Friday, January 11, 2013

Heartland 100 DNF 2012

Heartland 100 DNF

It seems totally ridiculous to write a blog report about a race that was over three months ago, and especially one that I DNF’d at. Nevertheless, I have been faithful (I think) to blog about all my long ultras and I wanted to sit down and think about it to articulate and record what I could learn from it.

I have finished the Heartland 100 mile run four straight years, 2008-2011. I was (and still am) shooting for 10 finishes and the 1,000-mile buckle.  I was also endeavoring to be the first 1,000-mile buckler to do it in 10 consecutive years. Guess I have to start over!

The Heartland 100 is one of my favorite weekends of the year. It is one of about 3 “non-negotiable” race weekends that I block out on my calendar each year. Of course, I love it and I hate it but I mostly love it! J

I’ve had some decent finishes as well as at least one really slow finish there in past years but I’ve never had any significant reasons to worry about not finishing. It’s been really hot and its been really cold before and we’ve had a few little showers here and there in my years running Heartland, but 2012 was…a bit different.

All week leading up we saw the threat of severe weather right over the site of the 50 mile out and back course across the Flint Hill prairies of Kansas, including serious concerns of big hail and even tornadoes. Knowing this course, the thought of all of that makes me shudder a bit…nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.

Anyway, the run started at 6am with mild temps and we made it to almost the first 8-mile aid station before the rain and storms began…and then most of the next 42 miles consisted of heavy rain with lightning and thunder. Other than the fear of the lightning and just kind of the annoyance of being wet all day, the rain kept the temperature mild and I never put on a long sleeve or rain jacket shell until right about when darkness set in.

I ran with my new friend Thomas Stanley for most of the first 50 miles until I just couldn’t quite hold his pace once his freshly energized pacers showed up at Matfield Green. After finishing the first 50 in 10 hours, Thomas went on to finish in right at 21 hours, which is totally amazing. I left Eric Steele’s Lone Tree Aid Station at 10 hours and 10 minutes of elapsed time still feeling good. When I got back to Matfield Green…it was pouring rain…again. I was starting to feel demoralized from it but physically I was still feeling fine. I took my socks and shoes off for the 3rd time to dry off my wrinkled and soggy skin, apply vasoline to my blisters that were forming slowly all day (from the friction from wet socks over 58 miles) and put on dry socks. At this point I still wasn’t worried about finishing as I my legs still felt fine.

I returned to Ridge Line (62 miles) still in good spirits. Ate some of Gary Henry’s protein bean soup and set out on the next stretch. My pace had slowed some and I was tired but it was still nothing out of the ordinary.

The out of ordinary began as I left Texaco Hill…something was really off under my left foot. I’ve had blisters before (not any for at least 3 years though) and they can hurt but overall they’ve never been a big deal for me. From Texaco Hill to Teterville this blister basically raised up and became a really big deal. It was about the size of a silver dollar and about a half inch thick and growing. Eventually it became non-weight bearing where I basically couldn’t stand on it, of course let alone run on it. This means for nearly 6 miles I limped, placing the weight of my body on that side on the outside of my foot. By the time I got to Teterville I was a wreck. My back and hips were tweaked from walking funny and my pace was pathetic, probably at one point down to 45 miles/mile as I limped/hobble-stepped into the aid station at 75 miles. I changed shoes and socks again but as my wife and mom looked at the foot, we couldn’t really see or feel the blister, due to the soggy soaked feet. We basically thought that maybe it had popped itself. I left from the aid station and walked (hobbled) down to the stop sign and realized that there was no way I was going to make it the last 25 miles in about 12 hours. I hate the feeling of a DNF. It’s discouraging and depressing and demoralizing. I still felt fine in my legs and believe that if it weren’t for the blister (s), I would have finished strong and well. Anyway, we drove home in a pathetic state.

The next day, my doctor friend lanced the blister and basically cut it off. It hurt worse for about 3 days. But it was healed on the 4th day and I ran 3 miles to test it out…because on the 5th day I was scheduled to run the KC Marathon as a pacer, 3:45 at that. I ran a perfect race in 3:45:02 and felt great...

What did I learn from this DNF? I’m not sure entirely to honest. Running all day in the rain isn’t fun? I guess I could put even more vasoline in potentially problematic areas of my feet and change my socks even more? I am open to advice about how to proactively deal with this in the future. I have business to attend to in 2013 at the Heartland 100 and another buckle and hoodie to earn!

2011 and prior Heartland 100 reports: