2016 Haven-Kal-Haven Run…with a PURPOSE
A year ago I said I wouldn’t do this run again but than 2016 has brought on many positive changes and with these changes I wanted a test run. If mother nature agreed then I planned on going back to the Haven-Kal-Haven to see if I can run it faster than last year. Going into this however I wanted to do more than just attempt a faster time, I wanted to raise awareness for CCFA. A month back I choose to run the 2016 Bank of America Chicago Marathon with Team Challenge so this opportunity presented a fun way to raise awareness by having friends/family sponsor mile markers during the race. I knew that if I started to fall apart that when I looked at my watch for the miles I knew I had someone who pledged for me to make it through that mile. It worked.
Pre-Race Day Afternoon
Friday afternoon I spent time finishing up my gear for the turnaround point and took some much-needed rest since I was targeting to leave South Haven around 1:30am Saturday for the start of my run. Going into the weekend the weather forecast surely wasn’t optimal. Last year we had sun, no snow and decent temps. Going into Friday night the surrounding counties were all under a winter weather advisory until 2am Saturday morning. Yep, this is Michigan.
My drive to South Haven was probably the scariest part of the entire adventure. White out conditions and following drunks on the road. #ohjoy Needless to say I arrived safely in South Haven and at the trailhead around 1:20. After getting my gear together and said a quick prayer I was off at 1:37am.
Under the Stars
Once I was out from South Haven and away from the city lights I looked up and it was clear as could be out. Not a cloud in the sky but full of stars shining down on me. It was amazing. The snow that had fallen earlier kept the trail fairly easy to see thus for a good amount of the run I turned my headlamp off. There was about a half-inch of snow on the trail so it was perfect conditions as it provided just enough cushion the entire way. Last year I encountered many ‘eyes’ along the way but not this time. I’m thinking the weather kept most of the critters home. Although I did find myself following many rabbit tracks along the way and every now and then some larger animal prints that I didn’t really care to know what they can from. 🙂
Going into the run I just completed a metabolic test with Athletic Mentors. The study was focused on when I switch from fat burning to sugar burning. With that study we determined my HR and pace of what ‘I could run all day’ at. So with that data I decided to hone in on a 145ish HR that kept me around 8:45 to 9:00 pace that morning. It was a comfortable pace and if I could keep that up I knew that a new FKT (Fastest Known Time) would be possible for this course.
In the past I have used Tailwind Nutrition but this past winter, with some advice from others, I’ve been using Ucan. So this was my first choice for this adventure as I could do some comparison from last year’s race with Tailwind. I mixed up a 20oz bottle and drank that right before the run. On the run I equipped my CamelBak bladder with a mix also. During the night I honestly fueled off of this with only a few peanut butter filled pretzels. When I would make it to the turnaround point I had set up another UD vest with another CamelBak bladder for the return trip. If I needed more food I would then just work off from the aid stations for the Kal-Haven race.
As the night progressed my figures got cold. Then about an hour before sunrise the temperature dropped. Anytime I stopped to walk for a bit my figures froze. I even had two layers of gloves plus hand warmers all while my hands were shoved in my UD jacket. But I found that when I started back up with the run after about 6 minutes or so my core warmed back up along with my fingers.
Coming to the Turn
On the horizon you could begin to see not city lights but the sun rise. I was excited to see this as I knew once that sun came up 1) it would energize me and 2) the temps would hopefully increase. About 5 miles from the turn I texted the race director if he could have his car running when I got there so I can change my gear in a warm environment. As I got closer I passed the first wave of ultra runners that left at the 7am timeframe. It was awesome to finally see people out on the trail. At this point I was roughly 5 hours in.
At the Turn
As I crested over the slight incline into the trail head in Kalamazoo I was welcomed by many friends as they were just getting ready to head out. I grabbed my gear and proceed to Andy’s warm car. Ahhhhhhh…I’m sure my 30 minute turnaround time was caused by the warmth of the car but I didn’t care. I needed that. Thanks Vidor!!!
7:45am and now I head back to my car in South Haven…via foot. About two miles in I realized I made a bad mistake and one that I should have known. The temps were still in the 20s and my CamelBak tube had already frozen over. I tried to correct it by blowing the water back into the bladder but it was too late. At this point I decided to live off the aid stations as they were approximately every 2 to 4 miles apart. During the night my CamelBak setup included an insulated tube thus I never had any problems. Think I’m going to start researching more options for these types of situations. Or just stop running in sub freezing temps….nah.
Around mile 41 I dropped the frozen solid CamelBak as it was just annoying to be carrying if I couldn’t hydrate from it. At this point a couple of my fellow Run@Lunch buddies were running through. Their pace was a bit faster than mine but it was great to have a fun conversation with them so I decided to stick with them for a bit. This type of ‘strategy’ would follow suit the rest of the day. Mile 48 was great as I was greeted by my TRR running teammate Erin. After a quick chat and some great confidence boosting by Erin I was back on the trail. The next target would be Bloomingdale which was a big relay exchange zone plus a big aid station that I knew had some good food choices as I was needing to refuel.
Coming in Bloomingdale is always great as you enter this little town and cross their main street into the trailhead. With many relay runners there waiting for their partners you get to see many faces and hear cheers that help you keep the drive going. I stayed in Bloomingdale for roughly 5 minutes as I focused on refueling correctly. A banana, chicken broth, pretzels and much-needed water.
From here on out the sun was out in full force and was melting off the snow from the trail and more importantly warming us up. It was really cool on the trail as the snow had melted except my footprints from when I ran into Kalamazoo during the morning. I didn’t get a photo of it but in one of my friend’s photos you can see them. There were times that you could see these lone white footprints for a long ways.
Last year I completed the entire run in 12:39 so going into the run I wanted to go under 12 hours. I knew I had to keep the pace honest on the second half as I did take a bit too long at the turn around (30 minutes) so keeping up with friends every now and then really paid off. Then to sweeten the deal another good friend, Dan Gavlas, popped from the trail and helped me push the final two miles to get me in under that 12hr mark. THANK YOU Dan!!!
11:53:43 is the unofficial time that I clocked on my watch for the run. The front half was completed in roughly 5:36, then roughly 30 minutes for gear change halfway through and then the second half I completed it in 5:47. Success! Beat my time from last year and from what I can tell to date, this will be the FKT for that course. I am incredibly privileged and grateful for the opportunity for this adventure.
Now to sweeten the day was the amount of sponsors we had for the mile markers for #TeamSam and CCFA. At the end they raised over $1000 in just a few days. This is why I love running. Yes the adventure allures me but the fundraising and raising awareness for those that have less optimal lifestyles is what I truly enjoy to be part of.
Well unfortunately this adventure came with a cost. As soon as I got back home I began having symptoms of the stomach bug that our littlest boy, Ben, had the week earlier. Running 68 miles and not eating much then having your body literally release any fluids in you is not what a runner or anyone wants to endure. Since writing up this blog I’ve started to feel human again and trying to get back to normal life.
Coming up I have multiple pacing races in queue (Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, Bayshore, Charlevoix) plus a couple other fun trail adventures. Overall though my goal for 2016 is to do well at TRR 6 day with Erin then go back to Run Woodstock 100 to earn another Western States ticket but also try to go sub 20hrs.
I hope your 2016 plans are going well along with your daily runs. What races are you planning for 2016?