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Writing a race report for a 100 miler is always hard for me. It is difficult NOT to go into a painfully detailed play-by-play account of the whats, whens, wheres and hows of the specifics of the race; fueling, hydration, pace, etc. Unfortunately that leads to a reading experience that has as much monotony, boredom, and suffering as an actual 100 mile race. With the primary goal of my race reports being to entertain an audience of those interested in ultrarunning, I will do my best not to drive you to a suicide attempt using your keyboard or smartphone. After all, I was the one who signed up to suffer – you just want to chuckle about it and assure yourself that you did the right thing by NOT signing up for this suckfest. Instead of boring details like, “then I swallowed another Enduroltye” or “my pace for the next 2 miles fell off by 14 seconds”, I am committed to attempting to convey the unpredictable and rapidly changing feelings and raw emotions that inevitably ebb and flow over the course of a nearly 30 hour race. Wish me luck.
After packing the van and trailer with the equivalent of two Walmart Supercenters and enough ice to build a replica of Superman’s “fortress of solitude”, Candi, Johnny and I finally arrived at Cheney State Park Friday afternoon ready to descend on the Epic Ultras pre-race meal like a swarm of locusts. These meals have morphed into an occasion that could be described as a, “family reunion where people genuinely like each other”. I hesitate to call it a family reunion since there was no keg and the cops only stopped by to say hi. Warren grilled us up some awesome chicken, burgers, and brats while Eric, Polly and the rest of the Epic Ultras Brigade were working hard to not only feed us, but get ready for the race in the morning. After eating more than our share, we milled around talking with our ultra-family. Our crew, that would come to be known as “The Van Clan” began to show up as we organized gear and went over plans for the morning. “Johnny and the Daves”, Mr. Webb, Mr. Meeth, and Mr. Box would be our crew, and their main goal was to keep us alive, moving, and relatively happy during the heat of the day. Shay, total badass and future female action movie star, would figure out a way to meet the crew some point in the evening – after of course- she ran a hot ass 50k at the Psummer Psycho Wyco in KC. Once all the work was done and we finally started to relax, I realized that the butterflies were having a metal concert in my guts, and from the feel of it, the show was rockin’ pretty damn hard. Candi mentioned having some nervous energy a couple times although she is about as stone-cold cool under pressure as anyone I have ever met in my life. A comfortably mild July evening lured us into our tent away from the mosquitoes, where we spent the next six hours or so not really sleeping.
After vehicle check, lots of nether region lube, and couple of hot breakfast burritos (Thanks Dave M!) we were off like a herd of turtles chasing an earthworm. Candi and I took advantage of the opportunity to run with other humans for the little out and back around the perimeter of the lake, knowing soon enough that it would be just her and I – just like most of our training runs. The nerves subsided and our bodies settled into that familiar rhythm of left, right, repeat that they are all too familiar with. We met back up with our crew as we passed near the starting line to head out for the big 93 mile loop and gave them the standing order to head out three miles in front of us until further notice. Our plan was not to run a 100 mile race, but more like 33 individual 5k’s. After all, running 100 miles on asphalt in the summer just sounds dumb! Running some 5K’s is psychologically much more manageable. Running a hundo is just like eating an elephant; you can’t swallow it whole, but you can eat it all eventually if you are patient and do it one bite at a time.
Feeling great, we chugged along the first stretch of the race, a 30 something mile straight shot littered with the occasional hill that enabled about three miles line of sight. It could get somewhat frustrating to see your crew setting up while you were still 25 minutes away! Candi and I chatted and ran in three mile chunks, taking our time and not rushing as we ate, drank, and doctored our bodies. While we wanted to turn in a respectable time, out primary mission was to NOT totally thrash our bodies doing so. This race in summer is no PR course, and since only 14 people started, we figured finishing put us in the top twenty. Good enough! Sticking to our plan, we fell into a comfortable rhythm and our rookie crew almost immediately started to mesh and gel into what would quickly come to resemble a highly tuned, well-organized, and perfectly efficient TEAM rivaling the best that NASCAR has to offer. The blazing July sun was hot and radiating off the blacktop but as we headed to the west we still had a pleasant cross breeze helping to keep us cool. We knew it would get rougher once we made the turn to the south near mile 40, but we may have underestimated JUST what it would be like to be running straight into the bowels of hell while Satan hit us with some supernatural hair dryer. Cue the suck.
