Kettle Moraine 100: All Dressed Up and Now Someplace to Go

By John Dodds

I've told everybody before that I ran the MMT100 because I had a schedule conflict with running the Kettle Moraine 100 in early June. During my recovery period after MMT, my conflict went away, and I signed up for Kettle Moraine. This race was 3 weeks after MMT, and I signed up a week before the race, barely enough time to pack my drop bags. Since MMT, I had purchased a new running wardrobe in an attempt to eliminate the chafing problem I had at MMT. Gary Knipling told me to get runderwear by Brooks, RaceReady fitness shorts, and plenty of BodyGlide (not vaseline). I got all this stuff. After a conversation with a confidential informant, I also bought Preparation H. Ultrarunning is the only sport I know--other than fishing in Georgia--where you lube your butt.

Fine kettle of fish. Jaret Seiberg and Ed Schultze met me at the Milwaukee airport, and we rode to Whitewater where we had motel rooms. Ed was the backseat navigator--sort of. He was a little slow reading the map and at best was able to confirm after the fact that Jaret had in fact made the right turn. On the way, Jaret told me that my main task for the weekend was to find out why the race was called Kettle Moraine. He had a vague idea what "moraine" meant (which later I found out was wrong), but he didn't know why they called it "kettle." Packet pickup was at a country store, and Kevin Setnes (who started this race and was the RD for all years except this one) was there selling SUCCEED products. While Jaret was in line waiting to sign up, I asked Kevin why it was called Kettle Moraine. Kevin told me that they were both Ice Age terms. A kettle is a depression formed by melting of large blocks of ice that were buried in glacial drift. A moraine is hilly belts of connected ridges and mounds that are usually formed along a glacier's edge. I was especially proud of myself for accomplishing this task so quickly; Jaret wanted a more exotic answer. Anyway, some of the kettles once formed would fill up with water up to 100 feet deep and some would harbor fish. Thousands of years ago, the Indians used to have an expression (translated from Chippewa) that said: "That's a fine kettle of fish."

The course. The race starts at a place called the Nordic center. You run 7.5 miles to link up with the Ice Age trail and head north to some place called Scuppernong (mile 31 in the course) and return to the start. This is 62 miles and the finish point for the 100K race also run that day. For the 100-miler, you head back out the 7.5 miles again to the Ice Age trail and head south to the turn around at mile 81. As you can see, you run the 7.5 mile section four times. Although running this section may seem a bit tedious, the overall course layout made the logistics (for drop bags and crews) very favorable. Jaret gave a good description of the course in his report.

The weather. The forecast was clear with temperatures in the mid-70s. Race day was nowhere near that. I remember telling someone around 8 a.m. (the race started at 6 a.m.) that it felt like 3 p.m. I don't know of a runner that carries a thermometer, so we use other expressions that aren't captured in the Fahrenheit or Celsius scales. Ed later politely wrote Anstr that it was "unusually hot"--hardly descriptive. For example, I later told Anstr that it was f_ _ _ ing hot, which is a lot more descriptive than "unusually hot" or 93 degrees which was the actual temperature. Needless to say, time goals had to be adjusted significantly throughout the day.

I thought it was somewhat ironic to run in such heat on a trail called the Ice Age Trail. Thousands of years ago, the wooly mammoth walked this ground. Today, it is inhabited, albeit for a brief time, by ultrarunners. One could argue that the evolutionary chain is working in reverse.

My goal. It was hard to figure out a time goal because I didn't know anybody who had run the course before that I could compare to. I wondered how it compared to the Vermont 100, and by looking at some common names, it seemed to me that it takes about 1.5-2 hours longer to run Kettle Moraine. I finished Vermont in 21:15 two years ago, so perhaps 22-23 here; in short, under 24 seemed reasonable.

My real goal, however, had nothing to do with time. I wanted to be misery-free, and I had two problems I was worried about. First, I didn't want any chafing like MMT. I carried BodyGlide with me and used it several times throughout the race. That plus the new clothes worked--I had no chafing.

Second, I had a huge blister on the bottom of my left foot from MMT. A week later, most of the dead skin came off. I worked on that blister twice a day after that, trimming back the dead skin and putting ointment on the last layer of skin to prevent it from cracking and bleeding. A week before the race, my daughter saw me working on this tender skin, and she said it looked like plastic. This was a big worry for me, but the only thing I could do was put compeed on it before the race. For over a year I've been buying my Vitesses a half size larger. Since I got blisters at Superior and MMT, my theory was that my feet were moving around too much in the larger shoes. I bought smaller shoes and put 13 miles on them before Kettle Moraine (I didn't run at all for the first 2 weeks after MMT and ran only twice in the week before the race). With the compeed and the right-size shoes, I had no problem with that blister. I am still amazed at how fast skin can heal.

For some reason, the heat doesn't bother me as much as some others. I seem to finish higher when it's very hot. Anyway, with no chafing and no blister problem to speak of, I finished in 23:17.

Don't hold the mayo. The longest distance between the aid stations (a number of which are unmanned and only serve liquids) is 5 miles. I carried 2 water bottles during the day and switched to a Camelbak at night. I drank plenty of SUCCEED, the drink served on the course. I also used SUCCEED capsules every half hour or hour depending on the temperature. And I ate a fair amount since I was hungry. There were a number of people who were throwing up because of the heat. I felt self-conscious wolfing down turkey sandwiches at the aid stations. Of course, a turkey sandwich has to be properly prepared which I learned from Joe Clapper. When one volunteer was making me a sandwich, I had to stop her. Please take off half the amount of turkey and put on twice the amount of mayo. You could barely hold the two pieces of bread together they were sliding so much. There was mayo oozing out of the sandwich and between my fingers. It was perfect. As Joe has explained to me--it's a matter of physics: how quickly can you get that sandwich down your throat--mayo is what makes all this happen. I think it's the Bernoulli principle or something like that.

