The Ultimate Thwarting of the Gnarly Bandit in the Kettle Moraine 100s

If you were talking to a veteran ultra runner, bringing up a recent running of the Kettle Moraine 100s would remind them of lightning, torrential rains, heat, and/or hoards of mosquitoes. However, for the 17th running of the Kettle Moraine 100 Endurance Runs, near LaGrange, Wis., staged on June 2-3, the weather was predicted to be perfect, that is no rain and in the 70s.

But sometimes “perfect” for an average bystander is not “perfect” for an ultrarunner, especially one who is not heat trained. During this year’s races many runners suffered from the heat, experiencing nausea, loss of energy, and dizziness among other symptoms. Otherwise, the weather was as perfect as it gets – the mosquitoes didn’t even make an honorary appearance.

Sunrise on the course, foretelling of a beautiful day

Ultrarunners learn not to ask for perfect or even something close to perfect, because perfection during a race longer than a marathon is non-existent. Ultrarunning is a bit of a masochistic activity but also one where you can achieve deep inner satisfaction. The goal of many ultrarunners is to reach inner harmony more often than outer throbbing (or swelling or spraining or losing your inner sustenance, aka lunch.) But even if an ultrarunner has a horrible race, they tend to use it as fuel for the mind for future races when encountering the inevitable hardships, because you can always think back to that one horrible race and realize that your current situations is not that bad. Therefore, you can continue on and by logical reason, you are currently having a good race.

The running of the 2012 Kettle Moraine Runs included a 100 mile, 100K, 100 mile relay, and 38-mile fun run. (You know you’re in ultrarunner land when 38 miles is considered a fun run.) One particular challenge for racers attempting a 100 mile finish on this course is that after you have run 100K (on a out-and-back section) you are standing at the start/finish area, making it really easy to pull the plug and do something a little more relaxing like take a nap. It required a good deal of mental strength to run away from the finish, knowing that you won’t see it again for 38 more miles (another out-and-back).

Jeremy Lindquist indeed taking a nap at an aid station, but he battled on to complete the 100 mile

The race course is entirely on moderately hilly trails that traverse the Ice Age National Scenic Trail for about 65 miles. The race includes mostly shaded wooded terrain but also plenty of open prairie meadows, which can be good to blow away the mosquitoes but in this year’s case, the meadows served to heat runners’ core temperatures up to uncomfortable levels. Every race has its unique challenges and these races are no exception.

Daryl Saari and another runner heading back on the course following a stop at an aid station

Completing the 100 mile or 100 km was the second challenge in 2012 Wilderness Athlete Gnarly Bandit Ultra Trail Series, offered by Upper Midwest Trail Runners. All athletes who complete all five races receive an equal portion of the $600 bounty put up by Wilderness Athlete Performance Products, as well as a coveted work of art by Rock Steady Racing’s own John Storkamp.

The Gnarly Bandit was out in full force on this nearly full moon lit night)

Eleven athletes finished the first challenge in the series, the Zumbro 100 mile near Zumbro Falls, Minnesota. Ten athletes began either the Kettle Moraine 100 mile or the 100K and ten athletes finished. The Gnarly Bandit attempted to halt each of these runners completion but each of them proved tough enough to withstand all those gnarly temptations that could be heard throughout the trail, especially in the most difficult sections where the voices are loudest and ugliest. In those sections, the Gnarly Bandit himself could be heard saying, “You aren’t yourself today…you’re having a bad day…you should quit at the next aid station” and “It’s hot out…you are going to start cramping more…you will have to slow way down, maybe even stop.” But each of these ten athletes resisted these gnarly temptations while battling to finish strong. The Gnarly Bandit was zero for 10 on his capture attempts.

Brian Woods on this lush course

Without further ado, the ten remaining gnarly runners in the Gnarly Bandit series that completed the 100 mile are Jeremy Lindquist (Stillwater, Minn.) 23:25:17; Aaron Buffington (Blaine, Minn.) 24:31:54; Brian Woods (St. Cloud, Minn.) 24:53:00; John Taylor (Minneapolis, Minn.) 25:53:30; and Daryl Saari (Rochester, Minn.) 28:00:47. The gnarly runners who bagged the 100K are: Arika Hage (Lakeville, Minn.) 14:17:36; Wayne Nelson (Rochester, Minn.) 17:42:12; Rick Bothwell (Moose Lake, Minn.); Allan Holtz (Oakdale, Minn.); and Edward Sandor (Minneapolis, Minn.).

No race report would be complete without reporting those who have incredible ability and train very hard, also known as the winners. The top three in the 100 mile were as follows: 1. Trey Robinson (29, Gurnee, Ill.) 18:33:07; 2. Josh Miller (40, Dubuque, Iowa) 18:40:05; 3. Rob Houghton (55, Murphys, Calif.) 19:03:18. The fastest three 100 mile females were: 1. Becky George (29, Baxter, Minn.) 19:12:43 – she was 4th overall!; 2. Alisha Damrow (27, Menasha) 21:14:15; 3. Emily Bello (26, Newport, Ky.) 22:08:02.

The top 100K finishers were: 1. Stuart Kolb (50, Green Bay) 9:18:36; 2. Joshua Wopata (30, Westfield, Ind.) 9:57:58; 3. Henry Southgate (31, Madison) 10:07:24. The top three 100K females finishers were: 1. Cassie Kottke (29, Brillion) 13:14:49; 2. Janice Brearley (48, Wausau) 13:46:34; 3. Kelcy Boettcher (35, Wales) 13:58:38.

If you noticed, seven states were represented in these results. The Kettle Moraine Endurance Runs are destination races and on the bucket list for many ultrarunners across the country.

The Gnarly Bandit will be muttering to himself while conjuring up new plans to thwart the remaining ten gnarly runners at the next race in the series, the Black Hills 100 mile/100K, on June 23 at Sturgis, S.D.

All ten remaining competitors in the Gnarly Bandit series. Bottom: Daryl Saari, Arika Hage, Jeremy Lindquist, Rick Bothwell, Allan Holtz. Top: John Taylor, Aaron Buffington, Brian Woods, Edward Sandor, Wayne Nelson

Write Molly at

Note: All photography by Lisa Messerer

About the author

Molly Cochran

Molly is a self-proclaimed adventure addict who participates in a number of sports - ultra running, mountain biking, orienteering, kayaking, snowshoeing, triathlon, nordic skiing, and adventure racing.

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