Kettle Moraine 100: Running on Unrecovered Legs

Kettle Moraine 100: Running on Unrecovered Legs


Kettle Moraine 100 wasn’t on my radar for the year. My original plan was to run at the 24-Hour World Championships in Czech Republic June 21-22. When it was cancelled, I looked for a substitute race and decided on Kettle. I have always wanted to run it, but it was only 3 weeks after the Keys 100. This was to be my 3rd 100 miler since Umstead in early April. I learned WHAT NOT TO DO with quick turnarounds between 100‘s during the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning last year. My Slam downfall, was not resting enough between Slam races. I found out my body likes rest after a long race. So, this year, my new regimen is to take a week off after a 100 miler.
I went into Kettle with optimism, questionable legs, and the following goals: 
  1. Run 18:11 (the course record is 18:12 from 1998).  
  2. Win (people say it’s not all about placement, but I PR’d at Umstead and the Keys and got my butt handed to me by 2 phenomenal runners, ending with 2nd place both races).  I WANTED that HUGE Copper Kettle!!  It’s super cool!
  3. Run 20:25 (the master’s course record is 20:26 from 2009)
  4. Not to get lost. I read the course description and have heard others have gotten lost in the past. I hate getting lost. I got lost for over an hour at Wasatch last year and it totally brought me down mentally.
  5. Run Smart and Run Happy.
I was hoping to get in Friday to pick up my packet and find the start line. It’s always good to know where you are going on race day. However, my daughter made it to the state track meet in Indiana with her 4×800 team!! I was so excited for her and her teammates. Unfortunately, my pre-race plans had to change, as my daughter’s race started at 4:15pm in Bloomington, IN on Friday (6 hour drive from the Kettle start). I wouldn’t miss her race! We drove up and watched her team smash the school record for the 3rd time this year and finish 19th in the state (they were ranked 26th coming in). This meant a long drive starting at 5pm-ish with a quick stop to get Fazoli’s to go. We got in around 11, got settled and set the alarm for 4am.  I wanted to leave the hotel in Janesville by 4:40am to get to the start by 5:15am, in time to get my packet, chip, and take care of pre-race business 🙂  
Despite the fact that my Garmin didn’t recognize the road from Janesville to the race for about 10 minutes, we made it there by 5:20.  I ended up with plenty of time to get ready.  Race Directors Timo and Jason were laid back and hilarious.  There was a 10-minute no nonsense, comedic, race briefing. Timo drew a shaving cream arrow on Jason’s back to illustrate what course markings looked like. Jason promptly laid prone on the ground to demonstrate for full effect.  I don’t know if it was just because I was low on sleep or what, but I laughed hysterically.  I hate briefings that go on for hours without really telling you anything. This was perfect.
A little low on sleep, and a little unsure of my legs, I started off at a pace I thought was conservative (at least for my usual going out too fast style). I ran with two guys: Kyle Curtin, who was running his 3rd 100 miler and Bruce Udell, a local masters runner.  We all talked for several miles and enjoyed the temps in the lower 60’s while they lasted.  
To be honest, I was enjoying the trails and single track again.  I rarely run trails, so the novelty of being in the woods with wildflowers and wildlife was distracting me from my cruddy feeling legs.  I was feeling my 3rd 100 miler in 10 weeks and was having flashbacks of Leadville last year.  I kept pushing aside those thoughts, knowing I was on a more forgiving course, which better suits my running style. After all, negative thoughts don’t help me run happy 🙂

As I said in my goals, I was nervous about getting lost, so I made a cheat sheet days prior to the race with a list of all the warnings of where someone might go off course.  I had the 8-1/2 x 11 piece of paper in a ziploc in my pocket with mile markers and descriptive details.  I got past the two major places where one could easily go off course. It was marked incredibly well. So, I never referred back to my cheat sheet after that.

The hardest part of this course was actually fairly flat. There was a meadow approximately 6-7 miles long. It’s an area where you run through meadows with ankle-high grass.  I averaged good times in that section, but it was hot and humid.  I was surprised that it felt sooo hot at just 9am. I met my crew at the end of the meadow area and told them I was ready to get ice in my water bottle and start getting an ice bandana around my neck. I would definitely need to be cool when I went back through that area 10-11 miles later. (The Kettle Moraine course consists of  two out and back sections, the first of which is 100K). 


