Prairie Spirit Trail 100 Preview: A Noob’s Guide to the PST 100

Prologue

I know this course and this race pretty freakin’ well. I have run the 100 mile twice (one with a blizzard DNF at mile 77 the second with a sub-24 hour finish) and the 50 mile once (under 8:45).  So yeah, I am pretty much an expert – or at the very least –  I have more than a few pointers for this race that I think at least somewhat useful.  For this preview, I will be focusing on the 100 miler.

Course

For those who don’t know, this course is Rails to Trails.  This means two things are certain: The course is 1.) FLAT and 2.)SMOOTH.  Great race for those not totally confident in their ability to climb mountains (or anthills) and those who have trouble getting to the refrigerator without tripping and falling.  The most technical part of the ‘trail’ is the road crossing.  I shit you not.  This race is a shufflers dream come true.  It is out and back, so once you hit the turn, there is nowhere to go but home – it’s just really far away.  Although it is a rail trail, there are some differing views as you cover the 50 miles of the course – forests, fields, trestle bridges, towns, lakes, water towers, and of course a Kansas fixture – grain elevators.  It is actually really pretty – no mountain, but pretty in it’s own right.  So that’s the course.  Moving on.

Tip 1:  Run this 100 in quadrants.  They say the best way to eat an elephant is in small bites.  One bite at a time and you will eventually get it done.   Elephant meat might still taste like shit and make you want to puke or give up sometimes, but you will finish eventually.  I feel like the best way to approach this race is in 25(ish) mile chunks.

Chunk 1:  Start(Ottawa) to Garnett
Chunk 2: Garnett to Iola
Chunk 3: Iola to Garnett
Chunk 4: Garnett to Finish Line(Ottawa)

Of course, when shit goes south, fall back on the old, “run aid station to aid station” mantra.  All else fails, just go into survival mode and keep moving and don’t dick around at the aid stations.

Chunk 1:  Start(Ottawa) to Garnett

Start SLOW!!! This course is hella easy, especially at first.  You will want to blaze out of the start and try and keep people from passing you.  DON’T.  If your goal is to simply finish the your overall average pace needs to be 18 minutes per mile – so running 8s at the beginning is just dumb to do because “you’re feeling amazing!”  No shit, it’s the first part of a 100, you are supposed to be feeling good.  Fight the urge to sprint, be disciplined, it will pay massive dividends later.  For those of you looking to sub 24, I would suggest aiming for right at 5:20-5:30 goal for the first 25 miles.  That puts you right around a 13 min/mi pace.  Other tips for this first section – make sure and eat and drink at Princeton and Richmond.  I know you don’t feel like you need it, but if you don’t it will catch up to you later when it warms up.  Next – do not screw around at the train station in Garnett – yeah its cool, but you are racing, not sightseeing.  Do you business and get your ass back on the trail.  Finally, the gravel and dust can be hell on your feet, so consider dumping rocks out of your shoes and even changing socks and shoes as needed.

Chunk 2: Garnett to Iola

This is probably where you may start feeling the miles add up.  Honestly, it is one of my least favorite chunks of the race.  From Garnett to Welda is roughly 8.5 miles.  I always, and I mean ALWAYS, hit a low spot somewhere between 20 and 30 miles, so it is usually in this stretch.  There are more open spaces where the wind can suck, or the sun can fry you – so try and stay cool, hydrated, and don’t forget the sunblock.  Pace-wise, try and maintain roughly the same pace as you did the first 25 mile chunk – and maybe just a tad faster if you are feeling good.  The stretch to get to Colony is another 7.5 miles or so and a lot more of the same.  By this time the relative beauty of the trail will wear off and it will just get boring.  I would suggest running with someone of similar pace (but do NOT press or slow way down just to stay with someone).  Again – if you are gunning for a sub24 – if you can get to the turn at Iola from Garnett in that 5:20-5:30 range it puts you around 10:40 or 11 cumulatively.  This means after a quick stop to gear up for the second half, you have 13 hours for the return trip.  Assuming you have not murdered yourself to get to the turnaround, you will have a good shot at your 24, you will just need to manage a 16ish pace for the 48 miles back to the finish line.  Remember – this course is front loaded with a couple in-town miles (or at least was the first 3 years), so this mileage is ballpark.

Chunk 3: Iola to Garnett

First and most important tip here is get your ass out of the aid station and back on the trail!  Don’t think about how far you have gone and that you now have to do it again.  Don’t think about how much it is going to hurt.  Do what you need to do and move your ass on back to Ottawa.  A checklist of ‘to do’s’ is wise here- don’t want to go without a pre-planned change of shoes or your headlamp if you are going to need it.  When you take care of the necessities, get back on the trail and finish the job.  I always tell myself after turning around that now every step is one step closer the the finish line.   Now you know the course, so it is just a matter of pace management and continuing to fuel the machine.  Eating and drinking becomes critical at this point – even though you might be sick of eating and drinking – force it on yourself so you don’t blow up in the home stretch.  You now have 6 hours to get back to Garnett and leave 7 for the final chunk (which is actually less than 23 miles).  Just keep moving, and since you have been conservative through the first half, you will likely see it start to pay off and get there even ahead of schedule.  Make sure and eat and drink at Colony and Welda, utilize your crew if you have one, and lean on your pacers as needed.  It’s about to get tough – so you have to as well.

