THE PURPOSE . . . August 5, 2010Posted by whereschrisscotch in Uncategorized.
add a comment The original intention of Where’s Chris Scotch was to support Katelyn Atwell, who can teach us all quite a bit about perseverance and dreaming big, in her quest to raise $3 million for St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Where’s Chris Scotch was originally designed as a fundraising effort, in which I would run 3 marathons and and ask for donations in support of St. Jude. As a non-runner, this was an extremely ambitious goal, but I soon found myself trying Ultra distances (ultra distance = longer than a marathon, 26.2 miles), of which I have now completed 27 from June 2010 to September 2012. Katelyn was the original source of inspiration for what has become a series of decisions and choices that have drastically changed my life. Since the seemingly chance encounter we had in February 2009 , not only have I become a runner, but in the course of my fundraising campaign I have picked up new skills, learned more about what makes me hum along in this thing called life, and met wonderful new friends, including my running partner for life, Helen. We have since moved to California, another thing I never thought would happen, and we are enjoying life to the fullest with our dog, Cooper (and as of October 2012, Juneau), in the northern California Bay Area. Funny how a little chance encounter was the catalyst for so much happiness and joy.
While I am no longer soliciting donations for St. Jude Children’s Hospital, I strongly encourage you to consider St. Jude if you are inclined to make charitable contributions. Their groundbreaking, and lifesaving, research was literally the difference between life and death for Katelyn, many other children in the past, as well as many more to come in the future.
Thank you for your support,
To follow my campaign for Katelyn and St. Jude on Facebook, go here – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wheres-Chris-Scotch/116601038374419
The Winter of 2012/2013 – The Quest for the Order of the Hrimthurs.
- 2 Months, 1 week and 5 days. December 24 to March 8
- 12,000 miles – on the Jeep, not my legs.
- Co-Directed one Winter Ultra - Tuscobia Winter Ultra
- Completed Four Winter Ultras:
- Entered The Order of the Hrimthurs
- Just hours after Dark entered the Order. How cool is it that my dad entered The Order? And he didn’t just finish the three races, but won Tuscobia and Arrowhead in the Ski divisions. I am still coping with the fact that an old man, my old man, kicked my arse this winter. Congrats also to bikers Hal Lowen, Dan Lockery and Alex Oenes for entering The Order.
- Followed Roberto Marron via Facebook updates as he becomes the first person to ever attempt, and complete, a Double Tuscobia Winter Ultra. 300 miles. Sick, with a ph.
- Skijored with Cooper and Juneau (to be honest, with Cooper, and Juneau ran along behind)
- Fat Biked – Snowbound in the Underdown
- Slept in various types of accommodations ranging from the Jeep, the side of snow covered trail, a snow covered lean-to on the side of a snow covered trail and temps of -35 degrees F, a Bed and Breakfast, 4 star hotel, 1 star shit box, friends couch, rental house with a hot tub, in a shack with no plumbing or electricity, with relatives, and with my parents.
- Was able to witness Hell freezing over – Twice! First freeze: Helen ran not one but two Winter Ultras – Triple D, and then another at Actif Epica. Of course she won Triple D and tied for the win at AE. And the second freeze: for the first time ever she didn’t beat me at a race – we tied. (San Juan Solstice and Voyageur 50 Miles notwithstanding as she was just babysitting me to those finishes).
- Went to a Colorado Avalanche game.
- Snowboarded at Vail (with Ang); Snowbird (with …..Cheryl and Flo took Noah to Solitude, but we had a nice couple days of visiting), and four days at Mt. Bachelor and one backcountry day on Tumalo Mountain with Bink. The best snow and weather of the three states was Oregon, for those of you wondering. Going backcountry was scary amazing fun. Earning your turns and your beers always feel great.
- Taste-tested a good chunk of the 20 breweries in Bend and Sunriver. 10 Barrel Brewing Company gets my vote. Or whatever brewery I am located in at the time. The Mac-n-Cheese at Sunriver Brewing Company, with the addition of the in-house smoked steelhead, is well worth the $20.
- Visited with family, relatives and friends in five states and one province.
The Midwest is a great place, mostly because of our friends and family, but also because of the natural beauty of the landscape and the seasons. Having the chance to see and catch up with friends and family was soooo good. And being able to experience winter is something I know I can no longer take for granted.
Being able to spend a few weeks with my parents, and the home cooking, was really cool. It has been a long time since I last lived with them. Good times, even if they were plotting to keep our dogs forever.
The hardest single in-race moment to entering The Order of the Hrimthurs came at mile 120 of the first race – Tuscobia. The Winter checkpoint. I more or less collapsed on the floor, sleep deprived and in a fair amount of physical discomfort. I needed about 5 hours to gather myself for the final 30 mile push. The 33 mile stretch from Birchwood to Winter might somehow be the most difficult section in either Tuscobia or Arrowhead. It is a bit of a mystery why this is true, but it is.
I love road-tripping. Cooper and Juneau are fantastic travel buddies.
I owe a huge thanks to Lynn and Daryl Saari for their medical opinions and expert foot work at Fortune Bay. And also to Daryl for his sled, even if it did pull like a giant frozen buffalo chip.
Completing a Double Arrowhead ( Arrowhead 135 Double ) is a culmination of a project a couple years in the making, yet only the first half of the master plan for 2013.
A couple of the places that helped me prepare, unwind or otherwise made my time alone a bit more meaningful: High Point Village at Timm’s Hill; the Shack; Melgeorge’s Resort; The Comet Theatre and Carol Carlson (Sat Nom Kaur)
I need to snowboard more. Being at the top of a snow covered mountain strapped to a piece of wood elicits a spiritual connection to the earth that I crave more of.
As a Race Director, fellow competitor and a fellow spirit in nature, being able to witness others’ efforts and triumphs gives me immense joy. Often times more joy than in my own accomplishments. And also as a son. I am really proud of the accomplishments Dark made this winter, and the sacrifices and support he received from my mom. It is always a team effort and they make a good team. I am also quite proud of Helen for dipping her toes in the frozen waters of Winter Ultras. I know she has the toughness to excel in these conditions and events, should she so choose.
Canucks make everything more fun – and chances are you won’t go hungry or thirsty when they are around. And if you go to visit them, you will always have a place to stay.
It was a busy, and fulfilling, winter. But it is nice to be “home.” And while I do miss winter as it continues to be cold and snowy in many of the places visited in the past couple months, as well as our friends and family back in the Midwest, there is something to be said about sleeping in your own bed and seeing your best friend every day. It is very nice to be home indeed.
Hey, remember me?? FANS 24 looms June 1, 2012Posted by whereschrisscotch in Races/Events Schedule.
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I won’t even apologize – it has been too long since I last blogged. Mea culpe. There will be some changes coming to the Where’s Chris Scotch campaign, so look for those in the near future. Along with some updates of some great races and awesome places I have been lucky enough to run. Also, for the foreseeable future, most of my time will be spent in California. Helen and I move into our rental house on Monday in Los Gatos. Lots of change going on with me recently. Change is good. Looking forward to what life has in store for us!
I am going to take a crack at something new tomorrow at FANS 24. It may turn out to be one helluva way to gain insight into the mind of a hamster while on his wheel. FANS is a 24 hour race on a 2.4 mile path around Lake Nokomis. Run as many laps as you can in 24 hours. Pretty simple. No forks in the trail, no markers to follow, no packs to carry. Just run, run, run for 24 hours. And it is for a good cause, which is always nice.
FANS 24 has been on my radar since last year, when Helen and I volunteered and watched part of the race. The loop is a 2.4 mile paved path. I don’t particularly like running in circles, and despise running on pavement, but I convinced myself that two wrongs might make a right this time. (and I can run in the grass next to the path for a majority of the loop).
If you are local, come out and watch the race. Bring your run shoes and do a lap or few with me. Or look for the Fitsok http://www.fitsok.com/ tent and stop by to chat with Helen. There will be some great racing going on, as this is the last race for people to qualify for the US National 24 hour team. And sometime random people show up to watch – Scott Jurek made an appearance last year.
I also have a bit of inspiration propelling me to do FANS. Michael Henze http://a-big-horse.blogspot.com/ . You might say I have a man-crush of sorts. Or perhaps more accurate, a Clydesdale crush. Yes Clydesdale – You know, the 200+ pound division some races offer so the fat kids can say they placed in the top ten in their class (if there are even ten entrants - it seems running and cycling competitors are a bit heavy on the skinny side). I am bigger than your average bear, weighing somewhere around 220 pounds. I have joked for years (starting back when I mountain biked) that I am going to have a race shirt made that says “Skinny People Suck.” It just gets frustrating sometimes seeing tiny little bird legs flying by me on the trail. I wonder how fast they would be if they had to carry my weight around?? A totally rhetorical question, as I know all I have to do it train more and eat less, but logic gets lost sometimes. That all being said, Michael will run FANS 24 this weekend tipping the scales north of 200 pounds. But don’t think he is soft. He puts in more training miles than anyone I know. And he is fully capable of running more than 142 miles, which will put him on the US National 24 Hour team for a second time. Yup – as a Clydesdale, Michael is one of the premier 24 hour racers in the country. So it gives me hope, that with enough dedication, hard work and training, that I might someday be able to run fast. Or far. Or maybe even both.
