My first 50 and I'm not sure where to start....actually, yes I do, I have to start with thanking my friends and family. (WARNING! acceptance speech ahead.. cue the tears) I want to thank all my friends, both my "normal" friends who don't understand why I do what I do and think I'm totally insane for doing it, but love, support and encourage me anyway, and my running Trail Nerd friends who do understand and offer reams of advice, help, love, support and encouragement. My parents for supporting me fully, Mom for not shaking me and screaming "haven't you learned anything over the years?" when she heard I wanted to run ultras and Dad for his advice and for showing me when I was young that running extra long distances is perfectly normal. My FABULOUS crew Christy & Debbie who offered to waste a perfectly good fall weekend by being my "bitches", it was completely humbling to be the recipient of that much love and dedication. Finally to my WONDERFUL husband who doesn't understand why I want to do this to myself but gives me his total love, support and encouragement and doesn't bat an eye when he sees a charge for yet another pair of running shoes. Without all these people, my life would be pale, colourless, and sad. ( music swells and cut to commercial)
OK, now that the thanks are out of the way, I finished the Heartland 50 in 10:30:40, which was good enough for 11 place overall and 2nd female. Simply put, I ran out of my head. My main goal for this race was just to finish, my secondary goal was to finish around 12 hours my thirdary goal was to finish in 10 hours. The thirdary goal was my "yeah, right, dream on kid, we all have to have that pie in the sky to shoot for" goal.... I guess I should challenge myself more often.
Christy, Debbie and I left Lawrence about 3:30 on Friday in Debbie's husband's big ass truck (yes that is the technical term for it). Larry was sweet enough to let us borrow it, we were originally going to be borrowing Christy's boyfriends truck, but then one of the other Trail Nerds, Nick, called needing a ride so we had to get a bigger truck. We swung through Topeka and picked up Nick and headed for Cassoday. Unfortunately due to every one's work schedules we missed the pre-race meeting at 4:30 but made it in time to pick up our packets and eat dinner. Well, everyone else ate dinner, I had some iceberg lettuce... no vegan options.. everything either had meat in it or was smothered in cream sauce. Luckily I am used to this and brought my own dinner!
We chatted with a few people and then left to find our way to El Dorado and the hotel. The friendly check in girl asked us if we were there for the race. She said that they had 30 rooms reserved for that night and pretty much all of them were race people, so she knew we would be gone by 5am. We spent the evening drinking water and watching stupid TV. I don't have cable so when I get around a TV that has channels it can be kinda exciting. We caught the Colbert report and some bad VH-1 shows. I was waiting with baited breath for a phone call from my husband, he was due to be arriving home from his 3 weeks in Australia, but his plane was late leaving Sydney and I was afraid he would miss his connection in L.A. but all was good. Once I talked to him and made sure he was safe and sound, I was ready for bed. We turned off the lights but spent another hour at least making stupid jokes, laughing and telling sex stories.. then Nick gave Debbie a dutch oven which caused enough hilarity that I was afraid we were never going to fall asleep. I guess I did because when that alarm went off at 4, it was rough getting up.
The first thing Christy did upon getting up was to shove water in my face.. it would be the theme of the day... if I saw Christy , she would be making me drink. We horsed around but still managed to get out the door by 4:45. Christy and Debbie were awesome, they wouldn't let us even carry our own bags to the car! I felt like a pampered princess. We had a small mishap on the way to the race wherein we almost flipped the truck and smashed into a pole, but Debbie controlled things like a champ and we still made it to the race about an hour before the start. Nick and I checked in and started the bathroom dance.. do I need to go now? Should I wait a bit longer? Maybe I should try now.... We parked next to Caleb, one of the Nerds who was pacing Winn Davis (who would go on to win the 100). Another Nerd, Kyle Amos was also there with his awesome wife Stacey, Kyle would finish 3rd in the 100. I was pretty nervous, but making sure I had everything and giving last minute instructions to my crew kept me from going too nutsy. I tried one last bathroom stop with very little luck and then it was time to line up. This was Nick's first 50 miler too, and even though he's much faster then me, he figured he'd run with me at the beginning to keep himself from going out too fast. We lined up together and waved to Christy and Debbie and then we were off. As we all trotted very leisurely down the highway with headlamps bobbing, I got a chance to say a quick hi to Ken the Trail Zombie who is a total stud, he did Flatrock 50k 2 weeks ago, then Arkansas Traveller 100m last week and this week the Heartland 100.. yowza! What a guy!
