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I’m not sure there are words to say about the bombing in Boston that haven’t been said, but I know the entire active community shares the feelings of sadness, rage and resilience that an event like this inspires. I suppose the best thing to do is… run.

Tomorrow morning, 4/17/2013, the Heartland Road Runners Club will be running at Starbucks at 5:30 am.  Most of us will do about 3 miles, but walkers and people who want to run over or under 3 miles are welcome.  We’ll all be remembering victims and honoring survivors of Boston by wearing the bib you see below.  I hope lots of you can join in for this tribute.

HRRWC will be running 4/16 at 5:30 am; for Boston.

HRRWC will be running 4/17 at 5:30 am; for Boston.

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Doug, Glenn and I show off our medals after Run the Bluegrass

Doug, Glenn and I show off our medals after Run the Bluegrass

When I signed up for the Run the Bluegrass half marathon in Lexington, Kentucky, I had many lofty expectations that probably seem silly.  I pictured rolling green pastures, enormous old estates, chickens in the yard, babbling streams, horses running the fields, and miles and miles of white fence framing it all in the perfect picture of the South.

As it turns out- I was spot on.

Pre-race Sponsor Pics! It's Nuun Hydration and VFuel! Love it! Click here to enter my contest to win both!

Pre-race Sponsor Pics! It’s Nuun Hydration and VFuel! Love it! Click here to enter my contest to win both!

I came to this race by way of another race selling out really fast. I had originally intended to run the Quivering Quads half marathon through Cuivre River State Park, but when it was full in a day, I did what any red-blooded American would do: whined about it on Facebook.  A high school friend who once lived in Lexington posted a link to what was billed as “One of the prettiest half marathons in America,” and I was sold.  I quickly talked my training partner Doug into the race, and not long after that- primarily by reminding him that Kentucky was the heart of bourbon country- I had convinced our friend Glenn from the running club to join us too.

Training for this race didn’t always go smoothly.  The first few months of this year, our hometown was blanketed by over a foot of snow not once, but three separate times. It seemed like our choices for times to run revolved around which was worse: freezing temperatures or freezing rain. But we slogged through long runs and hoped for spring to relieve the need to run bundled up like the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

Night before the race drinks in the hotel lobby. My first ever bourbon. When in Kentucky...

Night before the race drinks in the hotel lobby. My first ever bourbon. When in Kentucky…

Due to a death in the family and an unexpected trip to Chicago, I arrived in Lexington late Friday night, after 10 hours in my car, having missed the expo.  My friends Doug and Glenn were already there, and I was barely in the door before Glenn had his expo prize out to show me: a bottle of Knob Creek Bourbon that was specially-selected for this race which he had gotten signed by Runner’s World’s Hal Higdon.  The guys had also each purchased an etched Run the Bluegrass rocks glass, and Doug had kindly picked one up for me too.  Happy to finally be out of my car, we all went to the lobby to have a nightcap and then were off to bed at a pretty decent hour.

We woke up at 6 am for the 9 am race.   We stayed at the race hotel, the Hyatt Downtown, so we were pretty close to the race start.  We grabbed breakfast at the hotel lobby. I had hot cereal and some fruit, which is evidently my pre-race ritual now.  Then we were off to the race.

Beautiful drive to the race.

Beautiful drive to the race.

The drive there is worth mentioning actually.  There was a low fog hanging over the low spots of the farms along the way, and temperatures just around freezing had frozen the fog in spots and added a gorgeous sparkle to the landscape. The sun was working hard to burn the fog away and the scene was another perfect picture of the South.

We arrived at Keenland Thoroughbred Race Track over an hour before the race.  Walking up to the spired main building I could see the finish line off to my right.  Perhaps the little detail of pre-race that made me the happiest is that the racetrack had plenty of inside bathrooms.  There is nothing in this world better than knowing you don’t have to go to the port-a-potty before a race.  I popped a lemon-lime Nuun Hydration tablet in my water bottle (what, you didn’t think I was going to mention my sponsor!?  CLICK HERE to see my brand new Ambassador Page!!) and then it was time to go.

I'm betting on the right horse to win!  These ladies did the whole race in costume. Awesome.

I’m betting on the right horse to win! These ladies did the whole race in costume. Awesome.

