Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Heartland Spirit of the Prairie - Race Report

I always have a tough time starting these reports. I have so much to say. This time I think I will start with a bit of a conclusion, I know that is backwards but I think it is important. I have thought about the race a lot the past few days; I am on a runners high. I finished 2nd for women, 10th overall and I crushed my PR by over 6hrs. I ran 100 miles in under 22hrs. Yes, I DID IT!!!! I feel like I have conquered a beast. I seriously feel like yelling from the roof tops. But here is my conclusion: I couldn’t have done it without my amazing crew. I can’t thank them enough. We worked like a team the entire day and it worked. This is a long one so, buckle up folks.

We (the girls and I) all converged on Cassoday KS on Friday for the prerace meeting. Then we headed out for dinner and to the hotel to go over gear. By 9 pm I was out like a light. I slept hard and soundly. 0430 came early as you would expect. All of the girls wanted to go to the start so we were all up early, we loaded the cars and headed back to Cassoday (it is so small there isn’t a hotel there and literally you can throw a rock from the sign that says you are entering town to the sign that says you are leaving town). I got checked in and we stood around trying to stay warm before the start. At 0600 I was off. The next Aid Station wasn’t for 8.5 miles and I wouldn’t see the crew again for 17miles.
Before the race.  I think Tracey has a better picture.  Will post her pics next week.

I ran this first 17 easy. I didn’t push it. I tried to keep in mind that patience would make or break this race for me. I was determined to run a smarter race this time around. I talked to a few other runners; one guy had attempted four 100milers and had yet to complete one. As we came to the first Aid Station I stopped filled my bottle with my electrolyte drink and headed on out. I was so proud of myself for stopping it was ridiculous. The next section was quite difficult, it was super hilly and the terrain was loose rock in a rutty road. I found myself continuously searching for the best place to run. I began walking the uphill’s at this point (this was something I did for the rest of the race; I used the uphill’s to rest and take a walk break). As I neared the 17 mile Aid Station where I would meet the crew I knew I wanted to change shoes , my metatarsal (which had been a bit off since Lone Ranger) was just a little aggravated by the rocks so I wanted to get my New Balance shoes on so I could change socks to ones with more padding. I ran up to the girls, they were all there cheering me on. Tracey took my pack. I talked to Marny about my shoes and the fact I thought I should put on my compression sleeves (I have to say one thing that really made me feel confident all day was being able to talk to Marny about every decision, I listened to everything she told me and we discussed gear changes, she really made a huge difference in my race), I think it was Cindy who stuck a half a banana in my pack, lol (that slimed me later but I ate it), Teresa frantically repacked chews and real food into my pack. Marny and I agreed I would change my socks, my shoes and add compression sleeves. I threw my pack back on and I was off.

The next leg was 9 miles. I just cruised along listening to my iPod. I must have gone through a million episodes of The Marathon Show. It was on this leg that I realized some of the farmers were not so happy to see runners on their roads. Some were nice and drove slowly by and others blasted by me, spraying me and other runners with gravel and dust. When I ran up to the girls I handed off my pack, Marny and I decided no changes needed to be made, I was right on with my caloric intake and my fluids. The girls were fast so I was out of their quickly.

The next leg was 11 miles. It was really pretty. I ran along. About halfway through I came to a manned Aid Station where the guy recording runners said “#90, Hi Tara” and somehow hearing my name put the biggest smile on my face. There were no issues this leg. I was still eating. I thought I might be getting a hot spot on the ball of my foot (later we checked and I was wrong) but no real issues. This time as I came to the Aid Station I saw my crew coming out to meet me. Marny, Cindy and Teresa ran in with me, it was so awesome to see them out there. It may have only been a ¼ of a mile but dang it made my spirits leap to see them and hear their cheers. By this time Cindy was handing me her special juice every time I saw her (red grapes and ginger) I think it probably really contributed if not was the sole reason for my lack of stomach issues (thank you Cindy). I was still gulping Ensure at every Aid Station and girls were filling my hand held with electrolytes. This system really seemed to work. Also I think the fact I slowed down and really talked to the crew at every aid station really helped. It was this stop where Marny said before she saw me again I better have two packets of some sort of food like substance consumed. And I was off to the prettiest section of the course.

