100 miler number 4 to complete the Midwest Grandslam. All I had to do was finish it. I think going in I was a little cocky, but at the same time cautious of what could happen. Everything that led up to this final race was going well. The weather forecast was again looking great. I had more or less lucked out with the weather in all the races so far, except maybe Burning River, and this looked like no exception. The weather prior to, had been dry, so there would be no mud and the temperatures were forecast to be warm during the day and cool at night. The one thing that was bothering me beforehand was the easy going manner I took in approaching this race. The other races I had studied, prepared and had everything covered for whatever may happen. For Hallucination I packed my stuff late and more or less winged it. It was described as the easiest of the 4 races and I think that got me to react the way I did. So we left Barrie a little late and headed down the 400 to meet up with Gary (one of my pacer’s from Montreal) and Ryan (one of Adam Pratt’s pacers who we’d offered to drive down). We met up with everyone and packed everything into Gary’s Xterra and off we went. A stop in London for dinner and then to Brighton, Michigan and our hotel.
One aspect of this race I liked was that I didn’t have to get up early! A 4pm start meant lounging around for most of the day and sleeping in. Unfortunately the natural alarm clock had me awake before 7 am as usual. But we were still able to relax and take it easy before heading down to Hell for the race. We arrived just before noon when the registration would start. I wanted to get a good spot for our tent so figured I had to get there early enough. Oliver (my other pacer) met us there as we walked in. Chris Battaglia was in line already. I knew Chris was running, but I had no idea that he was running the 100 mile race. So I got my race kit and goodie bag. A nice bunch of swag indeed. At some point Gary decided that maybe he would sign up and run the whole thing. He was keen to run as much as possible as my pacer and this way he could run the entire 100 miles.
Now it was time to sit back and relax for the next couple of hours prior to the pre-race meeting at 3.
The meeting made a point of identifying and celebrating the Midwest Grandslam runners which was a nice touch again. We then took some picture and it was then time to race.
I was looking at running the first lap or two in about 3 hours and see what would happen from there. Unsure what would happen in the darkness. We set off and turned my left ankle with in a kilometer of starting, this was worrisome, but we were soon running with Adam and Bryce Carlson. They were setting a decent pace and I thought that maybe it may be a bit too quick, but Gary pushed it up a notch and we left Bryce and Adam behind. My ankle was relegated to an afterthought, but would remind me every now and again that it was not 100%. I went with the flow, but in the back of my mind I was thinking that this may back fire. I think Gary was on a mission to prove the doubters wrong after his experience at WSER this year. He was running well.
Overall the entire course was very runnable, some single track, some double track, tow path, about a mile or so of road and some nice trails. A 16.7 mile loop done 6 times was the 100 mile course. We started with the 100k runners who have a short cut part way through. The rest of the races would begin on Saturday, including Joan’s 50 mile race.
Initially we seemed to be running about 40 minutes between aid stations, which was quicker than anticipated. We finished the first loop in 2 hours and 40 minutes and I stopped to fill up my pack and replenish anything else I need as a well as having a shake. We were out pretty quick again and headed out to the woods. We took headlamps and a handheld flashlight for back up. Before heading back out I had to take a bathroom break and Gary left walking and I would catch up. I ran the entire trail to the tow path before getting a glimpse of him and it took me most of the tow path to catch up. We were still on a good pace at this point and went through the first aid station onto the road about 5 minutes slower than the first loop. This would put us on a 3 hour pace per loop, a bit more manageable! We walked a bit more in the following loops, naturally and finished the second loop in 3 and a half hours. I realized after the fact that I was taking too much time at the start/finish area and it probably cost me a good half hour or more. The third loop would be the first loop entirely in darkness and for some reason we struggled to stay on our feet. Oliver joined us for this loop as my official pacer and it was nice to have another person to talk too. It changed our whole outlook on how things were going. Between the first aid station and the half way mark I fell 4 times and turned my left ankle again 4 times. Each time was not too serious, but enough to remind me that may be I was a little tired. Gary was also having his troubles staying on his feet, Oliver was stumbling here and there, but was able to stay upright. I fell one more time before getting to the end of the loop, but again without any damage. With the dry sandy, dusty conditions we were filthy and a change of shirts was required for me. We finished the third loop in almost 4 hours and took more than enough time in transition before getting out again.
