Friday, April 9, 2010
Rockin K 50 miler April 3 2010
OK.... the last 6 months in a nutshell: traveled, raced, laughed, cried, ate, drank, breathed. I'm just plowing forward since there is no way that I'll be able to catch up.... so here we go!
In just 2 short years, Rockin' K has become my favorite race...it's got everything you need in an ultra..... fantastic race directors (most important), fabulous volunteers (very, very important), a beautiful course that is challenging but not totally discouraging (our reason for doing it) and a bounteous pre-race spread, post race feast and aid station fare that leave you fully satisfied (oh, hell yes). I'm not the only one who feels this way since this race fills up every year.... so actually I should be talking about how much this race sucks and please, don't sign up for it... (at least not until I have my spot!)
Last year I did the marathon distance, and if you read back, I did it all wrong.... bad attitude and way over trained. The race kicked my ass and I swore all summer long that I would NEVER, ever, even think about doing the 50 miler. Then I went to Australia and when I got back my running partners had decided that we were all going to do the 50 and drag each other through it.... I never even had a voice in this decision! Not fair! I am obedient so when registration opened I signed up for the 50. I was terrified, the marathon destroyed me and I couldn't imagine doing another loop... all winter long I dreaded this race and I told anyone who would listen that I was more scared of it then doing another 100 miler. Luckily Deb and Debbie shared my trepidation and we renewed our vows to help each other through it.
Winter training was crap and I had to scrap my plans to do Rocky Raccoon again, but luckily I had signed up for a few races in Arkansas in early spring, so even if the Kansas weather continued to be bad I could still get my miles in. The other races went well and with a super hard 50 mile finish just 3 weeks before Rockin K, I felt a bit better about it.
The usual crew (Stu, Deb, Debbie, & Julie) left KC around 2pm on Friday, it was an uneventful drive... other then extreme silliness and laughter. We hit Kanopolis State Park and immediately went to check in and pick up our packets....but most importantly we had to pick up our hugs from Stacy Sheridan.. RD extraordinaire. No KUS race is complete without a big smile and hug from Stacy... she must not have a very good nose, 'cuz I've seen her bear hugging the sweatiest, smelliest guys. Stacy had outdone herself this year, she had 2 kinds of vegan cookies at the aid stations and I got to pre sample them and pronounced them fantastic! We hung around waiting for the pre-race meeting where Phil went over in fine detail which color ribbons we follow at which point in the race... I paid very close attention after having gotten lost twice 3 weeks ago at a different race. After Phil talked there were some drawings for free stuff and lots of our friends won some cool goodies. The last drawing was for a free entry for the Heartland 50, and Stacy "innocently" drew my name...wheeee! I was going to volunteer, but it looks like I'll be running instead!
After the meeting we headed to our cabin which was a mere 5 minute drive from the start... once again Stacy was amazing and managed to procure this awesome cabin for us to use. Nick and Laurie soon arrived and we all settled into laying out clothes, packing up drop bags and filling water bottles. Lights went out early with only a minimum of shenanigans. As soon as the alarm went off I popped up and started the coffee maker... must have my coffee before I run! Food was eaten, coffee was drunk and the rotating line for the bathroom started..7 people and 1 bathroom make for some hasty visits. Stu is the master at making sure we all get out the door on time.. no one wants to incur his wrath so we were out and in cars ready to go right on time. At the start we found tons of our friends who had gotten in late the night before and it was a big mob scene of hugs and good lucks. A few more words from Phil, and we were off.
It was pretty chilly at the start but temps were supposed to be in the mid 60s for the day so I started in short sleeves and my Moeben Sleeves (tie dye!), the sleeves quickly got pulled down to become makeshift gloves. My hands were frozen! We started out in our usual pack, the Deb's, Laurie and myself with a few other friends interspersed. I ended up being in front of our pack once we hit the single track so I tried to set a comfortable pace that would see us through 2 loops. I was mildly surprised at how good I felt.... honestly I haven't had a really good race since before Leadville and I had forgotten how effortless it can feel when everything is clicking. I was in such a zone that I didn't realize that I had pulled away from the group and only Laurie was running with me. She was feeling good too so we continued our steady pace together, chatting and enjoying the views, splashing through water crossings and bitching about our frozen hands. Note: next year wear GLOVES!
It was a glorious morning, and the wind hadn't yet appeared so we felt like we were flying. Last year we had wind gusts of 40+ MPH from the start and since there is no cover on this course, you are at the mercy of whatever elements Mother Nature chooses to throw at you. When we hit the first unmanned water stop, Laurie and I walked a bit so we could eat something and the Debs, Kristen, Gary and Lee quickly caught up to us. Laurie was feeling her oats and took off soon after and I was content to let her go. With 40+ miles still to go I didn't want to blow things too early. Laurie was rockin' the marathon so she was ready to open her legs up. I spent the next 5 miles chatting up a storm. It was great to catch up with Kristen and Lee, both people I adore and hadn't gotten to run with in months and months! One of the best things about these long races is the ability to hear someones life story and still have time left over to share your own!
