I flew my plane up this morning from Huntsville, Alabama, and my cousin, Andrea, picked me up at the Goshen airport. After grabbing lunch, I drop her off at the high school where she teaches a class in the afternoon, and I drive out to Chain O' Lakes state park. I get there around 2pm, but the packet pickup doesn’t begin until 3pm. So, I have a little time to kill. The weather is mostly overcast with rain in the forecast for tomorrow and Sunday. The only question is whether the conditions will be better or worse than last year, when the rain began late morning and didn’t stop until early Sunday morning. Packet pickup goes quickly, and I am soon on my way back to Goshen and Andrea’s house.
We eat dinner at a good restaurant in Warsaw. I have some delicious lasagna with several pieces of bread. This is about as extreme of carbo loading as I do these days. We get back to the house, and my head hits the pillow around 9pm. I am asleep almost instantly, and I don’t even think I rolled over before my alarm goes off at 3:15am.
I take care of my morning routine in quick order, and I am driving towards Chain O’ Lakes state park before 4am, arriving there about 4:30am. I get an excellent parking space that is very close to the start/finish line and aid station tent. I make my final preparations, which includes forming five ham and cheese sandwiches. For my refreshments at the end of each 20-mile loop, I will have a ham and cheese sandwich and the option of chocolate milk and/or Conquest. I also have cinnamon raisin bagels if I want them. I start the race wearing shorts, thin long and short sleeve shirts, a buff on my head, and my Camelbak. It is about 50 degrees, which is the temperature it will basically remain at, plus or minus two degrees for the whole race. The good news is that it is not raining at the start. The race director mentions the possible hazardous weather forecasted for the afternoon and evening, along with something about stopping the race if necessary. Then we start the race on his simple voice command right at 6am.
|At the Start before Dawn|
Mile 3.0 35:33 (11:51 avg./mile) South Park
Although it is dark when the race begins, I do not start with a light. For one, it will be daylight within 20 minutes, and nearly everyone else in the race has a light. There are 170 runners starting the 100 mile race, and I do not have any trouble seeing where I am going. In addition, the 50 mile runners are with us for the first two sections. I try to relax and run as slow as I possibly can given that I am very excited to be running. I chat some with Darcy Lallathin during these early miles. She and I both say that we want to run this first loop no faster than four hours. At the first aid station, I don’t even stop as it has only been three miles.
Mile 7.5 50:38 (11:15 avg./mile) School House East
|Darin in Background - Gray shirt, red shorts|
After South Park, I think Darcy is pushing the pace ever so slightly. I decide to stick with my own pace, especially given the fact that Darcy is a much faster runner that I am—she won this race two years ago! I am very content to run my own race at my own pace. If anything, this section was a tad bit fast. At the aid station, I grab my first two grilled cheese sandwich quarters. This race is phenomenal with the aid stations. Every aid station has grilled cheese sandwich quarters along with soup. The weather is overcast with temperatures near 50 degrees. No rain so far, but we all know it will be coming at some point.
Mile 12.1 53:59 (11:44 avg./mile) Rally Campground
Over the different sections, I maintain my a little better than 12 minute per mile pace. I feel really good, and these early miles are just floating by. The rolling grassy trail is in good shape, and I have thoughts that maybe a sub 24-hour race is possible. At the aid station, I eat a couple more grilled cheese sandwich quarters along with a few potato chips.
Mile 17.5 1:05:16 (12:05 avg./mile) School House West
I am back to the school house, but this time on the west side of the road. The school house is actually on this side of the road. This section is the longest stretch at this race. At 5.4 miles, it isn’t long at all in the grand picture of ultra races. That being said, it is still long enough, and I am glad to almost be done with the first loop. I eat just a handful of potato chips as I know I have sandwiches at the car.
Mile 20.1 38:57 (14:59 avg./mile) Sand Beach (start/finish)
I record my time when I am leaving an aid station. So, while I finished the first loop officially in 3:57:11, I don’t start my second loop until 4:04:23. When I got to the car, I sat down, ate a ham and cheese sandwich, drank over a cup of chocolate milk, and changed my shoes and socks. I hadn’t planned on changing shoes at this point, but I decide that these shoes are dry at this point so I can use them again later. The pair of shoes that I take off is my newest pair of trail shoes. I stay with the same clothing I started the race with—thin long and short sleeve shirts. With the seven minutes here, I am right on the pace I wanted. It also is good to get off my feet for a few minutes.
