2013 Running Fit Woodstock Hallucination 100 Race Review
Wow, what a week. From our boys starting up school for the year, planning for our oldest son’s birthday, big presentation at work, then getting all my gear packed for the Run Woodstock Hallucination 100…busy week indeed! Being nervous and anxious was a feeling that I haven’t had leading into a race since my first marathon in Chicago of 2010. Luckily the week was packed with many activities in attempt to keep my mind sane.
Little blurb about this far out Woodstock event
Running Fit hosts a late summer race weekend that is jammed packed with events and music. Yes, they do take on the whole 70s music theme – groovy! They spread the love of events over three days. Friday at 4pm kicks off the Hallucination 100 miler and the LSD 100k than that evening at 7:30pm there is a Far Out 5K (which includes a natural run option). Saturday morning is woken up to those toeing the line at 6am for the Peace, Love & 50 Miles + the Freak 50Kers. Then a second round of crazy hippies toe it up for the Half Marathon and Full Marathon at 7:30am. Did I mention they offer a Flower Power 5 Miler at 8am because they do. Wait, I’m not done….7:30pm that evening runners line up with their headlamps trek out for the Trippin’ 5K & 10K. Then Sunday rounds off the weekend with the Free Love 5 Mile. That’s 11 events in a single weekend on some amazing trails in Pinckney, MI.
No School/Work Friday
Bonus with Friday races, the family gets a day off from work and school. Although I did feel guilty pulling the boys out on their first week back but they sure didn’t mind it. After loading up the car off to Hell, MI we went. Yup, the trails are part of the Pinckney state game area but the start/finish line is held at the Hell Creek Ranch in Hell, MI. A quick stop in Chelsea for some lunch before the 24 hour trek on the trails.
After getting the tent setup as close as we could to the start/finish line (note, if you run this event pay the $10 to get your car into the park as you’ll have a better choice of tent locations PLUS you don’t need to hike the distance to get from your car), gear laid out by the tent for the pit stops and the family situated with the hotel…it was sit back and relax as much as I could. A buddy that I have been training with most of the summer, Peter Burrill, was also sharing my tent so it was good to have someone else around to chat with while we waited.
3PM was the mandatory ultra runner’s meeting. I have to say, I was pretty stoked to attend this. My first pre-race meeting…seriously, how cool is that?! Yeah, I’m a trail runner nerd. This was cool as I was able to see some other friends there that were tackling the 100 miler or the 100k. 3:45pm, time to suit up and lace up! Just as we were heading to the chute I spotted a couple of friends (Joe & Linda Pulver) who both I believe are pros in the ultra running scene. What a great confidence booster it was to see them plus Joe offered to pace me on the final two loops. Joe completed this year’s brutal Western States 100 so knowing I had the honor of one that completed that race to pace me was absolutely amazing! Then the cake on the icy was looking back while I was in the chute I saw my wife, Susan, and the boys. Their smile was all I needed. Let’s do this!!!
Geared up with the my Garmin 910 (I was aiming to see if I could get 24 hours out of it), Salomon Mantras, Dirty Girl Gaiters (honestly these were an absolutely savior as it was sanding out there), INKnBURN RocknRoll Tank Top, Salomon Tight Shorts, my 20 oz handheld, my Rudy Project Rydon glasses and couple GU Roctanes along with a sleeve of Clif SHOT Bloks. 4pm….bang, off we go! They had us do a little loop around the camp site to spread out the runners before heading onto the single track trail. Quickly as we were on the trails it was a reminder that we started from a horse ranch. Phew! I figured by loop 5 the piles would be flattened out.
Peter and I had an overall game plan to stick together for the first two to three loops as we knew our pace training was similar plus to run a majority of the night loops with someone you know would be great as it does get dark out there. I figured the first loop would be the quickest so we really worked together to make sure we didn’t hit it up too fast. There is a 1.5 mile section of the trail (Lakeland Trail State Park) that is flat and non-technical. Very similar to the Kal-Haven Trail for those that are from SW Michigan. This was a great section as we chatted with a couple experienced runners of the course and got some really good tips. The overall theme we heard from the ‘veterans’ was to keep it slow on the first few loops. It was tough to hold back when some would pass us by as that competitive side kept calling out ‘don’t let them, don’t let them!’. But we did realize that most of them where in the 100K AND that we really needed to stick to the plan. The other goal to the first loop was to get an idea of the technical sections along with the aid station setup. As we rounded the camp grounds to head into the start/finish area to end our first loop, I took a peak and sure enough we tackled it just over 3hrs (first loop with the extra in the beginning was around 17 miles). Called out our number to the aid station crew as we were required to do at each aid station.