Nick and I settled into a leisurely 11:30 m/m pace, or at least we tried to settle in, I kept checking the Garmin and due to our nervousness the pace kept creeping up and I'd have to slow us back down. By about mile 5 we were pretty dialed in pace wise and it was light enough to take off the headlamps. The scenery was amazing... the sun was just coming up and the sky was a gorgeous pinky orange , we were on a huge series of rolling hills and it was cool to see the runners in front of us silhouetted against the sky as they topped the hills. I was very unsure about this race because of the wide open-ness of it. I knew it was going to be amazingly gorgeous, but dirt roads and open spaces are not my favorite things. My biggest concern was how I was going to mentally handle being able to see for so many, many miles and know that I was moving so slow. Luckily, talking with Nick and the other runners made the first 1/2 go by pretty quickly. We chatted with guys from Arkansas, Seattle, & Virginia and everyone that we talked to loved this race and was doing it for at least the 2nd time. One of the guys we talked to was doing this as his 100th ultra.. and he had done all my fantasy ones... I could have run with him for days listening to his stories. By about mile 8, I knew this was not my ideal day.. I had a knot in my left quad that was already hurting and various twinges and aches told me that this day was not going to go exactly the way I had pictured things, but I figured I'd just keep plodding on as long as I could. By the time we hit the Lapland aid station which was the first one that was crew accessible, we both were pretty surprised that we had gone that far alredy. Christy & Debbie swung into action, refilling our water, handing us food and water to eat while we were standing there and making sure we had enough food to take with us. Due to their expert work, we were in and out in a few short minutes and it was energizing to see them. The next time we would see them would be at the 25 mile turnaround.
By this point the wind was picking up and the temps were starting to rise, it was predicted to be in the mid 80's for the day and without a lick of shade, it was a little worrisome. The miles continued to click off quickly due to the conversations... and as we got passed by David Wakefield on his way back to the finish, running easily in 1st place I started a running tally in my head of the people in front of us. I'm sure I won't ever win a race, but I like to be as competitive as I can be and having a ballpark idea of what place I'm in helps. We were passed by the first woman before we hit the turnaround and the 2nd place woman was leaving as we came in to the turnaround. Once again our spectacular crew provided food, water, encouragement and bio-freeze for my quad which was still all knotted up. I kept thinking while I was sitting there "what if I still had 75 miles to go?? ". I got a chance to say a quick hello to Jennifer who was there crewing for her husband Scott (doing the 100), who's blog I also read on a regular basis. Jennifer is 7 months pregnant and looks fabulous, there was some kids running around with t-shirts on that said "future ultra runner" and I told her that she'd better stock up on those in all sizes.
I really like out and back courses because I love to cheer on runners in front and in back of me.. I know how much it helps me to get encouragement so I try to make sure I dish out plenty myself. From my rough count Nick and I were sitting somewhere in the top 15 and I was possibly the 3rd female.
The first section after the turnaround had a killer headwind and running along with a guy who is over a foot taller than me worked to my advantage. I simply tucked in behind him and followed in his footsteps only popping my head out to cheer on runners as we passed them. Usually just over the marathon mark I hit a bit of a low spot, but not this time, which told me I was doing a good job of managing my nutrition and hydration. When we hit the 50k mark, I told Nick that the race started now. It was pretty much unknown territory from here on out for both of us. It was about here that Nick took off, my knot in my quad started cramping and between the swearing loudly and walking breaks that I needed to take, he just kept on going. It was nice to have had company for as long as I did but we both needed to run our own race.
My leg pissed me off so much that I just stuck on the iPod and ran through the pain.. I took an extra salt cap, and it seemed to settle things down a bit. The first song that came on my iPod when I turned it on was by XTC called "Stupidly Happy" which made me laugh, since that's pretty much how I felt.. I was in pain and tired but I wouldn't have traded being where I was for anything. I must say that I think I should be banned from listening to music when I race, it was like I had just shot up with speed. I tucked my head down and ran, and I came into the Lapland aid station (mile 33.2) just a minute or so behind Nick. Debbie and Christy got us all taken care of and I asked Christy to check and see if I was really the 3rd woman, but she had already been counting and could assure me that I was. As we were talking, the 4th place woman came into the A.S so I grabbed my stuff and took off like the hounds of hell were chasing me. I put the iPod back on and somehow found the energy to start ticking off 9 minute miles and then pretty soon I looked down and I was doing 8.5 minute miles... I was running out of my head, but I was feeling pretty good so I kept on going. I passed a few guys and Nick and I leap frogged for a bit and then pretty soon I came up on the 2nd place woman.. we were wearing matching Dirty Girl gaiters so I had to compliment her on them as I passed her.
