Monday, April 25, 2011

Freestate 100K

The Freestate 100K is one of my favorite races, put on by the Kansas City Trail Nerds. This was the race early in the year I had set as a goal race to see where I was at coming back from a hip injury that plagued me much of last year and that I finally got under control in the last couple months. For whatever reason I was determined to come back better, faster and stronger. I seem to have this obsessive compulsive disorder that makes me take everything to extremes and this was no different. My friend and training partner Dave Wakefield and I, had trained hard for this race. And I was really looking forward to seeing how it would all play out. We had run the course numerous times over the couple months leading up to the race and each time we got faster and faster. (Dave was running the 40 miler) We had hatched a plan for the race and I was excited to get going. I had kind of set 3 goals for myself. 1.) What I wanted to run. 2.) What I thought I could run. 3) What I would be happy with. The plan was simple if I ran what I thought I could run, I would be right in there with the front-runners. Everyone runs for different reasons and I'm no different, I enjoy the competition and I also enjoy getting the most I can out of myself. Pushing myself to limit is part of what drives me. But even if I was dead last I would still run, I just enjoy it that much. For the people who know me, know how dedicated I am to training for and running these races. So to expect nothing but my best would be a waste of my time and effort. Racing is hard, to put out max effort for sometimes 10 to 20 hours at a time. The feeling I get from running to complete fatigue and then running more is part of the fun in this sport for me. You just can't get that feeling in a training run. The last few miles of a race are always hell and you just can't wait to be done. And sometimes I ask myself why the hell I'm putting myself thru this. I've even said to myself after this one I'm done, never to push myself that hard again. But every time that goes away as soon as I cross that finish line. Sorry I got a little off subject here, but I thought this may explain to others what drives me to do these things. The best part about this sport is everyone can compete, and I don't care if you are first or last if you have run one of these races you have accomplished something. And you have something to be proud of!

The plan was to train hard for this race and put it all out there on race day. With Dave's help, my training for this race was really good, and I was training harder and running faster than I ever had training for a race. I was feeling confident going into the race, and was in great shape and ready to see what would happen.

The week leading up to the race I was a mess, stressing about the race and wondering how I would do. I really wanted to do well at this race and it added to my stress level. I'm not sure why I always do this but it seems like a pattern with me before big races. Dave and I had both made a plan for this race and it was about time to put this plan into action.

The day before the race, I had heard they were changing the course some and this added to my stress level as I had trained on the old course and knew every inch of it like the back of my hand. The old course was always said to be short of the 100K distance and as we found out they had added some 3 miles to the course for the 100K bringing it to right at the 100K distance. Not a big deal as I had still ran every inch of the North Shore Trails and everyone would half to run the same course. We arrived at the race an hour early and I spent the time chatting with friends and other runners. Before long it was go time and I could hardly wait to get running. At the start line my buddy Dave told me to stick to the plan and have fun, no problem I thought. My wife was helping at the Kansas Ultra runners Society (KUS) aid station about 1/2 way thru the 20+ mile loop and she would crew me thru there every loop. Was all I had to do was run 3 - 20 + mile loops be consistent and run strong.

The gun went of at 7am and we were off, down a short gravel road to the single track trail we would run on all day long. I really tried to hold back at first, but found myself running right behind Dave and Rick Mayo(who were both running the 40). Going out to hard is something I really have a problem with and in the first 5 miles Dave had yelled back at me to stick to the plan, and every time he did I tried to dial it back some but was still keeping them in my sights. At mile 5 or so I could no longer see Dave in front of me so I felt like I was running in my comfort zone. At the Lands End aid station (mile 7) I had caught Rick who was already having a blister issue and left Lands End before him. From here I just settled into a rhythm and ran at a pace that felt comfortable, which was probably faster than I would have liked. Coming into the KUS aid station the first time my wife was ready for me with a new waist pack and water bottle ready to go. I caught a glimpse of the 2nd place runner and a couple others on this 1 mile out and back section of the new course. The miles kept clicking off and my pace stayed steady for the first loop. Once I got back to Lands End, another running buddy Norman filled my bottles and sent me on my way for the final 3 miles to finish loop 1. From Lands End to the start/finish is some of my favorite part of the trail behind all the campsites and along the lake, relatively flat and fast. I came into the start/finish for loop 1 in 2:45 min. a little faster than I would have liked but not far off my plan. (However my plan was for the shorter course) I got some cheers from the crowd at the start/finish area as I came in and went back out for loop 2.

