My name is Nick, I am a Wisconsin dad who loves all things fitness, diving, and food! Persistent Resilience is a log of the fun and craziness that is my life. I am passionate about running, I love to see how far I can push myself, and my favorite runs are off-road. Currently I am trying to add to my ultra-marathon experience. If you have any questions about how/why I run or eat the way that I do please do not hesitate to contact me by leaving a comment, via facebook, or by email at Thanks for Visiting

14 July 2015

BIGHORN TRAIL 100 MILE – A lesson in problem solving

“It’s better than descending the canyon, it’s better than descending the canyon!”  This was the phrase that, much to the annoyance of anyone within earshot, I was incessantly repeating, OUT LOUD!  I was blurting this outwith as much anger and passion as I could muster while trying to keep myself from blacking out around mile 99 of the Bighorn 100.  I slowly covering the last mile, 1 very long, hot, exposed mile of a long journey.  I was suffering from heat exhaustion, (verging on heat stroke-I had stopped sweating), sleep deprivation, full body destruction, and severe calorie deficiency.  I refused to allow myself to pass out, thereby needing medical attention and getting DQ’d at mile 99 of my 100 mile race.  The descent of the “canyon” I was using as motivation to keep moving forward had just happened. Mile 88-95 of the Bighorn 100 involves descending a 7 mile, exposed canyon trail which starts at ~7500ft and ends at ~4200ft.  Most of the rocky descent is in excess of 15-20% grade, making it a difficult journey on fresh legs much less legs with 90+ miles on them.  But this was the end of the journey; let’s go back to the beginning.

First I’d like to take an opportunity to thank a few people who made this journey possible.  First, my family who supports me and my fun little hobby, you may not understand or even like it but, you are always my number one fans!  To my sponsor Performance Running Outfitters, you truly provide me with the ability to pursue these ridiculous adventures.  If anyone should ever happen to be in the Southeastern Wisconsin area and need anything related to running or outdoor activity this locally owned business are your experts.  For my running club Lapham Peak Trail Runners and all of the individuals who mentored me, the advice was priceless.  Finally, to Team Red White & Blue, an organization driven to help those who have sacrificed more than could be imagined live happy lives.  Coming from a military family, and being a US Navy veteran myself, I am constantly in awe of sacrifices some made while serving, and if you wish to support them this is a great group, just click on the link.

I arrived in Sheridan, WY after a 15 hour drive.  After check-in I went for a little hike up into the canyon that would be the race start and (after a drive) around the courses high point, at 9800ft.  It was during this hike that I realized I was truly ready to run my first 100 mile trail race.  My training had gone well; I was fit and not injured (thanks to my coach IanTorrence).  I practiced, what I thought was a solid nutrition/hydration strategy.  I had erred on the side of keeping it simple with my gear; I figured a more minimalist approach would leave less chance for malfunction. Most importantly I had committed to a reasonable set of goals that would allow me to focus on my own race.

Goal setting was interesting for a race challenge of this magnitude.  This was my first 100 mile race so everything was uncharted territory.  I must have answered the “goal” question a hundred times in the weeks leading up to the race.  After speaking with my coach and running mentors, I chose a tiered goal that would allow me to mentally accept and adapt to any unique challenges that the course would provide.  Bighorn being one of the more challenging 100 milers (as if 100 miles is ever easy, sheesh!) would provide me with ample opportunity to practice this art.  My goals were as follows:

1.       Finish the race, un-hurt, and still having fun!
2.       Break 30 hours.  (Bighorn has a 34 hour cutoff)
3.       Break 24 hours. (Usually less than 15 people do this at bighorn)
4.       If all of the above have been met push as hard as possible for top 10.

Why there was tiered goals (Photo: Joey Luther)
I was asked a lot if I really thought I could run sub 24 or break into the top 10 in my 1st 100.  I usually answered that I wasn’t really sure but my fitness was good and it would all depend on the course.  (Now there’s a committed answer, right!)

