Hawk 100 - An epic 27 hour 100 mile trail run journey in Kansas.
It's a quiet & calm night back in central Nebraska, perfect night to contemplate the last 3 days. Today started at 5 am in Lincoln after my Mom, Kiera and I made the trip back up from Clinton Lake in eastern Kansas. I had none of the falling asleep problems last night in Lincoln that I am having tonight back home. I was 100% completely drained and out cold by 7:30 Sunday night. What gave that bed such a strong hold on me was the events of the previous 48 hours in Kansas.
At 8:57 AM on Sunday I ran under this red LED clock and steal framed portable finisher arch with two people who using the word friends seems like such an understatement. The word "pacer" is what's most often used to describe the amazing people who do everything in their power to get you to be able to run, walk or crawl under that hanging red LED clock at the Finish line. They not only gave this weekend but many many weekends for the past month to be trained and ready for this challenge. Hours and hours of running and training and reading and gaining knowledge to help a friend reach a dream. When the three of us crossed that finish line it was the end of the most epic 27 hours of life.
The Hawk 100 mile trail race is 4 loops around a 25 mile trail that is mostly rocks and roots with a little prairie run mixed in. Complete all 4 loops, get a 100 miler Finisher belt buckle. I was more committed to getting that belt buckle than I can begin to describe. It was not just to have the prize in my hand, I wanted the journey. I wanted the highs and the lows. I wanted to work through all of them and come out the on other side. I wanted to prove that I had worked hard enough and am strong enough to overcome every challenge that 100 miles of trails and 27 hours of running throws at you. I owe every bit of holding that buckle in my hands to my 2 pacers Mike and Travis & my entire support crew: My mom, Suzi, Kiera, Kelsey, Aaron & everyone else who was around that day both at the race and online, keeping me going.
Just about 5 hours before running under that red LED clock and holding that buckle I sat in a chair 12 miles from it. It was 4:00 am and I was doing everything I could to not fall asleep. I had a double shot espresso can of Starbucks drink in 1 hand and a cup of soup in the other. I had a blanket wrapped around me that I'm sure Aaron loved the smell of when he got it back. Mike and I had just finished the 3 mile loop on bunker hill in about an hour. My body was shot as I sat there, I had fallen asleep while running 3 times on the stretch back from the hill to that chair. I told myself in that chair that you've hit all your lows. The rest was going to be better. Before the falling asleep episodes; my pacer Mike had been guiding me through both dry heaving and gagging as we worked our way around Cactus ridge. He kept his patience with me as I complained about the severe pain in my right foot. I asked him around 84 to let me lie on the the road for 5 minutes when we crossed it at mile 85. He said he thought that was a good idea and I think we both had our conversations with God as I lied on that cool road 85 miles down and 15 to go. 5 minutes passed by like 5 seconds and we made our way to the cactus ridge rocky and hilly trail. This is just the tip of the iceberg of what Mike went through that day to get me to that buckle.
listening to the Huskers game, talking about family and anything else that came to our minds. For all the lows there were many highs. Through every part of the 27 hours I never lost sight of the fact that this is what I wanted to be doing. I was in my element, on trails working through stuff. To me, that is living. I was always choosing to stay out there, not just for the buckle but because in the moment, that is where I wanted to be.
When Mike & I began the 3rd loop at mile 75 we had already overcome quite a bit. I had a severe pain in my foot that I thought was an open blister while running. Suzi helped us figure out it was a nerve thing that must have happened when I hit a rock hard. We stopped at mile 75 and I changed shoes to try and reduce the pain. That stop at mile 75 Suzi did all my medical checks and rubbed down my hamstrings, calves and shoulders with bio freeze. Simple tasks proved too hard for me as I spilled an entire route 44 cherry lime aide in my lap. We spent a great deal of time at that stop but I believe it helped a lot.
The miles before that aid station were the slowest and hardest of the day. Every step sent crazy amounts of pain to the middle of my foot. I don't know how Mike kept my mind from thinking about the fact that I had to do that part of the trail again with legs more tired, and even worse pains. Those lows weren't the whole loop together though. We had some good miles rolling through trails that him and I had run 6 weeks earlier in preparation of this day. The time we spent on all these trails just running and having a good time is what I'll cherish from this journey.
Before Mike came in at mile 50 I was running most of the 2nd loop by myself. Seeing my mom and Kiera at every aid station all day long was the biggest key to these miles. Their smiles and encouragement always brought so much light to every stop. I felt most of lap 2 went pretty good. The one takeaway from lap 2 would be to eat more calories early when my stomach can still handle it.
Lap 1 was filled with calming nerves at the beginning and then having some great conversations with the guy who would go on to be the overall winner. It was great to gain knowledge from him and meet another Nebraska trail runner. The comradely and support at ultra-running events always astonishes me. Everyone is so very kind and supportive and want to whatever you can for your fellow runner.
So let's go back to sitting in that chair at 4am with the Starbucks and cup of soup. It was almost daylight, I had talked myself up for this last part. I told my crew I'd see them at the finish line and my new fresh pacer Travis and I made our way into the woods. I took the lead without any thought as to if that was going to be good or not. Turns out it worked pretty well. I knew Travis was as fresh as can be and these first few miles were the most run-able of the remaining 12. We seemed to roll through the first couple with many different conversations. Having someone fresh come in with me I believe helped me want to keep rolling through the trails for him to get some miles in. Before I knew it the sun was coming up and the head lamps were going off and we made our way to the final aid station.
I had a cup of ramen noodles and some soda. Travis had me load up some nutrition for the last stretch. He had me eat a honey stinger ginger snap waffle which tasted amazing at about mile 95. The miles after 95 were seeming to go by so slow. We decided to text the group when there was 3 miles left. We got to that point and I kept going in and out of running too hard to walking then back to running too hard. I learned hours ago that running actually hurt a lot less then walking; it was just about finding the right rhythm. With all the rocks and roots In these last miles that rhythm thing kept proving more and more difficult. Finally around 98 I was able to lock it in and get after the finish. I saw Mike as we were about out of the trails for the final half a mile. It was so amazing to be able to run in with him after all he put into this race. The 3 of us turned out of the trails for the final stretch. The most overwhelming amount of mixed emotions came over me as I just ran as hard as I could to the finish line.
Witnessing a crew with the passion and heart to get me to the finish was eye opening. Putting everything they've got into helping a friend, a son, a husband or a dad grab a hold of a dream that once slipped away. Then, once having it close, not letting him let it go during the hardest of miles and biggest of struggles. Staying up over night and getting to every aid station to make sure he can bring that belt buckle home. I am so very grateful for the support of my pacers, crew the volunteers and the amazing race directors, Sherrie & Justin. To do amazing things, you must surround yourself with amazing people.
I started that Saturday morning wanting to prove something to myself, I finished with new visions for myself of where I want to be as a person. Happy Trails.