Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Rockin K trail marathon April 4 2009
Bless me father for I have sinned. I have ignored one of the cardinal rules of running..... Respect the distance. Since Rocky Raccoon I have been feeling kinda cocky.. nay.. very cocky.... I mean I finished a 100 miler and in fairly good shape too.. that means I'm kinda badass, right? HAH!
I signed up for Rockin' K back in February... ever since I started trail running I've been hearing stories about this race. Gary Henry is one of the biggest pushers of the race, he kept telling me (and anyone else who might listen) how gorgeous and fun but tough Rockin K is. I heard stories about chest high stream crossings in 14 degree weather, I heard that the numbers are actually ear tags from cows, but I also heard about how well the RD's Stacy and Phil Sheridan will treat you and how well taken care of you will be. I think I also heard something about it being a tough course, but somewhere that must have slipped my mind.
I signed up for the marathon instead of the 50 miler since the Freestate 100k is only 3 weeks away and I had also heard stories about how difficult it is to head out on the second lap at this race. There was a lot of Kansas City people heading out, most were doing the marathon but a few hardy souls went for the 50. My ultra buddy Nick did the 50, he's trying to do 30 ultras before he turns 30 so he has to take advantage of every ultra he can. The week of the race, I sinned... I thought to myself, "it's ONLY a marathon.. no big deal.. I won't even bother to taper for this, after all I do 30 mile training runs regularly" BAD COLEEN! BAD! I did my regular shorter runs during the week, cranked incline treadmill power hikes , started working out using the rowing machine and to top it off on Wednesday I did a 20 miler. My only concession to the race was taking Friday off. Unfortunately due to my hectic, crazy weekend which I already blogged about, I wasn't able to drive down to the race until the morning off... so off I went at 3 am with only 3 hours of sleep and a heavy training week in my legs.
A thermos of coffee and 3.5 hours later, I was parking at Kanopolis State park and getting my packet from Nick and Laurie who had so graciously picked it up for me the night before. I checked in and stood around the fire for awhile talking with anyone in range. (Coffee makes me kinda chatty). At this point RD Stacy Sheridan grabbed me and told me that she stuck some extra RawRevolution Vegan bars in my race bag... she was concerned that there wouldn't be enough for me to eat at the aid stations..... I was blown away. Not only did this delightful woman know that I was vegan, she was truly worried that I would go hungry. WOAH! And then to top it off, she informed me that they had made up a batch of vegan bean soup for the finish line too. I felt like a rockstar!!! In a happy daze, I wandered out of the camp shelter to the start line.. Phil gave us some instructions like... follow striped flags on the way out and checkered flags on the way in.. got it!
We took off on a small section of pavement before turning onto the trails.. it was a gorgeous morning... sunny, windy, a bit cool but it was supposed to be in the 60's later on. I was wearing a skirt, short sleeve Atayne shirt, Moeben armwarmers and a lightweight long sleeve Atayne shirt over it all. The trail was in very good shape for just having gotten snowed on earlier in the week... there was some muddy sections but nothing ridiculous. It was amazing how just 3.5 hours away from Kansas City, the trails were so very different.... the soil was much more like Colorado and even the rock formations were very Garden of the Gods like. It was a great morning to be running with friends, I started out with Laurie but at some point she dropped back and was running with Nick and I ended up in a threesome with Deb and Debbie. We were moving together well and enjoying each others company and ended up sticking together the whole race. There were lots of water crossings, some were jump able, some were most definitely NOT, and most were also very muddy. I was wearing my Drymax max pro socks, I had been warned that the feet would be wet most of the day, and when I peeled them off after the race, the socks were muddy, soaked and gross but my feet were blister free! YES!
The course is wide open, lots of prairie, rolling hills and open bluffs and unfortunately for us, wind, and it was howling. As we were going through one farm gate, a gust of wind blew me into a barbed wire wrapped fence post and I skewered my hip. I was pretty sure my last tetanus shot was still valid so I didn't panic, but it did bruise up nicely.
The first 13.1 miles went quickly with lots of talking with old friends and new runners and marveling at the gorgeousness. The first manned aid station was at 13 miles and we quickly refilled water packs, I grabbed some oranges, and bananas and also hit the bathroom. Since the aid station is in the middle of nowhere, they had a camp toilet set up... a small tent with a toilet set on a stand and a bag. I had never pooped in a bag before! I had been warned that the bathroom had already blown over a few times, so I took care of business super fast. We headed out on a loop section that would bring us back to the same aid station in 5 miles, The Debs and i picked up Gary at the aid station and he ran with us for awhile. It's always fun to run with Gary, he tells great stories and he'll sprint ahead to take pictures and then join us again and then do it again and again, he's also done the race enough times that he knows the nitty, gritty details. The 5 mile loop section was ridiculously windy.. windy enough that many times it would literally blow me off the trail and we started joking about loading me up with rocks to hold me down. It also had some of the most amazing scenery and killer climbs too. Definitely the best part of the race!
By the time we hit the aid station again, my legs were feeling pretty toasted and the wind was sapping our energy. We loaded up with food and water again and headed for the last 8 miles. By this point we were walking up all the hills, the wind was not giving us any breaks and it seemed like it was always in our faces. The Debs really got me through the last section, my legs were total and complete toast, my right hip were I had run into the barbed wire was stiffening up, and the wind had sucked all life out of me. We tried to encourage each other and just keep moving forward.
When we reached the last big water crossing, it was deep, deep and moving along quickly. Debbie is quite a bit taller then me and volunteered to go first.. if it came to her chest, I was going to find a beaver damn to cross instead. Luckily it only came to her hips so Deb and I waded in... it was frigid but felt awesome on the legs, the water came up halfway between my waist and armpits so luckily no swimming for me! I was so tired by this point that I just wanted to be done.. this marathon was kicking my ass. It was about this point that any cockiness had washed away and I realized the folly of my sins. Respect the distance.. and LISTEN when people tell you it's a difficult course. I finished in 5:49, and I was more tired after 26.2 then after any of the 50ks.
That said, I can't wait to do it again next year... but I will be smarter and more prepared! It is an amazingly gorgeous course, it was VERY well marked, the aid stations were excellent, the volunteers rocked my world, and the race directors rule! What more can you want from a race? (And for the record, I totally have a crush on Phil and Stacy Sheridan.. they rule!!)
I spent an hour or so hanging out at the finish line, sharing stories, relaxing and eating 3, or maybe 4 bowls of vegan black bean soup. It was great to see everyone either coming in to the finish or loading up to go back out. Nick looked great when he came in at the end of his first loop and finished the 50, thanks to Laurie's help and some pacing from his dog Roxy. It was with great reluctance that I packed up to head back to KC... I could have spent all afternoon talking with the runners and helpers.
The pictures are courtesy of Gary Henry and many more can be found at his website ultrastory.com along with lots of other ultra running info!