It’s hard not to like this race. The course is trail and is varied and is a ton of fun. The race directors are top-notch. I had looked forward to it for months. And then I ran it and it beat me up, not like last year by falling on the fifth loop, but physically wore me out by the time I finished the first loop. But I enjoyed every minute of it.
Fortunately, I had my crew chief/wife Kari with me to help me with all the junk I brought and to make sure that I wouldn’t end up like last year. We opted to stay at a nearby hotel for the night to avoid the hour-long drive in the morning. We had plenty of time to get up, have a great breakfast, and then head to the race to set up our tent.
The course was very much like the year before. A little bit of sloppy and muddy conditions, but nothing a trail runner hasn’t ever dealt with. By the end of loop 1, I felt pretty beat up and I was already calculating how many loops I might be able to complete. The goal was to do 8-12 loops, but the course forced me to reconsider that. I was now hoping to do as well as I did the year before and get at least 5 loops finished.
I had some great conversations with some of the other runners. Cody, Ashley, and Robert were great to run with, as well as many of the others. Everyone was having a great time.
The weather was pretty good this year as well. Last year was a little colder, but we were all in shorts this year.
After finishing the sixth loop in 57 minutes, I didn’t leave myself much time to get some food and I had decided that I would start the next loop but probably wouldn’t finish it. I made my way back into the corral with a fresh water bottle and started walking when the seventh loop began. As the others pulled away, I gave a half-hearted effort to keep up, but it just wasn’t happening for me. I was done. I decided to walk up the hill and back down the next which would put me near camp. Kari met me at the bottom of the hill and I told her that I was taking a victory cool-down lap. We decided to walk up the next hill and around more of the loop and ended back at the camp, with an additional but unofficial extra 1.5 miles. I walked up and told the race directors that number 159 was dropping from loop 7. I rang the bell and thanked everyone for the well wishes and congratulations. Then Kari and I began packing up.
I could make a dozen excuses why I dropped out when I did, but it all really boiled down to being uncomfortable running across the highly technical rocky terrain on tired legs. It lead to me falling last year, and I just didn’t want to repeat that. So, I’ll take my 25 total miles, my awesome WausaUltra race swag, and my finisher medal, and live for another race. Time to heal up and begin training in the summer for the fall races I have signed up for.
I was running on Tuesday and encountered a young kid (25 or so) who looked like he was out for a walk through the woods on a cool and very windy day. I turned around and found myself catching him and passing him, but it wasn’t long until I heard someone running behind me. I turned to look and it was the sweater-clad kid. I stopped and asked him if he was trying to mess with me because I was trying to figure out why he was now running right behind me when he was just walking beforehand. I think he quickly saw my concern and advised that he was just trying to see if he could keep up with me. He apologized for freaking me out, and I chuckled and said let’s go. I dropped the hammer down and was quickly running 5K race pace. He kept up for a bit, but when we got to the uphills I ended up dropping him. By a mile later I couldn’t see him behind me any longer. I guess he learned if he could keep up with me.
I was lucky enough to have a weekday off from work today (Good Friday) and decided to join in on a group run that I usually miss out on. I don’t often join group runs because they always tend to fracture and then I end up running solo anyway. Plus, I have a part-time job and miss the morning run stuff. But four of us showed up today and it wasn’t long before I found myself thinking about who had assembled here for this run.
Just like the kid earlier in the week, it’s pretty common for me to judge other runners when I’m out running. I’m sure I’m wrong about them, and if I take some time to actually converse with someone I see regularly, I’m often impressed. And what do they think of me? I crossed paths with a teenage girl once and she looked at me and said “Oh man, you go sir!” like I was some old-timer huffing and puffing my way through a couple miles. If she only knew.
So here is a picture of the group today. If you were judging this group of runners what would you conclude? Old and slow? Out for a mile or two and then have coffee? Three Boomers and a Gen Xer trying to stay healthy? Let’s run it down:
Jodi is a multi-time marathoner, and multi-time ultramarathon finisher, including numerous 100-mile finishes to her credit. I don’t know a lot about Dan’s resume, but I do know this: he’s an experienced adventure racer, multi-time marathoner and ultramarathoner, and an accomplished triathlete who is competing at the Multisport World Championships in a month. I’m sure there is much more to his resume. And April just added her sixth World Marathon Majors star in Tokyo this year. To put that in perspective, I have two of the six stars and it took me a long time to get that second one! I toot my own horn on this page enough for you to know that I have accomplished some stuff – marathons, Ironmans, and a handful of ultra finishes, with that elusive 100-mile finish still being actively pursued.
That’s a pretty amazing group of locals out for a run if I do say so myself. So if you see someone out running and start wondering what their deal is, don’t be surprised if you are actually seeing some pretty accomplished people. And feel free to join in! Catch us if you can!
I ran this race last year in rainy and muddy conditions and it didn’t deter me from signing up for it this year for some reason. This year has to be better, right? Nope. 11 degrees F. at the start with a feels-like temperature of -2. That’s because it was super windy too! Fun times. At least it wasn’t muddy. Nice and firm frozen ground, which I would become very acquainted with later on.
I got there early enough to see my crazy ultrarunning friend Jodi start the 50K race an hour before my race started. I picked up my race packet and sat in the warm car for an hour. I had brought lots of clothing options and I really thought that I was going to have to run in my coat. But after seeing what some others were opting for, I also went a more minimal route – three long-sleeved shirts, the race shirt over that, two layers of gloves, a balaclava with a visor and another hat on top of it, and a new windbreaker jacket I bought last week. I also wore my warmest running pants which might not have been necessary, and to add to that, the elastic wasn’t as strong as it used to be. I slowed several times to pull them up, but eventually stopped and tied the drawstring in a knot. Anyway, I was pretty comfortable and maybe a little too warm.
I walked over to the start about 5 minutes before and took a look around at the competition. The race director gave us some last-minute info and the countdown was on, but no one was anywhere near the start gate. As he declared go, I was the first to bolt through it and off to the races!