Chunk 4: Garnett to Finish Line(Ottawa)

Here is where they separate the 100k’ers from the 100 milers.  Mile 75(ish) to 100 is the hardest part of this (and I think all) 100 milers.  You have come so far, but still have so far to go.  At this point you will need to think aid station to aid station.  It is 9 long ass miles from Garnett to Richmond, so I would mentally run this section in 2 parts.  Have your pacer help you break it up and put a planned 3-5 minute rest about 5 miles in.  It will give you something to shoot for before getting to Richmond.  This section is the hardest for many people.  It is long and dark as hell.  You really start to feel like you will never get to that damn town.  After that, I felt like I started to smell the finish line, and the 6.5 miles to Princeton didn’t seem nearly as bad.  You will probably be walking off and on quite a bit now, but try to keep both your walking and running pace up.  You have plenty of time – 7 hours for 23 miles works out to about 18:15 miles, so just keep moving, alternating walking and shuffling.  Don’t stop unless you have to – and then, do it for only very, very short periods.  Once you get through Princeton, you might find some new life knowing that you only have 7 miles to go – or you might not!  I know at this point was so done, and “I just want to be done.”  My pacer heard that at least 100 times.  I finally got some new life when we got into the edge of town, and we cranked out the last couple miles getting to the finish.  For this last section I say this:  Relentless Forward Progress is the key.  Just keep moving.  You WILL get there if you just keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Lean on your pacer.  Let them be the brains of the operation – and dammit, do what the hell they say!  If you have managed your race well, you should have been able to hold the 16-17 min/mile pace needed to get your “100 in a day”.  If your goal was to just get that under 30 buckle, these same tips apply, just with a slower pace. You can walk, shuffle, jog this course in under 30 hours if you JUST KEEP PRESSING FORWARD.

Epilogue

Nothing about a 100 mile race is short – including a race preview blog.  This was not comprehensive or precise to the minute or half mile, but it does have some great info that you can take and build your own plan.  Good luck – and I hope to see you out there!

 

 

Trail Nerds – “Winter Wyco” Run Toto Run 50K Race Report

A good ultra allows you the opportunity to have fun.  A great ultra supplies a challenge that tests the limits of your abilities.  An outstanding ultra places you head to head against yourself, other PsychoWyco-2016-2064racers, the trail, the elements, and you physical and mental limits – while being supported by a hoard of experienced, enthusiastic volunteers and top-notch race director.  By this standard, the Run Toto Run aka “Winter Wyco” 50K was OUTSTANDING.

The course is by far one of the most demanding in the state of Kansas.  Nearly all single track, it is not the rolling wheat fields that come to mind when the word “Kansas” is uttered.  It is not a mountain course, but it does provide lots of small chunks of technical running, steep (but brief) climbs, sharp winding switchbacks, muddy bridle (horse) trails, and even a nice climb up the grassy Wyandotte County Lake dam.  Most of the course is very runnable and gives you the opportunity to put your speed to the test – if that is your wish.  My training leading up had focused on quality over quantity, speed over distance, and thriving over surviving.  I planned on putting myself to the test, setting a very lofty goal of 5:15 on a trail where my previous best 50K time was 6:45 (albeit very hungover on a 95 degree day).

Usually the weather plays a major factor in this race as it is held in the middle of February in Kansas City.  Those of you familiar with this region know it is usually -70, windy, and miserable  this time of the year.  Not this year!  Goosebumped and shivering, I started in my favorite pair of shorty shorts and short sleeve Nike Dry Fit shirt and my Orange Mud HydraQuiver 2.  While I was uncomfortable at first, I was banking on the 70 degree forecast as well as a bit of additional motivation to move my ass a bit faster to stay warm.  Mission accomplished.  In the first 2 miles of the conga line, I passed at least 60 people and managed to warm my fingers enough to restore blood flow.

Action Shot at the Triangle - Mile 90 Photography
Action Shot at the Triangle – Mile 90 Photography

I had a great first loop, enjoying the relatively mud-less trail and the mild temperatures.  I didn’t utilize the aid stations much since I was wearing a pack filled with my own pre-packed food and 2 bottles – but I did enjoy their encouragement as I passed thru.  The finish line was like a freaking party – with music and beers flowing enthusiastically before 10am. Out-freaking-standing! I had a lap time of about 1:36 – way ahead of my goal average of 1:45 over 3 laps to hit 5:15.

The second loop went great for the most part.  I knew that I had gone out really fast trying to get around the conga line, so I dialed it back and focused on eating and drinking for the push in the final loop and hitting much closer to my 1:45 per lap goal.  The traffic was much thinner this time around and it was comfortably warmer for this trip around the lake.  Pretty uneventful lap and I nailed my goal – hitting the aid station with a lap time of 1:46.  I now had 10 minutes “in the bank”, basically allowing me a full minute per mile slower than goal pace for the final lap and I would hit my target!  Who knows, the shit stayed out of the fan, I might even go 5:05 or better!

