Kettle Moraine Fun Run

Our home, the planet Earth, is a solid sphere (approximately) and spins around a relatively constant axis of rotation as it orbits a star we call "the Sun". Due to this rotation regions of the Earth's surface experience alternating periods of illumination, which we call "day", and periods of darkness, which we call "night". Earth's period of rotation is 24 hours. On average, 12 hours of day are followed by 12 hours of night. The exact division between day and night depends on latitude and on the position of Earth in its orbit around the Sun because Earth's axis of rotation is not perpendicular to its orbital plane, but is tilted by about 23.4 degrees. The hemisphere of Earth tilted towards the Sun experiences more daylight than the other hemisphere for half of an orbital period, or "year", and then this situation is reversed for the other half of the year. The hour is a human construct, but day and night are not. They are part of the nature of our world and affect all life on Earth.

Image credit: Australian Bureau of Meteorology

Organisms tend to be more or less active during day or night or during the transition. Humans like you and me are mainly active during the day and rest at night. Human activities that last longer than 24 hours and don't involve jet propulsion may span an entire night. All this is to say that during my upcoming 100 mile trail run in September, which starts at sunrise and will, I expect, last 30 hours or more, I will necessarily be traveling on foot all night long. I will need to work against my normal circadian rhythm to eat, move, make decisions, and not sleep. I'm familiar with staying up after dark, have spent some late nights out on the town, and outdoors in wild forests and deserts. Marching all night on trails in the dark, however, is different. I'm lacking this kind of experience and didn't want the 100 miler to be the first time I tried to do it. Thanks to David Bitner, I've been aware of the opportunity to run overnight at Kettle Moraine. This summer I decided to try it.

The annual Kettle Moraine trail races in Wisconsin have distances of 100 miles, 100 kilometers, 50 kilometers, and a 38 mile "fun run" that starts at the 100 kilometer mark of the 100 mile course and shares a finish line with the 100 mile race. Runners can start the fun run any time after 5 p.m. Bitner and I started a little after 9 p.m., joining a 100 mile runner from his Minneapolis running club as dusk faded into night.

Kettle Moraine start and finish line, Friday before the event

The fun run begins on rolling forest and prairie trails that are, in winter, part of an extensive Nordic ski trail system. The trails are sand and gravel and quite runnable. I saw fireflies and a few stars and enjoyed chatting with Bitner and Christianne, who was having a great 100 mile debut. After seven miles, the course leaves the ski area and turns onto the more primitive and rocky singletrack of Wisconsin's Ice Age Trail.

To illuminate the trail, I used two different lights. Around my waist I wore a 300 lumen Petzl TIKKA headlamp aimed at the ground about 10 yards ahead. I love that the headband of this lamp fits around my middle. On my head I wore a Black Diamond Sprinter 500 headlamp. I saw runners carrying more high-powered lights. The maximalist Kogalla RA system is popular with Kettle runners. My two small lamp system was perfectly fine. I don't need to run in artificial daylight, I only need to see the trail a few strides ahead. Both of my lights lasted 8 hours. At the Bear, where night will be 12 hours long, I will have extra AAA batteries in a drop bag out on the course.

9 p.m. Saturday, during the race

The Kettle Moraine fun run has aid stations no further than 5 miles apart. In the spirit of simulating an overnight run at The Bear, where aid stations are separated by 7-9 miles, I wore my large running vest with two 0.5 liter soft bottles and carried a first aid kit, rain jacket, light gloves, change of socks, running poles, and some emergency rations. My plan was to eat well at aid stations, and try eating more than I usually do at night during races. I've recognized that I failed to eat enough at the end of my two 100 kilometer races, and that I absolutely have to keep fueling well past the 60 mile mark if I'm going to finish a 100 miler. I think I did a good job of this at Kettle. I snacked at Tamarack, 5 miles in. At Bluff I ate an entire hot dog with mustard and some cookies. At Highway 12 I had a quesadilla, watermelon, more cookies, and peanut M&Ms. Rice Lake, the turn-around point for the fun run, had the best food, and I indulged. I had a pulled pork slider with BBQ sauce, a piece of prime rib, and more watermelon and candy. This was at about 2 in the morning.

