Category Archives: Race Previews

Write-ups of races before running them.

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!

 

 

Run Toto Run “Winter Wyco” Race Preview

Ever wondered what the Run Toto Run “Winter Wyco” Trail run is all about?  Here is my take on a great race put on by the KC Trail Nerds!

Wyandotte County Lake Park
Kansas City, KS

12th Annual
The 50K, 10-Mile and 20-Mile courses are a loop course on rocky, rooty, and hilly bridle trails & single-track trails.
Time limit: 9 hours for 50K & 20M; 8 hours for 10M.
Start Times: 8:00 AM for 50K and 20-mile, 9:00 a.m. for 10-miler.

First YouTube Video! White Rock Classic 50K Race Preview

What up all you crazy ultrarunners?  If you are reading this, you are either lost on the internet or interested in the White Rock Classic 50K at White Rock Mountain near Ft. Smith Arkansas.  This is the first of hopefully many videos that I plan on making to share my information, experiences, and perspective from the middle of the pack on some of the many great ultras I participate in.  Eric Strand, to preemptively answer your question, there are no llamas at White Rock (at least that I saw).  Hope you enjoy…

Honey Badger Race Preview 2014

zachAt some miserably low and painful point of almost every longer ultra – especially a 100 miler – I find myself severely questioning my life choices.  Specifically, the choice to subject myself to the grueling punishment required to run long distances, in less than favorable weather, and on difficult terrain – for a belt buckle that I will never actually wear.  For the first time in my ultrarunning “career”, I am internally examining my strange compulsion before the race has beaten me to a pulp.  Way before.  Like 6 weeks before.  The Honey Badger 100 will begin at 6am on July 12th2014, and I will be at the starting line.

For those of you who don’t know, Honey Badger is not a trail run.  This race will take place on paved county roads west of Wichita Kansas near Cheney Reservoir and cover a good chunk of Kingman County.  The last 5 years on this weekend in July have seen daytime high temps in this area of 103, 92, 101, 98, and 101.  Of course it will be hot in Kansas in July, but it will also be windy.  As a matter of fact, one of the largest wind farms in the state is in the process of being built very near the race venue.  A wind farm converts wind energy into electricity using turbines – this seems to me like a good indication of how windy it will be.  Likely 25-30 mph sustained winds with gusts strong enough to blow over a baby elephant.  Also, it is not quite as flat as you would expect.  According to Map My Run, there will be enough elevation change to make things interesting.   The point of this course preview; it’s gonna suck.  Hard.

So by now you are probably asking yourself, “So why in seven bloody hells are you running this?”  Well, because it IS hard.  Duh.  If it was easy, everyone would do it.  Well, that and because Honey Badgers are pretty freaking badass and I want a buckle with one on it.  Also, there’s a little race called The Badwater Ultramarathon – maybe you have heard of it?  “The World’s Hardest Footrace”, it spans 135 miles across Death Valley from the Badwater Basin to Mt. Whitney’s Portal – in July.  Yes, I know the course has changed… don’t miss my point.  My point is that after reading what Marshall Ulrich, Dean Karnazes, Scott Jurek, and RD Eric Steele have written about their experiences at Badwater, I want to do it someday.  Additionally, it is hard as hell to get into, and costs a shitload of money, so you better make sure you got a big dose of “what it takes” before you head to Death Valley.  This brings me to Honey Badger.  It occurred to me sometime last summer that before I travel all the way to California to go swim in some bad water, I will schedule a death match with a Honey Badger in my own back yard!

I have been training pretty well in 2014 and have raced in the Winter Rock 25K, Prairie Spirit 100 Mile, Free State 40 Mile, FlatRock 101K, and 3Daysto100K (just the 50K).  My mileage base is solid, now I just need to get acclimated to the heat which has been difficult since we have had a very mild spring so far. I will also have the advantage of having a super badass crew lined up – and my ultra sweet badass running girlfriend Candi who will also be racing.  We plan on crossing the finish line together just like we did at FlatRock 101k.  Since historically I throw all my super detailed plans out the window I am keeping this one simple.  The plan is to run until the sun gets high and temps get around 90, then hunker down and survive until the sun goes down.  Hopefully our hydration and fueling will be going well and we can tick off some serious mileage before the sun comes up.  That’s it. Oh, and finish under the 36 hour time limit.

So there is still time… if you think you have what it takes, hell, why not sign up???  If you are even ENTERTAINING the idea of Badwater in the future, it seems like a no-brainer.  If that’s not enough, keep in mind it is an Epic Ultras event – So you KNOW it will inevitably BE EPIC!

