This is our new friend,Tom Lane’s story – thanks for sharing it with us! What a remarkable accomplishment!!!
In October of 2009 two weeks prior to my first marathon, I approached Mike Rush and told him I wanted more than just a marathon. I wanted to run an Ultra Marathon, 100 miles. Mike understood, but he encouraged me to just “get through” the marathon and then we could discuss what it would take to run one of these unimaginable distances.
I ran my marathon exactly as planned. When I got back from DC, I bought my first pair of trail shoes, the Brooks Cascadia 4.
My first trail run hooked me for the rest of my running days. Mike Rush, Ryan Holler, Dave Wilgus, Drew Conner, Jeff Genova and I headed out on what has now been deemed the only true “Goat Run!” On that beautiful morning at Lake Leatherwood, I experienced wildlife both dead and alive, machinery in the form of a 5’10”, 2 legged, bull-dozing speed demon, a bobcat attack in the form of a thorn covered bush, trail running where there are not trails and best of all a camaraderie like I had never experienced before.
Over the next several months I completed four more marathons, some of which had better results than others. Each one, while they had dramatically different results, had incredible learning’s. Most importantly, I learned that the trails are where I wanted to be. Finally, on April 14th while going through all of my options for an Ultra Marathon, I made up my mind to just do it. That evening, I
signed up for the Lean Horse 50, the Bartlett Parks 50 and the Heartland 100.
In July, I had my first real exposure to Ultra Running at the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run. Another hook was set deep to this killer sport. I again learned many things that I could use to help me be successful in my attempt at becoming an Ultra Runner. I was also exposed to the Ultra community and a camaraderie amongst competitors that was not really about competition. This camaraderie was about the success of the sport and about each individual achieving their goals through the efforts of the group.
My training plan for my race on October 9th and 10th began with a flexible plan to run 4 days a week based on how I was feeling. Wednesday’s were set for a short run just to keep the fluids moving.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday were set to be back to back to back long runs. My longest training week based on my training plan was set for 65 miles. The two 50 mile races were incorporated into my training plan in the last 6 weeks prior to the Heartland ending with a 3 week taper. For the most part, I was able to maintain my training plan. I incorporated a couple of overnight long runs on the weekends as well. Part of the training plan focused on what types of food, hydration, electrolytes and supplements I needed to sustain my performance. This was probably my biggest area of concern and quite honestly I didn’t ever feel like I figured it out. During my first 50, I started cramping at mile 44 after running out of water due to an aid station being 7 miles apart late in the race. During the second 50, I took
too many supplements close together and paid the price with a bloated stomach for 10 miles.
I traveled to Cassoday, KS on Friday October 8th for packet pick up, the pre-race meeting and dinner. We had plans to camp out at the El Dorado State Park campground because they had showers, a necessity for after race refreshing. When we arrived we found out that the El Dorado State Park had 10 cabins for rent for only 20-30 dollars per
night. Unfortunately, there were no cabins available, so we set up camp and headed to check-in and the pre-race dinner. The pre-race dinner was a home cooked meal consisting of shredded beef, chicken breast, coleslaw, new potatoes, green beans, pasta salad, bean salad, homemade bread and lots of different brownie desserts. The food was fantastic. We headed back to camp to get to bed early in preparation for a long race. Shannon, my pacer, was traveling over to meet us at camp. He ended up arriving around 11:30 pm. I got up to welcome him and Jody and talk through last minute plans. What the heck, I couldn’t sleep anyway. I finally got to sleep around 1:00 or so with a plan to get up and take a shower at
My alarm sounded off promptly at 4:30 am. I got up immediately, drank an Ensure, and headed for the shower. After my shower, I drank a grape Powerade and began race preparations. I wore my Brooks Notch shorts, Injinji socks, Brooks Cascadia 5’s, Augusta Rush Goat shirt, a Nike DriFit hat, Moben Eco sleeves, red skull Dirty Girl gators and a Nathan waste pack. I also lubed up with Skin Strong Slather under my arms, on my chest, around my waist (previously chaffed due to waist pack during second 50 mile race) and the other necessity areas. I checked in and dropped off my over-thought out drop bags containing all that I would need for the day even though I had a crew that would be at each of the stations I was leaving a bag (just in case). I filled my Ultimate Direction 20 ounce bottles with ice-cold water and put an Orange/Ginger NUUN tab in one bottle. I carried two Blueberry Pomegranate Roctane’s and two Chocolate Outrage Gu’s in the pockets of my Notch Shorts. I also carried a pack of lemon Powergels and a couple of Jolly Rancher’s in the Amphipod pouch I borrowed from Jeff. Lastly, I made sure my Garmin 310XT was linked to the satellites and ready for a long day.
