Where: Trinity Christian College, Palos Heights, Illinois
Race Format: Marathon relay, 5 laps as the anchor
Results: 2000 Meters, approximately 1.2 miles, 8:19
I did something new and ran the last leg of a marathon relay with some local running club friends. It was a mild day with some humidity, but I don’t think that it affected me much. I knew going in that I was in no shape to be running fast, so I gave it the best all-out effort that I could give and was pretty happy with the result. Garmin said I averaged a pace of 7:01 for the five laps I ran.
I warmed up with about a 2.5-mile jog, and then took note of what mile we were on. I could see that there were a couple of teams that were a couple of miles ahead and a couple of miles behind based on the bib numbers. I paid attention to a couple of faster runners and noted that they seemed to go out too fast on their opening laps, and I took note of that.
When the baton was handed off to me I started at a pace that I felt wasn’t too hard and I think I was able to hold it pretty steady for the 5 laps that I ran. By lap two I was thinking about how heavy the baton weighed and I switched it to the other hand. By lap three I was pretty much tapped out but was able to grind out another couple of laps. I finished to the cheers of the remaining teammates and was glad it was over.
I think there were about eight teams and I believe we finished around 6th. It was a fun day, and I’m glad I got to spend some time with the others.
I have to start by saying thanks to WausaUltra, the race directors, the staff, and the volunteers for hosting such a great event. Everything was well done. They made everyone feel welcome and became our biggest fans, even if we only made a handful of yards. They made me feel like I had a slim chance of winning. Ha!
On Facebook, the staff was welcoming everyone who had signed up with a short video and I was a little surprised at my welcome, as the guy thought that being 58 years old and doing this event was an amazing feat. Listen up, whippersnapper! I’m not old!
I drove to Wausau on Thursday afternoon and took a look around. I wanted to make sure I knew how to get there, and also know how long the drive would be from Minocqua.
Friday morning I got around and made it to the park in plenty of time to get set up. I opted for my one-man pop-up tent just because it would be easier to set up and tear down. The runners started trickling in and you could start to feel the excitement. This group seemed to be pretty serious about going deep into the event.
We heard the 3-minute warning just before 10 am and everyone made their way to the corral for the start. The weather was cool, and there was no rain for now. It was shaping up to be a good day.
The start is somewhat anti-climatic as the first twenty yards after the pavilion area was very wet, and the road quickly became a hill. So there was no bolting out of the chute, we walked it.
I ran the first yard to get the lay of the land and then took my phone along for the second one to snap some photos. The first part of the course was crushed granite road and trail and was uphill. All uphill portions were walked.
So that is the course in pictures, which show what we dealt with better than I could explain it. It was a challenging course for sure.
The first few loops went pretty well, but I still struggled with sweating too much. It was tough to balance it because it was very cool in the higher parts of the course and warm on the climbs and lower parts. I eventually ended up shedding the pants I started with and swapped my trail shoes out for my regular running shoes for some additional toe space.
My big mistake however, was not taking in enough hydration and electrolytes. I don’t know why I have this dialed in so well for an Ironman but can be clueless when attempting these backyard events.
The fifth yard became my nemesis. I was giving some consideration as to how many more yards I could get through, and figured that I would attempt at least 2-3 more. But I started to get some hamstring and calf cramping here and there toward mile three and I wasn’t so sure anymore. When I came to the little wooden bridge section in the latter part of the 3rd mile of the fifth yard I wasn’t worried about it at all – it wasn’t technical, nor really anything that you had to concentrate all that hard about. But my tired legs must have kept my foot from clearing something and I tripped, falling flat onto the boards and bouncing into the moist dirt next to it. It happened so quickly that I didn’t even have time to really catch or brace myself. I hit pretty hard and was almost in shock by it. I struggled to get myself up, as I now found myself cramping pretty badly. I knew I had to get to my feet and keep moving. That’s when I got very light-headed and quickly grabbed a tree to keep from falling again. After a brief moment I was able to collect myself and start walking again, taking an assessment of the damage I had done. I had a scraped knee and a cartoon-sized bump on my left forearm, but other than that I wasn’t in any significant pain.
As I made the last little uphill climb to the finish area, a guy standing there asked if I was okay. I told him that I fell and he went and told the staff. I made it to the finish and told the others there that I had banged myself up. Staffer Ellen was kind enough to get me an ice bag for my swollen arm and bandaged up my knee. I was advised that I still had about five minutes left to get ready for the next loop, but I told them there was no way. My two or three more yards estimate was immediately quashed as soon as I got up from that fall. I decided right there and then that I would not push my luck. Had I fallen on those rocks it could have really messed me up, and I wasn’t prepared to go back out there being behind on my hydration and energy.
I let the 3-2-1 minute countdown pass and stood and watched the others parade by. My day was done. I went over and rang the DNF bell of shame and then began the two hour packing up process to head home. Five yards, and a little more than 20 miles. It was less than I was expecting to do, but not too bad for this difficult course. The day sure made for a great and memorable experience.
NOTES FOR NEXT TIME
This was a very technical course. I need to practice that type of terrain more.