We hit the manned aid station as a big group where the Lawrence Trail Hawks fearless leader, Gary Henry was checking in runners. We mobilized quickly to refill bottles, grab cookies and bananas and then get the hell out. The goal is to spend less then a minute in an aid station and we've been working on that all spring. I was still feeling fantastic as we headed out on the 6 mile Big Bluff Loop..... true to it's name, there is a damn big bluff that you go up... and down and up again. Last year I kept getting blown off the trail in this section but this year was still relatively wind free so I kinda opened it up, without realizing it and dropped everyone again. We've been doing hill repeats every Tuesday night for months and months and I feel like it's really paying off... the big bluff didn't feel so big this year. I ran the Big Bluff loop by myself.. picking off other runners and passing them one by one. I kept telling myself that it was too early to run like that, but I just couldn't help it, I was feeling too good. When I came back through the aid station I grabbed a handful of Stacy's cookies and kept going.... I could see Laurie not too far in the distance and I was hoping to catch her.
I was having a great time running by myself, pondering life, the universe and the upcoming race schedule but was happy to catch Laurie at the top of a hill. The wind was starting to kick up and she pulled me along for awhile, and then at some point I lost her... I spent way too much mesmerized by my feet on the trails and I kept dropping people without meaning to. Running on my own meant I had to judge the big water crossing for myself. Last year Debbie went first to make sure I wasn't going to have to swim, but this year I had to be brave on my own! I took my pack off, held it over my head and started wading. It was a warm day but man when a cold river hits you at crotch level it is breathtaking. It felt like my lungs started to seize a bit, but luckily the water only came to bellybutton level so I never went into full cardiac arrest. A short bit of running and another deep river crossing, this time Dick Ross was on the far side snapping pictures and offering much encouragement. It's always a great mental boost to see his smiling face! For some reason I had in my head that after the water crossing it was less then a mile to the turnaround.... not so. (At least it certainly felt like longer then a mile!) Part of this section is fairly deep sand which makes running even more difficult. This was probably my hardest section, I just wanted to get to the turnaround, grab some more food and get going again, so it felt like an eternity.
As I hit the road and the last .2 of a mile to the turnaround, a guy caught up with me who was about to finish his first marathon. I had a good time encouraging him to pick up the pace and sprint up the final hill to the finish. I hit the turnaround at about 5 and a 1/2 hours, I checked in at the line, got my keys from Nick and headed right back out. I took a few minutes at my car to refill my pack with food and I headed back out... as I was refueling, Laurie sprinted past me to take 3rd place female in the marathon!! YAY Laurie! I hit the trail again for the second loop still by myself, but a few miles in, turned on my iPod for company. The wind had really picked up on the second loop, but I was still feeling pretty good and moving fairly easily. The hardest part here for me was knowing when to eat, I had gotten lazy recently about wearing a watch and had been relying on Deb to tell me when to eat and s-cap, so being by myself had me thrown off.
At about 10 miles into this loop I started getting hungry... nay, I was starving... seriously, I just might have eaten a hamburger had someone offered me one at that moment. I downed a gel, then a Cliff Mojo bar and then a packet of peanut butter and started feeling a bit better. It was also around this point that my right hamstring started to tighten up, not enough to stop me, but I could feel a slight tug with every stride. I was just praying that this wasn't where the wheels fall off. I was still passing the occasional runner, but now the pickings were few and far between. Let me also state that some guys get very cranky when they get chicked. I moved in and out of the Big Bluff aid station quickly, but not before collecting a hug from Laurie... the fabulous 3rd place female in the marathon. It's a good friend who will finish her marathon and then come back out on the course and crew for her friends! As I was heading out on the 6 mile loop, Gary mentioned that I was the 2nd place female... now, when I'm told stuff like this it's both good and bad... good- it makes me happy and gives me a bit of a boost, bad- I started looking over my shoulder as I ran. I prefer to be the hunter, not the hunted.
The rest of the race was spent battling the wind, my right hamstring that kept getting tighter and fatigue, but I remained in very good spirits and even managed to pass 4 guys in the last 8 miles... granted a few of them looked like zombies, but still. I slowed down way more then I wanted to, and maybe wearing a watch would have helped keep me pushing harder. Would have kept me eating on time too! I finished in 11:44... 2nd place female. After the race Stacy told me she was glad that 5 girls finished the 50 this year, in past years there have been as few as 1- zero girls finish! (My goal is to talk as many women as possible into doing the 50 next year so we totally smash that curse.) The Deb's finished just 15 minutes behind me to tie for 3rd place! After a few big bowls of soup, we all headed back to the cabin, where I disgraced myself by not being able to finish my beer before falling asleep. What a waste of perfectly good beer.
I'm only able to do this races thanks to the support of my fabulous husband & wonderful running partners, and even though Nick was injured he cheerfully and helpfully crewed for all of us, and Laurie came up big by helping after her race... encouragement from Angel, Kristi, Darcie and the countless others around gave much needed energy shots. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Can't wait for next year!
(thanks to Rick and Kristi Mayo for the picture)