Saturday, April 20, 2013

2013 Indiana Trail 100 Results (Or: How to Embrace the Suck)

2/57 overall (152 started)
1st male overall

The Indiana Trail 100 is the first ever trail 100 in Indiana and it was put on by a set of top notch crew of race directors at Chain O' Lakes State Park. All that was controllable was done perfectly. Absolutely everything about this race (except the weather and the trail) was perfect.  The fact that they got 250 runners the very first year is amazing in an of itself.

The RD’s had several training runs over the last 6 months including a nice run the day after Thanksgiving  so people could come get a feel for the trail, and I went down for two such runs. It was nice because it helped me to know how much hill work I should be doing. The course was 6 times around a 16.6 mile loop with gentle rolling hills through beautiful terrain. One of most beautiful trails I have been able to run on. However, when it rains, there a few wet crossings. When a monsoon rolls through, like it did 2 days before the race, it gets bad. Really bad.

The race personnel changed the course the day before the race to avoid water hazards that were over waist deep, but that meant some brand new trails were being blazed by the runners. Yes, there was some actual bush-wacking done during the day. At night, that would cause some problems. At the pre-race briefing the night before, we were told that the trails were some of the worst conditions that the RD’s had ever seen, and they have been running these trails for decades. That was not a good sign at all.

On my way into the area on Friday, seeing the ‘High Water’ road signs was not a good omen either. I choose to stay at Brick Ark Inn only 10 minutes away from the race. Misty and I had stayed there back in November and loved the hospitality of Tammy the innkeeper. She was very accommodating for the runners who were staying there, getting up at 3:45 am on race morning to make us breakfast.

My ace crew chief (my lovely wife) was unable to attend this race as my step son had major back surgery 3 days before. Luckily, I have enough experience that I spent some time making drop bags for myself the week of the race. Knowing it would be cold and wet, spread over the two drop bags (start/finish and at mile 9 of the loop) I had 5 full sets of clothes. Extra everything just in case. Turns out, I only did 2 costume changes all day long. At noon I removed one long sleeve shirt, going down to 2 layers. Then, at 7pm, I added a long sleeve shirt. That was it. During the warmer parts of the day (mid 40’s) when the sun was out, I would sweat just a bit, but when the sun went behind a cloud I would get a little cold. I surmised from those observations I was ok.

I have recently changed to a ketosis diet, so food at my drop bags were low-carb tortillas with butter, blackberries, blueberries, cheese sticks, hard boiled eggs along with some salami. I ended up eating only the tortillas and berries, nothing else sat well in my stomach, but that was no great surprise. I also had my standard first-aid type of things at both aid drop bag locations. I was well prepared.

I was able to follow my aid station gospel to a tea, never being at any one of the 23 aid stations (the entire race total) for more than probably a minute. I always knew what I needed when I rolled in, and often had a friendly stranger help me get pills out of bags, but that was about it. I truly believe this method is one of the huge reasons for my success at this distance.

Knowing that it was going to be wet, I wanted to avoid wearing socks, so I decided to start the race with my Vibram Spyridons. I added some 2Toms sports shield which really helped. I packed 4 other sets of minimalist shoes in my drop bags just in case, but decided early on I was going to keep them on as long as possible. I did not expect to keep them on until the very end. I have never done a 100 miler in the same set of shoes before. It certainly shaved off some time, not having to change them out. I did some research (after the race of course), and before this race, the farthest I had ever run in a pair of Vibrams was only 29 miles. Hmm...

Ok, so lets talk about the weather. The temperatures were in the low 30s at start with a light snow and the winds up to 20 mph most of the day. The high for the day was in the low 40’s in afternoon and when the sun went down the temperature plummeted down into the 20’s.

Because of the heavy rainfall two days before, There were ~35 water crossings and ~60 unavoidable mud stretches were what made it this course so rough. What’s even better (worse?) was that they were spaced out evenly over the whole course so you never had to go much more than half a mile before you got muddy and/or wet. The water crossings were usually calf/knee deep and the water was relatively clean, so after a good mud section, the water would clean it off nicely. I’m being sarcastic of course. :) I was reminded of my previous worst-ever-race-conditions, the 2012 Winter Beast of Burden. That was just cold. This was wet AND cold. making this the worst running conditions I have ever run in, at any distance.

