Category Archives: Race Reports

These are detailed write ups of my experiences during various ultras.

World’s Okayest Race Report

WinterRock 25K, Elk City Hiking Trail near Independence Kansas, January 7th, 2017

So there I was, no bullshit, powering over the jagged, rock infested single track of the WinterRock 25K course when I finally managed to pull within a few feet of a female runner I had been chasing for some time.  We were in the last 5 kilometers of the course, a section of trail notorious for its liberal slashing of skin, bruising of bodies, and cracking of bones of runners brave enough to challenge it.  Twelve miles into the race, I was feeling fast.  My breathing was rhythmic and easy while I maintained myself just barely below that “red line” effort that will eventually cause you to crash.  I had patiently been looking for a wider spot to pass on the left meanwhile keeping 6-10 foot distance between us.

Me Candi and Ryan after WinterRock 25K. We forgot to take a pic at the actual race, so we got one in the driveway when we got home.
Me Candi and Ryan after WinterRock 25K. We forgot to take a pic at the actual race, so we got one in the driveway when we got home.

She powered up a stack of rocks masquerading as trail and as I followed, I pushed off on my right foot to make the final step up to continue along the trail.  The force of lifting most of my body upward with a slight forward motion created enough force that, thanks to the slippery piling of leaves on the rocks, my foot slipped and shot out from under me.  Wielding dual handheld bottles for this exact reason, (they make excellent shock absorbers) I was ready to go down hard into the rocks.  My left hand was already pumping forward due to the motion of running and easily hit the ground first, beginning to take the impact of my fall.  My right arm was elbow back, hand and bottle by my waist as I was going down.  For some reason, rather than jab forward to catch myself, I came directly over the top like a closer delivering and 0-2 pitch with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th!  With every bit of speed I could muster, I rotated my shoulder around about 270 degrees – arm fully extended – managing to get my right hand in position to assist my left in catching my crashing body – thus saving my face and teeth from a very abrupt stop.  Unfortunately, while my hand made it around in time, the centrifugal force applied to my bottle caused it to slip off of my hand and take flight like a ballistic missile.  The unintentional missile strike made contact with its chosen target, scoring a powerful direct hit; the right hamstring of the female trail runner I had been looking to pass.  After catching myself, I looked up just in time to see her dip slightly and turn around with a look on her face that said, “What the hell was that?  I hope it wasn’t a fucking rattlesnake!” I shouted the first thing that came to my mind, “I’m sorry!  I didn’t mean to throw my water bottle at you!”  She looked at me like I was an alien speaking a strange intergalactic language, turned around, did a double take, and then asked, “You ok?” Climbing down the side of a steep hill trying to recover my missile – err, um – bottle.  I said again, “I’m fine, sorry about that.”  In all the races I have run, this is the first time I have heard of a runner hitting someone else with their water bottle, much less done it myself.  I eventually passed her and somehow managed to finish in front of her – hoping the entire time it wasn’t because of the water bottle incident.  At the finish line, I apologized again and she assured me it was no big deal but she would probably have a big bruise.

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.

 

2016 White Rock Classic 50K Race Report

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Hazy Mountain View

On a briskly cool, yet not terribly uncomfortable February morning, about a hundred runners met up at the base of White Rock Mountain near the Turner Bend Store near Mulberry Arkansas to put their running (and mountain climbing) abilities to the test.  This fatass style (yet extremely well supported) 50K race is a part of the AURA Ultra Trail Series.  The Arkansas Ultra Runners Association (AURA) puts on the Arkansas Traveller 100, Ouachita 50 mile, and other great events in the state.  They have been doing this since 1989 – and definitely know what the hell they are doing.  As far as I could tell the only difference between this and a full-on “race” is no entry fee, official timing, shirt or medal.  All of which I am more than happy to live without.  It does have all the spirit and soul of a great, low-key ultra – which is definitely infinitely more important to me than the medal or shirt.  So, yeah, I love it.

IMG_0812This is my second consecutive year running the White Rock Classic.  Last year, coming off my best EVER winter training blocks, I knocked off my fastest 50K time – just under 5:30 – and it took literally everything I had.  While the terrain on a forest road course suits a faster runner, the 5000 feet of steep mountain climbing, and fast descents definitely add the challenge to the course.  Coming off a very solid 6 weeks of training, I was hoping to get close to last years time.  I had been eating very clean, lost some weight, and added a lot of high intensity cardio and strength training in with my normal training plan.  I felt like I had a good shot at having a solid day.

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Zach, Candi, Johnny and Ryan

With a 9am start time we decided on just getting up early to drive in for the start.  Despite starting 10 minutes behind our planned schedule, we picked up Ryan and Johnny on the way and made it easily with about 30 minutes to spare -plenty of time to get final race prep done.  Lisa Gunnoe gave the pre-race instructions and a few resounding gong strikes signaled the start of the race.  Yes, a guy called “Bear”  rang an actual gong.  The start of the race is basically 3 miles up the base of the mountain.  Candi and I planned to stay together at least the first few to enjoy each others company and warm up nice and easily.  I have a bad habit of taking out too fast and paying for it later.  I kept telling myself that it would pay dividends later in the race and I could pass some fools who had taken off (like I usually do) as if they had been blasted out of a shotgun.  We reached the top of that first big climb and Candi and I were separated as I blasted off down the hill.  I felt warm and loose and let it rip.  For the rest of the way up to the White Rock Mountain overlook area that served as the turnaround, I just kept a nice rhythmic pace climbing and blasted the downs – keeping my legs moving fast trying to avoid pounding my quads.  A majority of the climbing is in the first half of the out-and-back and I didn’t want to burn all my downhill mojo in the first half.  Ultimately, I passed several people on my way to the top of the mountain, never getting passed myself.  I was just shy of my halfway goal of 2:30, signing in at 2:33.

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Candace takes the lead!

Lo and behold, my gorgeous wife had been right behind me most of the way – keeping me in her sights almost the entire trip up the mountain.  Turns out we pass face to face about 500 yards after the turn!  She said she was feeling great and running great – and I remind her that she is first female and is to, under no circumstances, let ANY of the ladies pass her!  The final push to the top of White Rock is super steep and in and out-and-back course, what goes up must come down.  The threeish mile descent after turning around is steep and fast!  Candi actually caught me by the bottom and was flat FLYING! My hips felt pretty trashed at this point (mile 18-19) so I took a few “vitamin I” and she pulled away.  I wished her well, pretty sure I would NOT be seeing her again until the finish line.

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Female CHAMPION~

As usually happens in ultras, I experienced several ups and downs.  About mile 22 I was having a pretty solid “down” and was really getting my ass kicked by another steep descent.  Regardless of the craptastic place I was in my life at this moment – I refused to walk and just let gravity hammer me to the bottom.  I told myself I would eat a lot at the aid station at the bottom and drink some ginger ale.  I did exactly that, and it soaked in like a potion of healing as I climbed my way out of the aid station.  At this point the food, pop, ibuprofen all kicked in at the same time and I never slowed down again.  I caught up with the 25 year old physical specimen Johnny at about mile 26 and finally my wife with about 3 miles to go the finish.  We run together for half a mile or so, but I pull away on the last sets of hills – feeling like a beast unleashed and bearing down on its prey.  I IMG_0834passed 4 people in the last 5 miles or so and was smelling the finish line.  Doing math during a race is not my strong point, but I figured it might just be possible to sub-5 hour this race if I could really put the hammer down.  I gave it absolutely EVERYTHING I HAD the last three miles running splits of 7:30, 6:53, and 7:01 – unfortunately it was just not quite enough.  I finished in 5:01:41 in 7th place overall, less than 1 minute ahead of Candi who took the female win!

The weather, course, and most of all people were totally awesome.  This race brings out some serious speedsters and I was totally honored and surprised that I was able to take that much off of my previous time and get into the top ten of this group.  I would encourage anyone who loves the outdoors to come run this race – it truly is a gem.  Thanks to Lisa, PoDog, and the rest of the AURA members and leadership that put this together – it really is one of my favorite events of the year and on my “do every year” list.  Hope to see you all next year!

 

 

 

2016 Athens-Big Fork Marathon

The Athens-Big Fork Marathon – heretofore to be referred to as “ABF” – has been on my radar for a number of years.  Last year I was all set to go, but it got flooded out.  The two years before that it was in conflict with a local race that I love.  This year, I decided, come hell or high water, my fat ass was gonna be tromping over the significant (at least to a flatlander) mountains of the Ouachita National Forest.  First off – don’t let the name fool you – this race may measure like a marathon – but it runs like a pissed off 50K.  This year it got written up in Trail Runner Magazine as, “The Hardest Trail Marathon You Have Never Heard Of” or something similar.  After running it – I would definitely agree to that statement.

Residing about 5 hours north of the ABF starting line and having a homecoming queen crowning to attend that Friday night meant that

Big Fork Community Center - Very cool place!
Big Fork Community Center – Very cool place!

our arrival to Mena, Arkansas would be somewhere between 1:30am and 2:30am on race morning.  PLENTY of time to make it not-so-well rested to an 8am starting line.  My ultra-compadres Candi (my super hot and totally badass wife) and old buddy Ryan

(Rhino – cause once this dude charges, he won’t stop) enjoyed a long and massively shitty, rain infested interstate trip down to our one-star motel.  I woke the poor clerk up from his curry fueled slumber behind a thin wall behind the front counter with a ding of the bell, and with a creaking fart and some grumbled curses he got us checked in.  I am definitely not complaining – it was a double queen room 20 minutes from the start line for 57 bucks.  Our room was just clean enough for a 3 hour sleep, and before you know it we were hanging out at the Big Fork Community Center waiting to get started.

The beginning of the race is a short bit down the highway with full-on police escort in the front and rear followed by a nice jog down a

All runners at start
All runners at start

red dirt road to get to the trailhead.  That is when ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE.  By this time, the nice soaking rain has us totally drenched and showed no signs of letting up any time soon.  After a short jaunt at the foothills of the first mountain, it was time to climb.  And climb we did!  Over and over and over.  Eight

Water crossing #495982703
Water crossing #495982703

mountains on this out and back course – and yes they were mountains.  These climbs were GNAR for the midwest!  I have run in the mountains of Colorado, and these were every bit as steep, although not as long.  Basically the entire course you were either going up or down.  It was freakin’ awesome!  There was an aid station shortly after getting on the trail, after the first mountain I think, but Candi and I didn’t utilize it being only a few miles into the race.  We had decided to stay together and enjoy the day couplie style like we often do, while Rhino set out a bit slower but VOWED to see us at the finish.  We kept on at a nice steady pace, and I was pretty much cold the entire time – as my decision to only wear a couple of tech tees under my rain shell proved me a dumbass.  Candi – being smarter than me as

usual – had enough layers that she didn’t bother covering her ears.  It was a steady rain with temps in the mid to low 30s and pretty good winds if the mountains weren’t providing cover.  The terrain once you get on the trail is pretty varied; from scree-like gravel, muddy ruts, rocky outcroppings, to soft pine needles track – this course really had it all.  The valleys had flowing streams at every low point, and even a couple deer feeding plots.  It was wonderful – totally what I look for in a trail.  And did I mention you get to climb

ABF-Boston Elevation Comparison
ABF-Boston Elevation Comparison

hills.  Mountains.  I had so much fun climbing that I made this graphic comparing the iconic Boston Marathon to the ABF.  –>

We eventually made it to the top and bottoms of all the 8 mountains on the way out to the Jackass Aid Station.  This was run by a bunch of cowboys… REAL cowboys… from Texarkana.  These guys were serving up hot soup and real foods, had a warm fire, and an overall badass forest oasis set up for us.  Candi and I made it to the turn in about 3:15 at right about 14 miles and felt good since we were shooting for a 7:30ish finish after looking at the finishers times from previous races.  Coming over the last

View from the top
View from the top

mountain we ran into Rhino, who was about 30 minutes behind us and totally kicking ass.  It was basically more of the same on the way back – powerhike up the mountains, try not to roll down the other side like a snowball, and freeze your ass off crossing the stream at the bottom.  Rinse.  Repeat.  It was nice coming to the aid stations and getting hot food and a slap on the back before heading back out.  We finally dragged our shredded quads off the last mountain and headed back down the roads to get back to the Community Center – and I tell you what… that Marathon ran WAY more like an ass-whippin 50k.  It was tough.  For technicality of trail I give it a 4 gel packs out of 5, and for difficulty compared to similar races I give it a full 5 snotrockets out of five.

