Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Heartland 100 Report

Heartland 100 Report
October 11-12, 2008

The anticipation and excitement for the Heartland “Spirit of the Prairie” 100 mile run was intense. After the heartbreak at Leadville, the desire to finish and finish well was up an extra notch. The anticipation in the days leading up to the race was comparable to how I felt before my first marathon. I was thinking what will it feel like beyond mile 62? How much is this going to hurt? Will I be able to finish?

I drove the Mullen mini-RV to Cassody on Friday evening in time to pick up my race packet and find a parking space at the city park before dark. I ate my picnic supper and visited with other runners before going to bed. When my alarm when off at 4:30, my first thought was wait a minute, why am I doing this again? 100 miles! Adam, you really must be crazy!

It was chilly and windy at the 6:00 am start line with the 109 other starters in the 50 and 100 mile race. But I knew that within just a few minutes I’d warm up and be just fine in my short sleeve shirt and running shorts. Someone (it was dark) said “go” and we ran about ¼ mile on the highway before turning left onto a the rocky back roads. It would be another 99 ½ miles before we saw that the ¼ of pavement again.

The first hour which consisted of at least 5 miles was all in the dark. I didn’t want to carry a head lamp for several hours in the day light so I just followed a few other runners who had lights. The road wasn’t exactly “dirt”. I’d describe it as a sharp, rocky road. Many sections are more like rocky trail (a few parts almost as bad as Flatrock) than dirt road. The time and the miles began to fly by as I locked into a good pace and chatted with other runners. Once the sun came up, I realized I was running about the same pace as Christina from Washington. She was a really nice 57 year old lady, if I remember right, who reminded me (in personality and friendliness and perspective on life) of Brockie (Harvey) Follette from Iowa. If those two ladies met, they’d both see my comparison as a high compliment. Christina was very nice, very talkative, and very interesting. She has been a runner for 20 years and has logged 100 ultras and 70 marathons! She ended up only making it 50 miles this time because of a toe problem, but that 50 miles makes this her 100th ultra! Wow! I ran with her pretty much from the beginning until mile 42.

The day became very warm, with the highs around 80 degrees and very sunny. I used a bandana under my hat to shield my face and neck from the heat and sun. I carried a camelback strapped to my waist with water (and ice mid day!) to stay hydrated and keep cool. The every 5 or 6 mile aid stations had water and food that I constantly consumed to keep my energy level high. Matt Macy, Cal Leslie and Lyle Shaffer from Crossroads met me on their motorcycles at mile 35 snapping pictures (coming soon…) and giving me high-fives and encouragement. That was a great boost!

The scenery of the run in the Flint Hills of Chase County, Kansas was superb! Kansas is not flat. We saw way more cows that we did people during the course.

Allen Smelser, my good friend and running partner, who is to blame for all my participation in ultra-marathons, joined me with fresh legs at mile 42 ½. Not a moment too soon! My first troubled spot was about mile 48 where my energy level and resolve dropped and all I could do was think about “52 more miles”. But the saying “It Never Always Gets Worse” proved true again and after some chicken noodle soup and the ½ sloppy joe sandwich, energy and vitality and excitement and resolve came back and we picked up the pace, running fairly well between mile 52 and 65. My mom and brother came to visit me and joined me for about ¼ of a mile around mile 58. Andrew made a sign that said “Go Adam” and on the back it said “You’re Almost There!” What a cruel, funny joke! Their visit was encouraging as well.

About mile 64, I almost ran into a snake. I yelled and ran quickly around it and on up the hill. Allen, who apparently is not afraid of snakes, reached over to pick it up and right before touching it realized it was a rattlesnake! Needless to say, every stick or branch or line in the road was a snake for the next several hours of darkness. I jumped several more times at all the “snakes” I saw. At mile 65 we ate some Power Pellets as Dave, the aid station manager called them (beans and chili with meat) and took off again. We reached mile 75 by 1:00 am and were very encouraged by the time. Mile 75 through 83 went fine, with a huge downhill running section. During this stretch, around 2:00 am we began to feel sleepy. My eyes were heavy and I wished I could sleep. But for Allen, it was much worse! At least twice we were running down the road side by side and Allen started veering off sharply to the left. I said, “Allen, are you awake?” His answer both times was a “No”! Allen says he was sleepy until the sun came up. My sleepy spell thankfully lasted only 30 minutes. When I realized what was happening (sleepiness), I picked up the pace a little bit and that helped to increase the heart-rate and the sleepiness went away.

