Category Archives: Race Reports

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

2013 Pumpkin Holler 100 Mile – “Perfection”

zachEverything went perfectly. That one simple sentence basically sums up the 2013 Pumpkin Holler 100 mile race for me.  From the day I really committed to start some serious training (after a weak performance at Summer Psycho Psummer 50k) to the moment I crossed the Pumpkin Holler finish line, everything went perfectly.

I won’t go too in depth about the training that I did leading up to PH100, just that I had worked very hard. I was logging not only long slow runs, but running lots of intermediate-distance speed work.  I also hit the stairs, ran hill repeats, and tortured myself with a 20# weighted vest.  I ran in the heat.  I power walked my little black pug Ermah.  I knocked out 45 miles in the Patriots Run and finished 2nd overall.  I raced the FlatRock 50K in the mud like a man on fire setting a PR on the course and getting 6th.  I was well trained.  After much discussion with my ultrarunning friends and mentors (specifically my long lost older brother from another mother and ultrarunning mentor Eric Steele), I decided I needed to do a fall 100 miler.  Since I DNF’d Pumpkin Holler 100 last year around 55 miles, it only made sense that my goal would be redemption in my second attempt to “Smash the Pumpkin”.

By the start of the race everything had lined up perfectly.   My amazing support crew was scheduled to show up later in the evening, I had my strategy lined out, and my drop boxes were packed.  Arriving about an hour before the gun with a belly full of food and coffee and a decent amount of sleep, I made my final preparations.  A nice thick coat of lube on all my “friction prone areas” was all I needed before taking off in pursuit of my goal; finishing 100 miles in less than 24 hours.

At 8 a.m., I set out with a couple hundred runners on the red-dirt Oklahoma country roads just north of Tahlequah, Oklahoma.  The leaves are starting to change colors and the air was a crisp 40 degrees, making for a beautiful sight – especially while running along the rock bluffs or the sparkling Illinois River.  The first leg of the race for 100 miler racers is a little 4 mile out-and-back jog off the main loop which was basically up a long hill.  This was a pretty good climb, so I had no problems sticking to my plan and starting slow to warm up.  I really paid attention to how my new Hoka One One Stinson Evo Tarmacs felt, considering I purchased them the day before the race and had never run in them.  Yes, I know terrible idea… but they felt SOOO GOOD… I had to give them a chance.  My decision was that I would wear them out of the chute and if they hurt I could change into my Saucony when I came back thru the start line at the beginning of the first loop.  Later in the race, I would say, “The only way these shoes are coming off is if they are taken off my cold dead body.”  My Garmin measured this as about 8 miles and I was right on my goal pace, just under 12 minutes a mile.

Coming back through the start, I refilled my bottles, ate a few ham and cheese sandwich quarters, shed an outer layer of clothing, and took right off.  I knew the sun was going to come up and would warm up soon enough, so I felt fine although I was a little chilly.  Up to this point I had run with a couple different folks and even managed to log a few miles with Michelle McGrew, who I had spent hours with conquering the FlatRock 101K in April.  We ran with a young guy named Nathan who was looking to avenge a Pumpkin Holler DNF himself.  We had a few laughs and just enjoyed ourselves.  At one point, about 15 miles in, Michelle slowed to a walk and I followed her lead.  To this she said (in her VERY thick Oklahoma accent), “Don’t you slow down because of me, this is YOUR race, go RUN it!”  I really took that to heart, and after wishing her luck, I ran.  On this occasion, I had an iPod loaded with some face-melting classic rock to help pass some miles should I end up alone or start to struggle.  Normally, I am a very social runner, but today I was in race mode.  I didn’t really want to worry about conversing or matching pace.  I really felt like just listening to some tunes and zoning out, so that’s what I did. I never run with music, so this was a real treat.  With my ear buds in and the volume cranked up, I knocked off the rest of the first 50k loop and came back into the start (about 40 miles down) at about 3:38 pm.  At this point I had no crew, but really didn’t need much.  My truck was parked on the path back to the road, so I just stopped there to get my drop box.  Shannon McFarland asked how he could help, so after filling my water bottle, he followed me to my truck and helped me restock my Nathan vest with Hammer Gels, protein bars, etc.  He is an experienced racer, and talked me thru the things I would need until I picked up my own crew around 55 miles in.  Shannon totally went above and beyond the call of duty for an aid station volunteer, and I totally appreciated it!  I knew I was right on target for pace (1 minute under goal at this point) and the only cutoff I had to make was 4:30am to start the 3rd lap, which obviously wasn’t too much of a concern, considering how great I felt.