The FANS 12 & 24 Hour Run supports the FANS Scholarship Fund. FANS, which stands for Furthering Achievement through a Network of Support, is a program of Pillsbury United Communities (PUC) in Minneapolis, Minnesota. PUC initiated the FANS project in 1989 with a group of sixth-grade students from North and South Minneapolis. The Project has a vision of sending inner-city kids to college or to another post-secondary institution. FANS works with the youth and their families in a wide variety of activities geared to providing support for the vision.
Tuscobia Winter Ultra November 28, 2011Posted by whereschrisscotch in Races/Events Schedule.
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Again, I am behind on my race recaps and running adventures. Seems I am too busy out doing to sit down and write about – and that is always a good thing!
Part of what has been keeping me (and Helen) very busy the past week or so, is resurrecting the famed Tuscobia 150/75/50k.
Tim Roe created this event and grew it over the two years he directed. He is on to a good thing, but sadly he decided to pull the plug about a month before the event. Helen and I have decided to pick it up and see if we can make Tim proud. I will be running the 150 and Helen will be making sure everyone is having a good time. Check out the website, sign up, volunteer or just come watch!
2011 Sawtooth 100 – Recap September 12, 2011Posted by whereschrisscotch in Races/Events - Recaps, Uncategorized.
“The important thing in life is not victory but combat; it is not to have vanquished but to have fought well.
The most important thing. . . is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.” Pierre de Coubertin
I didn’t complete the 2011 edition of the Sawtooth 100. I dropped at the Cramer Road aid station, mile 77 of the race. And while the goal was to finish, and to improve on my time from last year, I don’t have any regrets about my decision to drop. I left everything I had on the course. I have spent the last 2 days trying to learn from my failure, but I can’t point to any one thing that I did wrong. But there are lessons to be learned and I will take them forward. And knowing I gave all I had will suffice for the time being.
Helen volunteered at the Split Rock and Tettagouche while also crewing for me as her volunteer duties allowed. After I passed through Tettagouche at mile 34 we decided to have her start pacing me at County Road 6, mile 43, instead of at Finland, mile 50. I was a behind last year’s pace, and my goal for this year, by a couple hours, but neither of us were too worried about things. Going into the race my plan was to take things slow for the first half to three-quarters of the race. I slowed things down even more when it became evident even before the race started that it was going to be very hot during the day. Temperatures ended up approaching 90 degrees on Friday.
I realized that things had turned a bit sour on the 9.4 mile section between Crosby Manitou and Sugarloaf. It took over 4 hours to do this section, roughly 2 miles per hour, and this included running the the last 2 miles of this section as fast as I could. I came into Sugarloaf, mile 72, knowing that the end was near and that I wouldn’t be able to finish the race. Even if I would press on the clock would eventually hit 38 hours and I would be swept from the course. Helen has seen me at my worst moment in a race, at the Arrowhead 135 in February, and I don’t think she believed I was finished with Sawthooth just yet. She rationalized, cajoled, threatened and baited me to just go one more section to the Cramer Road aid station. Only 5.7 miles. I resisted every attempt she made, but eventually with the help of Jen Pierce, Vicky Begalle and Nancy Griffith they got me on my feet and back on the trail. I am glad we decided to do this section. While there were certainly some tough moments and some slow parts, we ran a fair amount of this section and I truly enjoyed the last couple miles of this journey with Helen. We ran into Cramer Road and I felt a strange mix of emotions. I knew I was done, but I was at peace with my decision. Of course Helen wanted to make sure and she did a thorough job of rallying me for “just one more section” but I think she could hear it in my voice that I just couldn’t do it and she allowed me to turn in my timing chip. The heat, blisters, cramps and fatigue had finally taken thier toll and gotten the best of me. For this year, Sawtooth had beaten me into submission. We’ll see what the future holds for the two of us the next time we dance.
I was happy to see so many friends, old and new, reach the finish line. Jason LaPlant, Jason Husveth, Edward Sandor, Jordan Hanlon, Ben Bruce, Aaron Buffington, Roberto Marron, Zach Pierce, Scott Mark and everyone else that finished. I reveled in seeing your faces as you crossed the finish line. Congrats to you all and to everyone that finished. And to those I didn’t see finish because you are sooo damn fast – John Horns (winner of the 100 mile), Adam Schwartz-Lowe (second place), Chris Hansen, Pat Susnik, Christopher Martin, Julie Treder, congrats to you as well. And to the unnamed runners that I spent time with – I enjoyed the moments we shared on the trail, however brief they may have been.
Thanks to the race organizers, volunteers and aid station workers. This group of people make this event not just possible, but special. For anyone even considering taking part in this event – Just Do It. In some capacity, if not a runner, as a volunteer. You won’t regret your decision. This event stacks up against any ultra event in the world, if not for the toughness of the trail, for the commradery of its participants and volunteers.
I would like to especially thank the following people:
Joi Electa for coming out to support me during the race. Joi doesn’t know this, but she has had a hand in fueling my love of the North Shore and all its beauty. Check out some of her pictures and paintings – http://joi-electa.artistwebsites.com/?tab=artwork
Jen Pierce, Vicky Begalle and Nancy Griffith – these three provided just the right combination of cookies (Nancy), medical supplies (Jen and Vicky) encouragement (all of them) and ass-kicking (all of them) to help Helen get me back on the trail for the last 5.7 miles I ran this weekend. I apologize for my disgruntled and obtuse behavior, and I thank you for getting me back out there.
And finally, I want to thank Helen. She never ceases to amaze me. As if volunteering at two aid stations weren’t enough, only weeks after she ran the Leadville 100 she spent 14 hours on the brutal Superior Hiking Trail making sure I got as far as I did. We laughed often, enjoyed the beauty of the North Shore under a full moon, gleefully watched an amazing Lake Superior sunrise and shared conversations I know we will both always look back at fondly.
Racing, Pacing, Crewing and Doing….. September 8, 2011Posted by whereschrisscotch in Uncategorized.
I am seriously delinquent on updates….and after this weekend I will be even further behind. I leave tonight for the Sawtooth 100,
I will add the Sawtooth recap to the ever growing list:
Crewing for Divesh at Badwater 135 in Death Valley
Wasatch Relay 142 Mile
Voyageur 50 Mile
Crewing and Pacing for Helen at the Leadville 100 Trail Run
Things have been a bit hectic this summer. Changed jobs, crewed some awesome races and found a little time for myself to run a bit. I am looking forward to returning to the Superior Hiking Trail (can’t believe we haven’t been up there even once yet this summer) and the Sawtooth 100. This was my first 100 last year, and it remains my favorite of the races I have run. The trail is tough as nails and the event is epic. But better than those, the people and atmosphere are amazing.
See you on the other side of 102.7 miles -
Black Hills 100k – Recap June 30, 2011Posted by whereschrisscotch in Uncategorized.
The Black Hills 100 tried to kill me. At least I think it did.
All three distances started together at the same time, the 50 mile, 100k and 100 mile, about 160 racers total. Before the start Helen and I got a chance to chat with the other local runners and snap a few pics. Daryl Saari (100 Mile), Brian Peterson (1ook), Adam Schwartz-Lowe (100 Mile), Paul Holovnia (100 Mile) and John Horns (100k) who I had previously never met. Minnesota and TC Running Co certainly represented, with John, Brian and Helen placing 1,2, 3 respectively in the 100k. And Adam took first in the 100 Mile. And Daryl is flat out an animal – this is his third 100 Mile in 4 weeks, having just come off of Big Horn 100 the week before and the Kettle 100 2 weeks prior. It is sort of fun to hang around great runners like these folks! Guess you could call me the groupie.
The race started on the track at Woodle Field in Sturgis. One quick loop around the track and we were on to the bike path that leads out towards the Centennial Trail and 30 miles out, and 30 miles back, of good, tough fun. The 100k course has nearly 11,000 feet of climbing and 11,000 feet of descending and not a lot of flat stretches where you can let it rip. The elevation at the start in Sturgis is about 3,400 feet and the course tops out just shy of 5,500 feet, with a majority of the course probably at 4,300 feet or higher. Not insane elevation, but enough for flat-landers to feel the burn. The terrain isn’t quite as technical as the Superior Hiking Trail, but definitely warrants you paying attention, especially on the downhill sections which have a lot of loose rocks of peculiar shapes and sizes. Five water crossing with ropes each way and a number of smaller creeks not needing ropes added a nice flavor, and wet feet to the race. But my how they felt good on the way back after hours of schweaty running. There were 4 manned aid stations each way and a couple of unmanned water stops thrown in. The weather felt warmer that it was, the temps somewhere in the low to mid 80′s, but in the direct sunlight it was hott!
My goals for the race were:
1) Have fun – check.
2) Don’t get injured – check
3) try to run close to even splits – no check. I haven’t seen the splits, but I think I arrived at the Mile 31 turn-around in 7:30, the return trip was 10:30
My total time was 17:57 – not a time I ever care to ever repeat in a 100k race, but meeting my first two goals makes the event a success. Looking back, I deserved all 18 hours hours I was on the course, especially the miles that were the toughest. I don’t think I ran 60 miles in the three weeks before the race combined. Maybe not even in four weeks. My heart, head and body didn’t feel much like running most of this spring and I didn’t force myself to do the training. There is some give and take here – I put a lot of race miles in the previous July – February and I needed some time to refresh. Other things have been occupying more of my brain and time as a result. So I didn’t train a lot and I paid the price with a long day, but the flip side is I met my overall goals for the race and I feel ready to keep the miles coming, both training and racing.
