News: For one soldier, charity involves running -lots of it
Story by Staff Sgt. Christopher McCullough
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – Capt. Richard Kresser, 27, from Raymond, Iowa, is an engineer officer with Headquarters Company, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. He is also an ultra-runner who just ran 423 miles in seven days, across the state of Iowa; something which, until this year, had never been accomplished.
Before last month, Kresser had run several races with 30 or more miles - the definition of an ultra-run - on many occasions, to include the Quadzilla road race, in Seattle, which involved running four-26.2 marathons four days in a row. However, for as many ultra-runs as he's done, Kresser had never accomplished what he did on July 27, when he successfully crossed the finish line of the 41st Registers Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa, otherwise known as RAGBRAI, in Fort Madison, Iowa.
"[I was] attempting to be the first man to run RAGBRAI, Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa," said Kresser.
As it turned out, that honor went to another Iowa native, Pete Kostelnick, originally from Boone, Iowa, who also ran the RAGBRAI this year. Even though Kostelnick may have been first, it wasn't by much, as Kresser came running down the trail an hour later "and straight into the [Mississippi] river amid cheers from cyclists and onlookers," according to the Des Moines Register, a newspaper located in the Iowa state capital of Des Moines.
"That was the highlight, that last day," Kresser reminisced. "Running into that last town, all along the way, there were just people cheering for me, and then down by the Mississippi River, where you are supposed to dip your tire [when you finish], there were just huge crowds cheering.”
He said it was moving to him because of the support he saw along the route and in Fort Madison, where the race ended.
"I was really astounded by how much everyone was in support not only of the run itself, but the cause I was doing it for - the Iowa Veterans Home," said Kresser. "They were completely supportive of it. I talked to veterans along the way, as well as locals who had a connection to it."
Kresser’s goal was to raise $25,000 for the aging veteran's medical community in Marshalltown, Iowa, that was founded in the wake of the Civil War and has served veterans every year since.
"I kind of expected to get most of the money through corporate donations, and a little through individuals," said Kresser, "but we got almost three quarters of all our donations through individual donations. We raised over $18,000. It was just absolutely amazing how much everyone chipped in."
Getting to the end, however, was an experience Kresser won't soon forget.
"Each day was its own experience," Kresser stated. "I kind of expected…each day would be like Groundhog Day," he said, alluding to the movie Groundhog Day, in which the main character, played by Bill Murray, relives Groundhog Day over and over, "but I was kind of surprised the way each day was its own and different experience."
Getting to the end also wasn't assured. Kresser, who started out strong, ran into complications early on, in the second day of the run.
"That Monday was one of the worse days of my life. It was supposed to be an 83-mile day, but then you add a 'century-loop' onto it. Basically, they take the longest day of RAGBRAI and they add an extra loop in to make it 100 miles or more, so that you can say you biked a hundred miles in a day," Kresser explained.
The additional mileage wasn't a problem for Kresser though; it was the heat. It turns out Monday was the hottest day of the week, with high humidity and temperatures between 90 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
"That was my downfall; I couldn't handle that heat," he said. "Being out…in Washington I couldn’t heat train like I needed to."
He did everything he could leading up to that day. He drank sufficient fluids. He ate right. He slept.
Kresser, however, could not keep his core body temperature low enough.
"As the day drug on, and I still had 37 miles left to do in the day, by eight that night I just knew that I was not going to be able to make it. It was pretty disappointing. I hadn't quit anything in a while. It was very frustrating," he said.
He didn't let it keep him down for long though.
"I went back to this house I was staying at, ate, like, seven pieces of lasagna, took a shower and went straight to bed. I got up at three the next morning, went back out to where I quit the previous day and knocked the rest of the mileage out. I was able to make it up, but that was a low point," Kresser recalled.
In a way, knocking out the hardest day of the run early on was a blessing for Kresser. The weather turned out to be really nice for the remainder of the week, with temperatures only reaching the upper seventies to low eighties, with little rain except late at night or very early in the morning.
"The weather was nice the rest of the week. It was really good temperatures. That was a big reason I was able to do so well the rest of the week with temperatures in the high 70s, mid 80s.
"That Monday was humbling," he said. "I had been doing pretty successful in my training up to that point, but that was definitely a humbling point. I had always been testing my limits and seeing how far I could go, and this might have been the point as to how far I could go."
Once Monday passed, Kresser's run was easier.
"Most of it wasn't too bad. You're running at a 12-minute pace, and it's a good, constant level of uncomfortableness but you're never in severe pain," recalled Kresser.
His schedule largely entailed running for three hours, with five minute breaks every hour to stretch.
"Every three hours I'd take a half an hour break; sit down, take a nap, eat some food, like a burger or breakfast burrito or something. I had plenty of breaks in there, so it never got too uncomfortable, except just a few times," Kresser said.
Tuesday turned into Wednesday, Wednesday into Thursday and, before he knew it, it was Saturday, and the last day of RAGBRAI.
"The last day was a day of relief; when you finally know you have it in the bank and you know you're going to be able to complete it. It was just a sense of relief," Kresser stated vehemently.
And just like that, it was over.
"It was a surreal experience finally stopping and knowing that tomorrow I did not have to get up and go run," he said of his finish.
Kresser added that for next year’s RAGBRAI, he’ll opt for a bicycle, like the other 10,000 participants.
He wasn't off the trail long though.
Kresser returned to his job with the Arrowhead Brigade, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., two days later and engaged in physical fitness training as though he'd never left. Two weeks later he entered a 60 kilometer ultra-run. He came in 10th place.
"I was pretty happy about that one," Kresser said.
He's already training for his next big challenge in September: the Wonderland Trail.
"It's a 93 mile loop around Mount Rainier. The best way to describe is [it's like] a pie crust. You're climbing or descending, climbing or descending, just like a rippled pie crust. There's no flat part at all. The 93 miles, I'm going to try to do it in 36 hours," he proudly proclaimed. "Hopefully RAGBRAI was good training for it."
Kresser is accepting donations for the Iowa Veterans Home through the end of August. If you care to donate, you can find more information on his website, RunningFarther.com. There you'll also find a blog he kept, as well pictures he had taken during the run.