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Jared Busen at the Badgerland 24-Hour Track Ultra Marathon

Readers 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.

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Badgerland Track Ultra Recap

By Jared Busen-

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.

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Jared Busen, pictured here in uniform in Afghanistan. Busen continued training runs while he served there as a Combat Advisor in 2009-2010.

“Ultra” is the right adjective for Jared Busen in more ways than one. This Class of 2000 Quincy High grad has gone on to become something of a real-life superhero. In 2006, Busen joined the Army, went into Basic Training, and discovered that distance running was his passion. Not satisfied with marathons of 26.2 miles, Busen elected to push onward to Ultra-Marathon distances.

An Ultra-Marathon takes one of two forms: it can be a specified distance (often 50k, 100k, 50 miles, 100 miles or 150 miles) or the race can last a set length of time, for example, 24 hours, and the runners will cover all of the distance that they possibly can before time expires.

It’s easy to list out Jared’s accomplishments as a runner and be in awe. He’s competed in 13 Ultras since he began. He took first place in the Farmdale 50 mile in October 2010 and first place in 150 mile McNaughton Trail Run in May 2011. He places regularly in every race he enters. He even continued running and training while he was deployed in Afghanistan — famously recording hundreds of laps around the .6-mile perimeter of Camp Alamo just because he needed somewhere to stretch his legs. During Army leave time in South Korea — where you would imagine a soldier might want to rest — Busen instead ran a 100k, came back three weeks later to run in the Seoul Marathon, and then completed a second 100k a week after that.

Ultra Marathons take place on a variety of surfaces, including rugged trails like this one.

Besides conquering herculean running distances though, what sets Busen apart in my mind is the focus he brings to all of his endeavors and the easy and unassuming way he talks about distance I can only imagine in terms of road trips in my car.

“[Ultra marathoning] is a sport anyone can do. I’m not gifted or special, I’m just a regular dude who decided to do something hard,” he explains. “The first step is to accept that you’re capable of accomplishing that kind of challenge.”

I expressed some disbelief at his assertion that anyone could take on that kind of distance — thinking back on how hard my first two 5k races seemed this year — and he continued to explain how someone makes the jump from small distances to larger ones.

“That’s the only difference. It’s about continual forward progress. It’s about not quitting. It’s hard for me too — really hard. You’re going to hit walls and want to stop no matter what distances you’re training for.  For running you have to be adaptable and know how to overcome.”

Busen recently launched a website dedicated to his Ultras. In race recaps, you start to understand some of the difficulties the sport entails. The logistics of these races are planned months in advance. Each racer requires a small but dedicated team of people to monitor the race, provide the right hydration, nutrition and equipment as conditions dictate. For example, Busen calculated that he consumed over 10,200 calories during the 150-mile McNaughton race. For comparison, that’s eight days worth of calories for me right now. It’s not surprising that this race takes that much fuel though, or that it takes a team to manage it. The trail is a 10-mile loop repeated 15 times with 2,400 feet of elevation change per loop. The total elevation change is 36,000 feet, the equivalent of the height of Mount Everest and Mount Saint Helens combined.

In addition to his physical accomplishments, Busen is an indefatigable teacher and motivator. In the Army and now the Army Reserves, he is a drill sergeant with the rank staff sergeant E-6.  And while he’ll tell you he was the one “all up in everyone’s face, barking orders,” you can see that he was a leader by example. I asked him why such a Zen-guy would want to be a drill sergeant, and he explained that he just wanted to be the best soldier he could be.

“I guess I see a drill sergeant as a model soldier, so aspiring to that forced me to be as focused as I could be. You’re in front of everyone and they’re just waiting for you to screw up — it’s motivation to work even harder and do my best.”

Busen (right) running on a track. He says that long distances only require a commitment to "continual forward progress."

Busen backs his drill sergeant persona down a decibel or two when he helps coach track and cross-country teams at his local high school and junior high.

“It’s been one of the most rewarding experiences, to help kids learn to love running. I hope I inspire them to run their best. They definitely inspire me.”

The “Get Out” blog will feature some of Jared Busen’s own race recaps in upcoming posts. Until then, I’d encourage you to check out his blog at www.runhappens.com or find him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/runhappens?ref=ts.

Jared is currently training for the Badgerland 24-Hour Track Ultra-Marathon and hopes to complete 130-plus miles. He is running this race in support of the Wounded Warrior Project and has set a goal of raising $5,000 to support our military heroes. Please consider making a donation — either a one-time amount or by-the-mile — for this honorable cause. Visit http://tinyurl.com/WWPJaredBusen to make a donation or for more information.

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