Monday, October 14, 2013

Pacing and Crewing at Heartland 100

I could also title this post: How I accidentally ran an ultra. We'll get to that though. First, how did I get here? Once upon a time (April 2013) I met this guy named Jason. He was friendly and possibly a little crazy. We hung out at an aid station together and he seemed pretty cool. He mentioned that he was going to be running the Heartland 100. I think I told him that sounded nuts, but good luck, and forgot about it. He also told me he'd be running the Storm the Dam marathon and that I should do it. I had just started running again post-hysterectomy, so I dismissed him. Oddly enough, ignoring things he tells me I should do has become the theme of our friendship! A couple of weeks (maybe?) after I met him I sent him a message on facebook because I knew his daughter was doing a half marathon and I wanted to tell her good luck. We started talking, and at some point he asked if I would be interested in pacing him at his 100. I said sure. It sounded fun, and so far away I didn't have to worry about it for a while. And so it began. He helped drag my butt through a marathon and several tough training runs. He provided encouragement and support to sign up for my first 50 mile race (OMG!). The day of the race dawned and as I was driving there, past El Dorado lake where we did the marathon together, I figured it was my turn to drag his butt through a few miserable miles on a dirt road!

Now, if only things had been that simple on race day! A few weeks before the race I was talking to Justin Chockley and he mentioned that if I wasn't doing anything else I could help his wife crew for him. I said I could before I paced Jason if he needed me to since Jason seemed to have a good crew and didn't need me. Joell wasn't going to be getting to the race until he was past the halfway point, so I thought I could crew for him before I paced as well. Joell and I communicated a lot before the race to decide when he would be at which aid station and how I could help him. Then I found out that he'd probably be running part of the race with Candi, so I decided I could help her out as well. You see where this is going with the craziness, right? The night before the race I went to the pre-race dinner with Candi and Joell told me that Adam Monaghan didn't have a crew and that he'd be with Justin and Candi and could probably use some help too. Crew 3 people? No problem!! I had seen Adam and knew who he was, but hadn't officially met him, so Joell introduced us. I also met his sweet wife (seriously, she's sooo nice) and his daughter.

Race morning came and I got up early to send Candi off. I felt like I was sending my baby off to her first day of kindergarten! She was nervous and I was nervous for her. I tried to go back to sleep but never slept well. I went to Adam's football game, but after getting updates I realized Justin was going faster than he anticipated and I didn't want to miss him, so I left. I got to the Teterville Rd station, which is mile 25 and went to grab Candi and Adam's drop bags to have their stuff ready. Adam's bag was nowhere to be seen. I thought I must have been mistaken about him having one there. I went to Jason's truck to hang out with his crew. Justin arrived and I jumped out to help him. I filled his hydration pack and waited while he ate some food, then walked out with him. I had some pretzel m&m's in my car and they sounded good and it was on his way out, so we went and got them. He was looking great right here!

Candi arrived and I was helping her, then Adam got there (I hadn't notice him coming in) and asked me if I'd seen his bag. I told him they didn't have one so I thought I misunderstood where his bags were. He said, no, he had one. Right then someone pulled up with a bunch of bags that had been forgotten. His was there! Yay. I got him what he needed and he took off with Candi.

I waited a bit longer and Jason came in. He was doing great! We got him fixed up (I did very little, his crew had it) and sent him off.

I then got in my car and went to Cassoday, where the start finish is. I had some time to wait because I was picking up Kristi Mayo and getting her to Matfield Green to pace Justin. When she got there we were getting her stuff in my car when Joell called me. She asked if either of us had any vaseline. Justin's feet were in rough shape and had blisters and he didn't have any. Neither of us did but we felt sure we could find someone that did. We got there and borrowed vaseline from Jason's crew. I saw Candi briefly but had a lot to get ready for Justin and had to get my stuff ready to pace and Sophia had her covered, so I didn't help much. Here she is looking fabulous at mile 42.5! This would be the last time I saw Candi until I was leaving the race.
On my way back to my car from getting vaseline from Jason's truck I saw Adam. He was looking a little more rough than he had earlier, but still ok. His wife had sent me pics of his daughter to show him as a pick me up, but it was in the car so I couldn't show him. I grabbed his drop bag, got what he needed and he changed his shirt and was out of there. I got back to my car and Kristi and I got everything ready and we waited for Justin. He came into the aid station not looking the best but we sat him down and fixed his feet. What does that mean you ask? We got his shoes off, rubbed vaseline all over his feet, put his shoes back on. Eeeewwww. Kristi decided she would pace him from there even though she was going to wait until he got back to Matfield Green from the turnaround. This meant a lot of miles for her. As Justin was leaving Jason rolled in. Crap! I was not ready. I got ready as fast as I could. My watch wouldn't work and was frozen up. Not cool. I forgot my headlamp, but Jason had one so someone stuck it in my pack. After we got things sorted we were off. Here we are right before pacing.
We took off and he was walking fast. His legs are about two feet longer than mine and he's a crazy fast walker, so I was having a little trouble keeping up! We stared running eventually. We'd run a little and walk a little. Walking all uphills, running down and doing what we could between. Ha. Between is a funny word. It's not like the hills ever ended. There is little between. When we were getting close to the unmanned aid station I ran ahead to fill Jason and John's bottles. John had been running with Jason all day. Unfortunately, he dropped when we got back to Matfield green. Onward and upward! Literally. Lots of upward! We kept going and were getting closer to the turnaround. Jason seemed to be getting a bit tired through here. Not far before the turnaround I saw Adam and I broke out my phone to show him the pics of his daughter. Seriously, is there anything sweeter in the world than seeing a man melt at the sight of his little girl? It was a cool moment in the race for me. I caught up to Jason and John. We realized they could make the turnaround in 12 hours, which was awesome. When we got to the turnaround they had fried foods!! Yummy. That seemed to breathe new life into the guys. I filled bottles, gave them vaseline, and whatever else they needed and we took off. This section kinda sucks because it's uphill for a long time. The guys did it though and did it well! Back at the top and it's flat-ish (ha!) to the unmanned water again. I didn't refill bottles this time because it had cooled considerably and they still had plenty. I used that as an opportunity to boss them around about drinking enough! We kept walking and running and it started to get dark. I gave Jason is headlamp, only it was the wrong one. Oops! Since it wasn't the one he'd be using all night and he wouldn't have to worry about readjusting, I wore it instead of him. We ran when he could, walked when he needed to. My legs were hurting a little because the power walking that I'm not used to. Still, I was having a ton of fun! I always enjoy running with Jason and this was no exception. We got back to Matfield Green and he sat down and we got him all ready to go out and kill the rest of the race!

