Where should I even start!? I absolutely love this race. Stumbling across the original FlatRock 50k website in 2009 is what made me decide to run ultras. Shit, it is why I decided to train for a marathon! I mean, who in the hell would go and try and run 31 miles on this trail if they hadn’t even run a marathon? A few minutes of looking at trail pictures, reading runner comments, reading race reports, and learning about the knighting ceremony immediately hooked me – whether I consciously knew it then or not. After finishing my first FlatRock in 2011, I vowed to myself I would one day be knighted into the hall of pain, and earn myself a custom cloth bib, epic surname and lifetime entry into FlatRock.
Fast forward to 2013; I have now run close to 20 ultras including a couple hundred mile attempts, 100k, and a difficult finish in the FlatRock 101K in April 2013. 2013 has been a good running year for me – lots of training miles, lots of great ultras, and lots of solid finishing times. I felt like it was time to try and make my mark on “The Rock”. My goal had been to run a sub 6 hour finish, but my running had been going so great that I decided to set out to break the course record – for the women – and try and break 5:45. A side note – I never even entertained the idea of a post-race sex change so that I could officially be the women’s course record holder… I knew RD Eric Steele would NEVER go for that shit and didn’t even ask. But long story short, I planned on really RACING this race and had discussed it extensively with Justin Chockley (who affectionately warned me that if I passed him, he was taking me out with a tire iron) and Candi Paulin who was also planning on chasing the women’s course record. Leading up the the event, there was a lot of buzz about just how Epic that this year’s FlatRock 50K was going to be. I mean, how could it compare to the BLIZZARD at the Prairie Spirit 50/100 or the MONSOON at the FlatRock 101K in April? The weather is always great for FlatRock in September!
My previous years at the FlatRock 50K, I always showed up the morning of (I only live about 70 miles away) and left directly after finishing. This year I showed up the night before and stuck around until after the FlatRock Triple Crown awards were given out. It was an amazing couple days filled with a mega dose of excitement and energy, great friends, excellent food, some hardcore badass trail racing, an EPIC finish line, and some perfect (and I mean you-couldn’t-make-this-shit-up perfect) weather.
I arrived Friday evening just as the sun was beginning to set and immediately started seeing friendly faces all through the crowd. The energy in the air was literally something you could grab a handful of and shove in your pocket, truly palpable. People were milling around talking and eating – generally smiling from ear to ear. One big conversation topic was the weather, as there was now about a 130% chance of some serious shit rolling in overnight or in the morning. Those of us that ran the FlatRock 101K in April knew INTIMATELY what that meant and just smiled while our guts twisted in knots and we internally cringed to ourselves. The Elk River Hiking Trail is never easy on dry days, and in the mud it is just plain HARD. I found Eric and thanked him for his hard work and congratulated him on pulling together another amazing event and spent the next few hours offering up my own services in any way I could. I talked with my badass ultrarunning friends that I don’t get to see near enough. Melissa, Candi, Justin, Joell, Jason, Tony, Ron, Warren, Eric….. this list goes on and on. Met several new people and even noted a few people who weren’t there that I KNEW I would see in the morning. As all great things do, the evening came to an end it was time to get rested and ready to run.
If you want to skip my personal “race report” then jump to the next bold and colorized sentence. If you are interested, the next few paragraphs are my personal race experience.
The night passed and it brought a pretty stout, steady breeze but not a single rain drop. FlatRock’s Majestic King, Epic Ultras founder, and long time (since it’s inception) FlatRock Race Director, Eric Steele called the runners in around the shelter house to begin the pre-race meeting just in time for the clouds to tear open and begin dumping buckets of rain on our heads. The winds were gusty and it appeared we would, in fact, get the thundershowers that the weatherman predicted – which Eric claimed to have invoked with a “Ouija Board and some Voodoo Chicken Bones”. I LOVED it. I love running in the rain, and I was ready to freaking ROCK “THE ROCK”. It MAY or MAY NOT have had something to do with the 22 oz. Red Bull I had for breakfast. (A new pre-race ritual I WILL be repeating after the kind of race I ran that day). Finally, we started a soggy walk up the road where the race actually starts.
Going into this race, I knew I was running for a PR and would not use the rain or trail conditions as an excuse. It was time to trust my training and go run these rocks and mud with an almost reckless disregard of my own physical well being. Candi, Justin and I walked together out the the starting line and were at the very front of the pack with the people I knew would be the overall top finishers. Of course I am not in the same league as these guys but I knew for sure I didn’t want to be in the middle or back of a pack of over 100 50K participants headed in a death march up the first hill and onto the very technical first miles of the trail. I figured we would work our positions out as we made it down the road and if anyone faster wanted around me – well, that was their problem. As the gun went off, I shot out in front of everyone, threw my arms in the air, and yelled, “I am winning FlatRock!”, most assuredly amusing all the runners in earshot. Candi, Justin, and I stayed together until we hit the first hill and climbed to the top of the ridge with me leading. I had 4 or 5 guys in front of me and that was it. Some kind of nuclear reaction went off inside me and I just took off, leaving Justin and Candi and chasing down the front-runners.