Warming by the fire! Candi left Rhino right
Warming by the fire! Candi left Rhino right

Once we got finished, just over 7:22, I pretty much stripped my soaking clothes off and nakedly hugged the glowing woodstove while chugging hot coffee and eating from the various foods we had packed with us.  I basically stayed cold as a witch’s tits the entire day – my fault – and just wanted to be warm.  For a fat-ass race, this thing had all the bells and whistles, minus a medal I didn’t need and a shirt I didn’t want – so I call it a win.  Thanks to everyone who worked hard to put this on. It was outstanding!

Ryan, Zach (Me), Candi at the finish in the Big Fork Community Center
Ryan, Zach (Me), Candi at the finish in the Big Fork Community Center

The Race Across The Sky

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“The Race Across the Sky.”  LT100.  Leadville.  Whatever you call it, it is now in the books for 2015.  Less than half of the nearly 650 brave runners from all over the world who started the race managed to power themselves across the finish under the 30 hour time limit.  I was the 281st finisher of the 2015 Leadville Trail 100, earning a finisher’s medal and shiny new buckle on my first attempt.  To be completely honest, I am still amazed by this fact.  There were several points during this race where I just didn’t think that I was a strong enough runner to move fast enough to stay ahead of the cutoffs.  While I never seriously contemplated quitting, I several times resigned myself to the fact that the next aid station would probably be my last before my time ran out.  But first, let’s rewind a few months and lay the groundwork and build the context of this ultra-adventure.

The Lottery

This was the first year that the race had moved to a lottery based entry.  It is not weighted, requires no qualifier, and is purely random – as far as I know.  It was pretty simple, once December rolled around, you would pay your $15.00 and cross your fingers.  In January I received a congratulations email that I had been selected and needed to confirm, which I immediately did.  I was totally geeked up and telling anyone who would listen that my flatlander ass had gained entry to one of the oldest and most well-known 100 mile mountain ultras in the country.  In about 8 months I would be climbing over the Rocky Mountains on foot, digging as deep as I could dig to find that “inexhaustible well of grit, guts, and determination” that founder Ken Chlouber so famously references each year at the pre-race meeting.  Eight months is a long time to focus, train, and plan toward a single goal.  This takes us to training.

Training

I was dedicated to working hard.  I was dedicated to the idea of doing everything in my power to give myself a chance at success.  Hard work was the core strategy of my training plan.  I decided on running faster, higher intensity miles but reducing the total number of miles in a traditional 100 miler plan.   My point was that I had a strong mileage base and knew I could power hike a good long time if need be.  What I needed was the power to be able to make the long, steep climbs Leadville is notorious for without eating up a massive amount of time.  Scattered throughout the months of January, I also ran several races that broke up the cycle, and each forcing me to take a step-back week after a hard effort.  I did 25k, (2) 50K, (2) 6hr timed, 50 mile, 60 mile track, 101K, and 30 miles of pacing on a road race.  Nearly all of these efforts ended up as new PRs for the course or distance.  Two highlights were an 8:40 50 mile finish at Prairie Spirit and a 10th overall sub 5 hour 50K at War Eagle in Arkansas.  One major observation throughout this process:  Staying focused on a single race for 8 months is very challenging.  Breaking the time into sections with step-stone goals (races) was definitely helpful.

Race Week

The last 10 days or before the race were brutal for me.  The steep drop-off of training miles and idle time resulted in me damn near driving myself nuts.  Over-thinking, over-analyzing, and just pure anxiety were the central theme of this time period.  I had trouble focusing on anything not related to the race and sleeping at night got really restless and somewhat frustrating – to be honest – it really sucked.  But, eventually the time passed, the race van was packed, and by 8:30am on Thursday, August 20th 2015 we were on the long desolate road across Western Kansas that would eventually take us to Leadville Colorado.

Road Trip

Candi had taken care of most of the packing and organizing of our gear and aid stuff that we would need for the race.  She did an excellent job at making sure we had everything we would need, without filling all of our bags and the van with a bunch of crap we wouldn’t use.  On top of being a master at logistics, my wife is a total badass who can go for days with almost no sleep and does not know the meaning of the word “quit”.  She can crew and pace with the very best of them – and I am DAMN GLAD she is heading up my Leadville crew. I would definitely need her if I stood a snowballs chance in hell to finish under 30 hours – plus she is really hot!

Ryan showed up well before the scheduled time, and only a few minutes behind “schedule” we hit the road.  Ryan Schwatken is a fairly new ultrarunner, but has already notched several 50K finishes, 101K at FlatRock, and a very gutsy 50 mile effort where he demonstrated a toughness and tenacity that I am not sure that I have seen matched.  Ryan made it to that finish despite nearly EVERYTHING going wrong for him and walking 20 miles on two of the largest blisters I have ever seen.  Ryan has also crewed for me before – taking on the horrendous driving responsibilities at Ozark Trail last fall.  He is a solid addition to any 100 mile pace/crew and a great friend.

After five stops in two hours to drain the excess hydration, our first real stop was Wichita to pick up one of the most undeniably entertaining and inspiring humans I have ever met, Mr. Epic Ultras himself – Eric Steele.  Eric has been running ultras himself for more than 20 years and now puts on the best ultras in the Midwest.  Eric also earned his own Leadville buckle some 15+ years ago.  A fountain of ultrarunning knowledge and motivation, Eric is more importantly my brother-from-another-mother.  We picked up Eric and met with another Wichita ultrarunner, and good friend, Dave Meeth for lunch – who provided us with a bunch of great energy and mojo, wishing us luck and sending us on our way.

The drive out to Colorado was mostly uneventful and consisted of food and pit stops.  You see, I was given the following advice:  “The best way to avoid altitude sickness is to be massively hydrated.”  I followed that advice before a training trip to the mountains in July and it worked perfectly.  The downside is having to stop every 50 miles in order to keep your bladder from bursting.

After a long drive beginning in Southeastern Kansas and finishing up in the haze obscured mountains (courtesy of the California wildfires) of the high country of Colorado, we arrived at The New Summit Inn in Frisco.  We got checked in and relaxed in our room.  Ryan and Eric went on a beer run and watched some local teenager wiggle on the ground outside of the hotel.  This is its own story, but basically they supposed he had too much of the newly legalized recreational “Colorado herbage”.  I slept decently, knowing I still had one more day before the race started and that basically everything I could do was already done.

Pre-Race

Friday would be the first time we drove into Leadville as a team.  We arrived at the packet pickup on Harrison Street and I got my swag bag complete with my #5 bib.  I was also given a wristband with name, d.o.b, and relative medical info.  This band signifies your entry into the race, if you quit or miss a cutoff, they cut it off.  If the band is cut, your race is over.  After getting checked in, we had a couple hours before the pre-race meeting, so of course, we ate.  After breakfast we walked around checking out the town.  Leadville has a really touristy yet throwback kind of feel to it, and the streets were filled up with runners, their crews, and family members.  I remember feeling a really cool vibe as though we were all on the verge of something pretty important.  At Lake County High School gym, completely surrounded by a massive herd of runners and crew, the pre-race briefing had the hairs on my neck standing on end.  The speakers featured Dr. John, the funny medical director, who was giving out great last minute advice in a very funny and most entertaining way, followed by race founder Ken Chlouber who has the ability to motivate a large crowd with just a few words.  According to this old cowboy (and 10+ time Leadville 100 finisher), “You are better than you think you are and can do more than you think you can do.”  At the end of the meeting, I fully believed him.  I took his oath and repeated out loud, “I commit to NOT QUIT.”  After the meeting was over, we drove out to the village of Twin Lakes where I would have aid available at mile 40 and 60.  It is also the final aid station before the round trip over Hope Pass.  After a while driving in the mountains, we ended up back in Frisco eating one of my favorite pre-race meals; KFC.  Finger. Lickin’. Good.  After a short trip to the store to get ice and water and we ended up back at our lodge and began to get my gear ready for the early (more like middle of the night) wake-up call needed to get us to the 4am start line on time.  I had a couple pre-celebratory beers with Eric and Ryan, and Candi helped me get my race clothes ready and my race vest loaded for action – ensuring I didn’t end up at the start line with two left socks, no underwear, and missing a glove.  Did I mention how great she was?

TIME TO RACE!Starting Line

Start to May Queen

The start of the race was pretty chilly (35-40 degrees), but Ryan let me wear his hoodie for the 20 minutes or so we waited around the start line.  At exactly 4:00am, Ken blasted his shotgun signaling the start of the race.  More than 600 unacquainted best friends all sharing a single goal, we effortlessly rolled downhill and out of town eventually getting to Turquoise Lake where the trail became single track.  We were in an extremely long conga-line but somehow I never felt like I was being either pushed or held up.  It was quiet and dark, not much chatter.  The first 2 hours and 22 minutes went by in a flash, and before you know it I had made half a loop around the lake and was at the May Queen aid station 13.5 miles into the race.  I was quickly in and out of May Queen, filling my bottles and grabbing a bit of food.  We had decided in advance that the crew would skip this stop because 1.) I really wouldn’t need anything.  2.) Driving out to this aid station is a pain in the ass on a single road with 600 other crews.  It was the least I could do for my crew considering what they were doing for me.  It was a good decision as I didn’t even stay at the aid station for a full minute.  My plan was well established from the start – I figured I could maintain the required pace, but would not have much extra time to screw around at aid stops – I kept telling myself to plan ahead, get what you need, and move your ass on down the trail.

May Queen to Outward Bound

The first good climb is in this section on a bit of gnarly single track that takes you up to some dirt roads to get to the top of Sugarloaf.  I mixed in some good powerhiking here at the steeper spots and ran what I could without sending my heart into an explosive range.  Got rained on a bit as a little thunder shower rolled through.  It was mostly overcast and but the sprinkle did seem to knock out the smoky haze somewhat.  Eventually I crested the top of Sugarloaf Mountain and got to bomb down the section known as Powerline.  Powerline is exactly what it sounds like, a trail/jeep/maintenance access road that runs under the power lines.  No switchbacks, it can be very, very steep at times.  I was trying to hold myself back so I didn’t trash my quads, but found it very difficult to run slow.  It was a lot of fun blasting down the side of the mountain!  At the base was a couple miles of road that led past the Fish Hatchery (previous site of this aid station) to the Outward Bound aid station.  This was basically set up off the road in a pasture.  Candi, Eric and Ryan were here standing by the timing chute ready to crew me for the first time of the day.  They took my trash, filled my bottles, and restocked my vest.  This was roughly 24 miles into the race, and I still was not in need of much, so I was in and out of OB very quickly and headed on toward Halfpipe.  Knowing the first 40 miles of the race are the “easiest”, I wanted to make the most of them, without pushing too hard.  That is a difficult balance to find, but I was for the most part sticking with my plan.

OB to Half Pipe

This section kind of sucked.  Leaving OB was a section of mowed grass leading across the pasture, followed by a section of pavement, finally followed by a forest road before getting to Half Pipe.  It was pretty hot and dusty and I was firmly in my first rough patch, but managed to eat and drink my way through it.  Along this section there was an alternate crew access point and I got to see my people for a couple minutes, which I did not expect.  They filled me up, but more importantly they perked me up, which I was definitely needing at that point. Arriving in Half Pipe at the 50K mark in just a couple minutes under 6 hours, I was still right at my goal time.  I am not really sure what the hell Half Pipe is, but it was a pretty cool aid station, just not crew accessible – so needless to say, I didn’t lounge around here very long.  I grabbed a handful of GU’s, my primary fuel source, and hit the dusty trail.

