In case you missed part one of my Prairie Spirit 100 adventure, I suggest you go back and read it. If you are really that lazy or computer illiterate, I’ll make it easy. Click here for Prairie Spirit Part I. That brings us up to the morning of the race.
As usually is the case I did not sleep worth a shit. Almost unequivocally, I do not sleep well in a hotel. Add this to the fact that I am facing a 100(+) mile race in the morning and the result is a tossing, turning, miserable attempt at sleep. All the while my scumbag brain repeatedly bombarding itself with a torrent of random thoughts ranging from drop bag contents to the why there was only one female Smurf. Despite this, I felt pretty damn good once my alarm granted me the mercy of a wake-up call.
Everyone was hanging out inside the building at the start milling around and chatting. The energy was palpable in the room even though the tone was subdued and pretty quiet. One of the main things I love about ultramarathon culture is the people, so I had set a goal for myself that every time I was with the group of runners I would try to meet at least one new person and find out a little bit about them. I was doing very well executing my strategy– with one flaw – I am terrible at remembering names. So, if I talked to you friend me on Facebook and we can connect. As expected, everyone that I talked to was freaking awesome.
Eric gave us last minute instructions and sent us on our way. When he yelled, “GO!” I really could feel my heart beating in my chest. A twinge of nervousness was definitely there and I could feel the adrenaline pumping. Consciously, I knew this was the start of a possibly 30 hour journey that would be consist of good times, bad times, pain, suffering, and despair. Still, this was not enough to kill the euphoric feeling generated by my love of this sport. Luckily I had ‘ice-cold’ Adam Monaghan to set our pace and I didn’t race off like I was in a 5K. We run pretty close to the same pace, use the same general walk run strategy, fuel plan, and had planned to try and make it to Iola turnaround together between 4:30 and 5pm. At this point I would meet my pacer Lisa and see what happened.
The weather was really good for running offering no real risk of overheating, yet making it easy enough to stay warm. Getting through Ottawa took a while and everyone was pretty bunched together but started to thin out once we got out of town and on the true Prairie Spirit trail. The trail itself was fine gravel and very smooth with almost nothing in the way of hills. Sufficient tree cover lined both sides of the trail in most spots which provided pretty good protection from the wind, that was mostly out of the east. Honestly, other than chatting with Adam and few other runners here and there, the trip out to the first aid station at Princeton was mostly uneventful. The Princeton aid station crew was excellent. Every single person there offered me specific items to eat or drink, asked me what I needed, and told me what they had, or told me I was looking great. I was curious if they would tell me that in 24 hours or so. Although Eric said it was not the Epic Brigade’s job to massage my feet, I have a feeling that they would have, had I asked. Here I also saw my friend from Talequah OK, Travis Owens. I met Travis at Midnight Madness 50 miler back in 2010, and later he also set me up with my pacer Lisa. Travis was crewing for someone else, but he also made it clear that if I needed anything, he had me covered. I love ultrarunners.
The next stop on the way to Iola was Richmond. Again, the run between Princeton and Richmond was mostly uneventful. Adam and I were comfortably sharing pace and conversation. We were also yo-yo running with a guy and gal who were running during our walk breaks. It became a game that we seemed to play with several people on the way to the turnaround. The catchphrase became, “Tag you’re it.” and “Hello again!”. At Richmond a very nice woman had a huge pot of ramen soup cooking and eagerly obliged me with two steaming cups. I popped a Hammer Gel that tasted like a cinnamon apple pie from McDonalds and washed it down with ramen juice. Yeah, I know its gross, but I have an iron stomach and just think of it as fuel during a race. Offhandedly, I made the comment that the gel was cold, difficult to squeeze out, and was hard to swallow – only to look up and see her (the aid station worker) warming some gels up over the burner! Talk about service!!! Another amazing aid station filled with Epic attitudes, which I tried to reward with my gratitude. Sixteen miles down and we were off to Garnett.