I’m in first place! I had a smart pre-race plan of pacing slowly and not starting out too fast. Race day adrenaline took over and it wasn’t long before my labored breathing was forcing me to slow down. Being in first place in any race is kinda fun, but I would much rather pass people (encouraging!) than be passed (discouraging!). By a quarter-mile into it, a young lady joined me and we paced together until about a mile into it, when we got to a hill and I slowed and she didn’t. She would finish in 2nd overall. I had no business pacing with her. Another guy passed and I was now in third.
I kept up the count every time someone passed me, and I would tell them “you are now in 4th! or 5th or 6th, etc. I quit telling them after I dropped out of the top 10, which was about 4-5 miles into the race.
I was starting to sense that something was wrong with the way I was feeling. I felt like I was running on fumes and might be in for a slog. Thankfully, I brought along some gels to help get me through some rough spots.
I got to the turn-around of this out-and-back race and was feeling pretty happy about my time at that point. My split was an hour and twelve minutes for 7.75 miles and I was turning for home. But right about a half-mile later I came to a dead stop, tripping on some damn root or stone and falling to the ground with a thud. Since I have started running trails I have been falling, and I was super cognizant of that today, but it didn’t matter. The bill of my visor struck the ground causing my glasses to be forced into my nose causing a cut. I had the wind knocked out of me, yet that didn’t stop me from unleashing a string of curse words that had the forest creatures running. I was also seeing some stars after getting to my feet. That’s a new one. A few kind runners took time to stop and take stock of my dumb ass and offer assistance. One asked if I wanted her to walk me back to the turn-around for help and I initially said yes. Then I said no. I could walk, nothing seemed broken, and I felt like I could probably press on. And press on I did, albeit much, much, slower.
The rest of the way was a combination of running the flat sections and walking up and down hills and just moving forward. I was starting to get foot cramps and I was starting to think I was very dehydrated. I had water and I was drinking it, but I don’t think it was enough. I didn’t feel like I had been sweating all that much, but my wife Kari said my clothes were soaked when I got home.
I got to the finish and was glad it was over. One volunteer asked if I was okay, and I said no. I was mad at myself, but it was nice of him to ask. The race director asked how old I was and then said I had just missed the age group award. I kind of figured that out. It was actually a relief because it meant I didn’t have to hang around for any awards.
I walked back to the car and sent Kari this picture:
I sent “I’m all done with my 25K!”
Kari replied “Why are you bleeding!!”
Me: “The ground might have had something to do with it.”
Her: “I can’t let you out of the house!!”
I was a little concerned that my calves would cramp up on the 20-minute drive home, so I got out and walked around a little bit. I went into the toilet and peed some pretty dark urine, which was all the indication I needed that I was pretty dehydrated. I grabbed a nearly frozen Coke from the finish line and started drinking it. It turned me around pretty quickly and I drove home with no issues.
So there you have it, falling at trail races seems to be a thing for me. It’s a good thing that I only have three more on the calendar this year.
I was reading a race report in which the blogger talked about a race being in her top-five favorites of all time, and it got me thinking about what my top-five races would be. I call my blog “an amazing run” because most of my runs are pretty amazing, but if I could choose my favorites (oh boy, this will be difficult!) here they are:
NUMBER 5 – WINNING MY FIRST-EVER TROPHY
I grew up in an era that didn’t give out participation trophies, you had to earn them. Now, I’m not against participation awards, medals, or trophies, especially when it comes to running and triathlon. I’ve got dozens of them proudly hanging on my wall. I appreciate them for what they represent to me – a reminder and reward for the effort I gave to be handed one. Those that say that anyone can have one are simply mistaken. You have to at least get off your butt and complete the task. But when I was a kid, I never earned a trophy. But on July 4, 1993, I ran a 5K in a local race and decided to hang around for the post-race award ceremony. I don’t remember much about the race other than it was hot, and my wife and in-laws were there. But my name was called as the 2nd place winner in the Male, 25-30 age group category. I was 29 years old when I earned my first-ever trophy.
NUMBER 4 – THE DAY I RAN 5 MILES
I had toyed with running for a few years, but it was hit or miss for me. Like everyone else who tries running for the first time, it can suck, and I was no different. I just never stuck with it. After graduating college and finding a job, I relocated about 75 minutes north of my hometown and found myself living in an apartment bored out of my mind. My friends were back home or away at college, and I was too broke to afford golf or bowling. I bought a pair of cheap Macgregor running shoes at Kmart (remember, I was broke) and decided to try running again. The first few efforts were around the apartment complex. I was a fair-weather runner and my runs were typically after work and not any longer than a mile or two. But one lap turned into two and I also was getting a little faster. One day I decided to branch out into the neighboring subdivision and meander around. I felt great and I knew that I was going farther than I had before. When I got back, I jumped in my car and retraced my route, and I was excited to see that I had gone 5 miles! But the most exciting feeling was not just covering 5 miles, it was knowing that I could have run farther. I look back at this day as the day I became a true runner.
NUMBER 3 – WINNING A 5K RACE
You really never know what can happen unless you show up and give it your best. The Lindenhurst Police and Park District 5K was being held for the first time in Lindenhurst, Illinois, the town in which my new bride Kari and I had bought our first home, and was being held along with a little fall festival the town was having. I found this race listed in the local weekly newspaper, as the internet hadn’t really taken the world over yet. Most local racing was listed in the local papers. Since it was being held in our town, I figured why not run it?
When I got to the start line I could sense that not many people had seen the race listing in the paper, with only about a dozen runners nervously pacing around. I started to wonder if I had any competition. The girl in her twenties looked pretty fast, and so did the guy in his thirties. There were a few others, but I keyed on these two for some reason. We toed the line and off we sped, following the police chief in a police car. A weightlifter-type dude shot out to the lead like a rocket, which was somewhat surprising, as I had written him off prerace. But by a quarter-mile into the race, the girl, the guy, and I had reeled him in. My plan was to pace with them for a little while and it wasn’t long before I realized the pace was too slow. I hit the gas around mile one and took off. As I ran I actually overtook the chief in the pace car and I got a little nervous because I had no idea where the course was heading. No worries though, as he quickly got ahead and stayed there. There was a left turn about a quarter-mile from the finish and I took one quick glance back and saw no one within a distance that could catch me. I glided downhill, turned right, and broke my first finish line tape in first place overall. Show up and race all-comers, you might find that you are the best of the field that day.
