Mad City 100K (National Championships)

Mad City 100K (National Championships)

I decided at some point last autumn (2023) that I wanted to pursue a road 100K, but not just any 100K, I wanted to attempt Mad City 100K. Mad City is the American 100K National Championship race and therefore, it is generally very competitive. A 100K on the road is a departure from my usual race style and out of the three 100 kilometer races I had completed previously (Austin Rattler 9:17; 2014, Gorge Waterfalls 10:14; 2016, and Black Canyons 10:15; 2018), this would be the first non-trail race. In fact my fastest 100K leading up to the race was technically from Desert Solstice 24 Hour at 9:09.

So in preparation for Mad City I tried to focus a little more on flat fast running as opposed to my typical slow steep trail running. I peppered in some track workouts, fartleks, and tempos in order to get my speed dialed. I also tried to run some fast long runs. After the Seattle Marathon in late November 2023, I took a few months off racing and opened up 2024 with Run Forest Run 50K in Montesano, Washington. Run Forest Run is a fairly hilly course with about 5000 vertical feet of gain and plenty of slippery mud. Not exactly a great preparation race for Mad City, but I just wanted to get in an ultra distance event for the year. I ended up improving 11 minutes upon my time from 2023 and finishing in 4:27. 

Following Run Forest Run 50K on February 17th, I took a down week and then at Apryle’s suggestion decided to go for a back to back long run. Her thought was that I could not expect to run my goal 100k on race day if I could not do a 100k over two days in my goal race pace. So on February 27th I completed the 35 mile Cedar River trail out and back in 4:10. Then the next day did a 24 miler in 3:02; which amounted to 59 miles in 7:12. I estimated that at that pace, I could finish the 100K in 7:35. My goal was 7:15 all at once, so I knew I was on the right track but my fitness was lacking. 

Throughout March I mostly ran flat with at least one workout a week, but I did mix in some more mountainous trails. In the final week of March I ran the Dizzy Daze 12 hour race, which amounted to 77 miles in about 11:38. I did not feel that the pace was quick enough to really destroy my legs, so I still believe that the race was a good idea to build up my endurance and confidence for Mad City. However, following Dizzy Daze I did struggle with medial knee pain, which I attributed to tight adductor musculature. It is unusual for me to have any sort of injury and I assumed that with some diligent myofascial work and stretching that the pain would dissipate in a few days. 

Unfortunately, the pain persisted and the entire first week of April went poorly. I was not able to run any quick miles and I only accumulated about 55 miles. The second week of April did not go much better and I really leaned into the taper. It seemed if I kept the pace under 7 minute miles or simply hiked in the mountains, my knee felt better. Finally on race week, the knee pain seemed to be decreasing and I was cautiously optimistic about the race. 

After work on April 18th, Apryle and I flew to Chicago and drove the rental car to Madison. We did not make it to the hotel until about 4AM and Apryle had to be up for work at 6AM, so I did not get a great night sleep 48 hours out from the race. But I had a very relaxing pre race day. I started the day with a short run around Pheasant Branch Conversancy, then went for a walk around Lake Tiedeman. At the hotel I relaxed in the hot tub, swam 250 meters, stretched out, and did an ab workout and pushups. I picked up my packet and went for a walk around Wingra Woods at the University of Wisconsin Arboretum and then after dinner, Apryle and I walked out to Picnic Point at Lakeshore Nature Preserve. It is possible that I did a little too much the day before the race, but I was impressed with how interesting Madison’s trail system and nature preserves were. 

The morning of the race we arrived at the start/finish and I set up my water flasks and gel blocks. The start line was situated between Vilas Lagoon and Lake Wingra. The race got underway at 0630 under cloudy skies with temperatures in the low 30s. It was fairly windy with gusts reaching 12 miles per hour making the ambient temperature feel like low 20s. I started off fairly slow and let the majority of the other runners go ahead. I generally ran the first lap with Jonah Backstrom and we chatted about pacing. 