Special thanks to Lynn Saari, who was a guardian angel at the Mile 29 and Mile 33. The heat and the course were taking it toll on me and she talked me off the ledge a bit fueled me up with nutrition. Thanks!!
The Black Hills 100 tried to kill me. At least I think it did.
So the part most of you have been waiting for. Like how I put the “Clearance Items” at the back of the store so you have to wade through aisles of things you didn’t come for, in the hopes you would see something else you like? :)
How the Black Hills 100 tried to kill me:
1) Near Mile 50, around 7 pm. I have been running alone since the turn- around at Mile 31, nearly 5 hours. I recently started to feel better and was on a very runnable downhill slope and making good time. I typically don’t look too far down the trail, but for some reason I looked up and suddenly stopped dead in my tracks. It took a second for it to register and I was so caught off guard I didn’t have time to even be frightened, at first. About 40 yards ahead of me was a mountain lion. It was walking down the middle of the trail, away from me thankfully, with it long tail swinging back back and forth in a big “S”. After a couple of seconds it rounded a corner and was out of sight. Holy Crap!! I knew that mountain lions existed in these areas but the thought of seeing one never crossed my mind, especially after the pre-race meeting where we were told it would be nearly impossible that we would see one. It was much bigger than I expected it might be. A dark greyish-brown color. And it’s hind quarters where muscular. Holy Crap!!
About 6 miles back as I was leaving an aid station two other runners were just pulling in. I didn’t know how long they stopped, or if they dropped out of the race, but I now hoped they were close behind me. I called out “Heeelllllooooo” but there was no answer. I repeated a number of times for about a minute with the same result. I was now starting to get worried. All that I remembered about mountain lions is that you can’t run from them – it triggers some instinct to chase and they will catch you. Typically they kill be lunging onto their prey’s back and taking a chunk out of their neck. Just great – I am in a running race and now I have to figure out how to not run so the lion won’t rip my spine from my skull. The other thing that is supposed to keep a mountain lion from attacking is to “be big and loud.” Well, I have already been yelling, so all set there. I had an empty water bottle in my hand and decided to change it out for the full one in my water pack. What the hell, house cats don’t like being sprayed with water, so it will work on a Big Cat, right?? Now armed with a full water bottle I look for a stick and find one about two feet long and about 4 inches thick. The plan is when the lion jumps out to eat me I will raise my bottle-and-stick clad hands in the air and I will tell it to go to hell in my biggest meanest voice I can muster. If that doesn’t work I will spray that bastard with water and club it on the head. Sweet, I have it all figured out, nothing to worry about. All this planning and prep takes what seems like an eternity, but in reality was less than 5 minutes. I start walking slowly down the trail, scanning both sides of thick brush, and calling out “Heeeellllooooo”. Occasionally I stop and look behind me, hoping that I will see another runner approaching and that I won’t see the lion. This goes on for about 10 minutes, not exactly keeping my race pace, but what else am I going to do? I look back another time to scan the trail behind me and finally there is a runner approaching. Gregg Mentzel from Wyoming. He continues running until he is about 10 yards from me and realizing I am holding a big stick in my hand and likely a ghostly look on my face is probably wondering what I am going to do to him with it. I tell him I saw a mountain lion and describe the scenario for him. He isn’t all that excited about what I have seen, but we decide to get moving, when he reminds me that I don’t have to out run the lion, just him. I was just thinking about this fact, and how that wasn’t going to work out that well for me because I knew Gregg was running faster than me at this point…..Gregg took the lead and we headed off, both of us peering to the sides of the trail as we made our way. I think for the next couple hours the lion was on our minds, especially as a storm moved in and it started to get dark, making every grey stump in the forest look like the silhouette of the lion.
2) Near Mile 6, around 9:30 pm. It is dark and I don’t have a light. Greg has a small headlamp and I can see parts of the trail as I follow him. The storm is here and it is angry. We are leaving the forest and the lion behind, but not for greener pastures. Just pastures. A huge open area. The storm is in full force with high winds, heavy rain and lightning. Lots and lots of lightning. Gregg and I are the tallest objects by far and have at least a mile to go to reach the aid station. The lightning is surrounding 270 degrees of us and is frequent. It is hard to gauge how close the thunder is because the wind and the rain are so loud. We are moving as fast as we can to get to the aid station and I wonder if it would be better to turn off the trail and head for the forest to our left and wait it out. Nope, can’t do that, there is a mountain waiting for us there… It was one of the most terrifyingly beautiful things I have ever seen as the thick bolts of lightening flash all around us, vividly lighting up the dark sky. Gregg tells me if I feel the hairs on my head suddenly stand up to hit the ground as fast as I can – don’t know if this is good advice or not, but I file it away and suddenly become very aware of my soaking wet hair. I space myself back from Gregg a bit thinking it will lessen the chance of one bolt striking us both, and just soak up the scene. We finally made it to the aid station.
Helen has finished her race, taking 3rd overall and 1rst woman. She has equally tremendous amounts of grit and grace, as she has left the finish area and skipped he well deserved R and R to drive to the aid station. What a woman and boy am I glad to see her! And she has her wonderful niece from Australia, Ella, with her. The two of them help me get some warm soup and food and a dry shirt. The jeep also has my headlight, my shell and my trusty wool hat. Gregg and I spend about 20 minutes in our respective cars, his wife Joy is with him. She has been on the course all day crewing for him. For a few minutes Gregg and I are happy, warm and safe. In another danger zone of sorts- we have to get back on the trail and finish this thing lest we decide to fold to basic comforts!
We headed out from the aid station and confirm with each other that we will be walking until we hit the paved trail and the last mile of our course. The next 2 hours we tell stories and share experiences. By the end we can even see some stars. Try as it did, the Black Hills 100 didn’t kill me, but it took a good swing – What a day!
The past few months have been spent in mostly blog-free, and mostly run-free contemplation – will I continue with the campaign? Will I keep running. Keep running Ultra’s? What will I run for? How will I motivate?
I ran the Chippewa 50km in April still mired in my contemplation. I didn’t announce the race, nor write a recap. I wasn’t sure of the direction my the campaign and my running were headed. It was a tough race – I had not run much since Arrowhead in the beginning of February, and I paid the price for my lack of training. I finished, and looking back I guess I can go with “no pain, no gain”.
Then, as I approached the Chequamegon 100 MTB race May 21, the night before the race, I wanted to recap the past year of my campaign for Katelyn Atwell and St. Jude. The Cheq 100 was the first ultra event I participated in for the Where’s Chris Scotch campaign in 2010. I never completed the recap before the Cheq 100, nor did I do a recap. Still mired in contemplation it seemed. Maybe it was the frequent races from July to February, or their increasing length and intensity, taking a toll physically and mentally. Maybe it was not having a clear goal for my fundraising this year. Or maybe it was was neither, but now, as I sit here in Sturgis, SD on the eve of the Black Hills 100km, I am see the direction I have been seeking. First, a look back:
As a St. Jude Hero I competed in 20 events from May 2010 to February of 2011. 10 “ultra” events. 3 Marathons. 2 100 mile events on a bike. A couple 10k races and 3 skijor events. Roughly 1150 race miles. Races spanning 5k to 150 miles. In addition, through the help of friends and family, I was able to host the “Sushi Soiree” at Tiger Sushi in Minneapolis – an sushi and saki tasting event with a silent auction. In total, we raised a little over $7,00 over the course of the Where’s Chris Scotch campaign in 2010/2011, on behalf of Katelyn for St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
This campaign and the funds raised were inspired by Katelyn and her love of life. Her outpouring of positive energy has also been the catalyst for amazing changes in my life over the 2010/2011 Where’s Chris Scotch campaign.
“The possibilities are only limited by what we can’t conceive.”
Committing to a fund raising campaign with no prior experience and no idea where to start was a challenge in itself. But with the help of Aunt Mari and Jodi I steadily started to learn the ropes. Danielle K from the local St. Jude office helped me shape my ideas and helped support me from the St. Jude side of things. Mariah, a friend of mine, introduced to the wide world of social media, and patiently guided me as I started a blog, facebook page and twitter account for the campaign. And the challenge of using running as the vehicle to drive my campaign. Not being a runner, and not particularly enjoying running, I knew I would have to commit to something I preferred not to do in my free time. So it seemed I had a pretty big uphill battle as I started to put things together last April, but Katelyn’s inspiration more then sufficed to get the ball rolling.
My vision for Where’s Chris Scotch, while always evolving, is long term. I will continue to raise money and awareness for St. Jude. And I will continue to run, but not because I want to challenge myself to do something I don’t enjoy, but because running is now something I embrace. The confidence I have gained in my running has spilled into my life. My outlook has changed and I feel happier. Trail running in particular, instills such a sense of joy. Ultra running will continue to challenge me, and there will be plenty of times that it will be down right tough, but that is part of the embrace. And I will continue to be active in the local ultra community, because without them, I wouldn’t have dared to push the limits to the lengths I have. The local ultra community is a group of people I feel immensely proud to call my friends. They support, they teach, they share, they churn out the long miles with you and they are genuine. There are too many to name personally, but if you have ever been a race director at a race I have run, or shared a pop tart on the trail with me, or gave kind words of support as you passed me on the trial, or offered advise on how to pack my sled, or trained with me, or helped watch Cooper while I was off running, or helped me pick out my gear, or offered your product to me to use, or fed me at an aid station, or cheered me on from the trailhead, or attended the Sushi Soiree, or donated to St. Jude, you know who you are. Thank you all.
