Monday, April 27, 2009
Freestate 100K April 25 2009
Saturday dawned warm, overcast and breezy... I was pretty happy to see the clouds since at one point the weather folks were calling for close to 90 degree temps.. but by the end of the day I would be cursing those same clouds. I spent the night at my friend Christy's house so I could get an extra hour of sleep, and we had spent the evening getting drop bags together so the morning was all about eating and getting dressed and getting out the door. I wore my awesome, amazing, supremely bright tie dye print skirt from Moeben... I had been saving it for this race and pairing it with my Atayne shirt, matching tie dye sleeves from Shannon at Moeben, Drymax max pro socks, and dirty girl gaiters I was feeling pretty unbeatable!
This was the first time I wasn't going to have a crew for a long race, because my regular crew Christy, Debbie and Laurie were all racing today too! All 3 of them are training for Mt Hood 50 miler, so they opted for the 40 mile option and their longest distance yet. Drop bags were a new thing for me since with an amazing crew, I had never felt the need for them before. I had spent a few days of putting stuff in bags and taking things out until I got fed up and decided whatever the heck was in there come 7 am on Saturday would have to do. I wasn't overly worried since I knew the aid stations would rock, but I have a few special things I want during a race, once those were in, I was good to go.
The time before the start went by in a blur of greeting friends, checking in and talking, talking, talking. One of my favorite bloggers Ken aka Trail Zombie was there to do the 40 miler and then jump in his car and drive back to Oklahoma to do a marathon on Sunday... he's crazy like that!! With a "GO", we were off into the trails, it was a slow start as everyone had to file on the single track but I wasn't in any hurry. I was hoping to finish somewhere between 12-14 hours, I knew it was going to depend on just how muddy the trail was and how hot it got in the afternoon. We had had quite a bit of rain in the weeks leading up to the race, and only a few days of dry out time.. the white trail usually dries pretty quick but I figured the lower blue trail would still be a soupy mess.
I settled into a comfortable group including Nick, Mircea, Lee, Danny, Pat, Debbie, Brad and others I would only be able to identify by the backs of their legs. We stuck together for quite awhile with people joining up and then dropping off periodically. I was feeling great, which made me VERY happy... I hadn't had a good run in weeks and was feeling pretty freaked out leading up to the race. I've been dealing with shin & calf pain and would have to stop and stretch a lot on most runs so it was such a freeing feeling to not have that pain. In no time at all we were at the first aid station (Lands End) which was run by Kyle & Stacy Amos, Caleb Chatfield & Rick Mayo... they run an AMAZING aid station, and are some of the nicest people in the area. I swear they make you feel like a rockstar. Luckily for all the runners you hit this aid station twice a lap and since they are all experienced ultra folks, if you are having ANY problems the chances are good that they can help. With a big handful of watermelon and their cries of encouragement ringing in my ears, I was off again. The 3.5 miles to the next aid station was one of the muddiest sections of trail... but it always is, so I was expecting it. I slipped and slid and tried to run as much as possible, but there were sections that I felt like risking a twisted ankle for a bit of time was not worth it, so I walked through some of the worst.
The other manned aid station is run by KUS (Kansas Ultrarunners Society) every year and a big hug from Stacy Sheridan makes all the hurts go away! It takes a special person to not flinch when a sweaty, salty, smelly runner gives you a big hug, but that woman seems to relish those hugs. I filled up on more water, watermelon and Stacy hugs and continued down the trail. Watermelon is the best ultra fuel for me and getting a big handful at every aid station ensured a big boost for me and an increase in speed. I finished the first loop in 3:59, which made me very happy, fueled back up on watermelon and headed out for the 2nd lap. I was by myself as I started this loop so I stuck my iPod on, sunk into the music and tried to keep a steady pace going (even through the mud). I wasn't feeling quite as spunky this lap, the humidity was pretty wicked and the trail was getting more and more churned up. The course takes us right along the shoreline of the lake for a section and it's super rocky and technical, but gorgeous and it took my mind off the burgeoning aches and pains.
Shortly after the shoreline trail ends I hit the Lands End Aid Station and got my boost from the watermelon and friends, unfortunately it didn't last long and I really felt like I was slogging along. I had hit a low spot and was wallowing in it, even catching up to Gary Henry, one of my favorite Trail Hawks couldn't bring me up... I was dizzy and hurting and was looking for a reason to quit. I fell off from Gary's pace and ended up by myself again wallowing in my self pity and had pretty much convinced myself that I was going to drop to the 40 mile race when I got to the finish. It also didn't help that I was lapped by the 100K winner near the end of this loop... dude was over 20 miles ahead of me... even if I had been feeling good it still would have been a blow to the ego. I dragged myself into the start/finish area in 8:35 feeling supremely sorry for myself and looking for someone to give me a reason to drop.