Nearly every 50k I have ever run I felt like I started too conservatively… NOT TODAY. My new motto for the day was “Best or Bust”. I decided I would keep up this ridiculously fast and unsustainable pace until I blew up, then I would dig deep and see what happened – or maybe just lay on the side of the trail and weep like a little bitch. Something amazing happened; I never blew up. Sure, I fell – multiple times – but I just kept getting up… and getting faster. I blew through aid stations only pausing long enough to refill my handheld with Heed and grab a couple more Hammer Gels to replenish the stock in my left pocket. I was eating one gel every 20 minutes and drinking to my thirst. Feeling like I was burning rocket fuel, I just kept going hard. I knew I was really flying when Aaron, Don, and Ron (the leaders) didn’t pass me on their inbound leg until I was only a mile or two from the turn around. I got to the turn around in about 2:35 and there were a couple guys there – so again, I refilled and rushed out. I leapfrogged Travis McWhorter a couple times until I fell and he went on ahead not to be seen again. He didn’t take off until AFTER asking if I was alright. Even as he was trying to chase down 3rd place, he stopped and asked if I was good before screeching his tires and racing off down the trail. I love trail runners.
I hit my “tough spot” right after Dana’s aid station (as I ALWAYS do) and slowed down a bit. I backed off the gels for a bit thinking maybe I got my gut a little too full and drank some clear water. Being somewhat of a veteran on ultra distances now, I knew that if I just kept going as best I could, it would pass. It did pass, but not before I got “chicked”. Being “chicked” means getting smoked by a faster female runner. I definitely got chicked. Just as I was in the midst of my rough patch, Mindy Coolman came out of the woods like a ninja and blasted past me. I don’t think Mindy was in my field of vision 20 seconds before disappearing back into the timber and eventually cruising in nearly 7 minutes faster than the previous women’s course record – which has held since Y2K. I felt better after a few minutes and decided to try and catch Mindy, but little did I know she also got around Travis and would eventually get about 20 minutes ahead of me. Congrats on an amazing race and a new women’s course record Mindy!
The rest of the race consisted of a cycle of running, falling, cursing, and getting up. Too bad I didn’t have an “F-Bomb” counter… but I am sure it was high triple digits. I hit the final aid station and knew it was unlikely that I was going to make it under six hours, but I also knew I was in 6th place overall and I wanted it to stay that way so I kicked on. I ran those last 4 miles across the rocks dangerously. I don’t know how else to put it. It was under 38 minutes and I figured I would finish as fast as I could, or die trying. I was flying all over the trail, arms and legs flailing wildly – slipping and sliding (and falling) in the mud. When I came off the trail and hit the road my stopwatch said 5:57 something and I knew it was close to .7 miles. I quickly did the math in my head and figured a 4:30 minute mile pace should get me in just under my goal; but alas, I can’t run a 5 minute mile when I am fresh – much less after 31 miles on FlatRock. Regardless, I ran as hard and fast as I could run and crossed the line in just over 6:03, finishing the 2013 FlatRock 50K 6th overall and 5th out of the men. I heard the yells, airhorn, and cowbells cheering me in. I slapped the SHIT out of that severed arm. I screamed obscenities. It was awesome. No. IT WAS EPIC!!!
Event Blog Post Continues Here. If you did read my account of my race, thanks for taking the time. If not, well, your loss.
After I finished and caught my breath, I took off my muddy shoes and grabbed a couple cowbells and parked my tired ass on a picnic table at the finish. Like a storybook ending, the clouds parted, the rain stopped and the sun came out. The temperature was perfect. Just like I said, the weather, right down to its timing, was perfect! You can’t make this shit up. And I’m seriously starting to think that Eric really is some type of modern day alchemist.
This is when the real fun began. For the next 5 hours I was fortunate enough to witness every possible human emotion as 91 more 50K runners (and several 25K finishers) came across the finish line. From anguish to euphoria, I saw it all, and it was wonderful! Once Candi (severely nauseated nearly the entire race but still the second overall female finisher) finished, we grabbed some chairs and moved directly behind the finish line so we could cheer on the runners as they came down the road. Micheal Mora joined us after his finish and we shared some stories and laughs over a couple beers. Next thing you know, more and more finishers and spectators were gathering at the finish line! It was totally badass. Louder and louder the spectacle became, until the final 5 runners came down the road with less than 2 minutes before final cutoff. It sounded more like a rock concert than an ultramarathon finish line! People were screaming at the top of their lungs, running out on the road to yell at them to hurry, and the cowbells and airhorns were going CRAZY. My friend and former co-worker Ryan, in his first 50K attempt, crossed the inflatable Epic Ultras finish line arch with a whole lot of his family there cheering him on – and a mere NINETEEN SECONDS to spare. The place erupted! IT WAS EPIC!!!
Shortly after, Eric held an awards ceremony honoring the overall winner and male champion, Aaron Norman and female champion (and new female course record holder) Mindy Coolman, along with giving honorable mention to the 25K winners and youngest female to ever finish the 25K course Carina Jaso, who’s just 15. King Eric then honored and awarded (with beautiful gold goblets) the 8 brave souls who finished the 2013 FlatRock Triple Crown by completing all three FlatRock events; WinterRock, FlatRock 101K, and the FlatRock 50K. Congrats to the FlatRock Triple Crown recipients: Adam Monaghan, Candi Paulin, Ron LaPoint, Dennis Haig, Michael Mora, Kimberly Spielman, Scott Hill, and Paul Rejda.
I would apologize for this post being so long, but I am not sorry. This race, this EVENT, deserves every word written about it. Outstanding job to Eric and the “Epic Ultras Brigade” for pulling off a truly phenomenal event. Check out the AMAZING Photography which Epic Ultras provides to runners at no charge! Great job Greg Highberger and Mile 90 Photography.
I don’t know what’s in store for Prairie Spirit Fall Classic 50K 50Mile at the end of October, but I cant wait to find out. After the last three Epic Ultras events how could you NOT sign up?? Register today on UltraSignup.com.
I look forward to seeing you all again real soon. Feel free to comment and tell me what you think, and until next time… BE EPIC!