Half Pipe to Twin Lakes

Once you leave Half Pipe it is a pretty steady climb for about 5 miles.  Nothing real steep, just kind of always going up, and it is mostly not-really-that-technical single track.  I got into a pretty good groove here, but was a little slower than I felt, I am guessing it was due to the steady uphill.  It is 8.5 miles to TL but seems like at least 15.  There was a small outpost on Mt. Elbert sponsored by CamelBak where they had fluids, but otherwise there is not much to break up this chunk.  I was ok mentally but was a bit sleepy and kind of slow, which led to me getting to Twin Lakes at noon, about 20 minutes behind my goal time, but well within the cutoff.  This aid station was freaking huge!  I am telling you it was like a circus of people and shelters about a half mile long.  The aid station was in an old fire station, or at least the bays where you park firetrucks.  I found my crew, and they took expert care of me, getting some different foods in me.  I think I managed to eat a banana and some mixed fruit along with some watermelon and sandwich quarters.  It definitely felt like lunchtime, and I hit the aid table like an all you can eat buffet.

Twin Lakes to Winfield

Twin Lakes is the last stop before going up and over Hope Pass.  In a span of about 5 miles, runners ascend from 9200’ to 12,600’ above sea level on rocky, single track trails.  To make it even more fun, leading up to the climb, adventurous runners get to wade through knee deep water for about ½ of a mile after leaving the aid station to get to the base of the mountain.  Once you get just above the tree line is the Hopeless aid station.  This crazy group of volunteers pack all supplies up on llamas.  Yes, llamas.  They are an awesome bunch and made the best potato soup on the course.  I fought like hell to get up the mountain – getting passed by a lot of folks who were either a.) Much better climbers than me. b.) Much better at high altitude than me. 3.) BOTH.  Whatever the case, I just kept hammering away at the mountain, hiking 50-100 yards and leaning on a tree or sitting on a rock for 6 deep breaths.  I was really struggling to keep my heartrate below about 5900 bpm.  Eventually I made it to the Hopeless aid station, albeit much slower than I would have liked.  I ate some soup and sandwiches, filled my bottles and sat for 3 minutes (I timed it).  One would assume that since you made it to the aid station, it would be time to head on down the back side…. Nope…  There are probably another 500 or so feet to climb before reaching the summit on some very steep switchbacks.  Once cresting Hope Pass, I got to stare in awe for miles in both directions before beginning the steep ascent that would take me to Winfield and the half way point of this very tough race.  The back side of Hope Pass is super steep, and I fell on my ass more than once. It was steep enough that I was not doing too much running, feeling like I would end up rolling off the side of the mountain and die should I catch my toe.  At the base of the back side, the course turns and heads to the aid station that marks the turn around, and I thought it was much closer than it actually was.  This section of the race was easily the most painful, depressing, and not very much fun part of the entire adventure.  I came hauling my out-of-water-not-eating-anything-ass into Winfield at just before 4:45pm.  The cutoff here was “gone by 6 pm”, and to be honest, I did not know if I would be ready to leave in time.  I had planned on being here by 3:45 but took an ass-whoopin’ climbing up and down Hope.  Ken Chlouber had quoted Mike Tyson at the pre-race meeting, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”  That had proved so true, and my jaw hurt like hell from the uppercut that the mountain gave me.  Coming up the road I was greeting by my wonderful wife who had had been pacing nervously, waiting for me to arrive.  I handed her my bottles and said, “Fix me.”  She asked what was wrong, but honestly I was pretty loopy and said I wasn’t sure.  Our plan had been made in advance, that WHEN I began to struggle, they were to force-feed me, take no excuses and kick my ass down the trail.  Ryan and Candi were giving me food to eat (not options) while Eric was getting ready to pace.  I asked for my knee braces because it hurt to run down – not a good sign when you are HALF way through a 100 mile mountain race.  I also took an Aleve and drained a bottle of Sustained Energy (THANK YOU HAMMER NUTRITION).  After 15 minutes and what felt like an eternity, they helped me get up of the ground and start walking me out of the aid station.  This is where I could say that my crew saved my race, but it would actually be more accurate to say that this is where they STARTED saving my race – details to follow.

Winfield to Twin Lakes

I have now passed half way, and seen the entire Leadville Trail 100 course.  I have Eric Steele pacing me for at least the next 10.5 miles back to Twin Lakes, with only 2 things standing in our way.  The first is a big-ass mountain and the second is a 9:45pm cutoff.  We left Winfield at exactly 5:01pm and the way I was feeling I might not make it back up Hope Pass before 9:45pm!  As I had experienced in other ultras, I began to feel much better very quickly after taking in food and fluids.  A combination of having someone like Eric to leech energy off of and the food I had ingested breathed new life back into me.  After a while we passed people still headed to the turn and it hit me that they would not be making the return trip.  They would be timed out at Winfield and their LT100 dreams would be over for the day.  While I felt bad for them, it also lit a fire under me that I still had a chance and that I needed to push hard if I really wanted that belt buckle.  Digging deep is a central theme of Leadville, and that is exactly what I did.  I dug as deep as I ever had and propelled myself back up the steep side of Hope Pass.  The front is steep, but the back side is a fucking wall.  With the help of Eric’s expert singing and hilarious dirty limericks echoing on the mountain, we made it back to the top of Hope Pass, passing several runners on the climb.  At this point I was feeling GREAT, literally and figuratively on top of the world!  We stopped for a bite at Hopeless before jetting on down the mountain.  Everything was going perfectly, and I was making good time as the sun went down.  Once getting back under the tree line, it started getting dark very quickly.  Eric and I bantering back and forth, tired legs, and dim trails led to a couple of falls fairly close to the bottom.  Both times I rolled my left ankle just a bit, but both times it burned for a minute but was OK.  We crossed the meadow and eventually made it back to the water crossing which at mile 60 felt pretty damn good to me.  Upon arrival back at the Twin Lakes aid station the crew was excited and glad to see me feeling so much better.  I was in at about 9:00pm, 45 minutes ahead of the cutoff.  I thanked Ryan and Candi for saving me at Winfield and started eating.  And eating.  I also lubed up my feet and put on fresh socks and shoes.  Amazingly, a fresh pair of socks and shoes can really give you a nice boost.  Ryan was all set to pace, and after maybe 8 minutes I was headed toward Half Pipe and the 69 mile point – by way of a long climb up Mt. Elbert.

Twin Lakes to Half Pipe

There is not too much to say about this section aside from the fact that right after round tripping Hope Pass, you have about a 3 mile section of single track that gains about 1400 feet.  To put this in perspective, that is only about 100 feet less than the Powerline climb at mile 80.  Not sure why this section does not get more attention, but it is pretty rough.  I had been warned by a number of people to be ready for it, and I was.  The plan was to hike it as hard as we could and the try and make up some time on the 5.5 mile descent into Half Pipe.  We stuck with the plan, and Ryan pushed me whenever he could, and always kept me eating on schedule, the method Eric had started on his section.  This worked great, and my energy never lagged too much.  We leapfrogged the same 12-20 people for the entire section into Half Pipe, and saw one guy puke at least 10 times.  I just kept thinking, “I am tired, but I freaking glad I am not THAT GUY.”  I was really slowing down at this point, but we still managed to gain back a few minutes and got farther ahead of the 1:15am cutoff.  We got to Half Pipe and almost exactly midnight and I sat for a minute while Ryan got me broth and filled my bottles.  I knew it was another 6.5 miles to get back to Outward Bound, which means it was almost time to climb the dreaded Powerline.  It also meant that Candi would be pacing me soon, which is always a huge boost for me.

Half Pipe to Outward Boundbazu-6817858

This section was weird.  The road was smooth, dusty and gray.  I felt like we were running on the moon, although my legs did not agree that it was moon gravity.  Ryan eventually pulled out a handheld flashlight and it was super bright and helped a great deal to give depth to the world.  I was in a hazy , dreamlike state and just kept shuffling along at this point – eating when Ryan said eat, shuffling when he said run.  It seemed like no time before we covered 3 miles and returned to the alternate crew access point, which was good, because I was getting very sick of GU gels and was having a bit of trouble swallowing them.  Candi and Eric mixed me up a bottle of Sustained Energy, and it was a great boost.  We got in and out and made good time toward the OB aid station.  A couple miles before the aid station we got to the open area out of the wooded mountain and it got cold.  To me it felt as it the temperature had dropped 25 degrees.  I was shivering and only had a light jacket on, and zipping it up only helped a little.  Thankfully, Ryan had his rain jacket stowed on his pack and let me wear it.  Chances are that I would have been battling hypothermia had he not had it.  So once again, the crew just kept on saving my race.  We got to OB a full hour before the cut-off at almost exactly 2am.  Candi was on deck and ready to run!  I sat and gathered myself for a minute and they briefed me on time, cutoff, and what I would need to do to get my buckle.  It seemed impossible that I could go another 20 miles as tired as I was feeling, but I had long ago decided that it didn’t matter what the “outlook” was- I was just going to keep going until I either crossed the finish line or they told me I missed the cutoff and I was pulled.

Outward Bound to May Queen

Leaving OB at 2am means I would have 4 hours and 30 minutes to get up and over Powerline and back to May Queen, a section about 11 miles long.  Aside from tEPIC Finishhe steep-as-shit climb up Powerline (with 80 mountain miles on your body), there is also a section of really technical single track just waiting to twist your ankles and pop your knees for you.  Also, if you get to May Queen at the 6:30am cutoff, that only leaves you 3:30 to cover the last half marathon which is either single track or going uphill at a fairly steep slope.  3:30 sounds like a lot to do a half marathon, but trust me, at the end of a Leadville, it sounds like a sprint.  Candi prodded me out of the aid station and it was up the road until we got back to the Powerline trail.  I took the advice of a few Leadville veterans and just kept grinding.  Don’t look up to the top – just focus on the next 50 feet – then do it again.  Candi did a mixture of cheering me on and challenging me to push harder.  She is as good a pacer as she is wife, and I am sure glad she is mine.  We grinded away at the climb and I rested when my heartrate got too high.  Eventually, after the 200 or so false summits, we made it!  At the top was an oasis we were not expecting – a party on the mountain masquerading as an aid station.  While I am pretty sure this is not an officially sanctioned stop, I was glad it was there.  Folks were partying their asses off and I only wish I felt good enough to sample the libations.  We burned down the back side of Sugarloaf at a nice interval shuffle and eventually got back to the single track.  It was slow going, but eventually we made it back to the road into May Queen shortly before 6am.

May Queen to Finish

Coming into MQ, the crew was there to meet us and take care of us as they had done all day and night.  Eric and Ryan filled my bottles while I used the porta-John.  I felt like time was running out and was somewhat in panic mode, even though I had 4 hours to cover the last 13.5 miles.  I knew I had slowed down a lot and desperately did not want to be coming up 6th street as time expired.  Candi gave me a Red Bull and told me when it was gone, we were running until we got back off the road and onto the trail.  As we took off, a guy said, “Great job, but you need to RUN some around the lake, you need the time!”  It was strange how hearing it from someone else can light a fire, and it did.  We took off and actually knocked down a 12 minute mile in the first time since very early in the race.  Candi told me to just take what the trail gives, and that is exactly what we did.  We were able to run most of the way back around Turquoise Lake at about 15 minute mile pace, pretty good for 90 some miles into a race, over rolling single track.  We got a surprise from Eric and Ryan at Tabor boat ramp, they had stopped just to cheer us on and ask if we needed anything, but we just took a hug and rolled on.  After we finally came up off the trail and onto the road,Buckle it feels like you should be done… but you are NOT.  I was also warned about this, and just kept telling myself that we are close, but not there yet.  Time wise we were in pretty good shape and I realized in my mind I could walk the entire rest of the race and get the finish, but still had this strange feeling that something bad could still happen.  We jogged/walked intervals off and on and I marveled at how damn steep these hills were while getting ever closer to town.  We finally came off the last long dirt road hill and got back onto the pavement that would become 6th street and lead us to the finish line.  In the last mile, Eric and Ryan joined Candi and I as we marched proudly toward the red carpet and ultimately the finish line.   As we looked up the hill and saw runners and their families crossing the finish, it hit me for the first time that I was actually going to do this.  With the help of my wife and best friends, we were going to make my Leadville dream a reality.  We joined hands in unity, raised them in the air, and crossed the finish line together with about 30 minutes to spare.  After a round of hugs for my team, Marilee hung the medal around my neck and Ken gave me a big sweaty hug.  Needless to say it was a long, difficult adventure and that moment crossing the finish line is most definitely one that I will never forget.

