By Mike Campbell
Finishing another 100 mile run has its up’s and down’s, and unlike any other, I decided on Kettle since it is the only race in my home state of Wisconsin. Along with the 100 mile race, Kettle Moraine also has a 100 km and a 100 mile relay race (four member teams) going on at the same time so you had to pay attention to the color-coded bib tags that identified your competition.
Today was a special day for me since all of my family members were there; my wife (Aleka), daughters (Andrea and Jamie) and my son (Michael Jr.) who all flew with me into Milwaukee (Michael from Houston, Texas). My Mother (Evelyn) and two brothers (Gary and Jim) drove down from Trego, Wisconsin and met up with us on Saturday afternoon.
The Kettle Moraine name came from the ice age when glaciers came across Wisconsin and left behind giant craters in shapes of kettles. This information came from my historian and pacer for the day, Keith Knipling, who by the way was instrumental in keeping me motivated as the miles drew on.
When I first looked up Kettle Moraine, it was in Madison. No that’s the running club location, so then it’s Eagle, which was not exactly true either. So we finally found this “unincorporated” town called “La Grange” behind the General Store (well there is only one store in that town, so you can’t miss it). Checked in and saw a few familiar faces which you find at each hundred mile endeavor. The race starts at the parking lot of the Nordic Trail, two miles up from the store on County Hwy “H.”
These last few weeks have been sort of a nightmare for my training. Two weeks before pacing Scott Crabb at the MMT100 (44 miles), I developed Neuroma in two spots on my right foot and went through six cortisone shots to semi-cure that. Then on the 13th of May, I decided to have enhanced Lasik surgery on both eyes. I had the first one done six years ago, (mono-vision) and since I’ve had to use reading glasses for the past three years, I decide to go ahead and fix my distant vision and remove any stigmatism. All seemed to work well and the next day my eyes were 20/20 (I wasn’t allowed any activity…sweating or running…for five days). About mid-week my eyes were going south and on the following Saturday, the eye doc said I developed cells growing under the cornea flap on one, and protein under the other.
The next Tuesday I was back at the Laser Center, and my cornea flaps were uprooted to have the debris cleaned off. Bad news was no running for seven days this time, which left only three days to run before going to Wisconsin. Good news was the eye doc cleared me on Tuesday afternoon and I immediately rushed home to lace up my treads and get in an eight mile jog. I felt good and ran twelve miles the next two days so I was ready to go.
We stayed at the Super 8 hotel in Whitewater, about ten miles from the start. This time of year is great; the sun rises around 5 a.m. so the 6 a.m. start seemed more like noon. After a quick trail brief by the race director, we were off in the 60-degree temps from Nordic Trail station. I remembered my bottle of E-Caps this time and Michael was going to put one pill in each 20oz bottle of Gatorade to minimize the cramping for a while in my legs. A couple of miles down the trail, I pulled down my tank-top since it was warming up fast.
The first aid station was at mile 5.1. I glanced at my watch as it clicked over to 40 minutes (7.8 mile pace). My strategy today was to start out easy (actually I was keeping pace with Stuart Kolb of Green Bay, who ended up winning the race…so much for that strategy huh?)
I got to Bluff, mile 7.4 at 7:03 a.m. Michael switched my bottles with two full ones of Gatorade & E-Caps. This course was easy going similar to Vermont, and about 50% was a pine needle base making for a very comfortable run. The course was marked with white paint on the ground which was a little different from any other one that I’ve run. This was better in many ways because you didn’t have to look up for the ribbons and at some intersections they had a solid line and the words “NO” on the wrong path which made it pretty obvious which way to go.
Came up to Emma Carlin, mile 15.5 at 8:24 a.m., drank an eight oz of V8, two new bottles of Gatorade and off to the next section, legs feeling good and eyes seeing great.
At mile 23.9 at 9:50 a.m. (10.2 mile pace), I drank my first bottle of Ensure which eased any hunger in my stomach. Since I started out at break-neck speed, it was sort of easy keeping track of anyone above my age group. I chatted with fellow ultra-runners and heard that Tom Bunk who is in his 60’s, did Kettle two years ago in 19 hours and some change. Next stop was only 2.6 miles and I was still working on my first bottle.
I got to see my wife and daughters for the first time after having a marathon already under my belt now at mile 26.5 at 10:20 a.m. (9.8 mile pace overall). This was the first lift of the day, we had about 1,200 foot gain that seemed like you climb about 10-15 minutes and then descend for the next 30. Kettle has an advantage over Rocky Raccoon in that you’re using the same muscles on a flat course, kind of a break when you get to climb for a bit.
We got to the 50k aid station (Scuppernong) at 11:19 a.m., 5 hours and 19 min, still working on a 10.15 mile pace. This was especially exciting for me since my mom and brothers were there to meet me. Downed another Ensure and with two new Gatorade bottles returned to the course with lifted spirits.