I was freezing cold at this time and all I could think about was getting into my warm, dry clothes. I was walking along trying to call Joell because I knew she was there and I looked over and there she was! She had her friend Marcia there that was going to be helping her crew. I talked to them a few and we went to my car so they could use their flashlight to help me get my stuff and get changed. They stood kind of in front of me while I changed clothes on the side of the road. Gotta love ultra running! I was as quick as I could be and thankfully no one drove past. We got in our cars and I followed them to the town of Matfield Green where I would leave my car while we went out to Ridgeline to crew our people. We got there and waited. Candi was already gone because she's a speed demon! Adam came in and was having some tummy issues. We did what we could and sent him on. He didn't have a jacket so Joell gave him hers. It fit pretty well. I so wish I had taken a photo. Here he is with his soup. Besides the tummy and being cold, he was having some foot issues but didn't have spare socks. He kept going though!
Justin came into Ridgeline and got back out pretty fast. Got some food and refilled his pack and off he went.

Jason was in and out of this station pretty quick as well. I had a minute to tell him hi and I think I grabbed him a sandwich from the aid station. Or Joell did. Either way, he got one!

We got in the car and went to get our cars (mine and also Adam's pacers car were in Matfield Green so Marcia was getting it to the start/finish for him) and took them back to Cassoday to park. We then took the loooong trip back to Teterville. We got there and waited and Justin was the first one in. He said that he had passed Adam and he was really cold and that when he got there we needed to get him a heavier jacket. We fixed up Justin's feet again and talked to Kristi about whether or not she would continue. She had been out there a long time! She said she was good to go. They took off and Justin was looking good. He had really turned things around. I think a lot of that was due to Kristi. What a great person to jump in and run extra like that to help a friend!

When Adam came into Teterville he didn't look good. He said he was thinking about dropping. Oh no. Joell and I went to work trying to talk him out of it. I won't share all the details because that's Adam's story, not mine. I will say, because it explains some other stuff, that his pacer wasn't doing great at that point. I asked if he wanted me to start pacing him. He said no, if he continued he'd continue with the pacer he had. We talked him into continuing onto Lapland, which was around 9 miles. We told him we'd reevaluate when he got there. Oh yeah, and just so you all know how devoted I am to pacing, I put vaseline on his feet too. Eeewww. I also never washed my hands all day or night. And ate food. I might never get clean again. Joell found him some fresh socks and we were hoping that would perk him up. I don't know if it did, but he left the aid station without dropping. Yay!

While Adam was at the aid station Jason came in. He was also in a rough patch here, but was getting a new pacer, so hopefully just having a new person to talk to and spend time with would help! I never once thought he might quit, and he had quite a crew, so I told him good job and left him in capable hands while I helped Adam.

We continued onto Lapland to wait for the guys. We had a long wait. It was also freezing but Ken and Dana Childress were there and it's always fun to visit with them, so we stayed outside the car quite a bit. Justin got there and Kristi finally got to sit down. We got some warm pants on Justin. I wish I had a photo of him sitting in a chair with shorts on, with his pants around his thighs. It was priceless. Joell was going to be pacing him into the finish. I joked with her that they had all that uninterrupted time and they should just consider it a date! I was sad to see them go because I enjoy hanging out with Joell and I also had a feeling I might end up pacing Adam and that was going to mean not seeing Justin finish. I was incredibly happy for him though that his dream of running 100 miles was about to come true!

