Saturday, April 19, 2014


Not all runs are created equal, and not all runs go anywhere near according to plan. I have again realized this week that this also goes for life in general.

Things have been going well since the 100 and I am getting more and more settled in everyday. I am beggining to meet new people and am exploring new trails almost daily. Whether my adventures on the trails and in the mountains are solo or with firends I truley appreciate that fact that I now live in a place where I get to take in so much beauty everytime I go out.

Even with all the beauty that is constantly surrounding me though there are still days that are hard. With the exception of the first week I lived here this has been one of the harder weeks for me since the move. I've been stressing about things that I have little to no power to change and I have been focuing on the negative of situations. This doesn't only translate to poor runs but poor communication with the people in my life as well. When I get stressed my introverted tendencies come out in full force. I become short and slightly irratable. This week has brought this out in me. Usually the best way for me to fix this is with a bit of alone time away from things. So what better way to get away from the stresses of life than set off on what was planned to be an epic solo adventure in the mountains.

The plan for today was 30ish miles on the trails. Roughly a six hour solo run. Even with the soreness in my left hip from a nasty spill on some wet trails Wednesday night and residual fatigue from the race three weeks ago I went to bed last night optimistic for a good day on the trails!

I woke up early this morning a bit tired but still optimisitc! I showered, ate and grabbed my stuff and arrived at the trail head just before 7. I hit the trail and not even two miles in my body began revolting. The lactic acid that was building up in my calves was miserable and no matter what I did I couldn't get any relief. I slowed down, put my head down and kept on, still with the intentions of a 30 mile day. I kept pushing and trying to force the run and things were getting worse. Within a few more miles my hip flexors were screaming on every climb, but again I was persistant. I kept thinking to myself that if I just kept pushing, the forces working against me would give up and I would still achieve what I had set out to do.

Sometimes, during runs as well as in life, this is the attitude that is needed. Nothing worth having or doing is ever going to come easy and you have to fight for what you want. It shows courage and strength when you continue to fight for what doesnt seem possible, but occasionally you need to step back and reasses the situation. In running, just as in life, it takes a smart person to stop and realize when you need a rest day. It can be one of the hardest parts of your training to take a day off and listen to your body when all you really want to do is be out there cruising along on the trails.

About seven miles in today I finally listened and decided to turn back. I spent that last hour and a half of todays run thinking about life in general and how it relates so much to my running. At one point I even sat down on a rock on the side of the trail, removed my headphones and just listened. The birds chirped, the wind blew and I could hear the water running from a near by stream as well. I felt the raindrops from a small spring shower land on exposed skin and I soaked EVERYTHING in.

It was at this point I decided that like todays run I needed to listen to what is going on around me and let things work out the way they are suppossed to. It's not giving up or quitting, its being smart and living to do it again another day. Just like deciding to cut the run short and give my body a break, this wasnt decided easily. All week I have struggled with making the decision to just let things happen, but thanks to a rough day on the trails I have came to my senses.

Overall things are great. I'm so thankful to be meeting new people and for having miles upon miles of trails at my disposal for epic mountain adventures. The road to what you want and to where you want to be is never straight. Its filled with all sorts of twist and turns, back tracking and obstacles to overcome. Be smart and keep fighting! Today the trails won. But tomorrow, God willing, I'll go back out for my rematch. I may lose again tomorrow, but as long as I am persistant and smart about it, eventually I'll come out on top!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Praire Spirit Trail 100

The alarm went off well before dawn Thursday morning. I drug myself out of bed at 4 a.m. took a shower to wake me up, loaded the car and was on the road to Boulder to pick up Chris so we could head to Kansas. By 7 we were loaded and on our way to Ottawa to meet Michele and Wayne for the Prairie Spirit Trail 100. Eight hours later with just a few miles to go to the hotel we got a call from Michele and they were a little concerned with the looks of the hotel. I booked the hotel online months ago because I got a got a really good deal on it and it was right across the street from the start finish line. I have to admit upon arrival I was a little skeptical to, but to everyone's surprise the hotel turned out to be pretty nice.

That night we went to a small Italian restaurant in town for dinner and went to Walmart to pick up some last minute things that we had both forgotten. We laid around the hotel and caught up on everything that has been going on lately and called it a night. The next morning we made a 75 mile round trip to the nearest Cracker Barrel so we could keep the day before the race breakfast tradition alive. We spent some time at the Bass Pro Shop then headed back to the hotel to get our drop bags ready so we could go to the race check in and drop them off.

The pre race briefing was at 6:15 that night at the local rec center just down the road. Honestly everything in Ottawa, KS is just down the road, the town isn't very big at all! After the briefing my parents, Wayne and Chris went to dinner and Michele and I headed back to the hotel to have or normal pre race meals. Papa Johns cheese pizza for her, picked up that morning when we went to Cracker Barrel, and Subway for me that we picked up on the way back to the hotel. After we ate I made sure I had everything laid out on the ironing board in the hotel room per tradition, changed into some comfortable clothes and tried to relax for the rest of the night. Surprisingly I wasn't nervous about what I would be attempting to make my body do the next day.

I checked Facebook one last time before turning in, and I had received a post from friend and veteran 100 mile runner Misti, telling me to have fun tomorrow and the next day! Which made me laugh. She also included some unsolicited advise that I would hold on to throughout the race the next day. I set the alarm for 4 a.m. and I went to sleep.

When I awoke the next morning I noticed Chris was on the floor and the mattress was hanging over the edge of the box springs a good 8 inches. I asked Chris what he was doing on the floor and he proceeded to tell me that in the middle of the night he had diagnosed me with "Periodic Limb Movement Disorder". Apparently every 20 seconds I would twitch for approximately one second. The way he presented the story made us all laugh and earned me the nickname of Twitchy for the morning. After a quick shower and breakfast I got ready so we could make the short walk over to the start line.

Photo Courtesy of Chris Gerber
We checked in and talked to a couple of people we recognized and before we knew it was mere minutes before the start of what we had been training for for the last 16 weeks. David Horton said a prayer and Michele and I made our way to the start line together.

With one last quick word from the RD we were off! The first two miles of the race was a short out and back section before we began our journey to the turn around in Iola, KS. Before we even made it to the turn around of the out and back the leaders were already heading back and moving fast! Since we started at 6 a.m. it was still dark out for the first hour or so and we were running by the light of our head lamps, something I enjoy a lot! Before I knew it the sun was coming up and we were in our rhythm of running 10 minutes and walking for 1 minute. Michele was having some issues with her periformis that would unfortunately stick around for the entirety of the race. She thought if she sped up a little it would allow her hip to loosen up and pop and the issue would go away. I didn't want to run any faster than what currently were so I told her to do what she needed to do and hopefully we would see each other through out the day. We did not plan on running the whole race together but I was a bit bummed that we were already separated and we hadn't even reached the first aid station. There was nothing I could do about it so I settled back in to my own rhythm chatting with other runners as they passed or I as I passed them.

Photo Courtesy of Kristi Barnhart
I arrived at the first aid station about 9.5 miles in, topped off my water bottle grabbed something to eat and headed out not wasting any time. To my surprise I saw Michele just heading out and just like that we were back together. Running faster hadn't helped her hip out any so she decided to settle back into the original pace and we set off together again. The next aid station was about 16 miles in and we quickly arrived, topped off bottles grabbed some food and were off again. I had downed a Mt. Dew while in the aid station and brought a sandwich with me that was gone in 4 quick bites.

For the last few miles I had been thinking to myself that we may be going a bit to fast but I hadn't said anything as it felt alright, but then Michele said something about it and we both agreed that we would be in a lot of trouble if Chirs knew how fast we were going. A couple of guys over heard us and chimed in on the topic and put some things in perspective for us. We were running at a pace that would have us finishing at 16 hours. Far to fast for us! They were running for 4 minutes and walking for 1 so we decided to try that as well to see if it slowed us down a little. It brought our pace down a bit but we quickly arrived at the Mile 25 aid station in Garnett. We didn't see my parents, Chris or Wayne when we went in so we figured they were still back at the hotel catching some sleep before they began their long day. We went in grabbed some food and Michele decided she needed to try and stretch since her periformis wasn't getting any better. When we walked out and there was our crew, and the first thing Chris said to us was, "You guys are going a bit to fast don't you think!" I told him we were trying to reign ourselves in and his comment was "You're not going to reign it in now its gonna hit you later." We both felt a little scalded so we stayed quiet the rest of the time we were there and walked out of the aid station together, like puppies with our tails between our legs, so it would appear we were trying slow down.

Once we were out of ear shot we both kind of laughed and commented we felt like a puppy who had just gotten in trouble for peeing on the carpet and decided we did need to slow it down. Michele was still struggling with some pain and my hamstring were revolting as well so every chance we got we stopped to stretch to try and get some relief. We rolled into the mile 33 Aid Station in Welded in an elapsed time of 6:30, we would later here that the leader was at the turn around in the same amount of time!
Running into Welda AS. Mile 33
Photo Courtesy of Kristi Barnhert
Welda (Mile 33)
Photo Courtesy of Kristi Barnhart
  Just like the aid stations before, we were in and out not wasting any time. Chris commented that we had reigned it in a bit and thought we were both completely with in ourselves. This was good news! We weren't in trouble any more! Wayne told us we looked a lot better than the people that had came in before us. This was good to hear. 33 miles down, 67 to go!

The next aid station was at mile 41.5 and was in Colony, KS. During the last stretch Michele and I had discussed switching our run walk ratio to 3 and 2, so we could try and save our legs for the last 50. Misti had commented the night before that the race didn't begin until mile 50 and even though I really wanted to go through the first 50 in 10 hours I wanted to make sure I still had the legs to run a good second 50 and not encounter the dreaded death march. We tried the new ratio for a little while but it was making Michele's hip feel worse, I liked the way the 3 and 2 felt but wasn't ready to split up and I didn't feel like the running 4 minutes and walking 1 minutes was affecting me negatively so we settled back into together. 

My legs were beginning to fatigue a little but nothing that isn't expected 35ish miles in. I felt like I was still taking in plenty of food and fluids and mentally I was still feeling strong. I didn't feel like we had been out there as long as we had and I was eager to hit the 50 mile mark!  Nothing really interesting happened on our way to the mile 41.5 aid station and when we arrived we went through our same routine of topping off bottles, restocking our packs and taking in some solid food. Michele would get stretched out by Wayne while I would talk to my parents and eat as much food as I could handle. The day was beginning to get a little warmer and while eating here I thought I was going to have an issue with nausea when I was eating some ramen noodles, but luckily within a few breaths and a few drinks of water my stomach settled and I was good to go!

This next section seemed  more exposed than the rest of the race and the sun was high in the sky beating down on us. I began to feel the effects of it getting warmer a little. Every time we would start our walk I could feel my heart pounding in my temples and it would just settle by the time we started running again. The 3 to 2 run walk ratio felt like it would have been the perfect way to fix this but it still gave Michele problems so we kept on with the 4 and 1. At about mile 47 I told Michele I was feeling the effects of the heat and that I most likely would have to start doing my own thing when we got to the turn around. I was a bit bummed about this because this is where Michele would be picking up her pacer but I wouldn't be getting mine until mile 69. I was happy we had been able to stay together this long though! Soon we hit the 50 mile mark at 9 hours 58 minutes and 44 seconds! 1 minute and 16 seconds faster than I wanted to hit the half way point. This gave me a bit of a boost and I stopped feeling the effects of the sun and soon we were rolling into the aid station at 51.5 miles!

Iola AS. Mile 51.5
Photo Courtesy of Kristi Barnhart
When we arrived at the aid station our crew was once again waiting for us ready to help us with what ever we needed. Chris was ready to pace Michele and the excitement of coming into the turn around gave me the second wind I needed to comfortably and confidently leave with them. The night before Misti had told me to get through the first 50 without any problems because the race didn't begin until the last 50. So here we were, back at the "starting line" and as Chris put it, "Ready to Party!"

Party Time
Photo Courtesy of Kristi Barnhart
The three of us left the aid station together with Chris asking us both how we were feeling and telling us that we looked good. The next aid station would be roughly mile 63 and we were well on our way. We continued with the same 4 to 1 walk/run ratio and drank every time we walked. We chatted a lot as we put in the miles which made it feel like we reached the next aid station rather quickly. Michele's hip was still bothering her and she said she wanted to take her time at the aid station and try and get it sorted out. I used this time to refill my pack and try and take in a substantial amount of calories.

I ate the same things as I had been all day but for some reason the ramen wasn't settling quite as easily as normal. My parents told me that I needed to eat more than I was but I assured them I was fine and soon enough we were on our way. Looking back I should have listened to my parents! Wayne would be picking me up at the next aid station which was mile 69, so I wanted to stay with Chris and Michele at least until then. I had been looking forward to this station all day because the night before Misti had also told me that if I got to mile 70 I was GOLDEN! I could screw up all I wanted in the last 30 and still be able to crawl in if need be! So far I had made it 64ish miles without a screw up so only 6 to go!

