FlatRock. This course has been deceiving trail runners for almost 20 years. After all, it’s KANSAS. KANSAS is flat. How bad can it be? Go ahead, underestimate this trail – then go home and cry yourself to sleep. Nineteen Septembers in a row, runners have come to the Elk River Hiking Trail to tackle the FlatRock 50K trail ultra. This is the oldest ultra in the state, and it is pretty easy to make the argument that it is the BEST. It is as brutal as it is beautiful, as rugged as it is relaxing, as treacherous as it is tantalizing. An incredible, highly technical trail full of short steep climbs, roots and rocks that seemingly TRY to trip you, and buzzards circling overhead – FlatRock is hard – and strangely addictive. The “Hall of Pain” consists of runners who have run it 10 or more times in a row. So, what would make more sense than running this 50K? Why not running it TWICE? Thus, the FlatRock 101K was born.
Last April, after weeks of rain, about 40 brave souls set out to crack the rock. One hundred and one kilometers in 24 hours should be a walk in the park (or hike in the woods) in Kansas right? The addition of sticky, ankle deep mud, water crossings and incessant rain turned the course into Satan’s Slip n’ Slide. Trail conditions were more horrendous than normal. The runners simultaneously loved and loathed it. The final finisher came across minutes before the cutoff tired, covered in mud, but not broken. The raucous Epic Ultras finish line brought a welcomed end to runner’s suffering and, as always, made each feel like a champion. If you want to read all about my experience at the FlatRock 101K last year, check out the blog archived at http://epicultras.com/fr101kreport/. Also, there is a sweet video of FlatRock at http://flatrock101.com/.
If you are one of the lucky ones who managed to get into the FlatRock 50K before it sold out, and you showed up and braved the weather for WinterRock, you are only 101 kilometers worth of steps away from earning the FlatRock Triple Crown Award. This prestigious Golden Goblet is only given to those brave (or crazy) enough to sign up and finish the WinterRock 25 or 12K in January, the FlatRock 101K in April, and the FlatRock 50K in September.
If you think you are some kind of trail ultrarunner badass, you need to bring all you got to the 2nd annual FlatRock 101K on April 26th 2014 and put your theory to the test. If you want to see what you are really made of and push yourself to your absolute physical ultrarunning limits, you need to be there. If you are ready to become a true Midwest trail ultarunner, get registered now. FlatRock might just chew you up, spit you out, step on your face, and THEN send you home crying to your mama. IF you are too scared, that is understandable. I heard there are a few good half marathons that day…maybe you should check into those.
This course is amazing. If you have not been on the Elk River Hiking Trail near Independence you have missed a very beautiful slice of life. I shit you not, this place is actually, beyond amazing. Please, look at my favorite set of pictures taken on the trail. This gallery was the catalyst that rescued me from road runner monotony. Here are the pics from this year’s 50K event. Amazing. This trail is gorgeous. I have run the 50K twice and had the pleasure of leaving plenty of DNA on the jagged, unforgiving rocks. In fact, in a few more years I plan on being knighted into the Flatrock Hall of Pain. If you don’t know about the Hall of Pain GO HERE NOW.
I recently had the pleasure of spending some time (about 15 hours) doing some trail maintenance and helping mark the trail with some high reflective tape blazes for the upcoming 101K event. About 3 of these hours were after it got dark. BEFORE you take your epic-ass out to try and “crack the rock,” or as I now think of it, “The Widowmaker,” I IMPLORE you to read and heed the following advice.
1. LIGHT IT UP! Take a bright headlamp, a handheld light, a backup hand held light, and spare batteries. If you have no light you are DONE. Seriously. Bring light. Good, bright, reliable, long lasting lights – and bring a spare.
2. 24 hours sounds like a long cutoff for a 101K. Don’t underestimate the toll this course will take on your body (look at the course profile) or how much slower you will move at night. It literally becomes a game of find the next blue blaze and try not to fall. Averaging 2-3 miles an hour in the dark will be tough (for most people) regardless how your legs feel. That said, it could easily take every bit of 12-14 hours to do that last 50K depending on where you are when it gets dark. Depth, distance, and speed perception is an entirely different animal out there after the sun goes down.
3. BRING A PACER – I would highly suggest you find someone to pace you the last 25K if not the entire second 50K, if for no other reason than to you keep on the trail. If you have ever run a highly technical trail you know the mental toll that it takes on you to outlay that much concentration for that long. After 30-50 punishing miles, you will need a battle buddy to keep your mind right, keep you upright, and keep you pointed in the right direction. It really becomes a slow game of “Where is the next blue blaze?”. Call in all your favors, buy them their favorite beers, or blackmail them – but get somebody out there. You will probably regret it if you don’t.
That said, I am super excited for this race. The high degree of badassery that it will take to finish this course TRULY qualifies a finisher to earn the title of EPIC ULTRARUNNER! I have NO DOUBT that RD, Eric Steele, will once again come through with an outstanding event that we will be talking about for the rest of our lives. Like he says, we co-create these events together. I definitely plan on co-creating the shit out of this one! Although I do hope the weather doesn’t try and one-up the Inaugural Prairie Spirit…
Assuming you have the required brass balls or titanium ovaries there is still time and space to register . IF you are a seriously demented ”MANIAC” and need to get that double up in truly EPIC fashion, you could run the Flatrock 101K on Saturday then drive down to the OKC Marathon on Sunday.