We made our way down to race start about quarter to nine, and maybe it’s just the speed of the South, but no one seemed in much hurry to get to the start.  We found our spot in our corral among the other 4000+ runners and chatted with the people around us.  Mainly, I talked to a guy named Andy, who was funny and kind and kept my mind off of the 13.1 hilly miles in front of us.  The race started just a little late and by the time we hit the start line, the temperature outside was absolutely perfect.

Go ahead. Count the hills. But it will only make you cry. (chart from Taz Running.com)

Go ahead. Count the hills. But it will only make you cry. (chart from Taz Running.com)

Now, dear readers, I’ve been thinking for 5 days what to tell you about the race.  You see, I don’t want to scare you off because you should definitely do this race.  I’m not going to lie to you though, it’s hilly.  Real hilly.  And if I do this race again next year, I shall never, ever skip one of Brian Pahlmann’s hill repeat training sessions down at the river. Ever.

I noticed the first long hill we climbed had a name: Songbird Hill.  It was a good name, since I could hear some meadowlarks off in the field. The next hill was also graced with a sign at the top dubbing it Rose Hill.  And at the top of the next hill there was another sign and another name and I remembered what someone in the bike club once told me, “It’s only a real hill if it’s got a name.”  Well looking from the crest of the hill we were on across the rolling landscape in front of us, I thought, “Gosh, there are going to be a lot of names.”

Kim and Laura and myself at around mile 8...we stopped for a picture!!

Kim and Laura and myself at around mile 8…we stopped for a picture!!

In spite of the fact that we were woefully underprepared for a course like this, both Doug and I were surprised to see the first several miles melting away.  The course was very well-marked and large flags called out each mile.  Intermittently along the course there were bands playing a wide variety of music (Seriously: there was some screamo at one corner and a bluegrass band at the next.  WIDE variety…) but mostly the course was a quiet country road with little to hear aside from footfalls.

Another post race pic!

Another post race pic!

Near the bluegrass band was one of those scenes I’d clearly imagined before the race- a yard full of chickens and one proud Tom turkey out strutting his stuff, wearing his feathers tall like royal regalia.  Not far up the road was the first close-to-the-fence horse, a big black and white draft horse who stood by the fence waiting for the next runner who would come over and give him a scratch on the cheek.  He was very sweet and made me smile.  That sort of thing really helps me get my mind off the primary problem: the hills.  My god, the hills.

We were struggling mightily up one hill that Doug named, “The Widow Maker,” when (now don’t miss the irony here) a little old man came by us and said, “You know what a little old man once told me about hills?  It’s just ground!”

Somewhere just past the halfway point, I called out, “Well there’s no turning back now; it’s further to turn around!” which drew a laugh from a couple of girls in the vicinity.  The girls were named Kim and Laura and we ran with them on and off for the rest of the race.  Kim is also a blogger and writes one called This Healthy Endeavor.  It’s got recipes and race reports and more. You should go check it out. Half way is also the point I chose to eat a second V-Fuel Endurance Gel. The VFuel really helped me get through this tough race and didn’t give me any tummy problems at all.  That’s why I love it.  (Click here to see my contest to win Nuun and VFuel!!!!!)

My race goodies! Yeah, I splurged for the bottle of bourbon.

My race goodies! Yeah, I splurged for the bottle of bourbon.

Probably the most beautiful moment of the race for me was at mile 8.  We crested *another* hill and at the top there were 3 sets of mares and foals running wide arcs around their fenced pasture.   It was breathtaking to watch, and even though I was getting pretty exhausted, their enthusiasm for running returned the spring to my step and the smile to my face.

I’m not going to get too much into the end of the race… it was hilly, I was undertrained, and I did a lot of walking.   That’s okay though. Doug stuck right by my side and we did the thing together.  Then, just past a little marching band stationed at the last corner (WIDE variety of music…) the finish line came into sight.  We ran out the last “point-one” as quick as we could and were presented with what is probably my favorite half-marathon medal to date.

Sorry this blog got so long folks! Thanks for sticking with me! Run the Bluegrass was a terrific race.  I posted a personal worst time- but I also feel like I worked really hard for it and was super proud anyway.  I couldn’t have done it without my training partner Doug, who helped me through the long, bleak winter training and shared in the fun in Lexington.  Glenn finished in front of us, but he was great to have around and was fun the entire trip.

