Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Heartland 100

The first 8 miles flew by.  We were mesmerized by the beautiful sunrise, we talked, we were fresh, and there was a day (and night) full of opportunity ahead of us!
At Battle Creek I grabbed a couple snacks, said hi to our friends James and Stacey who were working the aid station and headed on out to the hilliest section of the course.  I had fun walking the steep hills and jogging back down the other sides.  All the while I was thinking, this is going to be pretty difficult on the way back.  Debbie and Coleen were super stud walkers.  They didn't even look like they were trying but they floated up the hills like ultra angels.  I was feeling good when we approached Lapland and was delighted to see Nick for the first time.  I put on some sunscreen, ate some food and we were off.  It was a pretty short stop compared to those later in the race.

It started getting pretty warm on our trek to the 25-mile mark.  Lee and I ran and walked together as our paces seemed to be evenly matched, while Debbie and Coleen hung together farther ahead.  I thought about trying to go faster and keep up, but I felt like the pace I was going was exactly the right speed so I stuck with it, listening to my Shuffle and plodding along.  As the temps increased, I realized my shoes were starting to feel tight.  I decided to wait until I got to Teterville to loosen them.  I have no idea why.  I had just about all the time in the world!  Along the way, I also noticed that the ball of my left foot was starting to feel sore and some of my toes were starting to hurt.  Gah, it was a bit early in the race for foot problems, I thought.

I was getting ready to leave the aid station after Nick filled up my water and I ate some food, when Nick asked if I needed anything else.  I said, "Ehhhh. My feet kinda hurt and I think I have blisters, but I'll just wait until I get to the next aid station to worry about it."  He said we should take care of them before I went on.  So he put some moleskin and tape around a couple toes and I was off.  As soon as I started running, I could feel that my shoes were still laced too tightly for my swelling feet.  I continued running, trying to ignore the pain in my restricted feet.  Again, I have no idea why I didn't stop immediately.  It's not as if I was close to the finish line.  So after 15 or 20 minutes I finally stopped and loosened my laces.  I think I did this a few times, until they were as loose as they could get while maintaining a double knot.

This section was pretty tough on the feet.  Lots of big gravel and hills.  But before I knew it I had reached Texaco Hill.  It was a tent nestled in a valley between two hills.  I remember hearing from Stacy Sheridan that this windy section of the course was notorious for destroying aid station tents.  It was windy but I suspect these conditions were a bit tame compared to years past.  Anyway, the wind made the heat a little more bearable.  I didn't stay long.  Just got some fruit and headed up the hill.

I spent a lot of time skipping past songs on the Shuffle, as I had unintentionally allowed it to fill any remaining space with random songs from my massive library.  This was a bit frustrating, as there were maybe 1 in 4 songs that I actually wanted to listen to.  But I finally hit the jackpot and Madonna's "Like A Prayer" came on, so I started belting it out and Coleen joined me in singing the chorus.  This was a high point.  I managed to stay close to the girls during this portion.  Sometimes I would jog ahead if they were walking, then I'd walk and they would pass, but we stayed relatively close together.  We also played leapfrog with a few other runners, many of whom we would see off and on for the rest of the race.

Well, the Ridgeline aid station couldn't come at a better time.  It was just coming into view as I sucked down the last drops of my water.  In retrospect, I should have filled up my pack at Texaco Hill given the heat.  Ah well, I made it in one piece to Ridgeline, handed my pack off to Nick to refill and I went to grab some food from the tent.  I sat around while Nick went to the car to fetch my bandana so he could fill it with ice and wrap it around my neck.  Thank goodness I brought one!  That ice was a life saver.  Sarah and Justin Henning arrived while I was sitting around and Sarah already started putting herself to work by applying some extra sunscreen to my arms and shoulders.  It was great to see them!  They got a babysitter for their son Nate and drove out to crew and pace me.  Well after I got all sunblocked and fed, and spent a good amount of time complaining about my feet and how I was hot, I took off with Debbie and Coleen.

The gravel was starting to take a toll on all of us.  After sitting down at the aid station, we hobbled along for a few minutes until our feet said we could run again.  I think I stayed closed to the girls for a while, but I recall by the time we got to Matfield Green they had a good lead on me.  Nick grabbed my pack from me while I made the trek up the hill and turned the corner into the aid station.  He had chairs set up on the side of the road so I sat down and probably complained about being hot.  Sarah and Justin were there of course, and Sarah was excited to get going.  I had Nick take care of my feet again while I was there.  By this point, I had blisters on most of my toes and had a big one on the ball of my left foot.  I put on some new socks and Sarah and I headed out.

I think it was close to 4 when we left Matfield Green (42.5mi) and I was looking forward to the sun starting to let up a little.  I wasn't particularly looking forward to the 15 miles we would travel without seeing the crew though.  It didn't turn out being so bad though.  The temps started dropping a little and before we knew it we were at Lone Tree, the 50 mile mark!!!  I felt pretty good at this point, but Debbie and Coleen were both feeling pretty sick, so we stopped for a while.  I certainly didn't have anything to complain about.  I just got to sit a little longer.  Ahhhhh sitting.  They had a hearty offering of food at the turnaround: hamburgers and fettucine alfredo.  Since I didn't want to feel like Coleen and Debbie, I stuck with pringles and bananas.