The following 15 or so miles were not very much fun. For starters, after making our turn, Johnny and the Daves were unable to park at the 3 mile mark due to no cross street, so Candi and I had to do a 4-4.5 mile stretch before getting back to them. While this sounds like it should be no big deal, it really was. Not only had we turned into the 20+ mph wind, but the day was getting over the 95 degree mark and we were only carrying a single handheld each. The wind would dry you out within about a mile and while one bottle was just about the perfect amount for 3 miles, it was grossly inadequate for 4 or more. So we suffered. We took our time to cool off and recover once we finally reached them and then did 5ks until we got to Cunningham, a little town where we would cross under Hwy 54. At this point we decided that 3 miles was just too far between cool offs and had the crew start stopping every 2 miles. Despite costing us some race time, I feel like this was the single best decision we made through the entire course of the race. Sacrificing some clock time to stay cooler longer became a strategy we deployed until the sun came down. Each stop we would take off our hats and shirts and soak them in ice water before putting them back on. At one point I said something about “investing some time in the afternoon heat that would earn us some dividends we could cash out once it cooled off.” Thanks to the efforts of our fantastic crew and in spite of a daytime high of 98 degrees, we survived – mostly undamaged – and got to the checkpoint at 53 miles in St. Leo. The massive, shady oak tree at St. Leo and the promise of no wind in our face was our prize and we absolutely reveled in it, sharing some laughs with Warren and some others while eating, drinking pickle juice shooters, and doctoring our increasingly tattered bodies.
From this point, we were allowed to take on pacers, and we had our own Johnny on the spot. No, not a shitter (which would have been nice), but a shaggy headed young man about to be violently born into the world of ultrarunning. Johnny is “the kid” on our crew, and hails from my hometown. Twenty-three years old, he is a baby by ultrarunning standards. His previous running experience consists of high school track ( I heard he once ate shit on a hurdle but still got up and ran his heart out instead of walking off), getting a hair up ass and running the Richmond Marathon without training (in ~3:30:00), and through-hiking more than 700 miles of the Appalachian Trail. And while Johnny has a fiery spirit that matches his shaggy ginger head, he has zero experience past about the 30 mile a day mark. So naturally, he wanted to go the distance – almost 50 miles. Why not? Now armed with a fresh set of legs and a new conversation partner, my love and I continued along the never-ending pavement of Kingman County, Kansas, determined to slay ourselves a Honey Badger.
We continued to do our thing – drink, eat, run, drink, rest, and repeat. The sun lowered to the point that we finally felt relief from the day’s heat, and it was MARVELOUS – but somewhat deceiving. The humidity was still high and it was still very warm, so we took great care and made a conscious effort to continue our intake of fluids – including a drink we named “Pink Shit”. Pink Shit was a mix of different flavors of Dollar General Pedialyte and Gatorade knockoffs, and not too bad when served cold. I continued to eat as I had all day, in large quantities, prompting Boxy to voice his opinion that eventually I would eat EVERYTHING and he would have to raid a cornfield. Candi babied her stomach along trying desperately to avoid nausea issues that plagued her in her last few long ultras. I can only imagine the torture of wanting nothing more than to puke for 40 miles. Luckily I am armed with an iron set of guts coated with Teflon and wrapped in Kevlar – the longest period of barfy-pukey I ever endured was about 30 minutes in any race (and it was torturous). Anyway, without getting any further bogged down in details, we made like Forrest Gump and “just. kept. running.”, eventually donning our headlamps and stumbling along under the blinking red lights of the wind farm and the super moon.