Epic Ultra Chicks!
Epic Ultra Chicks!

With my earbuds in, a long sleeve shirt on, and a jacket tied around my waist, I took off to do battle with the second 50K loop.  I really don’t have a lot to say other than things went as perfect as they could.  I kept eating and drinking.  Occasionally, I would pass people – but I never got passed.  Hell, I even Facebook’d some and made a couple calls to friends and family to update them on how things were going.  I hit the 50 mile mark at almost exactly 10 hours – running what coming into this race I would have called a “suicidal” pace for a runner of my ability.  After talking to my Crew Chief, Candi Paulin (the beautiful and talented ultrarunner and also my wonderful girlfriend), I knew there was a chance that they would make it in time to meet me at the next aid station.  I booked it down the big hill and into Savannah Corner, run by Tony Clark, Steve Baker, and Dennis Haig feeling great and totally excited. Unfortunately my crew hadn’t arrived yet.  A little let down, I started prepping for the next section of the race.  Knowing I had 45 miles to go, and also knowing that it wasn’t going to get any easier, I stayed on task.  As I was shaking hands with the guys, low and behold an SUV pulls up and out pops my crew!  I was so excited!  I group hugged my Epic Ultra Chicks – Candi, Melissa Bruce, and Joell Chockley.  Candi ran the Heartland 100 (sub-22 hr) the weekend before while Melissa and Joell both crewed and paced all day and night.  To say they were the perfect ultra-chicks for the job was an understatement!  It was a HUGE mental boost, even though I was already on cloud nine and feeling amazing.  Several people had told me I was looking good, but I should slow down or I was going to blow up.  My response was simple, “I know, but I will deal with that when it happens.  Until then, I am running hard.”  Knowing I would see my girls again in about 9 miles – and pick up Joell as my first pacer – was enough to send my ass back out on the road with a purpose.  As before, everything went perfectly.  I passed some people.  According to Randy Ellis, at the East of Eden aid station, I was in 5th place overall.  I wasn’t worried about place, just getting that sub-24 hour finish.  I passed another guy and his pacer before finally catching Arnold Begay.  Arnold, despite finishing the Heartland 100 ONE WEEK BEFORE, was outrunning me ALL DAY.  Arnold was having a great day, but just before the Hard Up Ahead aid station he injured his achilles and was limping – and would later drop.  As hard as I was working and trying to catch Arnold, I hated to see that when I did, it was only because of injury.  Get well soon Arnold – we can battle it out another day!  Everything continued to go perfectly.  Excited to see my girls again and pick up some company to share the infinite darkness with, I rolled into the Hard-Up Ahead aid station with a huge grin on my face.  A few hugs and kisses, words of encouragement, a quick bottle refill, and a hand full of ham sandwiches, and I was off – this time with Mrs. Chockley by my side.  Joell is one of the best people you can possibly have as a pacer, because she is always so damn happy!  Even though my focus was on running and I wasn’t saying much, she kept the conversation flowing.  Before I knew it, we had covered a hilly and pretty tough 9 miles in about 2 hours and were back at the start, 70 miles completed.

83 Miles Down!
83 Miles Down!

As expected my Epic Ultra Chicks were waiting on me at the starting area at almost exactly 11pm when Joell and I came in, right on schedule.   Candi gave me a little sugar of the variety not found in a Hammer gel, and they all took great care of me.  Still staring down another 50k, I was still feeling awesome.  Melissa was all geared up and ready to take over pacing duties for the next 13-14 miles and eventually taking me into Savannah Corner for the final time.  The first half of the 50K loop has several very tough hills, and at this point in the race they should have started to feel like mountains.  I don’t know how, but I started to feel stronger.  I was powering up hills to the point that Melissa needed to jog to match my power-hike pace.  We cranked out these miles, and I never once felt anything less than stellar.  We talked and ran, and we laid down some 11 minute miles.  This was faster than Melissa (and myself) was expecting me to be at this point, and she was working hard to keep up with me, so I may or may not have mentioned coyotes and bobcats to freak her out a little.  We came into the Out and Back aid station at the same time 2nd place (and eventual female winner) Rebecca Reynolds was coming back in, which put me exactly 3 miles behind her.  About 40 minutes later, when I came back into O&B, Nathan was coming in, 3 miles behind – giving me a good idea where I was related to the rest of the top 4 runners.  Cranking along in 3rd place overall, Mel and I came cruising into Savannah Corners.  As expected the girls were there, and after a nap, Joell was once again ready to rock.  I thanked them all repeatedly – especially Melissa who had worked her tail off to keep me moving fast.IMG_20131022_075143

