January 19th, 2020
On The Run
Saturday June 1st, 2013
Reflections on Volunteering at the 2013 Kettle Moraine 100 Mile
Bob helps with distribution of timing chips prior to start of the 2013 Kettle 100.
I made the 150 mile trip to the Nordic Trailhead just east of Whitewater Wisconsin, to help friends who are the race directors of the Kettle Moraine Endurance Runs. These races include the solo 100 mile, 100KM. ( 62 mile ), 4 person 100 mile relay, and the popular 38 mile fun run which begins at 8 oíclock Saturday evening. As I arrived at noon on Friday, people were already unloading a big truck with everything needed to support a race of 500 runners held entirely on single track trail through the densely wooded Kettle Moraine State Forrest. The amount of supplies needed to stock 9 manned and 4 unmanned aid stations is overwhelming. All the supplies, which include everything from watermelons to pickles and peanut butter and jelly to cookies and crackers and everything in between, with gallons of soda and sports drink to keep everyone hydrated. It takes a lot of food and drink to fuel 500 runners for a race that lasts for 30 hours.
My main job on Friday afternoon and evening, along with my friend Pete, is to haul 50 gallon barrels of water out to the aid stations. We always time our water deliveries so that the last one we do is the Bluff aid station. The group that mans this aid station camps there overnight and they always fry fish and french fries so we get a good meal before heading off for a few hours sleep.
My phone rang at 4:00 am , The race director calling, time to get going. Race start time is 6:00am, a lot to do before that. Packet pickup, chip pickup, last minute registrations. Itís always interesting to observe people getting ready for the long journey. Some are happy, exuberant. Nervous energy I guess. Others are very quiet, almost withdrawn, not talking or even making eye contact with anyone. Contemplating what lies ahead of them, many hours down the trail. I have come to believe that anyone with a reasonable amount of fitness can run a long distance. The limiting factor is the strength of oneís mental toughness. Shortly before 6:00 am, Timo, one of the race directors, gives final instructions to the runners, and then the race is underway.
There are 3 aid stations that also serve as drop bag points. The first one is the Emma Carlin station at mile 15.5. I load all the bags in my truck and head up there. The morning is heating up with high humidity, we have to get ice to the aid stations, stop in the town of Palmyra and get 15 twenty two pound bags of ice. First stop is the unmanned Horseriders station, we fill a cooler with ice as runners are coming in, sweat pouring off of them. This weather is going to take itís toll, especially in the meadows, a 10 mile stretch of trail that is open grassland with no shade.
The Scuppernong station is at the 31.4 mile mark where the runners turn around and retrace their steps back to the Nordic Trailhead start/finish area. At Scuppernong we start to see fatigue in the faces and eyes of the runners. Some are taking a short break to refuel at the well stocked aid station and talk to their crews who have met them there. The aid station workers are busy filling water bottles, making sandwiches, and doing anything they can to give the runners whatever they need, including words of encouragement. Others come in, grab a handful of something to eat and head back down the trail. The heat is causing stomach problems, Gingerale and Tums are in great demand.
I had a pleasant surprise when I saw Steve Shay, a Starved Rock Runner member from Morris, come into the aid station, we spoke briefly as he filled his water bottles. Steve is attempting his first 100 miler. Itís now past noon, I get a call from Jason the co-race director, aid stations are running out of ice, off to town for another 15 bags of ice. Itís also time to start refilling water barrels. Weíre constantly on the move, starting to get tired. I will end up driving 350 miles going back and forth along the course.
For me the most difficult aspect of running this 100 mile race would be the way the course is laid out. Starting at the Nordic Trailhead, runners go north for 31.4 miles, turn around and come back to Nordic, 62.8 miles. At this point the 100KM. race is finished. But the 100 milers have a 38 mile out and back section to complete. This trail is very rocky and hilly with lots of roots, this part of the trail is run mostly after dark. This is my tenth year of volunteering at the Kettle Moraine, and over the years I have seen runners come into the start/finish area after completing 62 miles, plop themselves into a chair, take off shoes and socks and look like death warmed over. As they sat, we wondered if they were going to drop out, it looked like it would be impossible for them to run another step. After a while they would get up, fill their bottles and head down the trail into the pitch black woods. Thatís mental toughness. I have often wondered, could I do that? I donít know.
Itís now almost midnight, all of a sudden excitement breaks out at the finish line as headlamps appear coming up the trail out of the woods. The 100 mile winner crosses the finish line in 17 hours 52 minutes 55 seconds. 37 seconds later the second place runner crosses the line. Hard to believe, after a 100 miles of running, only 37 seconds separate the first two runners.
I have seen and heard some memorable things at the finish line of this race over the years. I remember one guy with a blank stare on his face muttering to no one in particular, ď They never end, they just never end, the hills, they never endĒ. One lady after finishing, exclaimed, ď That was harder than childbirth ď. One year on Friday afternoon, a lady joined us as we were stuffing race packets, she mentioned that this would be her first 100 miler. I happened to be at the finish line about 9:00 oíclock Sunday morning as she finished the 100 miles. She was met there by her family, there were hugs and laughter and a joyous celebration. Suddenly her laughter and smiles disappeared and the tears started to flow as she realized what she had just accomplished. Iíll never forget that moment.
Itís now well past midnight, runners will continue to finish throughout the night and until noon on Sunday. I head for my truck to get a little rest. At daylight we start cleaning up aid stations. The final finisher crosses the finish line 9 minutes before the 30 hour cutoff.
It was a good weekend. No one got lost, no one got seriously injured, no storms. Iím tired, time to head home.
See You In A Few Miles
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