Running downhill wasn’t too bad here, but it always wears my quads out quickly. Maybe add some leg press strength work or run more downhills in training.
Get that nutrition/hydration/electrolytes figured out.
Make sure my wife is there to help me! It was tough without a crew member.
I really enjoyed this event and I will definitely be back in the future. Thanks for reading!
Sometimes I find myself wondering about people who are highly skilled at something and how they discovered that they were good at it. Maybe more importantly what if they weren’t exposed to the thing that they had become highly skilled at. Would they have been successful at something else? What if Michael Jordan had decided to focus on baseball after being cut from his high school basketball team? What if Yo-Yo Ma had been given a trumpet instead of a cello as a child? What if Eddie Van Halen hadn’t switched from piano and drums to guitar?
I was thinking about my running history the other day and was thinking about how I have found that I am really enjoying running trails and ultra-distance events. These are a new frontier for me and have certainly become a joy of late. Not that I’m any good at either, but it made me wonder what type of runner I really am. I regret that I didn’t have running in my life as a youth. I didn’t run track or cross country, but looking back on those types of running I wish I had experienced some of it. I have tried my hand at many types of running in my adult life and found that I love it all. But what am I best at? What distance or event do I perform best at? I’m not really sure.
Looking at my race results over the years I can see that I’m slightly faster than the average runners, usually placing in the top half of finishers or higher. In races, I almost always find myself alone chasing the faster runners ahead of me and yet gapping the rest of the field. I find that very interesting. It happens in almost every race, including the 25K trail race I did last month. From 5K’s to marathons, that is where I fall.
But of the races I have done, which distance is the one I perform best at? I don’t feel like I have blazing fast 5K speed, yet I can usually win an age group award at it and finish in the top 10% or so in the local races. That’s pretty good I think. My 5K PR is 19:29, which isn’t all that quick. My current average 5K time is over 22 minutes, thanks to getting older. I’ve been fast enough at marathons to qualify for the Boston Marathon three times now. And the nine half-marathons that I have done, all have been 1:40 or under, and I have always thought that to be pretty good. I like to keep the challenge of being under 1:40 going, but as I get older that is going to be difficult. I can’t imagine trying to average 7:30 per mile for 13.1 miles right now.
Maybe short-distance running is my thing. I ran a 5:44 min/mile a couple of years ago. That was an all-out effort and I spent a good chunk of summer and fall prepping myself for that. Or maybe it isn’t a speed thing, but rather a distance challenge that I may personally excel at. I’m currently discovering pushing myself to go farther than I have ever run before and I keep surprising myself each time. Maybe long and slow is the way!
I have heard the term “jack of all trades, master of none” before and maybe that’s the type of runner I am. Maybe I’m just good enough at a variety of distances, but just not ever going to be the top dog at any one of them. I guess there’s some fulfillment in that as a running journey.
What is your best event or distance? Did you know it right away or did it eventually come to you?
After giving myself a brief few days to recover from running 41 miles at the Big Hill Bonk event last week, I felt like I was ready to start getting at it again. The weather was not cooperating, however, so I opted for a bike spin on Tuesday. That went okay and seeing that Wednesday was looking good to get outside, I planned a longer ride.
It felt great to toss my leg over the bike again. I hadn’t ridden a bike since Ironman Chattanooga last September, so I was looking forward to spinning the wheels for a while. It didn’t take long to see how out of cycling shape I was. Although I was just trying to take it easy, I was working pretty hard at it. Then my foot started having nerve pain that was very problematic last year. And then the calf cramps kicked in. I pulled the plug and cut the ride short. Not quite the welcome back to cycling that I was hoping for.
The first run after my ultra was a quick 3-miler on the dreadmill. Also not quite the welcome back to running that I had hoped for, but probably the best for me. The weekend came along with some decent enough weather to get outside. I ran eight miles on Saturday with no problems and then ran 11.5 miles on Sunday. Nice and slow and no eagerness to rush anything.
Sunday actually felt like a nice spring day. I can almost feel like winter is finally dying and I might even mow the grass this week. Warm weather would definitely be welcomed back.
Now that the first event of the season is out of the way, it’s time to start thinking about the remainder of running year. I’ll probably dial back the cycling. I’m a little worried about the nerve pain coming back, and once it is there it takes a while to go away. I handled it last year by making some alterations to my insert, adding some padding and loosening my shoe up a bit. I received some gravel-style cycling shoes over Christmas for my gravel bike, which might be more comfortable to use. I just haven’t switched out the pedals for them yet.
The only other races I have on the calendar are the Chicago Marathon in October, and Tunnel Hill 100 in November. Tunnel Hill is my “A” race and the focus. I want to check that 100-mile finish off of the list of running things I have yet to accomplish. Last year I was a little bit undertrained, both physically and mentally. I’ll be putting in some longer miles and spend more time on my feet for it this time. I’ll probably use Chicago for a training run, but I may also give using a run/walk method of running it a try and see if I can fine tune it to get me close to another Boston Marathon qualifier.
Kari and I booked an anniversary trip to Italy at the end of September, early October. It’s a hiking tour and there will be a lot of hiking/walking involved. It comes two weeks before Chicago, but I think it will provide a good taper for me.
