Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Heartland 100 2011

Trying to summarize the experience of running 100 miles in less that 24 hours is not easy. I had been looking forward to the race all year and training fairly well all summer and into the fall. When the day finally arrived I just wanted to get started. Once you get started it feels as if everything is right, even though you know how crazy hard it's going to be to get to that finish line.

I started in a short sleeved shirt as it was in the low to mid 60s at the 6 am start on Saturday. That's really warm for October. I fell in with Eric and Steve, two guys I've run with before at other races and who were attempting their first 100 mile finishes. I enjoyed running with them on and off all the rest of the day to the finish. The first 25 miles was uneventful. Eric had a headlamp that was bright enough for Steve and I to see the rocks by for the first hour or so, since neither of us carried a headlamp at the start. I never have and never have felt like I needed one to start off at Heartland since so many have one and the first few miles are pretty smooth terrain-wise. Once the sun came up the winds began to pick up and the temps started to rise. I knew it was going to be a tough day. I arrive at the 25 mile aid station about 20 minutes slower than last year, which is smart, I think. 

The wind up on the high points of the road from Texaco Hill into Ridgeline was brutal. The temps were, I'm guessing here, nearly 80 or so by this point, or at least it felt that way and the wind really dried you out. We were estimating the wind gusts to as high as 40 mph. I kept reminding the guys I was running with and myself to drink, drink, drink! I arrived at Ridgeline, 36 miles, within a minute of the same time as last year. Last year at that point nausea was just starting to creep in. This year I still felt great. I was really encouraged by that! Also, a really a pleasant surprise at Ridgeline was seeing Sarah. Not feeling too well, she couldn't commit to making it out to crew and/or pace this year, so I was going it alone at Heartland with no crew and no pacer. But I was able to see Sarah and she knew I was doing well. 

My running partners weren't quite ready so I took off from Ridgeline, running alone for the first time of the day. I enjoyed the next few miles as some clouds had finally rolled in and made the day much more pleasant. Then all of the sudden close to the 40 mile mark the temps dropped 10 degrees! That was great. I saw Sarah again at Matfield Green (and then she went ahead and left for home) and changed my shirt for the first time that day. As I left the aid-station it started to rain. It rained off and on for the next few hours. I rolled on to the half way point, enjoying the opportunity to greet all the others on the course. I got to the 50 mile mark, called Lone Tree, at 9:50 and got my supplies I needed and ate some awesome food (like fried chicken tacquitos and real food for the first time all day - just gels up until that point!) and took off at 9:55 elapsed time. I was thrilled to see Eric show up there just after me so we took off together, and really cruised back to Matfield Green (30 min faster than last year). As I greeted most of the rest of the runners, I thought it was cool how many of them I actually know and know well. That makes the whole ultra-running thing so much more fun!

At Matfield Green I ate some soup and filled pockets with other food and, since Eric wasn't quite ready, took off alone again for Ridgeline. I got to Ridgeline before dark and found my drop bag and put on my headlamp. But when I turned it on it wouldn't work! The batteries were brand new and the headlamp is brand new. I changed the batteries and it still wouldn't work so I panicked and asked around until a crew person for someone else (Eric's wife actually) loaned me their hand-held back up flashlight. This helped me to get to Texaco Hill but was hard because I was carrying two hand held water bottles and made the flashlight difficult to carry and balance everything. I ate a big cup of Gary's potato chili leaving the aid-station. It was great!

By the time I got to Texaco Hill it was really raining hard and I knew I had to keep moving to stay warm. They had hot fresh food off the grill there so I ate a couple quesadillas and some more soup and some Mt. Dew totally loved it! Also, thankfully, one of the aid-station volunteers graciously loaned me his extra headlamp that I could wear all the way to the finish line. The next section was tough only because of the rain had caused some serious mud to occur. I tried to run in the grass next to the mud but the grass had lots of large hidden rocks so that didn't work out too well. Eventually after a few miles, the mud section passed. I was still feeling well, sore and stiff legged, but still running strong and feeling good coming into Teterville, the 75 mile marker. I ate a hot grilled cheese sandwich and two cups of potato soup and well as 2 cups of Mt Dew here.

About a mile down the road I saw my friend and training partner Andy heading the opposite direction to the turnaround as he was running the 50 mile course and had started at 6 pm. I knew he would eventually catch me but now I had something to work for and to delay that as long as possible. I ran pretty hard into Lapland, the 83.5 mile mark, and arrived there just after 12:00 am. Just before arriving Steve and his pacer caught up to me and I followed them on it at a great pace. While at the aid-station, and eating some more ramen noodle soup, Andy caught up. I stayed with him for about a mile and a half before he took off for good. I stayed with Steve and his pacer Brian all the way to the finish line. 

I honestly felt great the whole day. I never had any nausea or any pain of any kind other than just normal soreness from running so far. Obviously my quads were trashed by the end but it didn't hurt any less or more to run than walk. I ate 30 or more gels throughout the day but had GU this year and think I need to stick with the Hammer Gels I had last year which are a bit more expensive.

In the last 11 miles or so I just kind of lost my drive and didn't really care. I didn't want to quit or anything but I lost that drive to push hard and fight and measure and calculate and beat my PR from last year. I finished with 22:51 which was about 28 minutes slower than last year. Honestly though, I didn't really care by this point. I was just so relieved to be done and to be able to just sit down! After eating yet more soup and half of a cheeseburger, I, with help, went to my car to sleep with the heater on! I woke 2 hours later feeling suprisingly well. I drove myself home and showered, and then waddled my pathetic looking self into church and everyone kept asking me what was wrong with me! (I don’t tell everyone I’m running 100 miles any more because after a while - this was my 7th 100 mile finish - they get tired of hearing about it.) Of course, I took a long afternoon nap but I feel surprisingly well. My quads are destroyed but otherwise I feel good and will probably be running again by Wednesday. Gotta get loosened up for the back to back marathons this weekend in Kansas City and Des Moines! I never claimed to be smart - just adventurous.

I am thrilled to have my 4th Heartland 100 belt buckle. I finished 15th out of 69 finishers with closer to 100 starters, I think.

I want to conclude with words shared by Eric, one of the guys I was running with. He posted the following really profound words after his finish (thanks, Eric!):

It was truly an amazing journey, and one that covered enough terrain and time to take me to a lot of different places - not all of them pleasant. As expected it was a practice in accepting and receiving what was there at any given moment - high winds, rain, pain, stunning skies, gorgeous prairie, herds of cows, more pain - without resisting it or wishing things would be different. Deeply grateful for the experience and the friends and family who helped make it possible.

I just think that says it all. In the end I am deeply grateful to have the chance to do this and believe that this experience is one intended to teach me how to be grateful, present to any moment "without resisting it or wishing things would be different..."

Heartland 100 2010: http://adammonaghan.blogspot.com/2010/10/heartland-100-2010.html