Tag Archives: 100 miles

2014 Honey Badger 100 Mile Ultra Road Race – ‘WE’ Found the ‘US’ in ‘TEAM’!

zachWriting a race report for a 100 miler is always hard for me.  It is difficult NOT to go into a painfully detailed play-by-play account of the whats, whens, wheres and hows of the specifics of the race; fueling, hydration, pace, etc.  Unfortunately that leads to a reading experience that has as much monotony, boredom, and suffering as an actual 100 mile race.  With the primary goal of my race reports being to entertain an audience of those interested in ultrarunning, I will do my best not to drive you to a suicide attempt using your keyboard or smartphone.   After all, I was the one who signed up to suffer – you just want to chuckle about it and assure yourself that you did the right thing by NOT signing up for this suckfest.  Instead of boring details like, “then I swallowed another Enduroltye” or “my pace for the next 2 miles fell off by 14 seconds”, I am committed to attempting to convey the unpredictable and rapidly changing feelings and raw emotions that inevitably ebb and flow over the course of a nearly 30 hour race.  Wish me luck.

After packing the van and trailer with the equivalent of two Walmart Supercenters and enough ice to build a replica of Superman’s “fortress of solitude”, Candi, Johnny and I finally arrived at Cheney State Park Friday afternoon ready to descend on the Epic Ultras pre-race meal like a swarm of locusts.  These meals have morphed into an occasion that could be described as a, “family reunion where people genuinely like each other”.  I hesitate to call it a family reunion since there was no keg and the cops only stopped by to say hi.  Warren grilled us up some awesome chicken, burgers, and brats while Eric, Polly and the rest of the Epic Ultras Brigade were working hard to not only feed us, but get ready for the race in the morning.  After eating more than our share, we milled around talking with our ultra-family.  Our crew, that would come to be known as “The Van Clan” began to show up as we organized gear and went over plans for the morning.  “Johnny and the Daves”, Mr. Webb, Mr. Meeth, and Mr. Box would be our crew, and their main goal was to keep us alive, moving, and relatively happy during the heat of the day.  Shay, total badass and future female action movie star, would figure out a way to meet the crew some point in the evening – after of course- she ran a hot ass 50k at the Psummer Psycho Wyco in KC.  Once all the work was done and we finally started to relax, I realized that the butterflies were having a metal concert in my guts, and from the feel of it, the show was rockin’ pretty damn hard.  Candi mentioned having some nervous energy a couple times although she is about as stone-cold cool under pressure as anyone I have ever met in my life.  A comfortably mild July evening lured us into our tent away from the mosquitoes, where we spent the next six hours or so not really sleeping.

After vehicle check, lots of nether region lube, and couple of hot breakfast burritos (Thanks Dave M!) we were off like a herd of turtles chasing an earthworm.  Candi and I took advantage of the opportunity to run with other humans for the little out and back around the perimeter of the lake, knowing soon enough that it would be just her and I – just like most of our training runs.  The nerves subsided and our bodies settled into that familiar rhythm of left, right, repeat that they are all too familiar with.  We met back up with our crew as we passed near the starting line to head out for the big 93 mile loop and gave them the standing order to head out three miles in front of us until further notice.  Our plan was not to run a 100 mile race, but more like 33 individual 5k’s.  After all, running 100 miles on asphalt in the summer just sounds dumb! Running some 5K’s is psychologically much more manageable.  Running a hundo is just like eating an elephant; you can’t swallow it whole, but you can eat it all eventually if you are patient and do it one bite at a time.

Feeling great, we chugged along the first stretch of the race, a 30 something mile straight shot littered with the occasional hill that enabled about three miles line of sight.  It could get somewhat frustrating to see your crew setting up while you were still 25 minutes away!  Candi and I chatted and ran in three mile chunks, taking our time and not rushing as we ate, drank, and doctored our bodies.  While we wanted to turn in a respectable time, out primary mission was to NOT totally thrash our bodies doing so.  This race in summer is no PR course, and since only 14 people started, we figured finishing put us in the top twenty.  Good enough!  Sticking to our plan, we fell into a comfortable rhythm and our rookie crew almost immediately started to mesh and gel into what would quickly come to resemble a highly tuned, well-organized, and perfectly efficient TEAM rivaling the best that NASCAR has to offer.  The blazing July sun was hot and radiating off the blacktop but as we headed to the west we still had a pleasant cross breeze helping to keep us cool.  We knew it would get rougher once we made the turn to the south near mile 40, but we may have underestimated JUST what it would be like to be running straight into the bowels of hell while Satan hit us with some supernatural hair dryer.  Cue the suck.

The following 15 or so miles were not very much fun.  For starters, after making our turn, Johnny and the Daves were unable to park at the 3 mile mark due to no cross street, so Candi and I had to do a 4-4.5 mile stretch before getting back to them.  While this sounds like it should be no big deal, it really was.  Not only had we turned into the 20+ mph wind, but the day was getting over the 95 degree mark and we were only carrying a single handheld each.  The wind would dry you out within about a mile and while one bottle was just about the perfect amount for 3 miles, it was grossly inadequate for 4 or more.  So we suffered.  We took our time to cool off and recover once we finally reached them and then did 5ks until we got to Cunningham, a little town where we would cross under Hwy 54.  At this point we decided that 3 miles was just too far between cool offs and had the crew start stopping every 2 miles.  Despite costing us some race time, I feel like this was the single best decision we made through the entire course of the race.  Sacrificing some clock time to stay cooler longer became a strategy we deployed until the sun came down.  Each stop we would take off our hats and shirts and soak them in ice water before putting them back on.  At one point I said something about “investing some time in the afternoon heat that would earn us some dividends we could cash out once it cooled off.”  Thanks to the efforts of our fantastic crew and in spite of a daytime high of 98 degrees, we survived – mostly undamaged – and got to the checkpoint at 53 miles in St. Leo.  The massive, shady oak tree at St. Leo and the promise of no wind in our face was our prize and we absolutely reveled in it, sharing some laughs with Warren and some others while eating, drinking pickle juice shooters, and doctoring our increasingly tattered bodies.