I finally feel like I can start building a good base and enjoy a season of running. Welcome back!
BIG HILL BONK – WISCONSIN’S BACKYARD ULTRA – LAST RUNNER STANDING RACE REPORT
April Fool’s Day can be cruel and fun at the same time, and since the second running of the Big Hill Bonk happened to occur on April 1st, thirty-one runners including myself set out to do some foolhardy running through the woods of Beloit, Wisconsin. Foolish as it may seem to run an unknown and unlimited amount of 4.167-mile trips around the park, it was also a ton of fun. April Fool’s Day treated us to a cold morning start, and a campsite with an inch of snow on the ground to place our tents upon, but that didn’t seem to bother any of us. The day would stay sunny all day long and warm up to the mid-forties providing a mostly comfortable day of running.
Kari and I set up our tent and I made my way into the Welty Center to check in and get my bib and swag. I said hello to the race director Tyler, made my way over to the table, and was greeted by Tyler’s dad, who knew my name and said he loved reading my blog posts about training for last year’s race. I’m always surprised when someone tells me they have read my blog. It wouldn’t be the last time I was greeted with “you’re the guy with the blog!” A travel coffee mug with the Big Hill Bonk on it was the swag in place of a t-shirt this year, and I gladly filled it up with some warm coffee and made my way back to the tent to get off my feet and keep warm, thanks to a little propane-fueled camp heater I picked up just for this occasion.
I believe I was one of three who had run the 2021 inaugural edition of the Big Hill Bonk to return for some more “fun” in 2022. Of course, the other two returning runners were last year’s winner Jon, and another runner named Zac, who would be the one to make sure Jon didn’t have a walk in the park win this time around. There were a couple of other significant differences between the 2021 event and this one. First, 2021 was held in August and started at 5:30 pm. This year it was moved to April, the race director Tyler’s personal preference, and we started at 10 am. So nine out of the ten yards I did was done with daylight, and I barely needed the headlamp on the last yard. It was also much colder, which I think helped prevent me from overheating and getting somewhat dehydrated like I did last year, although I was still sweating and couldn’t find a comfortable amount of layers. It was much warmer at the bottom of the course than it was at the top, and I would overheat walking up the Big Hill. Then when we hit the road for the last mile, the cold breeze was in our face and made for a slightly uncomfortable finish to the yard. Since there was snow on the ground when we began the event, I jokingly told Tyler that I was circulating a petition to get it moved back to August. But as the race progressed I’m not sure what time of year I prefer to run this type of event. I think I have more experience managing myself in the heat than the cold. It’s easier, too. Just one layer – no hats, gloves, extra pants, or other things to keep me warm.
ONTO THE YARDS
As we heard the first three whistles, letting us know that the race would begin in three minutes, we all started to stir and made our way to the starting area. I met a young man named Blair who advised that he had read my blog to gain some insight about this event. I took an immediate liking to Blair and I would spend almost the entirety of my yards running with him. We had some great conversations about ultra-running. It also helped that we were running at roughly the same pace. I was enjoying not only Blair’s company, but there were plenty of others to enjoy conversations with this time around.
Last year everyone seemed to be more serious and less talkative. A couple of ladies named Stefanie and Kerri would strike up a bond and provide a lot of positive energy for the rest of us. I asked them on one of the yards if they had known each other beforehand. Nope, they met that day and were instant pals. I loved seeing the others finding the right group for themselves. It was an eclectic group for sure. There was a guy wearing a yellow and blue jacket, who had to lead every lap and finish each lap before everyone else. Not always the best tactic in this kind of event, but he seemed determined to own that. Another guy wore just a singlet and shorts, while the rest of us had on a few layers. There was a guy who ran in sandals, which is something I could never do. Another entrant was a kid who looked about 15-years old, but I learned was 18. He was a machine and made each yard look like it was nothing. I think that I was the oldest entrant, most of the others were well under 40. The only other guy in his 50’s was very consistent with his effort and was locked in. He outlasted me.
The first yard was done with snow covering the ground, but I somehow avoided getting wet shoes/feet. By the third yard, the snow would be gone for the most part, with the exception being a few areas in the woods shaded from the sun. The most technical part of the course is the descent from the top of the hillside down toward the path that would lead to the lowest part of the course. It was a little muddy and slippery, and I had seen some muddy legs from a few runners who may have slipped on this portion of the course. I took my time on it, as losing my footing would have meant a pretty good tumble down the hill. Some of the runners commented on how they weren’t expecting the obstacles that we had to get over and around, but I think they all found the course to be a lot of fun.
As we came to the finish line of the first yard, everyone pretty much started shedding the layers that they had overestimated needing. I was certainly in that group. I took the windbreaker off and went to a thinner pair of gloves. One guy had said that he was switching to just a t-shirt. But figuring out the right combination of layers and clothing was one of the harder things to figure out for the day. One runner had doubled up on running tights and was stripping down to just a single layer after the first yard. I’d start slightly cool, but at about a mile into the run we would head up a steep hill and I would get warm. The lowest portion of the course was the warmest, thanks to the namesake Big Hill shielding us from the wind coming from the west. Getting up the hill and onto the road for the last mile back into the finish area was the coolest, and I often wished I had another layer at that point.