Halfway through the fun run, light drizzle turned into steady rain. I put on my rain jacket, unfolded my poles, and took off solo. Following Bitner and Christianne had been pretty easy and I wanted to test my mind and emotions. Would I be able to keep chugging through the night with no company and no pace setter? It was time to find out.

I increased my pace and was able to stay adequately warm without my jacket in spite of the rain for the next four hours. Every 30 minutes or so I would see light ahead through the trees and would slowly catch up to and pass a 100 mile runner and their pacer. Otherwise, I was alone on the trail. I continued to eat well at the aid stations, though it did get harder to stay committed to eating the same old junk food. Bluff had bacon, and coffee. I left that aid station with some of each.

It's a different world at night. This sentence is both cliché and true. The air and surfaces in the environment cool. Bird songs are replaced by frog calls. Human perception contracts and changes in quality. The acute color-perceiving cones of our eyes take a backseat and the wide-range grey-scale rods take over. I feel more conscious of sound in this state, aware of cracking sounds in the woods outside the range of my headlamps, hearing the murmurs of other runners or distant aid stations long before I encounter them. This is why humans love being up late at night on occasion. We leave the ordinary world of commerce and labor and sharp detail and enter a dim and fuzzy world of mystery and spirits. It is a mind-altering experience.

30 minutes before dawn I stumbled going down a little hill, rolled my right ankle, and fell sprawling head first on the trail. I was fortunate to not fall on and snap one of my ultralight poles or injure myself any worse than a few scratches. After a few minutes of walking, I was able to restart running, but more slowly than before the fall and needed to put my jacket back on in order to stay warm. That was the only misfortune of my fun run. I had no regrets about eating a lot, no problems with gear. I ran the second half of the fun run 40 minutes faster than the first half and filled up on eggs, bacon, hash browns, and coffee while watching 100 milers arrive. Christianne and Bitner rolled in to the finish 75 minutes later.

Running all night was fun and a useful experience. I'm feeling more prepared for my own first 100 mile run.

Quad Rock 50 recap

I did it! My third Quad Rock 50 mile finish in three tries. My official time was 13 hours, 56 minutes, and 57 seconds, just three minutes under the limit. I prepared less for this race than I have in 2019 and 2021 because I'm aiming to peak at the end of September and looked at it as mainly a long training run that I might finish or not. My longest run so far this year was 18 miles. I joked with the race director afterwards that my plan was to run myself into shape in the first 25 miles and then build on that. I was mentally prepared to not finish and also prepared to push myself if a finish was within reach.

In the first half of the race, I stayed well within my limits and left the Soldier Canyon aid station, the turn-around, with an elapsed time of 6 hours and 15 minutes. The climb up Timber Trail was warm and I cramped severely on the following descent down Howard Trail. I arrived at Arthurs Rock aid station only seven minutes before the time check. Dropping out at Arthurs had crossed my mind on the descent and the thought was lingering a bit as I hobbled in, but the friendly volunteers filled my tank up with pickles, popsicles, and encouragement, and I found myself good to go again. I headed out towards the Mill Creek climb and was racing, slowly, against the clock all the rest of the afternoon.

After I got to the top of Mill Creek, I had to resupply quickly and then get over the rest of the Westridge Trail climb and down to and through the Horsetooth aid station in 65 minutes. Again, thoughts of dropping tempted me during the technical part of the descent. I felt better during the runnable last 1.5 miles and made it to the aid station with four minutes to go. Not enough time to change socks and shoes as I'd planned, only enough time to grab more drinks and food and regroup with two other runners.

The final climb is not as hard as the penultimate climb, and after that it was mostly a matter of managing my effort well. At the last aid station, with 2.3 relatively flat miles to go and 30 minutes left, I was pretty confident I would make it in under 14 hours. I ran the downhills quickly and didn't dawdle on the flats, coasting just a bit to the finish line.

Honestly, I could have kept going. I was feeling composed and fairly energetic at the finish. I'll be building on this for the next 16 weeks.

Bear training weeks 15-17 recap

It's another three week batch post! My day job, home projects, and running are pretty demanding right now. It's hard to find time to do one of these posts each week like I did last year. I hope the situation changes!