A few minutes after leaving Lone Tree, I started feeling a little queasy.  I guess it was contagious.  I think Coleen gave me a ginger chew.  As I thought of things I would need, I would tell Sarah just to reinforce my memory and to have a backup in case I forgot.  But she had her handy dandy phone with her, so she just went ahead and texted the boys back at Matfield Green to let them know what we needed.  I was definitely starting to slow down at this point.  My feet were starting to hurt more, but I still ran most of the flat parts, unless they were very long.  So I spent a lot of the time running between yellow road markers.  They seemed to mark every hill.  There was probably something about yellow markers and hills in the KS driver's manual that I never read.  Hey, at least I know what a stop sign looks like.

I finally broke down and took some ibuprofen a couple miles out from Matfield Green and before I knew it, I was running like a champ.  Felt like I was doing 10 minute miles, although it was probably much slower.  All the while I thought to myself, I should probably be running a little slower even if it feels good right now.  My feet are going to be even more angry when this wears off and they realize what I did while they were drugged.  We got to the aid station just in the nick of time, also in the Nick of time.  The sun was just about completely gone when we got there and we needed headlamps.  I donned my leopard print Moeben sleeves once again and we took off for Ridgeline. 

I don't remember anything too exciting from this section except that I was definitely violating Coleen's "aid station to aid station" rule, in which you only thing of the next aid station.  I was glad that we would see the crew again after only 6 miles, but I knew that after we left Ridgeline we wouldn't see them again for 11 miles.  Bad Laurie was thinking ahead.

Once we got to Ridgeline, I downed some 5 Hour Energy, ughhhh.  I'm not even sure why it comes in flavors.  They're all gross.  But I have to admit, it's pretty effective.  You know it's true, coming from a girl who would sleep 14 hrs a day if you let her.  I think I also had some of those "Prairie Power Pellets" or whatever they're called.  Basically a beans and weanies type thing.  And there's even a veggie version.  I'm not a vegetarian, but meat or dairy and running are just not a good combo for me.  The pellets were delicious, but I couldn't finish.  Also, there was something kind of meaty textured in there.  Perhaps it was tofu?  Anyway, it was delicious.

I wasn't looking forward to the run to Teterville.  This was the most technical part of the course.  The gravel was inescapable.  It was pretty much impossible to find a clear spot to run on and the gravel was big.  Also, it would be 11 miles before I saw my crew again.  While there was a manned aid station 5 miles into the run (Texaco Hill), crew didn't have access and it was tough going that long without seeing Nick.  I managed to survive though, with Sarah's company.  I noticed that one road we traveled, was dotted with a rather large amount of cow dung.  When I heard a gasp come from Sarah and saw her stop suddenly, I assumed she had almost stepped in a cow pie.  When I stopped and looked around I realized we were surrounded.  By cattle.  It was spoooooky.

If you're used to seeing cattle from the highway, you ain't seen nothin'.  Standing feet away from them, I became aware of just how HUGE they are.  Their green eyes stared "menacingly" at us.  Ok, maybe they weren't menacing, but they WERE huge, and they could have been menacing if they wanted to be.  As a matter of fact, one had HORNS!  HORNS!  It was quite an experience.  So much of an experience that I wanted to take a picture.  But Sarah pointed out that it might be a bad idea to irritate a giant creature with horns by exposing it to flash photography.  I recognized her logic and we walked on.

Sarah and I walked for the first hour on our way out of the Teterville aid station. None of the sugary energy foods I had were sitting well in my stomach, so Justin grabbed a storage bag full of crackers and pretzels for me to munch on between aid stations. These didn't make me feel sick, but I had to drink a ton of water to get them down my dry mouth and throat. So I was taking bathroom breaks approximately...all the time. I finally decided this walking 8 miles between aid stations was for the birds, so I took some ibuprofen and worked on doing a bit of jogging to make the time pass more quickly. We could still see Coleen, Debbie and crew in the distance from time to time when they turned around.

Sarah had offered to continue on with me to Battle Creek, another 8ish miles from Lapland, but after much consideration, I decided the best thing in my darkest hour was to be with my man, Nick. I wanted the comfort of his company for emotional reasons, but I also knew he would make me do what was necessary to finish. And I didn't want Sarah to have to deal with crabosaurus rex.
So Nick and I set out from Lapland after I downed a second 5 hour energy. I plodded along as Nick went back to get some ibuprofen which I forgot to ask him to refill when I was sitting at the aid station. Nick was successful in getting me to run a bit from time to time, until we got to the seriously hilly section. I couldn't run up or down the steep hills. Occasionally there would be a short flat section between hills which Nick could prod me to jog along for a bit, but the valleys between hills were about 15 degrees cooler than the peaks and everything started to stiffen up. Eventually, "I'll try" turned in to a flat out "No". I knew the Battle Creek aid station was over one of those hills, but I couldn't remember how many hills I had to climb, so I kept saying, "Is it THIS one???"