I have discovered new places to explore while re-discovering old places. I have been to Oregon many, many times over the years. Last July I pondered the possibility of running an ultra in Oregon as part of my campaign and narrowed in on Where’s Waldo. By happenstance I knew that some people from Minnesota were signed up for Where’s Waldo. As a complete stranger, I timidly reached out to one of the runners, not really sure if I would get a reply. Little did I know that she would reply, but that my life would be completely changing from that point forward. Helen not only gave me advice for Waldo, but to this day is still trying to teach me to run, among other things. Helen and I hit it off from the moment we met last July the night before the Voyageur 50 – she had kindly offered to save some room at the campsite her and some friends secured. The weeks leading up to Where’s Waldo in August were spent getting to know each other and by the time we touched down in Oregon it seemed we had been friends for a lifetime. I have never met anyone that simultaneously supports and challenges me to the extents that she does in a way that always seems so natural. So you might say that because of Katelyn’s inspiration, I have discovered paths that I couldn’t fathom, and someone to run those trails with for a long, long time.
From the beginning of the campaign, through the challenges, the discoveries and all the crazy ideas I have come up with, my parents have been by my side. I can’t thank them enough, but I will try. Thank you for being at my races when you could. Thanks for crewing. Thanks for driving for hours. Thanks for putting up with my cranky moods and my post race complaints. Thanks for letting me cultivate a love for winter by raising me in northern Minnesota. Thanks for instilling a sense of adventure in me and fostering it as it sprouted. Thanks for being you.
In a few hours I will be waking up to head to the start line of the Black Hills 100km. And Helen will be at my side, at least for the start until she pulls away, and she will be there when I finish. I will see others of the MN ultra community and we will encourage each other throughout the day. I will run for St. Jude Children’s Hospital because of Katelyn’s inspiration. And I will run with a smile because I will be happy.
Arrowhead 135 (not 270) Recap – The Final Chapter March 15, 2011Posted by whereschrisscotch in Races/Events - Recaps, Uncategorized.
It has been 6 weeks since the start of my final event for the Where’s Chris Scotch campaign. It is bittersweet, which is why I wanted to write the recap the day after I finished, but also why I have procrastinated to this late date. My goal was to finish the Arrowhead 135 Ultra on foot, rest one night, and then turn around and skijor the course backwards with our dog Cooper. Although I finished the Arrowhead race, I did not attempt to skijor the trail backwards upon the finish of the official race, and this still sits a bit sideways in my mind. On the positive, however, I finished the official race – 135 miles, on foot. Temps both nights on the trail reported reached -40F. Only 18 of 54 runners finished, so I am thankful to have even completed the first half of my goal.
The race starts on a Monday, thus giving a full weekend to drive to International Falls and spend the better part of two days going through the gear and making final preparations. I hitched a ride to I’Falls with Igor, a friend of mine who was also attempting Arrowhead for the first time. We arrived Saturday afternoon and passed the gear check-in, which was performed by Donny Clark. There is something about Donny that makes me smile, and I look forward to seeing him at the ultra events. He had a few last words of advice for me as I packed up my things and left the check-in. I bumped into Mitch Rossman, who I had met at Tuscobia 150 in December. We decided to get a small group together and grab some dinner at the Chocolate Moose. After dinner I grabbed a couple of Grainbelt Nord’East and moseyed over to Igor’s room, where he and Erik Dalgaard where staying. We talked strategy for a while and went through their various gear. As I had done Tuscobia and this was their first foray into an event like this, they had a lot of questions for me, which I was more than happy to give my two cents on. The discussions were fun and helped take some of the nerves down a notch. After a couple hours of hanging out with them I returned to my room and settled in for a night of cable quality movies. My excitement level was high and I had a tough time falling asleep at a reasonable hour, but made up for it by sleeping in on Sunday morning. After a huge breakfast and stop at Kmart for some last minute items I returned to my motel and started the arduous task of packing, unpacking and repacking all of my items. Trying to guess what I would need while on the trail was like throwing darts blindfolded. And my habitual pattern of over-packing wouldn’t work this time as I would need to carry everything I wanted to bring on the sled. Keeping the weight down was priority 1b, right after priority 1a of making sure I was prepared for anything that might happen.
The Pre-Race meeting and spaghetti feed gave us all a chance to mingle with the fellow racers. There were about 60 bikers, 54 runners and 6 skiers. While there were definitely some pre-race favorites and some big names hanging around, we all had similar look of cautious excitement in our eyes. The Arrowhead 135 doesn’t care how many time you have finished before, what kind of shape you are in or what you have won in the past, to the Arrowhead we are all fair game to its whims.
My dad (Dark, see his recap here) arrived in I’Falls as we were wrapping up at the pre-race meeting. He hadn’t had dinner yet, so Erik, Igor and I joined him for some food and a couple beers at restaurant down the street. Back at the hotel room I finished prepping my sled, which included filing down some of the hot glue that filled drill holes in my runners. The hot glue fill wasn’t flush with the runners, so Dark and I went to work getting them as even as we could. Thanks to Uncle Tom for the runners and help putting them on the sled. And thanks to Mari and Jodi for the hot glue.
Race day morning came too fast, as usual, for me. I felt rushed even though I had been prepping for days. I still wasn’t sure what to wear, but my plan was to under-dress as I figured the start of the race would cause me to heat up fast. The temperature was a crisp -10 degrees at the start. It was still dark, but light was coming up fast so I didn’t bother with my head lamp.
I was one of the last runners to leave the start line and really took my time the first couple miles as I tinkered with my sled and clothes, including putting my belt on. Yes, I started the race with my belt in my coat pocket and only after a mile of my pants sliding down did I remember to put it on. If I have anything to work on for races in 2011, and there is plenty to work on, I will try my best to show up to events fully clothed. But it adds a bit of humor in hindsight and to the other racers I suppose. Shortly after I had finished dressing, John Storkamp strolled up to me. We chatted for a few minutes and wished each other well as he pulled ahead of me. I needed another stop to make another adjustment to my sled. He was the last to leave the start line and although his goal was to win the race, he wasn’t in a big hurry right now. A race like this isn’t about who starts fast, or even gets to the half-way point first, as John would prove 44 hours later when he crossed the finish line first, winning an entry into the 2012 ITI. I knew this was a big deal for John, and was really happy to see him achieve his goal.
The next 57 hours or so are a jumbled mixture of vivid recollections and hazy, fleeting memories. The first 70 miles of the race were really tough for me. I found out very early on that I wasn’t able to run at all. My lungs just couldn’t handle the heavy breathing and after only a few steps I was buckled over gasping for air. The condition of my lungs, or lack thereof, was probably due to the stress put on them at Tuscobia 5 weeks earlier and the subsequent cold I picked up and still had. While I was discouraged as the cut-off times for Arrowhead are pretty tight, at least I knew this early on and was able to plan around it. I would have to keep my stops to a minimum and do my best to keep my walking pace as fast as I could without over doing it.
I reached the first checkpoint, the Gateway Store, around 7pm. 12 hours to go 35 miles. I wasn’t thrilled with how long this took, but also wasn’t overly concerned. My plan was to get inside, get as much food in me as I could, restock my water, change my clothes and get back on the trail as quickly as I could. This all sounds good and easy, but once you step into the warm air and feel the party going on inside it is easy to sit down in front of a big bowl of chili and lose track of time. I was one of the later runners to get to the checkpoint, so the place was filled to the rafters with other racers, crews and volunteers. Some of the racers had decided to drop here, some were unsure and others just trying to break free of the binds of this place. It is akin to the island of Siren, gently being lulled your demise. I manged to spend 90 minutes here, although most of the time was well used. I headed back out on the trail dry, well fed and hydrated , at 8:30 pm with 35 miles to go to the halfway checkpoint.
I left the Gateway store with Daryl Saari who I have mentioned before. Daryl was the one that seemingly appeared out of nowhere at the Tuscobia event with magic power-boosting pop tarts. I have bumped into Daryl at a lot of events over the past months – he logged somewhere close to 1,000 race miles in 2010, which is utterly amazing. I was excited to be heading out on the trail with him, as he is someone I really respect in the ultra community for not only his experience and durability, but also his kindness. The first few hours went quickly as we chatted and kept pace with each other.
But as the night went on and the temps plummeted to -40 Daryl was having trouble keeping warm. Eventually he succumbed to the cold and had to drop, picking up a ride from a snowmobile. I think this was sometime between 2 and 4 am. This was a tough moment for me. I was feeling pretty unsure about my own race, even as I walked along with Daryl, and when he dropped I felt what remaining air I had left in my sales slip away. I assessed my situation – I was tired and sore, but at least I was not freezing (a relative term). I tried not to think about what might happen as the night wore on and just focused on the present. I kept going and tried to make progress. The next 6-8 hours fall into the category of hazy. I didn’t see many people, and when I did it was like ghostly spirits passing each other without recognition. I was starting to see snow shapes, for lack of a better term. Snow shapes are all the things you think you see ahead of you on the trail, but when you reach them, all you really see is a clump of snow. I don’t know if these “hallucinations” come from sleep depravity, exhaustion, an over active imagination. Perhaps some combination of the three. I experienced the sa
me sorts of things at Tuscobia, so this time I just accepted the shapes are part of the deal. I also started sleep walking – just letting my eyes rest for a few seconds as my legs continued to move forward. Every now and then re-opening one or both eyes to make sure I was still upright and on the trail. I trudged onward toward dawn, hoping that sunlight would awaken me and refresh my systems. Eventually the sun rose, and slowly I made my way toward MelGeorge’s resort and a safe haven. My plan for this race was to push through the first 70 miles without sleeping. This would put me at MelGeorge’s resort with a place to rest out of the elements, and b
e a place for moral support from Dark, Helen and Cooper. As I spilled out on to Elephant Lake Iknew I had less than a mile to go. I saw Cooper and Dark, but they didn’t really register to me. Between the addition of my down coat, the layer of ice I had accumulated over my body, and my zombie death march, Dark didn’t recognize it was me until he said hello.