The race course was well marked, and yet I still made a wrong turn on the first lap, which added at least 10 minutes to my time. And of course, it was an obvious turn complete with big white sign. On my second lap, some large sticks were put in the way there, so I knew then I was not the only person who went wrong at that turn which made me feel a little better. :)

To bring in some elite runners, the race offered a $25,000 prize for anyone who could break the US 100 mile trail record which brought out a few speedsters, including the eventual winner, Michelle Yates. With there being a 50 mile distance as well, I started behind the lead pack of 8 people and let them take off. I have done this enough times to know, it is not who is in the lead at mile 3 that wins. I wanted to get into my long-term pace as fast as possible. While I walked/jogged through the muddy parts, I still ran the uphills, even after mile 50. My switch to minimalist running and the subsequent shortening of my normal stride helped. I have been doing a lot of hill work which also helped.

The aid stations were great, always with workers willing to help, though I needed little. For everyone of my laps, except the last, I followed this simple routine:

Start/finish: Swallow 3 Hammer Electrolyte pills, 2 Hammer Endurance Amino pills, 1 Anti-fatigue pill and then leave the aid station with 20 oz handheld filled with flavored Hammer electrolyte laced water and something solid & small to eat (small bag of fruit for example) while I walked out of the aid station. Because of these supplements, my muscles never cramped (the electrolytes) and my brain never faded either (the amino acid pills)

Mile 4 aid station: Drink 1 cup of water.

Mile 9 aid station: Refill the handheld with same custom concoction (I made 2 gallons beforehand) making sure I drank the entire 20 oz since the last major aid. Again, grab something solid and small to eat on way out of aid station.

Mile 14 aid station: Drink 1 cup of water.

That's it. No need for a complicated plan. So short and simple, even I can't screw it up.

I carried my iPod from the very beginning and ended up listening to techno from about mile 50 until the end pausing it only to chat with runners I was passing and aid stations workers. It kept me moving, even when I was power-walking to the beat near the end.

As expected, I did not touch 80% of the stuff in my drop bags, but that is a good thing. You never know what you WILL need, so I pack pretty much everything, knowing full well I will not touch much of it. Before a Hundo, you never really know what is going to go wrong (something always does) so you must prepare for all reasonable scenarios.

At the end of lap 5, there was only about 15 minutes until sunset and I knew life was going to go from bad to worse. While I could walk around many of the mud spots by bush-wacking a little bit, at night it was harder to find the right detour, so I ended up going through more mud than I did any of the other laps. And it was way colder. And I was tired. There is no pill or food that could cure the 'my feet are cold and wet and I hate this course' problem I was having. Experience and unwillingness to quit kept me going. At no point did I even think about stopping, but slowing way down was contemplated.

Being on a ketosis diet as an ultrarunner gives me one small advantage in that at the end of race a little carbs serves as extra-special fuel. So I drank some Pepsi at the aid stations and only water in my handheld the last lap. I will be honest, I didn’t feel like it helped, and it made my stomach upset I think. Though, my stomach gets upset at the end of all my Hundos.

Once the sun went down, the temp dropped quickly into the 20’s and I started getting even colder, but kept slogging. I was down to power-walking most of the loop, but even that still at 15 min/mile pace. Keeping your arms up really makes a difference when you hit that stage.

A word about the overall winner, Michelle Yates. She is an elite runner, and while this was her first 100 mile race, she has won the 50 mile and 100K national championships as well as qualified for the Olympic trials. I did not mind losing to her at all. The fact that she beat me by less than an hour is pretty awesome, actually. I would like the record to show, that my lap 5 split was the same and my lap 6 split was faster than hers :)

At about mile 88, I passed a couple of people and as I said ‘good job!’, one asked me if I was Mark Ott. I said yes, and she said to her running companion “I told you, he’s the male overall leader”. What?! She told me that the leaderboard said I was in the lead after lap 3 and 4. I was on my 6th lap (she was on her 5th) and I didn’t even know there WAS a leader board. I found it later inside the aid station tent that I never went into :) I knew nobody had passed me (actually, no one passed me all day long) and now, for the first time I knew I was the leading male. Crap, now I had to try not to lose it. I hate pressure.