Well race day came (JUN 19), and I found myself calmly riding a shuttle to the race start at 10:45 AM.  Yes that’s right the Bighorn 100 mile actually starts, not at some silly zero dark thirty time but rather, at a casual 11am.  Now this late start also has its drawbacks, by 11am it is already starting to heat up!  This year WY and most of the mountainous west has had an abundance of rain and heat.  This meant it was going to be hot and humid.  The course itself was going to have mud, lots of it!  The conversation in the shuttle and at the start was pretty relaxed, and soon it was time to run.

The Bighorn 100 is an out and back course, it has 3 big climbs and descents, an elevation gain over 17,000ft, and a peak elevation of 8,950ft.  Being that it is an out and back you cover 2 of the climbs in the first half, and 1 on the return.  This means you have to be somewhat conservative with your quads in the beginning of the race as you have 2 really steep, technical descents later in the race.  The race begins with a 7 mile climb straight up a very exposed canyon.  Since the heat was out in full force I took this climb pretty easy.  I watched the lead group fly up the canyon at what seemed like 5k pace.  The leader of this group was a 19 year old runner from OR named Andrew Miller, he would eventually go on to smoke the course in 18:29 and set a new record.  As for the rest of the group running with him, a lot of them would end up dropping out.  Coming to the top of the canyon I stopped to admire an absolute breathtaking view, and then began to run the up and down the bumps which would bring me to the first real downhill of the day.

View of Tongue River Canyon from top (Photo: Andy Wellman)
I was running with a group of about 20-30 people, a little back from the leaders, many whom had run this or other similar 100’s at a very comfortable pace.  This early in the race my only priority was to manage the heat, keep eating, and to try not to make any silly mistakes.  I was working hard to stay cool by wearing a bandana filled with ice, keeping ice in my hat and water bottles, wearing a cotton t-shirt which I kept soaking wet, and soaking myself with water from the mountain runoff every chance I could.  It seemed all the 100 mile veterans were doing the same.  Then one by one all of us started to have stomach issues.  I realized something was not right with my stomach when my adductors and quads all cramped climbing up a pretty easy hill around mile 11.  I stopped to stretch everything out, and realized that although my stomach was allowing me to eat it was not absorbing anything I was putting in it. My muscles were not getting any glycogen and they cramped.  The only thing I could do at this point was slow down, keep eating, and manage the pain.  It was really frustrating watching the group I had been effortlessly running with, although now smaller, run away from me.  But that only lasted for a brief second as my mind was busy trying to solve my current problem. (Scratch goal #4)

I managed to run off and on dealing with the cramps for the next 10ish miles before coming to a mountain creek that would allow me to fully submerge myself.  I did, for several minutes.  I am not sure whether I finally cooled my core enough to turn my stomach back on or it just gave up and started to work, but suddenly my cramps were gone and I had a ton of energy.  Luckily for me this energy and abating of cramps happened right before the first huge descent into the mile 30 aid station.  I happily ran down this insanely steep (think 2200ft in less than 3 miles) trail into the Footbridge aid station.  I was greeted by what looked to be a combat field hospital.  There were runners in all states of destruction.  I am pretty sure I moved up 75 spots by just moving in and out of Footbridge Aid in a few minutes.  Upon leaving this station you begin climbing all the way up to the turn.  That’s right, almost a 20 mile continuous climb.  Unfortunately for the runners, the previous weeks had been so hot that all of the snowpack up high had melted creating a swampy muddy mess for a majority of this climb. I was able to run/hike most of this climb, when I wasn’t loosing shoes in ankle to knee deep mud.  It was somewhere in between 35-40 miles that my next problem appeared, BLISTERS. 

