Places 1st in women’s division, comes in 3rd overall
When extreme long distance runner Kodi Panzer came in third after running the last step of a 100-mile ultra race, she wanted to win, but didn’t expect to best the female course record by over two hours.
Panzer’s goal was to run the Prairie Spirit Trail course between Ottawa and Iola in under 20 hours and 30 minutes. She went the distance in 19 hours and 16 minutes, placing first among women runners and third overall.
“It was crazy,” she said Monday. “I wanted to win, but I never expected to run it that fast.”
Panzer said she spent the first 10 miles of the race casually chatting with other ultra-runners while they padded over a somewhat flat gravel trail punctuated by trees that once was a railroad track.
As the pack thinned out and runners settled into their own paces and headspaces, Panzer popped in her ear-buds and began listening to music.
“I jam to quite the mix,” she said. “I listened to ’80s music, country, rap, R&B, and anything to keep my mind occupied, so I don’t get bored.”
Panzer paused at runner aid stations to “refuel and take water” about every three to four miles.
She monitored her time and progress with a GPS watch while her support crew, friend Val Goebel and mother Sherri Charbonneau, a nurse, provided encouragement and made sure she was consuming the correct amount of fluids, high energy snacks, and gave her Tylenol and Ibuprofen for muscle soreness and swelling when required.
“Kodi did awesome,” Goebel said. “She will say we helped, but it was really all her training.”
After mile 40, Panzer said she utilized a planned strategy of running a mile then walking a tenth of a mile for the remaining 60 miles.
She kept “little goals,” like looking forward to her next snack and seeing her crew at aid stations.
Panzer changed her shoes around mile 60, but the alteration didn’t agree with her. She lost feeling in her toes, so she opted to wear “toe shoes” with about 30 miles to go.
From mile 62, Shay Caffey, a pacer, ran with Panzer providing her added assistance and encouragement until the end.
“Around mile 72, I think there was big controlled fire in a field nearby because there was this horrible thick smoke I had to run through for about six miles,” she said. “My lungs were working extra hard.”
Despite the smoke and windy weather that got colder as the day went on, Goebel said Panzer didn’t slow down that much.
“It was really hard for the runners in that smoke,” Goebel said. “I think that was the point where Kodi ran her slowest mile.”
Panzer’s average mile split time was approximately 11 minutes and 34 seconds.
Panzer said eventually her “brain shut down” and her crew and pacer “became her brain.”
“She would tell us, ‘No, I’m not hungry,’ but we would force her to eat and drink something more,” Goebel said. “When runners get that far into a race, it’s really almost like talking to little kids.”
Had Panzer not stayed properly fueled she risked dangers like muscle strains, pulls, and serious cramping.
She became nauseous at one point, but never vomited. With the exception of couple small blisters and some swelling in her feet, she crossed the finish line with no serious injuries at 1:16 a.m. Sunday.
“I’m still in shock,” she said Monday. “My adrenaline is still pumping.”
Goebel said Panzer was in good spirits when she finished.
“She had this big smile on her face and was hugging everyone,” Goebel said. “Everyone was really excited. We’re just so proud of her.”
That night on the way home Panzer recollected, “spiking a fever” that soon went away with appropriate care from her crew.
On Monday, she walked her dog just over a half mile. She said stairs and steps were a little hard to navigate, while squatting was difficult too.
“I wish I could jog today,” she said even though other runners suggested she wait 7 to 10 days before running any distance.
However, she insisted on tending to patients at her chiropractic clinic in Hillsboro while wearing flip-flops to accommodate her swollen feet.
The race was Panzer’s second 100-mile run since October of 2013 and she plans to run three more ultra-races this year as part of the Kansas Grand Slam of Ultrarunning. Her next race is in July at Kingman.