I kept running in a state of disbelief and also fear, I still had 15 miles to go and I was running stupidly fast (for me anyway). The heat was pretty bad by this point and I was sorry that I wasn't wearing a hat. I like the wind on my shaved head but the sun was starting to piss me off. I kept running and playing air drums and air guitar as certain songs came on.. I even danced a bit. It was about mile 39 when the blisters started. One on each of my big toes which were annoying, but not awful, but the one on my left heel was driving me crazy. I wear short socks and the back of my shoe had been rubbing just long enough to cause a nasty spot on both heels but particularly on my left heel. It didn't hurt when I walked just when I ran so I tried to keep the running to a minimum until the next manned aid station where I could get a band aid. I can walk really fast so I wasn't totally worried about being passed by the girl behind me, but I was too scared to turn around and see where she was.
I pulled into Battle Creek aid station at 41.8 miles and got a quick band aid and tape job and more water and oranges thanks to the fabulous volunteers there. I got out of there pronto and settled into a walk for 1 song, run for 2 songs rhythm. It was in the last 7 miles that I had my "jesus moment" as Nick calls it. When I started running, all I heard about was how a marathon would change your life.. the whole "it was so hard, but once you did it you would know that you could do anything in life" song and dance... well I never had that, so I figured the 50k would do it....nope not that either. But now somewhere around mile 43 it was only my mind driving me forward, my entire body was telling me just to quit but I knew this was where I just had to keep pushing and not give up. Finally! I guess it sounds kinda sadistic to want to push yourself to the edge like that, but it was one of the things I wanted to experience. By feeling half dead, I felt more alive.
The last 5 miles of the race felt like the hardest, worst things I've done. It felt like forever because you could see the town and it never seemed to get any closer. There was a few points in here that I thought "I'm never doing this again". My left quad had gone beyond pain to something else and even my mind was feeling pretty fried. I just kept my head down and the music on and shortened my run walk cycle to 1 song running 1 song walking. I think one of the worst parts was there was no one else around.. I could see Nick up in the distance but the A.S at 41.8 miles was the last human contact until the winner of the 50 miler ( David Wakefield ) drove by and yelled some encouraging words from his car. Just 2 miles from the end one of my husbands songs came on the iPod and one of the lines in it is "the road to town is lifetimes long" and I kinda lost it, had a quick sob and just kept playing that song over and over to the end. As I made the last right hand turn onto the paved road I checked the Garmin and to finish in 10:30, I was going to have to run, and run pretty hard. Seeing everyone cheering me on up ahead gave me wings and I picked up the pace.. Debbie ran with me the last few yards and everyone else was hooting and hollering. It felt so damn good to finish.
I got tons of hugs from Debbie, Christy, Ben, Vicki, & Raul and they led me to a chair next to Nick. Nick finished 10 minutes in front of me for 10th place overall. As I tried to lower myself into the chair the RD had to chase me down and give me my finishers award... it felt awesome to get it. Christy stuck water in my hand and Ben gave me a cup of his homebrew... I gave Nick the high five and just took it all in. Raul took off my shoes and socks and starting using "the Stick" on my legs and feet and oh boy did that feel so good and so bad all at the same time. It's a fine line between pleasure and pain. We relaxed for awhile and cheered people in, ate some food, & drank some awesome beer.
After awhile we headed over to the 95 mile unmanned aid station where Ben & Raul have traditionally set up the "Mirage" aid station at night for the 100 folks. They do it up right.. a big tent with twinkly white lights and all the food you could ever want to eat. Vicki made up some homemade soup and a big pot of boiled potatoes and I cut up lots of watermelon which was a HUGE hit with the tail end of the 50 folks. I think all RD's should make watermelon a staple at ALL aid stations (hint hint). With 7 of us we were able to get the tent set up and everything going in short order and then we just hung out drank more beer and told stories. We waited around to see Wynn Davis, the 1st place finisher come through with Caleb Chatfield (our own Trail Nerd) pacing him and then I initiated some movement towards the car. I would have been happy to stay all night and help out, but my husband was waiting at home for me and I hadn't seen him in 3 weeks. I was ready to go!!
I learned a LOT of lessons from this race... the biggest one I took away was that I need to do a HELL of a lot more work before I'm ready for a 100 miler. I'm taking this week off except for some light easy runs and then it's back into some serious training. I have work to do before February! Heartland is a great race, and I can see why so many people like it, but I think I need to be a lot more stronger mentally before I could do it again. I prefer my long runs in the woods where I can't see from horizon to horizon. But that said, I'm so glad I did it and that I picked this one as my first 50.. the race was so well put on, everyone was so nice and the volunteers beyond friendly and helpful.