Soon enough the sun was starting to set and before I knew it we were pulling out our headlamps and were getting closer to the next aid. We didn't chat as much this section as I was focused on getting to mile 70 and Michele was starting to go through a little bit of a rough patch. Chris kept periodically checking on us to make sure we were feeling ok. I told him I hadn't taken a Vfuel in quite a while and was contemplating taking one even though we were only a couple of miles from solid food. He assured me it definitely wouldn't hurt because you can't get a second wind if you aren't fueling properly. Thinking back this was the only thing I had with calories in it since the last aid station. I was slipping on my nutrition a little and I needed to get it back in check or pay the consequences!

We ran into mile 69 under the power of our head lamps and I quickly went to my drop bag and pulled out a sandwich and a mountain dew. I drank the mountain dew, ate about half the sandwich before it didn't taste good any more and decided to eat some soup. I felt full and decided that was enough to eat, my parents again told me to eat more and I again assured them I was fine. For the time being I was but unfortunately I wouldn't be for long.
Mile 69 Aid Station
Photo Courtesy of Kristi Barnhert

With Wayne now along for the ride the four of us ran out of the aid station and we filled Wayne in on what we were doing with our run walk. When I realized we hit mile 70 I made the comment that I could now screw up as much as I wanted and still be able to crawl in! Stupid, stupid, stupid! Now that it was completely dark outside we could see when we were approaching people by the glow of their headlamps and we spent the next few miles picking them off one by one, we were picking up our pace from the excitement and I could tell from my heart rate I should back off a bit. At about mile 74 the urge to pee hit me and I stopped, exclaiming that I would catch up but I told Wayne we were going to catch up slowly though because I was beginning to tire and could tell me energy level were beginning to drop.

We caught up within about a mile and ran together for just a short bit before the pace felt a little to hard for me so I slowly let Michele and Chris pull away thinking I would take my time to the mile 77 aid station then be able to leave with them feeling fine. Little did I know, that wouldn't be farther from the truth! All of a sudden it hit me! My legs were beginning to scream in agony and I had no energy! How could this be happening? I felt fine less than 5 minutes ago! I would be fine I told myself. Just coast into the aid station and keep your heart rate low so you can take in a substantial amount of calories! Maybe I should have listened to my parents hours ago and ate more!

I walked into the aid station having finally hit my first low. I still had hopes of refueling quickly and going back out with Michele and Chris, but the second I stepped in things went from bad to worse! I bent over hands on my knees trying to get my legs to stop shaking. I refused to sit down when Wayne told me I should, that is until I stood back up and things began going fuzzy! I quickly made my way to a bench and requested some salted potatoes from my parents and began going through my check bag. Over the course of the next few minutes I don't remember much except starting to go deeper into my dark spot.

I was having trouble getting the potatoes down and I was getting a little frustrated. Michele told me not to stay sitting for long and I replied with "I'm gonna sit here until I can feel my F*cking legs again!" This would be the first of many F bombs to come while at this station. Chris came over and told me it was all in my head and that I would be fine. I think he might have thought I was thinking of dropping. But even when things got really bad I never allowed myself to entertain the idea. I just thought that I had 12 hours to go 23 miles, I would finish but its gonna be a LONG 23 miles. Before Chris and Michele headed out Chris came over and said "This is from Misti" and proceeded to pat the bunny. This made me chuckle which I took as a good sign.

I was still having trouble taking in solids and now I was beginning to shiver uncontrollably. I must have been looking pretty rough because several aid station workers kept asking me if there was anything they could do. They kept brining me food and finally after drinking about 5 cups of ginger Ale I was able to eat again! But I still couldn't warm up. I was finally convinced to change clothes after some coaxing from my parents and the workers. After I changed they moved me to the back and put me in front of a heater wrapped me in a blanket then put an electric blanket on top of that. I was finally able to eat substantially, bacon included, but not before having some serious  Betty White moments. One guy even asked if I needed a snickers! I was a little disappointed to find out he didn't have one though.

After talking to Leah on the phone for a second and finding out that I had spent 35 minutes in this aid station I pulled myself together the best I could and Wayne and I departed for the last 23 miles. When we left I wasn't able to run right away and I quickly began getting cold again. This made me pretty nervous because I know what can happen if you cant warm up. Plus I had on two pair of tights and seven long sleeve shirts, I shouldn't be shivering! Finally I started running one tenth of a mile then walking one tenth of a mile and began warming up. Before I knew it I was running two tenths at once and mentally it felt great. This went on for about 3 or 4 miles before I began crashing and things again severely slowed down! Luckily the next aid station was only a couple of miles away. A couple of miles that I walked, slowly, and painfully!