Feeling scale of loop 1 – Good!
Finished loop 1 in 3:03 and in 24th overall position. The only issue I was having with was early signs of soreness on the bottom of my feet and I believe it was from more flatter/harder surface than I thought would be on the trails thus the Mantras where not my choice of shoe.
As we crossed through the start/finish line on our end of the first loop we quickly headed over to the tent to gear up for some night-time running. Joe was there to help us get what ever we needed. I grabbed my Brooks running hat, Black Diamond Storm headlamp, swapped handheld to my larger handheld plus the insulated INKnBURN handheld holder and swapped out my Mantras for the Montrail FluidFeel. I didn’t have too many miles on the Montrails but was hoping that the extra advertised cushion would be the right fit for these trails (in the end they did perform perfectly for this course). Peter and I started to get into our ‘no talking but git’r’dun’ shuffle on the trails. Half way through this loop is when the headlamps kicked on and the night time running started. Was really cool to see what other runners gear up with in regards to illumination. From headlamps to handhelds to vests to devices on their hands/feet, it was quite the ‘TRON’ show that night. What was amazingly awesome was the effort that went into marking all of the ultra flags with reflector tape. Pitch black forest with a 100 lumens headlamp hitting these reflectors….SUPER COOL!!!! As we rolled into the start/finish I realized that I hadn’t taken advantage of the ‘real’ food at the aid stations as I was just fueling off my GU packets and Clif SHOTS. I needed to add more real food as I know that would work out much, much better in the end for me. So just before I headed over to the tent I grabbed as much food from the aid station as I could possibly carry.
Feeling scale of loop 2 – Good!
Finished loop 2 in 3:36 and in 25th overall position (lost one spot).
This loop called for swapping out of the handheld and gearing up with my Ultimate Direction Jurek Vest as I really wanted to run without anything in my hands as I wanted to be nimble on the trail at night. I had the vest already equipped with a full bladder and two bottles (one that was insulated). Was probably over kill on hydration but I liked how the vest fits when it’s evenly weighted. I switched out my Brooks running hat with my INKnBURN tech tube as I was having problems on the run with my headlamp. I noticed that when I wore the hat with the headlamp, there was a considerable size of ‘blackout’ around my feet as the bill of the hat blocked the light. On the second loop I did switch my hat around but then it just got uncomfortable as the headlamp was basically rubbing on my forehand of where the backing of the hat didn’t have any material. So I thought I’d get the INKnBURN Tech Tube a try and it work great!!
This loop definitely took a toll on Peter and I. The Lakeland Trail State Park section sucked. I know it was only 1.5 miles or so but it seemed forever. Then the dirt road section that basically connects the front four mile section to the back 8 mile section was LOONG. To me I felt faster and more efficient on the trails rather than the road as it was easier to give into the walk on the roads. Another hit for me was when my batteries in my headlamp were dying. It is amazing how your confidence drops when running on trails and you can’t see your footing. Just before we left to start our third loop, Joe asked us if we wanted new batteries….yes we should have listened to the pro. Rookie’s error and lesson learned. As we worked together to see where we going, Peter started having some stomach issues with the nutrition he was taking in. So with light issues and an upset stomach the party just got interesting. As we rolled into the last aid station on the loop (about 4 miles from the start/finish line), I asked a volunteer if he had any AAA batteries. Fortunately he did thanks to a runner that just pulled out of the race due to an unfortunate injury. He handed me the 4 AAAs and I split them up with Peter. It did boost our light a bit more to get us back on our way. As we started back up I could tell that Peter was not feeling it. This was tough as 1) I wanted to make sure he was okay and 2) I was starting to feel better and was wanted to push the pace harder. After walking a couple of miles with Peter we both had that non-vocal but face to face conversation that we knew that this was the time we would run our own race. He assured me that he would be fine. We were about 2.5 miles out from the start/finish aid station and I knew he’d be in good hands (with Joe back at the tent along with another pacer, Andrew Hirzel) and that he would return to the race to finish it out.
Feeling scale of loop 3 – Alright
Finished loop 3 in 4:18 and in 41th overall position (lost 16 spots from last loop).