Zach Adams

2014 Prairie Spirit 100 Preview

zachWhile idly tapping my toes, chewing my nails, and plucking overly-long stray eyebrows (my go-to nervous habits) I decided to write a race preview for the pending Prairie Spirit 50/100.  For me, as with most ultrarunners I know, training is easier than tapering – particularly the final 10 days or so.  I have an annoying tendency to hyper-focus and obsess over the tiniest of details from weather forecasts to Tums vs. Rolaids in my drop boxes.  Being one of only a few ultrarunners – especially 100 milers – from the area of Southeast Kansas I live, I don’t have too many people to lament with over the challenge and rewards of running this distance.  I am sure my coworkers’ biggest wish is that I would just shut the hell up.  If it wasn’t for interacting with other whackos using social media, I would probably implode and get some black market Xanax just to shut my brain off.  But I digress.  I figured writing a race preview blog would help curb (or maybe fuel) my race countdown obsession at the same time possibly helping or even being useful to those that didn’t have the pleasure of running in last years’ blizzard.  My 2013 Race Report

The Event
Epic Ultras puts on the best events in the Midwest and very possibly the entire nation.  A motivational presentation from one of the FOUNDING FATHERS of modern ultra-distance running, Dr. David Horton! ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?  From the Official Runners Information Packet (study it, the answers to your questions are there) to outstanding pre and post race grub – and everything in-between.  I challenge you to debate otherwise.  Great events put on by ultrarunners for ultrarunners.  A high quality event will draw high quality participants.  Take the time to chat with other runners and forge relationships that will last as long as your memory of crossing under the Epic Ultras arch and earning your buckle.

The Course
Yes it is that flat.  There are a couple minuscule rolling hills, but nothing that you will really have to huff and puff to get up.  The steepest is probably the couple of spots where you dip UNDER a major highway.  But mostly, it is as flat as a runway model without implants.  I would suggest doing a little stretching at the hips, waist, and knees early and often, nothing steep enough to do it for you.  Another thing that stands out in my head is how the fine, gravelly surface, while great for late mile shuffling, gets down in your shoes.  Stopping when I am really moving good to extract a bunch of baby boulders from of my shoes pisses me off to no end.   Gaiters might be a good idea – especially if you are not the kind that changes shoes a bunch.

Aid
The manned aid stations run from 6.5 to 10 miles apart, and while they will have just about everything you might need and more (this is an EPIC ULTRAS event after all), but make sure you carry enough nutrition to get your weary, tired, hungry ass to the next aid station.  Remember; Ten miles at 15 minutes per mile pace is two and a half hours.  You will probably want to eat more than every two hours… you know, assuming you want a buckle.  Unmanned water stations are strategically placed close enough that it should make carrying a single bottle plenty for most people – given a NORMAL March day.

Weather
Expect the unexpected.  For those of you travelling to Ottawa Kansas from parts unknown, be aware that our weather is somewhat volatile.  Maybe schizophrenic is a better characterization…    Plan for just about everything from ice to heat – and pack accordingly.  They say in Kansas; if you don’t like the weather, wait 15 minutes – it will change.  It is true, our local weather forecasters are little more than glorified Magic 8-balls.

I am not going to breakdown any possible winners, course records being broken, or % of finishers likely to find success like a lot of race previews do.  I am going to say that for every single finisher, this race will be a life-changing experience.  From that perspective, everyone will be getting something far more valuable than any first place plaque or mention as course record holder.  Or maybe I am just making that shit up; since my ass will NEVER hold a course record… so take it for what it’s worth!

Joking aside, I sincerely look forward to seeing all my ultrarunning pals (current and future), and to make sure I don’t scare anyone’s children at the pre-race dinner, I’ll try not to pull out all my damn eyebrows while waiting for race day.  Good luck to all runners!  May whatever higher or inner power you draw strength from pile it on in massive quantities!

 Be Epic!

Zach Adams

FlatRock 101K – Beastmode Required

zachFlatRock. 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.

 

FlatRock 50K: Legend of “The Hand”

zachLegend has it that at the very first FlatRock 50k, a road marathon runner, who had underestimated the trail, collapsed on a large limestone bluff overlooking  Elk City Lake with only a few miles until the finish.  As the physically exhausted, mentally overwhelmed, and emotionally broken runner lay gasping and sobbing by the trail, a hoard of hungry buzzards descended upon him.  Although his flesh was being torn and devoured, he squealed with glee to be carried off the trail that had chewed him up and swallowed him, only to regurgitate him back onto the jagged rocks. Workers at the finish line that fall day back in 1995 tell tales of seeing a dark cloud of feathers flying above and listening to a mix of screams, agony and the relieved hysterical laughter of a madman!  Legend has it that a single severed arm fell from the pack of buzzards as they carried off their meal catching on the finish line pop-up, dangling and swinging for all finishers to see as they came across finish line.  The arm became a reminder to never underestimate this trail and swings on the finish line every year offering “high fives” to those strong-willed enough to have persevered and conquered “The Rock!”.

Ok, actually I made that shit up.  All of it but the hand hanging at the finish.  The hand is there – every year – hanging at the finish, welcoming runners across the finish with a high five or a handshake.  It is one of the many things that I love about the FlatRock 50K.  The Hand, the Honorary Knights of “The Coveted Hall of Pain” and the knighting ceremony, retired numbers on cloth bibs with lifetime free entry to ice the cake, the clock in the rocks, and the trike in the tree are ALL things that totally set this race apart. Eric Steele, the undisputed “King of Flatrock” – complete with his cape, crown, and wielding a broadsword – performs the knighting ceremony for a runner with 10 consecutive FlatRock 50k finishes…. it is all so unique and awesome.  I can’t wait to see what happens with the Triple Crown recipients! I wouldn’t be surprised by much at this point, but I am sure it will be amazing.  Only a few days until my 3rd FlatRock 50k (I also did the 101K read about it here) and I couldn’t be more excited.  This truly is a world class event, I’ll see you all there!

Oh, and in case you are wondering how the hand actually DID come about, I plan on finding out!  So stay tuned.  Until next time,  BE EPIC

Zach