I was passing people at a good clip, so I was trying to keep an eye on every headlamp I passed and making sure the lamps never got closer behind me. I had no idea at all how much of a lead I had on the #3 runner, so I assumed they were right behind me, so every time I looked behind me and it looked like the light was getting any closer, I would pick up my speed a little bit if not outright running. At about mile 95 I caught up to two guys but they were moving pretty quick. Turns out, they were on lap 5 but still moving good. I got into a good pace with one of them and we power-walked the last 5 miles of the loop together keeping each other company. It took my mind off the awfulness of the trail.

I finished the race and went into the aid station tent for the first time. Boy, was it warm in there! RD Mike came over and gave me my awesome winner plaque and congratulated me. It was a great feeling, but then my nausea set in. I have a track record of always getting sick and my blood pressure dropping bad at the end of Hundos. After sitting for about 5 minutes, I had to go puke, but on my way out the tent, I sortof sat down. Quickly. ‘Medic!’ was the next word I heard someone say and in short order, I had two EMT’s on me asking me questions and putting warm blankets around me. About 5 minutes later I was in the back of an ambulance trying to convince the EMT’s that I didn’t need to go to the hospital. They were pushy about it, but I explained to them that A) This is normal for me and B) The conversation with my wife would be much worse if I went to the hospital. When they were finally able to get a blood pressure on me (it took them a little while), it was 88 over 42. They got concerned and even tried to trick me into letting them take me to the hospital against my will (key word: disorientation) by asking me questions (confirming my street address, for example) just to see if I would get them wrong. In my delirious state I kept telling them ‘Please stop. My head is fine and I am thinking clearly, I just need to stabilize’. They did not trust my experience of my own body I guess, but they were doing their job, so no foul.

Of course, I had yet to deal with my feet. The feet that have been cold and wet for now almost 20 hours. Once the medics released me after almost an hour, I went back into the tent and carefully removed my Vibrams and before I put a pair of dry socks and shoes on, I hold my feet up to the heater to try to warm my toes. It was not working. I decided I need to get stable mentally ad physically so I can go back to the B&B and take a shower and get some rest. I left everything including my award and buckle and drove the 15 minutes back and carefully took a shower. The warm water on my toes was excruciatingly painful. Houston, we have a problem.

Turns out, I had real life case of frostnip on my toes, and all 10 of them were completely numb. The pain coming from the de-frosting was the most pain I have ever experienced in my life. It really did feel like someone had cut off my toes. I ended up having to soak them in lukewarm water for 30 min just to make it so that I could rest, as sleep was impossible. Oh, and I was wandering around my room at the Bed and Breakfast sobbing like a baby it hurt so bad to move. Luckily no other soul was awake to hear me grovel.

I got up about 7am the next day and had a little breakfast before heading back to the race to get my stuff and chat with folk and cheer on the other runners. In looking at the leader board, I could tell it was a rough night. The final race results tell the tale. In the 100 mile race, there were 152 starters, only 57 finished, with 20 of those over 29 hours and only 3 finishers under 20 hours. For those of you who don't know, that means it was a tough race.

I am not sure what helped me out the most, my switch to minimalist footwear, my ketosis diet, my HSW training, or my mental attitude and experience. It was certainly some of all of those things. I am just glad I get to keep the title “Pretty good Ultrarunner”. That’s all I really want.

Race report from #1 finisher, Michele Yates       Race report from #3 finisher, Paul Stofko
Race Report from Rick Simon                   Race report from a friend, Andrew Siniarski


  1. Congratulations Mark! You are truly a spirit warrior! Amazing race and fantastic report. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Awesome job out there Mark! You are an animal!! Great race report. I saw you pass me a couple times and you were moving! This was my first 100 but I finished it so I was very happy about that considering the conditions.

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  4. Nice report! Really tough conditions but you pushed through and got it! That's the kind of race that tests fortitude.

  5. Mark, you are a beast. I only wish you would've joined us for another 10 hours of fun after you finished :-)

  6. Wow, awesome report and great sticktoitiveness!!!