Bighorn Canyon, Jaws Aid is far away in the middle (Photo: Andy Wellman)
Let me back up a bit, I have never had a blister, EVER, on my feet.  I ran my first 50 miler without socks and did not get blisters.  So when at mile 35ish I began to feel this weird sensation on the bottom of my feet could only guess that the mud and water was finally taking a toll.  Well I was right because around mile 40ish two huge blisters one on the ball of each foot exploded.  (Scratch Goal #3) This was a whole new level of pain that took my breath away.  Unfortunately for me, I land on the balls of my feet when I run, so I had two options.  I could change my running gait, possibly causing some other injury to appear, or I could grit my teeth, keep running, and accept the pain.  I chose the latter.  I made decent time to the turn-around point (Jaws Aid Station), and even though my feet were trashed, I was in pretty good spirits.  I had been eating well (Gels, broth, and PB&J quesadillas) and had great energy.  I quickly changed shirts, grabbed my headlamp, and ran back into the night.

Being above tree line, at high altitude, in the middle of the night, during a new moon (no moon) makes it appear as if you can reach out and touch the stars.  The night sky was beyond impressive.  Other than being asked what my goals were for the race, I am pretty sure the next question I answered most was how I was going to run all day, night, and some of the next day without sleeping.  Well with such inspiring star filled skies at night and mountain/canyon filled vistas during the day my mind was so overwhelmed with beauty it forgot to even recognize fatigue.  I moved (hiked/jogged) pretty well down the technical, muddy descent back to footbridge aid (mile 66) arriving about the time the sun came up.  It was here that I decided to assess my feet.  I removed my mud soaked shoes and socks and cleaned my feet.  The damage had been done, all I could do was cover them in Vaseline, put on clean shoes and socks, and move out.  (Lucky me they stayed dry and clean all of 30 seconds!) That same insane downhill I ran to get into Footbridge back around mile 30, I would now be climbing out.  There were several times over the next 3 miles where I was scrambling on all 4’s to keep going up.

By the time I reached mile 70 a combination of the food I had been eating plus the sun rising allowed my running legs to find another gear.  I only had two smaller climbs plus the final huge descent left, so at this point if my body wanted to run hard then that’s what I was going to let it do.  I moved really well for the next 12 miles, making the obscene climb up to the final big aid station at mile 82.  Here I made my second big mistake of the race (1st was the feet), I sat in a chair! Persuaded by a great medical volunteer, that she might be able to help with my feet, I SAT.  I should have known they were beyond help at this point, but the promise sounded so good.  While sitting in the chair I realized I was going hypotensive (my blood pressure was dropping), I began to shake, and was quickly losing all the valuable energy that had propelled me that last 12 miles so effortlessly.  I got up and out of that station as quickly as I could but it took me almost all 5 miles back to the top of the canyon to pull myself back together. 

So as they say what goes up must come down!  Well this race started with a 7 mile climb up a steep, exposed, technical canyon and now with 88 miles in my legs and destroyed feet I was going down that same route.  I ran down as hard as I could before I would have to slow myself to keep from blacking out due to the pain in my feet.  It took a supreme effort of concentration through the fatigue to stay upright in this mess.  (Plus some gum from the aid station volunteer so I wouldn’t crack my teeth while gritting them!)  I managed to make it to the bottom of the canyon to the final 5 miles of flat, completely exposed, sun baked road during the hottest part of the day! (Lucky me!)  That brings me back to how this report started, with me trying mightily to not be disqualified at mile 99 of a 100 mile race for passing out and receiving medical attention.  I somehow managed to pull myself together enough to jog that last mile through the finishing arch, (100 miles in 29:45:26) where I immediately fell to the ground.

“I am done!” That was my first thought as I lay on the ground, on my back, with tears streaking down my face.  I am not sure why I was crying (although tearing up may describe it better).  I am pretty sure at that point my body was going to do one of two things vomit or cry, and I guess it chose the latter.  I say my body chose because my mind had finally shut off and I had zero control over my body.  Amazing, thirty seconds earlier I was running and now I couldn’t even move.  Well I eventually got it together enough to enjoy a post-race soak in the creek, dinner, hanging out re-hashing the race with all the other finishers, and a few hours of sleep.

