2015 Haven-Kal-Haven – CHECK!
With the Kal-Haven Trail Race date being pushed out a bit later this spring it seemed like a perfect opportunity to target a Haven-Kal-Haven Trail Run…aka #redemption time! I tried this adventure last year (read about it here) but unfortunately had to throw in the towel around mile 56 due to a buckled knee.
With my training in line with the Burning River 100 in late July, this adventure would be a good check point to see where I was at physically, mentally and use of my nutrition. This year Peter (another local area ultra runner guru) wanted to join me on the adventure. Woohoo, the participation level of this challenge just doubled from last year.
Kal-Haven Trail Background
The Kal-Haven trail is from Kalamazoo to South Haven, MI on a crushed lime stone rail trail. The distance is 34 miles even though the trail is marked for 33.5. Just ask any Kal-Haven finisher, they’ll let you know that extra .5 just made it easier. This is an old railroad track so it’s straight and flat. Flat, FLAT. Did you get that it was flat? The effort of completing this takes more mental well than anything else as you’re basically staring down a long, long tunnel. No switch backs, no hills, no trees to jump over. It’s mans attempt to make a long outdoor treadmill. Sounds fun, eh?
Plans Set, Time to Roll Out…at 1:30am
This year I looked to roll out at 1:30am Saturday morning as I wanted the extra time to get there for any hurdles or issues that could arise. Last year I arrived just after 8am (the start of the Kal-Haven) and felt rushed and tried to get caught up with the pack of runners. So after we dropped one car off at trail head in Kalamazoo, we headed over to South Haven. On the way I kept thinking to myself of why on earth are we running back to the start when I could be sleeping. Honestly I don’t know why I pick these challenges but then that voice in my head says ‘why not’.
Kalamazoo here we Come!
The run back to Kalamazoo (34 miles) is not supported with anything nor from anyone except for whatever we pack on our backs. For myself I geared up with the following:
- Saucony Kinvara 5 RunShield shoes
- Wrightsocks Dual layer socks
- Dirty Girl Gaiters
- Sugoi Titan Shorts
- EPIC Crew Brooks long sleeve tech shirt
- Ultimate Direction SJ Vest
- INKnBURN Headband
- Dual layer of gloves – cheap $1 knit gloves and Saucony mittens
- Headlamp – Princeton Tec Apex Pro
- Garmin 910xt watch
- Nutrition – 4 ‘sticks’ of Tailwind Nutrition mixed in with 90oz of water – I used 2 Naked packs and 2 Mandarin Orange – total of 800 calories
You couldn’t ask for a better night of running. Crystal clear sky, mid 30 degree temps and no wind. As we were trekking our way east we started to see the moon rise on the horizon.
You could tell that Peter and I were a bit tired as I think we said about two sentences the entire run during the night. We didn’t have our headphones on so it was just the sound of our foot strikes on the trail. And yes, the occasional dog barking as we past several residences along the trail. Throughout the night we incorporated some half mile to one mile walk breaks. And every now and then some stretching and lunges.
Rolling into Kalamazoo
After a fun night of running it was great to begin to see color on the horizon as the sun started to come out. As we rolled into the trail head Terry gave us a good morning on the overhead that accompanied many cheers from the other runners gearing up to head out. We rolled in around 7:40am. Perfect timing as we had until 8am to head back out again with the rest of the runners. After some high fives with several friends it was time to take the 20 minutes to change out gear and suit back up for the return trip.
With a change of shoes, socks, shirt and a new vest with a 50oz of fluid (planned on using the aid stations as water refuel if needed) it was time to toe the line (again). A buddy of mine makes some awesome burritos that I have been using on some training runs during the winter and he handed me a few before we took off. I eat about half of one on our way out. Delicious!