The course initially travels west and takes the Vilas Park Drive to Edgewood Drive around the northwest side of Lake Wingra. The first minor hill is Woodrow Street which travels through a residential neighborhood northward away from Lake Wingra. After cresting the hill the course continues southwestward down Monroe Street where I turned over the first mile. The route hugs the west fringe of Lake Wingra as it follows both Arbor Drive and Monroe Street. At mile two, the course merges onto Nakoma Road where it borders the Viburnum Garden. As the route dives southwest I turned onto Manitou Way where it bordered the golf course. This was the biggest hill on the course as it reached the Southwest corner. From the top of the hill I turned onto McCaffrey Drive and wrapped around the golf course where I turned over 3 miles. 

The course then merged onto Arboretum Drive and passed by Wingra Woods and the University of Wisconsin Arboretum. The latter three miles of the course was my favorite section because it was mostly surrounded by trees and wetland without many houses or human development. There were dozens of Turkeys through this area. They generally held their place on the route, in full display for the first four or five laps. As the Arboretum Drive meandered through the woodland, the midpoint aid station was situated at around mile 4. The course descended to the south side of Lake Wingra and then passed between Lake Wingra and wetlands to the east as it trended north. I turned over mile 5 through this section and the crosswinds were noticeable blowing over the lake from the west. At the northeast corner of the lake the route heads west again along the Wingra Creek trail and Vilas Park Drive. Then after passing by the finish area the loop begins again. 

I felt very strong for the first 50 kilometers and my medial knee was tolerating the effort quite well. I went through the first half in 3:32:25, which is not that quick of a 50 kilometer time, but not terrible with another 50 kilometers to go. This was essentially a 6:50 pace which would be enough to keep me under pace for the 7:15 qualifier. Unfortunately, between 60 and 70 kilometers, my pace started to slip and I knew that I would not likely be able to maintain the pace necessary to make the qualifier. I was confident that I would break 6 hours for the 50 miler, but I knew that my legs were faltering. 

I came through mile 50 in 5:53:24 or 7:04 pace, which was a new personal best but 3 minutes and 24 seconds off my goal pace. I continued to run to the best of my ability, but my 9th lap was my slowest with a time of 53:51 (8:40 pace). I really crashed during this loop and walked for the only time in the race (up the Manitou Way hill). However, while I walked I was sure to take in about 200 calories and by the time I reached the arboretum section around mile 3, I was running again. I think I could have run this lap abut 5 minutes faster if I hadn’t under-fueled on my 8th lap. 

The 10th lap was uneventful, I felt okay, I was happy that I was going to run a personal best, but a little disappointed that I fell short of my goal. However, I soaked in my surroundings and appreciated the course for one last time after spending seven hours on it. The sky was overcast in dense cloud cover, the wind howled and the sky sputtered out a few snowflakes. The Wild Turkeys were tucked back away by the latter laps, but I did see a Sandhill Crane walking up to a red car like it was ready to jump in the passenger seat. I remembered how in the middle of the race I forgot which town I was in, thinking that this section of Madison reminded me of an east coast town. Mostly I remembered how steadfast Apryle was in her support of me throughout the race. She was there cheering me on all ten passes. Overall, I will look back on the Mad City 100K with fond memories. Thanks so much to Nora the race director and all the volunteers and as always thanks to Apryle for the support. 

LapLap TimePaceDistance (Miles)Distance (Kilometers)Overall Time
Lap 10:43:056:566.25100:43:05
Lap 20:41:086:3712.5201:24:13
Lap 30:41:476:4318.75302:06:00
Lap 40:42:346:5125402:48:34
Lap 50:43:517:0331.25503:32:25
Lap 60:44:577:1437.5604:17:22
Lap 70:46:487:3243.75705:04:10
Lap 80:49:147:5550805:53:24
Lap 90:53:518:4056.25906:47:15
Lap 100:49:488:0162.51007:37:03

Race Statistics and Photos

Madison Area Photos

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