 

Until next time… BE EPIC!

Zach

FlatRock Twenty

DSC_9349_s_jpgThis year’s event has rendered me nearly speechless.   Please take note of two specific words in the sentence you just read, with the first being nearly.  I am fairly certain that the only thing that would render me truly speechless would be a dismembered tongue or a traumatic brain injury.  The second word of particular importance is event.  I did not call the 20th annual FlatRock 50/25K’s a race.  It’s not just a race.  It is a full blown family trail running extravaganza for any and all who attend. The race may be the draw and one of the main events, but it is only one piece of an overall experience that truly is much greater than the sum of its parts.   What makes this place so special?  Everything!  After 20 years everything surrounding the FlatRock event has become so intertwined that it has taken on a life of its own.  FlatRock has its own culture, history, mythology, following, traditions, personality, and attitude that is usually only a found in a living and breathing organism! I love it.  No, I love the SHIT out of it!

First, I want to start with a “first” for me at this race.  This was the first ultra that a couple of my kids were able to come and be involved from start to finish.  We all attended the pre-race festivities, camped out with friends, they sent me off with cheers at the start, and they were there when I crossed the finish line!  Slapping the hand and crossing the finish line with my youngest son Mitch while my daughter Molly and Candi’s kids Ranie and Durbie were cheering us in was indescribable and unforgettable.  Unfortunately, my oldest son Max was unable to attend due to his job and school responsibilities – but I imagine he will get more than his fill when he helps crew for Candi and me at the Ozark Trail 100 miler in November!  We all hung out Saturday night to enjoy the traditional post-race bonfire, lots of food and beers, and to swap war stories from the trail.  It was amazing.

As far as the race itself went, I had a stellar day.  The temps were cool at the start and I was more than sufficiently trained and acclimated for the warmer afternoon temperatures thanks to lots of hot miles training for the Honey Badger 100 in July. My fueling and hydration plan was simple – a Hammer gel every 30 minutes on the dot and a supplemental at each aid station.   For water, it was one handheld bottle filled at each aid station.   My race plan was simple; run to the point of discomfort all the way to the finish.  Not hard enough that I would most likely spectacularly crash and fail due to my efforts, but hard enough that it was still a real possibility.  After all, if you don’t fail to hit your goals from time to time you aren’t setting your sights high enough.  I ran with my beautiful girlfriend Candi Paulin and the bandana clad, tattooed Justin Chockley for about 8 miles before pulling away and running solo basically the entire rest of the race.  I pushed hard and made it to the turnaround in about 2:40 passing enough people to go from approximately 20th place when we entered the trail to about 10th place leaving the turn around.  The three falls I took outbound left me with a few scratches and a nice charlie-horse in my left quadricep, but no turned ankles or twisted knees – which is definitely worse, and always a concern when battling “The Rock”.  I passed a few more runners and kept pushing just to the point that I felt like I probably wouldn’t be able to keep it up until the end.  At Dana’s aid station inbound I came upon one Johnny Webb – who crewed and paced for me at Honey Badger.  Remember his name folks, as he will be a guy taking home winners bling once he gains some experience and learns how to train – I am calling that right now.  Johnny had gone out like a bolt of lightning challenging several seriously badass and MUCH MORE EXPERIENCED dudes– in his first official ultra – including eventual sub-5 hour winner Nathan Sicher. Adam Dearing, Aaron Norman, and Ron Micah LaPointe are a group of guys who have WON this race (or the 101K) before and I think 3 of 24 people who have EVER finished the 50k in fewer than 5 hours.  My point is this; 2014 FlatRock was loaded with speedy guys ready to RACE, and Johnny decided to take them on.   Unfortunately, after about 20 fast miles, he told me he had to throw in the towel due to some IT band issues.  After a short, profanity laden pep talk, I convinced Johnny to finish even if he had to walk the remaining 9 miles.  After he promised me that he wouldn’t quit I popped my gel and hit the trail.  At this point I was getting run down by Jeanne Bennett of Tulsa.  We battled all the way to aid station #2 where after a brief chat with Harrison Steele and his video camera, I got around her again.  Another crash in the rocks had my adrenaline pumping and my heart jumping so I backed off and “let” (yeah right!) her pass.  A couple short minutes later, she was out of sight!  When I came pumping in to Max and David’s aid station they told me she was only 3 or 4 minutes ahead of me. I still felt good and decided to try and catch her rather than partake in my traditional shot of whisky with these two awesome knuckleheads.  Blasting out of the final aid station, I fixed my eyes on the trail and told myself that it was faster to fall and get up than run slow and cautiously.  I had already passed some guys that I know can run very strong ALL the way to the end and I did not want to get passed, even if I couldn’t catch Jeanne.  Shortly before I came down off the final steep descent leading to the highway, I heard air horns and plenty of cheering – I decided that I had probably been “chicked” again this year by Jeanne Bennett just like I was last year by Mindy Coolman.  Little did I know, that not only was I “chicked” again, but for the second year in a row, the female that passed me in the last quarter of the race set a new female course record!  Make no mistake; the women that come out to FlatRock are just as badass as (if not more) than any of the guys!  Congrats Jeanne Bennett on an awesome race and new CR!  I figured I would try to add to the time I cut off battling the ladies champ by hauling my ass down the pavement to the finish line as fast as I could.  I turned into the finish area and trucked down the gravel until Mitch jumped in with me and we crossed the finish together, cheesing for the camera the whole time!  Officially, my time was 5:52:28 – roughly an 11 minute FlatRock PR over last year.  As always Eric, Polly, Warren and the rest of the Epic Bridage pulled off a perfectly executed event.  The food and fun were off the charts.   Grooming on the trail was the best I have ever seen it – barely a single eye-poker to be seen.  These folks can definitely deliver on Epic Ultras mission of “co-creating experiences of a lifetime”.  This is not corporate bullshit, but a sincere desire to help make a memory that will last a lifetime – for everyone involved.  No one does it better.  Best race direction in the state of Kansas and very likely the entire Midwest!   I can really look at this race and feel like I used all of my ultrarunning tools, experience, experience on this trail, and training as efficiently as I could have.  No recollections of miles where I felt, looking back, that I should have done more.  For that, I am really happy how my race on “The Rock” went on September 27th 2014. Of course, I feel like there are ALWAYS ways I can improve, but at this race, on this day, I did the best I could.  That is a wonderful feeling.

There are so many inspiring stories out there that I wish I could tell them all.  One that I NEED to share is my friend from Arkansas, Dave Renfro, who changed down to the 25k before race day– just to be SURE that chemotherapy wouldn’t cost him a finish due to not meeting cutoff times.  He never once considered not finishing – just not finishing in time.  Outstanding and inspiring!  I also want to say great job to my co-workers who finished the 50k this year – Jerime Carpenter, Daniel Droessler, Gene Dixon, and former co-worker Ryan Schwatken.  Great job guys!  It was been really cool watching you guys get where you are.  Jerime’s second FlatRock and a 1.5 hour PR, Gene’s first FlatRock finish, and Ryan with a nearly 2 hour PR – and especially Dan who JUST STARTED running in January of THIS year and had never run longer than 16 miles before last Saturday and finished sub-9!  Gutsy my friend!  Another quick but very important side story – this was a reunion of sorts for the “Van Clan” that you might have read about in my Honey Badger blog post.  It was great watching Dave Meeth kick some serious ass,  Johnny Webb suffer and persevere to the finish, while being taken care of once again by recent  (first time) 3rd place Mark Twain 100 mile finisher and all around stud Dave Box. Don’t forget about the wonderful laughs and margaritas provided by our favorite hobbit Shay Caffey – who was only NOT racing because she just finished HER first 100 miler at Hawk a couple weeks ago.  So many friends finished this race that I might as well just word it like this:  Congrats to my friends <insert link to official race results here>!  Congrats especially to my “Epic Family” Reina, Joell, Cory, Sean, and “Chocko” who turned the last half of the race into a pub crawl, hosing back 6 PBR “tall boys” and a shot or two of Crown Royal on the way to the finish.  Chocko may or may not have drank enough the night before to intoxicate a couple of Irishmen.  Chock definitely sets the bar high in a work hard / play hard life – that’s one reason why we are bros!  At least Chocko wasn’t in the a quarter mile from the starting line in the shitter when the race started like my new badass bearded buddy Shawn Walters!  Sorry if I left anybody out.  I really think the world of you all.

Next order of business:  Awards.  This was the second year for the Triple Crown, and this year, and I earned mine.  A golden chalice that represents the successful efforts of finishing all three annual events held on FlatRock.  The Crown was not in the cards for me last year as I was unable to attend WinterRock – so technically I was only 12K away.  This was not the case in 2014 when myself, Candi Paulin, Josh Watson, Carson Galloway, Joseph Galloway, Robert McPherson, Marcus Needham and Mike Rives all took on WinterRock, FlatRock 101k, and FlatRock 50K.  If you think this is an easy task, well, I challenge you to try it yourself next year.  And by the way, Candi – who just so happens to be the love of my life – is the ONLY person who earned the FlatRock Triple Crown for the 2nd year in a row.  Yeah, she is a total rock star!

FlatRock 20 was special in another way, as there was a knighting ceremony rewarding a runner who had amassed 10 CONSECUTIVE 50K finishes on FlatRock.  Prior to this race only nine people had been knighted into the FlatRock “Hall of Pain” earning a retired bib number, cloth bib, and free lifetime entry into the race.  This year marked Scott Hill’s 10th trip across the rock and he was knighted for his efforts – complete with paper crown, an EPIC oath, and a broadsword christening his shoulders.  It was a totally unique and amazing sight to behold.  Congrats Scott!

Last, but CERTAINLY NOT least, Mr. FlatRock himself – Dennis Haig- was awarded a wonderful plaque for completing his 20th FlatRock 50k race.  That’s correct!  Dennis has run the 50K at FlatRock EVERY SINGLE YEAR IT HAS EXISTED.  Simply amazing, Dennis is a true representation of the rugged toughness and tenacity that characterizes FlatRock.

And finally, I want to thank everyone who stuck around to the very end and helped me ice the cake with by descending to one knee and asking Candi to be my bride.  It was one of the most exciting things I have ever been involved in at an ultra, and I am pretty sure by her expression and the unintelligible garbled response that the answer was yes!  To understand the full emotion of the moment, go to www.epicultraphotos.com and check Mile 90’s beautiful pictures of the special moment we shared with our trail running extended family.  I feel pretty fortunate that Epic Ultras covered the cost of professional engagement photos – thanks for the added bonus Eric!  You ALWAYS get your money’s worth and more at FlatRock.

Every year after FlatRock I find myself asking the question, “What could possibly happen next year to make this any MORE EPIC?”  Of course I now fully believe that no matter what it is, SOMETHING will make FlatRock  an even crazier and more epic event next year.  A finish line wedding perhaps?

Be Epic!

Zach Adams

2014 Honey Badger 100 Mile Ultra Road Race – ‘WE’ Found the ‘US’ in ‘TEAM’!

zachWriting a race report for a 100 miler is always hard for me.  It is difficult NOT to go into a painfully detailed play-by-play account of the whats, whens, wheres and hows of the specifics of the race; fueling, hydration, pace, etc.  Unfortunately that leads to a reading experience that has as much monotony, boredom, and suffering as an actual 100 mile race.  With the primary goal of my race reports being to entertain an audience of those interested in ultrarunning, I will do my best not to drive you to a suicide attempt using your keyboard or smartphone.   After all, I was the one who signed up to suffer – you just want to chuckle about it and assure yourself that you did the right thing by NOT signing up for this suckfest.  Instead of boring details like, “then I swallowed another Enduroltye” or “my pace for the next 2 miles fell off by 14 seconds”, I am committed to attempting to convey the unpredictable and rapidly changing feelings and raw emotions that inevitably ebb and flow over the course of a nearly 30 hour race.  Wish me luck.