In regard to hydration and nutrition, I think I handled it a little bit better this year. I had a decent breakfast at the hotel around 7 am, and I saw an opportunity to use the heater I bought to not only warm up the tent but to toast a Pop-Tart, which I promptly ate just before the start. I had purchased a Jimmy John’s roast beef sandwich on Thursday and was able to eat about three 2-inch sliced portions of it throughout the day. I snacked on potato chips, pretzels, a Payday bar, and yogurt in addition to eating some GU gel every lap. I also downed some Gatorade and a Lipton Brisk Raspberry Tea for the caffeine. Blair had said that he was sticking primarily with liquid nutrition, but that is never enough for me. The young kid was eating a banana often and I was kicking myself for not having a few on hand.
As for the rest of the yards, I will summarize: The day warmed up, the whistles blew, we lined up and went again, occasionally someone would drop, the guy in the yellow and blue jacket would lead us all in, and we would come back for a quick rest in the tent, eat some food, and then do it all again. A guy named Doug said he read my blog, as well as the kid – well, the kid admitted that his dad had read the blog and told him about it. When the kid saw that I was still going on Yard 9, he was genuinely happy for me to get past what I had accomplished last time. It eventually got dark and the winner from last year would get the win after 25 yards (104.2 miles).
I ran the last yard with Kerri, a runner from South Dakota, who had also said that she was dropping after ten laps. We teamed up to get through that last yard and she made the mistake of telling me that she was interested in doing an Ironman, and then had to listen to my lecture on how to do an Ironman. I’m not sure if she’ll still want to do one after that.
After getting back to the tent and giving my wife Kari and much deserved hug, I had walked over to Blair’s tent nearby and thanked him for making my day and dragging my butt through 40+ miles. The day ended with me sitting in the tent with a blanket wrapped around me and huddled in front of the heater to keep me warm as Kari began the process of tearing down our stuff and hauling it to the car. I spotted a gentleman walking by my tent and he backtracked after seeing me and said “way to go – seriously, great job!” I think he was impressed someone near his age could keep up with these young guys and gals for as long as I did. Maybe next year I’ll shoot for 12 yards. There’s still a lot of miles left in these legs.
Thinking of doing a backyard ultra/last runner standing event like the Big Hill Bonk? Here are a few pointers.
Having a tent as a home base is very helpful. You may not need it, but if the weather turns it could come in handy.
Bring extra running gear – shoes, socks, shirts, hats, etc. I sweat in summer and winter, and I made several clothing changes.
Sunscreen and lip balm are your friends. I had sunscreen on my face, but forgot to put some on my bald head. My chapped lips are still trying to feel normal three days later.
There are some common drop points in the race where it’s common to see people decide they are done – hitting the yards and covering the marathon, 50K, 50 mile, 100K, and of course the 100 mile marks. Make those your goals, or know to avoid them if you are not trying to hit a specific mileage.
Train for it like it was an ultra.
Have a support system or crew if allowed. My wife Kari was so helpful in having my water bottles replenished, my food ready, my change of clothes laid out, and give the emotional encouragement that is so important.
Although there’s usually some great ultra-type food buffet options at the event, bring some food that you know works for you.
Make some friends on the first lap and enjoy the company!
I had a great time running a 25K trail race through a very muddy and challenging forest preserve course.
All Of The Muddy Details
Pre-race Course Reconnaissance:
Seeing that I have never run a trail race before, and because I have never run at this particular location before, I decided on Monday to drive the 30-minutes to Willow Springs and the Forest Preserve District of Cook County to see what I was up against. I’m glad that I did because I received an in-depth view of the course. There were lots of missed turns, lots of rocky terrain, and lots of hills. Seeing that there was rain in the forecast for race day, I bought a pair of trail running shoes for the race. Rain or no rain, the trail shoes certainly improved my traction on this trail system.
Mud can be fun, right?
It rained on Friday – a lot. I knew that this was not going to make for a good run, but what can you do? It was still raining on Saturday morning, and it was cold too. You can’t control the weather, so I always hope for the best conditions and plan for the worst. Of the bad weather races that I have done, this one ranks around fourth I would say, behind Leon’s Triathlon 2015 (3rd – downpouring rain), Ironman Chattanooga 2019 (2nd – extreme heat), and the Boston Marathon 2018 (1st – cold, downpouring rain, headwind the entire way).
I met up with Jodi, the ultra-marathon crazy friend of mine who was running the 50K.
Jodi’s race started an hour earlier than mine, so I waited around and was soon joined by my friends Jim and Leah.
We lined up, wished each other well, and off we raced!
The race started on grass and 100 yards into it my feet were feeling the wetness from the grass. That soon gave way to much softer grass, and mud and I was trying my best to jump over visible puddles, but it was quickly becoming not worth the extra effort.