I made a real effort to dial it back some on the second loop to save some energy for loop 3. As I knew if I kept this pace I would pay dearly on the final loop. This loop was really uneventful, I just kept my head down and stayed focused and ran. At this point I was still feeling good with 20+ miles under my belt. Back thru Lands End again, and back down the trail I went. I was keeping up with my hydration, calories and electrolytes and everything seemed to be going as planed. I just enjoyed the time on the trails and ran hard on the flats and down hills and coasted on the uphills. Before long I was back to the KUS station and my wife was ready for me as always. In and out in a flash, at this point I knew I had a cushion on the field as I did not see another 100K runner on this out and back section. Once I hit Lands End again. (you hit the Lands End aid station twice per loop at mile 7 and 17 or so) Here Brad informed me my that my running buddy Norman would pace my the final 13 miles. (I had talked to Norman about pacing me the final 20 miles but he has been struggling with an injury also and didn't think he could go) A pacer is really nice in a long race like this to get the most out of you. Once I knew Norman was going to pull me thru the last 13 I picked up the pace back to the start finish area. Coming back into the start/finish to cheers from the crowd and my buddy Dave (who won the 40 mile) waiting on me to give me my final instructions for the final loop. I finished loop 2 in 3:08 and was 5:53 elapsed time and 41+ miles into the race. At this point was all I had to do was be steady and keep up on my calories and hydration. But, 20 miles is still a long way at this point and anything can happen.

With 40 miles down I was still feeling as good as you can after running 40 miles. I knew I only had to run 7 more miles alone and pick up Norman to get me to the finish. My pace stayed steady at a 9 to 9:15 pace till I hit Lands End where Norman was there waiting and ready to go. They filled my bottle and I grabbed some food and shoved it down and told Norman to take off. And take off he did he set a blistering pace. (or at least what seemed like a blistering pace for me at the time) At this point I was trying to do some math and thought I still had a shot at a sub 9 hour finish. (Plan 1 was what I wanted to run was a sub 10 also on the old course) So Norman kept out in front of me a good 15-20 yards and really made me work trying to keep up with him. Then I kicked a stump and flew off the trail into the weeds and all the muscles in my left leg cramped, especially my calf. It took what seemed like forever to get the cramp out and get back up and going again. For the next 3 or so miles I was cramping and it was really hard to get back into a rhythm. It all finally worked out and the last 2 miles to the KUS aid station went much better. My wife was there again and I received a lot of cheers and encouragement from the crowd there as I came through. Some more calories and Norman shot back out and down the trail. Here is where the miles started to add up on me as I had been pushing hard all day and I was starting to feel it. Every mile seemed to take forever now, and I was working really hard to keep up with Norman. We didn't talk much, we didn't need to he knew what to do, get the most out of me he could and that he did. Every now and then he would encourage me to leave it all on the trail and I felt like I was doing a pretty good job of that. With 5 or so miles to go I knew a sub 9 was now out of the question and that took a little wind out of my sail. But, no matter what happened now I was still going to have one hell of a finish, and just kept pushing as hard as I could. I had not walked all day but now the hills were getting me and I was forced to walk some. I was hurting when we came into Lands End for the final time and I did not even stop. I just gave my bottle to Norman to fill and I kept right on running. Was all I wanted to do was finish now and it was all I could think of. Norman soon caught back up with me with my bottle and a gel. My legs were toast but only 3 miles to go. I just kept telling myself to run as hard as I could my mind was still there but my legs were not. When we finally hit the road leading up to the start finish all the pain went away and the adrenalin kicked in. Everyone was waiting on my and as I crossed the finish line in 9:09.53 (3:18 loop 3)it was shear jubilation. I could hardly believe what I had just done. Not only had I won but I broke the old (shorter) course record in the process. My wife, son, Dave and Jess, Ben, Sophia, Norman and a hoard of others were all there congratulating me. It felt great to have ran so well, and have all my friends there to celebrate with me. It was an epic run for me, and where it came from I'm not sure. I do half to thank my training partner and friend Dave Wakefield for pushing me, motivating me, and helping me reach my full potential. And Norman for also kicking my ass on some training runs and for dragging my ass in, in such a great time. My wife and son for all there support and for crewing for me all day, and for always allowing me to do what I need, to run these races. To Ben and Sophia for putting on this race and many others, and for always supporting me. Thank you! I really don't know what else I can say except it was a great day for me, the trails were it the best shape ever, the weather was perfect, and everything went as good or better than planed. If only every race were like that. LOL
Until next time I'll see you on the trails.