Earlier in the day, my good friend, and Joell’s husband, Justin Chockley posted a great quote on my Facebook by ultrarunning pioneer and total legend David Horton, “Find the level of intolerance you can tolerate and stay there.”  That was what this next section was all about.  Shortly after leaving Savannah Corners for the 3rd and final time, I ate a protein bar, and then 30 minutes later I had an espresso flavored Hammer Gel.  This proved to be a few too many calories and my stomach went sour.  Normally I have an “iron gut”, so this really sucked for me.  Joell just kept talking and smiling and telling me to keep pushing on, which I did.  I kept telling myself I would feel better.  About 30 minutes later, I did.  Joell had her Garmin on and assured me that despite my gut issues we still made good time.  This section has the longest stretch between aid stations.  It was about 4.5 miles from Savannah to East of Eden and another 4.5 to get to Hard Up Ahead.  We kept plugging along and got back to Hard Up Ahead where I found Candi bouncing off the walls ready to pace me to the finish.  Joell had warned me that despite a knee issue after the Heartland 100, Candi was dead set on pacing me to the finish and would not be denied, so don’t even bother trying to talk her out of it.  That’s my girl!  As we left the aid station with only 9 miles separating me

Mean Muggin'!
Mean Muggin’! ala Eric Steele

 from my first 100 mile finish, someone said, “2nd place is only 5-10 minutes ahead of you, and was struggling.  Go get her!”  I mentioned that all I didn’t care about what place I finished, I just wanted to finish and get my buckle and a sub 24 hour finish.  The Hoka’s were really protecting my feet and I felt awesome going into the 3 mile paved section between Hard Up Ahead and Bathtub Rocks.   Candi was pushing me hard, even making me run up a few hills by lying to me and telling me that it was flat, and before long we saw a headlamp – which I thought was a porch light.  Candi reminded me that porches don’t move as we ran down the second place runner.  Once we got about 20 yards behind Rebecca, something snapped inside of me and I just “downshifted” and took the hell off.  Candi chuckled to herself loud enough I could hear it and sped up to match my pace.  According to my internal speedometer, we ran a sub 10 minute mile and blew so far ahead of her that her light was invisible.  When we came into Bathtub, 6 miles from the finish, I realized I had done it.  I remember saying that I had 6 hours to go another 6 miles, or something ridiculous like that – again making Candi laugh.  Food and drink was done for me, so we barely paused and headed on to the final aid station, appropriately named IMG_20131022_075056“Last Gasp”.   Done with the hills and a good bit of distance between me and 3rd place, I was in coast mode – but just for a minute.  After dropping to a walk, Candi kindly asked me what the $%&* I was doing walking, and informed me that I was GOING to finish in less than 22 hours.  Scoffing, I told my overzealous pacer that there was no way I was able to run a 22 minute 5k right now.  Once my math error was corrected, Candi blasted my declaration that I wasn’t sure I could even run a 42 minute 5k.  She took off and I followed.  This is where something strange happened…  I really stopped feeling anything from the legs down.  Not that I was paralyzed or anything, just that it didn’t matter.  I ran.  I ran harder.  I ran faster.  I remembered landmarks and signs that told me we were almost there.  We turned and got on the bridge.  We were there!  I look at my watch and realized that at 5:45 am, I had nearly 15 minutes to run around the campground and cross the finish line to finish this thing off.finisher

 

  Candi told me she didn’t think she could keep up with my speed across the bridge (I found out her knee was killing her) but to keep on going.  Of course, she did keep up with me and we

 ran together to the finish.  21 hours, 50 minutes and 30 seconds.  Second place overall in the 2013 Pumpkin Holler 100 Mile.  I had done it.  Just like I told Eric I would, I earned my seat at the “big boy table”.  Thanks to great support from the Epic Ultra Chicks, my totally awesome ultrarunning friends, and the ultrarunning community at large, I did it.  Everything went perfectly.