Oliver would follow us out again for his final pacing loop. If we had a good loop here we might catch Joan and the girls on their first loop as they started at 6 am. I didn’t think we’d catch Joan, but thought we might catch Cindy and the Karens. As it turned out this was slower than expected loop as we took 4 and a half hours and finished the loop as it was light. Changing head lamps for that loop seemed to make a big difference as there was no falling for any of us that time. A lot more walking slowed us down significantly and although we figured the daylight would lift us, I felt that we were just getting tired.
We came into the start/finish area and saw Cindy and the Karens at the tent getting ready to go out again, we refueled changed again and headed back out. I was thinking that We might catch Joan on this loop. She had a great first loop in running 3:50. We left on the fifth loop with a little trepidation. I wasn’t looking forward to another two loops at all.
Surprisingly we ran very well on this loop, we walked part of the tow path and part of the road, but continued to run well on the trails. The daylight had its effect on us and we were running well again. As it turned out the 5th loop would feel like one of the best as we finished as well as we started it, although we never saw Joan! I assumed she was still running well and was still ahead of us. We finished that loop in 3 hours and 55 minutes, not quite as quick as we thought, but not bad at this point in the race. During the 5th loop it had tried to rain a bit too, probably for about half an hour. It felt nice, but not enough to wash the grime off of us. But generally it stayed cloudy which was also a welcome relief as I was expecting it to put sunny and much warmer.
After a “quick” refueling at the start area we headed back out, but it was becoming difficult now. I think we had spent too much energy on the fifth loop and seemed to have nothing left now. We ran what we could, but walked a lot. We had got lucky up to this point with the weather as it had been mostly overcast in the morning, so not as hot as it was predicted to be and on this final loop we had a bit of rain start. It only really rained or about half an hour , but enough to feel refreshing. It helped us keep running which we did on the flats and the downhill’s. The closer we got to the finish I thought it would kick in a drive to run to the end, but that took a lot longer than expected too. We passed the last aid station and the thoughts were weather or not we could get finished in under 23 hours, which had become my goal. With 4 miles to go I really didn’t think we had a chance as we were both very tired and didn’t have a lot left. We would, walk and run, walk and run, but it didn’t seem very efficient. It wasn’t until we were within a mile or two that I thought that we had it and I started to push the pace a bit more, Gary was struggling to keep up now, but I wasn’t going to finish without him. He had got me this far. With the last couple of turns to go I knew we would beat 23 hours easily and finally finished in 22 hours and 44 minutes. A personal best for both of us. We finished together and both got 3rd in our age groups and 17th and 18th place overall.
Out of 180+ starters in the 100 there were only 93 finishers. Hard to believe in almost perfect conditions, but I believe it has a lot to do with the 4 pm start time.
Over all this was a decent event, but some of the organization was not the best. The aid stations were not great, poor selection of food. Having a mountain bike event on the same trails we were running was absolutely crazy and I’d be surprised if no one got hurt. The bikers were completely inconsiderate to the runners and reckless out there.
Otherwise I was happy for my result and extremely happy to be one of the 14 finishers of this year’s Midwest Grandslam. I was also the first Canadian to finish the slam and finished 5th overall in the standings with a time of just over 100 hours in total.
My reflections on the Midwest Grandslam? Something I am very proud to say I competed in and completed. I met some great people in the slam and I am sure I will run into them again at races across the continent. As usual I got to race in places and see places that I would probably never see if it hadn’t been for running.
What next? No idea, I’ve had too much focus on the completing the Slam that what happens next has not been in my vocabulary, but… I will sign up for the Western States 100 lottery, I’m also signed up for the Vermont 50 miler in a couple of weeks, no thanks to Gary for that!!!
Goodbye Lobster - Jim Milton, aka Lobster and Smokey. My friend. I will miss you. R.I.P.
2 weeks ago