When I came into the aid station of ending loop 3, I noticed a hot spot on the inside of my left heel. I grabbed some duct tape and wrapped it up. It was something that I’ve never had before on my runs so I figured it was either the new Montrail shoes, the course conditions (dry course) or just that I’ve just ran 50 miles. Joe asked me if I wanted him to come out with me to start pacing but I wanted to take this loop by myself and rock out to some tunes. I figured that the final two loops is when I’d really need Joe to make sure the mental game would not attack me. So with a fresh pack of batteries for the headlamp, topped off chilled Gatorade in one bottle and my iPod Shuffle….off I went. Again, when I rolled through the end of the third loop a stocked up on food and proceeded to eat it when I took off for my 4th loop. I found that I’d use this same routine for each of the beginning loops to focus on eating everything I had but keep the momentum rolling. This loop was incredible. After I rolled past the 1st aid station on the loop (around mile 54) I took on the dreadful dirt road with some attitude. Cranked the music and I took on the challenge. My goal was to keep a run pace (shuffle or sprint, whatever I could get out) as I was starting to wake up. Wasn’t sure if it was the sweet tea I basically chugged just before this loop or what. As I jumped back onto the trail from the dirt road there was a couple short hills but from there on to the next aid station it’s basically downhill. This was GREAT!!! It felt like I was pushing low 7 splits but I know that wasn’t the case but I was definitely moving and moving faster than anyone else as I was able to reel in a handful of runners. As I was pushing through the last section of this loop I was attempting some mental math calculations on time and I know you shouldn’t worry about time on your first race but heck what else do you think about for 24 hours? I was thinking if I could aim to do my aid station to aid station splits in no more than 1 hour segments thus aiming to knock our each loop in 4 hours a piece I might, just might be able to stay under 24 hrs. As I rolled into the start/finish aid station, Joe informed me that Peter was starting to feel better and he and Andrew took off for his fourth loop about 30 minutes after I did. Great news!!!
Feeling scale of loop 4 – Incredible as 1) it was a new PR in distance and 2) how cool is that, I just ran 66 miles and feel GREAT!
Finished loop 4 in 3:47 and in 8th overall position (gained 33 spots from last loop). BTW…I didn’t know these loops stats until after the race. Not sure if that is good or not. 😉
Now is when I was ready for Joe to join me. I figured that if the mental game kicked in, I’ll let Joe talk about his recent Western States run for the next 8 hours as that should help the time pass. I quickly re-wrapped the duct tape on my heel as it needed some attention but overall wasn’t too painful to screw up my mechanics, refueled my water/Gatorade, changed shoes out to some Brooks Ghost 6 and off we went. Again, I took the first mile and half on eating all of the food I grabbed from the aid station. I also equipped my vest with more Roctane packets. As soon as we got onto the trail it was like someone turned the light switch on and tada, we had sun light. Wow that was an amazing moment as I was thinking I just ran from sunset to sunrise. Off went the headlamp and back to trail running under the sun. I will say that this lap went from feeling great to slowing shifting to let’s just finish feeling. Joe was not too hard on me for this lap of when I wanted to walk. I told him my game plan of attempting to make each aid station to aid station around 1 hour each so we can finish a loop around 4 hours. When we rolled up to the rail trail (Lakeland Trail State Park) I was in it to see if I could push it as quick as I could. So we did….10:00 minute pace sure felt a lot faster but it was a successful push. As we were rolling closer to the end of loop 5, Joe called ahead to my wife to let her know when we’ll be coming in and to also get an update on Peter. We found out that Peter dropped to the 100k as his stomach problems didn’t subside and the heat was starting to play a factor for him. I was truly happy to hear that Peter went back out and tackled another loop before making the call. I know that overall that was a the farthest distance he has ever run and what a HUGE accomplishment he has done.
Feeling scale of loop 5 – Okay!
Finished loop 5 in 3:59 and in 13th overall position (lost 5 spots from last loop but I was just fine with that as I finished the loop to my goal of around 4hrs).
Sixth and Final Loop
Upon arrival into the start/finish aid station I spotted my wife and kids along with my parents and my in-laws. This was absolutely what I needed to get me motivated to reload my gear and get back out on the trail. Having our parents there was amazing and I can’t even really put into words what that meant to me. Two favorite ‘scenes’ that unfolded during that pit stop was 1) my father in-law (Fred) sitting in one of the camping chairs on his cell phone and probably talking to his fishing buddies, looks up at me and says “why you don’t look like you have even ran yet” than 2) seeing my oldest’s son smile as his birthday was that day and we had a sign and presents for him at the tent. Okay one more favorite…as I was gearing up my youngest son, Ben, passionately wanted to show me his new LEGO Chima figure. Love them!!! Okay back to game face….my trusty pacer Joe was definitely in for another loop. Before I took off I wanted to re-tape my heel as I was sure it was not doing well as I felt it more and more on the lap loop. Sure enough, it was a ‘pretty’ blister that needed some attention. Andrew (pacer for Peter) was still hanging around to see if he could help out where needed and he sure did come in handy. He grabbed the tape and bandaged me up like a pro. After some hugs and kisses from the family we were off on our FINAL lap!!! Woohoo!!!!