Pot calling the kettle black. The person who first signed up for Kettle Moraine was Kerry Owens. I had talked to her as long ago as the HAT Run about signing up as well. Later on, she said I was nuts for signing up for Kettle Moraine so soon after MMT. She is a fine one to talk. Here is someone who has never run a 100 before and signs up to run the Leadville 100. And I'm nuts? Realizing that perhaps this was not the wisest thing to do, she decided that Kettle Moraine would be her first 100 instead.

The race did not have a pasta dinner, so the four of us headed to Ft. Atkinson to a nice Italian restaurant. Kerry surprised us with the announcement that she would not run beyond 24 hours the next day whether she was finished with the race or not. Since lawyers like hypotheticals, I posed this one: "Suppose you come to the 24-hour point a mile from the finish line. You still have to go to the finish if for nothing else other than to get your car to go back to the motel. When they attempt to hand you your finish award (which they do as you finish), are you going to refuse it saying you dropped at mile 99 even though the last official place to drop was the aid station at mile 95?" All of which goes to show how we ultrarunners can engage in such stupid conversations.

As I said before, we returned to the start at mile 62. Because of the weather, many of the 100-mile runners stopped and got credit for the 100K--the finisher's award was the same. Many 100-milers and 100Kers never made it back to the start, again because of the weather. Kerry ran very well all day, and I was very much surprised that she opted for the 100K finish. Apparently, she and John Hayward, her crew (along with Jean-Marie Thomas) and would-be pacer for the last 38, had a long conversation about continuing on, much of which, according to Jaret, was not real coherent. Finally, John took her race number and turned it in. Jaret said the heat was beginning to affect her and that she was "loopy." Since Jaret wasn't there either, I was getting the story third-hand. Whether true or not, it makes good reading (in my opinion). Anyway, we wish Kerry great success at altitude this summer at Leadville: "Hang on, Loopy!"

Spot. Jaret doesn't like this nickname although it fits. The doctor wasn't sure what Jaret contracted--poison ivy or something (I think it was some kind of plague). But it itched like crazy, and he had spots all over him. Jaret, like most major league baseball players, was on steroids for the race. I was reminded of the first book I read: "See Spot run." Despite this annoying condition, he as well had an excellent race in the extreme heat. I saw Jaret about ten minutes after I made the turnaround at mile 81. I fully expected him to catch up to me very soon after that. It didn't happen. When I got to the finish, I sat in a chair, covered up with a quilt given to me by one of the volunteers, and waited for him. He finished an hour later. What happened? Jaret wrote that his stomach "went south requiring frequent stops behind large trees." Well, what does this mean? What it means is that he had diarrhea. "See Spot run. Oh no, Spot has the runs." As Anstr has said before: shit happens. I've never had this in a race before (fortunately), so it is a testament to his determination that he was able to finish the race.

Ed. I saw Ed couple times during the day and night, and he seemed to be having a grand time. He was the only one who ran faster than his goal. Jaret said that we missed Ed crossing the finish because Ed was quicker than anticipated. Which is true. But if Jaret hadn't insisted on taking a nap back at the motel ("John, wake me up in an hour"), we could have been there.

Photo:  Copper KettleTrotting for trinkets. You finish a marathon, you get a medal. You finish an ultramarathon, you never know what you're going to get. Shirts, vests, bags, etc. At Laurel Highlands, you get a nice wooden replica of the mile markers. For many 100s, you get a belt buckle (took me a year and a half to get up enough gumption to actually buy a belt and then another 6 months to actually wear it out in public). At Kettle Moraine, you get a small copper kettle.

A good idea? I had a chance conversation with Scott Mills before I went to Wisconsin. He told me not to do it. I was thinking to myself whether I should listen to anybody who ran Western States and Hardrock so close together. He must have been reading my mind because he brought that up and said that that had been a mistake on his part. Like all good ultrarunners, I ignored his advice. Besides, what's the worse that could happen--chafing, another blister? As I would learn at mile 36, it was a sore knee. I was running very slowly through the grass fields area when my right knee started to hurt. It got so uncomfortable that I had to walk for a while. Finally, I was able to run again. From then on, my knee bothered me as I started running after walking. Once running, the pain seemed to go away. I was hoping I could make it to the 62-mile point and get credit for a 100K finish. At times, it seemed doubtful. When I discussed this with John Hayward at mile 46, he told me to start taking ibuprofen. That definitely helped, and I was able to make it the full 100 miles. But every time I took the ibuprofen, I thought of what Scott had said.

This is dinner? Since I made my travel reservations so late, I couldn't get a reasonably priced airline ticket returning on Sunday. I planned on staying in the airport terminal since I had a 5:50 a.m. flight the next morning. That plan lasted less than an hour. I got a motel room near the airport and went to bed at 4:15 p.m. I woke at 9 p.m.; the restaurant had already closed and there was nothing within walking distance. In our goody bag from the race, we got a bag of caramel corn. We also got a gift certificate from the country store, and I had bought blue corn chips. Not much of a meal, but it would have to do. And I began to think: running two 100-milers in 3 weeks was something I had not really planned on. And just how was it possible that I was going to be running Laurel Highlands in just several more days, especially now with a sore knee? Surely, this couldn't be my fault.

Recommendation. I liked this run. I liked the geography/geology, the aid stations were frequent and good, excellent logistics, and the RDs were friendly and personable. It's easily accessible to both Milwaukee and Chicago. I think that this is not only a good candidate for someone's first 100 but also a nice course for veterans.


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