Gear for the second half
- Changed out shoes and socks (same type of shoes/socks)
- Different INKnBURN headband
- INKnBURN Run or Die Tech Shirt
- Red Ultimate Direction SJ Vest with a 50oz Camelbak bladder
- Arm sleeves
- Half of a Cara Cara orange
- Tailwind Nutrition – 3 packs in the 50oz bladder of water – 1 pack of Lemon (200 cals) and 2 packs of Caffeinated Raspberry Buzz (400 cals)
- Half of a Breakfast cheese/bean burrito
From here on out I knew my pace would probably fall off a bit compared to the first half but as long as I could keep at least a 10:00 or under pace I would be fine in regards to time. Again this is just an adventure run with no means of taking on a time challenge. Heck if even I fell under the race time limit I didn’t care as I was in it to complete it.
As I began to get back into a pace rhythm it was fun to chat with other runners and hearing about some of them that were running this as their first ultra distance. Heck there were some that were running this and they haven’t even ran a marathon yet. #AWESOME
As we moved closer to Gobles (47 miles in) Peter started showing signs of some stomach problems. We took some walks to see if the pace would help settle his stomach. It seemed to help for some time but as we rolled closer to Bloomingdale (around 52 miles in) his stomach conditions were not improving. At that point I knew we had to make that call that I truthfully hate to make. I know he truly wanted to finish the 68 miles for #TeamSam but the day just wasn’t the day for him. The thing with ultra running is that there are so many variables that can go with you or against you at any point. ***Fast forward to today (day after the event) Peter went out and ran a solid 16 miler for #TeamSam. I’m so proud and thankful for a friend that has the passion but also the smarts to know when it’s right to continue and when it’s safe to call it and try another day.***
From here on out I focused on making it to the spot I had to call it last year (mile 56.78). As I rolled closer to that location I could feel the thrill of knowing that I was going to pass it. I didn’t even think of the 68 miles as I was so focused on that one extra step farther than I did last year. As soon as I rolled past I was ecstatic to the point I’m sure I yelled out BOOM! The next couple miles were filled with emotion of excitement and some air guitar gestures.
Soon the excitement wore off as the arch of my left foot started to cramp up. I found that if I walked it cramped, if I shuffled a pace (<11:00) it cramped, if I ran faster than 9:15 it cramped. So I found that if I could stay between 9:30 to 10:00 it was fine. Along the trail there are sections of horse trails that run adjacent to the main trail. I took those a couple of times in hopes that the ground surface and branches/tree stumps jumping would force me to move my feet a bit different. Well it worked for a while but then portions of the horse trails were submerged under water. So back to the main trail it was. During this time I also took some Motrin and a couple S-Caps in hopes that it would help.
While keeping the 9:30 pace I was able to spot some familiar runners up ahead. Around mile 60 or so I was able to meet up with Laura and Joe. Laura was on her way to completing her first farthest run she has ever completed and Joe was there to help her to the finish. It was fun to listen to their stories and jokes. I decided then I was staying with them and we’d finish this day out together. I’m so glad I decided to stick with them as Joe was making us laugh with his stories of IRONMAN training and post race celebrations.
As we approached that last aid station (around mile 64) a friend was there handing out Jell-O shots. Yes Please!!! Have to say, two Jell-O shots does help distract the cramping foot pain. 🙂
Laura trekking down the path of finishing her longest run and I getting redemption from the prior year along with completing a bucket list adventure. These four miles were ours!
68 miles completed! Overall time that it took me was around 11:45 and some change. I believe only one other person that I know of has successfully completed the out-n-back by foot. I know that I PRed that day and first overall and first in age group. 😉 Heck even a master’s division win.
For now it’s keeping the training schedule on focus. Sure there will be some races thrown in there but they are not target races so those will be treated as feel. I am looking to run the Running Fit Trail Marathon 50k in a couple of weeks. I’m really excited to run the Kalamazoo Half Marathon and then looping back to find my dad as he is walking the Kalamazoo Half Marathon. Plus I can’t forget the fun times up at Yankee Springs Trail Run for the 3 day ultra challenge. I wonder if Max well return and take on the real challenge. From there on its fine tuning and more Burning River course analysis prep work.
A big part of the success of this past week’s adventure comes from the HUUGE support of #TeamSam. If you are wondering who #TeamSam is check us out at www.crowdrise.com/vanloorunningbr100