Upon arriving at the aid station I again sat down in front of a heater wrapped dads jacket around me and began shoveling in whatever I could eat. I spent longer than I should have here but I still feel like it was needed. When I got up to leave I asked them how far it was to the next aid station and I was told 9 miles. A little longer than I wanted to hear, but doable. Again we walked out this station and soon enough I was running a tenth walking a tenth. Just like last time this went on ok for a few miles but then things slowed down. I took a couple of gels and put in some music hoping that would give me the boost I needed. Soon enough my phone was ringing. It was a text from Chris asking me how I was doing. I told him better but I was power walking alot, I was at about mile 91 and ready to get the last aid station. He told me they were around mile 92 and power walking as well. They were only a mile ahead! I could still catch up and we could still finish together! This was just the boost I needed! We began running again and soon enough I was running as fast as I was at mile 50! This felt great! I text Chris and told him to tell me when they got to the final aid station and that I was trying to catch up!

I looked down at my watch and realized according to the workers at the last stop we should be getting close, but I couldn't see any lights in the distance. We kept going and every time we would come up on a pair of headlamps I would get excited thinking it was Michele and Chris, but it never was and the aid station was still no where in sight. Cue another mental dark spot! I began cussing the workers for telling me it was only 9 miles when I had clearly already gone more than that and I still wasn't there! Nothing Wayne said calmed me down so I just turned my music up louder and hoped I was getting closer to Michele and Chris.

We finally rolled into the last aid station at just over 10 miles. Now I know one extra mile isn't that much but that night it felt like an eternity. I still hadn't heard back from Chris so I was hopeful they were still there getting things sorted out. I again sat down to eat and dump the rocks out of my shoe and I asked a worker when number 25 had been through. They told me she had checked in at 3:08 took her drop bag with her and never stopped. This deflated my sails a bit, she had left just over 10 minutes before I arrived and from what I was hearing she was looking strong. All hope of catching up was gone.

I talked to my parents a little, figured out I had 7.2 miles to go and approximately 115 minutes to do them to get in under 24 hours.  Not quite the cushion I had wanted but none the less it was doable. I put my music back in and told my parents we would see them at the finish line! The next 4 miles are a blur. With about 3 miles to go I could see the spot light for the finish line in the distance but I didn't recognize any of the trail and we were running away from it! My right foot was beginning to hurt as I could feel a  huge blister on the ball of my foot developing and I again began to bitch that we must have taken a wrong turn and that there was no way we would be at the finish line in just under 3 miles!

With about 1.5 miles to go I recognized the trail again and received a text from Chris apologizing for not texting at the last aid, he had just gotten my message and told me to text him when I hit the last bit of pavement. I responded that I was hitting it now and should be at the finish in about 1.5 miles. He responded "Like a Boss!" I sure didn't feel like a boss!

The trail wound about a bit always seeming to go away from the finish, but we finally rounded a bend and there it was the last straight away to the finis!. It was probably a half mile long and I could finally smell the barn! I cranked up my music and put Lose Yourself by Eminem on repeat and began singing it out loud! I was going to do it! I was about to finish my first 100 and I still had 30+ minutes to do it in under 24 hours! My pace began to quicken to what felt like a sprint but ended up being only an 11ish minute mile! I could hear the cowbells ringing signaling the finish line workers that I was on my way! I made the last left hand turn into the field and there it was! THE FINISH LINE! It was like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders! I did it with an official finish time of 23 hours 37 minutes and 10 seconds! My sense of accomplishment has never been greater!

Photo Courtesy of  Mile 90 Photograpy

 I would like to thank Wayne for pacing me the last 31 miles and dealing with me bitching when things weren't going the greatest. Also to Chris for the knowledge and tips in the weeks leading up to the race and for driving the entire way home Sunday after being out there all day as well. Last but most certainly not least I want to thank my two biggest fans and the best support system anybody could ask for. They always believe in me no matter what challenge I tell them I am taking on next and they always want to be there at the finish to see me do what I set out to do. My parents drove all day Friday to be there and crewed for Michele and I from start to finish. They made sure Chris and Wayne were where they needed to be to fulfill their pacing duties and even gave a ride to a racer that dropped at mile 63. They sacrificed their entire weekend to help and asked nothing in return. For that I am forever grateful and can not thank them enough!

Michele and I after we finisher!
Photo Courtesy of Chris Gerber

Left to Right: Me, Chris, Wayne, Michele
Photo Courtesy of Kristi Barnhert

My Crew and biggest fans. Mom, Dad, and I
Photo Courtesy of Chris Gerber