After attempting to eat more food for the first part of the loop, I just couldn’t get food down. It wasn’t coming back up I just couldn’t find the urge to eat. I tried to switch to my ROCTANE packets but that almost turned into a bad scene as I felt sick to my stomach so I trashed that idea. Then I tried my CLIF SHOTs and was able to get some of those down but I just didn’t have an appetite. Even Gatorade at this point tasted nasty. So I just kept up with hydration and S-Caps. At this time of the day the sun was out in full force and the temps were definitely increasing from the prior days temp. As we hit up the rail trail it was HOT. The sun was baking us so here is when Joe turned the heat up on me. This section didn’t’ have much shade thus getting out of that area as soon as we could was a good plan. We continued a good run/walk routine to get us to the 1st aid station on the loop. From here I re-fueled up with cold water as I was getting hot and started getting a bit dizzy. Joe helped me push through the dirt road as he knew I didn’t like that section. As we were coming into the entrance to the trail from Doyle Road, we started noticed a large, no HUGE number of mountain bikers that were moving extremely fast passed us and we were hoping they weren’t going to be on the trails. We’ll we soon found out they were. Many runners coming back where warning us. We wouldn’t see them (bikers) until the section between Richie’s Haven aid station and Grace aid station. What a bad, bad day for them to be out there. Since Sunday I learned that the Michigan Mountain Bikers Association decided to have some sort of Bike Challenge event, so there were areas of the course where these riders were flying down trails at 30 miles an hour while sleep-deprived 100 milers were stumbling along on the same trails. Seriously?! I couldn’t believe it. One thing for sure is that it helped my attitude as I just got down right mad. My goal was to stop each dude that didn’t give us the right away and let me tell you, some of those guys weren’t happy. Fortunately there were some riders that actually stopped and let us run by first. Hats off to you select few riders.
Okay, back to the run….as we exited this section with the mountain bikers it was all I could do to stop with the time game in my head. From that section of the trail we were about 5.75 miles out from the finish. I didn’t have anything left in the tank to hammer that out quickly so I needed Joe in a big way to help me push. I started taking quarter-mile to half mile pushes as hard as I could then I would walk fast and strong on all the hills. I kept repeating this over and over. Then there came a point around mile 98 that I knew I was at my limit as my walks were draining me. Pushing up a hill that typically didn’t wind me, did. Around mile 99 mile Garmin battery had enough and called it quits. As we were pushing through that last mile and with approximately a half mile to go, Joe says ‘you’ve got 5 minutes until hour 23 passes’. GAME ON kids!!! Remember when I said I pushed all that I could, well you be amazed what you can do by literally gritting your teeth, breathing incredibly hard and pushing with all your might.
As we rounded a turn that I knew all so well that weekend and up a slight hill I noticed some friends at the top cheering me on and the time game in my head just disappeared as I just wanted to finish and finish with my family. Quick note….step back about 4 miles, Joe contacted Susan as I wanted her and the boys to be at the finish chute as I wanted them to cross the finish line with me as this event was truly an entire family effort. As I crested the hill, I saw my dad in the distance with his camera locked and ready to snag a photo, I knew then that I just completed 100 miles. I turned past my dad to see the finish line that I’ve passed several times that day. Wow that was oh so sweet to know that this time I can cross it and be done. With a quick high-five to Joe as he pealed off from the finisher chute, Susan and boys were there to meet me and we ran across the finish line, hand in hand, tears and sweat, together. My first hundred is now in the books and official! To date, 22 marathons and 11 ultra marathons since 2010. Yikes, thinking my ultra number maybe pushing past race marathons in a year or two. 😉
Wondering what time I finished in? Well, it was a HUGE surprise and just another icing to the accomplishment cake. Thanks to Joe for pushing me when I needed it, I finished the race in 22:59:59.5! Yes, .5 tenths of a second was the difference. So not only did I PR in overall running distance, I also placed 20th overall (out of 126 runners) AND took 3rd place in my age bracket. Do I see another 100 in my future, DEFINITELY! But let’s enjoy some relaxation time first!
What’s next on the radar you may ask….in a couple weekends I get to take four buddies with me as we team up to participate in a 100K team relay at Dances with Dirt Hell. Yup….same trails, same town. 🙂 After that I’m aiming to knock out Sleepy Bear Dunes Marathon in October then time to enjoy some winter running in Michigan with my friends.