After Justin and Joell left we got in the car and Kristi gathered her clothes to change and then use the bathroom. She was more than ready for some sleep, but we wanted to wait for Adam and Jason to come in. At that time Candi called me. She finished her first 100 mile in 21:54 and was 2nd place female! Wow. There are no words for me to describe how amazing she is. As I hung up with her I saw two people coming into the aid station and thought it was Adam and his pacer. It was! He said he was so glad he hadn't quit. Woot! But, he wanted to know if I'd pace him to the finish. Absolutely! What's another 16-17 miles that I hadn't planned to run? Who cares that I don't really have my running clothes? I'll wear what I've got and just deal. Then I debated. Text my husband at 4 am and tell him I'd be pacing someone I don't really know through the middle of the country just so he knows what's going on? I decided on a big fat no. Why make him worry? I got some gels from Kristi and took the water bottle his other pacer had been carrying and off we went. I texted his wife to let her know what was going on. I had been texting her updates all day.

We started out and he said he might need a few miles to get into some kind of rhythm. We hadn't actually gone very far when he wanted to run a little. Yay! I was a little afraid we'd be walking all night. I was freezing cold and sleepy and I wasn't looking forward to a long slow death march. That is not what this was, thank goodness. I was often just a little ahead of him and I asked if that was ok or did he need me beside or behind him. I think he said something like "I'll let you know" and we never talked about it again, so I guess it was ok. I tried to get him to run every downhill. When we started running I would look ahead and see where I thought we'd be able to run to. I wouldn't tell him, but I knew if he was struggling I'd say "let's try to make it to that tree" or something similar. Every.Single.Time he exceeded my expectations. It was so cool. I was glad I didn't tell him where I thought he could make it. Actually, I think I did one time, because he seemed to be struggling a bit but he made it past where I suggested. So tough!

Really, there just isn't a lot to say. We trudged through the early morning darkness. He knew when the sun came up he'd feel better. Like I did with Jason, I would run ahead to fill his bottle when I could. Basically, it was just hours and hours of Adam listening to me talk because I didn't want him to fall asleep. I didn't want to fall asleep either for that matter. When we were getting close to the last manned aid station, battle creek, I ran ahead to get his bottle filled and some food for him and for me. They fixed him a cup of soup and we left the aid station eating it. When I got there they told me to sit down, take a break, etc. Heck no! We have a race to finish and no one is getting comfortable until it's over!

I asked him a lot of questions about races he'd done, what he still wants to do, etc. By the way, at mile 93 when you ask someone what else they want to do with running, what races they've dreamed of, etc, the answer is nothing. They don't ever want to run again! It was kind of a funny moment. While chatting I told Adam that I thought his wife seemed so sweet and nice and he told me about her and how much he loved her and their daughter. And they're having another baby in December! Yay! It was very nice to hear someone talk to nicely about their spouse. They seems like a great couple.

Continuing on, we could see the finish! There is a water tower and man, you can see that thing for miles! Kinda sucks! Still, you know it's coming. This was Adam's 10th 100 mile finish. I felt honored to have helped him get there. Honestly, the entire experience of this weekend was just amazing in ways I'll never be able to articulate. One of those things you just have to experience to understand I think, and then no two experiences are the same.

Adam with around 4 miles to go

We kept moving and I was doing my best to just remain positive and happy because if I started acting like I felt it wasn't going to do Adam any good. I hope I was successful in not being too whiny. The closer we got the more we ran. And ran and ran! Our run wasn't very fast, because, hello, 100 miles, but I think we ran well over half of the last 4 miles. Or I was dreaming. It's possible.

We crossed the finish line at 9:48 am, 27 hours and 48 minutes after he started. Well, he crossed this finish line. I did not. It was not my moment. I went into the tent and got him food and something to drink while he got his award. Marcia and Joell gathered all of his stuff and got it in his pacers vehicle. He had to get back to Wichita ASAP for a meeting. I texted his wife that he finished, then went and talked to Justin, Joell, Marcia and whoever else came in and out of the area where we were. I walked past Justin and said "just so you know, I'm a freaking badass!" He started laughing. He was on the phone with Zach Adams and told him what he said. Later Zach called me to tell me how much help I had been to so many people and how great that was, etc. It was so kind of him to do that and made me feel so good.

I went to change my shirt and then wait for Jason. He came in less than an hour later. He had finished his first 100! I was so proud of him. He had a bunch of family and friends at the finish line, which was great to see. I told him good job, but I was toast so I had to head home.

I'm so happy to have helped pace Jason and Adam and crew Justin and Candi (just a tiny bit on Candi). It's awesome to see people do something so huge and accomplish their goals. I left there so inspired. To see them go through a rough patch and dig deep and gut it out is indescribable. I know when I'm running my race in a few weeks. I'll remember them and how they gutted out the race and use it for inspiration.

So, that's how I accidentally ran over 31 miles. I had a nice easy 15 planned. I'm thrilled with how things turned out though. I learned a lot and I'm ready for my 50!

Prairie Spirit in two weeks!! Gulp.

1 comment:

  1. I ran with Adam some at Flatrock. He is a really nice, but started out by calling me snake girl. He thought I was someone else. Krystal