Mile 23.1 35:27 (11:49 avg./mile) South Park
Before I changed shoes, my right (chronic) ankle is hurting me. After I change shoes, I don’t feel it at all the rest of the race. Although the change of shoes may have helped, I think it is the few minutes I sat down that helped it the most. I run this section six seconds faster than I did earlier. My pace is holding very nicely, and the fresh shoes and socks feel good at this point. I do stop briefly at this aid station to grab some potato chips and a couple of cookies before heading back onto the trail.
Mile 27.6 53:29 (11:53 avg./mile) School House East
|Red Buds on the Trail|
As can be seen, my time on this section is slightly slower than earlier, but I hitting the exact pace I want. 12-minute miles, if I was able to hold it would yield a 20 hour finish. That obviously won’t happen, but my reach goal today would be a sub 24 hour finish. I am holding a really nice pace for that given that I will slow down at some point, and things will be a little slower tonight. Depending on how much it rains later, the muddy course will slow things down as well. At this aid station, I go back to eating a few grilled cheese sandwich quarters.
Mile 32.2 58:41 (12:45 avg./mile) Rally Campground
Soon after leaving the last aid station, the rain begins. It starts as a light rain, but this is very close to the same time that the rain began during the race last year. It also started raining lightly last year. The difference is that I am better prepared with about three times the number of shirts and jackets. I have a jacket in my drop bag here at this aid station, but I will use that yet. The trail starts to get a little muddy, but it is not yet sloppy. I eat a few more grilled cheese sandwich quarters before heading back out in the rain.
Mile 37.6 1:13:06 (13:32 avg./mile) School House West
The rain continues; fortunately it is still only lightly raining. The course is muddy and starting to get a little sloppy. I am blaming my slower split on the rain. Even with this slower split, I am still moving well. With the quick first loop and a half, I just need to average 15-minute miles from here in to finish in less than 24 hours. At this aid station, I grab another stack of potato chips and head for the finish of my second loop.
Mile 40.2 43:24 (16:42 avg./mile) Sand Beach (start/finish)
Somewhere during this section, the rain stops. It even feels like it might stop for a while. The forecast called for thunderstorms this afternoon and evening, so we haven’t gotten those yet. The atmosphere seems to still be unstable as the wind is gusty, and the sky is overcast. My race time after 40 miles is 8:20:08, but once again I will take some time at my vehicle before starting the third loop at 8:28:30. This time, I eat another ham and cheese sandwich, drink some more chocolate milk, and change both of my shirts, as well as my buff. I stick with the same shoes that I wore for the second loop. They are not very wet, and I am not sure that they won’t get wetter.
Mile 43.2 42:11 (14:04 avg./mile) South Park
The muddy course is definitely slowing me down at this point. This section of the course contains some brand new trail, and the rain really makes it sloppy quickly. That being said, I am still setting a decent pace, but I don’t know how long I will be able to keep the pace at this rate given the muddy trail. At the aid station, I grab a couple of cookies to eat on the course.
Mile 47.7 1:03:00 (14:00 avg./mile) School House East
As the rain has stopped for over an hour now, the course with the gusty winds is starting to firm up, even though the sky is still overcast. I am pleased with my pace on this section, and maybe I can get through halfway before the storms start. I am still moving well. While the legs are starting to get a little tired, my energy levels remain solid. I eat a couple of grilled cheese sandwich quarters at this aid station and also get a cup of soup.
Mile 52.3 1:08:15 (14:50 avg./mile) Rally Campground
The 50 mile runners shorted the first loop to 10 miles, so they are 10 miles behind me as I catch a few of them. At one point on this section, I catch up to three guys who are running their first 50 mile race. They are struggling, but will hang on and finish, I think. One of the guys is having knee problems. The other two guys are hanging with him. The three of them (with their troubles) provide me some levity. The course is still muddy in spots, and this only adds to these guys’ struggles. At the aid station, I grab some more grilled cheese sandwich quarters, and then get back out on the course. My elapsed time at this point is 11:21:56, so I am well ahead of 24-hour pace.
Mile 57.7 1:16:33 (14:11 avg./mile) School House West
Soon after leaving the last aid station, two guys (Pascal Becotte and Dan Milligan) come by me. They seem to be setting a nice steady pace, so I latch onto them. After a while we make introductions, and I learn that they are trying to get done with this third loop by 13 hours, which leave 11 hours to finish the last two loops. Pascal and Dan have a great pace going. The other thing I learn is that Pascal’s ultimate goal is a finish in order to qualify for the lottery for Western States next year. These goals line up very closely with my own. Just before we get to the school house, Dan says that Pascal and I should push on as he is hurting. After trying to convince him to stick with us, Pascal and I push ahead. When we get into the aid station, I sit down and eat a couple of grilled cheese sandwich quarters and drink a cup of soup. As I am starting my soup, Pascal says he is going to start walking, and I tell him I will catch up soon. Then Dan comes into the aid station, but again tells us not to wait on him.
