Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Heartland 100

Our big concern going into the Heartland 100 was the weather.  The race was held on 13 October which you would think would be past the tornado season but as the weekend approached we got some ominous emails from the RD.  Here's one of them:

Just spoke to a meteorologist friend at channel 3 news, he said the current pattern is showing a high possibility of severe weather friday night and into saturday morning. He said as of now any chance of a tornado is well to the west, but high winds, heavy rain and hail are not out of the question. By noon saturday if this pattern holds he said we should be in the clear? Just wanted to give all of you a heads up.
If the chance of a tornado or hail is looming saturday, Kyle and I may have to postpone the 100mile start, but rain and wind are not going to stop anything. Please make sure to be at the pre race briefing on Friday for updates.  Just a heads up, shoot with questions.               ---Tony Clark
Also, looking at the NWS severe weather forecast for the weekend they mentioned the possibility of tornadoes in the SE part of the state, right where we would be running.  So we were facing almost certain rain and a high probability of severe weather including thunderstorms and possibly of hail.  Normally when I see the possibility of these kinds of conditions I don't worry too much because most of the runs I do are through the forest where there are plenty of tall trees to attract the lightning.  But on the plains of Kansas we runners would most often be the tallest thing around!

Despite all of this Liz and I had one of the best pre race sleep ever at the Super 8 in El Dorado.  Unfortunately we had also gotten some extra sleep onThursday night too due to setting both of our alarms for 5:30 pm instead of am.  We overslept until after 7 and though we raced to the airport we were way too late to catch our flight.  This was the first time all year that either of us had missed a flight and we were lucky with Airtran that we could fly standby on any flight later in the day.  In fact, when we got to the ticket counter we were given confirmed seats on the next flight at around 1pm.  We ended up arriving too late for the pre race briefing but got filled in by Paul Shoenlaub while we ate the yummy  home made dinner.  There was roast beast, mac and cheese, and a bunch of other goodies in addition to about 6 kinds of brownies and other sweets.

I looked at the radar when we woke up from our dreamless solid 8 hours of sleep and saw just a bit of rain far off to the NW.  At the start it was quite warm and I once again debated on whether to bring a rain jacket but after what happened last week at Arkansas I decided to wear it. We started off in the dark but there were plenty of people with lights and the roads were easy to see so neither Liz nor I needed a lamp.  We sailed along on the flat roads as the sky brightened and still no real sign of threatening weather.  By mid morning though it was starting to get dark off to the west and we could hear distant thunder.  It got closer with the gap between flash and boom about 9 seconds and then suddenly the flash and boom were only 2 seconds apart.  (I've heard that it takes about 5 seconds longer for the sound to travel a mile than it does the light.)

Pretty soon it was raining pretty good and the wind was also howling pretty good and eventually, at times, it was downright pouring.  The course takes several turns so we had the wind changing from side to side and front to back.  Unlike, Arkansas, though it never did get very cold and though I put on my rain jacket it was really more to keep from getting completely soaked than to keep warm.  In fact, I was really too warm running with the jacket and never did need it to keep warm all the way to the finish.  There is a video taken during the day on Saturday at the Ridgeline aid station that shows the rainy conditions. You can find it here:

We had rain off and on all day.  We had wind all day.  We had very frightening thunderstorms for a time just before mid day.  Most of the lightening was cloud to cloud though there were visible ground strikes and one of them was only about 1/2 mile from me.  It felt very exposed out there and I felt very small and vulnerable.  At the same time I must say that the Flint Hills, what we could see of them, were very beautiful.  There are not many trees and the hills are gentle and rolling but the scenery had an appeal much like a desert landscape, beautiful in it's starkness.  I really enjoyed this run and could see doing it again.

My run was going well to the turnaround and I was really actually happy with the weather knowing that I do a lot better with the cooler conditions and that if it was hot and dusty I would have to go slower.  I hit the turnaround at around 10 hours and 30 minutes and felt good about getting a sub 24 hour finish.  I saw Liz about a mile or so after the turnaround and she looked good saying something like "Another one in the bag" with a smile, meaning that nothing was going to stop her finishing this one.  I continued on saying 'Hi' to the many friends running the race and managed to get to about 64 miles before I had to turn on my light.  The sky was starting to clear but there was no moon and it was too dark to run lightless even with the smooth roads.

I continued to move well into the 75 mile aid station where the 50 milers had their turnaround after starting at 6pm.  It was probably about midnight at this point and I passed many runners head on, on their way to the turnaround.  I expected that many of these runners would soon be passing me but few ever did.  I was also passing other 100 milers who were slowing down as the night wore on.  I never felt sleepy and continued to run what felt a strong and steady pace.  This is a course made for fast times as the footing is always good and the hills are often just enough to give you a variation on what muscle groups you use rather than tiring you out with long hills.  I did some calculating and realized that sub 24 was in the bag and that sub 23 was a probability and as I continued on feeling strong I realized at the final aid stations that I might squeak under 22.

I ended up crossing the line in 21:50 which I was quite pleased with especially since that meant that I had only run 50 minutes slower on the second half than I did on the first half which is really good, especially after having a race the previous weekend.  So while I may not have been fast at least I was consistent. This race also tied me with Hans Dieter's male record for most 100's in a year.  Liz came in 3 hours later in 23:50 for a nice sub 24.  We hung out for a while and gathered our nice belt buckles and a cool black hoody with the Hearland logo and "Sub Twenty Four Hour Finisher" across the back.  We were to fly out of Wichita the next morning so we arranged for a room near the airport, and talked the clerk into letting us check in early to get some sleep.  We rested for a while and then I took the rental car to the airport to save us a days rental taking the shuttle back to the hotel.

Our flight home was uneventful and we were both happy with our runs.  This is a great race for a really fast time.  The weather should be better than what we had and the course is really fast.  The wind was an issue to some degree but the course zigs and zags enough that it doesn't seem that bad.  The aid stations are top notch with many of them staffed by seasoned runners and the race organization went of perfectly.  Thanks to Tony, Kyle and all the volunteers!

The following weekend I would be attending my sister's wedding in Florida and Liz would be heading to Utah for the crew-mandatory Pony Express 100.  The weekend after that will be the Javelina 100 where I will break the male record getting my 21st and Liz will hit her 30th for the year.

Race count:  Liz (28)  Scott (20)


  1. I loved that event. Would definitely like to go back and revisit the Flinthills. Such stark beauty much like the desert as you said. I've never felt more alone and isolated in a 100 mile race (even more than Hardrock) than I did running at night there; just me and the cows for hours on end as I was an hour behind the next runner in front and an hour ahead of the next behind. Also they used to start the 50 miler at the same time as the 100 so they were all long done by the time you come back through 75! Great job to you both!