The next morning was the awards ceremony where it seemed I was not the only one with feet that felt like smashed hamburger.  I left WY a little more tired and beat up then when I arrived but elated with the fact that I had finished this adventure.  This race tested me and my problem solving abilities like no other.  I told people at the finish that this was the second hardest mental and physical challenge I had ever completed.  Amazingly finishers of multiple 100 milers all said they agreed that this race was a whole new level.  Over 440 people started the race and barely 190 finished.  That’s almost a 60% DNF rate.  The Bighorn 100 mile course had claimed many victims but I was not one of them.  There are things I will do different in my next race, and things that will stay the same. (I will write about that coming up.)  Overall though this was a spectacular race, the beauty of this course is beyond words, hopefully some of the pictures do it justice.  I can’t thank the race organization and volunteers enough, you are all first class!  As for me I am taking a few weeks off, then focusing on some strength training (Got to look good for the beach, yeah right!), and then shifting my fall focus to some cross country (think 5k-8k) trail races I have always wanted to do.
Enjoy the race photos and gear list below!!
Shoes: Hoka One One Challenger ATR (Performance Running Outfitters: PRO)
Shorts: Pearl Izzumi 3/4 Ultra Tight (PRO)
Jersey: Performance Running (PRO)
Socks: Smartwool: PHd Outdoor mid crew (PRO)
Hat: Team Red White and Blue
Nutrition: GU (regular & Roctane) & S-Caps (PRO)
Bottles: Amphipod 20oz & 12oz (PRO)
Race Photo's
Pre-Race Napping (11am start time)

Single Track up Tongue River Canyon with Needle in background (Photo: Andy Wellman)
Tongue River Canyon Trail (Photo: Bighorn100)
Trail Outbound (Photo: Bighorn100)
Final 1 mile of road (Photo: Bighorn100)

100 Miles Complete!!
Thanks for reading; I hope you enjoyed the write up.
See you outside!!

30 June 2015

7 Minute Decision guide to choosing and preparing for your 1st 100 mile trail ultra

My 7 Minute Decision guide to choosing and preparing for your 1st 100 mile trail ultra - How I chose to run the Bighorn Trail 100 Mile!

Deciding to complete or compete in a race of any distance can be a very taxing process, and much like life the more outlandish the race the more complicated the decision process becomes.  I am writing this as a mini-guide to how I chose my 1st 100 mile trail race (Bighorn Trail 100 Mile) in hopes that it simplifies things for you.  I figure you need about 1 minute per step, there are 7 of them. As always this is my warped thought process so utilize the steps that make sense and disregard the rest.

Step 1: Decide to run 100 miles.
For me this process was easy, I wanted to run 100 miles.  Why you ask, why not!  Word of advice disregard all commentary that ends in (xxxx’nt), such as “I wouldn’t do that, you shouldn’t do that, and you can’t do that.”  The preceding statements are all crap and designed to deter you from achieving something meaningful!

Step 2: Choose a race.
For this I say choose something that scares you, A LOT, so it motivates you to train and finish the race. One example of how a race could scare you would be, “I chose this race in Europe and it cost a ton of money to get here, if I come home with a DNF (Did Not Finish) my significant other will kill me in my sleep” ie… you will finish the race. Or in my case choose a race that is at altitude and has an elevation gain profile so big, I couldn’t specifically prepare for it, that’s scary! (ie.. Bighorn Trail 100 Mile)
This is the elevation profile of the Bighorn 100 from JoeyLuther

Step 3: Start running.
This means you need to be healthy enough to consistently train (run).  No weird aches or pains or anything broken.  I don’t care what Karl says, a hundred miles is that far!  To ensure I not only started running but kept running injury free I decided to get some assistance from a coach, which leads to #4.