NUMBER 2 – QUALIFYING FOR BOSTON
Early in my running days, I knew what a marathon was but it was never on my radar. I was happy to get around the block a few times. Marathons seemed impossible. But I finally got the urge and ran my first marathon in 1991. The Lake County Races Marathon ran from Zion to Highland Park, Illinois and it was very local for me, seeing that I worked and lived in Highland Park at the time. When I finished that first one, my reaction wasn’t the euphoria that I had anticipated, I can clearly remember thinking “That’s it? Where’s the fanfare?” I was handed a medal, which I have since misplaced (I’ve looked everywhere!), and ended up in the medical tent getting an IV.
The finish didn’t kill my enthusiasm for marathons, and I ran many more. But there was one that I wanted to do but figured I would never be able to, and that was Boston. Boston has a qualifying time requirement, and I was more than a half-hour away from it in my 30s. It seemed unreachable. But I got older, faster, and wiser, all of which would lead to me getting within striking distance of getting that elusive Boston Marathon qualifying time.
In 2015, I qualified by just a few minutes, but it wasn’t enough. When I crossed the finish line I was elated and deflated at the same time, because even though I had just run a personal best of 3:28, I knew that my cushion time might not make the cut. I missed it by 28 seconds. You can read about it here: 28 Seconds…
The following year I was much better prepared and had an awesome weather day. I cruised to a 3:25:08 finish and felt pretty good about my performance. Now the wait began.
After applying the following year, I got notice that I was in! That’s when the run became special. It took a while to get it validated.
You might ask why isn’t running Boston the high point? The 2018 Boston Marathon was miserable – I was overtrained, and it was a day of constant rain, wind, and cold temperatures. All of that makes for a great memory, but what I cherish most was accomplishing the hard part – qualifying.
NUMBER 1 – CHRIS HEDGES – YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!
I had watched the network coverage of Ironman for many years and was always in awe. I couldn’t even imagine what it took to do what they did. My experience taught me that marathons were hard, how do you do that after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112 miles?! Fortunately for me, I have friends who pushed me into it. It’s easy to say that you can’t do it when you have never even tried. So I tried. Swimming was hard, but I eventually got it down. Biking had its own struggles, but I became a better rider. And running just had to be adjusted to make sure I didn’t push too hard.
I had no idea what crossing that Ironman finish line would do to me. It was empowering. Ironman’s motto is “Anything Is Possible” and that is a sentence not lost on me. After finishing an Ironman you do feel like anything is possible.
Each of my five Ironman finishes are special, but I will always remember that first Ironman in Madison, Wisconsin in 2013. It sent me on a path of new adventures and gave me a feeling that I could do anything.
My running routes are mostly paved trails near my home. My main route takes me through a nearby nature preserve that is always enjoyable. And fortunately for me as an aging runner, there are a few toilet facilities located along the route. And today, without fail, I came upon the first one at roughly 2.5 miles and had to pee. It wasn’t a pressing need beforehand, but I stopped and went in once I got to it. It’s almost like I have become conditioned to stop and pee when I get to places in which I see a port-o-let. And it doesn’t have to be a toilet there for this to happen. Occasionally, I have stopped at some more “private” areas of the route because of a pressing need, and even though I could have been running along just fine, once I see the spot, the urge takes over.
Further up the route, I came upon a port-o-potty at a house being built. There was nobody around, so I used it. This is a mile and a half past the first one! At this point, I recognized the pattern and thought I would fight it the next time I got the urge. There’s a group of trees off the road next to the sidewalk I was running on and I have stopped there plenty of times before. This time I skipped it. But as I pressed on I found that I once again had to go, but now I was in a very open area and had to hold it. I made it back to the next spot along the trail that I typically utilize, looked around to make sure nobody was around, and relieved myself by a tree. I guess I am hydrating well.
Stopping to pee when I see a toilet isn’t the only Pavlovian response that I have when I’m out for a run. If there is a runner ahead of me, my pace picks up and the chase is on. I can’t have someone running ahead of me without trying to catch them! Maybe that is due to my running race tactics. I’ve always tried to settle into a comfortably hard race pace and then start trying to catch others. But it definitely happens out on a simple training run as well. And if I get passed by someone, well that just means that person will have a shadow for a while until I realize how dumb I’m being, or I can no longer keep up their pace.
I tend to run in the middle of the day, skipping lunch for the run. There will be a point later in the run when something triggers me to think about what I will eat when I get back. Maybe my stomach is telling my brain “Dude, c’mon! Let’s eat!” or something, but there will be a brief moment in which I’m planning my post-run meal. Maybe it’s just giving me the motivation to get back home quicker.
Do you have any weird running habits or responses to things while out on a run? I’d love to hear them.
The third annual ice fishing trip is in the books! The crew consists of me and three work buddies – Lou was able to join Tom, Micah, and me for the first time this year, so we had four poles in four ice holes. Plus several tip-up style rigs, which is how we caught our only two fish.
Tom’s truck was loaded up and we climbed in to make the 5.5-hour drive north.l to r: Lou, Tom, me, and Micah.
We opted to head to northern Wisconsin in January instead of February hoping that it would be a little warmer for us and for the fish. Our first trip resulted in catching one fish. Our second trip was a bust – zero. This year we caught two! Both nice sized Northern Pikes. Although it wasn’t quite the amount we were hoping to catch, it was enough for a nice lunch of fried fish.
Tom showing off a rod to Lou.
Micah was once again our awesome breakfast chef and whipped up three great meals, in addition to helping Tom with frying up the fish.
Starting the day off right with a ham/cheese/egg bagel sandwich
Micah wondering why we haven’t caught any fish yet.
It wasn’t long before we caught our first Northern Pike!
A picture with me and Tom holding the fish because it’s my blog, dang it.
Our second fish was caught not long after the first one, with Lou doing the honors of reeling in this whopper.
I had made dinner reservations for Friday night in case we didn’t catch any fish, and the two fish we caught we decided to save for tomorrow’s lunch. The special dinner out this year was at Norwood Pines Supper Club and we enjoyed the all-you-can-eat fish fry. Everyone seemed to enjoy their meals.
