Last December Amy and I concocted a plan to take on my first 100 mile race. We picked the Hennepin 100 as it was fairly flat and would give plenty of time to prepare. To make this race successful, we discussed how to add purpose, and our Miles to Defeat NF campaign was born. The last 10 months has been a wild ride and I couldn't have done it without all of you.
To start, I simply want to say thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. This really was a group effort.
Training for Hennepin started in mid June with a 17 week training plan. It peaked with a 67 mile run, 114 mile week, and 280 over 3 weeks (twice). I followed a 3 up 1 down plan and eased my way into the race taking the last few weeks on the easier side.
Some of the notably training runs are listed below:
- The Wapack Trail - 21.5 (technical / hilly)
- The Pemi Loop - 31 (technical / hilly)
- Run your Age - 37 Mile Edition
- TARC Summer Classic 40 Miler (The day after run your age)
- Coast to Cure NF - 67 Miles (longest run ever before the Hennepin)
Going into the Hennepin I was confident. Four weeks before the race I ran 67 miles and felt magnificent at mile 47. Sure my legs were sore, but I was full of energy. While I had to dig over the last 10 miles, I was able to hold a pace faster then my wildest dreams and was eager to see what I could do at the 100 mile distance.
Race day began early with a 4:30am wake up and a 5:10 bus pickup. We arrived in Sterling, the race start, around 6:40 and were underway exactly at 7.
My plan was simple; run 9 minute pace for as long as possible and adapt from there. I figured if I could get to the half way mark without too much suffering then I could take it easy on the back half and still have a great time.
Race morning I posted my obligatory social media update and it was shared multiple times (thank you to Diana, Karen, Henry, and Jeff). One of the things about tackling events like this is to make sure that you don't give yourself an easy out (or an out at all). This year has been about so much more then running. It has been about coping, raising awareness, dealing with uncertainty, making new friends, fundraising, and finding a part of myself that I didn't know existed. I had a lot riding on this race, a lot of people supporting me, and I would be damned if I let them down.
The race takes place entirely next to the Hennepin canal and while it is a pretty sight, the scenery never changes; canal of the left, corn fields on the right. Still being away from traffic does make a big difference.
By mile 20 my legs started to get a little tight. While this didn't concern me too much, I was concerned that the extra pop I had in the Coast to Cure wasn't there. Over this period of time I focused on trying to keep my hydration and nutrition up. I had a combination of water, Tailwind, shot blocks, and cliff bars.
In 2016, I got a Garmin 235 GPS watch. The significance of this is that it also doubles as a smart watch. Every text message, Facebook comment, Instagram like, and most importantly, donation confirmation email, shows up directly on my watch. Each one induced a smile and enabled me run just a little harder and and a little faster (See Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel).
Mile 32 is where I saw Amy and Neil for the first time. This was an aid station named "Candyland" which I figured would be perfect for Neil. I was still moving well at this point (8:48 pace), but my legs were starting to get pretty shot and I was starting to worry that this may become a really long day. Seeing Amy and Neil helped and I left with a renewed spirit.
By the time I reached Aid station 9 at mile 43 I was feeling pretty spent again. This was the home of the world famous MILF aid station and there literally was a sign that read "Free MILF hugs." So I did whatever any normal person would do and said, "Who is giving me a hug!" and aid station captain Christine ran over and gave me a giant hug.
The final miles before the turn around were a real bear. I muscled through knowing that I wasn't quite half way there. The humidity had taken a toll, but I wasn't about to let it stop me. As I hit 50 mile, I broke my 50 mile PR from 2014 and vividly remembered how hard I pushed through the remaining 10 miles. I smiled just a little and then took my first walking break.
|Mile 67.3 with a fresh |
change of clothes
After a bunch of 11-12 minute miles I got back Candyland and sat down for a few minutes. I was totally spent and still had 33 miles to go. I had held a pretty solid pace thus far and could easily walk the rest finishing way under the cut off. But who wants to do that.
One of the things I had heard about the Hennepin was how awesome the volunteers are; and they didn't disappoint. As I sat there at Candyland they brought me soup, coffee, ginger ale, and even helped roll my legs out. After about 10 minutes, I finally got up and made my way out.
Over the next few miles I met up with two runners from Wisconsin, or Wisconsinites as they called themselves and was even able to string together 2 sub 11 minute miles. It was also the first 100 for one of them while second was a seasoned veteran. It was nice to have a little bit of company for a while.
Around mile 85 I started to become completely unraveled. I felt nauseous, my legs hurt, my hip flexors hurt, and my feet hurt in a way I have never hurt before. My run walk ratio was not even a one to one at this point. As I arrived aid station 18, mile 86.7, all I could do was sit down. A volunteer quickly came over and asked what I needed and all I could mumble was ginger ale. Luckily they had some and I downed that, then two ibuprofen, and then a cup of coffee. He asked me multiple times if I wanted a burrito, but I knew it would have come right back up. After sitting there for about 15 minutes and just willing the race to be done, I got up. This was the last time I would see Amy and Neil on the course and I had three more hours of pushing to go. All I wanted to do was go to sleep.
I started off at a walk and a few minute later my stomach started to settle. I tried running, but I was so damn tight from sitting for that long I had to stop. On my third try, I had finally loosened up enough to move into a walk run pace. I was totally flying blind now as my watch had died and my phone had died. I ran when I could, I walked when I couldn't. The moon had come out and the clouds had left. I just chugged along.
Before I knew it I was at aid station 19 (mile 93.1) and after a quick break hunkered on. My feet were killing me, but my energy was back up. When I arrived at the final aid station, 20, with 3.5 miles to go, I simply looked at the volunteers and said I am going to keep moving.
With about a mile and a half to go you run through the center of Colona before the finish where the canal intersects the Rock River. That finish line pull got a hold of me and I picked the pace back up. As the finish came into view I shut my head lamp off and simply took in the moment.
-- Finish -- 18:28:20 -- 11:04 / mile -- 10 / 127 Overall --
|Mile 100 (Neil was asleep in the car)|
A Look Back
It is amazing how quickly the pain of a race fades. I vividly remember how much I suffered in those last 30 miles yet now it doesn't seem that big a deal. Will I ever run another 100? Who knows. Do I need a break to recoup and figure out what is next? Absolutely.
What could I have done differently? Go out a little slower, train at a slower pace, and definitely eat more earlier on.
The Hennepin was a great first 100. It is flat, not technical, has amazing volunteers, and isn't a multi-loop course. Kudos to the race directors, the volunteers, and everyone that makes the race possible.
By the Numbers
- New 50 mile PR (by 5:07)
- New 100k PR (by 2:13:03)
- Longest run ever (by 33 miles)
- 15th state to complete an event in
- 14th ultramarathon
- Raised $522 during the race bringing the year total to $14,482
Stayed tuned for some other crazy ideas that I have for 2018 around both running and fundraising. It will be epic.
Strava Activity (Note I manually entered the last 13 miles)