The next 6miles were gorgeous. I just loved the rolling hills and the cows out in the fields. I ate like crazy to get my two packets of food consumed and I drank a ton. I also started chasing “wingman” at this point. Why Wingman you ask? The guy would stretch out his arms at the top of hills and he looked like he was flying. I realized somewhere before this point that I was slowly but surely passing folks, no one had passed me but I just kept picking folks off one at a time. That was a super morale booster. I was super excited to get to the next Aid Station because there I would pick up my first pacer. Again the girls met me out on the course; it was so great to see them. I honestly can’t put in words how my spirits lifted every time I saw them and I was having a great time. It was just seeing them made my day. We ran in, talked about feet, food, water, etc… I dumped rocks from my shoes, we checked my feet, I got my hand held refilled and some food and Uncle Ronnie and I were off.

Dang it was fun to get to run with my Uncle Ronnie. He is a really nice guy and super talkative. After a mile or so he asked me if I wanted to run down Wingman. I told him I had been chasing the guy for miles now and had decided to be patient; no race would be won or lost at mile 45. Eventually we did catch up with Wingman (his real name is Claude) funny enough he knew my name. Apparently he was buddies with a girl who knew Cindy, small world. As Uncle Ronnie and I ran along he asked how my eating was going and made sure I was drinking. There was just about a mile downhill to the turnaround. Lone Pine and yes there was one tree there. We each drank some Mountain Dew, we declined the hamburgers being offered and refilled my handheld with the electrolytes (it was a pretty hot day, near 90 so I had to stay on top of my electrolytes) and we were off to chug back up that dang hill. You know in an out and back course if you go 1 mile down you have to go 1 mile back up, boy that was a bugger. I asked Uncle Ronnie what time it was, he didn’t know so, he did what any awesome pacer would do, he flagged down the next car that passed us (insane that there was a car passing us out where we were) got the time. It was 1550 or close to it. I told him if I could just keep this up I should be able to break 24 hrs and for the first time that day I really began to believe this might be my day. Also on the way out to the turnaround I began to count the people that went by, I soon realized I wasn’t in the back of the race, or the middle, I was near the top, I was the 4th or 5th woman and not that many guys were ahead of me either. This sort of lit a fire under my you know what. I felt awesome. My legs felt great, my feet didn’t hurt, no stomach issues but, I couldn’t let myself get too excited after all it wasn’t until almost 90 miles in both of my last two races that I fell apart. That knowledge haunted me all day and all night. I ran wondering if/when I would again fall apart. It wasn’t like I let the negative take hold it was more like that knowledge made me be patient, made me slow down, made me be careful so that I could power on through mile 90 and through to the finish. Uncle Ronnie said “You were like a horse going back to the barn, boy you just took off.” I think that says it all, lol.

Back at the Aid Station I picked up my second pacer Teresa. She was awesome. It was still day light so we just got to have a nice 6 mile run down a country road. It was this stretch where I caught “Pinky” (the lady ahead of me who was wearing pink) then she caught me, and then I caught her and so on and so on. It was a little frustrating because I wanted to get myself into 3rd place. Pinky and I did talk a little and she said that at her last race she had to walk the last 20 miles and she just didn’t want to have to do that again, I told her I totally understood because I didn’t want a repeat of my last 20 from Rocky. Teresa was great fun to run with, she gave me a few Marny stories and we went over gear changes for the next Aid Station.

At the next Aid Station I picked up Marny. Wooot wooot, I got to run with Marny, I had been looking forward to this all day. We headed out and soon it was night. We passed Pinky and of course she passed us, we didn’t see her again. We ran and talked and I had a great time. I was still walking the uphills and running everything else. This system actually worked for the entire race. I am still in awe of Marny for doing this stretch with me; it was 11 miles long, she had a busted knee and both feet have plantar fasciitis. I am not sure “Thank You” covers how I feel about her help and support at this race. I think towards the later part of our leg we really had a nice pace going, it felt great. We worked out the clothing changes that needed to happen at the next Aid Station as well as the rest of my race plan.