Mile 60.3 45:41 (17:34 avg./mile) Sand Beach (start/finish)
I leave the school house a minute or so after Pascal, but I never catch him. Our times at the end of loop 3 show he was three minutes ahead of me at that point. My time is 13:14:33 into the aid station. While I don’t have a full 11 hours for a sub 24-hour finish, I still have a legitimate chance to make it. I eat another ham and cheese sandwich, drink more chocolate milk, change my shoes, and get my headlamp as it will be dark in a couple of hours. I probably could have spent less time here getting everything ready, but I wanted to make sure I was ready for the next loop. The shoes I put on are the ones I wore for the first loop, but now I have fresh socks. I plan to wear this pair to the finish.
Mile 63.3 42:37 (14:12 avg./mile) South Park
I get going again and manage a decent first section for the start of my fourth loop. There is a large train of runners that comes by me as we approach the aid station, and I hang with them for a bit, but then let them go. I need to let the race come to me—namely run my own race depending on how my body is feeling. At this aid station, I only grab a handful of potato chips as my stomach is still digesting the last food I ate.
Mile 67.8 1:10:45 (15:43 avg./mile) School House East
On the way to the school house, I am starting to resign myself to the fact that I might not have a sub 24-hour finish in me. I am not sure why I felt this way, but there were several runners that came by me during this section. In hindsight, it doesn’t look like I was moving too slow. Michael Lewis is one of the runners that passed me, and I am able to hang with him as he is walking quite a bit. As we are trudging along, the thunder and lightning starts to pick up. At first it is very distant, and then it is off to the east. We get into the aid station without getting wet. I grab some more soup and a couple of grilled cheese sandwich quarters, but when I ask for coffee the nice aid station workers say that it is being replenished. So, I set off without any coffee at this point, but instead I drink a small cup of Coke.
Mile 72.4 1:28:14 (19:11 avg./mile) Rally Campground
Mike and I press on as it is now dark. My headlamp is working well, and we have plenty in common to talk about. He is a school teacher in Ohio, and he coaches football. Specifically, he is the defensive coordinator of the high school team. We talk all manner of football strategy and how film has changed over the years. I am very interested in how he manages to train enough while teaching and coaching. The lightning and thunder continue at a safe distance—meaning we aren’t getting wet yet. We aren’t moving fast, but we are making steady forward progress. As we are about 100 yards from the aid station, the rain begins again. We dash into the aid station and proceed to take our time in dry comfort of the aid station. I eat some more grilled cheese sandwich quarters and start drinking coffee along with a cup of soup. I change my shirts, putting on two long sleeve shirts. One of the long sleeve shirts is really thick and warm. I don’t usually wear it unless the temperature is much colder, but with the rain starting again, I want to ensure I don’t get chilled to the bone this year. I also grab my Houdini jacket. The rain stops within 10 minutes, and Mike and I head back out. An aid station worker tells us that this was just a glancing blow and that the major line is coming in about 15 minutes.
Mile 77.8 2:28:59 (27:35 avg./mile) School House West
My time splits show that I spent almost 13 minutes in the last aid station, but if I can stay drier a little longer and keep myself fueled up, it is worth it. Right on schedule, 15 minutes after we left the Rally Campground, the thunderstorm finally finds us. I put on my jacket right as the deluge begins. It is a gully washer. Within minutes there are streams running down the trail beside us. We trudge on through the darkness, the thunder and lightning, and the heavy rain. For over an hour, we press through the rain before arriving at this aid station. We duck into the aid station tent and there are a few runners taking cover from the storm. Mike and I join them. He is standing up next to a heater, while I am sitting a few feet away with a blanket over me. I am wet and cold, shivering most of the time. However, my inner layers are mostly dry. It is just that my whole lower half of my body is wet and cold. The storm rages on outside while I try to stay focused and not let thoughts of dropping enter my mind. After about 30 minutes, Mike tells me he thinks he is done. I am determined not to drop. After being in the aid station about 45 minutes, the report comes from other runners that the storm is letting up. Here is my chance. It is now or never. I need to get going! Although there are about a dozen runners in the aid station at this point, I get no takers to join me right now. So, I set out on my own.
