2014 Haven-Kal-Haven Ultra Trail Run Adventure

I had a great idea a few months ago: wouldn’t it be great to turn a 34 mile point to point race into a 68 mile out and back adventure?  Every year in Kalamazoo, MI the Kalamazoo Area Runners (KAR) hold a point to point race on the Kal-Haven Trail (KHT).  Events include solo or relay teams (2 person up to a 5 person team).  The trail used to be a railroad bed thus the trail is super flat and straight and has a slow gradual decline to South Haven.  The surface of the trail consists of crushed limestone/slag.  In 2011 this race was my first ultra event and kicked off a love for longer distances.  Since then I typically used this race as a long training run for any spring time ultra events that are planned.

This year I wanted to start in South Haven early in the morning of the event and run to the start?  So in other words, run an out-n-back.  So, I setup a Facebook page to see if I could inspire other crazy running or biking folks in the community to come out and join me.  Needless to say, too many smart ones in this area = no one else joining me. 🙂

4-5-2014 10-32-21 PM

Kal-Haven Trail

I’ve run this course many times over the years and I’ve found that I can basically run the entire way while supplying myself.  So with multiple GU packs, Chomps, bottle of Gatorade and 70oz of water in my CamelBak bladder, I started at the South Haven trail head at 2:30am.  Equipped with my trusty Princeton Tec Apex Pro off I rolled and headed east on the trail in the dark.  Below you’ll find a short video I captured on the run and you’ll get a sense of how dark it gets out there.  Friday night we were under a weather wind advisory with possible wind gusts up to 50 mph and these warnings where scheduled to roll into the Saturday morning.  When I started out I chose to not listen to any music so I could basically hear any tree limbs crashing down as the trail is 75% covered with tree foliage.  Let’s just say after a while of hearing sounds that wasn’t wind/tree related, I decided to listen to some music to get my head out of the ‘is that a coyote or bear or cougar stalking me?’.  I’ve been working on keeping my head up when running on trails but with 150 lumens beaming down the path I was picking out many shiny eyes staring back at me.  SPOOKY!  So I chose to go back to my old ways and just focus on 10 to 20 feet in front of me.

Throughout the night the weather couldn’t have been better.  The wind did settle down and it was all tail wind so I didn’t get cold.  BONUS!  As I moved farther east on the trail I realized that the pace I was going I wasn’t going to make the 8:00 am start time of the race.  Oh well, I wasn’t in it to race but more of in it to get the hours on my feet for the day.

Coolest sighting of the entire day was when I was about 3 miles to the start of the race (mile 31) an owl came swooping down beside me (arms length away) and ended up landed on a branch just up ahead of me.  Maybe I looked tasty to it?

I rolled into the 10th street Kalamazoo trail head (start of the official race) around 8:20 am.  I had a gear bag waiting for me.  With help from some friends I was able to change out my clothes to drier clothes and head back out on the trail.  Plus I was equipped with some homemade chocolate chip cookies!  Thank you Karen!  🙂

Just finished the first half (34 miles)

Just finished the first half (34 miles) – photo credit to Mike Peterson Photography

2014 Scott VanLoo (6 of 8)

Time to change gear for the second half – photo credit to Mike Peterson Photography

The route heading west is typically all downhill and especially the first 5 to 7 miles from the start thus I was able to kick up the pace a bit to try to get caught up to some of the ultra runners on the course already.  As the morning went on the weather just got better and better.  The clouds started to clear out and the sun felt great!  I think spring in Michigan just might be here.

Heading out for the second half - photo credit to Mike Peterson Photography

Heading out for the second half – photo credit to Mike Peterson Photography

As mile 50 clicked up on my watch I started to hit the wall and was really feeling the typical soreness I get in my longer runs.  At this time I was definitely in a power walk/run routine with each passing mile.  I was totally fine with that as I learned from my first 100 miler last year that walking is okay.

Gotta have a trail GoPro selfie

Gotta have a trail GoPro selfie

Around mile 54 there was a long, bad patch of thick packed snow with ice.  This was the section that triggered my decision to call it quits.  I slipped on a patch of ice and that triggered a chain event of how I tried to stabilize myself which then my right knee buckled.  When that happened I felt a quick sharp pain in my knee and it won’t go away when I was trying to get back on pace.  I tried to stretch a couple of times and walk it out but it wouldn’t stop.  At that point I said I was done.  My goal for the day was time on my feet and not to win or set any PRs.  I pulled out my iPhone and got a hold of a buddy that was at the finish line and they were able to track me down and pick me up.  Thank you Susan and Peter!!

Funny thing, this was not planned, but when I stopped my Garmin at the road of where I was getting picked up I had no idea of the exact mileage.  Well, I can say I was very happy with the time but the final number is great.  56.78 miles in 10:35:46, I’ll take it as successful and fun morning.  One lesson I took away on this adventure – I’m currently 810 days free of not running on a treadmill.  Well this trail is basically mother nature’s treadmill.  When no drastic elevation change and straight as an arrow, my legs were not used to the mundane same path.  Every once in a while I’d run backwards plus do some side steps to try and engage some different muscle groups.  Will I start running on a treadmill now?  Nope.

Now it’s recovery time for a couple days to make sure the body is in check then time to threw in on some hill repeats as DWD Gnaw Bone 50 mile is just around the corner!


56.78 miles in 10:35:46


Check out my other running adventures from my Vimeo ‘On the Run’ Album

 Gear on the Run


2 Comments on “2014 Haven-Kal-Haven Ultra Trail Run Adventure

  1. Incredible! Love the fact that you started at the end and ran back to the start in the wee hours of the morning.. crazy? yes.. but I totally get it… my first thought was…”how cool is that!?”. Sorry bout the knee, but glad you made a good call not to make it worse… Congrats and thanks for the great report and video!

  2. Pingback: 2015 Haven-Kal-Haven Trail Run - CHECK!

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