Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Making an Important Meeting - 2014 Prairie Spirit 100 Summary

With the 2014 Prairie Spirit 100 only 12 days ago, everything is still fresh in my mind. First & foremost, is the fact that I was running for a cause! A cause that was greater than myself.
I was running for (3) year old Lincoln Mouser from Bixby, Oklahoma who at (3) months old, had to have his right leg amputated above the knee due to complications that arose soon after he was born (premature, I might add). Lincoln was a tremendous inspiration to me as he is the perfect example of how we can all overcome obstacles. Although he no doubt will still have challenges as he grows up, Lincoln epitomizes the person who will not and cannot be stopped.
Coming  back to this year's Prairie Spirit 100, I had an important meeting that I HAD TO KEEP. A meeting with (3) year old Lincoln who was to be at the finish line of this race to meet with me, & for me to present him & his family with a check from our fundraising efforts.

We started out in the dark at 6:00 AM in Ottawa, KS for a short 1 mile out & back before heading out on the trail. Early on in the race, we hooked up with Carolyn Glenn who we stuck with all the way to the turn around at Iola.
The trail was fairly flat (actually, it could not have been any flatter for a trail run) so there were no undulating hills; mainly a beautiful tree covered chat trail.

Interspersed between manned aid stations, were unmanned water stops (a great place to top off my hydration pack). First stop was the Richmond Aid Station followed by Princeton. Breezed through these on the way out as there were no "real issues" to deal with. As always, the volunteers were AWESOME!
Leaving Princeton, was more of the same . . .
(Note: I always seem to think of my camera on the outward part of the ultra. On the way back, my mind id definitely focused inwards.)
Plodding onward (it did seem like plodding at times), we finally arrived at the Garnett aid station where I had my first drop bag.
My good friend & ultra runner Polly Choate & her lovely daughter Lauren, manned (or should I say womaned) this stop. It was the only one indoors (a Polly requirement). Russell Bennett (another awesome ultra runner friend) lent a hand as well.
The next manned aid station was Welda & it was run by the infamous Trail Nerdz.
"WOW", is all I can say. These guys really know how to pamper ultra runners.
As a Vegan (as of January 1, 2014), I was thrilled that they had hot lentil soup (aside from all the standard ultra fare of fruit, PB&J, etc.).

Onward we ran. Carolyn & I had some great conversations all the while. One of which I thought of throughout the whole race. Carolyn relayed to me that during the 2013 running of Prairie Spirit 500 & 100, she hear some "snorting" on the side of the trail. My thoughts were that it was probably a horse or cow (or some other farm animal). Having been raised on a farm, Carolyn quickly corrected me to tell me that "she just knew" it was a wild pig! (NOTE: Wild Pigs ARE NOT your friend!). Well for me, I had visions of climbing a tree every time I though I heard a snort!
We had many creek crossings along the way, & I know that they will look different in the dark. None-the-less, we did cross many a "bridge over troubled waters".
I MUST ADD; all the while through each of the outbound aid stations, one person who I CANNOT thank enough, was a good friend & awesome runner; Travis Owen. Travis had my car & crewed a bit for me before his turn to pace me later in the race.
Finally arriving to Iola Aid Station, & the turn-around point, it was a good feeling that we were in in under 13 hours, giving us a good start back out.
Here, I was greeted by one of my ultra running idols; Ken "TZ" Childress (aka K1) & his wife Dana.
TZ is always great to see & always encouraging. I know that he wanted to run here (to make up for last year's blizzard) but recent knee surgery kept him on the side-lines this year.

Here is where I picked up one of two special individuals who made this race happen for me. Mishelle Wiggs Hancock joined me here at the turn around (about mile 52) & paced me for approximately 20 miles; back to the Welda Aid station. (NOTE: Mishelle was also instrumental in pacing me last October at Pumpkin Holler Hunnerd).
We started off by me apologizing for what would probably be my lack of talking as well as my slow pace. Mishelle kindly tells me to "shut up" & that she understands all of this.
We move out as the sun begins to set on a great first half.
As the sun set & darkness set in, my mind began to turn inwards. I ALWAYS felt that ultra running is extremely spiritual & contemplative (it is for me at least). It is my way of being able to turn off the outside world, turn inwards & focus on God. As pain & discomfort come at you full force, this turning inwards allows one to "tune out" the outside world & give ones full focus to our relationship with God, the purpose of life & our place in it (a bit philosophical, I know).
After a couple of the unmanned water stops & another pass through the Colony Aid Station, we were back at Welds (you know, where the infamous Trail Nerdz were). sitting down for a tad bit felt like heaven as did that wonderful cup of hot lentil soup. By now, it was dark & the temps were dropping so the hot soup was most welcome.
Ken & Dana Childress were here now as well as was another running friend; Charlotte Lindley & her friend Dennis. I had though that they were miles ahead of me, but I heard that Dennis had some stomach issues that he was wrestling with so after a bit, I bid them a due.
Here is where Mishelle passed the baton to Travis, who up until now, was crewing for me. 
Travis jumped in full force & helped keep me mentally strong. From here, we had approximately 30 miles to go (not to mention numerous cut off times for each of the aid stations.
Off we went into the night; me trying my hardest to keep a decent pace & Travis providing what was going to be hours of conversation (even if it was often one sided).
Not too much longer after Travis & I left Welda, Kathy Hoover & roman Broyles cam in. Both looking strong (although Roman did seem a bit sleepy - - - really?)
Travis & I plodded (here is that plodding again) through the night on to the Garnett aid station.
At this point, sitting down inside was a very welcome luxury. Looking over across the room, I saw one of the aid station volunteers asleep on a bench & . . . . . (well, let me say a bit of jealousy arose for just a second).
I just HAD to close my eyes for a moment but as soon as Travis saw this, he immediately jumped in & said "Gotta go. We can't have any if this sleeping thing at this point."
Arriving at the Richmond Aid Station & grabbed a tad more hot broth to keep warm.
Travis was constantly aware of the cut off times for each aid station & stayed on me so we didn't dawdle too look (are you kidding me? I could use some dawdling at this point). He told me that although we were within the cut offs, we did not have much room.
Onward we marched (notice we are no longer plodding). Our last manned aid station on the course was at Princeton where I was able to see Ken TZ Childress & Dana again. Despite how I thought I looked & felt, they were extremely encouraging & bid me farewell as we took off on our last stage.
As we entered Ottawa (again) & I saw the Love's convenience store, I knew that we were there.
I was going to make my "important meeting"; my meeting with (3) year old Lincoln Mouser & his parents who were waiting at the finish line for me. 
ELATION is the only thing that I can say to describe this finish. Mishelle & Travis brought me to a 2 HOUR PR of 27:36!
Crossing the finish line, I took off my hydration pack & just wanted to lie down; right there on the grass. I was greeted by the Mousers & a GREAT BIG HUG from Lincoln. Giving them a check from Know No Boundaries for $1,100 made the tears come streaming!

Oh, and one more thing I might add, one main factor that kept me keeping up my pace was the fact that Travis kept telling me that we were "okay on the cut off times, but didn't have much leeway.
What he didn't tell me, was that the cut off times were HIS times AND NOT the official race cut off times.
He had me more than an hour ahead of pace!
I think that  I might have even been close to running negative splits!
WHAT!
All I can say is THANK YOU Mishelle & Travis. You made the 2014 Prairie Spirit 100 a truly EPIC Ultra.
God Bless all & always know to "know no boundaries.

Ken

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