April 2nd, 2022
Late per usual. 🙂
Rockin K 50K Recap
It’s 5:20 am and I roll over to grab my phone and turn off the alarm I had set. My excitement had me waking up every hour after 2 am. It’s quiet in the house so I tiptoe around my sister’s guest room as I put on my perfectly laid out race gear. (I’m a bit OCD the night before a race, everything has to be neatly laid out.)
I walk downstairs and see my sister (Carissa) perched up on the couch watching TV waiting for me. “You’re up?!” I say with shock. She nods as if this is normal for her.
I immediately start to feel my stomach bubble with excitement, nervousness, and a surprising need to poo. It’s race day and I have done very minimal amounts of running to prepare for this 50K race. The year started off with a bum ankle so I took a step back from running. So… Naturally I sign up for a 50k, right?
I devour a huge bowl of oatmeal and my sister makes a fresh cup of Joe for the road. I have a 40 minute drive to Kanopolis State Park to pump myself up with coffee and music. I finish packing my hydration pack with a water bladder and snackies for the race and then head out the door. At 5:40 I am on the road cruising, listening to my “Pump Up” playlist. The phrase “It’s Race Day” starts pulsating in my brain.
I arrive a little before 6:30 and park my little car off the side of the road about 400 meters from the start line. It was perfect timing as David and his co-worker Mike had just arrived as well. They drove all the way from KC this morning… which means they had to leave around 2 am. NO THANK YOU.
We all walk to the “Corral Shelter” to check in. I was instantly uncertain about my choice of clothing for the race. Goosebumps were popping up everywhere as I was only in shorts, a T-shirt, and gloves. The weather was showing in the low 30s but I knew that it was going to get up into the 60s later on in the day.
We wait around the start line shivering and for the other runners to make their way. This was a smaller race of a total of 164 participants and only 53 of us were running the 50k. Our start line was a nice S-T-A-R-T with an underline painted in white on the pavement. No banners or frills, keep it simple, we just wanted to run.
Right at 7 am, the race director announces “GO!” and we all start a slow jog. David, Mike and I enjoy the nice pace and make small talk with one another. I immediately spotted a woman that I wanted to beat. We all know I’m competitive by now and I had known about this lady for a long time. I initially heard about her in a 15 mile trail race in college. I ended up coming in first and everyone around me kept claiming “You beat her?!” I had no idea who this lady was. Turns out, she is a great runner and wins a lot of races around this area. So naturally, she was my target. How big headed am I? I have done zero training for this race but yet, I want to beat someone who is known for ultra running in these areas…
We head down a paved road for about half a mile and then turn on a dirt trail. There are three distances racing with us. The 50k, the marathon, and the 21 milers. All of us shuffle into a single file line besides the ones who run around to get ahead.
This is always an exciting time during the race, everyone’s feeling good and amped up, you can just feel the energy coming off of everyone. I love this part of a race.
We quickly run by a few photographers throughout the trail and I questioned David on what pose we should do since that has always been our motto. As we run past a 2nd photographer David lets out a chuckle and I ask what he did behind me. He announces that “it’s a surprise for later”… (Needless to say when I saw this I let out a hearty laugh.)
After a few miles I can slowly feel my body start to warm up but my hands are still frozen stiff. So much so, that I take my fingers out of the finger part of the gloves and ball them up in the center hoping that this will allow them to defrost.
As we run through the Flint Hills, I keep getting overwhelmed by the beauty of the course. After a big climb we came up on an outlook that showed the bright clear sky and beaming sun facing us. I instantly was ready to pull out my phone to capture it as David announces behind me “I got it!” and takes a photo of the moment.
After 8ish miles we pass by an unmanned water station, which means there are jugs of water for anyone who needs to refill. I was set on my water supply but David and Mike fill up and we continue on.
David and I are both surprised by how good our bodies feel and continue on at a nice pace. The people surrounding us start to fade out and eventually David and I are running by ourselves.
The sun starts to rise and by now I have taken off my gloves and am fully thawed out. We hit the manned aid station at mile 14 where there is food, water, and volunteers to assist us. Immediately a man asks us what we need and I hand him my small water bottle that needs to be refilled. David and I both grab a snack to eat and then head back down the trail.
From here, we start running on the “Bluff Trail”, this was around a 5 mile loop and we had to run it twice for the 50k distance. David and I converse about the trail leading up to this loop and both agree that it had been pretty smooth sailing so far and if the trail continued that way, we were going to do well.
Of course, we both quickly realize that that was not how this loop was going to be.
