Ottawa, KS is only about 30-40 minutes away from our house, which is partly why I chose this race. We left our house Friday afternoon, dropped Kya off at the kennel, stopped for a beer at a local brewery, and drove to Ottawa for packet pick up and the pre-race meal.
Obligatory pre-race bib # shot. Nothing says Kansas quite like packet pick-up with cattle stalls in the background. P.S. I do love coffee!
The rest of the night was pretty low key. We drove around Ottawa for a bit and then went back to our hotel. Ken hit up Applebee's to watch the basketball game and I went to bed. We are such party animals.
I woke up in the morning at 4:15 and could not fall back to sleep. I decided to go ahead and get up and get dressed so I could eat some breakfast. There was a blueberry muffin in the lobby that was calling my name. After my muffin and coffee, I went back to our room to make sure Ken was awake and then we were on our way to Celebration Hall for the start of the race.
After the safety briefing you know, don't litter, be nice to each other, avoid lightning, we were lining up and were on our way. One thing that I do have to laugh about at these things is that everyone is always looking at Ken like he is the one running and not me. It is the funniest thing in the world to us. We are so used to it now that we make jokes about it.
Ready for my first ever ultra with my borrowed camo rain jacket from our kid neighbor Kyle. It served me well, thanks Kyle!
Anyways, I was off to run my very first ultra event in the darkness with a headlamp on my head. The Prairie Spirit Trail is an old railroad line that was made into a limestone running/biking trail. The section we were running was from Ottawa to Iola and back. Sounds like fun doesn't it?
It was pretty chilly, windy, and misting in the morning. We had to run North for a mile and then turned around and ran back South towards Iola. I was glad when we turned South because the wind was behind us at that point. I was on my way and was excited to make it to Princeton, the first aid station where I would see Ken.
I ran the first 3-4 miles without stopping at a 10:30 minute pace and then started alternating 5 minutes of running with 1 minute of walking. This seemed to work really well for me. At first, I thought nah, I feel great, I can just run, but I knew that would be a huge mistake so I made myself stick to the plan. Stick to the plan girl.
I arrived in Princeton feeling great and I saw Ken. He gave me some Ritz peanut butter crackers, refilled my water, snapped a picture and I was on my way. Seeing him was a great boost after running 9.5 miles. I was excited that I would get to see him in a short 6.5 miles at the aid station in Richmond.
Passing thru Princeton and looking happy!
I continued on, smiling and leap frogging with a few people. I had yet to turn on my music and was just enjoying the day. It was misting on and off so I kept my borrowed rain jacket on since I did not want to melt in the rain. Sweet girls melt ya know!
As I was getting close to Richmond, I heard something in the woods. I looked over and saw two dogs that were bigger than me and running my direction. I was kind of worried if they were nice or not, crossed my fingers and picked up the pace. There were two guys right behind me and the dogs chose to chase one of them instead of me. Whew, I felt like I had dodged a bullet.
When I arrived in Richmond, I started telling Ken about the dogs and did not realize that the local Sheriff/game warden was right behind him and he started questioning me about the dogs. At first I was thinking, simma down Law Dog, but then I was imagining the dogs chasing me in the middle of the night and suddenly I was able to describe them and their location well enough that a composite sketch could have been drawn.
Welcome to Richmond, KS!
I got a Payday from Ken, along with a refill of water and a few pictures and was on my way. I told Ken it was time for a little dirty rap music to keep things going. A spectator heard me and asked if it were gangsta rap. Well of course it is!
Leaving Richmond with the next stop to be Garnett!
I had 9 miles to go to get to Garnett where I would see Ken again. I turned on a little Snoop Dogg and Notorious BIG for the long road to Garnett. It was pretty uneventful and I kept alternating my 5 minutes of running with 1 minute of walking. I was still feeling really well with nothing hurting or rubbing.
I arrived in Garnett, which is 25 miles into the race. Yikes, that is far! When I came rolling in, one of the race people said, "Oh that is not a race runner, that is a local." All because of my camo jacket! Ken was right behind her and he said he could hardly hold in his laughter.
