Prior to Prairie Spirit 100, the longest race I have completed was a 100K put on by the KC Trail Nerds. In October, I tried 100 miles but was unsuccessful in my first attempt. For me, 100 miles is still my number one running goal. The DNF in October really left a cat shit taste in my mouth and has provided EXCELLENT training fuel and motivation. My training was very tenacious and consistent all winter long, racking up several 80-100 mile weeks that included several back to back 25-35 mile training runs. All were solo miles almost exclusively outside in the elements and on minimal fuel. The only exception was a single mind-numbing 25 miles on the dreadmill, which I look at as more mentally challenging than any run outside. Having no nagging aches and pains and a great tapering rest period, I felt like I had done what I needed to get my mind and body ready for my first 100 mile finish. Plus the official “EPIC ULTRAS Prairie Spirit 100 Mile Inaugural Belt Buckle” is FREAKIN’ RAD! I want this thing sooooo bad I can all but taste it.
Prepping for the logistics of the race for me was pretty easy. I had booked a cheap room at the Days Inn Ottawa from hotels.com. A few weeks earlier, I invited my friend Lisa Pivec, who paced for me in my first 100 try, to come back and help me cross the finish in Ottawa. More on Lisa later… she is AWESOME. As far as drop bags go, I made one for all 6 aid stations and they basically consisted of some fuel and every piece of winter running gear I own; this is important, as I don’t think I would have made it as far as I did had I not done this. Again, I will provide more on this later.
I rolled into town about 4 pm, checked into my room, carried up my bag, and headed to packet pickup. It was only a few minutes from the hotel, and I found it easily – gotta love smartphone navigation apps! It was indoors with plenty of room. The areas to drop off drop bags were well marked and easy to find. Everything at packet pickup went like clockwork and was handled efficiently and effectively. I got my bag from the very sweet and charming Polly Choate and proceeded talk to several other runners and their friends, family, and crewmembers. I also briefly got to talk with a very rapidly moving Eric Steele, race director, who was in full on RD mode. To be honest, Eric looked busier than a one-legged kickboxer in a battle royal. Eric was very busy doing all the things that race directors of 100 mile races do – but he still took the time to greet many of the runners, introduce himself, welcome them, and wish them luck. There was a great buzz of excitement in the air, as well as some pretty serious nervous energy about what the weather was going to do. Snow… blah… blah… wind, blah… blah… sleet… blizzard… Whatever. We are ultrarunners! We don’t care about the weather. Right?
This time spent hanging out getting to know people is one of my favorite things about ultra events. The people make an ultra amazing. Ultramarathons take a bunch of folks, who to most of society seem borderline insane, and put them in pursuit of a common goal. They all know what it will take to push further than most people feel is possible, they understand each other’s desire to cross the finish, and they can relate to one another. In many cases people who were previously strangers can immediately bond – and in some situations will forge lifelong friendships. Very cool .
From packet pickup I drove to the location of the pre-race meal and briefing. The food was pretty damn good and I got to talk to some of the people I have met over that last 3 years at various ultras. Race Director Eric Steele gave us a rundown of the event and went over most of the information in the race info document. This thing was great! It was loaded with gobs of information covering all aspects of the race. In fact, I don’t think I had a single question that wasn’t answered in the race brochure (including the one I asked out loud during the meeting…oops). Great work to the Epic Ultras staff for putting this thing together – I wish more race directors would follow their lead. I am sure they will use this experience to do an even better job at the inaugural Flatrock 101K (which I will also be running – JOIN ME). That makes me cringe a little inside just thinking about it. Can’t wait.
It was nice to catch up with friends -old and new. We talked about other events that we had recently run, races we were running in the near future, strategies for the race, and, of course, the weather. Again, the air just had this electric vibe to it. It was a mixing of feelings of anxiety, excitement, fear, courage, defiance, determination, and anticipation – all thick enough in the air to almost form a tangible cloud. I think I had butterflies the whole time. The packet pickup and meal just served to build even more tension that would not be released until 6 a.m. the following morning. As the crowd started to disperse, I decided to make a quick stop at Wal-Mart to pick up some hand warmers based off of a recommendation from another runner at the dinner. This turned out to be a GREAT idea. My final stop was my deluxe master suite at Days Inn, to try and get a good night’s sleep.
So concludes part 1. Stay tuned for part 2: “A Tale of Two Races” or “I Heard it Might Snow”
Comments? I would love to hear them. And Oh… remember… BE EPIC!