The after-dinner photo at Norwood Pines Supper Club, Minocqua, Wisconsin.
We had a backup plan this year in case fishing wasn’t going our way. Tom had mentioned maybe renting snowmobiles and I had been thinking of buying one. I ended up buying two new Ski-Doo 2-up trail sleds to have at the house. Renting some additional ones fell through, but we took turns riding the awesome trails that exist in the snowmobile capital of the world, the Northwoods of Wisconsin.
While Tom & Micah fished, Lou and I hit the trails on the new sleds.
Saturday was our last full day and we started off fishing but the lack of action made Lou and I opt for hitting the trails. Lots of exploring before heading back for lunch.
Tom cleaned the two fish and he and Micah fried them up. Delicious! Made for a great lunch.
Tom and Micah hadn’t had a chance to do any snowmobiling yet, so after lunch, we all found a helmet that fit our heads and headed out for some sledding. Lou and I rode shotgun while Tom and Micah explored Dan’s Trail and many others.
The sun had come out and was providing some beautiful scenery to stop and enjoy.
We decided to head to a town called Sayner, where I thought we would just turn around and head back. Of course, we missed a turn and went way out of our way heading back home, now in complete darkness. It was a fun experience to ride by headlights at night. A little nerve-wracking too.
Since we didn’t catch any fish on Saturday, we opted for Bad Bones BBQ in Arbor Vitae, Wisconsin.
Evenings were spent playing poker and Lou won all three nights. Didn’t realize that he was a card shark.
High-stakes gambling going on.
Sunday always comes too soon. We cleaned and packed up and headed back home full of talk about the fishing and snowmobiling. We hope to be back again next year!
It’s time to wrap up another year of this crazy running journey that I have been on. 34 years and counting! And what a year it was. I decided to stick with ultra running as my focus and for the first time in the last several years the word “triathlon” does not appear in the title of this blog post. I did very little biking this year, and any swimming I did was from a post-run, cool-down standpoint. I miss cycling a little bit, but I had my hands full with training for another attempt at a 100-mile finish. I came up a little short, but I’m getting closer! Is next year the year I finish? Hopefully, I will conquer that distance before age makes it too difficult.
The spring started off with a fun trail race called “Paleozoic Trail Runs – Carboniferous Spring II 25K” which was a very fun mud-fest. First time racing a trail race, and I think I did pretty well with my 12th place overall and 2nd place age group finish. Race report: Paleozoic Trail Runs – Carboniferous Spring II – 25K Race Report
The Big Hill Bonk became a favorite race for me after getting my first 50K distance run there in 2021, so naturally, I made a return to it in 2022. It was moved from August to April this year, which meant less heat to deal with but now we dealt with some snow and cold. In the end, it turned out to be a pretty good day. I ended up running 10 yards, 41.6 miles, a new distance record for me. Race report: Big Hill Bonk 2022 – Wisconsin’s Backyard Ultra Race Report
In the early part of May, I decided to try another backyard ultra in Wausau, Wisconsin called the “WausaUltra Backyard Ultra.” I did this race without my race crew (my wife Kari) and when I fell on the fifth lap and banged up my arm and leg, I decided that I better call it a day. This course was really technical and challenging, and that made for a fun time. It kept me engaged, that is for sure. I’d like to do this one again in 2023 if the calendar allows it. Race report: WausaUltra Backyard Ultra Race Report
At the end of May, I joined the local running club and did a marathon relay race called “Attack The Track.” It was my first time doing an event like this for me and I really enjoyed it. I ran the anchor leg, so my “mile” leg of it had an extra lap, but I huffed and puffed my way through it. I wasn’t quite prepared to run a fast mile, but I had fun. Race report: Attack The Track! Race Report
July and August were race free, but after a family wedding, and a vacation I was ready to race again in September. I needed to do a 50-mile training run, and I found the perfect opportunity in Iowa at the “Broken Anvil Backyard Ultra.” This backyard race was nowhere near as technical as Big Hill Bonk and WausaUltra, but challenging nonetheless. The main issue here was thunderstorms and rain, but I was dialed in with help from Kari. I managed 54.1 miles and could have run more if it wasn’t for the chafing I was experiencing. I’ll be back at this one next year. Race report: Broken Anvil Backyard Ultra Race Report
I was registered for and planned to run the Chicago Marathon, but I came home from my anniversary trip to Italy (Hiking in Cinque Terre Italy) with Covid-19. That is not what I was hoping for, but I had a mild case thanks to being healthy and vaccinated. Since being sick with Covid took away the Chicago Marathon for me, I decided to run a marathon on my own, seeing that my training plan for the hundred miler called for 24 miles anyway. I took it very slow and got the miles in. (My Covid Marathon)
November brought my “A” race: Tunnel Hill 100. This was my second attempt at the 100-mile distance, and I trained accordingly and gave it my best shot. I really thought I had it in the bag after heading out for the second 50, but things turned on me coming in at 76 miles, and I just didn’t feel comfortable continuing on. In retrospect, I wish I had but that is hindsight for you. I’m still pretty proud of what I accomplished at Tunnel Hill, but I’m not going to quit on this yet. That 100-mile finish will happen. Race report: 2022 Tunnel Hill Race Report
What’s on tap for 2023? I was planning to return to Ironman and do IM Couer d’Alene in Idaho, but that was assuming that I’d have finished the goal of running a 100-mile ultra. So I think I will continue to focus on the 100-mile goal and maybe return to Ironman in 2024 unless my Gunner teammates do something to change my mind.
I’ve already signed up for Broken Anvil and it will be my “A” race, with a goal of running 100 miles there. I think there’s a good chance to accomplish that at a backyard ultra event. I added the 25K trail race to the calendar again, as that was a lot of fun. I just learned that the Big Hill Bonk has been canceled, which I had also signed up for, so that is a little disappointing. WausaUltra is a big maybe because we’ll be spectating Ben & Emily at the Boston Marathon the Monday before, so we’ll see. I don’t want to make my crew chief angry with me! She’s a big part of my success!