From this point, we were allowed to take on pacers, and we had our own Johnny on the spot.  No, not a shitter (which would have been nice), but a shaggy headed young man about to be violently born into the world of ultrarunning.  Johnny is “the kid” on our crew, and hails from my hometown.  Twenty-three years old, he is a baby by ultrarunning standards.  His previous running experience consists of high school track ( I heard he once ate shit on a hurdle but still got up and ran his heart out instead of walking off), getting a hair up ass and running the Richmond Marathon without training  (in ~3:30:00), and through-hiking more than 700 miles of the Appalachian Trail.  And while Johnny has a fiery spirit that matches  his shaggy ginger head, he has zero experience past about the 30 mile a day mark.   So naturally, he wanted to go the distance – almost 50 miles.  Why not?  Now armed with a fresh set of legs and a new conversation partner, my love and I continued along the never-ending pavement of Kingman County, Kansas, determined to slay ourselves a Honey Badger.

We continued to do our thing – drink, eat, run, drink, rest, and repeat.  The sun lowered to the point that we finally felt relief from the day’s heat, and it was MARVELOUS – but somewhat deceiving.  The humidity was still high and it was still very warm, so we took great care and made a conscious effort to continue our intake of fluids – including a drink we named “Pink Shit”.  Pink Shit was a mix of different flavors of Dollar General Pedialyte and Gatorade knockoffs, and not too bad when served cold.  I continued to eat as I had all day, in large quantities, prompting Boxy to voice his opinion that eventually I would eat EVERYTHING and he would have to raid a cornfield.  Candi babied her stomach along trying desperately to avoid nausea issues that plagued her in her last few long ultras.  I can only imagine the torture of wanting nothing more than to puke for 40 miles.  Luckily I am armed with an iron set of guts coated with Teflon and wrapped in Kevlar – the longest period of barfy-pukey I ever endured was about 30 minutes in any race (and it was torturous).  Anyway, without getting any further bogged down in details, we made like Forrest Gump and “just. kept. running.”, eventually donning our headlamps and stumbling along under the blinking red lights of the wind farm and the super moon.

Approximately 10:30 pm and around 60 miles in, a new character joins our fearless expedition as we quest ever closer to the final showdown with the villainous and notoriously tough Honey Badger. Shaylene “Lara Croft” Caffey, who earlier in the day thrashed her 50k PR on a difficult Wyco course, traveled hours from Kansas City finally hitching a ride out and meeting up with the Daves.  This young lady is on record saying that she is planning on running the FlatRock 101K course in Vibram 5-fingers next spring.  Yeah, we ONLY accept level 99 badasses on our crew.  Shay is also planning on shooting down the Hawk 100 (her first) in September; I think she was maybe even subconsciously looking to get some more insights into the “late miles” of a hundie.  Candi and I planned on showing her precisely how to climb into her pain cave and then slam the door shut on her own personal hurt locker.  Shay, however, was determined to take crewing to the same level of her running and attempt to keep us from suffering at all.  It was a battle of wills that would play out all night and into the next morning. Once Shay joins the crew, it breathes some new life into all of us.  Dave and Dave had been crewing at a very high level non-stop since sunrise, Johnny was crewing and running in beast mode, and the beautifully hardcore Candi and I plodding along on the road with seemingly no end.  I don’t know where she mustered it from, but Shay’s rootin’, tootin’, hootin’, and a hollerin’ woke us all up.  Precisely when we all needed it.  Dave Meeth, or as I internally began to think of him – “The Professor” –  changed roles and pinned on a pacer’s bib, while  Dave Box shined in his role as Master Driver and Crew Chief.

Meeth is an engineer by trade and was the first person I recruited to join the crew.  I had met him at FlatRock, chatted with him online, and he even came out and brought me a beer at the 12 hour KUS race I ran last November.  He is also an ultrarunner having run a 50 miler to his credit – much faster my best time.  Additionally, I could really just see and feel his intelligence and compassion for others even beyond his passion, energy, and excitement for the sport of ultrarunning.  I knew he would make an excellent crew member.  For these reasons (and not just because he is the elder of the group) the nickname “professor” just kept popping in my head.  Regardless, I knew Candi and I would be in good hands with Dave for the next 35 or so miles.

Believe it or not, the later miles of a 100 kind of just gets boring.  I know?  Amazing revelation right?!  Not much else to note, unless you get excited about lubing up, pooping, and peeing on the side of the road; in which case you are probably looking for a different website with a .xxx at the end of it.  We ate, we ran, we lubed, and we drank.  Most often we kept a good attitude and still managed some good conversation and even some belly laughs.  Other times, it was deathly silent as we were all somewhat trapped in our own thoughts (or pain caves).  Onward.