We start out climbing between a barbed wire fence that they had pulled open and covered with tarp so that the wire wouldn’t cut us and then run through the edge of a farm land. The trail isn’t very beaten down but it’s a gradual uphill for the majority of it. It was instantly becoming a more technical trail.
By this point, I start to feel my knees becoming tender. I was almost ashamed as it was so early on to be having knee pain but I attribute it to the lack of training and refocus.
After the long gradual climb, the trail turns left and we start descending rapidly. The trail is marked by pink ribbons every 10 feet or so, but you still have to pay attention to where you are going.
We start going up and down through the hills, up and down, and up and down, and up and down. Realizing that probably the majority of the elevation of the race was taking place now.
David and I stay together pushing through and then come out on a gravel road. Immediately my body feels happy as I can see the gravel continues flat for a long time and I can give my body a break.
After about 5 minutes David hollers out to me “Wait! Stop! Turn around!” and points out the pink ribbons that turn off the gravel road and through the grass. No real trail. I instantly holler at the two gentlemen who were further ahead of us to warn them as well.
I can only imagine how many people have missed this turn as we zoned in on the luxurious flat gravel trail.
David and I start to become very zoned in on the pink ribbons, both of us do not want to get off course and have to back track so we make sure we continue and always have an eye for the next one.
Right before we are about to finish the loop a couple other runners join our train and I instantly realize that the lady I wanted to beat is now behind me. She had gotten off course with quite a few others.
My inner fire ignites. I knew I wasn’t too far behind her as I had periodically seen her when we came to a big clearing, but now, I knew I was close. She doesn’t stop at the aid station and David and I load up on water and snacks and head out.
I tell David my excitement as she was right there and he lets me know that he is going to take the second loop around slower.
I don’t want to leave David but I knew I could continue to push. As I continue on the second lap I realize that it felt easier this time. I knew what to expect when and where the turns were. I felt like I was cruising along and before I knew it I was approaching the aid station again and watching my competition heading out. I was steadily about a half mile behind her. (Let me remind you, this lady has no idea who I am or what I’m about and I mean no ill will. This was me competing against myself and what I could do.)
I load up on water at the aid station, eat some peanut butter and jelly sandwich squares, and head out. My legs hurt, my hamstrings and buttocks are tired, and my knees are on fire but I was at mile 24 and I was ready to finish out the next 7 miles.
I start to increase my pace a little and after a few miles take a caffeine energy gel that taste like pure poop. As I am running, I let out an “ARGGGHHhhhkkkkkk” sound and force myself to swallow the “Mocha” flavor that is supposed to be good. I knew I needed a little more energy and force myself to take another round. I shake my head in protest and decide that I will try again later and put it back inside its pocket. I try to imagine the small amount I ate was enough of a caffeine boost and pick up the pace again.
By this point, I am catching other runners from the 21 and marathon course and tell each of them “Good Job” as I pass them.
I was on a mission. Around mile 27 I spotted the woman and was like a hawk zoned in on their prey. By mile 28 I end up passing her and she turns to me and says “Great job!” with a big smile as I say the same to her. The beauty of ultra running, everyone is cheering on each other regardless.
I now had 3 more miles to go and I was not going to let up yet. I kept telling myself that the remaining miles will fly by and that I had no other reason to not push myself, so I did.
I cruise on and cross a river flowing up to my hips, causing my legs to be ice cold and jump out refreshed and continue on as the water falls down my legs.
Let me be clear, I am hurting, my knees are begging me to lie down in the precious sand, my legs feel swollen, and I now have feet pain but something in my brain just cannot stop.
Mentally, I was not finished. I had not crossed that finish line yet.
I push on and am shocked when my watch alerted me that I was on mile 31 but I was not near the finish yet. So I make my body feel numb and keep moving. Eventually I end up back on the pavement and could see the line of cars, people, and the end.
I am so relieved that I burst out running at an even faster pace. People start to notice me with shocked eyes that I am now basically sprinting and start cheering me on.
I cross over the painted Start line and feel so happy and exhausted as I bend over and put my hands on my knees to catch my breath. Then, a volunteer walks over with a medal and plaque. I’ve just come in 2nd place. I let out a chuckle and thank the man while standing in surprise.
I finished in 5 hours and 59 minutes, 2nd place for females, and 10th overall. Not too bad I’d say and SO unexpected. I thought that it was going to play out a bit differently but am overall thrilled.
Now…. I won’t lie, this has put an inch to start training again for ultras so we will see what this year brings!