I bolted out from the gate a little stronger than I probably should have and found myself trying to keep pace with some faster runners that I had no business trying to keep up with. By a mile into it, I was passed by another more sensibly paced runner and watched him slowly pace away from me. I was starting to question the choice of layers I was wearing as I was getting a little warm. I took my gloves off, unzipped my pullover, and pulled the hat up to expose my ears. I was struggling with my eyes watering and my glasses fogging up. Miles 2-3 was the portion of the trail that most likely had the best conditions. We ran the Yellow Trail for about 3.5 miles and then came to the Orange Trail. I encountered the leaders of the 50K returning back to the start on their first loop. They were impressive. I saw that someone had ditched their jacket near the unmanned water station and I gave it a brief consideration but opted to keep wearing it.
The Orange Trail was one of the worst portions – a ditch that was basically full of mud. I made an energetic effort to run the ridge and make my way through it. Thankfully, it was short-lived and soon was on the very technical Blue Trail, with lots of hills, roots, and rocks. The Blue Trail gave way to the Green Trail, but I never noticed the markers. I was too occupied with watching for the orange course marking arrows painted on the ground to make sure I was going the correct way. Thankfully, I was seeing more and more of the 50K runners coming back at me, so I knew that I was on the right path. Around Mile 6 I was hearing another runner coming behind me and he must have been watching me dodge puddles and really muddy spots. He advised, “at a certain point you just have to commit to it.” As he passed I could see he didn’t give a damn about the puddles, just trudged right through them. I paced behind him for a while, but I still lacked the confidence to plow straight ahead through the worst spots. I wasn’t afraid of getting wet or muddy, I had committed to that a long time ago. I just didn’t want to slip and fall, possibly getting hurt.
From Mile 6 until the turn-around at 7.75 miles was some of the worst of the muddy trail. I trudged through and reached the turn-around and walked over the sensor pad. I refilled my handheld water bottle, grabbed a couple of pretzels, made a quick toilet stop, and then made the turn to follow the same trail back to the finish. I was happy that I hadn’t ditched the jacket, as the light wind was now in my face and it had started to rain a little harder.
I saw Leah coming at me and figured she was about a mile behind me. One thing to be said about the runners I was seeing heading to the turnaround, they were all seemingly having a good time. I will admit, I was having some fun too.
Thankfully, I had brought some gels with me or I might have run out of energy much earlier in the first half of the race. I was eating a gel every half-hour and it was keeping my energy up. I took my fourth and last one around the 12-mile mark and hoped that it would get me through the last 3.5 miles. Back on the Yellow Trail with it’s better conditions, I pushed my pace again and tried to keep it up. I could hear another runner behind me and as I reached a rather steep hill, I slowed to a walk and he went around me. A glance over my shoulder didn’t reveal anyone else, so I made an effort to try to reel him back in and was doing a decent job of it until I hit the grassy portion with another uphill climb that just took the wind out of my sails. I ambled around the picnic area, following the course, and saw Jodi just leaving out for her second loop. That was something I would not have wanted to do at that point! I was spent. As I crossed the finish line, a guy with a clipboard told me that I was the 2nd place finisher in my age group. I made my way to the car for some much-needed warmth.
I sat shivering in the car trying to warm up, which was made more difficult by the wet clothes I was wearing. I pulled my top layers off of me, found a long-sleeved shirt to put on, topped it with a couple of windbreakers and my sweatshirt, and then hopped back into the car. I texted Kari and advised her that I was done, and she texted that she and daughter Ashley were on their way, which was a little surprising to me, but I had left some extra shoes at home and she was kind enough to meet me with them. They helped me stay warm while we waited for the awards.
I ended up with 12th place overall and second place in my age group and was very happy with that. And it was a fun and memorable experience that I won’t soon forget. Turns out running in the mud can be fun.
I go to my doctor regularly, he won’t refill my prescription otherwise, so it’s good to get a check-up and make sure that I’m doing well. He knows no one likes a colonoscopy, so he offers a screen test called “fecal occult blood test,” which looks to see if blood is in your stool and might indicate possible issues with the colon. I failed it. Twice. So he ordered the dreaded colonoscopy.
I’ve had a colonoscopy once before, but not because I turned 50 years old. That time my blood tests showed that I was anemic, so again, there was concern that I was bleeding in my intestinal tract somewhere. That revealed a few small, benign polyps, but no other issues.
So, even though I’m not that excited about having a camera/claw device inserted in my rectum, I will gladly do the tests for peace of mind. But ask anyone who has had a colonoscopy and they’ll all tell you the same thing – “THE PREP IS THE WORST PART!”
I know this first hand from the last time. The stuff you have to drink is strong and tastes awful, but that’s nothing compared to the violent diarrhea that you will deal with for hours. Fun times.
When I got the instructions for the prep I have to admit it made me nervous. I was glad that I didn’t have to do a self-administered enema this time. Others I have talked with all said that they didn’t have to do that. I don’t remember taking the laxatives last time, but they’re listed on the sheet, so I guess I will take them.
My biggest concern is not being able to eat! My coworker Julie had been bombarded with my questions about the procedure because I knew she had done it not too long ago. When I asked her what I should eat before the prep she said that she would go eat a big hamburger and fries at Five Guys. I didn’t see the point of that, as the prepping would just blow that right out of me anyway. On the day of the prep I decided to get one last 8-mile training run in at midday, and then pondered what I could eat. I settled on some baked potato soup and some yogurt, hoping that my body could absorb some carbs before the magnesium citrate blew it out my backside.
