Sunday, May 21, 2017

Indiana Trail 100 (IT100) 2017 Race Report

This might be a rather short race report, as I don't actually remember much of the race itself, but I think the point of it is more to serve as a reminder to myself of everything that happened leading up to the race and how the race turned out.


Training leading up to this race was, in one word, - shit. I had been having a hip issue that started after Kettle100 2016 and I couldn't figure out the root cause for the longest time as it would get better but regress even after only 30mile weeks. It wasn't until October/November when my new PT (who is a PT god, btw) finally figured it out (weak deep inner hip rotators) and sorted me out. By then, work had been going full force since September and would be ongoing until April. All those factors, combined with the dead of winter and me catching the contagion of lung death in March, meant my training and ramp-up was probably the worst of any hundo prep I have done. 

My Strava data for the past 12-months.

When i finally uploaded my Strava data for the year, I had recorded 612 miles, including IT100. After doing the math, I was averaging about 32miles per week (512miles/16weeks) with a smattering of 44-48mile weeks. Thankfully, I was able to squeeze in a good building block, along with a 75miles-in-7-days block, right before a taper of two-and-a-half weeks. C'est la vie. 

Race Prep and Planning 

The one strength I try to leverage for hundos is my race prep and planning, as evident from my spreadsheet below.

My typical hundo race planning spreadsheet for a sub-24 hour goal at IT100 2017.

As anyone who was there or monitoring the race from afar would know, it was definitely not hot but I didn't bother updating the spreadsheet by that point. I had an 'A' goal, which was sub-24 hours, and a 'B' goal, which was to just finish.

All-in-all, I was pretty on-target with execution, if one compares the spreadsheet times above and the logsheet that Arielle put together from the results (below).

Time-splits sheet from IT100 2017

For the first time, I was also going completely without a pacer and crew this year. I didn't really have any qualms about that as I went without pacers last year and IT has great aid stations, well-spaced apart and I planned to use my car as a ginormous drop bag.

The car trunk drop bag - hydration/nutrition on the left, clothing in the middle, jackets/raingear/misc-stuff on the right. (day before)
A picture the morning of - with shoes laid out. One thing you don't see is the checklist (document in the middle of pic) taped to the underside of the trunk lid so that when the trunk lid is up, it's right in front of me so I don't have to think about what to do.

Race Execution

"Plan the race and race the plan."

For many weeks leading up to the race, I was deeply contemplating how to execute this race and how to make it go as well as I could, given my sub-par training. The one podcast episode that I kept coming back to was one of my favorites from Trail Runner Nation, where Don Freeman runs the 2015 Rio del Lago 100 on less than 30-miles a week training with a 15-mile long run AND finishes in 23:30-something. They talk all about running within yourself and race execution. It is a great episode and one that is a staple in my go-to podcast episode list on prepping and racing for hundos.

Loop 1 (3:48)

Not much to note. I kept it low and slow but still came in about 10 minutes faster than my projected 4-hours, which was fine as I need some time to stock up at my car. Through every loop, i just kept on focusing on going through the aid-stations as efficiently as I could, just getting what I needed/wanted and leaving. My main, and longest, stop would be at my car.

Loop 2 (4:12)

I was starting to get worried about the clouds and the rain forecast so I tried not to slow down too much but, apparently, I didn't slow down enough. :P I came in about 45 minutes ahead of my projection. I think I definitely paid for it that loop as I was feeling hungry and hurting a bit. I kept switching between my Altra Olympus and Hoka Challengers at the start of each loop to keep it different and to keep on top of some small pre-existing blister issues. We lucked out though as the storm front blew south and north of us. All we got was some light rain but I knew it was enough to start making the trails pretty muddy and slippery.  

Loop 3 (4:45)

I had to slow down a lot for loop 3 as my stomach was starting to turn. With it being rainy and not as hot as I thought it would be, I had not been taking as much salt as I had planned. As I was also feeling hungry, I had taken in a whole bunch of calories at my car (about 400cals) so the first few miles of loop 3 was a bit uncomfortable as I tried to digest the food I had taken in. All-in-all, I was dressed appropriately with a light rain shell to stave off the weather. At aid stations, I was taking in a gourmet-level (no) concoction of a shot of pickle juice in a cup of chicken broth to 1) get a ton of salt in me and 2) get some solid, warm food in me to stave off the hunger, as I couldn't really bring myself to eat UGo bars or the nut butter packets I had packed. Around mile 50, I made the call to take an Excedrin to take some of the edge off the aching and broke out the poles, in order to help take some load off my feet. My left ankle/peroneal joint was feeling a bit strained and achey.

Oddly enough, even though I felt I slowed down more, Loop 3 took almost exactly the amount of time I had projected for the third loop and I came in still having my 45-minute buffer. 