I found Ken and took a few Tylenol Arthritis so I would be ahead of any aches and pains. I also changed my socks and shoes and got some Easter candy to eat. I left, feeling pretty well and was getting very excited about getting to mile 41 where I would pick up a pacer. Mentally, I was telling myself that I had 16 more miles to run alone, which is totally doable.
A Garnett selfie!
The stretch between Garnett and Welda is 8.5 miles. I kept listening to my music, kept my pace and played leap frog with a few other runners. When I arrived in Welda, I heard a female cheer and I knew it was Katie! I was so excited to see that Mike and Katie had arrived to help Ken out. I chatted with them for a bit while I shoved a handful of Pringles in my mouth and was on my way. I was very excited about the next aid station coming up, which was Colony. Colony was going to have cupcakes and also I was going to be able to pick up my first pacer!
Just before I got to Colony, I started talking to one of the guys I had been leap frogging with. His name was Rolfe (as I am typing this, I cannot believe I did not mention the Sound of Music to him) and he was from Fayetteville, AR. I guess one of the hardest parts of this race for me at this point was not talking. I love to talk (shocker, I know) and up until this point I had not gotten to talk a lot except in small segments to Ken. As we approached Colony I saw Ken off to the side taking pictures as I was talking Rolf's ear off.
Running along with my new friend Rolfe
In Colony I busted out the big guns for fuel, a Cadbury Creme Egg. Go big or go home people. I also picked up Mike to run with me for the next several miles and told him his job was to talk to me. Mike had promised to wear a speedo for the run portion but that was a lie. Lies, lies, lies.
Multitasking at its finest, lacing my shoes and eating a Cadbury Creme Egg.
Running along with Mike
We went along our way to what would be 10 miles to get to Iola which was the turnaround point. Katie met up with us and took over for Mike halfway and took me the rest of the way to Iola...in the rain. We were soaked.
Once at the aid station in Iola, I was freezing. I was wet and cold and was not really looking forward to the next 49 miles, but I knew I would tackle it. I ate a few chicken nuggets and a little ramen noodles after Ken insisted that my previous food was not enough. I hate when he is right! I decided that I would do a full change of clothes so that I could put on full leggings instead of my capris.
Ken pulled the car around so I did not have far to walk, turned on the heater and heated seat, and I hopped in change. Have you ever tried to change skin tight clothing in the car while you are wet? Have you ever tried it after running 51 miles? It was almost impossible. There was a moment where I told Ken was just going to get out of the car and show everyone my bare butt. I mean, who cares at that point. Alas, with Ken's help I was able to finally pull my super tight leggings on while in the front seat. Victory, victory that's our cry! V-I-C-T-O-R-Y!
In Iola I also got to meet Trista who was there with my friend Cori to pace me. Let's just take a moment to let that soak in. Cori and Trista both were giving up their weekends to help me and Trista was a complete stranger up until this point. Someone that had never met me was there to run with me through the night to help me reach my goal. Wow! Who does that? I was so excited about both Cori and Trista being there, I could hardly stand it. What wonderful people they are!
Our friend Julie was also able to come and meet us in Iola to say hello. Ken has worked with Julie since 2003 and she has been a wonderful friend to the both of us.
My entire crew trying to stay warm and dry in Iola
Cori took the first round and we left Colony bound. Sadly, we were on another 10 mile stretch, but fortunately it was still daylight. It was still raining but it was nothing that some girl talk and laughter could not cure.
The biggest laughter came from the whole Brad's Wife fiasco that is all over social media. I was unsure what all it was related to and Cori got me up to speed. I nearly peed my pants from laughter. I told Cori that she had to stop because I was laughing so hard that it was making everything hurt even more! We also had a good laugh when at mile 54 I looked at Cori and told her with a straight face that this may have been a very unwise idea. We laughed about that for about a mile or so.
With Cori at mile 55 while I was chewing on a milky way.
We ran and walked our way to Colony and arrived just as it was getting dark. We found Ken and Trista and got my headlamp ready for the next stretch. I had some Pringles that I just shoved in my mouth since I was wanting to pee too but did not want to take them into the bathroom with me. It seemed like a great solution at the time and then I envisioned myself choking on the Pringles in the bathroom in Colony, KS. What a horrible way to go.