Coming out of the aid station and up the hill to the bridle trail, I could tell that the distance was starting to take its toll on me.  I almost ALWAYS hit a low spot about 20 miles into any race, and this was no different.  I battled to keep my pace on target, but my heartrate was telling the tale.  Early in the loop, I knew I couldn’t keep it up for the full 9 remaining miles, so I backed off a little,  scarfed down a few hundred calories and chugged some water.  It was starting to get warm (hot for February) and I suspected I had gotten behind on both food and water.  About the time I hit the big dam hill – mile 25 or so – I was feeling awesome again and put the hammer down.  I ran up the hill to the dam aid station, blew through, and blasted up both of the following hills on the lake road before turning back to the singletrack that winds around behind the dam.  This is where the proverbial “shit” happened.

Literally blasting down the technical singletrack switchbacks, I was fully focused on my footfalls and trying not to donate teeth and flesh to the Wyco Trail Gods.  Pantera had stormed my earbuds full blast and my heart was pumping massive volumes of oxygenated blood.  I was in the zone!  I was in the zone so freaking hard!  So hard I missed the sign. OHHHHHHHH FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUDGE! Only, PsychoWyco-2016-4494-XLjust like Ralphie, I didn’t say fudge.  I end up dead-ending at a paved road with no flags to be seen.  Overwhelmed by the adrenaline infused blood thudding my veins I had ended up off trail somehow.  I spent the next 10-15 minutes backtracking, taking more wrong turns, until finally finding the spot I had veered from the correct course.  I spent the next ten minutes or so totally pissed off at myself and pouting like a damn baby.  I was totally on target to nail 5:15 – maybe even better.  Just like the viral news video of the fire victim, my tune changed to “NOT TODAY!!!”.

Getting lost really got in my head and since my time goal was out the window, I adjusted it.  I just wasn’t going to get passed before the end.  I managed to easily stay ahead of anyone seeking to steal a position from me, and after a 2:15 loop, I got across the finish in about 5:35ish, 23rd place overall – still a great time and course PR for me.

Candi, Eric, Alicia and I all stuck around and enjoyed the finish line festivities while waiting to cheer Ryan into the finish.  Ryan finished the 50K with plenty of time to spare even though he felt as bad as he ever had during an ultra.  Candi fought some nausea and still posted a sub 5:45 while Eric completed his first ultra as a 50 year old – under 6:30 – with no hill training!  All in all it was a great day and an IMG_0900outstanding event put on by RD Bad Ben Holmes and the Trail Nerds.  A sweet zipper hoodie, finishers trucker hat, and vanity sticker for the car were all an added bonus to the sweet medal which actually features a spinning tornado!  And don’t forget the amazing photos provided for no additional fee to runners – taken by the best in the business – Mile 90 Photography.  If you have not experienced one of the best trails that Kansas has to offer, I suggest you get this one, or one of the other great Trail Nerds races on Wyandotte County Lake, on your schedule immediately.

 

#22Kill Challenge – 22 Miles, 44 Pounds, 6 Hours

I am not a combat veteran and do not have to cope with PTSD or thoughts of suicide.  I served during a peaceful time and was off active duty completely out of the Army when the shit really hit the fan in 2003.  But I have plenty of old battle buddies who did have to serve multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and are now dealing with the aftershocks.  They are the reason I am doing this.

I got challenged by Darin Brunin on FaceBook for the 22 days of 22 pushups for the #22kill movement.  Here’s the idea…

‪#‎22kill‬ doing ‪#‎22PushUps‬. I am pushing in an attempt to raise awareness to the fact that 22 AMERICAN VETERANS will commit suicide today!
Losing 22 of our vets a day is unacceptable. Politics aside we need to reach out and help, especially if our government is not supplying the support that these men and women need and deserve.
Please spread the word that veteran suicide is not the answer!
The organizations at the links below are raising the bar in creating a culture that OUR Veterans know their sacrifice was not in vain. To participate visit
www.22kill.com
Share this noble cause
http://www.honorcouragecommitment.org
This organization promotes Veteran Entrepreneurship. Help spread the word.

IMG_0918So here you go Darin.  Well, unfortunately I hate push-ups.  I also am not disciplined enough to post a video every day like the challenge required.  But I did come up with what I feel like is a suitable replacement.  At this Saturday’s Angry Bull 6hr Endurance Run,  I will load up an old-school Army rucksack with 44 pounds and run 22 miles (well try at least) in the 6 hour event.  I will make a video at the end and I will also make a $100 donation to  http://www.honorcouragecommitment.org and challenge you to donate as well.  Select from one of these vetted charities and give what you can.  You could save a life.  At a minimum, help me out by sharing this and helping bringing some further awareness to PTSD and veteran suicide.