           Until next time… BE EPIC

            Zach

“A Perfect Storm” 2013 FlatRock 50K

zachWhere should I even start!?  I absolutely love this race.  Stumbling across the original FlatRock 50k website in 2009 is what made me decide to run ultras.  Shit, it is why I decided to train for a marathon!  I mean, who in the hell would go and try and run 31 miles on this trail if they hadn’t even run a marathon?  A few minutes of looking at trail pictures, reading runner comments, reading race reports, and learning about the knighting ceremony immediately hooked me – whether I consciously knew it then or not.  After finishing my first FlatRock in 2011, I vowed to myself I would one day be knighted into the hall of pain, and earn myself a custom cloth bib, epic surname and lifetime entry into FlatRock.

Fast forward to 2013; I have now run close to 20 ultras including a couple hundred mile attempts, 100k, and a difficult finish in the FlatRock 101K in April 2013.  2013 has been a good running year for me – lots of training miles, lots of great ultras, and lots of solid finishing times.  I felt like it was time to try and make my mark on “The Rock”.   My goal had been to run a sub 6 hour finish, but my running had been going so great that I decided to set out to break the course record – for the women – and try and break 5:45.  A side note – I never even entertained the idea of a post-race sex change so that I could officially be the women’s course record holder… I knew RD  Eric Steele would NEVER go for that shit and didn’t even ask.  But long story short, I planned on really RACING this race and had discussed it extensively with Justin Chockley (who affectionately warned me that if I passed him, he was taking me out with a tire iron) and Candi Paulin who was also planning on chasing the women’s course record.  Leading up the the event, there was a lot of buzz about just how Epic that this year’s FlatRock 50K was going to be.  I mean, how could it compare to the BLIZZARD at the Prairie Spirit 50/100 or the MONSOON at the FlatRock 101K in April?  The weather is always great for FlatRock in September!

My previous years at the FlatRock 50K, I always showed up the morning of (I only live about 70 miles away) and left directly after finishing.  This year I showed up the night before and stuck around until after the FlatRock Triple Crown awards were given out.  It was an amazing couple days filled with a mega dose of excitement and energy, great friends, excellent food, some hardcore badass trail racing, an EPIC finish line, and some perfect (and I mean you-couldn’t-make-this-shit-up perfect) weather.

I arrived Friday evening just as the sun was beginning to set and immediately started seeing friendly faces all through the crowd.  The energy in the air was literally something you could grab a handful of and shove in your pocket, truly palpable.  People were milling around talking and eating – generally smiling from ear to ear.  One big conversation topic was the weather, as there was now about a 130% chance of some serious shit rolling in overnight or in the morning.  Those of us that ran the FlatRock 101K in April knew INTIMATELY what that meant and just smiled while our guts twisted in knots and we internally cringed to ourselves.  The Elk River Hiking Trail is never easy on dry days, and in the mud it is just plain HARD.  I found Eric and thanked him for his hard work and congratulated him on pulling together another amazing event and spent the next few hours offering up my own services in any way I could.  I talked with my badass ultrarunning friends that I don’t get to see near enough.  Melissa, Candi, Justin, Joell, Jason, Tony, Ron, Warren, Eric….. this list goes on and on.  Met several new people and even noted a few people who weren’t there that I KNEW I would see in the morning.   As all great things do, the evening came to an end it was time to get rested and ready to run.

If you want to skip my personal “race report” then jump to the next bold and colorized sentence.  If you are interested, the next few paragraphs are my personal race experience.

The night passed and it brought a pretty stout, steady breeze but not a single rain drop.  FlatRock’s Majestic King, Epic Ultras founder, and long time (since it’s inception) FlatRock Race Director, Eric Steele called the runners in around the shelter house to begin the pre-race meeting just in time for the clouds to tear open and begin dumping buckets of rain on our heads.  The winds were gusty and it appeared we would, in fact, get the thundershowers that the weatherman predicted – which Eric claimed to have invoked with a “Ouija Board and some Voodoo Chicken Bones”.  I LOVED it.  I love running in the rain, and I was ready to freaking ROCK “THE ROCK”.  It MAY or MAY NOT have had something to do with the 22 oz. Red Bull I had for breakfast. (A new pre-race ritual I WILL be repeating after the kind of race I ran that day).  Finally, we started a soggy walk up the road where the race actually starts.