Approximately 10:30 pm and around 60 miles in, a new character joins our fearless expedition as we quest ever closer to the final showdown with the villainous and notoriously tough Honey Badger. Shaylene “Lara Croft” Caffey, who earlier in the day thrashed her 50k PR on a difficult Wyco course, traveled hours from Kansas City finally hitching a ride out and meeting up with the Daves. This young lady is on record saying that she is planning on running the FlatRock 101K course in Vibram 5-fingers next spring. Yeah, we ONLY accept level 99 badasses on our crew. Shay is also planning on shooting down the Hawk 100 (her first) in September; I think she was maybe even subconsciously looking to get some more insights into the “late miles” of a hundie. Candi and I planned on showing her precisely how to climb into her pain cave and then slam the door shut on her own personal hurt locker. Shay, however, was determined to take crewing to the same level of her running and attempt to keep us from suffering at all. It was a battle of wills that would play out all night and into the next morning. Once Shay joins the crew, it breathes some new life into all of us. Dave and Dave had been crewing at a very high level non-stop since sunrise, Johnny was crewing and running in beast mode, and the beautifully hardcore Candi and I plodding along on the road with seemingly no end. I don’t know where she mustered it from, but Shay’s rootin’, tootin’, hootin’, and a hollerin’ woke us all up. Precisely when we all needed it. Dave Meeth, or as I internally began to think of him – “The Professor” – changed roles and pinned on a pacer’s bib, while Dave Box shined in his role as Master Driver and Crew Chief.
Meeth is an engineer by trade and was the first person I recruited to join the crew. I had met him at FlatRock, chatted with him online, and he even came out and brought me a beer at the 12 hour KUS race I ran last November. He is also an ultrarunner having run a 50 miler to his credit – much faster my best time. Additionally, I could really just see and feel his intelligence and compassion for others even beyond his passion, energy, and excitement for the sport of ultrarunning. I knew he would make an excellent crew member. For these reasons (and not just because he is the elder of the group) the nickname “professor” just kept popping in my head. Regardless, I knew Candi and I would be in good hands with Dave for the next 35 or so miles.
Believe it or not, the later miles of a 100 kind of just gets boring. I know? Amazing revelation right?! Not much else to note, unless you get excited about lubing up, pooping, and peeing on the side of the road; in which case you are probably looking for a different website with a .xxx at the end of it. We ate, we ran, we lubed, and we drank. Most often we kept a good attitude and still managed some good conversation and even some belly laughs. Other times, it was deathly silent as we were all somewhat trapped in our own thoughts (or pain caves). Onward.
Meanwhile, Boxy and Shay were playing a three mile game of leapfrog that consisted of driving out, looking for a place to park, setting up chairs, and prepping an all-you-can eat buffet for the ever famished Fred Flintstone (me) and Shay rubbing Candi’s aching -but still pretty- feet. This is truly selfless work. Up all day and night to help us out. It really does amaze me that these guys would do this for us, almost perfect strangers before this race, for no other reason than helping us achieve our goals. This brings me to Dave Box. Boxy is a guy that came out of nowhere to run the FlatRock 101k as his first, YES FIRST, ultra. But wait, there’s more… He had never run longer than 13 miles before that. But wait, there’s more…. He gets 3rd overall! Wow. Two weeks later he rips off a most impressive finish at the Flint Hills 40 miler – despite blowing up and overheating in the final half marathon. Boxy has raw talent, tons of heart, and an iron will. He told me that his body was DONE after about half way of the FlatRock 101k, but he did what a good ultrarunner does – he ran the rest with his mind. Box took this same drive, energy, and mental toughness and put it to use in his role as Crew Chief. Need I say more? Not only did Dave expertly execute his crew duties, but he supplied half of the gear we used including a pop up tent, 7 gallon gatorade jug, and a propane grill and tank. You got it. Hot food on the road. BAM. Box cooked us bacon at 3 in the morning. Dave Box is a crewing GOD. Not to mention he pulled his toy hauler, complete with generator and air conditioner, three hours to the lake – just because you never know what we might need. Enough on Boxy, don’t need his ego getting as big as mine, that would be bad for everyone involved, but you get my point. Back to the race.