We made our way across the lake and I checked in with the race officials and stumbled to our cabin. My entire body was freezing, except my feet, which I couldn’t really feel. My legs were throbbing with fatigue and swelling. My nose hurt badly, and I feared it was frostbitten. The physical pain combined with 27 hours on the trail had me in a place I didn’t think I could return from. The past 5 hours I had only thought surviving long enough to get to the safe harbor of the checkpoint – thoughts of anything further down the course never crossed my mind.
Igor, Alicia, Erik and I decided before the race to rent a separate cabin here so we would have our own space. Igor and Alicia had already dropped, and Erik ended up resting at the cabin used for the checkpoint. The next three hours was a convoluted stream of eating and fitful sleeping as I tried to elevate my legs to alleviate the swelling and pain. I told Helen I was finished, resigning myself to dropping, eagerly accepting that I would start recovering faster knowing that I wouldn’t have to go back on the trail through 65 more miles of misery. My feet and legs felt like they might explode. My lungs were burning. My brain had shut down from exhaustion and lack of sleep. I was a mess. Two and half hours passed, feeling more like two and half minutes. Helen and my dad made several attempts to encourage me into dressing myself and getting back on the trail. I told them I couldn’t, that I hurt too much. I got out of the bed and made my way to the couch, thinking that if I showed some progress they would stop encouraging me and let me drop. Once to the couch I lost the faint grip I had on my situation and broke down. Not only was I not going to complete my goal of 270 miles, I wasn’t even going to finish the 135 miles of this forsaken race. Failure was staring me in the soul and it reduced me to a whimper. I thought of Katelyn and I got tears in my eyes. I was letting her down. I thought of how I would have to come back next year and try this beast again. All of these thoughts swirled through my mind and just when I didn’t think I could handle any more of it, I felt a tiny bit of something fighting back. Something inside was showing some sort of faint resolve. Helen was strong by my side with encouragement. Katelyn was in my thoughts with inspiration. After realizing all the self-pity I was allowing I started to get angry. I was angry because I knew I needed to do better for St. Jude and the cause I was supporting. I was angry for losing my grip. I was angry at the course, knowing that didn’t want to ever try this race again, but I also knew would have to keep trying until I conquered it. Doubts streamed through my mind – should I have trained more? Should I have slept on the trail over night? Should I only have done 75 miles at Tuscobia instead of 150? Why did I think I could ever do this anyway? What would Katelyn think, and everyone that had supported me? Dark and Helen had rearranged their lives to be here. Aunt Mari and Jodi were driving all the way from the Cities to the finish line in Tower, to see me off on my return trip, and I couldn’t even finish the first half of my plans. Then something snapped. I suddenly felt the unwavering support and confidence coming from my crew, Dark and Helen. They just assumed I would get up and finish. They knew I was in pain, but they didn’t accept dropping as an answer. The anger I felt welling inside turned to resolve. Maybe it was Helen soaking up all my self deprecation, self-doubt and self misery, and tossing it aside. Or maybe it had something to do with her suggesting I just try going 2 more miles, where there was a road crossing, and they would pick me up there if I wanted to drop. Whatever it was, I suited up and headed out. The pain and misery of the situation still existed, but I was choosing to ignore it. Instead focusing on the positives of the situation, and of my life.
I left MelGeorges with Roberto, whom I met at and ran with at Tuscobia. Roberto is a quite but strong person. I felt a sense of confidence as we headed out. We left at 1:45pm on Tuesday, where someone made the comment “No one has ever left this checkpoint this late and finished the race.” Something that would stick in my mind for the next 27 hours.
There are quite a few large hills out of MelGeorges but I had designed my sled with sledding in mind! Roberto and I got separated as I made good time on the downhills. At the top of each climb I turned around and made two short steps back to my sled and eased myself into position. I packed my sleeping bags and bivey in a stuff sack at the back of the sled. This acted as my seat. With most of my weight on my bag, my legs rested on top of my plastic tote, with my gear safely out out of harms way. I designed my harness and rope setup to attach to the sled in a manner that allowed me to sled the downhills without having to unstrap myself. I could steer with my poles behind me acting as rudders, or with my heels digging into the snow in front of me.
Turns out that road crossing Helen and Dark baited me with to get me back on the trail was closer to 7 or 8 miles away, not two as Helen had suggested. But no matter, I was feeling much much better. The afternoon sun and the downhill sledding had turned this nasty event into something else entirely. Now I was back to my core, just a boy out enjoying winter. My body and spirit responded and I was having fun again. The pain in my feet and legs gave way to a smile on my face, and I was making good time. I thanked Helen for getting my rear back on the trail and headed off into the evening.
It is roughly 40 miles from MelGeorges to the Crescent Bar and Grill, the third and final checkpoint. This section of the course is home to the hilliest stretch of the course. More or less 40 miles of up and down. I made good time into the evening and night hours. Just before dark, Todd Gabrielson, one of the snowmobile volunteers, approached me from further down the trail. He pulled up to me and stopped to check on me. He had a demeanor about him that was greatly reassuring. He asked how I was and assured me I looked great. I had a few questions about distances ahead and how far behind Roberto was. Todd said he was going to continue on past me and check to see how Roberto was doing and would come back and let me know. This offered great comfort – I was feeling good for the most part, but as darkness was ascending for the second night I found myself wishing for someone to walk with. If Roberto was close, I wanted to wait for him. Todd left to check on Roberto and I continued on. A short while later Todd returned to tell me that Roberto had decided to pull off the trail and get some rest. I realized that I likely going to be alone the rest of the night. Todd gave me some distances and let me know he wouldn’t be back on the trail until morning. He was “signing off” for the night and I was going to be alone. I told him thanks for the information and let him know how much I appreciated that he was volunteering. While he couldn’t do anything for me while I was racing, it was a comfort to know that he was out there somewhere should the course of events take a turn for the worst. As Todd sped off I added my headlight and some clothes and prepped myself for the long night ahead.
At about mile 98 I started getting very sleepy again and decided I would make a stab at sleeping on the trail for a while. I debated myself for the past hour if stopping to sleep was wise. The clock would continue to tick, the cutoff time getting closer and closer. But I also knew my current pace, probably less than 2 miles per hour, was too slow. I also longed to find other racers on the trial, hoping companionship would help keep my eyes open and my feet moving forward. I was again fatigued and having trouble keeping my eyes open. It was about 2 miles to the next shelter, Elbow Lake, and I decided to push through, desperately hoping I would find other runners there to join up with. When I got there I found nobody. I hesitated a bit, asking out loud, “should I push ahead and try to catch up or should I sleep?” In the end it was a fast decision, I needed sleep and I needed it now, especially since I was now asking myself questions out loud, and more telling perhaps, answering my own questions out loud. I surveyed the shelter and determined that it was best to lay my sleeping bag on the ground just outside the shelter (large rocks on the floor of the lean-to). I decided to keep all of my clothes on, including my shoes. I had a liner on the inside of my bag, so I wasn’t worried about dirt or tears. For whatever reason, I had my phone with me, so I set the alarm and tried to sleep. 3.5 seconds later my alarm went off, and I was agitated with myself for messing up the alarm. But when I looked at the time, I had slept for 35 minutes. This was good! And better yet, I had managed to wake up to my alarm (there was a concern that I would be so tired that I would sleep through my alarm and wake up sometime in the middle of the next day, having missed the cutoffs and ending my race). I crawled out of my sack and packed up my things. I had a good chill throughout my body so I set out immediately, already feeling better and able to stay awake.
About two miles down the trail I came to a depression where the trail flattens out and continued in a straight line for the better part of a mile. There were no trees and when I looked up it felt like being in a planetarium. The sky was crystal clear and abundantly littered with thousands of stars just waiting to be touched by my outstretched hand. I looked up behind me, in the general direction of north, hoping to see the northern lights. At the time I was a little disappointed not get a glimpse, but looking back I think I was standing right in the middle of them as they covered the entire sky, for there was a reddish hue radiating everywhere I could see. The crystal clear stars blinked with a red tint and it was beautiful. I stopped for a minute to admire the beauty of it all. It was absolutely silent and still. The natural world is so beautiful and refreshing, if we only stop to observe it from time to time. I felt an overwhelming surge of content and happiness. Snapped back to the reality of my situation by the stark temperatures in this low-lying area, I continued on.