Going into this race, I knew I was running for a PR and would not use the rain or trail conditions as an excuse.  It was time to trust my training and go run these rocks and mud with an almost reckless disregard of my own physical well being.  Candi, Justin and I walked together out the the starting line and were at the very front of the pack with the people I knew would be the overall top finishers.  Of course I am not in the same league as these guys but I knew for sure I didn’t want to be in the middle or back of a pack of over 100 50K participants headed in a death march up the first hill and onto the very technical first miles of the trail.  I figured we would work our positions out as we made it down the road and if anyone faster wanted around me – well, that was their problem.  As the gun went off, I shot out in front of everyone, threw my arms in the air, and yelled, “I am winning FlatRock!”, most assuredly amusing all the runners in earshot.  Candi, Justin, and I stayed together until we hit the first hill and climbed to the top of the ridge with me leading.  I had 4 or 5 guys in front of me and that was it.   Some kind of nuclear reaction went off inside me and I just took off, leaving Justin and Candi and chasing down the front-runners.

Nearly every 50k I have ever run I felt like I started too conservatively… NOT TODAY.  My new motto for the day was “Best or Bust”.  I decided I would keep up this ridiculously fast and unsustainable pace until I blew up, then I would dig deep and see what happened – or maybe just lay on the side of the trail and weep like a little bitch.  Something amazing happened; I never blew up.  Sure, I fell – multiple times – but I just kept getting up… and getting faster.  I blew through aid stations only pausing long enough to refill my handheld with Heed and grab a couple more Hammer Gels to replenish the stock in my left pocket.  I was eating one gel every 20 minutes and drinking to my thirst.  Feeling like I was burning rocket fuel, I just kept going hard.  I knew I was really flying when Aaron, Don, and Ron (the leaders) didn’t pass me on their inbound leg until I was only a mile or two from the turn around.  I got to the turn around in about 2:35 and there were a couple guys there – so again, I refilled and rushed out.  I leapfrogged Travis McWhorter a couple times until I fell and he went on ahead not to be seen again.  He didn’t take off until AFTER asking if I was alright.  Even as he was trying to chase down 3rd place, he stopped and asked if I was good before screeching his tires and racing off down the trail.  I love trail runners.

I hit my “tough spot” right after Dana’s aid station (as I ALWAYS do) and slowed down a bit.  I backed off the gels for a bit thinking maybe I got my gut a little too full and drank some clear water.  Being somewhat of a veteran on ultra distances now, I knew that if I just kept going as best I could, it would pass.  It did pass, but not before I got “chicked”.  Being “chicked” means getting smoked by a faster female runner.  I definitely got chicked.  Just as I was in the midst of my rough patch, Mindy Coolman came out of the woods like a ninja and blasted past me.  I don’t think Mindy was in my field of vision 20 seconds before disappearing back into the timber and eventually cruising in nearly 7 minutes faster than the previous women’s course record – which has held since Y2K.  I felt better after a few minutes and decided to try and catch Mindy, but little did I know she also got around Travis and would eventually get about 20 minutes ahead of me.  Congrats on an amazing race and a new women’s course record Mindy!

The rest of the race consisted of a cycle of running, falling, cursing, and getting up.  Too bad I didn’t have an “F-Bomb” counter… but I am sure it was high triple digits.  I hit the final aid station and knew it was unlikely that I was going to make it under six hours, but I also knew I was in 6th place overall and I wanted it to stay that way so I kicked on.  I ran those last 4 miles across the rocks dangerously.  I don’t know how else to put it.  It was under 38 minutes and I figured I would finish as fast as I could, or die trying.  I was flying all over the trail, arms and legs flailing wildly – slipping and sliding (and falling) in the mud.  When I came off the trail and hit the road my stopwatch said 5:57 something and I knew it was close to .7 miles.  I quickly did the math in my head and figured a 4:30 minute mile pace should get me in just under my goal; but alas, I can’t run a 5 minute mile when I am fresh – much less after 31 miles on FlatRock.  Regardless, I ran as hard and fast as I could run and crossed the line in just over 6:03, finishing the 2013 FlatRock 50K 6th overall and 5th out of the men. I heard the yells, airhorn, and cowbells cheering me in.  I slapped the SHIT out of that severed arm.  I screamed obscenities.  It was awesome.  No.  IT WAS EPIC!!!