So miles 70-100 were more of the same. We didn’t feel much better, but we didn’t feel much worse. We just kept ticking off the miles three at a time. About 5 miles from the finish we run up on Boxy sitting cross legged on the trailer cooking up some more hot bacon for us. Shay is still hollering for us and cheering us in EVERY single time we get to the van. Johnny and Dave were rock solid pacers who never complained about their own aches and pains although they had been out there for 12 hours or more. We did this until our final stop about a mile and a half from the finish line (we wanted to finish strong). Here, we sat in our chairs and shared a beer to celebrate our victory in private. It was amazing.
For the final time in the race, we got up, shook off the instant soreness and began hammering out the last bit to the finish. Candi and I crossed the finish together in 27:16:39 well below the realistic 28 hour goal we set for ourselves. More importantly we were not in that bad of shape considering the brutal heat and wind of the day. Candi had a single tiny blister and I had three and a gray toenail. No major aches and pains at all. Just tired bodies carrying around huge smiles. We relaxed around the finish talking to our pals. A HUGE thanks to Epic Ultras for putting on a top notch event with the level of challenge we were looking for. Eric Steele, Warren Bushey, Polly Choate, Frank Arellano, David Bushey, Justin Saylor and all of the Epic Ultras Brigade make these events live up to the considerable hype that they generate. Also a huge thank you to the awesome support we got on the course from the roving aid teams – Justin and Joell Chockley, Mark Berry, Daron and Zander Pratt. Also special thanks to Joell Chockley for doing such a wonderful job capturing the day in pictures. All of your efforts are VERY much appreciated!
All of the 100′s that I have run are special to me for different reasons. Pumpkin Holler was redemption and I ran fast. Prairie Spirit I came back from the brink of failure. Honey Badger will always be special to me because I crossed the finish of a VERY difficult ultra with the woman I love, and WE were able to do so because of the perfect execution of a well organized plan by an ULTRA TEAM whose skill, motivation, tenacity, and chemistry will never be surpassed.
Until Next Time…. BE EPIC!
PS – Send me a friend request on Facebook. I love keeping track of the training, races, and other adventures that my ULTRA-FRIENDS (both current and future) share!
At the inaugural Flint Hills Marathon and 40 Miler I got my first taste of running an aid station for the full duration of a race, and HOLY SHIT was it a real eye-opener! Since I started running ultras about 5 years ago, I have been amazingly taken care of at almost every race I have started. I have had workers fill my bottles, give me food, and offer me everything from a sandwich from their own cooler to Tums out of the glove box of their car. I have stumbled, shuffled, and flown through innumerable aid stations, but I have never worked one. I now realize after working at one, that while I was grateful, I was still taking them for granted. Not anymore. Never again. I realize that I am not unique in that I usually run ultras so I am really excited to share some observations from my first experience from behind the aid station table.
1. It is HARD. You have to show up early and stay late. You have to rush around and get stuff ready before runners get there. You have to load and unload everything. You have to clean as you go. You have to clean, inventory, and repack everything once the last runner comes through. It isn’t running, but it is a LOT of work.
2. I t i s STRESSFUL. The pressure o f being able t o quickly and efficiently provide for all the needs of the runners while still cheering them on and infusing them with confidence takes a real toll on you. Waiting for a group of runners to come through and making sure you got them all checked in can leave you worried that you missed someone. You will question yourself. Did I do everything I could for them? Did I find the right drop bag? Did I give them the right bottle back?
3. It is INSPIRING. Watching runners push themselves to the breaking point and battling it out against the elements and their own exhaustion and overcome all obstacles to meet and exceed their goals will give you a shiver. Working an aid station will leave you with a renewed faith in humanity and a solid week’s supply of warmfuzzies.
4. It is FULFILLING. Spending time and energy taking actions that directly correlate and make an impact on people realizing their dreams is extremely fulfilling. Playing a part in an organization that co-creates EPIC “ultrarunning experiences of a lifetime” is extremely rewarding. You are a character in a memory of these runner’s lives that, while unnamed, will stick with them for their entire lives.
5. It is FUN. This is the best part. It is fun as hell! Hooting and hollering, yelling and screaming… It is a blast. Laughing and having fun with a huge group of people who share and understand an “insane” sport that you also love; how could this NOT be freaking awesome. I had a blast. I made friends. This is priceless – and it is an aspect of our “beloved sport” I had been missing until that point.
