The Indiana 100 is in the Chain O’Lakes state park in Albion, IN. Albion is near Fort Wayne Indiana. It is a beautiful park and I would characterize the trails from a difficulty level to be between Mahomet and Clinton. There were plenty of long flats and gentle down hills, but the course was also littered with steep inclines and sharp technical declines. The course itself is 6, 16.67 mile loops. Aid stations were roughly 4-5 miles apart, which was perfect as it allowed me to carry one water bottle along the way with me. The weather on the day of the race was darn close to perfect, low 40s in the evening and high-50s during the day. The race environment itself was classic ultra marathon. Low key, crunchy people hanging out around fires in the beautiful park setting. Many people camped at the start line and used their tents as home base for supplies.
Pre-race training: The brutal winter obviously made training for the race difficult. The plan I used was really centered around a long run per week with several medium-long runs leading up to the long run so you could adapt to running on tired legs. Long runs ranged from 20-30 miles and the two days prior I would run 10-15 miles. The Tecumseh Marathon in January was a great kick off to the training. My weekly volume peaked two weeks before the race at about 90 miles, which included a 15, 20 and 32 mile run.
The Race: The race is structured as 6, 16.67 loops. I used my car as my home base as I was able to park right in front of the start/finish line. I brought plenty of clothes, socks, towels and a chair. My strategy was to sit in the chair for 10-15 minutes between each loop, resting my legs to prepare for the next loop. Although it set my time back by probably an hour, I believe the strategy paid off. I did feel much better after each loop. Additionally, I did the race without pacers or support. So, I knew I had to be mentally sharp through out the night and would sacrifice time to make sure I was. Fortunately, the course was marked so well that it was literally impossible to get lost.
From a nutrition perspective, my approach was to eat as much as I could as often as I could. I listened to my body and had no stomach issues at all during the race. The aid stations were unbelievable from both a food and energy perspective. They had everything you could imagine. I stayed away from sugar, candy etc. and focused on eating real food through out the race. I ate so well, I may have actually gained weight during the race. The initial loop I ate donuts and coffee; the second loop was around lunch time and I ate multiple grilled cheese sandwiches along with chips; during the fourth loop I ate two cheese burgers, stacked with pickles, and mustard; the fifth and final loop were my pizza and Raman noodle loops. I ate at least a whole Papa John’s pizza and 4 cups of noodles. I drank one bottle of half water and half Gatorade between each station.
Mentally and physically, here is how my laps broke down:
Lap 1: The race started at 6am. The gun went of and everyone trotted forward. That is what I love about these races; the low stressed laid-back nature. I obviously felt great and it was a challenge to hold back my pace.
Lap 2: Mile 16.7-33 was a bit of a shocker. My legs felt a bit heavy and I thought, crap I should be feeling really good. Why do my legs feel heavy? The sun came out and the temp increased. I met a couple of good guys at this point and would run with them on and off during this loop.
Lap 3: Mile 33-50 was more of the same; legs became heavier. I made sure I rolled out my calves at my car. At the end of this loop, my few newly found buddies were getting wearier. It was at this point that I though they might not make it. I changed clothes and socks after this loop and felt like a new man.
Lap 4: Mile 50-67 was a turning point for me. I ate a burger at mile 50 and another at mile 60. I felt great. All the pains in my legs disappeared and I felt like this was my strongest loop other than the first. I lost my two buddies at this point in the race and many of the racers started to drop. Additionally, all of the 50 milers were done at this point., so the course was feeling thin. I spent most of this loop with a couple of 100-mile veterans. Alfrado had signed up for 7 100s this year and this one was his first of the season. At this point pacers were allowed to join the race. I was with out, so joined Alfrado and his pacer. By the end of this loop dark had come, and the real mental part of the race had begun.
Lap 5: Mile 67-83 started with encouragement. I only had 33 miles to go and at this point my experience from 10 Ironman races had started to mentally kick in. I had so much time invested in this race; I knew if I didn’t do anything stupid, I would finish. I knew that body chemistry changes quickly and that in just a matter of minutes you could go from feeling great, to being out for the count. A twisted ankle or pulled muscle would also end my race. Plus, I was alone in the dark and knew that if I went down it would be a while until someone found me. At this point I also realize the other benefit of having a pacer - two headlamps. My headlamp was pretty lame, so I had to be careful, especially on the downhill. I fell twice, but did not sustain any injuries. At first being alone in the dark was a bit scary, I could hear creaking trees and animals in the dark, but I quickly got comfortable with my new environment. In the dark, the aid stations were like a beacon in the night. I could hear them and sometimes see them miles out. My goal become just to get there. The volunteers were having a big time, with loud music, fires, food and drink. It was fun to start to get to know some of the volunteers and they were happy to see me each loop.
Lap 6: The home stretch, only 17 miles to go. At this point, my feet started to hurt and I could feel some blisters coming on. I debated changing socks and fixing my feet, but just wanted to be done. By mile 90, the blisters on my feet were unbearable. I took my socks of at the 90-mile aid station to survey the damaged. One of the volunteers looked at them and deemed them unrepairable. He coated my feet with Vaseline and I put them back in my shoes. It was like they weren’t even mine. It was at this point when I saw Alfrado come into the tent along with another guy. Alfrado looked like crap and he said he couldn’t hold anything down. The other guy came in and said he could barely see through the blurriness. I knew at this point it was time to leave the tent. I did so hobbling on my blistered, swollen feet. By mile 92, I couldn’t run and decided to walk the last 8 in. It was frustrating because my legs felt fine. Each step was an experience. At mile 99, I could see the end, which motivated the pain to dissipate temporarily.
I ran the last mile in and finished in 26 hours and 56 minutes. There were two people clapping when I finished and they took off my timing chip in exchange for my finishers buckle. 160 people started the race, 60 DNFed and I finished 63rd overall.
Post Race: I did not spend a lot of time celebrating because I had a 4-hour drive home in front of me. I took a shower and assessed the status of my feet. My legs felt fine, but my feet were getting worse. The shower was cold, so I was a bit wired. I took advantage of that and got on the road. The 3 Sausage McMuffin with Egg sandwiches were the best I ever tasted and they helped fuel me home. I arrived home, took off my socks and realized my feet were now blown up like balloons and my ankles were barely visible.
Recovery: I iced my feet Sunday night, which brought the swelling down. I also began self-surgery on all of the blisters. Very nasty. Monday morning came way to quickly. My feet were getting back to normal, which then began to reveal additional issues. My Achilles on both feet were extremely swollen and creaked when I walked. I have been icing them down and my feet are beginning to heal. I am writing this on Friday, May 2, 2014, 6 days after the race. The funny thing is, that I can say that the only thing that still hurts is my left little toe.
Final thoughts: Mentally and physically, this was the hardest race I have ever completed. During the race I learned a lot about who I am as a person. It reminded me that we all can accomplish anything in life if we have the passion and desire to do so. Have a plan, stick to the plan and persevere to reach your goal. Never quit, never give up even though your mind tells you to. The race also reminded me that the ultimate goal does not come easy nor quickly. Anything worth having does not come easy. Small milestone goals are required along the way of your journey to get there. For me, it was breaking down the race into finishing loops. Within the loops it was getting to the next aid station. When the race got tough, this was all I focused on. I challenge you to take this lesson into your life. What are your life loop goals and aid station goals? It makes a big harry audacious goal seem less daunting. And, don’t forget to celebrate the completion of your loop and aid station goals along the way.