Doug, Glenn, Race Director Eric and I after the race (and after a Kentucky Ale!)

Doug, Glenn, Race Director Eric and I after the race (and after a Kentucky Ale!)

Special thanks go to the race director Eric Marr and his team for making every part of the race beautiful.  From the specially chosen barrels of Knob Creek Bourbon, to the ribbons based on the silks of the famous thoroughbred filly Genuine Risk, this was a race with an eye for the details that make an experience special.

Also, a big shout-out to Andy, Kim, Laura, Amanda Jones and her friends, and Lisa- new friends from the race.  I absolutely loved the size of this race. It made it easy to meet people, share a Kentucky Ale, and lament the hills like we’d been running together forever.  Lisa if you’re reading this: I’ll see you this weekend in Allerton. I can’t believe we were both silly enough to sign up for the same two half marathons on back-to-back weekends.

Doug at the Town Branch distillery tour.

Doug at the Town Branch distillery tour.

If you make it down for this race next year (and you totally should) make sure you take a little time to explore Lexington. It’s an awesome town with lots to do.  We toured the Town Branch Bourbon Distillery after the race and also got a taste of downtown at a really great creole joint called Bourbon and Toulouse for dinner.  Then we treated ourselves to pie by the famous Missy’s Pies at Ramsey’s Restaurant for desert.  I had coconut cream.  Wow.

Just remember: If you sign up for this race next year… don’t skimp on the hill training.  🙂

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Jared Busen at the Badgerland 24-Hour Track Ultra Marathon

Readers of my blog will remember an article in July introducing you to Jared Busen, an ultra runner.  Earlier in September, Jared competed in the Badgerland Ultra Track Marathon with the goals of raising money for the Wounded Warrior Project and running 130 miles in 24 hours. Busen raised more than $3,400 for the Wounded Warrior Project. He also ran over 91 miles before issues with keeping calories in his system forced him to stop the race. Even though he was unable to finish, his total distance placed him third in the Badgerland event.

I talked to him after the race, and despite being somewhat disappointed that he was unable to complete 130 miles, Busen is looking forward to his next Ultra Marathon. In fact, this weekend, Jared plans to run 100 kilometers (62.2 miles) at the same event in which I plan to ride my bike 100 kilometers. The Get Out blog will continue to keep readers up-to-date on Jared’s races, including his return to theMcNaughton race in Vermont May. Last year, he won the 150-mile race, and this year he plans to compete in the 200-mile event. In ultra-exciting news, I plan to be part of his race crew for this amazing event. And as long as I’m setting running goals, I’ve decided that if my friend can run 200 miles, I ought to be able to run 13 … so I’m making plans now to run in the 2012 Bridge the Gap to Health Half Marathon. This event is scheduled for May 12, 2012, and more information can be found on the Bridge the Gap Facebook page. The Get Out blog congratulates Jared on his performance in the Badgerland Track Ultra and wishes him continued ultra-running success. Here’s his recap of the event. More information can be found at his website www.runhappens.com.

Laura Sievert

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Badgerland Track Ultra Recap

Sept. 3, 2011, was the 24-Hour Badgerland Track Ultra. This race takes place on a 400-meter track, log as many miles as you can in 24 hours. My goal was to run 130 miles before the time elapsed. This was a big goal, but one I know I’m capable of achieving. Well, I fell way short of it. I didn’t even run all 24 hours. This won’t be an in-depth recount cause when you run 369 laps around a 400-meter track, they all blur together. Even had I wrote it right after the race, it still would all blur together. My official distance is 91.731 miles.

My crew was Brandon and Betsy Barnes. They both did a great job supporting me and getting me whatever gear or food I needed as the day progressed. Betsy walked the 6-hour and reached her goal of going more than 20 miles; she finished with 20.136 miles.

My buddy Ryan Dexter was there also, he was trying to cover 145 miles that day. Once the race started, he took the lead immediately and was setting a solid pace. I was trailing anywhere from half a mile to two miles for the first few hours. After that, him and I started trading for first place. We’d run together for a bit then split off on our own pace. We were the only two racing this thing; everyone else was taking it easy and just logging miles.