It seemed that every aid station was marked with a grain elevator, so you could always tell when you were getting close. Pavement greeted you at the north end of Garnett and another mile or so got you to the aid station. Adam and I were still pacing each other and he was looking forward to seeing his lovely wife (and crew chief) Sarah and his baby daughter. I was looking forward to grabbing some sandwiches and reapplying some Vasoline, A&D Ointment, and Desitin mix to protect my feet and a couple other “sensitive skin” areas. I learned this mix from the legendary badass Ken Childress and I also now swear by it. I have no clue how Ken came up with this, but that shit works wonders for blisters and chafing. The parents of RD Eric’s girlfriend Polly had been assigned the Garnett aid station which was in an old train depot building. They were awesome! They had everything in there that a good aid station could possibly ask for including running water, flushing toilets, and HEAT. The warmth inside the building almost matched the warmth of their greetings. I knew this was going to be both a blessing and a curse on the way back – in the dark and almost certainly snowy night it would seem like an oasis. Hopefully, it wouldn’t be like the call of the Sirens, luring you in and never allowing you to leave. As we checked out and got back on the course, we were offered many cheers and much luck. It was now 11:30 a.m. with about 25 miles done.
I left Garnett a little bit before Adam but jogged slowly at first and he caught me within a mile or so. From Garnett, the tree cover lining the trail really thinned and we started getting a lot more wind, still primarily out of the east. I don’t think there was a grain elevator in Welda, but there was a blue tarp-tent and an enclosed trailer staffed by the KC Trail Nerds offering aid to weary runners. I chatted with fearless Trail Nerd leader Ben Holmes and received aid in the form of some excellent homemade soup, which they gladly poured into my Ultimate Direction water bottle. Side note – this bottle is perfect for soup, as it has a rubber spout with an X cut into it like a baby bottle nipple. Or at least it was, until I lost it in the blizzard later that night. Adam stayed in the car with Sarah for a bit as I went back out, thirty-four miles now done.
This is about the time the sleet started. Rainy, sleety, icy crap was being spit at me from above. It did eventually start to soak in and I knew this was going to be a long night. As of now, I was feeling amazing – not feeling much different after 35 miles than 10 miles. Cruise control was engaged and all I needed to do was keep putting gas in the tank and try not to blow a tire. Adam caught me before we got to Colony and again we got aid from the most finely staffed aid stations I have ever had the privilege to utilize. This was a quick stop, as we were still on pace to make it to the turnaround at Iola between 4 and 5pm. At this point the wind was blowing like hell and the ice was coming down pretty damn hard. It was a windy and cold stretch south out of Colony and I knew this was going to SUCK on the way back. The wind was blowing hard and we were getting decently wet but I didn’t really feel cold yet. Really I was feeling great about the way things were going and basically trying really hard not to think about what “might” happen with the weather and how it would affect the return trip. Adam pulled ahead before getting to Iola as I felt the uncontrollable urge to investigate a nice sheltered spot off the trail under a large cedar tree. I was sick of carrying that spare sock I need to get rid of it. A short time after I got back on the trail, the snow began to fall. HUGE snowflakes, nearly the size of pancakes, were coming down in the most beautiful snow showers I have ever seen. It was amazing! It was also beginning to accumulate. Quickly. Unencumbered by the extra sock, I caught Adam in Iola. At 4:44pm I check in by my bib number and had 51 miles done.
Warren took spectacular care of me, getting me geared up for the long, cold trip home. Travis was also here, offering me anything I might need, as he had at every single aid station along the way. My body and mind were both really feeling good at this point. I honestly did not feel like I had done been running for the lats 10 hours and 44 minutes. They had a nice fire going next to the shelter house and the smell alone got me ready rock. I ate, reapplied my skin goo, found my pacer Lisa, and I was ready to roll!
Since this really was a tale of two races, I think I will stop there. Nowhere to go but home at this point.
If you want to hear about the return trip, please comment. Also any questions you might have I would be more than happy to answer.
Stay tuned for Part III – “Yetis in the Mist” or “Hand me my lightsaber, I saw a Tauntaun”
Until Next Time…. Be EPIC!!!