Rockin' K 50 Mile Ultra
50 Miles - Kanapolis State Park, KS
|Kansas is NOT flat|
I've been running Ultras for 9 full years now and come July I'll be starting season 10. That seems like a long time and even feels like it. There have been few times in the 9 years I've been running ultras that I've felt ready or even equipped to try and land amongst the top runners at a race. This year, going into Kansas, I was feeling great and knew that now was as good a time as any to give it hell and see if I could land in the Top 3.
I had a few thoughts on that in mind. 1.) I knew the two boys from Nebraska were registered so they'd likely finish 1.2. I knew Jeremy Ebel was coming from the Front Range.. he was in my carpool after all.. and if he had a great day, he could win or finish top 3 as well. I don't mind losing to Ebel if it came down to it.. but at the end of the day, the race is till with myself. So.. I prepared and planned to go for it in Kansas and that's exactly what I did.
In the moments prior to the race start, I was comfortably numb.. or better yet.. I was frozen. It was damn cold at the start of this years race with temps hovering around 30 degrees. What little breeze grazed the Kansas Prairie made it feel even colder. All of us runners huddled together to try and stay warm. A brief pre-race meeting instructed us on the color ribbons to follow. I then had to try and find an easy way to relay the color scheme to my running friends. "Checkers, Stripes, Checkers, Green, Stripes" was the easiest I could come up with and it seemed to work. In the tom foolery of the start, one of my carpool mates ripped my earbuds from my ear. I have been wearing those yurbuds for a bit now. They rock unless the rubber ear piece comes off.. which it did. So in the waning seconds before the race started, I found myself incredibly annoyed and scrambling to put the rubber ear thingy back on. Just as I got it on, I pressed play, ran to the start line and we were off.. in one swift motion.. phew.
So there I was... racing down the first hill, up the next and onto the single track trail.. with the leaders of the pack. It was so cold and I was running so fast (easily a 7 min mile or faster), that tears from the cold air were streaming down my face. As we got onto the single track, I was in third.. and starting to trail already. I was soon passed by a few runners and was sitting as the 6th or so runner in the pack of over 100. The bearded guy from Kansas was even running faster than me now... compared to his performance the years before, I had to ask if he was in the 50 or the marathon. He told me the 50.. and I started to wonder if I was blown up already or if this guy just ate his wheaties. I even got passed by a dude wearing all blue with the real signature of his outfit being a Captain America shirt. This guy took off after the front 3 and then 15 minutes later, I caught up to him as he walked.. then he passed me, then I him, then he I.. you get the idea.. until I just let him go.
Upon reaching the first aid stop, my feet were still dry, my head was clear and I had no idea what time it was. I left my watch in the tent since the battery was dead. I left for the rock loop which consisted of the rugged terrain for the day. The sun was shining full on now and it was hard for me to see the white and red checkered ribbons. Thankfully, the photog was nearby and he told me where to go. I scurried up the steep hill, thanked him and pushed on. Not long after I caught Captain America, who was walking, and asking if the race got harder, "Mmmhmmm." :) And I even caught two marathon runners who I observed running with no bottles, not stopping at any aid stations, and now cramping in the calves. Silly runners...
At the turn around, we asked where we were in the pack. I knew there had to be 2 ahead of us, and it was confirmed. I looked over at the rock hut and saw the beard as he called out, "I quit!" I chuckled.. I figured as much knowing how hard he ran that first lap. Chuckling was over for a bit though, because as I gave chase to Jeremy down the road as we left for loop 2, I knew he was now in 3rd and I in 4th. It was exciting to think I had been in 3rd for awhile, and I was even more excited for Jeremy and pleased with where I was. I tried to catch him on the road, but couldn't.. the kid had gas.. literally.
Not long down on the trail section, it got hot. Real hot. Temps were now near 65 and that Kansas sun is STRONG with no shade in sight. Swamp ass was in full effect. It was at that moment that I realized I had forgotten to put the body glide on this morning and after the recent bio break.. I did some damage. The chaff monster was here and it burned!! I walked some and thought about it. "Maybe I'll catch up to Jeremy and ask him if he has some glide in his pack." Good thought except.. he was long gone now.. So.. I looked around and saw NO ONE. I had to dry my crack out.. so I did what anyone else would do. I dropped the backside of my shorts and ran bare ass naked for the next 2 miles to air my crotch out. And ya know something?? It worked!
After I cleared things up, I hiked my shorts up and got to work. My legs were gassed now despite my mind being in great shape. I was now just working through fatigue and wondering how long I could hold on. I knew others would catch me, but my goal was to not let anyone pass. On the way to the first manned aid stop, I looked back at one point to finally see a few runners gaining on me. I worked my way to the rock loop as quick as I could, grabbed what I needed at the aid station and walked out.
That's when it hit me. I was so balls to the walls all race long that now I was playing that game where.. when I could run, I ran hard until I couldn't.. then I'd be reduced to a walk. This is called the yo-yo show.. where you run like a damn yo-yo. I stopped to walk for a bit to reset my mind. I'm in 5th now and if I wanted to keep that I need to worry about just being steady. So.. I eased off the throttle and just focused on my feet. Running when I could and not going hard. Walking if I had to. I never saw another runner behind me for the rest of the race, but still tried to slowly chase down the guy who just passed me.
At the last manned aid stop, I went into my drop bag and took out my 5 hour energy. I chugged it, ate a hunk of banana, and 2 seconds later, I hurled everywhere. Out came the banana, all of the 5 hour, and the orange I ate at the half way point. Huh.. no wonder my stomach felt like it had an orange in it.. it had an orange in it. I felt better now for some reason, and it was enough of a boost to keep me going.
I ran up that final hill and finish in 10:16. Eighteen minutes slower than last year and finish in 5th place (6th last year). I'll take it. I gave it all I had an pushed to see what I could do. You never know unless you try. I'm happy that after laying it all out there, giving it hell, falling apart, 2 miles naked, a scorching sun, and beach sand.. I was still able to finish top 5 and only 18 minutes slower than last year. I'll take that as a victory, and welcome the beginning of a new season of Ultra.
5th Place our of 20 Finishers.
I love the Ultrasignup rankings. I'm the guy with a 66% ranking nestled in between the guys in the upper 70's and 80s, (#Sandbagger) which once again proves that the rankings aren't worth a hill of beans.