At 3 pm it was go time. I had stuck the bottle of “nasty juice” in the freezer because I had heard it tastes better when it’s really cold. I took the two laxative pills with some water and then started drinking the magnesium citrate. Although it was somewhat strong tasting, it really wasn’t that bad. It had some aftertaste, but I just drank some water and chewed some bubble gum to get rid of it.
I had missed a phone call while out on a run and checked the voicemail when I saw it. It was a call from the doctor’s office and I started to freak. Are they calling to reschedule this appointment?! Well, yes – but they just pushed it back by an hour or so. I would not have been happy if I had started the prep and they had to cancel my procedure!
I prepped the bathroom with extra toilet paper and magazines, and I made sure that my iPad and phone were fully charged. Then I waited until the fun stuff started.
And I waited. And waited some more. By 5 pm I was supposed to take the second bottle of Mg Citrate and I still hadn’t had the result that I had expected. I was starting to get worried. Did I skip a step? Was I omitting something? I reread the instructions and was pretty sure that I was following the prep plan precisely. I downed the second bottle and waited.
I had a couple of what I would describe as weak efforts, but I was starting to sense that things were building. The last bottle of was to be taken at 9 pm, however, I was not sure I could get it down. I was experiencing a feeling that my stomach wasn’t emptying what was already in it. With the previous two Mg Citrate bottles, I pretty much just got them down as quickly as possible, but bottle three wasn’t happening. I could take a swig and then follow that with some water, but it really wasn’t tasting good. With about 2 ounces left in the bottle, I declared that I had drunk enough. More sitting around and watching television, but never too far from the toilet.
I kept sipping water and making an occasional trip to the toilet. It seemed like things were beginning to happen. Midnight was the cutoff from all liquids, so I packed it in and went to bed. Sometime around 1:30 am I was awakened suddenly with my bowels telling me it was time to get to the toilet. I made several trips back and forth between the bed and the toilet between 1:30 am and 4 am. I did seem to sleep well in between urgent visits to the bathroom. I slept in until about 7:30 am and decided to check on the dog. I wasn’t excited about getting up – no food or water until after the procedure, which was scheduled for noon.
Since my wife Kari was in Florida, I enlisted Ashley to be my required assistant. They won’t do the procedure unless you have a driver. I was tired, hungry, and had a headache from those two issues. We hopped into Ashley’s car and got a mile or so down the road and I realized that I didn’t have my mask, which was required there even though the state mask mandate was stopped the day before. We turned around and still made it to the endoscopy center near the hospital in time. After going into the wrong office at first, we found the correct one (there were only two) and I got checked in.
A nice nurse brought me back and gave me instructions to get undressed and put on a gown. I was led to a room to be prepared for the procedure. A quick check of my BP and heart rate and she asked if I was a runner. A low resting heart rate seems to always trigger that question from nurses. Turns out she had run the Chicago Marathon in 2021 and was happy to talk running with me. When the doctor came in to meet me, I was surprised by such a warm welcome. His Yelp! reviews weren’t all that great! He looked at my clothes bag and noticed the Hoka running shoes in there and asked if I ran. I guess I’m not fooling anyone. Another doctor who was there to knock me out with IV drugs came in and was all business. Next thing I knew I was being wheeled into the procedure room and turning onto my left side. I could see the clock read 12:38, and that’s the last thing I remember until I was awakened and brought back to where I was before. Ashley was already there waiting, and the doctor came in and gave me the rundown. Everything looked good. He found and removed three polyps and advised that the blood in my stool was most likely from hemorrhoids. Great, now I got new problems.
I asked to walk to the bathroom and forgot to lock the door and someone burst in and found me sitting there. I think it was the doctor, but I found it humorous. I walked back to my holding area all by myself and got myself dressed. Ashley was told to go pull the car around and I got a ride to the curb in a wheelchair. And that was it.
I made Ashley drive us to Portillo’s and we picked up a post-procedure meal and ate it at home. I had been looking forward to that meal for 24-hours.
MY REQUEST FOR MY FRIENDS AND ANYONE READING THIS
I am not one to share personal details about my health on this page. But I wanted to show that if a big baby like me can get through it, so can you. See your doctor regularly. Get checked out and be healthy. If you are over 45 years old, get a colonoscopy. Yeah, the prep sucks. However, think about this: Colon cancer is one of the top causes of cancer-related deaths, but it’s also one of the most easily preventable thanks to colonoscopies. They are essentially painless, quick, and can save your life. Do it for me. Do it for your family. Do it for you.
In February 2021, I took a couple of coworker buddies Micah and Tom up to my lake home in Minocqua, Wisconsin to do some ice fishing and we had a great time. (You can read it about it here: Ice Fishing Fun). Tom is the fisherman, Micah likes outdoor fun, and I am fortunate enough to have a house on a lake to enjoy great activities all year long. Although we only caught one dang fish in 2021, and nearly froze our rear-ends off, we decided to go back to give catching some fish another go. Unfortunately, another buddy Lou couldn’t make it again this year, so he’ll just have to read about the fun here instead. Next year for sure, Lou!!!
