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Title:Mary Gorski's recap of the inaugural (2007) Mad City 100K Road Race
Date:Saturday April 7th, 2007
Author:UltraRunner- Mary Gorski
[Default Report Image]"You want to do WHAT?"

"You are going to run 100K on THE ROADS?"

"Are you CRAZY?"

These are the phrases that frequently passed from the mouths of my friends -- including some of my good running buddies -- to the insides of my ears. Thankfully, there is a great hollowness between those ears, so usually such phrases generally floated in one ear and right out the other. Looking ahead to the Mad City 100K, I kept thinking, "Wow, this is going to be an interesting adventure."

Yet, every once in awhile, the words lingered in my head a bit longer and I wondered, was I indeed delusional? I had never run more than 50K on roads. Was running twice that distance, in the midst of a national championship race, really a good idea for me?

But thankfully, the wind would blow (what great preparation for Saturday!), taking with it those doubtful thoughts. I continued to bumble along, looking forward to the 100K, checking the website daily to see who else had signed up, happy when, every once in awhile, a mid-pack runner, such as myself, popped up on the screen.

Mad City was a race with three components. First, it was the national championship 100K. Elite runners would have the opportunity to qualify for the USA 100K team that would compete at the world championships. Though coming in the top three wasn't enough -- the elites also had to make a qualifying time. Being world-class isn't easy stuff!

The race also welcomed mid-packers, such as myself, to do the race. The 13-hour time limit was generous enough to allow many people who aren't Team USA material to traverse the course and see first-hand what 100K on pavement feels like (if you couldn't be there and still want to know, have someone beat the bottoms of both of your feet with hammers for a few hours -- a good simulation).

And then there were the relay teams. Some thought that the speedsters would be a distraction to the solo runners. I can say that they definitely were -- a POSITIVE distraction. The coral of relay runners waiting their turn at the start-finish area did double-duty as event cheerleaders, screaming the names of solo runners as they went by, yelling encouragement. On the course they continued to cheer and encourage the 100K runners. By the time I was on my last loop, the teams had pretty much finished their day and I missed them. Great idea to add them to the event -- though, I am not speaking as one of the elites. It would be interesting to get their take on the relays.

So, why DID I feel compelled to do the 100K? I knew that I would be lapped, I knew it would be hard, I knew the time of year would make it tough for me to properly prepare.
The best answer I can give is the old Edmund Hillary line. When asked why he climbed Mt. Everest he said simply, "Because it is there." Or at least this is what I told race director Timo Yanacheck. Why was I doing the 100K? Although its primary purpose was to serve as a national championship race, for me it was an opportunity to try a new challenge. As soon as I heard chatter about it, it was something that I wanted to do. I don't know if can I nail down precisely why it interested me other than "because it was there." It simply appealed to me. Maybe it was the opportunity to be on the same race venue as the top people in our sport -- like taking my Saturn and driving it with the top guns at the Daytona 500.

But there was also the personal challenge. Many of us mid-pack ultra runners fall into the comfortable plod of an easy Saturday morning run on the trails (as my running buddy Jim says, "a hike and a picnic") and start to lose ambition to move much beyond our comfort level. Could I push myself to plod a bit faster, for 100 kilometers, on pavement? Could I come to the end of a loop, and go out and do it again, and again, and again, and again... ten times in all? Although I have had my share of physical injuries, it is usually my head that goes before my body in a long race. Could I struggle through the inevitable tough sections and keep the bigger goal of finishing before me? When I come in on loop six -- 60 kilometers into the race -- could I convince myself that there really is a good reason to go on and do four more loops? Would that chocolate Easter bunny, hung before me like the proverbial carrot, pull me to the full 100K? Would I have a death and resurrection experience the day before Easter? Perhaps going through my own would make the Easter celebrations a bit more meaningful the next day. Or at least take the guilt out of eating more than just the ears on my chocolate bunny.

So, on a cold and windy day in April, I bundled up and toed the line at Vilas Park in Madison. What a thrill to be there with the best in our sport. What a thrill to share the same course as them. What a thrill to do what they were going to do... albeit a bit slower.

I gave the L'il Mister a basic race plan. My goal was to break 11 hours. I thought that I'd go out a bit quick the first loop and then back off to average about an hour per loop the first 50K. This would give me an hour of cushion in the second 50K to allow for the inevitable deterioration. Somehow, I nailed it. I did the first 50K in five hours and was still feeling okay. Tired, but okay. It was hard, but it was as hard as I envisioned it would be. I knew this wasn't going to be a pleasant trot through the woods. No hike and a picnic.

As the laps went on, I was sad to see some of my friends have a tough time, dropping for one reason or another. Stomachs rebelled. Feet rebelled. For some, the pavement was just too brutal. I was grateful not only to be following my hoped-for plan for the day, but also to simply be surviving a tough event.

The 10K loop seemed like an ideal distance to me. It wasn't so short that you got dizzy, but it was short enough that you came to the start-finish area on a regular basis. What a great spectator race -- and what great spectators. I was so grateful to see many TPs and Striders out there volunteering and cheering.

Weather was a big factor for everyone -- including event organizers. Tents blew to shreds. Water in cups turned to ice. Volunteers turned to ice (except for John Rodee, who I understand stood a bit too close to a heater and managed to melt his clothes to his back -- got to get more details on that one!). My preferred Perpetum turned to ice.

At the start line, I had mountaineering clothes on until the last minute. Giving up my down jacket and wind pants was like handing off the last life preserver on the Titantic. The biting wind, blowing right off the lake, blew through my tights as if they weren't even there.

"I did ski races this winter in warmer temps" I said to a competitor next to me. From the back I heard another say, "and I did some with less snow than this too!" Northern Wisconsin received over a foot of snow in recent days, but thankfully, there was only a dusting in the southern sections. It was going to be the single-digit windchills that would make us suffer.

Well, that and 100 kilometers on pavement. Let's be real, you can always bundle up for cold weather, but you can't always run 100 kilometers!

So let me bring this rambling to an end. The top finishers have already been noted in previous reports so I won't go into the competitive part of the event. I'm sure that Timo and others can give a better RACE report (but many congrats to the top dogs, especially locals Ann Heaslett, Carolyn Smith and Kevin Setnes). As for my own personal little event -- the "The Maddening Mad City Mid-pack Runner's Road 100K" -- I'm happy to say that I met my goal and came in under 11 hours (10:55 or so).

And better yet -- no injuries that I am aware of (beyond a road map of red streaks across my body from seam-chaffing). Although, I do have that "I just ran my first marathon" feeling in my legs. Grandma and I will have a nice pace together when we go for our Easter walk.

Speaking of Easter -- the sun has risen (Alleluia!) so it is time to go and eat that chocolate bunny. ALL of it!

Happy trails... and roads!


Mary Gorski
[email protected]
Milwaukee, WI  Go there or Go there in new browser
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Posted:April 9th, 2007 10:00 am
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