At one point, Nick said, "Did you hear that," to which I replied "What?" He said he thought it was the sound of a generator. I told him he was full of crap and that we were never getting to the aid station. Well it turned out it WAS a generator and we had finally reached the last hill before the aid station. I was tired but happy to see James Barker and Stacey Amos walking toward us. I think James handed me a cup of broth, which I thought was just swell! We walked by his van, which was running, and I stood next to it for a few seconds, enjoying the heat. I finally sat down at a chair in the aid station and James brought over two warm blankets from the car and covered me. What a saint! Stacey quizzed me on what I wanted to eat. It took me a while to decide but I finally settled on some watermelon and a pbj. I downed the rest of the broth, ate a few pieces of watermelon, and moved on to the most heavenly pbj I've ever eaten.

My spirits were high leaving the last manned aid station. I was finally able to eat a decent amount of food without feeling sick, the sun was rising, and Nick gave me some ibuprofen. We had also reached a pretty flat part of the course. I was confident I'd be able to do a good amount of running once the drugs kicked in. Well, long story short, the drugs never kicked in. Nick gave me more ibuprofen and still, no help. So, you could perhaps imagine that I was pretty cranky when I realized I was going to have to SLOWLY walk the last 8 miles of the race. This wasn't the exciting, uplifting finish I had envisioned. Sure I thought I'd be in pain, but I always thought I'd be able to push through it at the end of the race.

Well, I was pretty much a pain in the butt for the last 6 miles of the race. Every few minutes Nick would say something nice like, "I'm so proud of you" or "You're awesome," and my responses ranged from, "Thanks sweetie" to silence or a grunt of acknowledgement. At one point a car drove by and a gentleman yelled out, "Less than 4 miles left," to which my response was loud cursing. I was walking a 20-25 minute mile. I didn't understand why someone thought telling me there were 4 miles left would make me feel better. My second meltdown came when I had to use the prairie facilities (ie go on the side of the road), which happened about every 15 minutes it seemed. There was a group of guys and car behind me and I waited for them to pass. Nick told me to just go, but I was being stubborn. Who knew I would have any decency left after 26 hours of being outdoors? Well for some reason the car was going about 0.25 miles per hour, so of course I started cursing loudly again. Nick, the sweetheart, waved the car on so I could go in peace.

The rest of the time I spent with my eyes, welling with tears of frustration, focused on the ground in front of me. Even though I knew I had plenty of time to finish the race well before the 30-hr cutoff, I couldn't help being disappointed in myself for walking the last 20 miles.  I saw a big burgundy truck off in the distance and asked Nick if he thought it was Tony.  It was.  He was on the phone with the folks at the finish line and told them I was about 2.5 miles out.  He told me everyone was waiting for me at the finish line, not in a "Get your ass moving kind of way" but in an encouraging kind of way.  So I kept trudging along.

Finally, FINALLY, we made it to the paved road that leads to the finish line.  Nick told me earlier that I needed to run this section.  I told him I didn't know if I would be able to.  He said, "You will.  When you get there, you'll see."  Well when I turned the corner to get on the road and saw everyone at the finish line I started running.  And once I started running I knew I wouldn't stop.  I cried because everything hurt.  I cried because I had never been so relieved to be done with something.  And I cried because there were so many people standing there cheering for me.

I really had every advantage in finishing this race.  So many of my friends were there volunteering, running or race directing.  I had an awesome crew!  My brother came out Saturday night.  My parents came out to watch me finish.  I couldn't imagine ever doing anything like this on my own.  So thank you Nick, Sarah and Justin for being an awesome crew.  Thank you Coleen and Debbie for running with me and hanging around in aid stations, waiting for me, when you could have been out kicking my arse.  Thanks to everyone in Debbie's crew who were a bunch of great cheerleaders: Kristen, Deb, Julie, Glenda, Mike.  Thanks to Coleen's crew for being there and giving me ginger!: Christy and Dave. Thanks to my brother Pete who came out Saturday night even though he was running a half marathon in the morning.  Thanks to my parents for coming out and getting to the finish line early, even though I was 8 miles away from the finish line then.  :)  Thanks to all the volunteers who helped me: James, Stacey, Gary, Steve.  Also to any volunteers I didn't meet, whether I stopped in the aid station or not, I know you were helping my crew!  Thanks to anyone who gave me a hug or an encouraging word: Stacy S., Angel, Tony.  Thanks to the race directors: Randy, Tony and Kyle.  Thanks to the photographer: Dick Ross!  Thanks thanks thanks.  Everyone was awesome.  If I saw you, thank you!  Unless you're that guy who told me there were 4 miles left.  Oh, ok, thank you too, well-intentioned man in the car.