Friday, October 15, 2010

My Heartland Experience by Christy Scott

My Heartland Experience by Christy Scott
October 9-10, 2010

After running the Heartland 100 VERY slowly in 2009 (29 hrs, 30 minutes), I decided to try again in 2010, with hopes of breaking 24 hours and finish in the top 5 women. I trained very hard for several months leading up to this race, with weekly mileage peaking at 91 miles about three weeks out from race day. I worked extremely hard on cleaning up my diet and being consistent with my running so that I would be in peak physical and mental condition. I dropped approximately 20 pounds from June to October with this strict plan and felt awesome! I ran several races to prepare for Heartland, including the Bartlett Park 50k in hot, humid, Memphis about four weeks out from the race. My training also included back to back long runs almost every weekend, as well as lots of training runs out in the middle of the hot, Alabama summer days, which paid off on race day. The weather for 2009’s race was cold and windy, to say the least. It was miserable. Layers upon layers of clothes were worn the entire time and the wind was brutal! 2010 brought about a new challenge with temps predicted to be in the lower 80’s. Well, they were close. Upper 80’s was what we actually got. Because of the heat training that I did all summer long, it was not detrimental to me or my performance.

The morning of the race was absolutely beautiful. The temps were around 50 degrees and the black sky was filled with stars. It was perfect. I started out in shorts, a sleeveless top, gloves and a very light Brooks jacket, just to keep the chill off and block the wind if there was any. When we were given the “Go!” at 6 AM, I was ready to roll. I started out with no headphones so that I could enjoy the quiet, early morning beauty of the Flint Hills of Kansas. This place is amazing. It was very dark, so our headlamps were on and lighting our way along the gravel roads. After about an hour of running in quiet, I decided to turn on my audio book that I had downloaded onto my Ipod. I had chosen a sort of “Self improvement” book to give me positive vibes along the first 42.5 miles that I would be doing alone. This proved to be an excellent idea. The book gave me such energy and enthusiasm, that I kept having to remind myself to slow down. I looked down at my Garmin several times to find myself running a 9 minute mile. Not bad for a marathon, not great for a 100 miler. So, I continually reminded myself to stay closer to the 10 minute pace.

One of my absolute favorite things about the 2009 Heartland race was the amazing sunrise and sunsets that they get to experience in the Flint Hills. Words cannot describe this amazing sight. Pictures don’t even do it justice. The sky begins to light up in reds and oranges, then when the sun breaks the horizon, WOW!

This site struck such awe in me last year, that I insisted that this be an important highlight of my Heartland 100 tattoo that I got back in February of this year to commemorate my first 100 miler. Thanks to my friend and pacer, Robert, for taking such great pictures for me. He really was in tune with what I was looking for, as far as capturing the moments of the race for me.

This year, I was determined to do everything right, so I began by eating every hour. I used various things, like PB&J sandwiches, cheese tortilla wraps, pretzels, peanut M&M’s, and tons of Honey Stinger electrolyte/energy chews. I drank the entire time as well. I knew that with the heat that was coming on, hydration would be of utmost importance. So far, so good. This is the first ultra that I have ever done where I had no stomach issues at all. Hallelujah!!!

I first got to see my crew, which as of right now, consisted of Stuart and Robert at mile 16.8 at approximately 9 AM. Judy would be coming along later in the day to join me in the early evening segment. The weather was awesome and I was feeling good at this point. The guys had my stuff ready for me and filled my bottle quickly to get me back on course. It was so smooth and fast that I was back on the course in a matter of minutes. They really did a great job for me and I can’t imagine doing a race like this without them.

I continued on, feeling great and keeping ahead of the anticipated schedule. I was able to see my crew again at miles 25 and 36.5, which was always a welcome relief. Seeing friendly faces and having them assure me that I was having a great race was so helpful. At mile 42.5, my first pacer was able to join me. Stuart took this section, as it is long and challenging, and he is a very experienced runner. It is a 15 mile section with lots of hills. We started this section at 1:53 PM, approximately 1 hour ahead of schedule. It was getting pretty warm out, but training in the Alabama heat and humidity all summer really helped me tremendously. Stuart and I hit the 50-mile turnaround at 9 hours and 15 minutes. This was my fastest 50 mile time ever. I was really excited now! During this section, I went back and forth a couple of times with the woman who eventually won the race.