Meanwhile, Boxy and Shay were playing a three mile game of leapfrog that consisted of driving out, looking for a place to park, setting up chairs,  and prepping an all-you-can eat buffet for the ever famished Fred Flintstone (me) and Shay rubbing Candi’s aching  -but still pretty- feet.  This is truly selfless work.  Up all day and night to help us out.  It really does amaze me that these guys would do this for us, almost perfect strangers before this race, for no other reason than helping us achieve our goals.  This brings me to Dave Box.  Boxy is a guy that came out of nowhere to run the FlatRock 101k as his first, YES FIRST, ultra.  But wait, there’s more… He had never run longer than 13 miles before that.  But wait, there’s more….  He gets 3rd overall!  Wow.  Two weeks later he rips off a most impressive finish at the Flint Hills 40 miler – despite blowing up and overheating in the final half marathon.  Boxy has raw talent, tons of heart, and an iron will.  He told me that his body was DONE after about half way of the FlatRock 101k, but he did what a good ultrarunner does – he ran the rest with his mind.  Box took this same drive, energy, and mental toughness and put it to use in his role as Crew Chief.  Need I say more? Not only did Dave expertly execute his crew duties, but he supplied half of the gear we used including a pop up tent, 7 gallon gatorade jug, and a propane grill and tank.  You got it.  Hot food on the road. BAM.  Box cooked us bacon at 3 in the morning.  Dave Box is a crewing GOD.  Not to mention he pulled his toy hauler, complete with generator and air conditioner, three hours to the lake – just because you never know what we might need.  Enough on Boxy, don’t need his ego getting as big as mine, that would be bad for everyone involved, but you get my point.  Back to the race.

So miles 70-100 were more of the same.  We didn’t feel much better, but we didn’t feel much worse.  We just kept ticking off the miles three at a time.  About 5 miles from the finish we run up on Boxy sitting cross legged on the trailer cooking up some more hot bacon for us.  Shay is still hollering for us and cheering us in EVERY single time we get to the van.  Johnny and Dave were rock solid pacers who never complained about their own aches and pains although they had been out there for 12 hours or more.  We did this until our final stop about a mile and a half  from the finish line (we wanted to finish strong). Here, we sat in our chairs and shared a beer to celebrate our victory in private.  It was amazing.

For the final time in the race, we got up, shook off the instant soreness and began hammering out the last bit to the finish.  Candi and I crossed the finish together in 27:16:39 well below the realistic 28 hour goal we set for ourselves.  More importantly we were not in that bad of shape considering the brutal heat and wind of the day.  Candi had a single tiny blister and I had three and a gray toenail.  No major aches and pains at all.  Just tired bodies carrying around huge smiles.  We relaxed around the finish talking to our pals.  A HUGE thanks to Epic Ultras for putting on a top notch event with the level of challenge we were looking for.  Eric Steele, Warren Bushey, Polly Choate, Frank Arellano, David Bushey, Justin Saylor and all of the Epic Ultras Brigade make these events live up to the considerable hype that they generate.  Also a huge thank you to the awesome support we got on the course from the roving aid teams – Justin and Joell Chockley, Mark Berry, Daron and Zander Pratt.  Also special thanks to Joell Chockley for doing such a wonderful job capturing the day in pictures.  All of your efforts are VERY much appreciated!

All of the 100’s that I have run are special to me for different reasons.  Pumpkin Holler was redemption and I ran fast.  Prairie Spirit I came back from the brink of failure.  Honey Badger will always be special to me because I crossed the finish of a VERY difficult ultra with the woman I love, and WE were able to do so because of the perfect execution of a well organized plan by an ULTRA TEAM whose skill, motivation, tenacity, and chemistry will never be surpassed.

Until Next Time…. BE EPIC!

Zach Adams

PS – Send me a friend request on Facebook.  I love keeping track of the training, races, and other adventures that my ULTRA-FRIENDS (both current and future) share!

Honey Badger Race Preview 2014

zachAt some miserably low and painful point of almost every longer ultra – especially a 100 miler – I find myself severely questioning my life choices.  Specifically, the choice to subject myself to the grueling punishment required to run long distances, in less than favorable weather, and on difficult terrain – for a belt buckle that I will never actually wear.  For the first time in my ultrarunning “career”, I am internally examining my strange compulsion before the race has beaten me to a pulp.  Way before.  Like 6 weeks before.  The Honey Badger 100 will begin at 6am on July 12th2014, and I will be at the starting line.

For those of you who don’t know, Honey Badger is not a trail run.  This race will take place on paved county roads west of Wichita Kansas near Cheney Reservoir and cover a good chunk of Kingman County.  The last 5 years on this weekend in July have seen daytime high temps in this area of 103, 92, 101, 98, and 101.  Of course it will be hot in Kansas in July, but it will also be windy.  As a matter of fact, one of the largest wind farms in the state is in the process of being built very near the race venue.  A wind farm converts wind energy into electricity using turbines – this seems to me like a good indication of how windy it will be.  Likely 25-30 mph sustained winds with gusts strong enough to blow over a baby elephant.  Also, it is not quite as flat as you would expect.  According to Map My Run, there will be enough elevation change to make things interesting.   The point of this course preview; it’s gonna suck.  Hard.

So by now you are probably asking yourself, “So why in seven bloody hells are you running this?”  Well, because it IS hard.  Duh.  If it was easy, everyone would do it.  Well, that and because Honey Badgers are pretty freaking badass and I want a buckle with one on it.  Also, there’s a little race called The Badwater Ultramarathon – maybe you have heard of it?  “The World’s Hardest Footrace”, it spans 135 miles across Death Valley from the Badwater Basin to Mt. Whitney’s Portal – in July.  Yes, I know the course has changed… don’t miss my point.  My point is that after reading what Marshall Ulrich, Dean Karnazes, Scott Jurek, and RD Eric Steele have written about their experiences at Badwater, I want to do it someday.  Additionally, it is hard as hell to get into, and costs a shitload of money, so you better make sure you got a big dose of “what it takes” before you head to Death Valley.  This brings me to Honey Badger.  It occurred to me sometime last summer that before I travel all the way to California to go swim in some bad water, I will schedule a death match with a Honey Badger in my own back yard!