The running stats below were a little surprising to me this year, as I somewhat had it in my mind that I would be closer to 2000 miles for the year. In 2015, I ran a total of 2112 miles and I would have thought that I had easily done that much this year.
1600+ miles is nothing to scoff at, though. I’m pretty proud of that total. The amazing part of training for ultras for me is that it is far less abusive to my muscles. Other than the three times I fell down this year (I Be Trippin’), I didn’t have many (if any) running-related overuse injuries. Running slow, and adding walking to the pace plan sure has made a difference in how I feel. I might have discovered a secret to running in my old age.
And although I may have been surprised at the yearly mile total being lower than expected, the lifetime miles run total was a nice surprise – I have officially gone over 30,000-lifetime miles! I’m on my second virtual trip around the world!
So, I tip my hat to another great year of running, being thankful for the great experiences it has given my life, and look forward to another year of my running journey.
JANUARY – 18 Runs / 79 Miles / 20 Miles per week
FEBRUARY – 17 Runs / 86 Miles / 22 Miles per week
MARCH – 17 Runs / 147 Miles / 37 Miles per week
APRIL – 13 Runs / 152 Miles / 38 Miles per week
MAY – 16 Runs / 90 Miles / 22 Miles per week
JUNE – 20 Runs / 149 Miles / 37 Miles per week
JULY – 18 Runs / 182 Miles / 45 Miles per week
AUGUST – 19 Runs / 206 Miles / 52 Miles per week
SEPTEMBER – 13 Runs / 170 Miles / 42 Miles per week
OCTOBER – 14 Runs / 137 Miles / 34 Miles per week
NOVEMBER – 16 Runs / 155 Miles / 39 Miles per week
DECEMBER – 16 Runs / 88 Miles / 22 Miles per week
2022 TOTALS – 197 Runs / 1640 Miles / 32 Miles per week
LIFETIME RUNNING TOTAL
30689 Total Lifetime Miles / 5387 Total Lifetime Runs / 34th Year of Running
Ask any runner if they check the weather report weeks ahead of the big race and I would bet that most would say they do. I’m no different. We had really great fall temperatures the week before the race, but it was about to change – just in time for race day, naturally. Instead of packing several pairs of short sleeve shirts and shorts, I packed for a day in the low-30s, with evening temps below freezing. Kari told me later that the truck’s outside thermometer reading only reached a high of 34 degrees.
But as it turned out, the cold temperature for the day didn’t bother me at all. They say that you hope for the best conditions and prepare for the worst, and if some freezing-type temps were the worst of it, then that’s no big deal. I’ve run plenty of times in the cold. I knew it was going to get cold, but the two inches of snow we woke up to was quite a surprise. That’s the weather in the midwest for you.
Yes, two inches of freshly fallen snow greeted Kari and me as we went out to the truck for the trip to the starting line in Vienna. This will be interesting, I thought. We arrived, parked, and found our way to the start area to look for some familiar faces. My son Ben and become friends with a guy named Sean, and they had done a lot of running together. Sean was there to run the 50-mile race and I was glad to see him. We greeted each other at the pre-race dinner the night before and again just before starting our journeys, wished each other luck, and he took his rightful place in the front of the starting group and I made my way to the back. I found my local friends, Jim and Calvin, both doing the 50-miler, and we took some selfies. Jodi, Jennifer, and Lara must have been avoiding us, but I would see two of the three later in the race.
I’m not sure if I was just not hearing the national anthem or if they didn’t sing or play it this year, but the race seemed to start before I was aware it was time to do so. A trip around the parking lot led to the trail, and to the south, we all headed. As we trampled through the now slightly muddy trail, we all were taking the least sloppy line. But before too long, the trail firmed up, and only the edges of the trail and the numerous wooden bridges would show the icy reminders of the early morning snowfall.
I felt great as I pressed on, keeping on track with my plan to run for two minutes, followed by walking for two. I did really well with this method in September at the Broken Anvil Backyard Ultra, and it was netting me about 4.5 miles every hour. I met Kari at the second aid station located in Karnak, Illinois, and advised that all was good – and it really was. I tend to sweat, no matter if it’s hot or cold, but I wasn’t sweating at all. I must have picked the right amount/type of clothes for the day – two thin, long-sleeve undershirts, a pair of running shorts under a light pair of running pants, and my 2016 Ironman Lake Placid Finisher jacket, a jacket that is more like a windbreaker than what is typically offered by Ironman as a “finisher’s jacket” but was the perfect thickness for this day. I topped my head with a visor covered with a running beanie and of course a pair of gloves to keep my hands warm. I was shocked that I wasn’t sweating at all, and I attributed it to the run plan that I was following, keeping my heart rate down, and not heating myself up for too long. Of course, the weather and my clothing were contributing as well to keeping me dry.
Since I wasn’t sweating, and I was doing my best to keep hydrated, I was developing a new issue – I was peeing a lot. I estimate that I was drinking about 1/4 of a cup of water every couple of minutes. Early in the race, I was peeing every 10-15 minutes or so. By the later stages of the run, I was peeing about every five minutes. At one point it seemed like I would take a drink and then stop to pee. And since there was snow along the edge of the trail, I could clearly see that I was peeing very clear, not yellow at all. It was like the water was running straight through me. I took it as a good sign, but it was a little bit of a new experience for me and I thought about it a lot. Too much info, I know, and I’m sorry. It’s just a memory from this race that I don’t want to forget.
There are another 3 miles from the first major aid station in Karnak to the turnaround and when I got back to Karnak again I decided to make an attempt at pooping. Into the port-o-potty I went, and was glad to take care of business. I walked back over to Kari to swap out my vest and I was approached by a woman who very delicately informed me that I had toilet paper trailing behind me from my pants. I would normally be thoroughly embarrassed, but when you’ve been whipping out your wiener to urinate in front of everyone for the last 16 miles, it really didn’t faze me that much. Kari got a kick out of it though. Another bit of too much info, and another memory for posterity.
Run for two minutes. Walk for two minutes. Pee. Eat a gel every half-hour. Eat something solid every hour. Repeat for hours. And that’s how the first fifty miles went. Very uneventful, and highly executed. I was dialed in. At a couple of points, I was pretty bored, so I pulled out my phone and called my super-fan Carl and chatted him up a little. I also called my daughter Rebecca who seemed a little surprised that I was taking time out of the race to chew the fat with her. Both conversations were big pick-me-ups.