My Coach Ian Torrence
Step 4: Get a coach!!!
If this is your first hundred or the first one you want to race, I would highly suggest getting a coach.  My advice in choosing a coach is, “Get one who is not afraid to argue with you!”  What I mean by this is your coach first needs to be able to understand what your goals are and if they are realistic.  Second, they need to be able to argue with you when you are acting crazy.  You know you have found “your coach”, when you can have a heated argument/discussion 1 second, then be laughing with them the next.  Really, it’s no different than a significant other.  Also if your coach scares you a bit that is good as well.  Here is an example of the 14 days prior to my 9 day taper for Bighorn.  I was more frightened for these than the race!


Step 5: Figure out your stomach.
This boils down to practice your race day nutrition/hydration during your long hard runs.  Rule number one, if it makes you soil your shorts or vomit uncontrollably DO NOT utilize this strategy or product during your race.  Rule number two if you feel like a rock star and are killing your training run, determine how to replicate this nutrition/hydration strategy during your race.

Step 6: Choose appropriate gear. (But not too much!)
This step can be as complicated or simple as you choose.  My vote is to keep it as simple as possible.  Look at the weather forecast, aid station distances, race time splits if available, course map, and elevation profile.  All of these will help you determine what you may need for the race.  Much like your nutrition, whatever you plan on using should be practiced beforehand.  A good example is, if it makes you bleed or pass out, probably not the best choice.  If you barely notice it’s there, use it again.
My Basic 100 Mile Gear

Step 7: Determine if you need an entourage. (ie.. Crew & Pacer)
This is a personal choice.  For me I feel a pacer would be a distraction, I would be more worried about them and not focusing on me.  As far as a crew, although I’ve never had one, I feel it would be awesome! (Any future volunteers.)

Step 8: Show up and race smart!

Congrats you’ve made it now have fun!

All in the above steps took me about 5 minutes to work though mentally and looked something like this:
1.       I am going to run 100 miles,
2.       Bighorn Trail 100 Mile scares me and I can drive there for free!
3.       I feel good to start running, even if it is -50 degrees out! (Wisconsin winter)
4.       Ian Torrence, with McMillan Coaching only made me cry a little ;)
5.       Try and Try again, eventually I will have something convenient and stomach friendly!
6.       Keep it simple! (Not quite Anton simple though)
7.       I am driving to the race for free and dirtbagging it, not really sure who would like to do that as well ;)
8.       I am at the start line for the Bighorn 100 and I feel both scared and ready!
Actually getting them done took a bit longer and was all part of the wonderful journey to The Bighorn 100!

Stay tuned for the Race Report!! 

06 May 2015


2015 Ice Age Preview

The 2014 edition of the Ice Age Trail 50 mile was a race that some said would never happen. Combine moderate temperatures, extremely fast like-minded competitors, and a dry course and you get the fastest single day in Ice Age history! The relatively cool air temperatures at the start which rose along with the humidity through the day challenged the hundreds who took part in the Ice Age 50 Mile. One word described the men’s race, speed, and Max King ended up being the fastest resetting the course record (5:41:07) in the process! The women’s race was a little more spread out with Kaci Lickteig taking the win and the course record (6:41:39)!

The 2015 edition of the Ice Age Trail 50 miler has undergone some changes.  First, the sponsor changed from Montrail to Salomon.  Second, the race will no longer be offering automatic Western States 100 entries.  What has not changed is the fact that this is a storied race, on a deceivingly difficult course, with a very fast field.  The Ice Age Trail 50 has always drawn those newer to ultras, those with incredible road speed, and the wily veterans.  This year will be no different.  Following is a short breakdown of those who may contend for the top spots on Saturday!


Joshua Brimhall (AdiUltra/Nathan Sport)
Josh definitely fits into the veteran category.  With more than 60 ultra finishes you will rarely see a finish lower than 5th; in fact most of Josh’s finishes are 1st or 2nd.  Most recently Josh took fourth at the Zane Grey 50 miler, a race most would describe as the hardest 50 miler in the States.  Josh has also won a 50k in 3:34.  The last time he raced Ice Age (2013) he fell a little shy of his goal of a win with a 6:25.  Expect Josh to come ready to race, and looking for some payback from this course.