I have been training pretty well in 2014 and have raced in the Winter Rock 25K, Prairie Spirit 100 Mile, Free State 40 Mile, FlatRock 101K, and 3Daysto100K (just the 50K).  My mileage base is solid, now I just need to get acclimated to the heat which has been difficult since we have had a very mild spring so far. I will also have the advantage of having a super badass crew lined up – and my ultra sweet badass running girlfriend Candi who will also be racing.  We plan on crossing the finish line together just like we did at FlatRock 101k.  Since historically I throw all my super detailed plans out the window I am keeping this one simple.  The plan is to run until the sun gets high and temps get around 90, then hunker down and survive until the sun goes down.  Hopefully our hydration and fueling will be going well and we can tick off some serious mileage before the sun comes up.  That’s it. Oh, and finish under the 36 hour time limit.

So there is still time… if you think you have what it takes, hell, why not sign up???  If you are even ENTERTAINING the idea of Badwater in the future, it seems like a no-brainer.  If that’s not enough, keep in mind it is an Epic Ultras event – So you KNOW it will inevitably BE EPIC!

Zach Adams

10 Keys To Insure A DNF In Your 1st 100 Mile Race

zach10 Keys to Insure a DNF in your 1st 100 Mile Attempt

1.       Select an Insanely Difficult Course

If you are going to run a freaking 100 mile race, why the hell would you run some wimpy flat course with no technical terrain or high altitudes?  What kind of wimpy hundred mile racer needs decent weather and tons of course support?  Don’t be a pussy just because you have never run 100 miles before!  Go big or go home!  I mean, you CRUSHED that last 50K you did… right?

2.       Continue Your Usual Training

It got you from the couch to 5K didn’t it?  It even helped you slide in before cutoff on that trail 50k.  One hundred miles in 30 hours – that’s only 3.33 miles per hour!  That is a slow walk.  There is no reason to destroy your joints with a bunch of back to back runs of 20 and even 30 mile runs.  Besides, who has the TIME to do that?

3.       Just “Wing it” On Race Day

This isn’t rocket science folks!  Here is all there is to it:  1. Show up.  2. Go to starting line. 3. Left foot forward, right foot forward, now repeat.   It’s that simple.  All these runners obsessing over distance between aid stations, what to put in drop boxes, cutoff times, weather, what to wear…. Blah blah blah.  The shit seriously makes me sick.  It’s never-ending.

4.       Race the First 50K

All this ultra-conservative talk about pacing in a 100 doesn’t make any sense.  Go out and run that 50K like you know that you can, and then slow down.  After all, you are experienced and know what pace you are comfortable to finish a 50k, why would you slow down before you need to?

5.       Eat and Drink Only When You FEEL Like It

Only eat and drink when you are hungry and thirsty.  Don’t cram food down your throat if your gut is upset.  All that will do is make you puke, and when you puke you are DONE.  Everyone knows this.  If you aren’t hungry – don’t eat.  If you aren’t thirsty –don’t drink.  This isn’t a shitty Weight Watchers meeting or your company fat-boy weight loss competition… why the hell would you count calories?  Besides, you have plenty of extra to burn, I mean c’mon we have all seen these fatties who run 100’s.

6.       Avoid Lube

Lube?  Seriously?  Are you a car? No. So why would you lube yourself?  Quit thinking you are some kind of machine that needs to stay fine tuned and well oiled.  What an ego you have!  All it is going to do is make you all greasy, smelly, and uncomfortable.  It will settle in your expensive running gear to grab all the dirt and road dust.    When you get that stuff on your fingers, it is nearly impossible to get off.  No one wants you grabbing stuff off the aid station tables with gross fingers.  NASTY!  Save the lube bottle for the bedroom fun you will be having with your significant other the night after!

7.       Go It Alone

You already have very few friends outside the community of ultrarunning weirdoes you know.  Do you really want ruin the few remaining friendships you have by asking your high school BFF to chase you around the countryside just to wait a few hours to do it again – just to fill your water bottles and pop your blisters?  I think not.  What about asking an ultrarunner who is injured or tapering?   Don’t think so… you already have to spend enough time with these psychos at prerace and at every aid satiation.  Take my advice; Go it alone.

8.       Find a Chair

25-30 hours is a long ass time.  Find a chair, take a load off and sit down for a while.  Hell, lay down for a while if you want.  Find a nice warm fire and get comfy.  A stop of 1 or 2 hours isn’t going to do anything but help.  I mean, it’s not like you are going to win. And you DO HAVE 30 hours.  Why not take a nap here or there.

9.       Stop if it Hurts

You have trained like you always have trained.  Surely that poke in your knee, burning toe, or swollen knee is a sign of serious injury!  Don’t risk missing next month’s Color Dash Diva Plunge because you are too hard headed to stop when you are in pain!  Do the right thing and listen to the pain and that little voice telling you that you need to stop.  Keep in mind your feet know best.

10.   Rationalize Failure

It’s ok to quit.  It is fine not to finish.  It’s not THAT BIG of a deal.  It IS just a hobby after all, you would have been running anyway.  Only a tiny fraction of the world’s population even ATTEMPTS to run 100 miles.  Quit acting like this is some kind of soul searching, healing, and transformational experience.  It’s just a race – not worth pain and suffering.

P.S.

If for some reason you did NOT read the title – this is the shit to do if you want a DNF.  If you want a finisher’s buckle – DO THE OPPOSITE.

Until next time, BE EPIC!

Zach

2013 Pumpkin Holler 100 Mile – “Perfection”

zachEverything went perfectly. That one simple sentence basically sums up the 2013 Pumpkin Holler 100 mile race for me.  From the day I really committed to start some serious training (after a weak performance at Summer Psycho Psummer 50k) to the moment I crossed the Pumpkin Holler finish line, everything went perfectly.