As we ran into the Aid Station we found Tracey at her car along the road. I began to change all of my clothes. Marny went to get me coffee. Tracey got the broth ready. Once I had on tights, new bra, new shirt and an additional light, Teresa and I were off. Teresa was awesome on this leg. It was 9 miles long and she began what I like to refer to as “the coffee broth dance” as soon as we would start walking up a hill she would do this little jingle asking which I wanted. Not if I wanted either but basically choose one and get going. It was just the right amount of toughness needed. There were a few creepy parts on this section but we powered through. Towards the end of this leg we passed Pinky. I went nuts in my head. Holy S.H.I.T. I was now in 2nd place with around 20 miles to go and Pinky was walking. I could do this, I could, I knew I could.

At the previous Aid Station I had realized stopping to change clothes and what not was getting harder for me, it was hard for me to get going again, so I told Teresa, I was going to go right on through the Aid Station, her and Marny would fill my pack with whatever they thought I needed and have Cindy bring it to me. As we came to the Aid Station Cindy was in the PortaPotty. Marny yelled “is that you, omg you are early, CINDY!!!!!!!” I am not sure what happened next I just kept going knowing Teresa would get it all worked out. Cindy ran up to me, I told her I needed my pack, she ran back, and then back to me, then the sisters sprinted out with the pack and we were officially off. It was a dark night. There was no moon that made this rocky section a ton harder. Cindy and I worked up and down hills full of rocks, doing our best to keep our footing. Cindy being Cindy, yes my personal pep squad, had a speaker taped to herself, unfortunately somehow her iphone didn’t cooperate so there was no music. She then began reading FB messages. OMG did that buoy my spirits. I wasn’t low; I was just tired and still hadn’t made it past 90 miles. We didn’t know how far we were because we didn’t have a gps going and that was really frustrating for me, I really was focused on mileage and now couldn’t figure out where we were in the last 17 miles. But we just kept trucking on. I can’t thank Cindy enough for doing this leg of the race with me. She definitely got stuck with the worst section footing wise as well as you can imagine what I am like after running for 18hrs with no sleep. I am focused, no expression, pretty much no talking, just a walking machine but, she stuck by me and carried me through. When I would get tired she would say out of the blue “relentless forward motion Tara” and I would say it back to her and keep going. We finally came to an Aid Station. I handed them my handheld and asked for caffeine as I almost fell over, somehow I could walk and run at this point but couldn’t stand up. A truck pulled up and asked if I was “Tara Tosta” I said yes and how did he know my name and the dude said he knew things and left. Now that was weird. I asked the Aid Station Volunteer how far to the finish, she said 8.5 miles; I teared up and said I wanted to kiss her. She laughed. I cried and left the Aid Station Cindy caught up to me with some broth and bacon. I started crying and babbling that I had done it. I had these few moments where I almost completely lost it, I had made it past the 90 mile mark and my feet and legs were fine and I was going to make it to the finish. I knew it. I pulled it together and ate my bacon and drank my broth. Relentless Forward Motion, we kept moving. And then the F’ing Mirage appeared. You could see the lights leading to the finish line off and on for the last 8 miles, so it looked so close and yet so far and we still didn’t know mileage so it was really frustrating but, we did know I would bust 24hrs and most likely get 2nd. We just kept moving and every time I saw the lights I had hope that I could stop soon and then I would triangulate off the road and the lights and realize my leg of the triangle was pretty f’ing long still. Then we would go on down the road and I would think we were close and retriagulate and my hopes would be dashed again and on and on this went for the next 2 hrs. But we did it. Relentless Forward Motion. We ran when I could, we walked if I had to but we never stopped. We NEVER STOPPED!!!!!!!!!!!! And then it happened Cindy spotted a stop sign and an arrow; soon we were headed to Cassoday. And not too soon after that I saw the finish line. I was choking back tears, god I was happy. I am not sure I have ever felt that level of accomplishment. I could hear the cow bell at the finish line, I could see the crew waiting for me and I ran, yes, I ran across that line. I had done it. I had finished a 100 miler in less than 24 hrs.
Marny, Teresa and Tracey waiting at the finish