I finally feel like I'm getting into something like racing form and am enjoying it. I'm doing one intense hill workout each week and they are paying off; I have more energy going uphill up longer weekend runs. In four of the past five weeks I've done one long run with at least two Quad Rock climbs, and in the past three weeks I've added one more run with a single QR climb. The only Quad Rock climb that I haven't done recently is the first. I'll try to get to that next week. Here are the numbers for the last three weeks!

Week 15:

  • 32.4 miles running and hiking

  • 7 hours, 4 minutes

  • 3,422 ft D+

Week 16:

  • 47.5 miles running

  • 10 hours, 2 minutes

  • 6,808 ft D+

Week 17:

  • 51.3 miles running

  • 10 hours, 46 minutes

  • 7,234 ft D+

I spent the weekend of week 15 in Tucson with Ruthie enjoying some sun, warmth, and food. I ran in Tucson's Mountain Park, we hiked in Saguaro National Park, did some birding around the city, it was great to get away from the cold and snow in Fort Collins. I like Tucson and want write more about it soon.

Saguaro cactus in Tucson Mountain Park

Running conditions here in Fort Collins change from day to day in April. One of my four-hour runs was on dry, dusty dirt, and the next was on snow and mud.

Arthurs Rock on April 15

Arthurs Rock on April 22

Quad Rock is in 13 days. I'm not planning to do a long taper, instead I'm going to treat it as a very long, volunteer supported training run. I'm going to run hard next week and try to bump my vertical above 8,000 feet, and then will back off early in week 19, but still end up over 60 miles distance and 12,000 ft D+ for race week.

Bear training weeks twelve, thirteen, fourteen recap

This is another attempt to catch up on three weeks of running in a single post. Week 12 was a rest week. I didn't run very much, but did it on dirt, with hills and friends. On Sunday we went to Red Mountain Open Space, crossed over into Wyoming for a few miles, and saw a large flock of Mountain Bluebirds.

  • 4 hours running

  • 19 miles

  • 2,156 ft D+

In week 13 I bumped up my volume and intensity of running. I spent some time at the weight rack at my local gym, tried hard to pick up my knees and run better, and got some hills on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

  • 8 hours, 20 minutes running

  • 41 miles

  • 4,058 ft D+

Week 14 was complicated by heavy snow and brutal wind, but I got to the gym for some lifting and yoga, and did back-to-back hilly long runs on the weekend.

  • 7 hours, 52 minutes running

  • 37.8 miles

  • 5,522 ft D+

A few weeks of paying attention to running better seems to be paying off. I'm finding it easier to not shuffle and my knees feels fine despite the increase in workload.

Bear training weeks nine, ten, and eleven recap

I'm catching up on three weeks of running in this post. I'm making progress. Poor weather, knee pain, and a return of last summer's PACs complicated my training a bit. I'd like to have run a little more, but have been mixing in more high quality speed workouts and have been consistent with weight training and yoga. While not in the same form that I was when training to peak in May 2019 or July 2020, I'm not in terrible early season shape. Here are the numbers.

Week nine:

  • 6 hours, 15 minutes running

  • 30.1 miles

  • 2,441 ft D+

On Sunday I got out for a hilly run in the snow.

Snowy Howard Trail with large mammal tracks to the left

Week ten:

  • 5 hours, 7 minutes running

  • 28.3 miles

  • 1,122 ft D+

Week 11:

  • 4 hours, 56 minutes running

  • 25.8 miles

  • 2,208 ft D+

On Saturday local trails started opening up again and I got a nice long run on dry dirt. It was wonderful.

Horsetooth Reservoir in transition from winter to spring

Bò kho sandwich

Last might I cooked thit bò kho, an aromatic beef stew, from the recipe in Mai Pham's "Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table". The process starts with making colorful annatto-infused oil. The red-orange color is provided by caratenoid compounds named bixin and norbixin. Annatto pigment has long been used to color cheeses, junk food, and other things.

Bright red annatto-infused oil

This morning I put leftovers on a roll and sprinkled it with cilantro, mint, onion, and stewing juice. It's a very satisfying breakfast sandwich.

Stewed beef and carrots with herbs on a roll

I played with the "food" setting on my new phone's camera and got some colorful, but flawed photos. The setting has a limited focus area that I haven't learned to drag around properly.