All said and done, I am so glad I took a race off of running and took my time helping others reach their goals. IF you have not done this yet, I HIGHLY suggest that you do. If you HAVE… why in the HELL did you not tell me that it was imperative that I DO SO!!!?? So for those of you who have not – I will make it easy. Go to epicultras.com/brigade. Sign up and get involved. Put your ultrarunning experience and enthusiasm to good use. Although your body can’t run as many ultras as you want, it doesn’t mean you can’t still soak up the “Epic Energy”. Epic Ultras is known for having incredible support for runners in their events – both aid and staff. I am honored and proud to say that I played a part in executing their mission: co-creating EPIC “ultrarunning experiences of a lifetime”!
Until Next Time…. BE EPIC!
At some miserably low and painful point of almost every longer ultra – especially a 100 miler – I find myself severely questioning my life choices. Specifically, the choice to subject myself to the grueling punishment required to run long distances, in less than favorable weather, and on difficult terrain – for a belt buckle that I will never actually wear. For the first time in my ultrarunning “career”, I am internally examining my strange compulsion before the race has beaten me to a pulp. Way before. Like 6 weeks before. The Honey Badger 100 will begin at 6am on July 12th2014, and I will be at the starting line.
For those of you who don’t know, Honey Badger is not a trail run. This race will take place on paved county roads west of Wichita Kansas near Cheney Reservoir and cover a good chunk of Kingman County. The last 5 years on this weekend in July have seen daytime high temps in this area of 103, 92, 101, 98, and 101. Of course it will be hot in Kansas in July, but it will also be windy. As a matter of fact, one of the largest wind farms in the state is in the process of being built very near the race venue. A wind farm converts wind energy into electricity using turbines – this seems to me like a good indication of how windy it will be. Likely 25-30 mph sustained winds with gusts strong enough to blow over a baby elephant. Also, it is not quite as flat as you would expect. According to Map My Run, there will be enough elevation change to make things interesting. The point of this course preview; it’s gonna suck. Hard.
So by now you are probably asking yourself, “So why in seven bloody hells are you running this?” Well, because it IS hard. Duh. If it was easy, everyone would do it. Well, that and because Honey Badgers are pretty freaking badass and I want a buckle with one on it. Also, there’s a little race called The Badwater Ultramarathon – maybe you have heard of it? “The World’s Hardest Footrace”, it spans 135 miles across Death Valley from the Badwater Basin to Mt. Whitney’s Portal – in July. Yes, I know the course has changed… don’t miss my point. My point is that after reading what Marshall Ulrich, Dean Karnazes, Scott Jurek, and RD Eric Steele have written about their experiences at Badwater, I want to do it someday. Additionally, it is hard as hell to get into, and costs a shitload of money, so you better make sure you got a big dose of “what it takes” before you head to Death Valley. This brings me to Honey Badger. It occurred to me sometime last summer that before I travel all the way to California to go swim in some bad water, I will schedule a death match with a Honey Badger in my own back yard!
I have been training pretty well in 2014 and have raced in the Winter Rock 25K, Prairie Spirit 100 Mile, Free State 40 Mile, FlatRock 101K, and 3Daysto100K (just the 50K). My mileage base is solid, now I just need to get acclimated to the heat which has been difficult since we have had a very mild spring so far. I will also have the advantage of having a super badass crew lined up – and my ultra sweet badass running girlfriend Candi who will also be racing. We plan on crossing the finish line together just like we did at FlatRock 101k. Since historically I throw all my super detailed plans out the window I am keeping this one simple. The plan is to run until the sun gets high and temps get around 90, then hunker down and survive until the sun goes down. Hopefully our hydration and fueling will be going well and we can tick off some serious mileage before the sun comes up. That’s it. Oh, and finish under the 36 hour time limit.
So there is still time… if you think you have what it takes, hell, why not sign up??? If you are even ENTERTAINING the idea of Badwater in the future, it seems like a no-brainer. If that’s not enough, keep in mind it is an Epic Ultras event – So you KNOW it will inevitably BE EPIC!