I won’t go too in depth about the training that I did leading up to PH100, just that I had worked very hard. I was logging not only long slow runs, but running lots of intermediate-distance speed work.  I also hit the stairs, ran hill repeats, and tortured myself with a 20# weighted vest.  I ran in the heat.  I power walked my little black pug Ermah.  I knocked out 45 miles in the Patriots Run and finished 2nd overall.  I raced the FlatRock 50K in the mud like a man on fire setting a PR on the course and getting 6th.  I was well trained.  After much discussion with my ultrarunning friends and mentors (specifically my long lost older brother from another mother and ultrarunning mentor Eric Steele), I decided I needed to do a fall 100 miler.  Since I DNF’d Pumpkin Holler 100 last year around 55 miles, it only made sense that my goal would be redemption in my second attempt to “Smash the Pumpkin”.

By the start of the race everything had lined up perfectly.   My amazing support crew was scheduled to show up later in the evening, I had my strategy lined out, and my drop boxes were packed.  Arriving about an hour before the gun with a belly full of food and coffee and a decent amount of sleep, I made my final preparations.  A nice thick coat of lube on all my “friction prone areas” was all I needed before taking off in pursuit of my goal; finishing 100 miles in less than 24 hours.

At 8 a.m., I set out with a couple hundred runners on the red-dirt Oklahoma country roads just north of Tahlequah, Oklahoma.  The leaves are starting to change colors and the air was a crisp 40 degrees, making for a beautiful sight – especially while running along the rock bluffs or the sparkling Illinois River.  The first leg of the race for 100 miler racers is a little 4 mile out-and-back jog off the main loop which was basically up a long hill.  This was a pretty good climb, so I had no problems sticking to my plan and starting slow to warm up.  I really paid attention to how my new Hoka One One Stinson Evo Tarmacs felt, considering I purchased them the day before the race and had never run in them.  Yes, I know terrible idea… but they felt SOOO GOOD… I had to give them a chance.  My decision was that I would wear them out of the chute and if they hurt I could change into my Saucony when I came back thru the start line at the beginning of the first loop.  Later in the race, I would say, “The only way these shoes are coming off is if they are taken off my cold dead body.”  My Garmin measured this as about 8 miles and I was right on my goal pace, just under 12 minutes a mile.

Coming back through the start, I refilled my bottles, ate a few ham and cheese sandwich quarters, shed an outer layer of clothing, and took right off.  I knew the sun was going to come up and would warm up soon enough, so I felt fine although I was a little chilly.  Up to this point I had run with a couple different folks and even managed to log a few miles with Michelle McGrew, who I had spent hours with conquering the FlatRock 101K in April.  We ran with a young guy named Nathan who was looking to avenge a Pumpkin Holler DNF himself.  We had a few laughs and just enjoyed ourselves.  At one point, about 15 miles in, Michelle slowed to a walk and I followed her lead.  To this she said (in her VERY thick Oklahoma accent), “Don’t you slow down because of me, this is YOUR race, go RUN it!”  I really took that to heart, and after wishing her luck, I ran.  On this occasion, I had an iPod loaded with some face-melting classic rock to help pass some miles should I end up alone or start to struggle.  Normally, I am a very social runner, but today I was in race mode.  I didn’t really want to worry about conversing or matching pace.  I really felt like just listening to some tunes and zoning out, so that’s what I did. I never run with music, so this was a real treat.  With my ear buds in and the volume cranked up, I knocked off the rest of the first 50k loop and came back into the start (about 40 miles down) at about 3:38 pm.  At this point I had no crew, but really didn’t need much.  My truck was parked on the path back to the road, so I just stopped there to get my drop box.  Shannon McFarland asked how he could help, so after filling my water bottle, he followed me to my truck and helped me restock my Nathan vest with Hammer Gels, protein bars, etc.  He is an experienced racer, and talked me thru the things I would need until I picked up my own crew around 55 miles in.  Shannon totally went above and beyond the call of duty for an aid station volunteer, and I totally appreciated it!  I knew I was right on target for pace (1 minute under goal at this point) and the only cutoff I had to make was 4:30am to start the 3rd lap, which obviously wasn’t too much of a concern, considering how great I felt.

Epic Ultra Chicks!
Epic Ultra Chicks!

With my earbuds in, a long sleeve shirt on, and a jacket tied around my waist, I took off to do battle with the second 50K loop.  I really don’t have a lot to say other than things went as perfect as they could.  I kept eating and drinking.  Occasionally, I would pass people – but I never got passed.  Hell, I even Facebook’d some and made a couple calls to friends and family to update them on how things were going.  I hit the 50 mile mark at almost exactly 10 hours – running what coming into this race I would have called a “suicidal” pace for a runner of my ability.  After talking to my Crew Chief, Candi Paulin (the beautiful and talented ultrarunner and also my wonderful girlfriend), I knew there was a chance that they would make it in time to meet me at the next aid station.  I booked it down the big hill and into Savannah Corner, run by Tony Clark, Steve Baker, and Dennis Haig feeling great and totally excited. Unfortunately my crew hadn’t arrived yet.  A little let down, I started prepping for the next section of the race.  Knowing I had 45 miles to go, and also knowing that it wasn’t going to get any easier, I stayed on task.  As I was shaking hands with the guys, low and behold an SUV pulls up and out pops my crew!  I was so excited!  I group hugged my Epic Ultra Chicks – Candi, Melissa Bruce, and Joell Chockley.  Candi ran the Heartland 100 (sub-22 hr) the weekend before while Melissa and Joell both crewed and paced all day and night.  To say they were the perfect ultra-chicks for the job was an understatement!  It was a HUGE mental boost, even though I was already on cloud nine and feeling amazing.  Several people had told me I was looking good, but I should slow down or I was going to blow up.  My response was simple, “I know, but I will deal with that when it happens.  Until then, I am running hard.”  Knowing I would see my girls again in about 9 miles – and pick up Joell as my first pacer – was enough to send my ass back out on the road with a purpose.  As before, everything went perfectly.  I passed some people.  According to Randy Ellis, at the East of Eden aid station, I was in 5th place overall.  I wasn’t worried about place, just getting that sub-24 hour finish.  I passed another guy and his pacer before finally catching Arnold Begay.  Arnold, despite finishing the Heartland 100 ONE WEEK BEFORE, was outrunning me ALL DAY.  Arnold was having a great day, but just before the Hard Up Ahead aid station he injured his achilles and was limping – and would later drop.  As hard as I was working and trying to catch Arnold, I hated to see that when I did, it was only because of injury.  Get well soon Arnold – we can battle it out another day!  Everything continued to go perfectly.  Excited to see my girls again and pick up some company to share the infinite darkness with, I rolled into the Hard-Up Ahead aid station with a huge grin on my face.  A few hugs and kisses, words of encouragement, a quick bottle refill, and a hand full of ham sandwiches, and I was off – this time with Mrs. Chockley by my side.  Joell is one of the best people you can possibly have as a pacer, because she is always so damn happy!  Even though my focus was on running and I wasn’t saying much, she kept the conversation flowing.  Before I knew it, we had covered a hilly and pretty tough 9 miles in about 2 hours and were back at the start, 70 miles completed.