Zachary Ornelas (Skechers)
There seems to be one thing in common with all “Skechers” sponsored athletes (Meb Keflezighi, Kara Goucher…) they are all ridiculously fast.  Well Zach is no different.  Zach just obliterated the competition at the US 50k Road Championships at the Coumsett 50k with an otherworldly time of 2:52:17!!  That’s right; only 6 North American’s have run a faster 50k.  Zach, a teacher from Michigan, is new to ultras.  He gave ultras a go in 2014, while also running his first Marathon, a 2:20! (Yes he still plans to go for an Olympic Trials Qualifier) Expect Zach to come ready to chase down Max King’s CR and anyone else who gets in front of him!

Zach Bitter (Altra)
Another Zach, one who is not new to Ultras or Ice Age is Zach Bitter.  This will be Zach’s 4th Ice Age 50.  He has a 1st, 3rd, and 6th.  As impressive as Zach’s Ice Age stats are, it is the rest of his resume that sets him apart from most other runners.  The 100 Mile American Record (11:47), the 12 Hour world record (101.66 miles), the 200k American Track Record (16:23:33), and the 6th fastest 50 mile time ever (5:12:36) to name a few.  To top those off he also represented the USA at the 2014 world 100k Championships in Qatar finishing in 6th (6:48). Recently Zach attempted to better his own 100 mile American record and go after world record, only to succumb to some severe quad issues.  In the past when a race has not gone according to plan for Zach he has shown the ability to channel all of the frustration into his next event.  With Zach’s intimate course knowledge expect him to come ready to hammer this course!

Chris Rubesch
Chris has finished 27 ultras, garnering 26 top 10’s, 7 wins, and a few course records.  He has raced Ice Age twice now with an 11th and 10th place finish.  Chris has a 100 mile PR of 16:40, and really knows how to push through the suffering.  Look for him to push hard with the front.

Stuart Kolb
Stuart is a Wisconsin native with 14 Ice Age 50 Mile finishes.  13 of those have been top 10’s!  Stuart has a 50 mile PR of 6:10 and an Ice Age 50 mile PR of 6:32.  With his experience and course knowledge look for him to run right behind the front pack waiting to pick off any who struggle!


Jessica Garcia
Jessica is a Wisconsin native who races to win.  Jessica has finished 9 ultras in her career with 7 of those being top 3 finishes.  She ran Ice Age in 2014 placing 6th in 8:14.  She recently took 3rd at the Chicago Lakefront 50K.  Expect Jessica to bring her speed and toughness to this race.

Annie Weiss
Annie, a registered dietician, burst onto the trail ultra scene in 2011.  Crossing over from a road racing background she quickly won her first two ultras (50k’s) and took second in her first 50 miler.  Then injury struck.  Annie started her comeback in 2014 and is now being coached by Tommy “Rivers” Puzey and comeback she has!  So far in 2015 Annie has taken 5th at the uber competitive Black Canyon 100K, and a 3rd at the Chippewa 50k.  Look for Annie to continue that comeback.  OH as an aside the last time Annie raced an Ice Age Trail event it was the 50k and she won.

Serena Wilcox
Serena ran her first ultra in 2008, so she knows a thing or two about racing.  She also happens to know something about winning while suffering.  She won the 2011 Vermont 100, and last year took 12th at the Western States 100.  She has a 50 mile PR of 7:35 so she also knows how to run really fast.  Serena is slated to run Western States again this year.  She has already run a 50k and 50 mile as tune ups.  Watch for Serena to run her own race, and if she’s in position take it out for the win.

Also for your reading pleasure, here is the link to the "This Week In Running: May 4th 2015" article including the Ice Age Trail preview information.  Please check back in to the site on Monday May 11th for a recap of the action for the race!