Last year at the Inaugural FlatRock 101K, the mud and water turned an already challenging course into a muddy Slip n’ Slide of doom. The smells of mud and blood hung in the misty fog while sounds of falling bodies and runners shouting obscenities filled the air. This year, however, was much different. This year, after only a few scattered storms that barely knocked down the dust, the clouds fled and runners were treated to clear skies, gusty winds, and unseasonably warm temperatures. When you have done most of your training in sub-zero weather it was downright hot.
My lovely and talented girlfriend and running partner Candi and I were up well before the rooster, and managed to get on the road and make it to Elk City Lake at about 6am. We drove through a pretty nasty thundershower that treated us to a badass light show that rivaled those of the glory days of 70’s acid rock concerts. The lightning was intense and beautiful and ended up being somewhat of a storm before the calm – which was fine with me. We chatted with our friends, reorganized drop boxes for the 37th time, did all our other normal pre-race routines, and basically just paced nervously until Eric called us up to the starting line. Once the race was UNDERWAY, I realized I had somehow lost the visor I was wearing, and instead of just taking off, I TURNED AROUND went back to the van and looked around for it. Candi and Ron-Micah LaPoint waited on me and we started out handicapped by at least 2-3 minutes… and no, I didn’t even find the piece of shit. This seemed like an odd way to start a race, but hey, I have never been afraid to buck ‘the norm’ in an ultra!
The first 25.25 kilometers were pretty uneventful. Candi and I ran and chatted as we have many times before, not allowing the urge to ‘race’ split us up before it was really necessary. I had really hoped to stay with her for the first 50.5K when I figured she would be running much faster than I could keep up with. Candi is an extremely strong 2nd half runner and can get close to even splits even in very long runs. We made it out to Sean’s Sanctum aid station and I was feeling really good. The temperature was really starting to rise quickly, but this was expected, so I had made a concerted effort to stay ahead on hydration and nutrition from the very start and had taken in a ton of water and electrolyte in the first 15 miles. The first ¼ of a race is almost always the easiest for me, and today was no different.
The second 25k leg marked the beginning of transition from nice spring weather for a trail run to entering the portal to hell covered in gasoline. The temps jumped dramatically and the gnarly wind gusts were blowing up tons of dust, ash, pollen, and small mammals. Candi and I made it inbound to Dana’s Aid Station at about the 21 mile point and I was really starting to feel shitty. My legs felt like lead, I was hotter than a Colorado piss test, and I was seriously starting to think that running the 40 miler at Free State Ultra the previous weekend might have been a marginally terrible idea. My experience at FlatRock helped me at this point, because instead of feeling sorry for myself, whining, and acting like a giant pussy, I kept eating and drinking and reminding myself that I ALWAYS struggle at this point. I don’t know what it is, but EVERY SINGLE TIME I run on “the Rock” I struggle after leaving Dana’s inbound. I just kept telling myself I would feel better and kept putting left in front of right. Candi was still running strong and I didn’t want to sabotage her time, so I told her to go ahead and run her race, kick some ass, and that I would see her at the finish. We both put in our earbuds, and she was out of my line of sight within minutes. I cranked tunes and eventually passed the first place runner headed back for his second 50.5K – I think he was “only” about 8 miles or so ahead of me. A rough-looking, pale Ron-Micah LaPoint was second place and headed outbound and only wanted to know how far it was to the bench on the bluff. I lied, as trail runners do, and said, “Close. Around the next corner maybe?” He was nauseated… as were many at this point. It was past 1 pm and closing in on 85 degrees with ludicrously high humidity. I made it to the end of the 50.5K in about 7 hours and 30 minutes – pretty much right on target. ½ done.