We left work in the afternoon and motored along until stopping for dinner. As there’s not a lot of choices of places to stop for a quick meal, I suggested a common stop for me – Culver’s in Portage, Wisconsin. Tom and I were convinced we hadn’t stopped there before, but Micah was sure we had – “This is the same damn Culver’s we ate at last time, you jack-loads!” Micah was right. What can I say, there’s not much variety in Wisconsin.
Last year we went to a new bait shop in town and the owner kind of treated us indifferently. I think Tom said he treated us like “Fibs” – a Wisconsin put-down for Illinoisians. Fortunately, Kurt’s Island Sport Shop opens at 6am, so Tom hopped in his truck and came back with a bucket full of minnows and shiners (a bigger minnow) and some helpful advice as to where the hot spots for fishing was. Now it was time for some breakfast.
Micah loves to cook and once again Tom and I were glad to let him do so. I was a little concerned about the chocolate-flavored pancake mix Tom brought along, but I have to admit that they were really tasty. I was disappointed in them somewhat when they opted for the fake Aunt Jemima syrup over real maple syrup, but whatever.
Hoping for warmer weather than what we had in 2021 was pointless. It was brutally cold, and also windy. And to add to that, later in the day it started snowing like crazy. Typical Northwoods weather in February, I guess.
After a few hours of not catching anything, we decided to head back inside, eat an early lunch, warm up a little, and then head back out.
We found that the wind was really howling in the afternoon so we decided to head over to a cove that was protected from the wind and try our luck there. It was definitely better to be a little more sheltered from the wind, but the fish still weren’t biting.
We opted to call it a day and head inside to shower and get ready for dinner. I had made reservations for us at Minocqua Prime, knowing that they had a pretty good Friday night fish fry. We all had the bluegill and enjoyed our dinners.
A post-meal trip to Walmart to pick up some more food and some more propane for the heater, we then headed home. After a day on the lake and a very filling dinner, we found ourselves pretty tired and hit the sack at 8:30pm. Ended the day with zero bites and caught no fish.
Saturday morning didn’t start quite the way we were expecting, but after another great breakfast from Chef Micah, we were ready to hit the ice once again. The temperature was once again very cold, but we had sunshine and hardly any wind, so it made for a pretty comfortable day.
We chose a new location for some deeper water but it didn’t yield any action. We are starting to be convinced that there are no fish in the lake in the winter. After a little while, we moved closer to what’s called Clumbs Island hoping for some luck near a weedier part of the lake but still had no bites.
Since we had gotten a little bit of a late start to the day we decided to skip lunch and fish until we had enough. Once again, the conversations Tom and Micah were having were very interesting. I don’t know when I became an old man, but I found myself shaking my head at the stuff these two were talking about. But it was entertaining nonetheless.
We finally pulled the plug on fishing and packed it up for the day. The neighbor has some open water near his on-the-lake boathouse which prompted those two to once again think about doing the Northwoods version of the Polar Plunge. That made me really nervous. I was relieved when their scouting of the water made them reconsider doing that. Why can’t they be normal? (lol)
Since they had deemed the Polar Plunge to be out, we opted to do some sledding down the hills in my yard. That’s more my speed.
We showered up and headed over to a wood-fire pizza place called Oakfire. Another great meal and more great conversations with these two.
Tom was pushing really hard to drive his truck on the lake and I was trying really hard not to let him do it. But I finally relented and we found ourselves driving onto the lake. A minute later he got off the packed down snow and we quickly found ourselves stuck in the snow! My fears were becoming reality! I probably wouldn’t have been too nervous about it, but Tom had already told us a story of how he got stuck in the snow with his truck. Micah and I got out to help push, and after Tom cleared some snow from the tires, we pushed. Micah fell down, I laughed, and we got ourselves unstuck. I think these two live to see me have nervous breakdowns.
Upon getting home, Tom wanted to play a game but I told him the games I had stunk. Sorry about that, Tom. I’ll have some better games next year.
Sunday morning came and Tom headed out to the lake while Micah and I opted to stay inside and have breakfast.
Tom was able to land a couple small fish, but I never got to actually see them. But even so, this trip will forever be known as the no-fish ice fishing trip. Oh well, try again next year!
In April I’m heading back to Beloit, Wisconsin to give the second running of the Big Hill Bonk another go. I’m so not ready. I already feel like I’m bonking. Winter running is not my friend, and as an older runner, I try to use winter as a recovery period of sorts from what I did throughout the previous year. That makes running spring marathons tough for me. My mileage is low and my knee kind of hurts lately, but there’s still some time to get my act together and give this race another try.
I find this race format intriguing. It’s pretty simple – run 4.16 miles in an hour and keep running that 4.16-mile loop every hour for as long as you can. People will drop out until there is only one runner left and that runner is the winner. For everyone else, well, thanks for playing.