Loop 4 (5:00)

I took a pretty long prolonged stop after mile 60 to charge my garmin, change clothes (and socks and shoes) and repack for the night. As I was about to start my loop, to my surprise, I found that my Garmin had not been charging so I just took the battery pack along and charged it as I went along. I guess the Excedrin worked as miles 65-75 came and went with not much fanfare and everything was at as decent of a level as they can be at that stage of a hundo. Miles 70-75 of a hundred are usually when things start to turn if you haven't been taking good care of yourself but the hurt barometer was steady and this was starting to be a good sign for my sub-24 hour goal. 

The night got really interesting as I came into the Schoolhouse aid station, 2.5 miles from the Start/Finish aid station, where aid-station volunteers were starting to caution about the impending Storm of Doom. By that point, I almost didn't need my headlamp to see where I was going as lightning was lighting up the trail like a Christmas tree. It reminded me of the time when Adam Campbell was nearly hit by lightning on top of Handies Peak during the 2014 Hardrock 100. My mind was racing as I gulped down a cup of chicken-and-noodle soup. I was definitely seeing a lot of lightning flashes but i still haven't heard any thunder or rain yet so I knew I still had a buffer. What that buffer was and whether or not it was enough for me to cover 2.5 miles to the shelter of the main aid station, I did not know. I made a split judgement and went for it. On the way, I could start hearing thunder and I started counting the lightning-thunder intervals to try and see how quickly the storm was coming. It was nerve-wrecking and I felt that those 2.5 miles were some of the fastest I had done during the race. (Speed, however, is relative and those miles were still only at about 12-13min/mile. :P )

As I came into the Start/Finish, Mike, the race director, told me the storm will be here in 5-10minutes and it's going to be crazy but quick. I rushed to my car, packed my hardshell, changed out of my wet buffs and hunkered down in the main tent to wait out the storm, along with a whole bunch of other people. With 6 hours left to complete the last loop, I was apprehensive but hopeful. A lot can happen in the last 20-miles but I wasn't feeling too bad, my ankle was holding up and I was still clear-headed. 

A retrospective analysis of Loop 4 tells me that I covered it at about the same pace as Loop 3 as I had spent a lot of time at my car at the start (~10 minutes) so I wasn't slowing down much, if at all. 

Loop 5 (5:20)

The Storm of Doom started around 11:55pm. Chilling out at the main tent, I took another Excedrin and hunkered down. It was at this point I realized that there were a whole bunch of ITR friends there - Brian, Clay, Benny and Marci. This helped lighten my mood quite a bit as I was now not alone, like I had been for most of the last 2 loops. It definitely felt good to have an extended sit in a chair and more chicken soup. After about 20 minutes, the lightning and thunder had stopped but it was still pouring like a waterfall. While we were waiting for the rain to let up, we realized that no one could find Mark (Buehler). In a major bout of misunderstanding, we thought he had decided to just brave the rain and head on out. We all looked at each other and thought, "Well, what the hell? If he can do it, let's do it." We geared up and headed out to brave the waterfall rain. 

Brian and Clay had graciously let me team up with them and I honestly wouldn't know what  and how I would have done without them. They pushed me much much harder through miles 80-92 than I thought I would have been able to do. In hindsight, it was pretty risky as I wasn't able to eat or drink a whole lot with my elevated heart rate but, at that point, no one's really able to eat and drink much anyways. We caught Larry on the way out and left as a pack of 4. Larry was Mark's pacer but somehow, in the midst of the storm, had lost Mark and we all had not clue where the heck he was. Finally around the mile 83 aid station, I think Larry finally tracked Mark down. Brian, Clay and I continued to charge ahead. I was really having a hard time keeping up with Brian and Clay and breathing very hard but I didn't really want to fall behind quite just yet so I tried my best to keep up with them. They would take longer stops at aid stations while I decided to take shorter stops but started to walk ahead first to try and get some buffer distance to get my heart rate to come down before they caught up to me and I had to drive it way high again to keep up with them. They were definitely in much, much better shape than I was. 

Finally, after the Rally aid station at mile 92, which we hit at 3am, I did the calculations and knew I had enough time to cover the remaining distance at my own steady pace so I told Brian and Clay to just drop me and go. I had 3 hours to cover 8 miles so I was in good spirits, despite the constant onslaught of rain. I just wanted to be done. 

I finally finished around 5:02am with a time of 23:02. Retrospectively, including the waiting time for the storm, I would say that it took me about the same time to finish that loop as it did loops 3 and 4 but, man, I was trashed by it. 

Ooooo, pretty buckle! My (mini) white whale.

In hindsight, it wasn't really a very eventful race and I don't remember much of it as I was so focused on monitoring and executing my race plan. Everything just went....okay (all things considered) but that is absolutely a good thing in a hundo. I executed my race plan, almost pretty much as planned and it paid off. 

Many thanks to Mike, the race director, and all the wonderful volunteers, especially Erin Hazler, who stayed at Rally aid station for all my loops to give me a hug and Arielle updates. Erin, you are a true beacon of light and warmth. Thanks also goes out to everyone I ran with during the race, even in passing. Finally, the biggest thanks and appreciation to Brian Shepherd and Clay Edwards for pacing me from mile 80-92. I am not sure I would have finished that last loop under 6-hours, if it hadn't been for you guys. 

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