After packing the van and trailer with the equivalent of two Walmart Supercenters and enough ice to build a replica of Superman’s “fortress of solitude”, Candi, Johnny and I finally arrived at Cheney State Park Friday afternoon ready to descend on the Epic Ultras pre-race meal like a swarm of locusts.  These meals have morphed into an occasion that could be described as a, “family reunion where people genuinely like each other”.  I hesitate to call it a family reunion since there was no keg and the cops only stopped by to say hi.  Warren grilled us up some awesome chicken, burgers, and brats while Eric, Polly and the rest of the Epic Ultras Brigade were working hard to not only feed us, but get ready for the race in the morning.  After eating more than our share, we milled around talking with our ultra-family.  Our crew, that would come to be known as “The Van Clan” began to show up as we organized gear and went over plans for the morning.  “Johnny and the Daves”, Mr. Webb, Mr. Meeth, and Mr. Box would be our crew, and their main goal was to keep us alive, moving, and relatively happy during the heat of the day.  Shay, total badass and future female action movie star, would figure out a way to meet the crew some point in the evening – after of course- she ran a hot ass 50k at the Psummer Psycho Wyco in KC.  Once all the work was done and we finally started to relax, I realized that the butterflies were having a metal concert in my guts, and from the feel of it, the show was rockin’ pretty damn hard.  Candi mentioned having some nervous energy a couple times although she is about as stone-cold cool under pressure as anyone I have ever met in my life.  A comfortably mild July evening lured us into our tent away from the mosquitoes, where we spent the next six hours or so not really sleeping.

After vehicle check, lots of nether region lube, and couple of hot breakfast burritos (Thanks Dave M!) we were off like a herd of turtles chasing an earthworm.  Candi and I took advantage of the opportunity to run with other humans for the little out and back around the perimeter of the lake, knowing soon enough that it would be just her and I – just like most of our training runs.  The nerves subsided and our bodies settled into that familiar rhythm of left, right, repeat that they are all too familiar with.  We met back up with our crew as we passed near the starting line to head out for the big 93 mile loop and gave them the standing order to head out three miles in front of us until further notice.  Our plan was not to run a 100 mile race, but more like 33 individual 5k’s.  After all, running 100 miles on asphalt in the summer just sounds dumb! Running some 5K’s is psychologically much more manageable.  Running a hundo is just like eating an elephant; you can’t swallow it whole, but you can eat it all eventually if you are patient and do it one bite at a time.

Feeling great, we chugged along the first stretch of the race, a 30 something mile straight shot littered with the occasional hill that enabled about three miles line of sight.  It could get somewhat frustrating to see your crew setting up while you were still 25 minutes away!  Candi and I chatted and ran in three mile chunks, taking our time and not rushing as we ate, drank, and doctored our bodies.  While we wanted to turn in a respectable time, out primary mission was to NOT totally thrash our bodies doing so.  This race in summer is no PR course, and since only 14 people started, we figured finishing put us in the top twenty.  Good enough!  Sticking to our plan, we fell into a comfortable rhythm and our rookie crew almost immediately started to mesh and gel into what would quickly come to resemble a highly tuned, well-organized, and perfectly efficient TEAM rivaling the best that NASCAR has to offer.  The blazing July sun was hot and radiating off the blacktop but as we headed to the west we still had a pleasant cross breeze helping to keep us cool.  We knew it would get rougher once we made the turn to the south near mile 40, but we may have underestimated JUST what it would be like to be running straight into the bowels of hell while Satan hit us with some supernatural hair dryer.  Cue the suck.

The following 15 or so miles were not very much fun.  For starters, after making our turn, Johnny and the Daves were unable to park at the 3 mile mark due to no cross street, so Candi and I had to do a 4-4.5 mile stretch before getting back to them.  While this sounds like it should be no big deal, it really was.  Not only had we turned into the 20+ mph wind, but the day was getting over the 95 degree mark and we were only carrying a single handheld each.  The wind would dry you out within about a mile and while one bottle was just about the perfect amount for 3 miles, it was grossly inadequate for 4 or more.  So we suffered.  We took our time to cool off and recover once we finally reached them and then did 5ks until we got to Cunningham, a little town where we would cross under Hwy 54.  At this point we decided that 3 miles was just too far between cool offs and had the crew start stopping every 2 miles.  Despite costing us some race time, I feel like this was the single best decision we made through the entire course of the race.  Sacrificing some clock time to stay cooler longer became a strategy we deployed until the sun came down.  Each stop we would take off our hats and shirts and soak them in ice water before putting them back on.  At one point I said something about “investing some time in the afternoon heat that would earn us some dividends we could cash out once it cooled off.”  Thanks to the efforts of our fantastic crew and in spite of a daytime high of 98 degrees, we survived – mostly undamaged – and got to the checkpoint at 53 miles in St. Leo.  The massive, shady oak tree at St. Leo and the promise of no wind in our face was our prize and we absolutely reveled in it, sharing some laughs with Warren and some others while eating, drinking pickle juice shooters, and doctoring our increasingly tattered bodies.

From this point, we were allowed to take on pacers, and we had our own Johnny on the spot.  No, not a shitter (which would have been nice), but a shaggy headed young man about to be violently born into the world of ultrarunning.  Johnny is “the kid” on our crew, and hails from my hometown.  Twenty-three years old, he is a baby by ultrarunning standards.  His previous running experience consists of high school track ( I heard he once ate shit on a hurdle but still got up and ran his heart out instead of walking off), getting a hair up ass and running the Richmond Marathon without training  (in ~3:30:00), and through-hiking more than 700 miles of the Appalachian Trail.  And while Johnny has a fiery spirit that matches  his shaggy ginger head, he has zero experience past about the 30 mile a day mark.   So naturally, he wanted to go the distance – almost 50 miles.  Why not?  Now armed with a fresh set of legs and a new conversation partner, my love and I continued along the never-ending pavement of Kingman County, Kansas, determined to slay ourselves a Honey Badger.

We continued to do our thing – drink, eat, run, drink, rest, and repeat.  The sun lowered to the point that we finally felt relief from the day’s heat, and it was MARVELOUS – but somewhat deceiving.  The humidity was still high and it was still very warm, so we took great care and made a conscious effort to continue our intake of fluids – including a drink we named “Pink Shit”.  Pink Shit was a mix of different flavors of Dollar General Pedialyte and Gatorade knockoffs, and not too bad when served cold.  I continued to eat as I had all day, in large quantities, prompting Boxy to voice his opinion that eventually I would eat EVERYTHING and he would have to raid a cornfield.  Candi babied her stomach along trying desperately to avoid nausea issues that plagued her in her last few long ultras.  I can only imagine the torture of wanting nothing more than to puke for 40 miles.  Luckily I am armed with an iron set of guts coated with Teflon and wrapped in Kevlar – the longest period of barfy-pukey I ever endured was about 30 minutes in any race (and it was torturous).  Anyway, without getting any further bogged down in details, we made like Forrest Gump and “just. kept. running.”, eventually donning our headlamps and stumbling along under the blinking red lights of the wind farm and the super moon.

Approximately 10:30 pm and around 60 miles in, a new character joins our fearless expedition as we quest ever closer to the final showdown with the villainous and notoriously tough Honey Badger. Shaylene “Lara Croft” Caffey, who earlier in the day thrashed her 50k PR on a difficult Wyco course, traveled hours from Kansas City finally hitching a ride out and meeting up with the Daves.  This young lady is on record saying that she is planning on running the FlatRock 101K course in Vibram 5-fingers next spring.  Yeah, we ONLY accept level 99 badasses on our crew.  Shay is also planning on shooting down the Hawk 100 (her first) in September; I think she was maybe even subconsciously looking to get some more insights into the “late miles” of a hundie.  Candi and I planned on showing her precisely how to climb into her pain cave and then slam the door shut on her own personal hurt locker.  Shay, however, was determined to take crewing to the same level of her running and attempt to keep us from suffering at all.  It was a battle of wills that would play out all night and into the next morning. Once Shay joins the crew, it breathes some new life into all of us.  Dave and Dave had been crewing at a very high level non-stop since sunrise, Johnny was crewing and running in beast mode, and the beautifully hardcore Candi and I plodding along on the road with seemingly no end.  I don’t know where she mustered it from, but Shay’s rootin’, tootin’, hootin’, and a hollerin’ woke us all up.  Precisely when we all needed it.  Dave Meeth, or as I internally began to think of him – “The Professor” –  changed roles and pinned on a pacer’s bib, while  Dave Box shined in his role as Master Driver and Crew Chief.

Meeth is an engineer by trade and was the first person I recruited to join the crew.  I had met him at FlatRock, chatted with him online, and he even came out and brought me a beer at the 12 hour KUS race I ran last November.  He is also an ultrarunner having run a 50 miler to his credit – much faster my best time.  Additionally, I could really just see and feel his intelligence and compassion for others even beyond his passion, energy, and excitement for the sport of ultrarunning.  I knew he would make an excellent crew member.  For these reasons (and not just because he is the elder of the group) the nickname “professor” just kept popping in my head.  Regardless, I knew Candi and I would be in good hands with Dave for the next 35 or so miles.

Believe it or not, the later miles of a 100 kind of just gets boring.  I know?  Amazing revelation right?!  Not much else to note, unless you get excited about lubing up, pooping, and peeing on the side of the road; in which case you are probably looking for a different website with a .xxx at the end of it.  We ate, we ran, we lubed, and we drank.  Most often we kept a good attitude and still managed some good conversation and even some belly laughs.  Other times, it was deathly silent as we were all somewhat trapped in our own thoughts (or pain caves).  Onward.

Meanwhile, Boxy and Shay were playing a three mile game of leapfrog that consisted of driving out, looking for a place to park, setting up chairs,  and prepping an all-you-can eat buffet for the ever famished Fred Flintstone (me) and Shay rubbing Candi’s aching  -but still pretty- feet.  This is truly selfless work.  Up all day and night to help us out.  It really does amaze me that these guys would do this for us, almost perfect strangers before this race, for no other reason than helping us achieve our goals.  This brings me to Dave Box.  Boxy is a guy that came out of nowhere to run the FlatRock 101k as his first, YES FIRST, ultra.  But wait, there’s more… He had never run longer than 13 miles before that.  But wait, there’s more….  He gets 3rd overall!  Wow.  Two weeks later he rips off a most impressive finish at the Flint Hills 40 miler – despite blowing up and overheating in the final half marathon.  Boxy has raw talent, tons of heart, and an iron will.  He told me that his body was DONE after about half way of the FlatRock 101k, but he did what a good ultrarunner does – he ran the rest with his mind.  Box took this same drive, energy, and mental toughness and put it to use in his role as Crew Chief.  Need I say more? Not only did Dave expertly execute his crew duties, but he supplied half of the gear we used including a pop up tent, 7 gallon gatorade jug, and a propane grill and tank.  You got it.  Hot food on the road. BAM.  Box cooked us bacon at 3 in the morning.  Dave Box is a crewing GOD.  Not to mention he pulled his toy hauler, complete with generator and air conditioner, three hours to the lake – just because you never know what we might need.  Enough on Boxy, don’t need his ego getting as big as mine, that would be bad for everyone involved, but you get my point.  Back to the race.

So miles 70-100 were more of the same.  We didn’t feel much better, but we didn’t feel much worse.  We just kept ticking off the miles three at a time.  About 5 miles from the finish we run up on Boxy sitting cross legged on the trailer cooking up some more hot bacon for us.  Shay is still hollering for us and cheering us in EVERY single time we get to the van.  Johnny and Dave were rock solid pacers who never complained about their own aches and pains although they had been out there for 12 hours or more.  We did this until our final stop about a mile and a half  from the finish line (we wanted to finish strong). Here, we sat in our chairs and shared a beer to celebrate our victory in private.  It was amazing.

For the final time in the race, we got up, shook off the instant soreness and began hammering out the last bit to the finish.  Candi and I crossed the finish together in 27:16:39 well below the realistic 28 hour goal we set for ourselves.  More importantly we were not in that bad of shape considering the brutal heat and wind of the day.  Candi had a single tiny blister and I had three and a gray toenail.  No major aches and pains at all.  Just tired bodies carrying around huge smiles.  We relaxed around the finish talking to our pals.  A HUGE thanks to Epic Ultras for putting on a top notch event with the level of challenge we were looking for.  Eric Steele, Warren Bushey, Polly Choate, Frank Arellano, David Bushey, Justin Saylor and all of the Epic Ultras Brigade make these events live up to the considerable hype that they generate.  Also a huge thank you to the awesome support we got on the course from the roving aid teams – Justin and Joell Chockley, Mark Berry, Daron and Zander Pratt.  Also special thanks to Joell Chockley for doing such a wonderful job capturing the day in pictures.  All of your efforts are VERY much appreciated!