I couldn’t have done any of this without the crew. They were phenomenal. I didn’t talk about Tracey much but she was our logistics maven, she got everyone from Aid Station to Aid Station she was always there working out gear and food issues, she was incredible. She was an awesome Crew Chief. Thank You, Mama!

Patience paid a huge role in this race as did the crew. I ended up not having one blister at the end of the race and am already ready to run again. I didn’t have to stop once during the race to rest; I used the hills to rest while walking up them. Really this race went as smoothly as a 100 miler could go. I am super proud and appreciative of everyone’s efforts.
Gettting the Buckle.  No Prize for 2nd.  Guess I better work on getting 1st, lol.

Happy Running All!!!


Marny said...

Awesome report! So... I was in the gym today, on the elliptical, and I started thinking about this race and I got all choked up. I'm a huge sap for tearing up in the gym, but I'm so proud of you! You're a huge inspiration and I'll remember this race forever!

Anonymous said...

This was your race ULTara, you put in all of training miles, worked on waht you needed to eat and drink and you had a great crew. I am so very proud of you and your crew.

Love, mom

Teresa said...

Great report! It was so much fun to be a part of all of this! P.S. Marny, do you really tear up at the gym that often?? Weirdo :)

cathycrisp said...

Awesome!!! Thanks for making me blubber while reading this:) I am soooooo very proud of you, Pea, and the whole crew!!! You all rock!!!! MAMA CATHY

Anna said...

I had a similar tearing up experience the morning after the race and I wasn't even there. At least I was at my computer though, so no one except E-man to look @ me like I was a weirdo. I did tear up in the gym after the 24 hr race though for about two weeks after. A song would come on my iPod like "[We] tried so hard and got so far. But in the end it doesn't even matter..." and I would start thinking about this or that and how we could have been a better team and just start balling like a crazy person. I'm so glad you all finally got it. Tara I am so excited for you I just can't stop smiling. The rest of you, I am so glad all of you got to be there. Loved loved loved reading this report. Wooohooo!

tara said...

Oh Anna, I don't think we could have done much better at LR we just didn't know better at the time. It was learning from that experience that helped me succeed at Heartland. Apparently there is a strong learning curve with these. :)

Unknown said...

I am so proud of all of you. What a terrific accomplishment Tara for you...and for the CREW. You guys really pulled together to realize the goal. Forward Motion paid off!!!

What an inspirational story.

Unknown said...

P.S. I have gotta see this "patience" thing you speak of. You? Patient? Actually, I have seen you be patient in only one area of your life...with our children. LOL

Average Runner said...

Amazing story. Congratulations.

tara said...

And beading Reyna, I am totally patient when doing projects like that. I can do it. LOL. It just isn't one of my strengths

Anna said...

Oh I don't think so either, Tara. They were all learning experiences. I realize that now and am thrilled to have been a part of said learning experience. I'm just so dam happy you finally did it! I can't believe you've done 2.92 100-milers in 8 months! For a learning curve you sure did learn fast!

Oh and I love the name of this race. The spirit of the Prairie...that's cool...sounds like u captured it ;-)

Relentless Forward Commotion said...

Tara, you are simply amazing. I sometimes struggle to get through 10 miles. I can not fathom doing what you do! And even though I'm not even sure I want to do a 50 miler one day, somehow this gives me hope that one day, 26.2 won't seem so incredibly horrible, LOL! This report was so awesome. I'm so thrilled that you shattered your goal! congrats again running mama!

Daniela Dobson said...

Wow, that was awesome!!!! What a great race. Congrats!!!!!

heather said...

Amazing job! You are so inspiring. A huge congratulations!