“All” 50+ Miles? Not so fast.

It’s been a while, blog. Let’s make this quick. Frequency > volume. I’ll use the Six Ws. In a single sentence, then a bit of exposition.

I ran almost all 50+ miles of the Prairie Spirit Trail from Ottawa to Iola on Saturday as a race-substitute training run for the AT100, self-supported and not so fast.

Who says I can’t be concise? Now, to disprove the answer to that rhetorical question.

Months ago, I marked a 50M trail race around Lake Perry on my calendar. A few weeks ago I learned the race wouldn’t be held this year. Finding no 50M alternatives within reasonable driving distance, I hatched a lightly planned run on the Prairie Spirit Trail (PST). When I say “all” 50+ miles, that was my original intent, and even what I thought happened Saturday.  I even brazenly corrected my Strava activity with the moniker after my Garmin’s Ultratrac setting (and some autopause issues whilst walking) shorted my mileage. However, upon further consideration it appears that I put in 48.5 miles. Let’s just call it my birthday run then (48 this coming Saturday). I drove to the “Ottawa Trail Head” which turns out to be at Mile Post 60.6. I see now the trail begins 1.8 miles to the north at the “Ottawa Depot.” Lightly planned. For some crazy reason I checked the southern end but not the northern. I ran a half mile south past the “Iola Trail Head” at Mile Post 108.6 because I happened to notice on Google Maps that the PST ends at W Bruner St as it transitions to the Southwind Rail Trail (which continues on south to Humboldt). Indeed, when I arrived at W Bruner St, there was a clear transition marking the end of the PST.

I did this run solo, self-supported (kinda). I dropped my car at the Ottawa Trail Head (grr), later my mother-in-law, Martha, picked me up in Iola and brought me back to Ottawa. She’s the best! Breakfast was a big glass of milk with a double-espresso shot and an Rx bar. I planned on getting some calories along the way, but that didn’t turn out so well. Lightly planned. My cheering section was Martha and Nelson. It would have included the RHSW, but I goofed setting up the group text and selected her Gmail instead of her mobile number so she didn’t see my updates.

I started a bit behind schedule, hitting the trail around 6:30am. The temperature was cool(ish) for most of the morning with surprisingly low humidity. The northern stretch of the PST had a lot more shade than I expected – an infinity tunnel of a tree canopy in many places. I had two 24-oz bottles in a quiver vest pack, with ice to start and nuun tablets in each. One of my main goals for this run was to practice drinking more in the heat, so as to not repeat my dehydration/heat exhaustion induced nausea and vomiting at this year’s AT100.

The town of Princeton came up fairly quickly after Ottawa. All the towns along the trail (save one critical one, Carlyle) had at least bathrooms and a drinking fountain as park amenities. Some had nearby food/drink but weren’t practical for a runner (cf. bikers). A mile round trip detour is too far unless you’re desperate. So, I refilled my bottles with room temp drinking fountain water and nuun tablets at Princeton (Mile Post 67.29) and Richmond (Mile Post 73.68).

The next stop was Garnett (Mile Post 81.80) – a county seat and a nice small town. The PST runs right by the courthouse and town square. Thus, I was able to find a restaurant, Prairie Belle’s. Beautiful interior, friendly staff. I wish I’d had time for breakfast. I settled for a Coke and a refill of my bottles with ICE! and water. The calories from the Coke were welcome, but drinking them was a crampy experience as they were the first I’d had since breakfast. I didn’t treat this run too much like a race. My stops were longer than aid station stops would have been, either because I didn’t want to be rude, or just wanted to see the sights like an old train depot in Garnett.

Hitting the trail again, the cold drinks re-energized me for a while. I had set what I thought was not an overly ambitious pace, averaging between 10:00 and 10:30 for the first 20 miles or so to Garnett. However, between Garnett and Welda, the day started heating up and the ice in my bottles melted before I could get through the second one. I slowed to a walk for a time before making it to Welda. I might have had a slight hint of nausea, but nothing serious. I ate a Ginger Chimes or two and resolved to drink my warm water. I took a longish break in Welda (Mile Post 90.99) – chatting with an older lady who just wanted someone to commiserate with her about her injured shoulder. After a long drink and a bottle refill of room temp drinking water from the Welda fountain, I set off again.

It was a tough stretch from Welda to Colony. The south wind picked up – a double-edged sword. The “breeze” felt good at times in the morning, but by afternoon it was just a moisture-sucking headwind. I had to add in more walk breaks, mainly due to some odd upper abdomen cramping I think might have been related to my HRM strap. I gave up on the data around mile 36 and took it off, and felt better for it.

I was feeling pretty sorry for myself by the time I got to Colony. It was hot. The town appeared to be little more than a concentration of a few houses and I dejectedly filled my bottles with warmish water from the fountain again. However, as I went a bit further, I saw a closed biker bar, a post office, and a car parked in front of a building. I investigated hopefully and the Hi Point Cafe and Convenience was open! The chairs were still on the tables before dinner, but the Green Apple Fierce Gatorade out of the cooler was outstanding! Thanks to the friendly staff, I also got to fill my bottles with ICE! and water again too.

The last stop before Iola was Carlyle (Mile Post 104.31). Not much help there. A bathroom, but not even a drinking fountain. I was down to about a half-bottle’s worth of some un-melted ice at this point. Ironically, there was a guy stopped at the trailhead to use the bathroom in an ice machine service van. I didn’t get any ice from him. When I first saw the van I had hopes of an offer of a cold drink, but sadly, like the Welda lady, it was not to be.

I gritted it out on to my Iola finish. All told, just under 11.5 hours, including all stops and my afternoon slowdown. I walked back up the road to a Sonic. After pressing the red button, my usual post race wave of nausea hit. Unfortunately, it wasn’t past when they brought out my order of a Pickle Juice slush and a water. Just a minute or two later I was better though.

In all, it was a valuable learning experience. I gained some confidence that I could drink more and make it through the heat without vomiting. I missed the opportunity to fuel better by failing to pack along snacks.

Recovery is SOOOO much faster after running on a limestone gravel railbed vs. concrete or asphalt. I feel better than just about any road marathon today, the day after the day after (traditionally the worst). I went on a short run this morning, and I’ll do a longer one tonight.

I’m feeling better about finishing AT100 now!