Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Big Year

My name is Daniel. Danners to some. Don't ask. I will cut straight to the point and make the statement that I am a runner. A slow, mediocre runner. I used to be the furthest thing from a runner but that is a story for another time, perhaps to be told if this little self indulgent project is of any interest to anyone and continues.The purpose of this exercise is selfish. Mainly I want to record, for myself, an account, as it happens, of my 2017, mostly focusing on running events I will be participating in. This is nothing novel since every other ultrarunner out there has a blog filled with race reports and rambling essays on the understanding of the meaning of life that only running a ridiculous number of miles with give you. This may sounds dismissive but I love reading running blogs so there you go. Here's another one but this one is mine.
So, if you're still with me, here's the deal. I've got a ridiculous race schedule lined up for this year. Its audacious, bold, and probably really, really stupid. I'm going to try it anyway because the chance of failure makes finishing so much better.

Winter Races

 Last year I tried the Tuscobia 150 (which now is really 160 miles) and quit at the half way point. I vowed to return to get and redemption but also because, despite giving up, I had a great time and really enjoyed it. To get into this race you just sign up and you're in. More on this one later since it is coming up in a matter of days.
The next race is one of the best known and prestigious on the winter calendar (no slight to Tuscobia which is fantastic). You have to send in a paper application which requires you to justify why you should be allowed into the race. This race is the Arrowhead 135 and I got in. Similar to Tusciobia, it is shorter in distance but usually colder, more remote and more elevation change. It takes place 3 weeks after Tuscobia so finishing both would be a huge accomplishment.
I went back and forth on whether I should sign up for the next race or not. There seems to be a tendency in the ulrarunning world to "bundle" races into a series and reward the completion of all the races in that series. The winter race version of that is known as the Order of the Hrimthurs. Apparently it has something to do with frost giants. The Actif Epica is a point to point race that finishes in Winnipeg, Manitoba. If, after completing Tuscobia and Arrowhead, I finished this 100 mile race, I would be entered into this order. I talked to a guy at a race this fall about being signed up for Tuscobia and getting into Arrowhead. He immediately said, "Well, you have to sign up for Actif Epica now." So I did.
The beginning of the calendar looks like this:

Tuscobia 160  Rice Lake, WI   January 6
Arrowhead 135  International Falls, MN  January 30
Actif Epica  Winnipeg, Manitoba   February 18

Summer Races

I have had the worst luck with race lotteries. I was around 0 for 10 in them. Some races have become so popular that they hold drawings to see who get in. The 2 big lotteries in the ultrarunning are held for the Hardrock 100 and the Western States 100, which is the original 100 miles race in the US. This year was the third time I have entered the Western States lottery. Finally, my name was announced. I am in this year. The race takes place in late June, so I will have plenty of time to recover train after my early races.
Once again, a race series comes into play with my scheduling. A series known as the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, which consists of the 4 oldest 100 miles races in the US. Getting into Western States is the key attempting to complete the Grand Slam. I got into Western States, so I had a decision. Do I go for the Slam? Last summer I ran 5 hundreds for the Midwestern Slam and had a tough time with so many races in such a short time, so I was worried that I could do this. But then, when I would have another chance at this? I'm surely not getting any younger. So, I'm going for it. Here is the remaining schedule:

Western States  Squaw Valley, CA  June 24
Vermont 100  West Windsor, VT  July 15
Leadville 100   Leadville, CO  August 19
Wasatch Front 100    Salt Lake City, UT  September 8

It has only been a few weeks since my schedule has been set so there has not been that much time to think about it. When I do consider it, I am not sure I have any business trying to do this. The first race is coming up in 3 days as I write this. I feel unprepared. I always do.

Tuscobia 160

Tuscobia is an out and back course, 80 miles out to Park Falls and then you turn around and go back. Participants have 65 hours to do this. The first stop is 44 miles in and then it is another 36 before turning around. There is a required gear list since it could be hours before anyone could help you if there was any trouble. Pulling a sled is the usual method of transporting all this gear and food, which for me comes out to around 30 pounds. There are three divisions of the race: bike, ski and foot. I will be doing this on foot, of course. The trail is generally flat and used by snowmobiles so the footing should not be too bad (no snowshoes required).
Last year I made it to Park Falls in 26 hours and 30 minutes. This included an hour stop at the one checkpoint in between to get some hot food and change socks. The final 4 or 5 hours into Park Falls were tough due to my overwhelming desire to sleep. I had no caffeine to help and was fighting hard to stay awake and keep moving. This contributed to my decision to say 80 miles was enough that day. The other was the condition of my feet, which looking back was not too bad. There were some blisters but I've since dealt with much worse. The main thing that happens to me is that I do the math, as an engineer is required to do. I am constantly calculating. If I move at X rate I will be to Y in this amount of time. These amounts of time were just unbearable at the turn around and I flat out quit. I couldn't face the 12 or so hours it would take to get back to the next checkpoint. I'm not sure if I would have finished if I kept going. There were 23 starters and only 4 finishers so I wasn't alone.
This is my chance to get some redemption at one of the 3 races I have not finished. I'm looking forward to it but feeling a bit unprepared. I made myself take several weeks off in October since I was just making any progress recovering from last summer's races. The holidays came shortly after that and I did get some decent miles in here and there but nothing like I feel I needed. Then again, I always feel like this before a race and they generally turn out fine. I just need to be able to keep moving, however long it takes. The topic of needing patience in ultras is probably a future blog topic but it is something I have been trying to work on and will definitely need this weekend. Last year I was reasonably terrified going into a race with so many unknowns. This year, I know much more and, because of that, I am not feeling any less scared. So be it. Once I get out there, I'll tell myself to have fun and do the best I can. That is the point after all.

The initial plan for this blog is to at least preview and then recap each race. I'll try to get some training updates and maybe even some of those rambling runner philosophical rants here and there. You've got your Tuscobia preview. I'll recap it when I have the strength, hopefully with some pictures, video, etc. Thanks for stopping by.


  1. Great blog Dan! Good luck this weekend

  2. I'm reading, too. Good luck!

  3. Nice start Dan. Good luck this weekend

  4. Good luck! Be careful with the macaroni so you don't end up crying like that guy with spaghetti falling out of his pockets. :)

    1. You'll be the first to know if it does happen.