I acted like I was going back out... filled up my pack with food, messed with my sock and talked to Nick who had finished the 40 miler 30 minutes or so before. As I chatted, Sophia handed me a black bean burger and I ate about 1/2 it, took a caffeine pill and another handful of watermelon and started to wander back towards the trail. No one had given me a good reason to quit so I headed back out on the trail. DAMN! Once my feet were on the trail, there was no way I would quit, so I resigned myself to finishing the damn race. I pulled out my cell phone and gave my husband a quick call to give him a better ballpark finishing time and warned him that this last loop could be real slow. He was going to be coming out to see me finish and bringing a couple of my favorite friends Mac and Angela, so I told them to bring plenty of beer since they might be waiting on me awhile! A few minutes after I got off the phone, the typical ultra thing happened and I got my second wind... I believe I yelled "let's rock this bitch" as I took off running. Sometimes all we need out of life is some caffeine, good food and a loved one's voices. A few miles later the thunder and lightning started and then my iPod decided to be funny by playing Eurthymics "Here Comes the Rain Again".. ha ha!
A few minutes later as I was running along the shoreline trail the tornado sirens started going off. I cast a quick look around, didn't see any funnels so kept going... when I hit the Lands End aid station they were getting everything under one tent and cleaning up a bit so I grabbed some more ice and water and watermelon from Brett who had taken over Kyle's spot and got out of there along with Lee and Willie from Topeka. We kinda discussed what we would do if a tornado rolled through and joked about it and then I was feeling quite good and took off. The sirens kept going off and it was eerie to hear them all through out town and over the water. About this time the lightning was getting really bad, I kept looking around me but in such thick tree cover there was not really any way to tell if a twister was creeping up. My iPod decided that this was the best time to play REM's song "It's the End of the World as We Know It (and I feel fine).
At one point there was a lightning strike close enough to raise all the hair on my body and rattle my teeth and I whooped in surprise and heard an answering yelp from behind me.. I think we were all starting to worry a bit! I normally would never answer my cell phone during a race (hell, I don't usually even carry it during a race!) but when it started ringing I grabbed it and it was my friends Mac and Angela and they were freaking out.... the conversation went like this:
me: (pant pant) HI!
them: holy shit! Are you OK???
me: um, yeah..
them: where are you??
me: I dunno, somewhere on the trail... the tornado sirens are going off.
them: NO SHIT! we're watching the news and there is serious shit going down in the park right now.. there's even someone on the phone calling from the race in a tornado shelter! They are telling everyone at the park to take cover.
me: huh, well.. (crack! boom!) um, I'm OK, but the lightning is really close, I'm going to get off the phone now. BYE!
them: YOU'RE CRAZY!!!
So then the rain started coming down really hard, but I was having fun.. and was REALLY glad I didn't quit after 40 miles! The only spot I was really nervous was when you break out of the trees and cross an open dam. I hauled ASS over that dam... when you are on it, you're the tallest thing around.... not where you want to be during lightning!!
About this time Deb Johnson caught up with me and we ran together and talked about how crazy the weather was but about 1/2 mile from the KUS aid station, one of the volunteers intercepted us and told us that we were done.. the race had been called off. We were both pretty darn bummed but knew better then to try and argue. I wished that I had been able to run a bit faster during the 2nd lap because most of the people that were already past the KUS aid station were able to finish. They hauled 6 or 7 of us back to the finish in the back of a pickup and we were treated to a bit of hail on the way back. Anyone who had big trucks were deployed to get the runners back to the finish area.
When I got back I was treated to HUGE hugs from Nick, Laurie and Debbie who were all very glad to see I was OK. I never really felt afraid but I guess there was a twister touchdown on the lake and someone (not with the race) got struck by lightning on one of the dams. The rangers had everyone they could round up herded in the storm shelters, I think it was worse on anyone not actually running!! I hosed pounds of mud off me and watched as some of the lucky 100kers finished. Luckily for the logistics of it all, the marathoners and most of the 40milers were done so there was a minimal amount of people on the trails when it all went down. Ben gave those of us that got pulled 40 mile finisher medals and apologized for having to pull us, but as disappointed as I am, I can't fault him. I wouldn't have wanted to make the call.
I got 51.5 miles in.... not a bad days work even if it wasn't quite what I had planned for. All my Trail Hawk friends that were doing the 40 mile distance for the first time did awesome! Debbie, Christy, Laurie, Mircea, Pat all ROCKED it! I'm sooooo very proud of them all! And I'm truly grateful that they all got a chance to finish.. while I'm disappointed for me, this was not a target race for me and while I haven't ever done a 100k, since I've done over that I know I can do it. As always, the volunteers were spectacular and as always I'm very aware that my success in finishing these things is very much due to those wonderful people. I could never express my thankfullness to everyone involved with these races! My fabulous husband and friends also get my hearfelt thanks and love for putting up with my strange obsession and even encouraging it!
I do need to note that even though my feet spent 11.5 hours completely soaked and immeresed in mud I did not have a single blister!! I am a total Drymax convert and will be buying a few more pairs of the max pro socks. YAY! My Moeben skirt was also killer and as soon as Shannon starts selling them I'm going to pick up a few more. I LOVE running in skirts but in this one I totally forgot I had anything on.. it's that comfortable. Everyone commented on it and if I had had a trunk full of them I'm sure I could have sold 20 of them. I'm taking great satisfaction in getting clothing, shoe and nutrition choices dialed in. I still have plenty of work to do with nutrition but it's getting there. Ah geez... I just realized that this counts as a DNF! Well, crap!
*pictures "stolen" from Dick Ross at Seekcrun.com and the mud photo stolen from Ken