Upon reaching the 50-mile mark and being back at the start/finish again for the second time, I couldn’t help to think about how I was doing. The prior year I had quit well before I crossed the mat. This year that wasn’t happening. Kudos to Kari for being wise with where she set up her chair and had our gear; it was roughly the same place as last year, and I had no trouble finding her. Of course, she found me before I found her most of the time, but I wasn’t having to figure anything out. I would take off my vest and she would either refill the bladder of the vest I preferred or swap it out with my secondary vest with a full complement of snacks and water. Occasionally I would forget to swap my phone over, and once I realized that I didn’t have my gel flask with me. But overall all, we were dialed in.
Kari had dinner ready for me again, more Ramen noodles and broth, a sandwich, some potato chips, and my favorite drink Lipton Lemon Brisk tea. I ate what I thought I needed and headed off for mile 51 and more. It was just a few miles later that I felt so good that I called Kari to tell her so. I was really feeling good, and that continued for most of the night trip on the south portion of the out-and-back course.
Upon getting back to Karnak for what was now the fourth time, things were getting a little weird for me. The energy I had in the mid-50 miles was no longer there, and I was struggling to get through the two minutes of the run portion of my run/walk. I was definitely running slower, and would occasionally skip a run turn. Another thing I noticed was that I was drifting while walking, not staggering, but just having trouble walking straight. I thought of an old childhood friend named Mike who did that type of walking normally, and it gave me a chuckle. I think that it being so dark and that I was using a headlamp to light my way was causing me to get a little off. It’s like when you are driving in a car and being okay when you stare off into the distance, but try focusing on the things speeding by right in front of you and it becomes hard to focus. And I was staring at a gazillion rocks passing by my feet very quickly.
Heron Pond aid station is between Karnak and Vienna, and I tried to eat something there. I had some more ramen and broth, and a portion of banana. Kari walked with me for a while, and I mentioned that I felt like I was starting to get drained.
One weird sensation I was experiencing was uncontrollable yawning. This happened a couple of times. I was perplexed by it because my mind was pretty sharp, having consumed caffeinated gels every 30 minutes. I think it was my body telling my brain that it was tired. A very strange sensation.
From around mile 70 to back to Vienna I knew the writing was on the wall. To continue on was going to be tough. I told myself that I would try to eat some more food, maybe drink a 5-hour energy drink, and see how I felt. Kari met me and walked me to the warming tent, and then scrambled to get me the things that might turn me around.
As I attempted to sit in a chair in the warming tent, I had already unofficially quit the race. I stumbled a little trying to sit down, which wasn’t surprising to me. I had difficulty walking in a straight line for the last six miles and felt a little wobbly for quite a while. But I had been telling myself all day to keep giving it the “old college try.” They say in ultras that if you feel crummy at some point, you may feel totally better a little later. Kari had gotten me some of the creamy potato soup they were serving inside the tent, and I began eating what I could. But it wasn’t long before I was covering my face with my hands attempting to hide my emotions, and through some sobs, I confessed I no longer had the ability, nor the desire, to continue. Kari, without a doubt the best crew/sherpa ever, would have tried to push me on, but she didn’t try to convince me otherwise. It was pretty clear that I was done and she could tell.
I scanned the faces in the warming tent and I could see some of them were making the same difficult choices. Continue or quit? Some had already quit and were at peace with it, others had that 76-mile stare like I had just before getting back to the tent. Then in walked a guy around my age, who threw down a shiny new belt buckle on the table and declared “I’m done.”
“Did you drop, too?” I asked through some foggy mind haze. “DROP?! NO, I FINISHED!” he declared. I sat there somewhat dumbfounded. Finished? Puzzled, I looked at his belt buckle again, this time a little closer – 100 Mile SUB 20. It became crystal clear and I sank further into my hard metal folding chair. This guy had just gone 100 miles in under twenty hours and looked like it was no big deal. I picked my jaw up off the grassy floor of the tent, offered a small apology for making an erroneous assumption, and advised that I just misunderstood. I told him that I was dropping and was very impressed with his accomplishment. I think at that point he realized that I was not quite all there at the moment. He offered some encouragement, but by now my body was going into recovery mode, and any further energy would be spent keeping myself from uncontrollable shivering and hobbling to the truck for the ride back to the hotel.
Last year I went into the scoring tent to notify them that I was dropping to the 50-mile finish, which resulted in them encouraging me to continue before handing me a 50-mile finisher buckle. But this year the volunteer just asked for my bib number and offered me another 50-mile finisher buckle with some brief well done’s. Kari had pulled the truck close, I stiff-legged to it and got in, and off to the hotel, we went.
Officially I am a Tunnel Hill 50-Mile finisher, with an official time of 11 hours and 50 minutes. But my Garmin watch told the real story – 76.8 miles in 19 hours and 23 minutes. Farthest I have ever run. Last year it didn’t take long to regret dropping at 50 miles. This year there is none of that. I’m damn proud of those 76 miles.
It took me three Ironman races to finally dial in my approach to that race distance, and I’m finding that it’s a learning process with the 100-mile ultras as well. I’m not sure if I’ll make it back to Tunnel Hill for another shot at 100 next year, but I’m not giving up on this quest. Hey – I made it a marathon further than last year!
My wife Kari and I celebrated our 30th anniversary with a trip to Italy and we had a great experience. Our trip was booked through a company called Backroads, a company that specializes in hiking and biking adventure-style trips. For our trip, we chose to hike in Cinque Terre, Italy, and it was magnificent. A mixture of beautiful and colorful seaside villages, colorful vistas, and hiking trails that were a mix of easy walking and technical terrain. We seemed like we were busy from the moment we got to Pisa, to the moment we left the group in Florence. It was an incredible trip. I’ve summarized the trip below, but my words and photos barely do the trip justice. I hope you enjoy reading it. Here’s a link to Backroads and our trip: Backroads Cinque Terre Hiking Tour
GETTING TO PISA
Our flight to Pisa Italy included a stop in Frankfurt Germany, which helped break up the trip a little. We landed in Pisa in the morning and taxied to our hotel a little bit outside of Pisa. Upon checking in we taxied back into Pisa to explore the sights.
