Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Bigger Piece of the Sky

This pic is of the aid station looking calm - you can't see the 30+mph sustained winds that even blew over the porta potty.

A week of big miles was capped off yesterday when a fellow Trail Hawk and I drove out to the Flint Hills to assist with an aid station in the Heartland 100 race. My running week had started with an easy 10 on Sunday, followed by some easy 4,6, and 8, mi runs for the rest of the week. On most runs now my knee hurts intermittently as I go along. The hyaluronic acid shots are wearing off right on schedule, and the kneecap with its dead cartilage is beginning to bare its teeth again. I did schedule surgery for November 29. That date will allow me to miss the ugly running months of Dec-Feb as I take the three month recuperation schedule that is advised post-surgery. Rather than looking at November 29th as the day I give up running, I prefer to look at it as the day I take up swimming. Since I live smashed up against an Olympic-size pool, I can use the 90 days to become more proficient at swimming. I plan to knock out as many miles as I can prior to that date, then paddle for a few months before coming roaring back to the trails and roads in the Spring.

So anyway, after a good week of running, my fellow Hawk, Jacob, and I drove out to a desolate intersection in the Flint Hills where we ran into Trail Hawk, Gary Henry and a couple named Phil and Stacy who are ultra-types as well. In sustained winds of over 30 mph, we managed to set up a couple of tents with rain flys. The first tent held the kitchen and food. We had hot vegan chili and potato soup, chicken ramen, sloppy joes, and an assortment of pb&j, crackers, cookies, candy, soft drinks, sports drinks, wipes, and first aid paraphernalia. The second tent held the runners drop bags.

The race had over 100 entrants for the 100 mile event, and around 50 for the 50 mile run that never made it as far out as our aid station. We were located at mile 36 on the 100 mile race's way out, and at mile 64 on the loop back. It was an unbelievable day, with runners and support teams showing up at all hours, rain coming and going, wind strong enough to topple the porta potty (thankfully it fell over backwards, so it didn't spill the ummm, honey, all over the interior), and our small crew trying to satisfy everyone's needs even as we kept track of who was checking in and out, how they looked, and what suplies were needed to help them finish.

It was a nutty day that began for Jacob and me at 6:30 a.m., and did not finish until 3 a.m. the next morning when I finally fell into my bed back in Lawrence.

This pic shows the 2 leaders about 2 minutes apart on the way out at mile 36

Cow Juxtaposed Against the Sky

I should point out that I had always wanted to stop and walk, run, or ride across the hills where we were situated. Every time I drive from Lawrence to Wichita, I have always found this particular area to be beautiful. Late in the afternoon, after most of the runners had passed through the station on their way out, and before any had come through on the return, Jacob and I got to change into running gear and head out for a run under the big sky. Honestly, it was one of the thrills of my running life. I love gravel, sky, and hills, and even the (comparatively) short run was a grand moment.

Looking down the road in the other direction

Finally, I awoke too late this morning to actually get up and see the Bern Nash Dash, but I popped downtown as soon as I could get my eyes open and some coffee down the hatch. My running buddy, Chris Ford, had gutted it out to grab 4th in the 10k race's second year. He and my friend (and his wife), Marisa hung out and listened to the bands play while we waited for the awards - Chris happened to have finished first in his age category as well, so he picked up a little hardware. We had outdoor massages, a Freestate beer, an organic apple, and then parted ways so that I could go home and tackle an overabundance of leaves in my lawn, and they could get on with their collective day.

Here's a pic of Chris crossing the finish line at the end of the brutally hilly Nash Dash 10k.

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