It’s been 2 years since I ran Heartland 100. The weather was rainy and cool then. It made for good running. This year, the weather was expected to be warm (mid-80s)…hot to be more exact when running all day.
Friday, we had the usual packet pickup, pre-race meeting, and dinner. The dinner was great. After dinner, I went back to my hotel, and prepared my drop bags. I put what I might need at certain aid station, based on a time schedule I had worked out. The most important was the night gear. I figured I would be needing my headlight, and change of clothes at mile 63.5 (Ridge Line aid station).
Saturday, I wake up around 3:15am, and started getting ready… the usual pre-race prep. I get to the start area in plenty of time. The temp was cool, but I could tell it was going to get warm as soon as the sun comes up. I decided then I would just take my 60 oz. hydration pack, and one hand held bottle. Normally, I just take one hand held bottle, and I’m fine on a 100 miler.
Promptly at 6:00am, the RD yells “Go!”…and we’re off into the darkness. My game plan was to start out really slow, no faster than 11 min./mile… and maybe go as slow as 12 min./mile for the first 25 miles. I wanted to keep this pace thru-out the day, then maybe negatives in the night when it got cooler. This time, I didn’t have a goal time to finish, other than just to finish. My focus was to maintain a slow, steady pace thru-out the day, and pick up some time into the cool night.
I reached the first aid station (Battle Creek, 8.2 miles) about 1 hr. 27 min. I was pretty much on pace. My estimated time was 1 hr. 30 min. I knew some hills were coming up…which means some walking. This is the time when the sun comes up, and the scenery is just awesome. I continued with my slow pace looking over the prairies where the buffalos roamed once, it felt great.
I reached the second aid station (Lapland, 16.8 miles) in 2 hrs. 59 min. I was still on pace… the faster side of my estimated pace (ETA 3 hrs. 6 min.). Time is 9 am, and getting warmer. I changed out my long sleeved shirt, and ate some watermelon and salty potatoes. 4 or 5 minutes, and I was on my way again. I’m drinking plenty of water, and taking in salt stick tabs.
Between Lapland and Teterville, there’s a mix of rolling hills and long flat sections, nothing major. I keep on with my steady pace… trying not to push it. I pull in to Teterville (mile 25) in 4 hrs. 40 min. My ETA was 4 hrs. 41 min. Time is now 10:40am… and very warm. I had ran out of water in my hydration pack. I ate a turkey sandwich, some chips, and mtn. dew. I got my hydration pack refilled, grabbed some orange slices, and off I went again. I had soaked my hat with water, but it didn’t take like half mile before it was dry as a bone. The south wind was kicking up now. I’m not crazy about tail wind, and I was getting hot.
Teterville to Texaco is 6.2 miles. Somewhere in the middle of this section, my stomach was beginning to have issues. I took in some ginger chews, thinking that would settle my stomach. I was walking the hills now. For some reason, I was getting a bad feeling. I was struggling abit. I reached Texaco Hill (mile 31.2) in 6 hrs. 17 min., almost 20 min. slower than what I planned. I thought… that’s no biggy. It’s still early, I can make that up in the night. I ate a turkey sandwich, chips, and drank some mtn. dew. It was really getting hot now…close to noon. I took about 10-12 minute break, and took out again.
Texaco to Ridge Line is 5.3 miles. This section has rolling hills and long flat sections, and absolutely no trees nearby. The bad thing about this section is you can see for miles, and seems like you’re not getting anywhere. After a fair amount of walking, I was able to run some parts. I got to Ridge Line (mile 36.5) in 7 hrs. 46 min. I dropped another 26 minutes, so now I was 46 minutes behind schedule. But I thought to myself, I need to not think about time, rather keep a slow, steady pace. So I blocked time out of my mind. At Ridge Line, I took my time in eating some more and refilling my hydration pack. A few runners had caught up with me and took out ahead of me. It’s good not to get caught up in the rush.
Ridge Line to Matfield Green was 6 miles. I estimated about 1 hr. 15 min for this stretch. About a mile coming out of Ridge Line, my stomach went haywire. It felt like bricks. I was walking more and more. I finally made it to Matfield Green (mile 42.5). It took me 2 hrs. Every part of my body was fine, except my stomach. I wanted to run, but my stomach was not liking it. I tried to eat something, but now, nothing was tasting good. Water was not tasting very well either. I took a short break, then headed out towards the turnaround. If only I can reach the midway, I think everything will look up… that was in my mind.
Matfield to Lone Tree (mile 50) was 7.5 miles. My estimate was 1 hr. 30 min. I walked about 7.4 miles of this section. Things were really going south now. I was not feeling good. And it was only my stomach. My legs were feeling fine. I reached Lone Tree (mile 50) in 2 hrs, 15 min. I was now 12 hrs into the race. I had never reached mile 50 in that timeframe before. It’s usually been 9 to 10 hrs. Just about everything negative set in. I took a 30 min. break, and try to eat a hamburger with some sprite.
What worried me more was my night gear was back at Ridge Line (14 miles back), and the sun was about to set. I had no headlight. Fortunately, Lone Tree aid station had a spare headlight that I could use. I was glad for that.
From Lone Tree, it’s a long climb back out for 2 miles. The temps were finally cooling off. I was thinking to myself…this is it…I’m ready to take off and make up time. From Lone Tree back to Matfield, I was able get into a rhythm…a slow jog now and then. But my stomach was still not getting better. I was having a rough time.
Back at Matfield again (mile 57.5), I tried to take in some broth. It was not going down. And water was not tasting good. I had to make myself get up and go to the next aid station (Ridge Line). After a slow start again, I was into a rhythm again… mostly power walking. But more than anything, I was losing strength now, since nothing was going down for the last 10 miles.
I finally reached Ridge Line (mile 63.5). I was now 16 hrs. 52 min. into the race. I have 36.5 miles left. Now the question was… do I continue to walk like I’ve been for the last 26 miles, or do I just hang it up?? It was a tough decision, but I was not about to torture myself again with a “death march”. If I’m not able to run the majority of the race, I’m not continuing. This is my second DNF at a 100 miler. It was a good decision. But there will be another 100 miler.