The countdown began and promptly at 6:00 am the race began. From there the rest is history. JK! I ran for the first hour in the dark seeing only what the headlamps of other runners illuminated, as I did
not want to wear a headlamp to start the race. Over the first 10 miles, the pace seemed to be about where I had planned. The first aid station was unmanned, so I passed without stopping. That would be the
case throughout the race with unmanned aid stations. The water was warm and the snacks were limited and ultimately unappealing. I arrived at the 16.8 mile aid station (Lapland) to my crew’s surprise
about 25 minutes ahead of my race plan. Shannon, Stacey and Jody all gave me grief about being too fast and that it was a long race. At that point, I had eaten some potatoes and salt, cookies, cheese nips,
a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, watermelon, Roctane, Gu, a half of a pack of lemon Powergels and one “S tab” per hour. I was alternating fuel on the hour and “S tabs” on the half hour (“S tabs at 6:30, 7:30. 8:30).
The next 9 miles were slowed by a series of rolling hills, most of which seemed to be more uphill than downhill. The temperature was beginning to warm up making the thought of running through the heat of the day not a good one. I started to think about conserving my energy with extended walks and not pushing to hard, as I knew there was a lot of race still to be run. I arrived at the 25 mile aid station (Teterville) right on time based on my expected pace chart feeling pretty good. My fuel intake consisted mainly of potatoes, Pringles and a peanut butter and jelly. I slowed my Gu and Roctane intake trying to protect my weak stomach. I continued my “S tab” intake at one per hour and I was averaging about 40 ounces of fluid intake every 10 miles.
By the 36.5 mile aid station (Ridge Line) I was about 20 minutes behind my pace chart. I continued to conserve my pace as the heat of the day was now upon us. I continued to limit my Gu and Roctane
intake and was using salted potatoes, Pringles and other “regular” food items to provide my fuel intake. As the day was progressing, my stomach was becoming more and more sensitive and in many cases I was on the verge of losing my lunch, if you know what I mean.
By the 42.5 mile aid station (Matfield Green) I was nearly an hour off my original race plan and advised my crew that I was going to befollowing the 25 hour pace chart from here on out. Just prior to
getting to the aid station, I took an “S tab.” Almost immediately I stepped off the trail and almost threw up. Now I was confused with what to do with fueling. I continued to conserve on my way to the aid
station mainly because I didn’t feel good, it was hot, and I was extremely concerned with my ability to finish what I had started. To be feeling this way, this early in the race was extremely frustrating.
I sat down in a chair at the aid station and told my crew about my concerns. I asked Stacey to get Jeff on the phone. I needed his advice on what to do because nothing I was trying was working. After
describing my situation, Jeff advised to get a handful of potatoes with lots of salt and then try to slow the “S tabs” for the next hour or so. The only good thing that came out of that aid station was that
we were allowed to pick up our pacers. Based on the race paperwork, I thought we could not have our pacer until the way back at 57.5. That news gave me some hope. While at the aid station, I placed my second watch on my right wrist because I had planned to change out watches at 50 miles but didn’t want to put a watch in a drop bag. Shortly after leaving the aid station, Shannon wanted to engage in some deep conversation as we have dramatically different political beliefs. He said to me, “I voted for Obama.” I quickly responded, “So did I.” Nothing further was said. I wasn’t in the mood and I wasn’t feeling
well, so an engaging conversation was not on my list of solutions. Some where around mile 48 I experienced the most pivotal moment of the race: Shannon was working hard to get me to move forward at a pace faster than a walk; he was trying to get me to run! The nerve! Needless to say, I was not cooperating. Somewhere mid-sentence, my left calf locked up and then my right. I was completely stuck in the
middle of the road and I couldn’t move. I was telling Shannon to pull up on my toes. He said to lay down on my back and he knew how to stretch my calves. So, I laid down on my back in a small patch of
grass on the side of the road and Shannon put one of my legs on his shoulder and pulled down on my toes. He switched legs and as he pulled down on my toes, my quad locked up. The words that began to
come out of my mouth were filled with fear of failure, disappointment, frustration, anger, confusion, etc. Sitting on the side of the road not sure what to do, Shannon said that he thought that I needed to
take 4 “S tabs.” I argued back that the last one I took made me sick. While trying to make my argument, it occurred to me that my options were limited. I could either sit there on the side of the road and
give up and hope that my cramps would be miraculously healed or I could try to take the “S tabs” which might make me sick but might help my cramps go away. I took 3 tabs with lots of water and started
walking down the road to the turnaround. About 30 minutes later Shannon said to take 3 more, which I did. 30 minutes later he had me take 2 more. My cramps had slowly begun to subside as I got to the
50-mile aid station (Lone Tree).
At the aid station, I took enough time to eat a hamburger and drink several glasses of Heed. Shannon and I walked out of the aid station up the hill. By the time we reached a downhill, I felt good enough to
run. Over the next 6 miles I was able to run the downhill’s with more consistency. I began taking two “S tabs” every hour. I also started to fuel more consistently with Roctane and Gu on the hour every hour.
I could feel an immediate uplift that lasted approximately 40 minutes after taking either Gu product.
When I arrived at the 57.5 mile aid station, I was still not feeling good but I was better than the past 15-20 miles. Jeff Genova had finally arrived and he was on a payback mission. He didn’t want to
hear my excuses; he wanted me to eat whether I wanted to or not. I did what he asked even though I didn’t like it. I changed my injinji socks to full-length compression socks to help manage any cramping
flare-ups. I also changed to a fresh pair of Cascadia’s and a new shirt as the sun had finally gone down and my original shirt was soaked. Lastly, I picked up my Petzl Myo XP headlamp. I also made the
decision to stop drinking the NUUN, because I was tired of the taste and I was getting plenty of electrolytes between the Gu and the “S tabs.”