Event Blog Post Continues Here.  If you did read my account of my race, thanks for taking the time.  If not, well, your loss.

After I finished and caught my breath, I took off my muddy shoes and grabbed a couple cowbells and parked my tired ass on a picnic table at the finish.  Like a storybook ending, the clouds parted, the rain stopped and the sun came out.  The temperature was perfect.  Just like I said, the weather, right down to its timing, was perfect!  You can’t make this shit up. And I’m seriously starting to think that Eric really is some type of modern day alchemist.

This is when the real fun began.  For the next 5 hours I was fortunate enough to witness every possible human emotion as 91 more 50K runners (and several 25K finishers) came across the finish line.  From anguish to euphoria, I saw it all, and it was wonderful!  Once Candi (severely nauseated nearly the entire race but still the second overall female finisher) finished, we grabbed some chairs and moved directly behind the finish line so we could cheer on the runners as they came down the road.  Micheal Mora joined us after his finish and we shared some stories and laughs over a couple beers.  Next thing you know, more and more finishers and spectators were gathering at the finish line!  It was totally badass.  Louder and louder the spectacle became, until the final 5 runners came down the road with less than 2 minutes before final cutoff.  It sounded more like a rock concert than an ultramarathon finish line!  People were screaming at the top of their lungs, running out on the road to yell at them to hurry, and the cowbells and airhorns were going CRAZY.  My friend and former co-worker Ryan, in his first 50K attempt, crossed the inflatable Epic Ultras finish line arch with a whole lot of his family there cheering him on – and a mere NINETEEN SECONDS to spare.  The place erupted!  IT WAS EPIC!!!

Shortly after, Eric held an awards ceremony honoring the overall winner and male champion, Aaron Norman and female champion (and new female course record holder) Mindy Coolman, along with giving honorable mention to the 25K winners and youngest female to ever finish the 25K course Carina Jaso, who’s just 15.  King Eric then honored and awarded (with beautiful gold goblets) the 8 brave souls who finished the 2013 FlatRock Triple Crown by completing all three FlatRock events; WinterRock, FlatRock 101K, and the FlatRock 50K.  Congrats to the FlatRock Triple Crown recipients: Adam Monaghan, Candi Paulin, Ron LaPoint, Dennis Haig, Michael Mora, Kimberly Spielman, Scott Hill, and Paul Rejda.

I would apologize for this post being so long, but I am not sorry.  This race, this EVENT,  deserves every word written about it. Outstanding job to Eric and the “Epic Ultras Brigade” for pulling off a truly phenomenal event.  Check out the AMAZING Photography which Epic Ultras provides to runners at no charge!  Great job Greg Highberger and Mile 90 Photography.

I don’t know what’s in store for Prairie Spirit Fall Classic 50K 50Mile at the end of October, but I cant wait to find out.  After the last three Epic Ultras events how could you NOT sign up??  Register today on UltraSignup.com.

I look forward to seeing you all again real soon.  Feel free to comment and tell me what you think, and until next time… BE EPIC!

Zach Adams

2013 FlatRock 101K Race Report – Part III – “Finish Line Utopia” or “Final Resting Place”

If you are reading this you either read my last two blogs (PART I and PART II)and just couldn’t get enough , or you a glutton for punishment and enjoy torturing yourself with my excessive and nonsensical ramblings.  Either way, what you are about to read is a short collection of my final thoughts on the entire experience.

“Your body will argue that there is no justifiable reason to continue.
Your only recourse is to call on your spirit, which fortunately functions
independently of logic.”

– Tim Noakes

I used every last drop of my spirit, as well as plenty of Michelle and Joell’s.  But now I was there and I was glad I was done.  Justin Chockley was there at the finish and he had a bottle of whisky at the ready.  We had decided earlier in the week to have a victory shot and he came through as promised.  Although he didn’t get to finish the race as a competitor, he finished as a crewman and I am very grateful to him for the victory jigger and his crewing efforts.  He and Joell are now my great friends –  one of the many benefits of ultrarunning.  As we talked about the race, Epic Ultras logistics mastermind Warren Bushey cooked me a made to order breakfast of sausage, eggs, biscuits and gravy.  It was out of this world!  Hot off the stove-top at nearly 3am.  After no real meal for 24 hours, I was like, “FEED ME SEYMOUR!!!”  This was unreal… usually when you are slow like me, the food is cold, nasty, and picked over at the finish – if there is any.  THANK YOU Warren and Epic Ultras!