Trista and I left Colony with our goal being Welda. Since this was my first time really speaking to Trista besides, "Hello, it is nice to meet you! Thanks for coming out here!" we had a lot to cover. We started off by talking about food when she realized that this was a sore subject for someone who has been eating Pringles and candy bars for the last day and we quickly changed the subject to her first ever triathlon and her mom seat on her bike. I knew right away that I really liked her. She was a funny girl. She also came prepared with question cards that she could bust out in the event that we had radio silence. Home girl came prepared. Which was great, because I was starting to talk a little less.
We arrived in Welda and Ken whispered that a guy had come in and dropped out. He also told me how proud he is when he sees these big strong men drop out and here comes little me still going. I am only mentioning this because this came up in my mind later.
Eating cheddar bunnies in Welda like a boss.
I had some delicious Annie's bunny crackers, drank some Coke, and was on my way with Cori. Garnett was 8.5 miles away. It was before midnight when we left, but I was very aware that it was the middle of the night and oh so dark outside. I am not sure where things went South but they did. When I say South I mean really, really bad. My feet were killing me. With every step I took it felt like knives where stabbing them. At one point, we took off my shoes and I walked with socks only. Cori gave me her socks she was wearing over her compression socks so that I could have extra padding on the limestone.
I wish I could tell you how wonderful walking barefoot felt. Every step was like a tiny massage on my aching feet. The only problem with it was that I was not able to move very fast. After a little bit of awesome walking on limestone, we stopped so I could put my shoes back on my feet. I also busted out the body glide to rub on my feet and was loving the feeling of it when I realized I still had the cap on the body glide. Can you say starting to get delirious??!!
We continued on and suddenly I told Cori that I was done and I wanted to quit. I was in so much pain. My legs felt like bloody stumps with my feet being stabbed by a pocket knife at every step. Cori very calmly told me that she understood and we could discuss it at the aid station after I ate. I was a little surprised with her answer. She also told me that normally should would be all drill sargent on me but she could tell I was in pain. As I type this, I realize Cori was using her parenting skills on me by agreeing with me and not getting me to revolt! Good one Cori!
She told me that I needed to eat anyway after running 77 miles so I should get to the aid station and eat and drink for a bit. At this point, I was very sad that my phone was dead because I was ready to call Ken to pick me up at one of the roads that intersect the trail. I knew that Cori was not going to make that call for me. Somewhere in here we noticed that I had some severe swelling in my hands, feet, and face. My hands were 3+ pitting edema for all you medical folks. For the rest of you, they were really freaking swollen!
Cori is a nurse and instantly started to get worried about my condition. I was a little nauseous and felt light headed too. So here we are somewhere between Welda and Garnett, KS in the middle of the night on a dark trail Googling to see what I could have. I was telling Cori that it must be Rhabdomyolsis and that I should probably drop out at Garnett. Cori was concerned about my condition, but feeling certain that a little eating and drinking would help matters.
All I could think about was how far 77 miles and if I dropped out 77 miles is still three marathons. Cori text Ken about what was going on with me. She told him of the swelling and my poor attitude. Her goal was to get me to Garnett in one piece. She also told me that the aid station was indoors and it was the perfect place to sit and chill for a bit. In my mind I was thinking, yeah, sure it is.
As we were arriving into the city of Garnett, we passed by a truck stop. Cori told me that her brother was working with the FBI at Quantico and a study was done that showed that the majority serial killers are found at truck stops. Well isn't that a fun fact to share as we pass a truck stop in the middle of the night when it is pitch black and we are wearing these headlamps that may as well be beacons for a serial killer to find us. At the time, I did tell her that if someone were to come and attack us that she should save herself and leave me. I was not going anywhere in a hurry and at this point in the game was welcoming anything that would get me out of the race.
We arrived at the train depot in Garnett and Trista informs us that it looks like an episode of MASH inside. I guess many people were in bad shape, including me. I was in a bad place. My crew did not miss a beat. They sat me down, took my shoes and socks off, started rubbing my feet, feeding me mashed potatoes (which were Heavenly), giving me fluids, and covering me up with a sleeping bag. Poor Ken ran to the car about five different times in search of the shoes I was requesting and did not bat an eye about being my servant. There was a bit of debating about a missing sock that was found a few minutes later...in my hand.