All of the 100’s that I have run are special to me for different reasons.  Pumpkin Holler was redemption and I ran fast.  Prairie Spirit I came back from the brink of failure.  Honey Badger will always be special to me because I crossed the finish of a VERY difficult ultra with the woman I love, and WE were able to do so because of the perfect execution of a well organized plan by an ULTRA TEAM whose skill, motivation, tenacity, and chemistry will never be surpassed.

Until Next Time…. BE EPIC!

Zach Adams

PS – Send me a friend request on Facebook.  I love keeping track of the training, races, and other adventures that my ULTRA-FRIENDS (both current and future) share!

Flint Hills 40: Observations From Behind the Aid Station Table

zachAt the inaugural Flint Hills Marathon and 40 Miler I got my first taste of running an aid station for the full duration of a race, and HOLY SHIT was it a real eye-opener! Since I started running ultras about 5 years ago, I have been amazingly taken care of at almost every race I have started. I have had workers fill my bottles, give me food, and offer me everything from a sandwich from their own cooler to Tums out of the glove box of their car. I have stumbled, shuffled, and flown through innumerable aid stations, but I have never worked one. I now realize after working at one, that while I was grateful, I was still taking them for granted. Not anymore. Never again. I realize that I am not unique in that I usually run ultras so I am really excited to share some observations from my first experience from behind the aid station table.

1. It is HARD. You have to show up early and stay late. You have to rush around and get stuff ready before runners get there. You have to load and unload everything. You have to clean as you go. You have to clean, inventory, and repack everything once the last runner comes through. It isn’t running, but it is a LOT of work.

2. I t i s STRESSFUL. The pressure o f being able t o quickly and efficiently provide for all the needs of the runners while still cheering them on and infusing them with confidence takes a real toll on you. Waiting for a group of runners to come through and making sure you got them all checked in can leave you worried that you missed someone. You will question yourself. Did I do everything I could for them? Did I find the right drop bag? Did I give them the right bottle back?

3. It is INSPIRING. Watching runners push themselves to the breaking point and battling it out against the elements and their own exhaustion and overcome all obstacles to meet and exceed their goals will give you a shiver. Working an aid station will leave you with a renewed faith in humanity and a solid week’s supply of warmfuzzies.

4. It is FULFILLING. Spending time and energy taking actions that directly correlate and make an impact on people realizing their dreams is extremely fulfilling. Playing a part in an organization that co-creates EPIC “ultrarunning experiences of a lifetime” is extremely rewarding. You are a character in a memory of these runner’s lives that, while unnamed, will stick with them for their entire lives.

5. It is FUN. This is the best part. It is fun as hell! Hooting and hollering, yelling and screaming… It is a blast. Laughing and having fun with a huge group of people who share and understand an “insane” sport that you also love; how could this NOT be freaking awesome. I had a blast. I made friends. This is priceless – and it is an aspect of our “beloved sport” I had been missing until that point.

All said and done, I am so glad I took a race off of running and took my time helping others reach their goals. IF you have not done this yet, I HIGHLY suggest that you do. If you HAVE… why in the HELL did you not tell me that it was imperative that I DO SO!!!?? So for those of you who have not – I will make it easy. Go to epicultras.com/brigade. Sign up and get involved. Put your ultrarunning experience and enthusiasm to good use. Although your body can’t run as many ultras as you want, it doesn’t mean you can’t still soak up the “Epic Energy”. Epic Ultras is known for having incredible support for runners in their events – both aid and staff. I am honored and proud to say that I played a part in executing their mission: co-creating EPIC “ultrarunning experiences of a lifetime”!

Until Next Time…. BE EPIC!

Zach

2014 FlatRock 101K Race Report – Heat Wave

zachLast year at the Inaugural FlatRock 101K, the mud and water turned an already challenging course into a muddy Slip n’ Slide of doom. The smells of mud and blood hung in the misty fog while sounds of falling bodies and runners shouting obscenities filled the air. This year, however, was much different. This year, after only a few scattered storms that barely knocked down the dust, the clouds fled and runners were treated to clear skies, gusty winds, and unseasonably warm temperatures. When you have done most of your training in sub-zero weather it was downright hot.

My lovely and talented girlfriend and running partner Candi and I were up well before the rooster, and managed to get on the road and make it to Elk City Lake at about 6am. We drove through a pretty nasty thundershower that treated us to a badass light show that rivaled those of the glory days of 70’s acid rock concerts. The lightning was intense and beautiful and ended up being somewhat of a storm before the calm – which was fine with me. We chatted with our friends, reorganized drop boxes for the 37th time, did all our other normal pre-race routines, and basically just paced nervously until Eric called us up to the starting line. Once the race was UNDERWAY, I realized I had somehow lost the visor I was wearing, and instead of just taking off, I TURNED AROUND went back to the van and looked around for it. Candi and Ron-Micah LaPoint waited on me and we started out handicapped by at least 2-3 minutes… and no, I didn’t even find the piece of shit. This seemed like an odd way to start a race, but hey, I have never been afraid to buck ‘the norm’ in an ultra!

The first 25.25 kilometers were pretty uneventful. Candi and I ran and chatted as we have many times before, not allowing the urge to ‘race’ split us up before it was really necessary. I had really hoped to stay with her for the first 50.5K when I figured she would be running much faster than I could keep up with. Candi is an extremely strong 2nd half runner and can get close to even splits even in very long runs. We made it out to Sean’s Sanctum aid station and I was feeling really good. The temperature was really starting to rise quickly, but this was expected, so I had made a concerted effort to stay ahead on hydration and nutrition from the very start and had taken in a ton of water and electrolyte in the first 15 miles. The first ¼ of a race is almost always the easiest for me, and today was no different.

The second 25k leg marked the beginning of transition from nice spring weather for a trail run to entering the portal to hell covered in gasoline. The temps jumped dramatically and the gnarly wind gusts were blowing up tons of dust, ash, pollen, and small mammals. Candi and I made it inbound to Dana’s Aid Station at about the 21 mile point and I was really starting to feel shitty. My legs felt like lead, I was hotter than a Colorado piss test, and I was seriously starting to think that running the 40 miler at Free State Ultra the previous weekend might have been a marginally terrible idea. My experience at FlatRock helped me at this point, because instead of feeling sorry for myself, whining, and acting like a giant pussy, I kept eating and drinking and reminding myself that I ALWAYS struggle at this point. I don’t know what it is, but EVERY SINGLE TIME I run on “the Rock” I struggle after leaving Dana’s inbound. I just kept telling myself I would feel better and kept putting left in front of right. Candi was still running strong and I didn’t want to sabotage her time, so I told her to go ahead and run her race, kick some ass, and that I would see her at the finish. We both put in our earbuds, and she was out of my line of sight within minutes. I cranked tunes and eventually passed the first place runner headed back for his second 50.5K – I think he was “only” about 8 miles or so ahead of me. A rough-looking, pale Ron-Micah LaPoint was second place and headed outbound and only wanted to know how far it was to the bench on the bluff. I lied, as trail runners do, and said, “Close. Around the next corner maybe?” He was nauseated… as were many at this point. It was past 1 pm and closing in on 85 degrees with ludicrously high humidity. I made it to the end of the 50.5K in about 7 hours and 30 minutes – pretty much right on target. ½ done.

At the start/finish turnaround I was handled magnificently by some totally badass Epic Brigade Staff Memebrs, including Libby Eddings and Polly Choate, as well as my unofficial crew Reina Probert and Kodi Panzer. It was like a spa day… with extra suck. These ladies were bringing me food, drinks, ice, filling my pack, and probably would have massaged my legs had I asked. They are the pinnacle of course aid. Thanks ladies! I crammed as much real food and cold liquid into my stomach as it would hold and my awesome pacer Kodi and I set out for the 3rd and hottest 25k leg of the race. Ignoring the desert-hot wind gusts that were blowing street dust in our face, we set a course for awesome and trekked back to the trail. It took a while to get my ass moving, but eventually my legs began to feel more like an ultrarunner’s tools than frog legs roasted over an open fire. I bitched and moaned a little, but mostly ran and was totally entertained by the hilarity of Tank’s (the English translation for the German word “Panzer”) stories as well as her choice in trail music (played on speakerphone for the world to hear). While I wasn’t feeling like a million bucks, I was feeling at least worth about $12.78 and a warm Jolly Rancher – so I kept on. My time with Tank went pretty fast, and we were at Dana’s in no time. Ron-Micah was here and it was pretty obvious by the puke all over his shirt and the fact he was on his back in the shade that he wasn’t doing well. The race leader came back inbound at this point, as well, and they were talking about how hot and hard the day was. On the upside he was still ONLY 12ish miles ahead of me, so I didn’t have to totally abandon my hopes of winning the race… Bahaha!! Kodi and I heard that lots of runners were having dehydration and breathing issues and that quite a few had dropped, including my good friend Justin Chockley who had some sort of respiratory episode where he could barely breath AT ALL. We also found out that Candi had not been feeling great and was only about 10 minutes in front of us. She had started feeling sick to her stomach at about the 50K point, but being the barbarian warrior she is, she kept hammering out the miles.armadillo After some food and several cups of ginger ale over ice, we set back out. One of the fun things about trail running is the wildlife. In this race I got to chase a groundhog, pet a baby armadillo, kick a possum, and hurdle multiple copperhead snakes. I got pics of the armadillo to prove it, but the groundhog was too fast. And the copperheads, well, I didn’t really want to get close enough for pictures. Kodi and I strolled leisurely covered in dirt, salt, and sweat into Sean’s Sanctum for the second time capping off the 3rd 25.25K leg of the race. 75% done.

The sun was starting to get lower and it seemed as if I just might survive the heat of the day. So far, my iron-gut was holding out, and had only very briefly felt sick after cramming it full of food. Here I thanked Kodi for pacing and get ready to head out for the final leg and trip to the finish line. Daniel Droessler, a longtime co-worker and budding ultrarunner picked up pacing duties and would take me to Dana’s where another co-worker and ultrarunner Gene Dixon would pick me up and guide me through the dark to the finish. Neither had really done much trail running, especially not the technicality that FlatRock had to offer, but I knew they would be fine. They are both good dudes and are, most importantly, made up of the “right stuff” as Eric Steele calls it. I figured we would catch Candi in this section as she was still feeling VERY bad and moving much slower. We talked for a second when we crossed each other when she left Sean’s – she did not look the greatest, but I knew how tough she was so I wasn’t worried about her dropping. As a matter of fact, I told Dan that there was a better chance of us finding her unconscious on the trail than her quitting. Other than forgetting my water bottle at Sean’s Sanctum, the race was still going great. Sure, I was stiff, hot, and tired – but really I was in a great place mentally and I knew I would kick the shit out of my time of 21:44 last year. Dan was thoroughly enjoying the trail and joking and laughing the entire time. His great energy as a pacer, several nice runable sections, and the cooling temps made this section much more pleasant. We got to the waterfall (my 4th time) and I saw Candi and her pacer Crystal on the other side and I yelled as loud as I could, “THE F&%^*NG WATERFALL!!!!” Candi echoed my sentiment in an equally loud fashion. Dan and I caught up with them after successfully negotiating (and cooling off in) the waterfall and Candi still was feeling shitty. We all stayed together, made a lot of noise, dropped a bunch of F-Bombs, and got back to Dana’s with a good mix of powerhiking and jogging. I was HUNGRY at this point and ate a couple cups of her amazing potato soup, several sandwich quarters, chips, a cereal bar, and probably one of everything else that was there. Getting back to Dana’s before dark was one of my little goals for the day, and we did. It was still light out! There was still sunlight left, a few more minutes before we would be plunged into the colorless black of the seventh level of hell. The trail kicks your ass in the light, however, it flat out stomps your balls in the dark! Running is hard and not falling is even harder. Physically and mentally I was in a great place, I really felt like it was in the bag at this point. waterfallEvery step closer was a step closer to the finish. Gene took over for Daniel and we left Dana’s for the final time. We jogged/hiked for the last remaining light but eventually got to the point where we had to turn the lights on. Candi was still feeling terrible and could barely take in any food or water and was still more concerned with slowing ME down than she was about her own race. I told her I didn’t care, and that it didn’t matter because I couldn’t catch Josh Watson (the runner that I knew was next in front of us) so there was no point in running off from her. I could have made a little better time, but at that point it was way more important to help her finish, and even better – to be able to ensure we would be crossing the finish line together! Now, I will admit, if another runner HAD been able to catch us, I probably would have ran off without a second thought to make sure that I didn’t get passed – Candi knows this and would expect no less out of me, or I from her. After all… it is a race!