At the start/finish turnaround I was handled magnificently by some totally badass Epic Brigade Staff Memebrs, including Libby Eddings and Polly Choate, as well as my unofficial crew Reina Probert and Kodi Panzer. It was like a spa day… with extra suck. These ladies were bringing me food, drinks, ice, filling my pack, and probably would have massaged my legs had I asked. They are the pinnacle of course aid. Thanks ladies! I crammed as much real food and cold liquid into my stomach as it would hold and my awesome pacer Kodi and I set out for the 3rd and hottest 25k leg of the race. Ignoring the desert-hot wind gusts that were blowing street dust in our face, we set a course for awesome and trekked back to the trail. It took a while to get my ass moving, but eventually my legs began to feel more like an ultrarunner’s tools than frog legs roasted over an open fire. I bitched and moaned a little, but mostly ran and was totally entertained by the hilarity of Tank’s (the English translation for the German word “Panzer”) stories as well as her choice in trail music (played on speakerphone for the world to hear). While I wasn’t feeling like a million bucks, I was feeling at least worth about $12.78 and a warm Jolly Rancher – so I kept on. My time with Tank went pretty fast, and we were at Dana’s in no time. Ron-Micah was here and it was pretty obvious by the puke all over his shirt and the fact he was on his back in the shade that he wasn’t doing well. The race leader came back inbound at this point, as well, and they were talking about how hot and hard the day was. On the upside he was still ONLY 12ish miles ahead of me, so I didn’t have to totally abandon my hopes of winning the race… Bahaha!! Kodi and I heard that lots of runners were having dehydration and breathing issues and that quite a few had dropped, including my good friend Justin Chockley who had some sort of respiratory episode where he could barely breath AT ALL. We also found out that Candi had not been feeling great and was only about 10 minutes in front of us. She had started feeling sick to her stomach at about the 50K point, but being the barbarian warrior she is, she kept hammering out the miles. After some food and several cups of ginger ale over ice, we set back out. One of the fun things about trail running is the wildlife. In this race I got to chase a groundhog, pet a baby armadillo, kick a possum, and hurdle multiple copperhead snakes. I got pics of the armadillo to prove it, but the groundhog was too fast. And the copperheads, well, I didn’t really want to get close enough for pictures. Kodi and I strolled leisurely covered in dirt, salt, and sweat into Sean’s Sanctum for the second time capping off the 3rd 25.25K leg of the race. 75% done.
The sun was starting to get lower and it seemed as if I just might survive the heat of the day. So far, my iron-gut was holding out, and had only very briefly felt sick after cramming it full of food. Here I thanked Kodi for pacing and get ready to head out for the final leg and trip to the finish line. Daniel Droessler, a longtime co-worker and budding ultrarunner picked up pacing duties and would take me to Dana’s where another co-worker and ultrarunner Gene Dixon would pick me up and guide me through the dark to the finish. Neither had really done much trail running, especially not the technicality that FlatRock had to offer, but I knew they would be fine. They are both good dudes and are, most importantly, made up of the “right stuff” as Eric Steele calls it. I figured we would catch Candi in this section as she was still feeling VERY bad and moving much slower. We talked for a second when we crossed each other when she left Sean’s – she did not look the greatest, but I knew how tough she was so I wasn’t worried about her dropping. As a matter of fact, I told Dan that there was a better chance of us finding her unconscious on the trail than her quitting. Other than forgetting my water bottle at Sean’s Sanctum, the race was still going great. Sure, I was stiff, hot, and tired – but really I was in a great place mentally and I knew I would kick the shit out of my time of 21:44 last year. Dan was thoroughly enjoying the trail and joking and laughing the entire time. His great energy as a pacer, several nice runable sections, and the cooling temps made this section much more pleasant. We got to the waterfall (my 4th time) and I saw Candi and her pacer Crystal on the other side and I yelled as loud as I could, “THE F&%^*NG WATERFALL!!!!” Candi echoed my sentiment in an equally loud fashion. Dan and I caught up with them after successfully negotiating (and cooling off in) the waterfall and Candi still was feeling shitty. We all stayed together, made a lot of noise, dropped a bunch of F-Bombs, and got back to Dana’s with a good mix of powerhiking and jogging. I was HUNGRY at this point and ate a couple cups of her amazing potato soup, several sandwich quarters, chips, a cereal bar, and probably one of everything else that was there. Getting back to Dana’s before dark was one of my little goals for the day, and we did. It was still light out! There was still sunlight left, a few more minutes before we would be plunged into the colorless black of the seventh level of hell. The trail kicks your ass in the light, however, it flat out stomps your balls in the dark! Running is hard and not falling is even harder. Physically and mentally I was in a great place, I really felt like it was in the bag at this point. Every step closer was a step closer to the finish. Gene took over for Daniel and we left Dana’s for the final time. We jogged/hiked for the last remaining light but eventually got to the point where we had to turn the lights on. Candi was still feeling terrible and could barely take in any food or water and was still more concerned with slowing ME down than she was about her own race. I told her I didn’t care, and that it didn’t matter because I couldn’t catch Josh Watson (the runner that I knew was next in front of us) so there was no point in running off from her. I could have made a little better time, but at that point it was way more important to help her finish, and even better – to be able to ensure we would be crossing the finish line together! Now, I will admit, if another runner HAD been able to catch us, I probably would have ran off without a second thought to make sure that I didn’t get passed – Candi knows this and would expect no less out of me, or I from her. After all… it is a race!
