improve on nutrition, hydration and pacing. Getting sleep the night before is a good idea too. Since I’m fully trained and only got through half of this race, I’m signing up for another one 2 – 3 weeks out. The plan: Take what I’ve learned from this race and get it done!