Gene was loving the trail and checking it out with his headlamp every chance he could, keeping an eye out for copperheads, as they came out in force once the sun went down. We talked and hiked and sometimes stopped for a few seconds to let Candi and Crystal catch up. Gene is a very calm intelligent type of guy so we had some good conversations which really passed the time. We got back to Max and David’s (joint) aid station, where again, I was starving! They had some EPIC smoked ham stew and pulled pork that was absolutely delicious. Then, they offered whiskey, as they are known to do – according to them I was the first to accept. Twice. Gene also took a pull or two and the girls ate and drank what they could – avoiding the whiskey like the plague. Michael Mora, one of last year’s 101K finishers was here helping out after dropping due to some severe blister issues. He seemed like he was having MUCH more fun “working” than running! Honestly, I was pretty jealous. We set out to put the last 4 miles of the 2nd annual FlatRock 101K in the books. It was a steady hike with a few jogging breaks mixed in, and ultimately, our relentless forward progress was eventually rewarded by a steep descent off the side of the ridge. We hit the flat road and coasted toward the finish line. Gene and Crystal ran us up to the finish line before pulling off to the side, having completed their tasks. Candi and I slapped the now legendary “FlatRock Hand” together as we crossed the finish line, relieved to be done. A final expletive laden exclamation of thanks passed Candi’s mouth as we finished the most brutal trail ultra in the midwest (hands down), truly not a race for the faint of heart. 17:16:44 and 6th and 7th place was our official finish. She was the second female and I was the 5th male finisher. Three and a half hours faster for me than last year… I’ll take it!finishline

This race is EPIC by any and every stretch of the imagination in any dimension of space or time. This race IS certainly the “top dog” in Kansas AND the entire midwest, relative to trail running badassery and should definitely be added to all trail ultrarunners bucket list if they think they have what it takes to conquer “The Rock”! The course is radically different than pretty much anything ever imaginable in Kansas, and it is downright just a VERY HARD trail race! The individuals who take on this race are straight-up badasses, who certainly take it way beyond a rating of TEN and actually crank it up to ELEVEN…and then some. The race director, Eric Steele, and his primary assistant, Warren Bushey  have an incredible passion for ultrarunning and ultrarunners that is unparalleled compared to any I have ever been around and the entire Epic Ultras Brigade Staff is equally phenomenal in their caring and support of EVERY single runner. Food, course support, bling, shirts, and other logistics are executed with an exquisite precision that I have only witnessed at Epic Ultras Events. Take all these ingredients, mash them together, and you have a powder keg of volcanic proportions that has consistently erupted EPICNESS of truly legendary proportions. A middle-of-the-night finish line with staff and FINISHERS ringing cowbells, blasting airhorns, yelling shouts of support, a GIGANTIC BLACK ARCH, and a laser light show is the icing on the cake. If you have not experienced the feeling of crossing the wonderfully EPIC finish at the Epic Ultras FlatRock101K, you truly are missing out. Thanks to everyone, top to bottom, who had any part of putting this outstanding race together. It is a memory that will never diminish in my mind.3amigos

Until Next Time!  BE EPIC!

Zach Adams

2014 Prairie Spirit 100 Race Report – “The Walking Dead” or “A Tale of Two Fifties”

zachSo this weekend marked the 2nd Annual Praire Spirit Trail 50 and 100 Mile Ultra Races in Ottawa Kansas.  It marked my 4th time toeing the line at a 100 mile footrace.  My record stood as 1 total rookie failure, 1 cut short by a freak blizzard, and an 1 insanely perfect race resulting in a first finish PR breaking the 22 hour mark.  As a 1 for 3 100 mile racer, I was hoping to even my record at 50% -while secretly harboring ambitions to break the 21, and even 20 hour mark.  After all, this was an “easy” hundred course, right?  We all know that a 100 mile race starts months before the actual start of the race, so that’s where I’ll start.

I finished the Pumpkin Holler 100 in late October 2013, getting that first buckle “under my belt” (pun intended) and amazed myself finishing more than 2 hours faster than my low-end goal of 24 hours.  You can read all about it here.  About a month after Pumpkin Holler, I ran the 12 hour KUS race in Wichita, logging 53ish miles and learned I wasn’t completely recovered. I took basically the month of December to rest and recover, planning on hitting it hard once January hit.  I ran and worked out some, but not like I had been through the summer and fall.  I ran WinterRock 25K – and had a blast as expected – but rolled my ankle pretty good in the process.  That is always a possibility on that trail, but it is a little scary when you have a 100 mile race on your calendar no more than 3 months away.  I ran a LOT in January and Febuary, totally more than 450 miles.   Most of these were good quality, high effort runs and not just long slow grinders.  I was feeling really solid other than the occasional twinge in my “WinterRock ankle”.  My beautiful, wonderfully talented runner girlfriend Candi Paulin and I have a tendency to name our injuries on the races where we acquired them.  She had been working through her FlatRock and Heartland knees while I whined about my Pumpkin Holler hip and WinterRock ankle.  You get the idea…  Aside from a few nagging aches and pains, things were going well.   Rolling into what was going to be my peak mileage week I got a NASTY chest cold and was basically done training until the race.  This turned my planned 2 and a half week taper into nearly 4 mileage free weeks.  I will say, I noticed how worn out I was from training only once I slowed down and took some time off.  My body was actually really ready for, and needing,  a break.

I got to Ottawa early enough to get to help with early packet pickup.  I love getting a chance to meet and talk to runners before the event actually starts.  I really think runners miss out when they skip pre-race activities and just show up at the starting line.  Lots of my now close friends became so as a direct result of hanging out before and after actual races themselves.  I love it.  To steal words from a buddy Mark Berry, “Pre-race dinner feels more like a family reunion” – and I might add – one filled with a family that is not as totally dysfunctional as most are.  The dinner that Warren cooked up was way better than the caterer Epic Ultras had gotten the previous year, and it was awesome getting to catch up with my ultrarunning buddies.  Next up was keynote speaker David Horton, old-shool ultrarunner and one of the founding fathers of ultrarunning.  Not only did I get to watch his totally badass and inspiring presentation, I had the opportunity to talk to him quite a bit on the side.  I was very impressed with his willingness to share his stories with me and how he sincerely wanted to hear MY story.  He was a very inspiring guy who has done some CRAZY ASS SHIT including winning Hardrock a couple times and finishing the Barkley Marathons 100.  Oh yeah, and he ran across the USA, the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail.  Total ultrarunning rockstar.    I am thrilled I got the opportunity to meet David.  He gave a few pieces of wisdom in his presentation that will become a theme later in this blog.  1 – This too shall pass.  2- It never always gets worse. 3 – Walk with a purpose.  All three of these nuggets of wisdom played an important role in my race.

After dinner I went back to Celebration Hall and hung out and helped for the duration of late packet pickup.  I had worked out a deal with Eric that if I helped with packet pickup and helped film David’s presentation, I could sleep inside of Celebration Hall instead of pitching a tent outside.  I don’t really like camping in the cold that much, so this seemed like a great deal to me, since I was planning on getting there early Friday anyway.  About 10:00 pm I decided it was time to get ready for bed and decided to set up my tent (yes inside) and get to bed.  Got a bunch of teasing and shit talking from a few buddies who belong to the Epic Bridage that were still working to get ready for the race.  They found it quite comical that I would be setting up a tent inside – including the rain cover.  I saw it was like this;  it would knock down some of the noise and light and maybe help me sleep – and maybe even give me a little protection from Micah LaPoint who was promising to climb into my sleeping bag to cuddle once I feel asleep.  Yeah… I love these crazy assholes.  Anyway, I got to go to bed on my air mattress in my inside tent (box fan and all) about midnight with George Myers guarding my door from his sleeping bag right outside my door where he was camped out.  Turns out I am pretty wimpy compared to these dudes who sleep on the concrete with nothing but a blanket like the damn terminator.  I slept like I usually do the night before a race… not much.  Four in the morning arrived and I was relieved to finally get up and get going.   The Epic boys were already hard at work.  My tent was torn down and stowed away within minutes and before you can say “GO!” I had a hot shower and coffee in hand as other runners started showing up.

Just before 6 am we got our final pep-talk and a simple “Go!” from Mr. Epic himself, Race Director – and my brother from another mother – Eric Steele.  I took off at a nice easy pace that was probably too fast for a 100 miler.  I figured a fast mile or two wouldn’t hurt me and would likely burn off the remaining nervous energy.  I started our running with my friend Farhad Zarif, a great runner from the Kansas City area with an infectious spirit and a quest for to earn his first 100 mile buckle.  As we headed north to complete the short out and back, I fell in with Steve Baker.  Steve is a pretty experienced ultrarunning, and has done several 100’s in his time.  He is also one of the happiest and friendliest guys I have ever run with.  We chatted for a while and eventually got out of town and were truly on the Prairie Spirit Trail.  Steve and I fell in with Earl Blewett – a long time veteran ultrarunner.  He was telling us of times long ago where ultras were few and far between and a guy had to travel hundreds of miles to find out that he was running with the same 50 lunatics he had at every race that year.  He was also one of a handful of runners who had run the INAUGURAL FlatRock 50k – the oldest trail ultra in the state of Kansas.  It was interesting and enjoyable.  I ran with several other folks in route to Garnett and saw David Horton on the trail as well.  I ran with a guy who played division 1 football at Tulsa (Chris I think) who had decided to run a marathon pretty much as soon as his playing days were over.  He was a big guy and had shed a LOT of weight to get to the point of running 100 miles.  His buddies were treating the job of crewing as a 30 hour tailgate.  I chatted with another younger dude for a while who had decided to find a job and move out to Colorado – from Indiana I think – so he could pursue his dream of training and finishing the HardRock 100.  I love ultrarunners.  They are seriously badass… and not just because they can run for a long time.   About this time we got to the first aid station at Princeton.  I grabbed a Nutella burrito and rolled out.  I was carrying Hammer Gels and Protein bars.  I would fuel mostly from these since the real food on the course was 7-10 miles apart.  I felt like I had been doing well trying to take in at least 250-300 calories per hour.  

Eventually myself and the other runners got spread out so I put some music in my ears.  I focused simply on eating, drinking, and running.  Every so often I would lean against something and shake the tiny rocks out of my shoes.  I was really running at a quicker pace than I had planned, but I felt good, so I kept it up.  I got to Garnett  and was in and out.  My Garmin died right at 28 miles at just a hair under 5 hours.  So yeah, I was going to fast for a 100 miler.  I intentionally slowed my pace realizing that it was probably unsustainable to run at this speed.  It had also warmed up quite a bit and I could tell I had gotten behind on water.  The next section was about 9 miles to get to Welda.  About 2 miles before getting to the aid station I got really thirsty but had already finished my bottle – which I had drained and filled at the unmanned water stop.  I stripped a shirt and tied my jacket around my waist.  The sun was surprisingly intense and I was wilting pretty good, but still moving well.  Just before Welda, my right knee was getting a really sharp pain and my quads and calves both started cramping.  I was slightly worried, but not terribly, since I was rolling into the Trail Nerds oasis.  I filled and emptied my bottle here and picked up about 6 e-tabs.  I had been using Fizz tabs for electrolytes but decided to ramp it up.  I ate some real food and popped 2 S-Caps and took off.  I wasn’t stopped long at all, but upon beginning to walk, my knee pain was even sharper.  I was concerned that it was hurting so early on, but I also know how aches and pains come and go.  I made like a choo choo and chugged off down the tracks.