Gene was loving the trail and checking it out with his headlamp every chance he could, keeping an eye out for copperheads, as they came out in force once the sun went down. We talked and hiked and sometimes stopped for a few seconds to let Candi and Crystal catch up. Gene is a very calm intelligent type of guy so we had some good conversations which really passed the time. We got back to Max and David’s (joint) aid station, where again, I was starving! They had some EPIC smoked ham stew and pulled pork that was absolutely delicious. Then, they offered whiskey, as they are known to do – according to them I was the first to accept. Twice. Gene also took a pull or two and the girls ate and drank what they could – avoiding the whiskey like the plague. Michael Mora, one of last year’s 101K finishers was here helping out after dropping due to some severe blister issues. He seemed like he was having MUCH more fun “working” than running! Honestly, I was pretty jealous. We set out to put the last 4 miles of the 2nd annual FlatRock 101K in the books. It was a steady hike with a few jogging breaks mixed in, and ultimately, our relentless forward progress was eventually rewarded by a steep descent off the side of the ridge. We hit the flat road and coasted toward the finish line. Gene and Crystal ran us up to the finish line before pulling off to the side, having completed their tasks. Candi and I slapped the now legendary “FlatRock Hand” together as we crossed the finish line, relieved to be done. A final expletive laden exclamation of thanks passed Candi’s mouth as we finished the most brutal trail ultra in the midwest (hands down), truly not a race for the faint of heart. 17:16:44 and 6th and 7th place was our official finish. She was the second female and I was the 5th male finisher. Three and a half hours faster for me than last year… I’ll take it!
This race is EPIC by any and every stretch of the imagination in any dimension of space or time. This race IS certainly the “top dog” in Kansas AND the entire midwest, relative to trail running badassery and should definitely be added to all trail ultrarunners bucket list if they think they have what it takes to conquer “The Rock”! The course is radically different than pretty much anything ever imaginable in Kansas, and it is downright just a VERY HARD trail race! The individuals who take on this race are straight-up badasses, who certainly take it way beyond a rating of TEN and actually crank it up to ELEVEN…and then some. The race director, Eric Steele, and his primary assistant, Warren Bushey have an incredible passion for ultrarunning and ultrarunners that is unparalleled compared to any I have ever been around and the entire Epic Ultras Brigade Staff is equally phenomenal in their caring and support of EVERY single runner. Food, course support, bling, shirts, and other logistics are executed with an exquisite precision that I have only witnessed at Epic Ultras Events. Take all these ingredients, mash them together, and you have a powder keg of volcanic proportions that has consistently erupted EPICNESS of truly legendary proportions. A middle-of-the-night finish line with staff and FINISHERS ringing cowbells, blasting airhorns, yelling shouts of support, a GIGANTIC BLACK ARCH, and a laser light show is the icing on the cake. If you have not experienced the feeling of crossing the wonderfully EPIC finish at the Epic Ultras FlatRock101K, you truly are missing out. Thanks to everyone, top to bottom, who had any part of putting this outstanding race together. It is a memory that will never diminish in my mind.
Until Next Time! BE EPIC!