83 Miles Down!
83 Miles Down!

As expected my Epic Ultra Chicks were waiting on me at the starting area at almost exactly 11pm when Joell and I came in, right on schedule.   Candi gave me a little sugar of the variety not found in a Hammer gel, and they all took great care of me.  Still staring down another 50k, I was still feeling awesome.  Melissa was all geared up and ready to take over pacing duties for the next 13-14 miles and eventually taking me into Savannah Corner for the final time.  The first half of the 50K loop has several very tough hills, and at this point in the race they should have started to feel like mountains.  I don’t know how, but I started to feel stronger.  I was powering up hills to the point that Melissa needed to jog to match my power-hike pace.  We cranked out these miles, and I never once felt anything less than stellar.  We talked and ran, and we laid down some 11 minute miles.  This was faster than Melissa (and myself) was expecting me to be at this point, and she was working hard to keep up with me, so I may or may not have mentioned coyotes and bobcats to freak her out a little.  We came into the Out and Back aid station at the same time 2nd place (and eventual female winner) Rebecca Reynolds was coming back in, which put me exactly 3 miles behind her.  About 40 minutes later, when I came back into O&B, Nathan was coming in, 3 miles behind – giving me a good idea where I was related to the rest of the top 4 runners.  Cranking along in 3rd place overall, Mel and I came cruising into Savannah Corners.  As expected the girls were there, and after a nap, Joell was once again ready to rock.  I thanked them all repeatedly – especially Melissa who had worked her tail off to keep me moving fast.IMG_20131022_075143

Earlier in the day, my good friend, and Joell’s husband, Justin Chockley posted a great quote on my Facebook by ultrarunning pioneer and total legend David Horton, “Find the level of intolerance you can tolerate and stay there.”  That was what this next section was all about.  Shortly after leaving Savannah Corners for the 3rd and final time, I ate a protein bar, and then 30 minutes later I had an espresso flavored Hammer Gel.  This proved to be a few too many calories and my stomach went sour.  Normally I have an “iron gut”, so this really sucked for me.  Joell just kept talking and smiling and telling me to keep pushing on, which I did.  I kept telling myself I would feel better.  About 30 minutes later, I did.  Joell had her Garmin on and assured me that despite my gut issues we still made good time.  This section has the longest stretch between aid stations.  It was about 4.5 miles from Savannah to East of Eden and another 4.5 to get to Hard Up Ahead.  We kept plugging along and got back to Hard Up Ahead where I found Candi bouncing off the walls ready to pace me to the finish.  Joell had warned me that despite a knee issue after the Heartland 100, Candi was dead set on pacing me to the finish and would not be denied, so don’t even bother trying to talk her out of it.  That’s my girl!  As we left the aid station with only 9 miles separating me

Mean Muggin'!
Mean Muggin’! ala Eric Steele

 from my first 100 mile finish, someone said, “2nd place is only 5-10 minutes ahead of you, and was struggling.  Go get her!”  I mentioned that all I didn’t care about what place I finished, I just wanted to finish and get my buckle and a sub 24 hour finish.  The Hoka’s were really protecting my feet and I felt awesome going into the 3 mile paved section between Hard Up Ahead and Bathtub Rocks.   Candi was pushing me hard, even making me run up a few hills by lying to me and telling me that it was flat, and before long we saw a headlamp – which I thought was a porch light.  Candi reminded me that porches don’t move as we ran down the second place runner.  Once we got about 20 yards behind Rebecca, something snapped inside of me and I just “downshifted” and took the hell off.  Candi chuckled to herself loud enough I could hear it and sped up to match my pace.  According to my internal speedometer, we ran a sub 10 minute mile and blew so far ahead of her that her light was invisible.  When we came into Bathtub, 6 miles from the finish, I realized I had done it.  I remember saying that I had 6 hours to go another 6 miles, or something ridiculous like that – again making Candi laugh.  Food and drink was done for me, so we barely paused and headed on to the final aid station, appropriately named IMG_20131022_075056“Last Gasp”.   Done with the hills and a good bit of distance between me and 3rd place, I was in coast mode – but just for a minute.  After dropping to a walk, Candi kindly asked me what the $%&* I was doing walking, and informed me that I was GOING to finish in less than 22 hours.  Scoffing, I told my overzealous pacer that there was no way I was able to run a 22 minute 5k right now.  Once my math error was corrected, Candi blasted my declaration that I wasn’t sure I could even run a 42 minute 5k.  She took off and I followed.  This is where something strange happened…  I really stopped feeling anything from the legs down.  Not that I was paralyzed or anything, just that it didn’t matter.  I ran.  I ran harder.  I ran faster.  I remembered landmarks and signs that told me we were almost there.  We turned and got on the bridge.  We were there!  I look at my watch and realized that at 5:45 am, I had nearly 15 minutes to run around the campground and cross the finish line to finish this thing off.finisher