To put it in perspective, Ryan and I were doing the 24 hour race. We were running faster then any of the runners in the 12-hour race. Only one person in the 6-hour race was running as fast as we were, but he was there to pace Ryan. He and I were both setting a tough pace.

Ryan would lead, then I would lead, then he would lead. We spent a few hours trading for first place. Then he started to feel bad. Long story short, Ryan took a break and ended up dry heaving and calls the race. He covered 62.397 miles before dropping. It was a huge effort up to that point. I really hated to see him drop for a few reasons. 1.) He’s a hell of an ultra runner, I hate to see him drop. 2.) He’s a buddy of mine, hate to see him suffer 3.) He was my only competition, part of my motivation to keep pushing myself. Now the race was basically mine to loose. I’m way ahead of second place and, while I’m feeling a bit rough, I’m still running a solid pace.

To be honest the whole race was a bit off for me. I didn’t feel up to par to begin with, not sick or bad, just not completely right. I was hoping that I would catch my groove at some point, my body would remember what ultra running feels like and I’d hit the zone and just run. But it never occurred. All day I kept pushing, and not feeling like I was going anywhere. Yes, I was in the lead for a large portion of the race, but it never felt easy. I was fighting for it.

I keep the lead, eventually I’m 8 miles up on second place. Way out in front and no one even close. I’m still not feeling right, mentally I’ve been struggling the whole day. My stomach is starting to feel wrong, and mentally I’m feeling worse and worse. I keep fighting myself, can’t get past the hump. I hit the 90-mile mark right at 18 hours. This is the time when my stomach has had enough for whatever reason.  I go to the grassy/bushy section of the track and start to dry heave, followed by full on puking and throwing up the entire contents of my stomach. I still have no clue what caused this.

I lost all my calories and felt like crap. Eating is paramount to an ultra runner, there are 6 hours left in this race. I have to keep eating. Maybe had there been an hour left I wouldn’t have worried about it, but 6 hours is a long time to burn energy and not refuel. I decide to stop for a bit and see if my stomach will calm down. I keep feeling like I need to throw up.

Ryan still has a tent up that he uses to change or when his crew needs a nap. I climb in there after having sat for a bit and take a nap. The hope is my stomach will calm down. After an hour of resting Brandon and Betsy talk me into going back out and start moving around the track. My stomach is still killing me, and mentally, I’ve lost all fight and motivation. After 19 hours of feeling off, then throwing up and having an upset stomach I have no desire to go on.

We tried ginger, flat coke and Pepto-Bismol to get my stomach to settle, all in the hopes I can take in calories again. I walk the track for about five laps hoping to feel better. My pace at this point was a 10-minute 400 meter. That’s a 40-minute mile — not good. Any faster and I wanted to toss my cookies again. After the five laps at this pace, having not eating for a few hours and mentally being beaten I call the race at hour 20. I’m miserable, was off my goal and can’t eat. The choice was to suffer for another 4 hours, or call it take a shower and try to sleep. The hotel sounded way better then suffering the rest of the night.

I fell way short of my goal and didn’t even finish the race. I’ve run more than 20 hours and more then 91 miles on many occasions. I’m a strong runner, but it just wasn’t my day. It took some coming to terms with another failure at this course, but it’s what happened, so I have to accept it. It was my choice to stop. I still feel it was the right decision, but it’s an embarrassing decision to make.

I’ve had a lot of people tell me I did great, was a stud for doing what I did in the time I did, I ran 91 miles … I get it. However, I’m a much better runner then that performance. It’s all relative. I’m an ultra runner — this is what I do. I keep running no matter what, but I didn’t that day. It was the right call, but a hard one to accept still. I’ll get there, just need some time between me and the race. That’s part of the reason I’ve waited a few weeks to write this recap. I needed time away from the race to accept it.

I still took third place in the race, which isn’t too shabby for not having run the last 6 hours. I am happy with the pace I was setting and the effort I put into the race until the end. Track ultras are a different beast. It’s a hard race to compete in. I don’t know if I’m going to go back next year or not. Still thinking about that and probably won’t make a decision until May or June about trying to finish this race a third time. Part of me wants to go back and prove to the track I can beat it, but part of me wants to move on and do an ultra I’ve never done before. Go somewhere new next fall and ultra run there. We’ll see.

Jared Busen

Original Post September 30, 2011

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