I was good about taking in nutrition like clockwork.  Sometimes, I get distracted and lose track of time, but my legs felt heavy and I knew I had to be smart and shove in the calories like a good girl. I took in a Hammer gel every 30 min and started taking my Anti-fatigue caps and Race Cap Supreme supplements every hour once I hit the 2 hour mark.  My crew was concerned about my salt, so they kept shoving Honey Mustard Pringles at me. They tasted good, so I ate them. Sometimes, I have random thoughts while I run. This race was no different. I had a Pringle random moment.  As I left an aid station with Pringles in hand, I ate them 2 at a time while running. So, I could breathe, eat, and run, my mouth was partially open and Pringle chunks flew left and right.  It made me chuckle as I heard my husband’s voice in my head telling the kids to chew with their mouths closed. I was glad my back was to my crew and I met my husband before the world of ultras where sanitation, manners, and cleanliness takes a backseat 🙂 An ultra would surely not be a great first impression.

The best crew ever!, Mike Falbo
Finally, after the turnaround at mile 31ish, my legs weren’t a thought anymore. I guess my 31 mile warm-up and the fact that the 2nd girl was only 1.5 miles back, made me forget how tired my legs were. I wanted to increase the distance between she and I and knew I just had to continue to be smart. I made sure to keep iced down (bandana and hat) and got ice and water at every aid station including the unmanned ones.  I turned on my ipod and was enjoying the section back to the start/finish.  My only annoyance was the horseflies and mosquitoes that bit at me.  I had put bug spray on, but that didn’t seem to phase them.  As I got closer to the start/finish, I started counting the guys coming back to me.  I figured I was in the top 10 overall, which made me feel good.  But, there were still 38 miles to go…still a long way, I reminded myself. I turned around and made a mental note what the mileage was on my Garmin. I passed the 2nd girl about 3 miles out, meaning that I was about 6 miles ahead. I had gained 4.5 miles on her in the last 31 miles. I was glad my lead had increased but was still chasing the course record. So, I hammered on. The next section was rocky and rooty after turning  for the third time at the Confusion Point intersection. It was a beautiful trail section, but I was pretty sure it would be my demise on the way back in the dark. I had already fallen at least 3 times due to being too lazy to pick up my feet. 
I was looking forward to picking up my pacer at 77.4. My friend, Jeff was there crewing with my husband Mike all day and was going to run with me for that last 23. I was getting tired of my ipod and was ready for some company. I was also really looking forward to getting bug spray, which I had stupidly turned down earlier.  The horseflies were eating my head, and the mosquitoes were biting anytime I slowed to walk. I thought it would be good encouragement to keep myself going if I denied bug spray earlier…that way if I wanted to walk I would get eaten up and it would make me run.  However, I was annoyed by getting chomped on and was ready to submit to a 2nd spray down for the day.  
My pacer, Jeff Mires
At the 77.4 mile aid station, I changed shoes and socks, got sprayed down, picked up my awesome, new, Coast headlamp (which is super bright) and we were on our way. I looked at my watch and saw that the course record was slipping away. OK, I thought, all of your other goals are still in reach…focus! My heavy legs caused me to fall several times on the way to the Rice Lake turn around. My “happy” left me after I had my 3rd, and hardest fall in just the last 3 miles. I landed hard on my right shoulder and bad words spewed forth from my mouth. I asked Jeff how far to the turn around, but he didn’t know.  He kept telling me different leg distances that we had left.  I just wanted to know where the turn around was. Finally, another runner came back towards me and gave me the information I wanted…one more mile to the turn around.  
Rice Lake was mentally lifting for me. We were on our way back with less than 20 to go.   I made mental note of the mileage so I could see where I was in relation to girl #2.  Jeff was great. He knew I was tired and let me walk the hills without much hassling. Every time we got to the flats, he’d said “Let’s go.” I was generally obedient and started running again. It was the perfect amount of pushing. The further we got from Rice Lake, the better I felt not having seen girl #2. Around 3.5 back, we passed her. I had gained another mile. She had to be at least 70 minutes back, and we only had 15 miles to go. 
We were almost back to my last trip around Confusion Point, when I saw my friend Cynthia. We stopped and talked briefly. She congratulated me on being 1st female and gave me the bad news that a mutual friend of ours DNF’d after being taken out by the heat coming back across the meadow section. She had run with him, trying to help him get his first 100 mile finish, but finally had to leave him. We headed out in separate directions. I only had 8 miles to go. I saw my husband at one more aid station, getting some more Pringles and bananas. Time to get it done. 
I came through in 19:16:05, 7th overall and 1st female.  Goals met 2-4 and sort of #5 🙂  I feel like the course record was a do-able goal if I wasn’t coming off the Keys 100.  May have to try again next year! I was awarded my Kettle and buckle by the RD, Timo, self-proclaimed Mayor of Wisconsin 🙂 All in all, I was happy with the race given the state of my body. Time for a needed rest, and a good burger!