 

  Candi told me she didn’t think she could keep up with my speed across the bridge (I found out her knee was killing her) but to keep on going.  Of course, she did keep up with me and we

 ran together to the finish.  21 hours, 50 minutes and 30 seconds.  Second place overall in the 2013 Pumpkin Holler 100 Mile.  I had done it.  Just like I told Eric I would, I earned my seat at the “big boy table”.  Thanks to great support from the Epic Ultra Chicks, my totally awesome ultrarunning friends, and the ultrarunning community at large, I did it.  Everything went perfectly.

           Until next time… BE EPIC

            Zach

2013 Prairie Spirit 100: It Was Indeed EPIC – Part III – “Yetis in the Mist” or “Hand me my Lightsaber…”

DSC_9349_s_jpgPrairie Spirit 100 Part I

Prairie Spirit 100 Part II 

Previously, on “Prairie Spirit 100″…  Our unlikely hero has arrived in Ottawa in an effort to reach his goal of completing a 100 mile trail run.  A fun filled evening of dinner and camaraderie with other ultrarunners is ended with a restless night of sleep.  The morning greets our hero with overcast skies, cold temps, and the possibility of catastrophic weather conditions later in the day.  Undeterred, our hero gears up and sets out.  Having reached the Iola turnaround with his fearless companion Adam in less than 11 hours,  Zach connects with pacer Lisa and dives headlong into a burgeoning blizzard – determined not to let his solid 50+ mile effort be in vain.  Will the weather stop our determined friend and his companions?  Will they finish the race in spite of the screaming winds and the falling snow?  Will they be buried under ice waiting centuries to be thawed and reanimated?  Stay tuned to “Prairie Spirit 100, Part III – Yetis in the Mist” to find out!! 

So there I was, no bullshit… (every great story should begin with those words) getting ready to  leave the Iola aid station restocked and ready to rock.  Feeling good.  Joking, laughing, taking some pictures, and just having an overall great time.  I knew the weather was going downhill and that I had 51 or so miles to go, but I still had not for a single second entertained the idea that I might not be able to finish.  At almost exactly 5:00 p.m. I stepped out from behind the Iola shelter and started a jog directly into the whipping north wind.  I turned to Lisa and said, “HOLY F*&^#^g SHIT… IT’S GONNA BE A LONG NIGHT!”  Having that wind at your back was one thing; looking forward to it blasting you in the damn face for the next 16 or more hours is something totally different.  But we did what we do… we set our jaws and starting putting our left foot in front of our right foot.ps100lisa

I don’t know that many ways to keep describing the blowing wind and snow.  I was cold, wet, windy and snowy.  There were some places along the trail that offered some decent protection from the wind, and that became the goal.  Instead of running to the next aid station, we decided we would run to the next wind break.  Lisa talked to me while I just kept concentrating on keeping the fuel schedule right and kept moving as quickly as I could.  A few hours passed and we made it to Colony in pretty decent time, probably between 3-4 hours before the cutoff.  I was starting to get chilled from the wind and moisture but not bad as long as I was moving pretty good.  Coming into Colony, my goal was to get in and out ASAP so I didn’t get cold.  Adam had gotten out ahead of me and was already at Colony when I got there, heading to sit in the car with his wife and warm up some.  He hadn’t packed nearly as many drop bags as I had or as much cold weather gear either.  At Colony I busted open 4-5 hand warmers and shoved them in the fronts and backs of my gloves and in my balaclava on my face. I also grabbed another pair of bigger glove shells to wear and a big fleece hood with a drawstring around the face.  It was dark by now and I had a light clipped to my hat with the hood over the top, drawstring cinched tight.  I must have looked like Kenny from Southpark with a beam of light shooting from my head.  It was quite comical I am sure.  Lisa and I left Colony before Adam and wouldn’t see him again.  61 miles done.  Next stop Welda.

Not much to say about the trip from Colony to Welda – except that about a mile out of Colony I lost my water bottle from its waist holster.  Now I am taking Hammer Gels and Endurolytes every 30 minutes for the next 2-3 hours without water.  If you don’t already know this – be aware- cold gels are hard as hell to swallow with water.  Shit.  Now I am starting to feel like I am royally screwed.  I begin to get colder in my core, despite the fact that my hands and feet are still fairly comfortable.  Lisa reassures me that we will find a new bottle at Welda, which reminds me that Travis will be there and I convince myself somebody will hook me up.  We make it to Welda and Ben and the Trail Nerds contingent once again hook me up with that awesome broth.  I end up just grabbing a half full Sam’s Club water bottle off the table that they said had been there for a while, filled it up and headed out.  I did not want to linger, I could feel the cold really starting to set in.  I grabbed some food, ate a gel, put on another layer of jackets (I think) and we took off again.  Almost conciously feeling my body temperature dropping, I said, “C’mon, we gotta go.”  to Lisa.  So, after a less than 5 minute stop, we went.  Sixty-nine miles down.  Garnett, here we come.