When I got to Colony I was still cramping, but maybe not as bad.  The 7.75 miles to get there took me a long time.  The warm temps and cramps had really slowed me down, to the point that I had to stop and stretch every few minutes just to loosen them up enough to keep a slow and steady shuffle.  Although I had taken in as much water as my belly would hold and multiple E-Tabs, I just couldn’t kick the cramps in my legs.  I was greeted by Kodi Panzer who cheered me up with her great laugh and a couple jokes about only working the aid station so she could find a boyfriend.  She is a riot.  It was a good pick-me-up at a low point for me.  Only 41 miles into the race and I was struggling pretty hardcore.  But I did what hundred mile runners do; buried my doubts, got up, and ran.

Ten miles.  I have run this distance so many times I can no longer count.  I have run it in heat, in cold, in ice, in snow, in wind.  I have never run in such misery as I did during this race.  The cramps worsened and I continued to overheat.  I got into a bad spot mentally and daydreamed of getting to Iola ONLY so I could quit and be done.  It was not fun.  It was not Epic.  It was torture.  I felt sick, tired, lonely, bored, pissed off… you name it.  I was in as low of a spot mentally as I have ever been in a race.  At one point I saw Eric driving by on the highway – he is easy to spot with the Badwater sticker and “Be Epic” plates – and almost called him to turn around and pick me up.  I didn’t, mostly because I figured he would tell me to suck it up and quit acting like a little bitch.  I imagined how I would tell Daniel and Candi at Iola that I was finished, it wasn’t my day, and every other excuse I could think of for quitting.  I daydreamed of going back to Topeka with Candi and sitting in the hot tub with a beer at the hotel and going to the state wrestling tournament instead of running all night.  You get the picture.  Bad times.  FINALLY I came limp-shuffling into Iola.  My co-worker and crew chief Daniel Droessler was standing near the aid station with a camera.  He slowly lowered it and I could tell by the look on his face that he KNEW I was done.  He just started running himself a couple months ago and was planning on pacing me a section.  It was obvious to him that he was now off the hook.  Something about this look kept me from telling anyone I was done.  Maybe there was a little spark of life left…

I immediately went to see Warren at the aid station table and he asked me how he could fix me.  I asked for food and he gave me some bbq pulled pork.  Then I asked if maybe they had any pickle juice.  I had decided that since it was only 4:50pm – almost 11 hours since the start of the race – I had plenty of time to get “fixed”.  I took Jurek’s advice and took stock.  I was hungry and behind on calories.  I was cramping and dehydrated.  I had a shit attitude and was pissed off that the last 15 miles sucked so bad.  I was in bad shape, but it was all fixable – so I got to work.  Unfortunately they didn’t have pickle juice, but they had plenty of water and e-tabs.  I had run a short time with Brian Smith, a runner from near my hometown, and after he went ahead of me and gotten to Iola he had given his crew instructions to help me out if they could.  Nathan Sicher, a blazin’ fast runner who also lives close to me gave me a Gatorade.  To my amazement , Justin, one of the Epic Brigade shows up with a jar of pickles and says, “Will this work?”   HELL YES.  I drank 2 foam cups of pickle juice and chased it with Gatorade.  Thanks guys.  About this time, Candi shows up well ahead of schedule AND has a hot, salty order of Culver’s french fries!!  I wasn’t planning on seeing her until Welda or Garnett inbound.  What a sight for sore eyes!  It raised my mental state back to where it needed to be if I had any chance of finishing this thing.  Once she got there, I knew there would be no quitting, at least not here, not now.   Another runner had heard me asking about pickle juice and brought me a “Pickle Shot”.  I finished eating, drinking, and doctoring my feet (no blisters so far) and stood up to see how I was feeling.  Amazingly, the cramps were gone.   My legs felt new life.  Someone suggested a change of shoes and I agreed.  Dan asked if I wanted him to pace me the 10 miles back to Colony, I said, “Hell yeah!”, and I strapped my Hokas on.  After spending half an hour recovering at Iola, I decided that I didn’t need to worry about making it to the finish, I just needed to focusing on how to make it to Colony.  Off we went.

Like I mentioned, Dan had only been running about 6 weeks, with his longest ever being 6 miles.  I warned him that if he couldn’t keep up, I would run off and leave him.  He was excited as this was going to be his distance PR and his first participation in an organized running event.  I was excited because the sun was going down, it was cooling off, and I was feeling SO much better.  We spent most of the miles doing 4/2 intervals.  Four minutes jogging, 2 minutes powerwalking “with a purpose” just like Horton had prescribed.  Most of the rest of the time I spent talking to him about running really long distance and giving him tips of the trade.   Time passed quickly and I continued to feel great.  Daniel did awesome, and we got into Colony in 1:54 minutes.  The same stretch outbound had taken me nearly 3:15.  Candi was there grinning ear to ear, happy that I was still feeling good and ready to pace me in the last 39 miles.  I ate a good portion of solid food here, not wanting to repeat my earlier mistakes of rushing through the aid stations without getting enough food in me.  I thanked Daniel for pacing me and crewing for us.  We set out toward Welda.  61 miles down.

This stretch was pretty solid running with walk breaks here and there when needed.  We didn’t really watch the clock much – just enjoyed each others company and talked.  We have run a lot of our winter long training runs together and she is the perfect running partner for me.  She makes it seem effortless, ignores any griping, and gives me a little push JUST when I need it.  We got to Welda and we were both feeling awesome.  Daniel had brought his kids out and they were looking around with huge eyes like they thought the whole thing was pretty awesome.  To be honest Dan was pretty jacked himself and would have probably paced me if I needed him to!  Right as we pulled into Welda, a woman grabbed me yelling, “Zach!!  You look awesome!”  I replied with something like, “Thanks, you should have seen me earlier… I’m back from the dead!”  It was Reina Probert.  Reina is another ultrarunning friend of Candi and I who was pacing the final 32 miles for a complete stranger – in the middle of the night.  Yeah… ultrarunners ARE that awesome.  I ate, Candi ate, we said bye to our friends and off we went.  69 miles down.

The next stretch takes you back into the old train depot at Garnett where Polly and Lauren Choate – Epic aid station veterans – were running the show.  I think Candi and I got here about 11:15pm.  Getting to Garnett was a long almost 9 mile mile stretch.  I did some stretching along the way and was still running quite a bit, feeling mostly really good.  My legs were tired, but never to the point where I was feeling exhausted or out of gas.  When we got to Garnett, we found Daniel and Polly both excited to see us.  Dan took off pretty quickly and was headed to get the kids to bed – his night was done.  I could tell he had enjoyed every minute of it, and thanked him one final time.  Polly was making tacos and another gentleman was making MAPLE BACON.  OMFG…  It smelled like greasy heaven.  He was just pulling off strips so I sat on the bench and started eating sandwiches.  Someone brought me over some bacon and I took it to poundtown.  It was hit the spot and was as much mental fuel as it was physical.  The reality suddenly hit me  that although I had roughly 77.5 miles done, I still had almost 23 miles to go.  Candi gave a the look that said let’s go, so we went.

This is where it started to get a little gnarly for me.  Once we got out of Garnett and back on the dark trail, I got sleepy.  Not your garden variety “yawn a few times” sleepy…  I got to the point where I was barely doing more than shuffling with my eyes closed.  I actually almost wandered off the trail a couple times, until Candi had me hold her hand when I would rest my eyes.  As the miles dragged on, so did my eyelids.  I was feeling ok, I just couldn’t fight the urge to sleep.  Toiling along just at the edge of consciousness, I look up and see a wonderful sight.  A big concrete… thing.  Maybe it was a storm drain cover, maybe it was…. I don’t know what the hell it was – but to me it was a bed.    I told Candi without even thinking, “Wake me up in 3 minutes.  I’m taking a nap.”  While she gave me a strange look, she didn’t argue.  Candi is as sweet as they come, but she is just as tough.  I knew 3 minutes was all I would get, and it was all I got.  A simple, “Let’s go.” is all I got.  As we got up to a run again, I noticed something.  It helped.  It REALLY helped!  I was soon wide awake and running better than I had for a while.  My amazing pacer was glad as she wasn’t sure what she could do to keep me from passing out.  A few more times the rest of race I would find a bench or just a clear spot on the gravel and lay down, but the rule was always ONLY 3 minutes.  Once we figured out this method to keep me awake, Candi kept pressing me on to run as much as I could.  I was pretty happy when we rolled into Richmond.  86.5 miles down, roughly a half marathon to go.

I am pretty sure I talked to my buddy Sean Hamlin at this stop and he had a really warm tent – that as much as I wanted to curl up in the corner and sleep, I tried to avoid lingering.  I think Paul Rejda was also here, although I am not exactly sure.    Honestly the specific details at this point are pretty fuzzy. We cruised out of Richmond after only a couple minutes and realized we had about 4 hours to get in under 24 hours.  That gave us 2 hours to get to Princeton and 2 hours to get to the finish – stretches of 6.5 and 7 miles.  Aside from a very fast stop in Princeton to eat, refill, and say hi to George Myers, it was a seemingly never-ending cycle of shuffle, run, walk, eat, drink, and repeat.  Candi kept me talking and moving, ensuring me that, “We are almost there!” the entire time.  She was wonderful.  I leapfrogged with Elden Galano and others.  It was surprising how a pretty good size group of us was still close at this point.  The only other noteworthy story at this point in the race was the horses fitted with headlights.  After one of my short naps, I noticed headlights that seemed to be getting closer.  Immediately, I asked Candi if we were going the wrong way!  When they got closer, I asked Candi why there were horses with headlights on the trail…  She laughed at me and said it was runners – probably 50 milers according to their larger bib numbers.  I thought, there is no way any of the 50 milers that haven’t made it TO GARNETT in 20 hours!!! WTF!   Anyway, we scratched our heads and ran on.

The last 3 miles was hard.  I was tired, sore, and bored.  I wanted to be done.  Candi probably heard me say that at least 1000 times.   I just want to be finished.  I was in need of a short nap and found a wooden bridge to lay down on.  As I did a big German Shepherd walks out of the woods, smelling of skunk, and starts licking my face.  I passingly wondered if I was hallucinating about a foul smelling police dog licking my eyeball – I really didn’t care.  That question was answered when he proceeded to tag along with us to the finish line, even helping himself to some snacks from the table.  A couple miles out Candi called our friend Justin Chockley, who had been working for Eric all weekend as a gopher, to tell him we were getting close.  He told us it was a mile from the finish once we hit the highway.  At one point, with the visible highway in the distance, we caught up to a runner and his pacer who cordially let us know that it was a bunch of “goddamn bullshit”  that the finish better damn well be close, cause his Garmin already reads 99.3 miles.  He wanted to know, “How the hell do you measure an out-and-back course wrong?”  We eventually got back into town, and unless I broke something or just passed out, it was looking like Candi was going to get me in under 24 hours.  Repeatedly, when she was telling me to pick it up, I told her I didn’t care about sub-24.  It didn’t matter.  Knowing me too well, she just kept assuring me that I would.  We saw Dennis Haig standing and cheering at the final turn.  He pointed us left and we trotted to the finish line holding hands.  This finish, while almost 2 hours slower than my last, was harder and even more meaningful.  I had bounced back from almost quitting at the halfway point and still managed to finish under 24 hours.  I gave Eric a hug at the finish and took my buckle.  I hugged Candi and thanked her for getting me to the finish, and for being so wonderful while doing it.   My official time was 23:39:12.  

I hung around all morning, dozing, eating, resting, eating, and cheering runners in.  Candi rested and snuggled with me for about 30 minutes before heading BACK to Topeka to watch her son’s first wrestling match. Yes, I told you, she is a total badass.  I got to see so many happy people cross that finish line and earn a buckle.  The final finishers crossed the line with about 30 minutes to spare and were ecstatic to finish.  The energy at a 100 mile finish line is only equaled by the exhaustion.  Thanks to everyone who made my 100 mile dreams come true for a second time.  It truly is a group effort, and you will never find a better group than you will around an event like this.

Until next time…

Be EPIC!

Zach Adams