On this trip, I had the opportunity of traveling with my wife, Ashlee to embark on a fun adventure to Madison, Wisconsin. At my time working as a Tech Rep for Nathan, I traveled the whole Eastern half of the US and Madison was always one of my favorite stops.
Madison is home to the University of Wisconsin, some great running stores, and a very vibrant outdoor community. Situated on an isthmus, land surrounded by lakes, it makes for some very scenic views and nice bike and running trails that travel all around the lakes. Like every great college town/ city, there are some fun quirky coffee joints, craft beer, and delicious food to go along with a fun music and arts scene.
We headed out from Newark to Chicago and took our rental car the 2 or so hours up to Madison. It was a cold and blustery couple of days with some snow showers and lots of wind. Race day was shaping up to be cold with temps around freezing and wind chills in the mid 20’s. Training for me had shaped up really well and I was feeling fit and ready to compete for a top USA 100k time and place to hopefully secure a spot for the 2020 national team.
Once we arrived, it was a late lunch at one of my favorite brew pubs: The Great Dane Pub!!! Did I get cheese curds—OH YEAH! This was Ashlee’s first time trying real Wisconsin Cheese curds and let me tell you she loved them!
We then headed to packet pick-up, got situated, and then went on a journey for some Tailwind.
After a little exploration of Madison and our search for some Tailwind, which we found at the Endurance House in Middleton, we got settled into our hotel, had a nice dinner from a local grocery shop, and caught some shut eye.
The race morning was cold and I had a hard time figuring out what to wear. In the photo below,
You can see that I went with the Craft baselayer and race singlet which was nice to be wearing earlier in the race but looking back, I should had asked for an extra bib to wear on my running jacket. We had some fast runners show for the race with former NY resident and now Charlotte resident, Chris Raulli and Israel Merkle, who I raced at the Tussey Mountainback 50 when he ended up running a stellar debut at 50 miles running in the 5:40’s.
The race is 10 – 6.2 mile loops around the little lake that then goes through the University Arboretum. It is a great venue for a race and ultra and the course features many flat and rolling sections with one steep climb and descent about half-way into the loop.
The race went out like most ultras without all of the crazy clamor and pizzazz. Chris Raulli went out like he was a man on a mission running clear 5:50/6 minute flat miles. I by no means was going to run that pace as I felt that would not be sustainable. I settled into running an opening mile of 6:22 as Israel Merkle and myself linked up. We spent the early miles catching up and just settling into a rhythm. As the laps passed by and the time ticked on, I started seeing a pattern of mile splits of – 6:20, 6:16: 6:26, 6:32, 6:18, 6: 24… I wanted to slow down but the pace did not feel impossible. All of the years of training and fitness-building had gotten me to this point where I was able to draw upon strength and a consistent pace I did not think I could do.
I made sure to fuel well taking a Nathan Exodraw soft bottle with Tailwind in it every 10k lap and would drink some Gatorade mix at the 4 mile aid station to make sure I had the salts. Little did I know that I was gradually over salting myself (more to come on this). I also would take at least one Boom gel every 10k loop and my energy levels were on point.
I knew that we had to ease off the gas at some point at we were on pace for a 6:30 100k time but the camaraderie kept us going. It was right after our 50k split of 3:18 that I knew I had to ease up some, as I started to feel a little of the effects of fatigue in my legs and did not want to completely bonk. Merkle kept going at that pace as I dropped off a little, had a quick porta-potty break and caught up to being off of him by couple of seconds up through 60k. It was right near the 60k mark where we saw Chris Raulli walking and knew the early pace with the cold gusty winds and conditions took its final toll on him. He dropped at that lap . Now it was a race between myself and Merkle. Who would push on and who would crumble?
I took a more conservative approach hoping that the time I was losing to Merkle would allow me to surge later in the event to catch him. This is where the race became hard for me. From the 50k-60k mark, the sun had come out and the temperatures were warming up and I started feeling better. But as the 70k mark began, the winds and clouds rolled in and the temperature dropped to something similar to the early morning conditions. As I was burning pretty hot from the pace, all the sweat on my body just froze me out as I had stretch where I was shivering from the cold. With the temperatures being so cold, I was over-salting myself as I was not sweating that much. By the time 50 miles had come where I split a 5:40 50-mile PR besting my Can Lake time by 7 minutes, I had slowed to running 6:50/ 7 minute miles and now really was cramping up. I had 2 more laps to go, just 20k to run and my body was tightening up like a tin man. My mile splits now started hitting 7:30-8 minute miles and on that loop I began my first walk break. I was falling a part at the seams and didn’t know what to do. I thought more nutrition would help, so I upped my gel and Tailwind intake (BAD IDEA COLE!!). I soon became woozy and felt sluggish. What was going on with me?