The next couple miles were very hard for me.  I was starting to shake really badly right out of the aid station and had to start fighting the urge to go back and call it a day.  The weather was getting worse by the second.  Stronger winds, colder temps, heavier snow, and less tree cover all combined with my dropping core temperature were giving me serious doubts.  These doubts served to anger me, and I just kept telling myself, “Move and get warm or stop and freeze.”  Over and over I kept telling myself this.  Eventually I did get a bit warmer and maybe 6 miles from Garnett, I was moving pretty good again.  It was so hard to even see the trail at this point, much less find footprints to follow. Judging speed and distance was downright impossible.  The snow was getting deeper and was starting to take its toll on my feet.  Every step was just getting tougher and shuffling wasn’t much of an option with how much deeper it got.  Once again I slowed to the point that I quickly started to get really cold. The best I could manage was a swift walk.  This was not enough to keep my temperature up, and unfortunately, about an hour away from Garnett I was shivering uncontrollably.  My thoughts started to get cloudy and I was getting disoriented. Once I thought I had gotten turned around because Lisa got a bit ahead of me and I contemplated turning around.  Then I realized the footsteps I were going to follow were mine.  Honestly, it was getting pretty scary.  Getting close to Garnett, I could see the glow of a town in the distance and this gave me some renewed hope.  The Garnett train station was warm.   All I had to do was put on some warm, dry clothes, warm up for a while, and then I could go on.  At this moment, I realized I wasn’t shivering anymore and that my lips felt “asleep”  – like your foot when you sit cross-legged too long.  Yeah, this is not good.  Exclusively walking at this point, it took about 30 more minutes to get to the train station.  We got there really close to 12:30 am.  77.5 miles done.  Less than a marathon to go.

Courtesy Fun Memories Photography

The cutoff for Garnett was now 4 a.m. so I feel like I have plenty of time to eat and get warm before going back.  I sit down and grab some ham sandwiches and start eating.  I really had a hunger for real food.  While I was eating, something strange happened.  As I warmed up I began to violently shiver.  I mean VIOLENTLY.  It was like the warmer I got, the colder I felt.  This was the beginning of the end for me.  People were dropping like flies at Garnett.  It is getting worse and worse by the second.  Then, without warning, the power goes out.  Of course there is no problem with light, as all the runners have headlamps, but it is dark.  The ranger in charge of the trail shows up and offers to get a radiant propane heater.  I overhear talk that roads are being closed and people are getting stuck.  Power is out all over town.  I see RD Eric Steele talking to him and although I didn’t hear the words, I feel like they are discussing when to pull the plug.  After an hour I am colder than when we were outside, and upon trying to stand up to go to the bathroom, I realize my legs are locked up.  After shuffling to the bathroom I go outside and the snow is blowing from EVERYWHERE.  I think to myself, “Well.  I’m done.”

That was it.  I told Lisa I was done, and she almost looked relieved that she didn’t have to go back out.  She called her sister who would come from Ottawa to get us…. assuming she could.  We eventually made it back to the hotel and I think I found a bed somewhere around 4:30 a.m.  I was upset but would find out that even if I had gone on after Garnett that the race was officially stopped around 5 a.m., and that I would have likely pulled at Richmond.  Adam gave it up a mile out of Welda, calling his wife and declaring that enough was enough.  All said and done, there were 5 official finishers in the 100 mile race.  FIVE.  Congrats to those five insane bastards.  I know there are others who would have finished had the race not been stopped, so cheers to them as well!

The logistical concerns of 100 & 50 mile races with nearly 150 combined participants are immense under even the greatest of weather conditions.  Race Director, Eric Steele, was facing weather conditions which could only be described as horrendous.  As a race director he was forced to walk the edge of a razor and ultimately make the decision at which point it was no longer safe enough to let his 100 mile runners continue.  Caught in the middle of an all out shootout between loved ones SCREAMING to shut it down and ultrarunners hell bent on finishing AT ALL COSTS, Eric ultimately had to make the decision.  As a hardcore ultarunner himself, he knows what it means to give it everything you have to achieve your goals, and well understood the heartbreak it would cause to stop a runner that physically could continue.  I did not envy his situation in the slightest.  Ultimately, it came down to a question of  life and death, so when the Park Rangers informed him Sunday morning, shortly after 5 am, that they could no longer access the trail, he knew it was done and had to pull the plug per his agreement with them.  If a rescue was needed and could not be made, a runner could die.   I appreciate that Eric kept the 100 mile race going as long as was possible given the circumstances, and I truly feel that if there was any possibly way to even somewhat safely let the runners keep going he would have.  I applaud his efforts and those of his Epic Ultra Brigade.  And if you are one of those who was screaming at him, smacking his car windows, or possibly threatening him over it – for EITHER stopping or not stopping the race – then I say, why don’t you pull your head out of your ass, quit acting like a thumbdick, and shit and fall back into it…just my two cents.

What an adventure!   It was only in the following few days that I was really able to pull the entire event into perspective.  Amazing is the only way to describe it.  Everyone involved contributed so much to make this event what it was… Epic.  That is the only word I have to describe this race.  EPIC!

Final thought.  I would have finished this race.  I know under any other weather, that this is true.  You can guarantee that I will be back for redemption.  Until then, I will content myself with a ‘little’ 100K down at the Flatrock 101K next weekend.  Join me, who knows, maybe it will be even more EPIC!!!  If you have any thoughts, questions, or comments I would love to hear them.

Be Epic!

Zach Adams

Create your badge

2013 Prairie Spirit 100: It Was Indeed EPIC – Part II – “A Tale of Two Races” or “I Heard it Might Snow”

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!!!

Zach

Zach Adams

Create your badge

2013 Prairie Spirit 100: It Was Indeed EPIC – Part 1 – “Pre-Race Jitters” or “What in the Hell Was I Thinking?”

DSC_9349_s_jpgPrior 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.

MY PRECIOUS

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.

Polly kickin ass and takin names

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!

Zach