Having moved the r2r2r run to October, I thought I'd sign up for a few shorter ultras during the intervening months in order to keep in long distance shape. Last weekend, I was slated to do a race I have done before which takes place on one of my favorite courses - rolling gravel roads in the open prairies of Kansas. The Heartland 50k is a well-organized event with a bunch of friendly runners and volunteers. It takes place simultaneously with the longer, Heartland 50 (miles). The 50k, for me, is a sufficient distance to keep within striking distance of 50 mile shape for later in the year.
I had really been looking forward to the event. But as the final week approached, my buddy Paul and I both looked at the projected weather and knew that there was a possibility that the course would become much more difficult. Last year, for instance, a heavy rain the evening before the race turned the course into a muddy mess in places. Still, the run had taken place on what turned out to be a beautiful day. It became one of my top 10 runs/races I had done.
This year, though, the forecast called for temps in the 30s and 40s (F), winds of 20mph (with gusts up to 35), and rain. It looked to be brutal. Paul and I began to re-evaluate our desire to run the race. Ultimately, we decided to give it a go. On Thursday I went out for an easy run - planned to be my last before the race - and within the first quarter mile had sustained an injury to my ankle. I met with my massage therapist that afternoon to try to fix the issue, but it was a non-starter. On Saturday I awoke at my house at 7:30 AM and had trouble walking. I knew Paul was already out on the course for an hour and a half by that time. The weather was cold and rainy. And, as much as I don't want an injury and as much as I love to run, I was a bit relieved that the injury had occurred when it did.
Many hours later, I got a call with a race report from Paul as he drove the 2 hours home on the highway. Cold, wet, miserable. I know he completed something herculean, and felt a sense of accomplishment, but I also know now that in future races, should the weather be similar to what occurred at Heartland yesterday, that he probably wouldn't do it again.
As I sit with my ankle wrapped and elevated this morning, I am looking at another couple of races to enter. I am hopeful that this injury will be in the rear-view mirror in a couple of weeks and I can resume doing the sport I love. Until then, I will have to live vicariously through my crazy friends who ran the Heartland and also those who ran the equally (and maybe more so) challenging Flatrock 101 this past weekend.
Do a search online for photos of either race and you'll get an idea of just how deep (waist-deep) the water got in places on both courses.