Not long after my stop in the planetarium, I thought I saw a red light ahead of me, but it was disappearing as fast as it appeared. I dismissed the idea that it was another racer – earlier in the night, perhaps spurred on my desire to find other racers, I had seen a red light and became extremely giddy. Only to be let down once I realized it was a radio tower I was seeing. This time I wouldn’t let myself be disappointed. I tried to keep my head down, not allowing myself to peer into the darkness ahead. But the temptation was too much. Was it possible I had caught up to John Taylor finally? I knew he had left MelGeorges less than two hours before me. The light would blink, and then disappear for a few moments. Then another blink. Then disappear. Was I imagining this? How delirious had I become? This game continued on for close to 30 mins, as I picked up my pace to close in on the target. I still didn’t know if it was a real target or imagined, but then all of sudden I was close enough to see the outline of a body. I was ecstatic when I saw a headlight swing around and look at me. It turns out I had caught up to Mike Stattelman. Mike had started the race on skis, and for the better part of the first day he was able to actually ski. But when the sun set and the temps dropped Mike had to start walking. When the temps get so cold, skis can’t generate enough heat to melt the snow beneath them, which is what provides the glide skiers depend on for forward momentum. Mike had his skis tied to a string that was looped behind his neck. The tips dragging along beside him as he walked. While Mike’s pace was slower than mine at this point, I adjusted to match him. I didn’t mind at all, as I finally had some company. Ultras have a particular aspect about them I find appealing. There is so much time spent alone on the trail. There is something peaceful about it that allows introspection in a setting that lends itself perfectly to it. But at 4 am, and nearly 48 hours into the race, I much preferred the company to being alone. Mike and I took turns talking about our gear and strategies. I think he got quite a quick out of my sledding demonstration. Probably even longing for a sled of his own at this point (skiers typically use a back pack for their gear, as a sled causes to much disruption on skis). Mike is from Duluth, and as it turns out is friends with Kevin Kinney. Kevin and his wife are the owner/operators of Empire Canvas Works, the creators of my Big Mitts and my self-named wool Arrowhead Coat.
Mike knew that I was able to move at a faster pace and urged me to move ahead of him. I declined the first couple times he suggested this, enjoying his company was worth the slower pace to me. Eventually I agreed however, and at one of the downhills I jumped in my sled. At the bottom of the hill, instead of waiting for Mike like I had done previously, I kept moving on. My best guess is that I had less than 10 miles yet to reach the next checkpoint. It was close to 6 am and I looked forward to the sunrise and the warmth of a new day.
I was closing in on morning and the Crescent Bar and Grill, the mile 110 checkpoint. I had two more memorable experiences before I would get there however. With the impending sunrise the night had started to retreat, but it was still dark enough to need my headlamp. The trail approached an intersection with some sort of road/open area. Due more to my lack of coherence and the difficult lighting than to the lack of trail markings, I couldn’t seem to find where the Arrowhead left the road and continued on. I spent about 30 minutes walking back and forth over the same 100 yards where the trail and road merged. In retrospect, I was too concerned with taking a wrong turn. Eventually I found the right way and continued down the trail and towards Wakemup Hill. The sight of my last major event.
I was again having trouble keeping my eyes open and staying awake. The sun was nearly over the horizon as I turned the corner and vaguely registered the the steepest grade of the course. This must be it – Wakemup Hill. It is probably only a couple hundreds yards long, but it seemed like it was straight uphill. I trudged to the foot of the climb and took a deep breath. After adjusting my harness I put my head down and started the climb. Slow and steady. So slow I had time to fall asleep as I climbed. Then I slipped into a dream-like place. But this dream became nightmarish quickly. I was see-sawing between drowning and being suffocated by something over my head. I flashed back and forth, was I drowning or suffocating? With each fruitless breath my fear escalated. I couldn’t breath and I couldn’t take it anymore. I screamed out as my arms flailed about my face and head. I screamed a second time, waking me from my dream. As I floated back to the real world I struggled to grasp where I was. At the top of Wakemup Hill my stocking cap was 5 feet away from me on the ground and in my hand was the gator that had been around my face to protect my frozen nose. I was gasping for air as I struggled to unzip my coat. I wasn’t drowning to be sure, but I was suffocating. The exertion of climbing the steep grade has sent my lungs into asthmatic spasm. I had slept-walked up the hill and my physical body lent the fuel for this horrible airless nightmare. It took me a couple minutes to calm myself down enough to get adequate air and recompose myself. As I was putting myself back together I looked down below me from the perch of Wakemup Hill. The sun was just breaking the horizon of another bluebird day, showing pink hues across the horizon. In the span of only a couple minutes I was submerged in a microcosm of this race, a microcosm of life. At our worst moments, there is still beauty and joy around us.
With only 2 miles to go until Crescent, I knew I had the race in hand. The 30+ miles from Crescent to the finish was flat and the sun would be shining. I started to feel the excitement of knowing the finish was attainable. I had close to 35 miles to go, but I again believed it was possible.
As I walked into Crescent just after 7:45 am Wednesday, I spotted Helen, Mari and Jodi inside. I was again physically demolished, but I had a little more exuberance than when I reached MelGeorge’s.
And I was happy to be in the company of my crew. John Taylor was also there, having arrived just 30 minutes ahead of me. My plan for Crescent was to get my clothes off and let them dry, eat a pizza and try to catch a nap for an hour. The first two objectives were met, but I found out that sleeping at this checkpoint wasn’t allowed. Helen and I talked about things – I had until 7 pm. If I could leave Crescent by 10 am I would have about 9 hours, to go the remaining 30+ miles. If I could average just 3 miles and hour I would have time to sleep on the trail if I needed. I laid down on the floor with my feet elevated on a chair and a pizza next to my head. After eating and recouping some of my energy I got dressed and set out to finish this race. I left at just after 9 am. John Taylor was 30 minutes ahead of me, Barb Owen 10 minutes ahead, and John Finn was 2 minutes behind me. I had not met John Finn or Barb Owen before, but within minutes of leaving Crescent we had formed a group and were making progress. Barb, coming off her finish of the Brazil 135 just days earlier (amazing!!) was moving pretty slow. John and Barb dropped back just a bit and I made a bid to catch up to John Taylor. The rest of the day the 4 of us traveled more or less together. John is another runner and great person I have met over the past few months and I was happy to finally be able to share the trial with him. He is prolific in 100 miles races, doing as many as he can each year. He has oodles of experience and is always happy to help other runners. I saw Helen, Dark and Cooper a couple times during the day, and with each meeting we all shared in the happiness of the nearing end.
Finally, at 4:13 pm on Wednesday I crossed the finish line with Helen, Dark, Cooper, Mari and Jodi. 57 hours and 12 minutes to cover 135 miles from International Falls to Tower. In the heart of winter.
This was not only the end to the race, but also the end of the Arrowhead 270 attempt. Helen and Dark were of the opinion that I not try to skijor the trail back. It didn’t take much for me to agree with, as I was spent in every way possible. While it was disappointing to not complete my goal, I was satisfied with finishing the actual Arrowhead 135 race, and I can always make another go of trying to do the return trip next year!
There are many people to thank:
Thank you to all of the supporters of the Where’s Chris Scotch campaign. Your moral support of my efforts are wonderful and your donations are making the difference in the lives of children.
Thanks to Dave and Mary Pramann, Race Directors of the Arrowhead Ultra. I peppered them with emails and questions for months leading up to the race. They graciously answered every one. Dave and Mary put on a top notch event, even if they do like the bikers more than the runners or skiers! :)
Thanks to Ellen and Phil Hart, of the Gateway Store at the mile 35 checkpoint. All of the employees/volunteers were amazing as they fed us and dried our gear.
Thanks to MelGeorge’s Resort, especially Carla. Mile 70 checkpoint. Helen, Dark, Cooper and I stayed for the Thursday night following the race to enjoy some down time and skiing. The Log Cabin has a perfectly relaxing northwoods feel to it, and it is puppy friendly!!
Thanks to the Crescent Bar and Grill. Mile 110 Checkpoint. Great pizza and laying on the floor of the restaurant sure beats laying in the snow!
Thanks to Todd Gabrielson and all of the volunteers that make this race much safer than it otherwise could be. Thank you to the volunteers for countless hours of prep and sleepless nights during the race supporting the racers on our way.
Thank to Aunt Mari and Jodi. Having you guys at the finish line meant so much. Your continued support of my campaign this past year has been amazing!
Thanks to Dark. Having you around always makes the challenges seem a bit less daunting. Thanks for rearranging your life to be there to help me and to keep an eye on Cooper. Seeing the wolf hat on the trail always gives a little laugh!
And finally, thanks to Helen. Your championship experience is a comfort, as I know I am in capable hands. Moreover, your guidance, support and understanding have helped me tremendously. Without you I never would have known this was possible. Without you I wouldn’t have finished.
The Grand Finale for Where’s Chris Scotch in 2010 – Arrowhead 270 January 12, 2011Posted by whereschrisscotch in Races/Events Schedule, Uncategorized.
Okay, I admit, the title of this post poses a few questions.
First of all, it is 2011, but like the 2010 NFL season, my campaign has spilled over into February.
Secondly, the event name, “Arrowhead 270″ doesn’t officially exist. However, the Arrowhead 135 does, and since I am going to do it twice, it will be a total of 270 miles.
I will be competing in one of the most extreme ultra races in the world, hosted right here in our backyard , International Falls. The Arrowhead Ultra is 135 miles, starting January 31 and lasts for up to 60 hours. I not only plan to finish the race on foot, but turn around and skijour (with Cooper) the entire length of the course back to the start in International Falls. Runners have less than a 30% completion rate for this race, so the odds are stacked against me to even complete the first half of this event.
