In many ways this race was the same I’d done the past couple of years and in some ways it was different…
I was always going to run it — subconsciously signed up from the start. There wasn’t a decision making process. I just drank a few beers one night, and the next morning I was signed up. No matter… I would have signed up anyway right?
The week leading up to this race I was filled with a sense of dread and trepidation … I just supposed I wasn’t quite trained up. This didn’t turn out to be the case at all as I was hoping… so that’s good. The actual day before that nervousness began to fade and I became genuinely excited for it if a little anxious.
Race morning came and I made it down there just fine. Same shelter, same starting area, same parking spot. I really count myself lucky that in all the places in the world I could have ended up – its just a 20 minute drive to WyCo lake park and well within the radius of virtually all Trail Nerds runs. I also count myself, and the rest of the KC running community lucky that Dick Ross of SeeKCRun is so generous and eager to show up to running events time after time after time… no matter how big or small or far. It’s so nice having that service!
Well there is a large crowd gathered wearing yellow for 50k, blue for 20 miler, and white for 10 miler. From what I can tell the vast majority of people are wearing yellow… I am really shocked at everyone wearing yellow. Many look well prepared and like seasoned veterans, but some downright look like newbies out for a 5k. I’m well aware however that looks can be madly deceiving and so I don’t really think on it much. Also, there will likely be many more white bib runners showing up shortly as there is still an hour to go until their start time.
After a few very short words by Ben the race is started promptly on time at 8:00. There may be a few more than last year… its a pretty good crowd but not overly crowded. I spot a few “big names” such as Mindy Coolman who won last year and who two years ago I ran with for a while trying to keep with her harrowing pace. I saw a couple of other runners I conversed with on the course last year and an old neighbor of mine who is obsessed with trail running. That’s not a bad obsession.
Well its across the fields and into the woods. Quite crowded but moving along quickly enough. About the 1.6 mile mark I nearly wiped out and made a remarkable recovery I thought. Easy to do as this course is ROUGH! There is no mud this year, NONE. Not one tiny itsy bitsy little bit. I had thought in the weeks leading up to the race that our epic drought this summer would be a good test for the question: “How sadistic is Ben Holmes?” There has been so much mud in years past – so much – I’d had visions of the RD and minions with tanks of water in weeks and days leading up to the race making huge tracts of mud and working quite hard to make several sections almost impassible. Not so; my fears were unfounded. There was not a drop of liquid on this course that was not from a bottle or a sweat gland… it was bone dry.
Well no mud made for fairly quick running. I guess the ground wasn’t as soft in some places and the dust kicking up was enough to choke at times… but for the most part the lack of mud made for some quick traveling down trails where it was quite apparent you *would* have been mucking it through. I continued to trip along almost wiping out again and then eventually having a small wipe out and then almost wiping out again. I was having a hell of a time staying on my feet today… the course didn’t really thin out too much until after the first aid station… and then after the second (first big station) thinned out some more… but still people close by at all times.
As I closed on the first loop I noted the familiar hills here. There’s like 3 or 4 or 5 or 6… a couple of them are tough, and one of them is downright f&%king hard. But anyhow… on the first go-round they weren’t too bad. I walked up them briskly as with most hills… noted my Garmin beeping the 10th mile about .6 miles from the finish line making this 20 miler a good 21.2 miler. Trotted down to the finish line where I saw the two clocks going with the two start times… that is nice… were they like that in past years?
Still feeling ok I headed out again for the second loop. Field is pretty spread out now, but still a few people on either side as we enter the trails at the top of the hill for the true entrance to round two…
I think I’ve discovered the problem with all this wiping out I’m doing today. I’ve been following people too closely (sorry!) and thereby have been unable to view the upcoming trail at the optimal planning distance which at a decent pace should realistically be about 10 feet? Problem is of course with someone there in front of me that far in front is hidden. So yeah, now… running by myself THIS is better!
For the first couple miles on lap two I’m busting ass. For the trail I’ve run so far and the trail I know that lies ahead… I’m really kicking a pace here. Why? I would like an even split I guess (first lap 2:06), or just a good time (for me). I did a little bit of preparation the night before see… I saw 2:09 and 2:29 for laps 1 and 2 last year, total 4:38. So I set my watch for 13:15 pace which I’ll need to conquer to finish under 4:38 for 21 miles. That’s all I wanna do… just beat last year’s time. But would I like to beat it soundly? Hell yea I would. That little no mud thing is making a big difference too, probably… I concede the probably because I’d like to just think I was out there killin’ it this year and gettin’ it done compared to last year. Well… last year I was trudging through mud… although last year’s mud was nothing compared to 2010 mud… but I digress… where was I? Oh yeah… I was running fast on those first few miles of lap two, feeling good if a little fragile.
Cruising along each aid station does provide a nice interlude and each time I leave one I feel so refreshed I could sprint to the finish — this thought is always quickly dashed on the next hill. For the first entire lap I had been thinking things like “Maybe I should have signed up for the 50k” “Wow, I think I could really do the 50k after all” “This should have been the year I signed up for the 50k” “If I didn’t have other commitments right after this, I might could even step UP to the 50k today!”. Yeah… that was lap 1.
Now lap two has continued to go quite well until the final 3 miles. Those last 3 miles are soul crushing. There’s that hill… it’s not the first of the last ones and its not the last one… I think it’s second or third to last? It doesn’t look that daunting or seem that different than the other ones… but its a killer. Literally in fact. I saw three corpses (fresh) on the way up. Now the entire race the entire time on any race… I don’t think I’ve ever once “stopped” — I’ve walked slow, trudged, crawled, maybe stood still for a few moments to pee or consume something… but I don’t believe I’ve ever stopped before. On this hill, today, I did… stop. I stood there for a moment, hands on my knees bent over and took several breaths. Then I continued on. This hill could do that. It will make you stop.
Well, I continued on this sadistic twisted course for the last 3 miles that feels like groundhog’s day. The damn thing never ends. It’s one more hill, around the next bend, across one more road, wait, one more hill… it just goes and goes. My GPS already died a couple miles back – nearly same place it did last year I think. Do I need a new one? Possibly… and the course keeps going. I’ve had some mild cramps, nothing really bad but the cramps always scare me. That’s what scares me about a 50k… that they’ll just get worse and worse until I can run no more.
Well its been 33 kilometers anyway… and thankfully that sadistic race director has had a kind streak somewhere in his planning when he allowed for the course end to be down hill, so therefore I’m able to run it in looking strong.
Well that’s that. I get handed a great looking medal and to my utter delight an ice cold beer. I’m also delighted to see a 4:24 on the clock beating my last year’s time by 14 minutes.
Now I’m thinking October Lake Perry 50k… Hmmmm….
(maybe here’s why I was wiping out all day… running with eyes closed)