I’m not fooling myself, I know I won’t win, but I had avoided ultra-distance running for so long that I thought that I should at least experience it in order to validate my running legacy somehow. Last year I made it through 8 loops (also called yards), a total of 33-miles. The goal was to pass the 50K mark, which I did – marking my first ultra-marathon distance – and to have some fun, which I also did. I learned some valuable lessons along the way, and I’ve been thinking about them a little bit.
There’s a little bit of strategy involved in this type of race. You have to budget your effort to not wear yourself out too early, yet you have to expend enough energy to finish the loop in an hour. I came to the race last year not knowing much about how to run a trail ultra, but I got a crash course quickly. I walked more than I was expecting. Some of the hills the others were walking I would have typically never walked. I was also carrying too much stuff and noticed most of the others just had a small water bottle. I made a change to just carrying a handheld bottle myself by yard number three.
This year the race will be in April and not August, so I have to plan for running in cooler weather rather than the warm weather of last year. There’s no crystal ball for the weather this far out from the race, so I just have to assume that it could be much cooler, and possibly rainy. I wouldn’t have minded getting a little cooling rain last year, but the thunderstorms of the area thankfully skirted around us. I’ll just have to hope for cool and dry temperatures for April.
It will be interesting to see how the course is in early spring compared to summer. I’m hoping the trail will be dry. Last summer the course had a section that was a little overgrown with the typical forest undergrowth in spots, but it wasn’t an issue. I’m guessing that we won’t have to deal with that this time.
One of the other changes this time around is that the start time will be in the morning rather than early evening. Last year we were able to get in about three yards of the course before it got dark. So we will have some daylight loops to start with this time.
So far the field is about the same size as last time, about thirty runners. This is a good number for the course. More than that could make for some clogged spots in the single-track areas of the course. I won’t need to worry about it too much. It’s not a speed contest, but you do have to finish the yard before the hour is up. I think most of us will average about 50-minutes to do a yard. Having ten minutes to replenish water and food, and maybe sit for a moment is plenty of time. I think I will try to take on a little bit more food this time as well.
I looked at the registered athletes for the 2022 event and was surprised to see that at this time there are only three runners returning from 2021 – myself, Zac Lungren, who ran 13 yards/54 miles, and Jon Noll – the eventual winner, who ran a mind-boggling 34 yards, and a total of 141 miles! Last year there was a very solid group of six runners that all surpassed 100 miles and kept pushing Jon to earn his title. The rest of the 2022 field are all newcomers as of this post. I’m guessing some of the runners from last year saw that Jon signed up and said, “Well, what’s the point?” and decided to find another race to do. Maybe some of them found the course in Beloit to be a pretty good challenge, I certainly did. And since the race got moved back to April instead of August, maybe some are also like me and feeling a little under-prepared.
Of the newcomers, there are some serious contenders there. Jon will have his work cut out for him for sure. Many of them will be like me, curious to experience this kind of event, maybe challenge themselves to experience trail running, or hit a distance milestone for the first time. Maybe some think that they can win. Only Jon stands in their way. You just have to run one more yard than everyone else. Good luck!
When I run I have a habit that I think a lot of other runners may share – I have to make sure that it ends on a mile exactly, or the quarter, half, or three-quarter of a mile. A 5K, or 3.1 miles has always made me uneasy. 26.2? Couldn’t they have made it 26.25, or just plain old 26?
When I started training for Ironman the plan I followed had built the cycling and running workouts around time, not distance. That was very tough for me to get used to because I always went for an even-mile run, not a 45-minute or an hour-long run. Fortunately for me, my easier Zone 2 pace is at about a 9 minute/mile, so I would get 5 miles done in 45-minutes. But a 30-minute run would push me over 3 miles. I would usually quit three minutes early, or push a little more to get that extra quarter mile. I never wanted it to be a 2.68-mile run. And if do a run in some unfamiliar place and I get back to where I started on some weird number, you can bet that I would do a little more to get the number I want.
I don’t think I would call myself obsessive about it, it’s just that I used to handwrite my mileage into my running log, and to have those nice numbers made it easier for me to add up at the end of the year. I just got used to it and stuck with running distances ending in x.0, x.25., x.5, or x.75.
The 2010 Chicago Marathon had something going for it in addition to being a world-class marathon. People were excited to be in the field and run through the city. But I think that they were more excited about it being run on October 10. Yes, 10-10-10. I found myself also thinking that it was kind of cool, even though the year was 2010, not 0010. I’m a nitpicker. 10-10-10 was plastered all over the event that year. People were enamored by it, so much so that I remember one person suggesting the marathon for 2011 to be moved from October to September so that the date would read 9-10-11. That didn’t happen. Anyway, I have to admit that running the 10-10-10 Chicago made it a little more memorable for me than any of the other years that I did it.
But this year I am trying to change my old ways. I no longer personally log my mileage into a running log, I let my much smarter Garmin watch and app do all that logging and adding work for me. I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions, but this year I decided not to obsess over a run ending in zero-point-nine. So far, I have had a 7.16-mile run and one 4.24 miler. Baby steps.
Do you have a weird running thing? Maybe you’re a streaker, running every day? Or maybe your normal looped run route is always done counter-clockwise? I’d love to know.