Mile 80.4 50:37 (19:28 avg./mile) Sand Beach (start/finish)
|Start/Finish Aid Station at Sand Beach|
I make it to the start/finish area, and the aid station tent here is flooded! I decide not to go to the car, but instead go into the aid station tent and grab some grilled cheese sandwich quarters and refill my Camelbak. I also drink a cup of soup. So far during the race, I have refilled my Camelbak only at the car. It hasn’t been warm, and I only ran out of water in my Camelbak on two of loops during the last section. I have only one more loop to go. The time is now 2:05am, and I have until Noon to finish—plenty of time, but clearly I won’t finish by 6am for a sub 24-hour finish.
Mile 83.4 1:12:13 (24:04 avg./mile) South Park
On my way to this aid station, I decide that I need to use the outhouse. My stomach is not feeling wonderful, and I think things might improve if I can have a successful sit in the outhouse. The trail is nice and muddy, but the plus is that it isn’t raining. When I get to the aid station, I visit the portable toilet, but I am mostly unsuccessful. After several minutes of attempt, I give up, head back into the aid station, grab some coffee, and continue on the course. Other than my stomach, I feel as good as could be expected given that I have been running for over 20 hours through rain, mud, and more rain.
Mile 87.9 1:46:41 (23:42 avg./mile) School House East
I am mostly by myself through this loop so far. The fast runners have finished. The mid-packer runners are spread out all around the course. I am mostly walking now due to my stomach, but I am still making forward progress, and I am not overly tired. It is a very dark night as it is still overcast. The wind is still gusty and always blowing in some direction. I get into the aid station, and eat more potato chips along with some Coke. I need to find something that will turn my stomach around.
Mile 92.5 1:47:41 (23:25 avg./mile) Rally Campground
On this section, a runner and his pacer come by me. They ask how I am doing. When I tell them my stomach isn’t doing well, one of them offers me a ginger piece of candy. I take it, and it is very spicy. It is supposed to help with stomach issues, but I can’t tell. I am peeing every 30-45 minutes. I have taken in a lot of fluids with the water, coffee, soup, etc., and I haven’t been sweating since it is cold and wet. It dawns on me that I might have too much water in me that my body cannot rid of quick enough. The solution is simple—I need to stop drinking water. I make my way into the aid station still managing to stay upright. The mud is very sloppy, but at least it is below my shoe tops. In the aid station, I eat another grilled cheese sandwich quarter, and then fall asleep in the aid station while sitting on a folding chair. An aid station worker wakes me up and says I need to get going. I couldn’t have been asleep even three minutes, and I am a bit perturbed at the worker for waking me up. Regardless, I decide to head back out onto the trail.
Mile 97.9 2:06:24 (23:24 avg./mile) School House West
I plod along in the dark by mostly by myself. At some point, there are two other guys that I manage to stay with for a couple of miles. About a mile or so from the aid station, my efforts at letting my body regulate to the proper water level seem to have succeeded—my stomach is feeling enough better than I can run some. I get into the aid station just as another rain shower is beginning. It isn’t a hard rain; rather it is a nice soft rain. The type of rain that one wakes up to and decides they should sleep in today. I have no such luxury. I am down to less than three miles to the finish. At the aid station, I grab some potato chips, nothing to drink, and head onto the trail that will take me to the finish.
Mile 100.5 47:47 (18:23 avg./mile) Sand Beach (start/finish)
After leaving the aid station, I talk to Mike Ekbundit, who is feeling even better than I am. He says that when the thunderstorm struck last night, he was really close to the start/finish. So, he stripped off his wet clothes, climbed into his sleeping bag in his vehicle, and slept for 1.5 hours. It seems to have worked well for him as he will finish over 10 minutes ahead of me. I am running the downhill sections again, and it feels great. Up until now, my legs haven’t bothered me at all. As I start the last climb up a hill, my left knee feels kind of weird. I let that work itself out as I proceed to the finish. I run the last 200 yards down the hill to the finish!
Finishing Time 27:46:08
60th out of 170 starters (94 under 30-hour cut-off)
I have just read on the Indiana Trail website that the 100 miler is moving to October to try to avoid the harsh weather. Coming back from last year’s DNF after 67 miles required a lot of mental preparation. I came this year ready to deal with whatever weather Mother Nature threw at me, and I have prevailed! My training was excellent the past three months since I had the flu in January. I had all of my logistics lined up, and it didn’t hurt that we did get a little less rain than last year. I get my belt buckle from the race director immediately after finishing. I quickly remove my shoes and socks, put on my crocs, and start driving back to Andrea’s house. At her house, I eat some bacon and eggs before crashing for a couple of hours. My body is in pretty good pain and sleeping consists of rolling over every 15 minutes. I will fly home tomorrow in a 80+ knot headwind.
This is my only planned 100-mile race this year. I have no other long races planned until the fall, although Amy and I are talking about doing a 50k together in July. Until then…
Never stop running,Darin
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