The Official Event: Arrowhead 135 – Listed by National Geographic as one of “America’s Best Adventures” with this description: “The Arrowhead 135 race is long, difficult, and bitterly cold. . . this 135-mile (217-kilometer) ultramarathon in International Falls, Minnesota, a town that routinely registers the coldest temperatures in the Lower 48 and is more commonly known as Frostbite Falls”
The Arrowhead 135 official website has this to say: “The Race: 135 Miles in deep winter across northern Minnesota, virtually all scenic, rugged Arrowhead State Snowmobile Trail from AMERICA’S ICEBOX: I-Falls to Fortune Bay Casino near Tower, MN. Pick mode of transport at the start: foot, ski, or bicycle. . . . our 7th year promises great things with arguably some of the world’s best winter ultra-athletes . . . . you may see moose or wolf tracks on the trail…..The typical winter weather in this part of Minnesota is frigid with subzero temperatures, even dipping to (minus) -60 degrees Fahrenheit in Tower . . .WAY COLDER HISTORICALLY THAN ANY OTHER RACE – WE HAVE THE FROSTBITE TO PROVE IT. . . .Do not expect to get rescued, except by yourself or maybe Your Mommy”
So I am sure you are getting the gist of this race – wicked cold and long, but at least you won’t be alone because there are wolves on the trail. I will be moving on foot, rather than by bike or skis. There is a mandatory gear list that all racers must carry, including a sleeping bag rated to -20, a stove, fuel and pot to melt water, a bivy sack and sleeping pad, headlight, and so on. Anything a person will need when spending a night, or more likely two, outside in temps well be low 0 degrees.
I will be pulling a sled – the same one I used at the Tuscobia 150 race a few weeks ago, with some slight modifications. The overall cutoff time is 60 hours, with cut-times also at the 3 checkpoints on the course. The checkpoints are at miles 35, 70 and 110. I was unable to find any official stats, but the drop-out race for runners is north of 70%. That means only 3 of 10 runners actually finish.
So I have described the first 135 miles of my Arrowhead 270. What about the other 135 miles? I plan to finish Arrowhead on Wednesday sometime around noon, approximately 53 hours after I start. I will sleep that night at the finish line in Tower and then get up Thursday morning and skijour the 135 mile trail back to International Falls with my little rescue mutt, Cooper. He is about 18 months old right now and might love winter more than me. He is part Husky and part something tall and lean. He loves running, especially in the snow and is one tough little guy, as demonstrated by his near immediate return to joviality after he fell through the ice in the boundary waters this past New Years.
I am ecstatic about the chance to include Cooper in my final event for St. Jude, after all, he has done most of my training with me over the past 6 months.
Over the past 6 months I challenged myself to the max, having run 9 Ultras, starting with a 50k at Afton and working my way up to 150 miles with the last event at Tuscobia 150. Quite a lot of running for me, considering I had never run an ultra, or even on trails, before the race at Afton this July. The question that’s get asked more than any other is “WHY?” My answer is always the same – To raise awareness and funds for St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
If you are reading this, then I have been able to reach you. Regardless of whether or not you think what I am doing is a worthy of a donation to St. Jude does not matter to me.
What matters to me is that you consider making a donation because helping to save the lives of children with catastrophic illness is a cause that all of us should find worthy. No patient, regardless of how sick they are, ever has to pay for treatment after their insurance coverage expires. And it usually does.
Every type and size of donation helps make a direct positive impact on the future of these children. You can make a donation at http://www.mystjudeheroes.org/cjscotch
Thanks and see you in February!
To Learn More about St. Jude and their mission, click here – http://www.stjude.org/mission
Tuscobia 150 – Recap December 27, 2010Posted by whereschrisscotch in Races/Events - Recaps, Uncategorized.
In July I made a comment in my recap of the Voyageur 50 mile race that 50 miles is a long way. ” A real long way.” Doesn’t that seem foolish now? There is “perspective” rearing itself again. That day in July, 50 miles was a real long way, and I vividly remember being quite battered from that race. Turn to this past week, however, and I would like to add something to that original thought – - 150 miles is a long way. A real long way. Just not in the way you might think….
An ultra on snow with a sled proved to be an entirely different experience from trail running for me. The pace is much slower. There isn’t a thrashing of the muscles and body, rather it is more a kin to decomposition of the tissue. 60 hours of exertion with minimal and restless sleep makes for a degradation of the mind as well as the body. On trials I get lost in the contours of the the path, avoiding rocks, jumping over roots and picking the best lines. The mind gets occupied and the miles and hours can roll past quickly. On a snow covered, mostly flat trail, meandering aimlessly for an eternity, my mind felt every second pass by. The only things to think about were the miles yet to cover and when to eat or drink. The recovery is up and down, physically and mentally.
The race started at 7am Friday morning, December 17th. I arrived at the trailhead about 2:30 am Friday morning, forgoing sleep in a bed, and instead slept for a few hours in the car. I was checked in on once by one of Park Falls finest, about 3:30 am I think. He was pretty surprised to see my head pop up I think, but he was very friendly and even suggested I grab breakfast at The Frontier diner in town, which I did at 5:30. With a big greasy breakfast in me and more cups of coffee than I can count, I thought I was ready to go. I drove back to the trailhead about 6:15 and was a bit uneasy as I expected to see other racers there already getting ready. I can’t recall being the first person to a race all year, so I wasn’t sure what to do – was I in the wrong spot? Did I have the time wrong? I sat in the car for a while unsure what to do. I needed to change clothes and pack my sled, but I didn’t want to do all that if I was in the wrong place. I rechecked my printouts and notes and confirmed I was where I should be. By now it was past 6:30 and I decided to start getting ready. Shortly later everyone else showed up, fully prepped and ready to go. I went about my business of packing the sled and drop bags, trying to figure out what to bring with me and what to put in drop bags. This was my first experience with a winter race and my mind was quite uncertain about everything. I stayed calm and double checked everything – feeling satisfied with things I changed my clothes and locked up the jeep. I was just heading down the trail when one of the onlookers (Tim and his family I believe) gently reminded me my Thule was still open on the roof of my car. I can only imagine the amusement they all shared watching me run around like a headless chicken before I finally headed down the trail, about 10 minutes later than everyone else. Little did they or I know (or maybe they did), that my pants were on backwards! I unstrapped the sled and disrobed quickly in the in dark morning chill to dress myself more practically. A little drama getting going, but everything seemed in order from this point. I had the typical pre-race jitters and as I started running down the trail after the other competitors I focused intently on keeping my body from overheating. This would be something I remained very conscious of for the next 60 hours. This was my number 1 priority and concern, and I manged it effectively.
The First 50 Miles:
I jogged along at an easy pace for about half an hour and caught up to 2 of the 3 other runners, Scott from Utah and Mitchell from Minnesota. I settled in at their pace and enjoyed the next couple hours. Mitchell and I were moving at a slightly quicker pace than Scott, and soon we found ourselves alone. The 4th runner, Roberto, had started out quick and was still ahead of us somewhere. Mitchell has done this sort of thing before, in addition to running ultras and climbing mountains, so I just started asking questions and tried my best to soak up everything he was sharing. I learned a lot about what to expect over the next couple days, how to better prepare, how to eat, how to plan, what not to do and so on. These first 50 miles went quickly and I thoroughly enjoyed the time on the trail getting to know Mitchell and being his pupil. His plan was to do 50 miles, stop trail-side and sleep, so when we reach his stopping point around 1 am he found a suitable place to lay out his bag and I kept going. My plan was to get to the second checkpoint, at mile 62, and sleep there. We found out at the beginning of the race that the checkpoints, at miles 30, 63, 87 and 120 were going to be hotel rooms. I decided to do my resting at the checkpoints where I could dry out and not have to unpack my sled to catch some zzz’s. The course is an out and back, with the turn around at 75, so there were two checkpoints on each leg, and then repeated in reverse. Just as I was leaving Mitchell I caught sight of Roberto’s blinking red light up the trail. Within minutes I had caught up to him and passed him.