I was soon passed by two runners in the 9th loop. It was demoralizing. But I knew I had to dig deep. This is the pain cave we hear about in ultras. I was cold and was in a world of hurt, but knew I could still run under 7:20 to at least get an automatic 100k time to be considered for the team. I pushed hard as best as I could with very erratic mile splits. With one lap to go I went for it as best as I could. I had water at the last aid station before the finish and took my time here to refuel. I found out that water was making the fog I was in clear. What magic was coming over me?
Then a runner with a 100k bib blows through the aid station right by me. What?!!! I was not going to let another runner pass me. I chugged the water and surged with all I had. Those last two miles I averaged a very fast last 2 miles right under 14 minutes (6:50ish miles) all from running a pace of now an 8:00+ average. I had put about a minute and a half on the runner behind me. I crossed the line 4th in 7:30:52. It was a bummer to miss the auto-qualifying time by 10 minutes. I knew I had it where even at 90k, If I had averaged 7:30 instead of 9 minute miles, I would have been just been under the 7:20 time.
Israel Merkle ran incredibly consistent and given the pace we went out, he slowed a little but not by much to take the win and US title in 6:54.
I learned a lot from the race and though it was not my best executed race, I gave it my all and learned I have elite-level fitness for the 100k, I just have to pace more evenly and a time around 6:45-6:50 will be obtainable.
I learned that I had over-salted my body leading it into a form of overhydration as my body was retaining too much fluid. Once I had the water, it allowed me to pee and flush out my salt levels to where I was more normal again. Fueling in cold weather is just as much as a science as in the heat.
I learned I needed to layer up and wearing that jacket would have allowed me to save some energy for the running rather than trying to keep warm.
I learned that road 100ks are hard but I really like them. You have to be patient and keep some strength left for the last sections after the 50 mile mark.
I learned that I will be back at it to run a sub 7:20 time. This race just opened my eyes of what I am capable of running as running the paces I did in those conditions after splitting a 3:18 50k I didn’t think I had it in me.
This was a true character-building experience for me as I know the year is just beginning and I can take the lessons that I have learned from this event and bring them to my next ultras.
I will still look to run a time that would qualify me to make the USA 100k team. I am almost there and I think with a more controlled approach, I will be where I want to be when the dust settles.
Mad City 100k is a must run race- a great RD and community on a very fun and scenic road course. Couple that with a really hip and fun atmosphere of Madison and it is a place you must go to.
POST RACE In Madison and Chicago
We concluded the trip with checking out the downtown strip of Madison, Wisconsin which I highly recommend and it was fun to see everyone in their badger gear for the Spring football game. We hit a few more brew pubs and then headed back to Chicago the next day. On our drive to Chicago, we heard that there was going to be some snow squalls and tat the city might see upwards of 6 inches. With about 40 miles out, we hit the blizzard-like conditions as we headed downtown to Old Town to scope out the area. As we entered the city limits, we ended up having a delicious brunch to a nice snowy backdrop, the headed to a local bar to finish watching the Masters golf tournament. This was a momentous event as we had the chance to see Tiger Woods win yet another Major to his 80+ odd PGA tour wins in dramatic fashion. While we watched the golf tournament, we tried some weird shot of liquor that tasted like pipecleaners. The bar-tender said that anyone that visits Chicago needs to try it as it is some type of inside joke with native Chicagoans. If anyone knows what that shot is called, feel free to message me.
We finished the day exploring the rest of the city an its local craft beer and local food with a final stop at Lagunitas.
It would be a long weekend I will cherish forever for all of the people we met, the miles that were run, and the memories I had with my wife.
Thank you for reading and all of the support.
Race Gear used
- 361 Degree Meraki 2 road shoe—a great amount of cushion, support, and rebound to help propel me through 100k daunting road miles.
- 361 Degree team jersey
- Nathan Exodraw and Exoshot handhelds (2 of each filled with Tailwind)
- Nathan Mirage pack for my gels
- Janji 5 inch run shorts and 361 ½ tights
- Mojo Compression running sleeves
- Finger Lakes Running Arm Sleeves
- Dion Snowshoe winter Beanie
- Craft Sports run gloves (brilliant pink)
- Lots of Boom gels (Raspberry and Orange Vanilla)