26 March 2023


The 2023 Prairie Spirit Trail 100 Miler would be my 14th state with a 100 mile race finish and my 31st 100 mile finish in total. Please visit my YouTube channel to watch the full race video here
I made the11 hour drive to Ottawa, Kansas just south of Kansas City, the site of the race start and finish for this 100 miler that takes runners from Ottawa to Iola and back along a 50-mile rails-to-trails trail. This race would be a challenge of a different kind for me as I am generally attracted to mountain races that give runners plenty of excuses to take walk breaks. Not so in the race that was entirely runnable. I needed to make sure to account for regular walk breaks to prevent an early demise. I decided to take a structured run/walk approach, originally thought up by US marathoner and coach Jeff Galloway to give marathoners a method that would allow them to not only finish their marathon races but to do so in times faster than they thought they could had they run the entire distance. This approach suggests that runners are able to maintain a higher overall pace and expend less effort by taking regular walk breaks. 
Trail and ultrarunners usually take unscheduled walk breaks whenever they encounter a hill too steep to run in order to preserve energy, which is quite similar to the run/walk method, but with one key difference. The Hejj Galloway method is extremely structured, while ultrarunners take walk breaks whenever the terrain dictates.
With this race, that would not suffice as there were zero hills. I decided on an 8 minute run/2 minute walk strategy and to follow it from start to finish. This would be as much mental as physical. Based on my pace estimates, this would get me to the finish line in just over 20 hours and 30 minutes, notwithstanding any aid station stops. 
Luckily, the race organization provided dry camping in a field just outside race headquarters at the start/finish line, so I could sleep in and basically tumble out of my van to the start line. I did into my buddy Walt and we briefly chatted about our plans for the next day as well as our lottery selections in the Tor des Geants 330K in Italy. 
The 6 AM race start required that I carried a headtorch from the start as it would still be dark for close to an hour. This meant I didn't need to pack one in a drop bag. The race allowed quite a few drop bags, but I was determined to only use one larger one with an extra pair of shoes along with some dry layers of clothing if needed. For my other drop bags, I merely used small zip lock bags to hold gels and drink mix that would get me to the next aid station.

Once the race got underway, I settled into my 8/2 run/walk routine. As the race field was rather small, I lost sight of most runners within the first 10K. I felt good with zero issues and the temps and weather were cooperating, nicely.

The biggest challenge for the day would be to stay mentally engaged. I figured I may need to use music to not stay present considering I would basically run 100 flat miles on a fairly straight 50 miles out & back. Surprisingly, keeping an eye and ear on my interval reminders kept me engaged. My overall pace stayed consistent until the second half of the race when I needed to take extra time at a couple of the aid stations in order to catch up on my calories. An unexpected shower made sure I kept moving to keep from getting cold.

I felt like I was slowing down even though I stayed on my run/walk schedule, but I did not let that deter me. I was determined not to walk it in, even though I had plenty of time to finish and my mind tried to convince me that a few hours' difference in my finishing time wouldn't matter. I realized that I was running in the top 5, so I didn't want to drop off my pace too much. At this point, these little challenges to myself are what keep me going. The mind can be a funny thing.

When I finally made it across the finish line after a half-mile sprint thinking I was being chased by another runner (it was actually a street light that I mistook for a headlamp), I was happy to see my finish time, which was under 24 hours (A goal) and just 40 minutes off my predicted finishing time. An all-around good day with only minor issues. Oh yeah, for the first time in more than 10 years, I wore shoes other than Altra. I ran the entire race in a brand-new pair of Hoka Cliftons and only came away with one lost toenail and one little blister. I used my UltrAspire Zygos 5.0 race vest to carry nutrition (Spring Energy Gels and Nuun Electrolytes) along with a windbreaker, gloves, and an extra buff. I also carried my phone and GoPro.

Finally, thanks to an amazing group of volunteers and a race director who did not skimp on the finisher medals, awarding sub 24 hour finishers the biggest buckles I had ever received or even seen, larger than the Cruel Jewel 100 buckle.

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