By the mile 63.4 aid station (Ridge Line), I was feeling much better. I had stabilized my stomach by drinking water only, taking two “S tabs” per hour, and alternating Gu and Roctane every hour. At this
point I had minimized my “regular” food intake and was relying on supplements, but Jeff talked me into trying the famous “Prairie Pellets.” (Beans and weanies) They were great, but they did not sit
well and I would not advise in the future.
By the time I made it to the 74.9 mile aid station (Teterville), I was feeling much better. Running was more the norm than walking. My spirits had dramatically improved and I finally saw myself finishing
without question. As I sat in the chair at the Teterville, I was ready to go but my pacer was nowhere to be found. Finally, Shannon showed up but wasn’t ready to go. I gave him a hard time and began
walking down the road slowly so that he could catch up once he was finally ready.
About 3 or 4 miles out of Teterville, Shannon and I were moving along pretty well. At one point I started to see these fluorescent web-like strings floating toward me just above my head. I asked Shannon if he
knew what they were. When he didn’t know what I was talking about, I became excited that I was fully cognoscente of a hallucinogenic moment. Shannon did his best to discount what I was seeing as a
result of passing below power lines. I liked my idea better and truly believe I had a unique experience induced by what, I do not know. AWESOME!!!
Before I knew it, I was at the mile 83.1 aid station (Lapland). My spirits again were high. We had arrive before we were expected and my customary whistle as I was coming into the aid station to identify my
arrival fell on deaf ears as two of the three were still sleeping. Again I was in rare form, giving my pacer and crew grief and having fun with the aid station crew. As Shannon and I left the aid station,
I turned off my headlamp and asked Shannon to turn his off as well. The sky was absolutely amazing. One of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen! We walked for nearly a quarter of a mile without light
other than the stars because the moon was a new moon (no moon). As I turned my headlamp back on I realized that my crew forgot to put my “S tabs” in the pocket of my water bottle. Shannon, the stud that he is, ended up running back up to the aid station to find the crew gone. He bummed some tabs off someone at the station and ran back to catch up with me.
The next 8 miles seemed like they would never end. It seemed like it was all up hill. As I thought back to the start of the race I remembered why I got to my first crewed aid station 25 minutes early (all downhill). We finally pulled into the 91.7 aid station with a surprise from a well-hidden game camera. I enjoyed a fantastic cup of homemade chicken broth and a warm cheese and bacon quesadilla. I
asked the aid station crew if they had any extra “S tabs” because I had run out. They had two that someone had left there as extras. As she poured them into my hand, I looked at runner sitting in one of the
chairs wrapped up in a blanket and not looking so good. I asked him how he was feeling and if he had taken any “S tabs” or electrolytes. He said that he ran out a while back. I handed him the “S tabs” and a
couple of NUUN tabs and told him good luck. Shannon and I hit the road again for the final 8.3 miles of the race.
My pain slowly began to fade, my spirits continued to improve and I found myself enjoying looking for headlamps in the distance. As we passed one headlamp, another would appear and my pace would pick up. There were several points when I would look down at my watch to see an 8:15 pace, a 7:57 pace, etc. I remember running past a group of three runners and overheard them say, “Now that makes me want to run.” Other runners would comment that I looked strong and would offer up words of encouragement as we passed by. As we turned the corner a little less than a half-mile from the finish line, I could hear the crowd begin to cheer. My heart began to race; my mind began to unleash any and all emotions. I struggled to maintain composure as I approached the finish line with strength and confidence. I saw my
wife and the sense of relief in her eyes that it was finally over. Clearly, this was one of the most memorable moments of my life!
Overall, this was a great first race. For a first 100 mile try, the course was relatively moderate. Don’t let the idea of the race running through the prairie grass of Kansas fool you though. The course footing and the rolling hills can be extremely challenging. I have run on many difficult trails with rocks and stumps that don’t hold a candle to the difficulty of the footing on many of the dirt roads of this race. One of the sorest parts of my body was just above my ankles on the front of my shins due to all of the unevenness and extremely rocky terrain. The footing was extremely challenging and frustrating. The small elevation gain on this course can also be deceiving. A significant portion of the course was made up of continuous rolling hills that always seemed to be more uphill than downhill. It was extremely difficult to get into any type of rhythm making the run / walk process extremely difficult to manage. The manned aid stations were awesome. Each station had plenty of choices that allowed a runner to keep the tastes from getting boring. The aid station crews were very accommodating and worked hard to deliver the most difficult of requests. They were awesome. The unmanned stations left something to be desired. The water was warm with no ice and the fuel selection was limited at best. Lastly, the people were great, extremely supportive and encouraging. I am extremely thankful for Shannon, Stacey, Jodi and Jeff for supporting me in this crazy endeavor as my pacer and my crew. I am also extremely grateful for my running community (The Rush Clan) and the support they provide on a daily basis. I look forward to many years of running in the “Slow Lane!”