Mile 83 to 92 was the worst stretch. For some reason (haha “some reason”!?), these 9 miles were the most physically challenging part of the whole course for me. The hills were intense during this section and the rocks seemed to be sharp and way more frequent than the first time I covered that section the previous morning. Allen was walking and I was running just to keep up with his walk. My back decided not to straighten out for a while so I leaned over with both hands on my back just limpwalking/jogging along trying just trying to get to the next aid station. After what seemed like forever, I arrived at the aid station at mile 92 before dawn. I ate several pancakes and started getting excited about the finish line!

The last 8 miles were really fun. Although my legs and body hurt (especially my feet) with every step, I picked up the pace more and more as I got closer to the finish. I would guess that the last couple miles were close to 8-9 minute mile pace. Once I returned to the ¼ mile of highway, I ran as fast as a could across the finish line. It wasn’t a sprint, but it was pretty fast. Crossing that finish line was such a rush of emotion and excitement. As ridiculous as this sounds, I actually had the feeling that I wanted to keep going. (See FAQ #5)

Sprinting to the finish line!

I finished 33 out of 53 finishers (out of 67 starters) in the 100 mile with the time of 26:38:20. To see race results: Another interesting factoid is that the total elevation change in the 100 mile is about 6,000 feet. Kansas is not flat!

Limping to the front to receive my finishers belt buckle at the awards ceremony!

Visiting with Allen and Christina just after crossing the finish line!

Sitting in the tent after it was over!

Frequently Asked Questions
What did you eat?
During the course of the race I drank lots of water, some Gatorade-type fluids, mountain dew and coca-cola (for caffeine and sugar to stay awake). I ate several pretzels, M & Ms, GU and Powerbar gels, Pringles, orange slices, several bananas, cookies, PB&J sandwiches, chili, watermelon, cantaloupe, several cups of chicken noodle and ramen noodle soups, pancakes, and even a ½ sloppy joe sandwich and much more! Good thing I don’t eat like that every day! I also consumed an electrolyte replacement pill about every hour during the heat of the day and every other hour throughout the night.

Did you walk?
Yes, of course! The general practice in an ultra (unless you are an elite, I guess) is to try to run all the flats and down hills and walk all the up hills. I ran a lot in the first 50 miles. I walked quite a bit in the last 50 miles but was surprised about how much I did run, though the running pace in the last half is quite slow. A good rule is “don’t miss a chance to walk in the first half” (to conserve energy for the second half), and then its corollary conclusion is “and don’t miss a chance to run in the second half” (because it’s exponentially harder on your body in the second half). I certainly ran most of this 100 miles!

Did you ever stop or sleep?
Not me. I never slept, of course, though Allen may have caught a few zzz’s while running. You stop long enough to fill your water pack and grab some food. During the middle of the night at a couple of the age stations, I did sit down for a couple minutes to eat my soup.

Was this your “Run for Missions” fundraiser?
No. While it does seem crazy to try to run 100 miles twice in the span of 3 weeks, Heartland and the “Run for Missions” are two separate events. The “Run for Missions” starts at 6:30 am on Monday, November 3rd. Allen Smelser and I plan to run all the way from the Friends Ministry Center in Wichita to the campus of Barclay College in Haviland to raise money for Friends Missionary student scholarships. We’ve received over $9,200 in pledges already and our goal is to get well over $10,000!

Are you crazy?
Well, maybe. But this 100 mile run was a whole lot of fun and I honestly can’t wait to do it again! I love running marathons so I figured, why not try to run four of them back to back all in one day!