The Middle 50 Miles:
I arrived at the Birchwood Checkpoint (mile 63) about 3:30 am, roughly 20 hours after I started and about an hour ahead of Roberto. I changed into dry clothes, set out my wet clothes to dry and ate for about an hour. I was just trying to settle in for some sleep when Roberto came through the checkpoint. He had decided not to rest and pushed on after refueling. I slept for about 2 hours, got myself put back together and back on the trail by 9 am. I figure Roberto had left the about 3.5 hours before me and would be reaching the turnaround at mile 75 very shortly. I was anxious to close the gap and was moving quickly this morning. The 75 mile race started at the turnaround at 10 am, so I would be going past some familiar faces. John Storkamp was the first one I saw, as expected. He is one fast moving guy. He stopped to say hello and we chatted for a few minutes. He could tell I was pretty excited about catching up to Roberto and he told me to just be patient. This helped calm me down and get my body heat back under control. Next I saw Alicia – she was looking great and moving well. She ended getting sick and having to rest for a few hours later in the night, but she hunkered down and pushed through. I am always amazed at the people who can pick themselves up when they are sick and keep on going. Next I say Daryl Saari, who completely and utterly surprised me with pop tarts. He so matter of factly said, “have some blueberry pop tarts for you”. I was floored. How did he know pop tarts were about my favorite thing when running? I was totally thankful and had a pretty damn optimistic view of things after this encounter. I also saw Lynn Saari, Jason Husveth and John Taylor. It was a great boost to my moral and energy to see them all. As I was about an half mile from the 75 mile turnaround, I finally saw Roberto. He had just left the turnaround after resting a spell and having some spaghetti on his stove. He looked good and and told me someone was waiting for me at the turnaround. Indeed, it was my mom!! She had come up this morning to crew for the rest of the race. I sat with her for a few minutes at the turnaround while I ate and discussed when I would be back at the Birchwood checkpoint, only 12 miles away. There is nothing like having your parents supporting you at an event like this. My dad had crewed for me at the Sawtooth 100 and now mom was here. I was really feeling good now, especially knowing that I was only a couple miles behind Roberto. I had only gone 12 miles so far today, with 45 yet to go, but it seemed so attainable at this moment. I never caught up to Roberto over the next 12 miles back to Birchwood, which were fairly uneventful, except for meeting Mitchell on his way to the turn around and the couple of decent downhills that I decided to jump in my sled and ride down. Nothing like reminiscing about my childhood when I spent hours and hours sledding down every hill I could find growing up in northern Minnesota. It was fun. And it still is. I returned to Birchwood ahead of Roberto, which didn’t make sense as I hadn’t passed him. The volunteers, Misty, Alicia and Dan, and I couldn’t quite figure it out, until Roberto came through the door with a pizza! He had stopped to order some food for everyone. What a guy! While Roberto ate pizza, I ate everything else I could find. We both filled up on food and fluids and heading out the door into the dark night. We paced each other for about 10 miles, chatting about all sorts of things. We were racing each other, but it never felt like that. We were a team of two pushing through the cold and dark with our sleds in tow. We had 33 miles to go when we left Birchwood and it was nice having someone to talk with for the first few hours. I don’t know if it was sleep deprivation setting in or just the monotony of the time on the trail, but soon I found myself alone. I looked back and couldn’t even see Roberto’s headlamp. Somehow I had zoned out and moved ahead of him. I passed the place Mitchell had camped the night before and planned to camp again tonight. This meant I had travelled a total of 100 miles so far, with 50 remaining. I contemplated pulling over and waiting for Mitchell, getting some sleep and rest. I was pretty tired and was feeling the effects of the longs hours. But I pushed on.
The Final 50 miles:
When Roberto and I left Birchwood we thought we had 30 miles to get to the Winter checkpoint. This was my carrot on a stick. I planned to sleep at Winter for a few hours and then go the last 30 miles on Sunday. This meant that Saturday would be a 54 mile day, and Friday was a 63 mile day. But somewhere in the snow, I had miscalculated. The Winter checkpoint was 33 miles from Birchwood, and those 3 extra miles at 4 am on Sunday morning were the most difficult 3 miles I have experienced in my brief running career. The mind has a way of getting your body where it needs to go – if you are out for a 2 mile run, a marathon or 100 miles. It is one of the most amazing and perplexing abilities we have. There were mile posts on the Tuscobia trail so I had counted down the mileage and when I reach 30 miles and realized that I wasn’t at the checkpoint I wasn’t ready for what would happen. I had seen a road sign a couple miles back that said Winter was 5 miles away. I remember remarking to myself that sign couldn’t be right. That I had gone about 30 miles and the checkpoint should be just around the corner. But it wasn’t. My mind had consumed all its energy getting me the 30 miles I told it to go. Without my mind pushing it, my body slowed to a snails pace, exhausted from the last 45 hours. The range of emotions came – anger and frustration for not being able to figure out how far I was supposed to go. Defeated at the inability to move forward any faster. I stopped a few times and sat on the trail, doing nothing to get closer or to unpack and sleep. My body ached, especially my feet which felt like they had been put through a wood chipper – every step they throbbed with pain. It all seemed futile and for some reason I felt a sense of failure. I had made a promise to my friend Bryan and his wife, Carissa, in memory of their son Nolan, that I would give this race my absolute best effort. I realized sitting on my ass feeling sorry for myself wasn’t cutting it. As painful as it was to walk, I pushed on. I figure the last three miles of this leg took me over three hours, but finally I made it. I had to stop and gather my bearings a few times, the last of which I knew was only about 1/3 of a mile from the checkpoint. It was still dark and while I gathered my strength leaning on my poles a pack of coyotes started their ghoulish banter. I don’t typically fear coyotes, and I don’t think I did at this moment either, but there howls snapped me to attention and got me moving. Finally I arrived at the Winter checkpoint at 6:30 am. I barely had the strength, mentally or physically, to take my shoes and clothes off. I took a quick shower and laid in the bed with my feet up the wall while Jan (Tim’s mom) graciously brought me food and water. My feet were swollen to the point of engorgement. My right pinky toe had a blood blistering covering 75% of it. My knees were on fire, and burned hotter as the fluid from me feet flowed down my legs. Eventually I positioned myself properly in the bed and tried to sleep. I tossed and turned with pain as my lungs tried to their best to expel the mucus that had built up deep within them over the past 48 hours. I felt at this moment like I did after 100 miles at Sawtooth, except this time I had to wake up and run another 30 miles with a sled. As I drifted off to sleep I questioned if my body could handle any more.
When my eyes fluttered open at 8:30am Sunday morning a familiar outline was in the room. It took my brain a few seconds to realize it, but my mom was there, ready to help any way she could. I was still hurting, barely able to walk to the bathroom, but a familiar pillar of support in my life was present, and my mind knew it would have to find a way to finish this race. Mom found a cinnamon roll with oodles of frosting somewhere nearby. I inhaled that with other assorted sugar-laced goodies and started to prep for the last 30 miles. Roberto hadn’t some through while I was sleeping and we were starting to wonder where he might be. But just then he came through the door. I have to admit, he looked pretty damn good. Turns out he had stopped and slept on the trail for a couple of hours. His plan was to shower and rest up a bit, so I decided to head out before him as I was dressed and ready to go. I put my shoes on and strapped the sled to my body. Almost instantly I felt better and I jogged out of the hotel parking lot, across the road and back on the trail. I set about gearing up my mind and crunching the numbers. I left at 10 am, had 30 miles to go. My initial guess was that this would take me about 12 hours. I didn’t like the sound of this so I looked at the task a different way. If I could just get this down to a marathon, I knew I could finish. So I started running, quickly. I ran the next 4 miles as fast as the sled would allow, getting this down to a distance I knew I could handle. The trail at this point parallels some paved road for a while, and mom met me twice at some road crossings to offer encouragement. She commented that I was moving fast and looked good. She is my mom, after all, and is supposed to say things like this whether they have merit or are even true at all, but I felt like she really understood and meant what she was saying. I was energized and feeling good. I had a game plan and was nailing it down. The sun was out and its warm rays were on my back. The next 26 miles were a euphoric trip down the rabbit hole. I had a brief but pointed conversation with each mile post as they counted down. I wanted the trail to know that I had it in my sites. When I got 15 miles left I let out a victorious scream – I was halfway for the day, and was ready for the challenge of the “middle miles” of a marathon. That time when it gets tough. Still to far from the finish to smell the end, and the initial burst of endorphins has wore off a bit. When it hit me I was ready for it. I hunkered down and made sure I was eating and drinking. Then I got to mile post 1o – now I could smell the finish. Another yelp and a few pointed words at the mile post indicating that I was going to beat this trail today. The sky was clear as the sun started setting behind me, spraying the horizon with majestic pink hues. In front of me a nearly full moon tinted with the sunset rose into the night sky. The time and setting made for one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever been a part of. Then the rabbit hole got very interesting. I saw all sorts of strange objects ahead of me on the trail and in the woods. Ranging from the pink foam sheets of insulation used in buildings, to toilets, to an artistic blue bird that you might find on an Inuit totem pole. Of course none of these objects were ever really there as I approached them, vanishing into nothing but mounds of snow and twisted branches. But at the time the separation between reality and fantasy had melded and my brain wasn’t making note of that anything was out of sorts. I was focused only on finishing. I turned off my headlight to soak up the night and enjoy the last 2 miles with only the moon and snow to show me the way. As I made my way up the turnoff to the trail head parking I found my mom waiting on the trail about 50 yards from the finish. Fittingly, she ran with me to the finish and congratulated me with a hug and later on a most appropriate 6 pack of New Glarus Moon Man ale.
Thank you to my parents, especially my mom for crewing for me and making me as comfortable as I could be on Sunday morning and for running to the finish with me Sunday night. To have you by my side made this event special. Thanks to Tim Roe, the Race Director, his parents and the Birchwood checkpoint volunteers, Misty, Alicia and Dan. You guys don’t get to sleep either, and your volunteer efforts offer a reprieve from the struggles of a tough race. Thanks to Mitchell Rossman, you taught me a lot on the fly and I look forward to see you out on the trail again soon. Thanks to Helen for your support from abroad. You have taught me so much about running and myself over the past few months and without your insights and support I wouldn’t have dreamed that I could finish a race like this. And thanks to all of you that sent along wishes of good luck and support before, during and after the race. I feel blessed to be a part of the extended family of ultra runners. And finally, thank you to Katelyn Atwell, my inspiration for Where’s Chris Scotch and my ongoing campaign for St. Jude Children’s Hospital, and to Bryan, Carissa and Nolan. Your generosity in your own time of difficulty will help save the lives of children at St. Jude. And your faith in me, literally picked me up off the snow and willed me to finish.
150 miles on snow with a sled. 60 hours and 25 minutes. Dedicated to the memory of Nolan Magnus Keister.