I was prepared to be underwhelmed by the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but it was an amazing tour. Thanks to Kari, we had tickets to go up inside it and see the views of the city. We walked along the top of what I considered the fortress walls and had a nice lunch in an open market-type setting. Lots of walking and discovering. We hopped the local train back a couple of stops to our hotel, which was within easy walking distance. After some time in the whirlpool there, we opted to have a nice dinner in the hotel. Jet lag was setting in and we opted for bed.
FIRST DAY OF HIKING TOUR –CAMPIGLIA to PORTOVENERE
We decided that the train was a great option, even with having to drag our bags to the station to go back to Pisa and meet up with the tour group. But one thing we learned the day before, TrenItalia can be a little hit or miss with consistency. The train was ten minutes late yesterday and on a different track than what it said it would be on. Fortunately, most locals speak English and we were directed to the correct train. The ride into Pisa was also an adventure. We figured out where to be, but when the locals heard the announcement they all got up and left. I asked a guy if he spoke English and could explain what was going on, and he said that the train had switched tracks. We hustled back over to the other side and caught the train in time.
Meeting the group was next, and everyone was very friendly and excited to meet everyone. The group was all from the US and I think Kari and I were just barely the youngest of the group. It was exactly how I pictured the demographic of the group to be – retired, or almost retired. From the east coast to midwesterners, to the west coast, we had it covered.
Soon our tour guides appeared and made their introductions. David was a young man from Spain, Auguste was a young lady from Lithuania, both would serve as our main guides, and Lauren, a young lady from Great Britain I think, a tour guide who would provide support and move our luggage and stuff from point to point on this trip.
We took a bus to our first stop and David and Auguste laid out some ground rules and provided info on how our trip would go. We ended up at a small mom-and-pop restaurant at the top of a hill called Il Piccolo Blu in Campiglia, and the views of the Mediterranean Sea were impressive. The lunch was samples of a variety of local kinds of pasta and sauces and it was delicious. After lunch, we headed outside and prepared for our first hike. David said that had it been wet he would not have taken us on the whole hike, as the rocky terrain could get slippery. But we lucked out and were able to do the whole distance. He and Auguste had warned us as to the difficulty of this hike and I was doubtful at first, but it wasn’t easy! This was no stroll in the park.
HIKING IN CINQUE TERRE – DAYS 2-3 – MANAROLA to CORNIGLIA to VERNAZZA to MONTEROSSO
We woke up and had a buffet-style breakfast at the Hotel Belvedere and then we met for the hike briefing for the day. A bus awaited to take us to Riomaggiore where we would begin the day’s hike. As we pulled into the very quaint town, my eyes were drawn to the hillside that seemed very steep, and I could see people climbing up it. It was at that point that I knew where we would also be going. It looked challenging! And it was beginning to rain lightly as well. The hiking was definitely a cardio buster. Lots of vertical climbing, but the views from up high were well worth it.
This day had options for hiking, and you could do extra as long as you were quick. Kari wasn’t quite feeling well, so we played it safe and skipped one of the extra hikes. We needed to catch a train to the next town to continue the hike and it would have been tight. I think only one or two of the group did the extra one. We passed through several very cool towns. At the end of the day, the group met up for a train ride back to Santa Margherita Ligure. Our hotel for the next two nights was the Hotel Continental. There was a mix-up with our bags, but it got figured out. Our room had a beautiful view.
On Day Three we met the group for breakfast and then hiked from Santa Margherita Ligure to Portofino, hiking up stone staircases, past villas, and churches, through olive groves, and ended up in the beautiful seaside town of Portofino. We had a nice lunch and dipped our bare feet into the Ligurian Sea. We chose to hike the coastline back to Santa Margherita Ligure, which provided stunning water views.
We were on our own for dinner, and even though we had reservations at a restaurant, it looked a little too fancy (i.e. fancy fish-type meals) for my tastes, so we called an audible and ate at one of the local places on the plaza.
Day 4 Bus trip to Chianti in Tuscany – Rainy Hiking
For Giorno Quattro, we took a bus to Tuscany. Of course, the bus had a mechanical issue, but we all took it in stride. It was a rainy day, and when we got to Greve in Chianti, we enjoyed some local meats and cheeses for lunch. It was raining pretty hard and both David and Auguste were a little surprised to hear us all say that we would hike to the next stop instead of taking a shuttle. On this hike, we arrived in the Chianti Classico region and a town called Montefioralle, the birthplace of Amerigo Vespucci. The rain eventually stopped, and we slogged through some wet spots until we arrived at our next lodging place, the Villa Le Barone, a really fantastic villa with stunning views of the Tuscan Hills.
We cleaned up and then enjoyed a wine tasting with a local expert (with many of us nodding off!) before having a nice dinner with the group in the hotel.
Giorno Cinque – Radda in Chianti
Day Five began with a great breakfast at the hotel and then we did a short hike to Radda. There was a really cool cycling event going on called L’Eroica, with the participants riding bikes made in 1985 or earlier. They dressed the part as well. We attended a balsamic vinegar tasting at the shop of the wine expert from the previous night. It was clear he knew his wines and balsamic vinegar. We sampled some ice cream with balsamic vinegar on it and it was very good!
We were afforded a little time to do some shopping and I bought a cool retro bike jersey with the Chianti Black Rooster on it. It’s pretty cool.
Our hike took us to the 11th-century vineyard and wine cellar of Castelvecchi winery. Our snack samplings there were great, especially the focaccia bread! We attended another wine tasting and learned about the process of making wine. They were actually harvesting grapes there at the time, and I watched a machine remove the grapes from the vines.
Hiked to another town for lunch and enjoyed great conversations and watched some of the bikers go past. We needed a good lunch as the hike back to the hotel was about six miles on some gravel road. At one point there were some dogs guarding some sheep and barking at us, but the weird part was a guy laying in the grass yelling at the dogs. Very strange.
Upon getting back we enjoyed some beautiful sunset views and met the group for our last dinner together. We all enjoyed sharing what our favorite parts of the trip were, and many of us did not want it to end.