Now we retraced our route back to the starting point (Nordic) and the trial of course looked pretty familiar. We were meeting all the runners that are behind us, and of course the relay runners that are just starting out are passing us. Each one seems to be very apologetic, not that I’m asking, for going by and looking so good. We are passing through what seemed like fields but they actually call them prairies and some of them get long since there was not much cover with temps hovering around the upper 70’s.
As the return jaunt seemed to wear on, my knee started acting up. Put on a Protec Patella Tendon Strap that fits just under you knee cap to take pressure off of the knee joint. Well as Murphy’s Law goes, I took it off while putting on heat at one aid station, accidentally left it and never to be seen again. I got the backup “Cho-Pat” that fits over and under your knee a couple of aid stations down the road for a little added relief.
A light shower passed through as I hobbled into Nordic. To my delight there was Keith Kipling, all ready to rock and roll. He didn’t really need to ask if I still wanted him to pace with me these last 38 miles. Since I’d dropped off to around a 12 minute pace, he was exactly what I needed. After running 60 some miles mostly by myself, I had plenty to chat about, catching up with both of our lives. Keith is nearing a doctor’s degree as Materials Engineer, and I applaud him in all of his studies and know he will make enormous contributions where ever he decides to settle down and work.
I shuffled along, trying to jog on the down hills, and we came up to Bluff, mile 70.3 at 8:18 p.m. (around 13 mile pace). Since it might be dark before I hit the next aid station, I grabbed a hand held light. The daylight held out for a long time so we were able to run for awhile without any flashlights (did I mention that I love this time of the year?). Another passing shower didn’t get much wet and temps still must be in the 70’s and still shirt-less.
A brief stop at Hwy 12 station, took my headlamp and Ensured up. Today I swapped drinking either a V8 or Ensure at every other aid station, which seemed to work for me. It seemed that my crew and support family were having a picnic at each aid station because they were all there waiting for my arrival (a day long one at that).
Finally made it to Rice Lake, mile 81.5 at 11:30 p.m., and then were home-bound with only 19 miles to go and my hopes in finishing today were substantially getting closer. Only one more endeavor, with another cloud burst this one was actually getting chilly, finally had to pull up my tank-top which didn’t make it much warmer. We pulled into Bluff around 3 a.m. as the rain subsided for a bit. Put on a light nylon jacket and drank a cup of soup to warm up, and gave hugs and kisses since this would be the last station to see my crew until the finish.
Coming into Tamarack (no crew access) aid station the weather took a turn for the worse, but ain’t no stopping us now, we were in and out of there in a NY second. Running in the rain on trails isn’t normally much of a problem, but running on the “jeep” trails here was another story with no head cover. It came down in buckets and it was hard to see Keith, who was running right next to me. The one dry trail was getting muddier and standing water was soon a joy to run through. Only one problem here is that I still have the same socks and shoes on that I started with?? I could feel a blister/hot spot developing on my left ankle but what can you do now? Trudging along running/walking as much as I could, my knee decided to go “south” a couple of times (maybe that’s the upper knee and the lower on its way “north”). We had a little helper the last four miles, with markers at each mile. Finally when we could see the end in sight, my knee buckled one last time before my “hot-dog” finish to all of my family and their smiling faces.
It was 5:08 a.m. when I hobbled to the wooden deck of the designated race cabin at the Nordic Trail, sat down, and iced my swollen knee. Final stats: 23 hours 8 minutes 43 seconds (around 13.8 minutes per mile). The race director approached, shook my hand and presented me with the 1st place plaque for the Sr. Master Division along with the famous “golden kettle” and congratulations on finishing in 9th place overall.
Here’s my synopsis of Kettle Moraine; Wisconsin is a beautiful place and the trails were extremely well groomed and marked. The temperature got up to 80 degrees, but felt the same as say 65 in Washington, D.C. does. The race was well organized with friendly and well stocked aid stations. Only about 36 finished out of the original 75 who started, which I attribute to the weather and the option to stop at the100k mark and still being credited with that finish (similar to the getting to the rock at MMT100). This is a great 100 mile ultra run, especially if you made it your first ultra.
With all of my family here it was hard not to stay in the race to make them feel as proud as I do in finishing yet another of my “century” runs. I want to thank as always my mom for lighting the giant candle in the church before hand, my brothers for coming down and supporting me, and my wife and three children. I know by far that I had the biggest and best “NASCAR” crewing section of any ultra that I’ve partaken. At last I want to especially thank Keith for pulling me along when my tank was getting empty. I hope someday I can return the favor.
Then came the fun part, we drove up to northern Wisconsin and spent the rest of the week with my sister and brother-in-law (Linda & Dan) and some of our other family who were in town. This makes it a little easier in maybe returning in a few years to live here as my retirement home.
What’s next? In September I’ll attempt my first Wasatch Front, outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. Until then, hope I will see you on the trails …… thks Mike