Homeless person or Keri?
Trying to flash my best sly look while eating mashed potatoes with bed-head and generally feeling like dog poop. Hair do of the year? Possibly.
Just for fun, how about a side by side comparison of the two Garnett aid station photos?
Garnett at 25 miles and 77 miles, respectively. Is this even the same person? I feel as though this should be some sort of a poster as a warning for something. Maybe an ad for marathon vs. ultra? Don't do it kids.
Trista started telling me the stories of the people that had been in there including a man that was having a stranger remove his toenails. My spirits were lifted with some laughter and I soon realized I would be hitting the trail for the remaining 23 miles. Unfortunately it was going to be 9 miles until we made it to Richmond. That is a long way in the middle of the night after you have already run 77 miles. I had been so cold that Ken gave me his gloves to wear instead of mine. Do you know how big his hands are compared to my hands? I had Robo Cop hands for the remainder of the race with those things on.
Trista was ready to talk and told me all kinds of random stories. Seriously, I now know so many random facts about Trista. She may have been a stranger at the start of the night, but she is a stranger no more. This girl made me laugh so hard even though I wanted to do nothing more than cry. At some point in this stretch I started to hallucinate. I swore I saw people standing on the trail when they were really signs or trees. I was starting to lose it.
We got to Richmond and I sat in the aid station and drank coffee and ate ramen noodles. Such an odd combo, I know. I felt cold. I could feel myself constantly shivering while I was running even though I had plenty of clothes on my body. I reiterated what a bad idea this was and Cori got ready to take me out for the next leg. Everyone was smiling and telling me it was a short one, only 6.5 miles. Oh goody.
I was excited about the fact that the sun would soon be rising and I would no longer be in the dark. The thought of having sunlight was enough for me to keep going. I knew at this point that my crew would not let me quit. It was at this moment when Ken told me that when I get to the next aid station and speak of quitting that he will drag me the remaining 7 miles. He was not playing.
There was zero running in this section, only Grandma style walking. I felt defeated, defeated to the core. I was freezing too, which was not helping anything. I was anxious for the sun to rise. I told Cori that I was hoping it would be a pretty sunrise because the day before it was cloudy and I did not really get to see a pretty sunrise. It was in this moment when she turned and looked at me with the realization that I had been on this trail running for over 24 hours.
There were some tears in this stretch and a little barefoot walking. At one point I told Cori that I would rather jump in the Ohio River and swim the Ironman Louisville course three times instead of continuing to run. Having swam the course previously, Cori knew how much misery I was in to make this statement. We still talked about many different things and God Bless Cori for tolerating my whining. I had lost my sparkle and I had started cussing and I wanted a latte.
We spotted the Princeton aid station hut from what seemed like 4 miles away since it took forever to get to. My biggest excitement was seeing a yellow tabby cat on the trail chasing something. This was my high point. We walked up and I saw Ken and I started bawling. The local Sheriff/game warden was taking my picture at this point too, while I was crying. Ken asked me what was wrong and all I could muster up was, "I am hypothermic!" aka really cold. I really would like to see the picture the Sheriff took.
Cori had already text ahead for Ken to start the car and have the heater blasting for me. The aid station gave me a few small squares of a frozen pizza which ended up hitting the spot. That frozen pizza made on a toaster oven in Princeton, KS was my reason for living at that moment.
Ken picked me up and put me in the car. I had arrived at 8:40 am and the cutoff to arrive at the aid station was 9:00 am. I had made it by 20 minutes, which was a little too close for my liking. Ken sat in the car with me and told me that I would have to pick up the pace in order to finish. At this point the worst thing ever would have been for me to stick it out the whole way and miss the cutoff.
I knew I would have to hoof it in order to make it but noon. All I could think about was Ken saying earlier how proud he was every time some big tough man dropped out and his tiny wife was still out there. I knew I had to give it my all to get there. I left the aid station at 8:50 and had 3 hours and 10 minutes to go 7 miles. On any ordinary day, this is no worry, but after running 93 miles already...