The next section was run with Robert. He came up from Oklahoma City to help me with this endeavor, and I was very grateful for it. This section was a little shorter, 6 miles to be exact. The heat was at its worst at this time. We still ran a good pace and were still an hour ahead of schedule when we came into the next crew stop.

The next section, which was 11.5 miles, was run with Judy. She is one of my running buddies from my old stomping grounds in Kansas. The sun began to go down during our section, so we turned on the headlamps. Judy and I ran across a rattlesnake on the road, which woke us both up very quickly, although he was no threat at all. We came into the next crew stop at mile 74.9 at 9:15 PM, a full hour and a half ahead of schedule. Things were going still going well.

Robert was up next again, with an 8.2 mile section ahead of us. It was completely dark now and much cooler. We both welcomed the cooler temps and continued on our way, staying ahead of schedule the entire time. We saw another snake on the course, although he wasn’t moving very quickly considering the cool weather. It was during this section that I dropped back from 2nd female to 3rd female. Robert could tell that this bothered me, but he kept things positive and assured me that 3rd place was mine. I was happy with that, although you never like getting passed this far into the game. I knew that she looked much stronger than I did at this point and that I would likely not be able to catch her again. I was having pain in my lower left leg, although it was nothing like the pain I went through in the 2009 race. We maintained a fast walking pace, then tried to run short sections here and there. He encouraged me to try and run whenever I could, even though I sometimes only ran for 20-30 seconds at a time. I decided that at the next crew stop/aid station, that I would change socks and put on my compression socks to alleviate some of the pain and swelling that was going on. This was the last section of the race and I was so pumped up about being so close to the end.

Stuart took over the duties at this point, which was mile 83.1 in the race. He would continue on with me to finish the race. By this point, there was no more running. I was happy to be able to maintain a fast walk though, as last year, all I could manage was a stumble. This is by far, the hardest section of the race, mentally. You are physically tired, mentally exhausted and sleep deprived. Add that to the fact that I was in moderate pain and it is not a great situation. The thing that kept my spirits up was that we were so closed to finishing and that I was actually not only going to meet my goal of breaking 24 hours, but would actually break 23 hours and finish in the top 3 females! I had hoped to be in the top 5, so this was so exciting for me. I tried to keep the tears from coming and managed to do fairly well. As anyone who has done this race will tell you, the last 3 miles or so is miserable. You can see the lights from the finish line, but you never seem to get there. The thing about Kansas is that even though there are lots of hills on the course, there are sections, like this one, that are completely flat, enabling you to see for miles and miles. Very disheartening when you’re trying to get to a finish line. When we finally turned the final corner to get to the finish, I was overwhelmed. I was so tired, but so very excited at the same time. I crossed the finish, walked around for a minute, then went a laid down in the tent that they had set up with a nice, warm heater in it. As you can see, it only took me a very short while to be dozing off.

Stuart and Robert managed to wake me and get me moving again so that we could get home. I know they were exhausted as well. My left lower leg was now swollen and bruised and very hard to move. I had blisters only on the insides of my big toes, which was a pleasant surprise, considering the terrain of the course. Now, 4 days later, there is still swelling and a little tenderness, but it gets a little better each day. I hope to be running again within the next few days. The results of the race are listed below. I ended up finishing 3rd female, 14th overall with a time of 22:56:58. There were 98 starters, and 55 that finished. The heat took its toll on a lot of runners on this day. Will I do another 100 miler? Well, of course I will.  Thank you so much to Stuart, Robert and Judy. You guys are awesome and you made this possible for me. I owe you big time!

Heartland Spirit of the Prairie 100 Mile
Cassoday KS October 9, 2010

Place / First / Last / City / State / Gender / Age / Time
6 Susan Lance Whitesburg GA F 50 20:22:59
10 Tara Tosta Carrollton TX F 37 21:39:46
14 Christy Scott Owens Cross Roads AL F 37 22:56:58