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Day Six – Our Final Day of Hiking
On Day Six we took a short hike to another local vineyard on a cool damp morning. After breakfast at the hotel, we packed our bags and walked to the bus for a trip to Florence and to say goodbye to the group. It really was a great tour group!
Florence seemed hectic and intimidating for me at first. Kari and I walked around and got the lay of the city. Kari purchased tickets for a local museum which was very cool. Lots of marble statues and beautiful art by some very well-known people – Michaelangelo and Donatello to name two of them. Our tickets also allowed us to climb a bell tower that gave stunning views of the city and the boisterous clanging of bells was quite deafening being right near them as they rang. We walked the one bridge with shops that somehow escaped the destruction of WWII, and then got lost looking for a spot offering views of the city. Made it back to a piazza for dinner and then walked back to the hotel exhausted from the day.
Day 7 – Florence to Rome via train
We hopped onto a high-speed train to get to Rome. We checked into the hotel and then set about seeing some of the best of Rome on our last full day in Italy. We wandered over to the Colosseum and realized that tickets were going to be needed to see the inside. There were plenty of pushy tour-selling agents standing around, but we happened to find one of them who explained to us the benefits of paying for a tour instead of trying to do it ourselves without being pushy about it. We did a lot of walking around on a sunny and warm day. The tour was great – we got to see and get informed about the Colosseum. The history there was amazing. We were getting exhausted and opted to return to the hotel for a shower and dinner at a nearby restaurant.
And that wraps it up! I think the way we chose to experience Italy was fantastic. A little bit of our own wandering coupled with a great hiking tour. I highly recommend Backroads for tours. They have tours all over the world, and I’m sure Kari and I will be doing another Backroads tour soon.
We started to hear about this Covid thing in 2019 and I figured I wouldn’t really have to worry about it. Previous viral events never became an issue for me, so why worry about this one. Well, it quickly became a pandemic and virtually shut down the world. I took it seriously from the beginning, wearing a mask, washing my hands more frequently, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, and avoiding social gatherings. When the vaccine became available, I got the two doses and followed up with the two boosters. For two years we lived our lives around this thing. Eventually, the vaccine had an impact, the virus became weaker in its variants, and we all started to let our guard down and move on with our lives. My wife and I decided that we could actually travel for our 30th wedding anniversary, so off we flew to join a hiking tour of the amazing Cinque Terre area of Italy. Even Italy, which had somewhat strict Covid policies, would remove the requirement of wearing masks on public transportation while we were there. The trip was awesome, and I was starting to believe that I had some special anti-Covid avoidance ability. Three days after getting back home, I developed a tickle in my throat. “Oh, I must be getting a cold,” I thought. I was planning to pick up my packet for the Chicago Marathon on Friday, but I just wanted to rule out that I had Covid instead of just a simple cold. The rapid at-home test was very definitive – I had Covid.
I have to say I wasn’t surprised, but I was a little pissed off. I had managed to avoid it for so long, but it eventually got me. I wondered where I might have been exposed. No one in our tour group really seemed sick at all. On the flight back home, Kari said there was a guy sitting behind me coughing quite a bit. I hadn’t noticed as I wore headphones while watching a couple of movies and was also sleeping for a while. I guess maybe it could have been there, not sure but it doesn’t matter. I now had it and there was no way that I was going to go get my marathon race packet, nor was I going to run the Chicago Marathon.
Within an hour I made the decision to pack my things and go quarantine at our lake home in northern Wisconsin. If I had to be in solitary confinement, why not pick a beautiful place to do it.
The drive up north was no big deal. Other than the slightly scratchy throat, I felt pretty good. But the next two days were the worst of it. I describe it as having a mild case of the flu, or a mild-moderate cold. I would get a mild fever, some congestion, a dry cough, and some chills, all of which were dealt with by taking some over-the-counter severe cold and flu medication. By day four, I felt okay. Did some yard work, finished winterizing the boat and wave runner, and even went for a five-mile, easy-paced jog. On day five, I decided to head home. According to the CDC, I was done with my quarantine and could head back to work as long as I followed some protocols. My job keeps me separated from my coworkers for the most part. As I left, my son Ben said that he was also Covid positive now, and was heading to the “safe house” as he put it.
A week after testing positive I must say that I felt pretty good. There was some lingering congestion, especially in the evening. I had done a couple little runs just to see how I felt, and they went fine. After missing out on training for ten days in Italy, and also during my quarantine, I was starting to get a little concerned about my conditioning for the Tunnel Hill 100, which is only three weeks away. I checked my training plan and it showed that I needed to run 24-26 miles. I kind of dreaded that proposal, but on Saturday morning I packed up my running vest with supplies and headed out the door on a cool but beautiful morning. I planned the route to the west on the trail, as eastbound was being repaved, and I needed to make sure I could refill my water. I ran my usual 4 min. run/2 min. walk pace strategy and it was going well. I turned around where the trail ended at 11.5 miles and started heading back. Somewhere along the way, I decided that since Covid stole the Chicago Marathon away from me, I might want to steal it back. Getting back home would net 23 miles, a distance that I could be happy with, but I figured that if I felt good enough, I would add an extra 3.2 miles at the end and that is just what I did.
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I ended up with a marathon in five hours and twenty-four minutes. Nice and slow ultra-pace. I joked with a friend that all five of my Ironman marathon splits were faster than that. But it did wear me out. My joints were pretty sore afterward, and even though I thought I managed the nutrition side well, I felt wiped out. My wife reminded me that I was sick, and I’m sure that is a contributing factor. But the run was not the confidence builder that the 54-mile run I had done in September was. I think I will have to adjust my pace plan and run a 2-minute run/2-minute walk for Tunnel Hill. It worked very well at the Broken Anvil event, and the goal of Tunnel Hill is to travel 100 miles, not do it in record time.
I’m going to be pretty cautious with the final three weeks of training. I’m relying heavily on Kari being healthy in order to assist me during the hundred miler, so I don’t want her to get sick. I’m glad to see that Covid was mild for me, it could have been worse. We don’t seem to be done with this pandemic yet.