I requested a few more hot hands that I could stuff in my groin to keep core temperature warm. I left armed with four hot hands and two were stuffed in my pants. No shame.
Trista and I left Princeton bound for Ottawa. I told her my goal was to run at least one minute a mile and to keep a fast walking pace. She was on board. We talked and laughed and I suddenly realized my attitude was completely different. I was smiling again. I also told her I had hot hands in my groin. That kind of became our theme for the last stretch of the day.
"Hey Trista, I have hot hands in my groin." Trista: "Cool"
I was still a little foggy and swore I saw a truck on the trail. I was a little nervous asking Trista, because what if this wasn't a truck and I am hallucinating, but alas it was. It turns out it was the Sheriff and he was waiting by one of the unmanned water stations. I gave him a big smile and wave and he pulled out his camera and told me he wanted a smiling picture of me since I was crying in the last one. He remarked how I looked like a completely different person.
Trista and I continued on and soon we had 1.5 miles left. Cori text her wandering how far along we were and Trista snapped a picture of me and just sent that to her.
Feeling so much happier at mile 98.5 carrying Ken's man hands gloves!
We saw a Sheriff deputy ride up on a mule thing and ask us how we were doing. He offered words of encouragement. Trista turned and looked at me and said that she feels confident we had met the entire Sheriff department at this point. I just about peed my pants.
We made the turn to get off the isolated trail and run on the portion that was along the road. We saw a semi-truck and Trista asked me if I wanted to make him honk. Um, yeah I do! We gave him the universal sign for honk and our wish was granted. We were laughing like two little kids. About a quarter mile down the trail another semi went by and gave us a honk that was unsolicited. It was silly, but was perfect timing at mile 99.
The last mile came and went and the next thing I knew we were at the sign to make the turn at the finish line. I had told Cori and Trista I wanted them to cross with me, but they insisted I do it alone. Trista stood back and I crossed the finish line and finished a 100 mile run and was in complete and utter shock that I had done it.
Happiness in ever sense of the word
Ken came up and gave me such an amazing hug. I could not believe I had done it. I completed a 100 miler. I wanted to quit so badly, yet I finished.
This is my favorite picture. I am so grateful that the photographer captured this moment.
I was in disbelief and then Cori handed me a latte. A latte that I had been speaking of for the last six hours.
Have you ever seen someone so happy to have received a latte?
I was later informed that the 18 year old barista told Cori that I should not drink a latte after exercising because it would make me sick. He told her he lift weights and he knows best. I told Cori it was a good thing I had not been there because I would have throat punched him. I wanted a latte damn it and what an amazing latte it was.
Standing with Trista and Cori. These ladies are so amazing and I am forever indebted to them.
I do not want to brag, but I have a pretty amazing husband. P.S. I am holding the belt buckle that I earned for finishing a 100 miler. If anyone knows how I can incorporate this into wearing with my scrubs, let me know.
Proudly showing off my new belt buckle
I can say with 100% certainty that if it were not for Ken, Cori, and Trista I would not have finished this race. These three literally kept me going when I did not want to go anymore. They catered to my every need without hesitation even when I was being a whiny baby. They each only slept about an hour over night. Trista and Cori both ran/walked about 25 miles with me, which is no small feet to do especially overnight. The three of them were absolutely selfless during this event and the only one of them that is really obligated to do so is Ken. :)
When we got home I got upstairs with the help of Ken, showered, and fell asleep. I spent the rest of the evening crawling around the house because there was no way I could walk. Ken picked me up and put me on the love seat so I could hang with him downstairs while I iced my legs. While he was getting me some water he said, "Next year when you do this race, I already have plans to do my part better..." Um, you need to slow your roll Ken.
And just for fun, here is a photo of me getting up the stairs on Sunday night:
I was caught mid shuffle going up the stairs and Angel climbed stair by stair with me while Ken was photographing and laughing.
The Prairie Spirit Trail 100 miler was an amazing race put on by a group of wonderful people. Everything was extremely organized and the volunteers were fantastic! Should I ever run another ultra, I would not hesitate to run one put on by this group of people. Thank you to the organizers and volunteers for an amazing race for this first time ultra runner!