After the meal, the desire to sleep hit me – HARD. I managed to stay upright until Adam Monaghan and his pacer Zach Bailor came in, and Adam was hilariously exhausted… I’m not sure what in the hell he was talking about!   I wanted to watch my new friend Dave Renfro cross the finish as well as Sir Cargo himself Ken Childress, but I couldn’t fight the urge to  sleep.  Struggling mightily, I bared my muddy white ass to the darkness while changing clothes, warmed up the car, cocooned up in the front seat, and passed the hell out.  Shitty, restless near-sleep followed for the next few hours- until I decided I was rested enough to make the hour-long drive home.  I waved and yelled goodbye to Eric and his crew who were finally breaking things down nearly 26 hours after the start of the race.  I got home, showered, and wallowed in the misery of my destroyed body the rest of the day.  I absently wondered how I was going to pace the Colorado Marathon next weekend when I could barely walk to the bathroom…

So here is a summary:

  • This course is as beautiful as it is difficult.  That is why Justin and I always refer the the Elk City Hiking trail as a her.  She is a total bitch, but one hell of a lover!

  • Epic Ultras puts on the best organized, staffed, freaking-A awesome events on the planet.  Finish line, starting line, communications, EVERYTHING.  The BEST.  Bar None.  I have a $100 dollar bill to anyone who can show me any company that does it better.

  • Ultrarunners is the coolest, most badass, fun, and amazingly crazy bastards in the world.  I love hanging out with them.  A truly supportive community… not some dysfunctional family.

  • With every challenge I take on I find out a little more exactly who I am and how much I am capable of. Completing The FlatRock 101k is my proudest ultrarunning accomplishment.

finish line

 

 I just want to say thanks again to everyone involved.  This truly was an experience of a lifetime.

And…. don’t forget… BE EPIC!!!

Zach

Zach Adams

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2013 FlatRock 101K Race Report – Part II – “The Goonies! or “Move over Yeti, This is Sasquatch Territory”

DSC_9349_s_jpgI just want to give a short disclaimer before I post this one.  This is long, just like the race.  As much as I like to try and entertain readers, I also like to document my own thoughts and feelings.  Personally I think it is entertaining, but it is long.  So if you are all out of Adderal and want the short version, here it is:

tl;dr version –  The Flatrock 101K was really, really, really fun.  It was muddy and wet.  Aid stations were outstanding and the event was flawlessly executed by Eric and the Epic Ultras Brigade.  I met many great people and had lots of fun.  It hurt too.  It hurt A LOT at times.  It was hard.  I finished it.  Finishing it was very satisfying.  I got a cool buckle.

Now, if that just wasn’t enough for you, and you want the full rundown, here it goes….

There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity…    No it’s not the Twilight Zone, it is RACE DAY!  It is time to put up or shut up.  It is time to put all your cards on the table.  It is time to leave it all on the field.  It is time to give it all you got.  It is time to… time to find some new clichés.  If you missed my part I describing the lead up to the race, check it out here.

I showed up to the start feeling kind of rushed even though I slept in a soft bed less than 3 miles from the starting line.  It may or may not have had something to do with the fact that I was an hour away from stepping foot on a journey that would take me across 62+ miles of very difficult rocky (and now extremely wet and muddy) trails.  Regardless, I got checked in – found a hot cup of coffee – and was more or less ready to go.  It was still dark of course so runners had the privilege of running the most technical 3 miles of the race in the dark to get started.  I carried a handheld light but had my Black Diamond Icon in my pack in case it wasn’t bright enough.  I was not running this trail without a backup light, as well as a backup –backup light. 

Eric walked us out by the shelter house and simply counted down and sent us on our way with a “GO!”  I fell in with Adam and we took off.  Up the road and on the way to the trail it was misty/rainy and would be until about noon.  Everyone knew that the trail was going be wet, and guess what?  It was!  Early on in the race most of the trails were flowing quite nicely like little rivers, and there was way more mud than I expected.  Having mostly run this course when it is dry, I never would have guessed there was that much dirt between the rocks that had been morphed into muck soup.   I actually was attempting to avoid getting my feet wet and muddy, a useless waste of energy that I would later laugh about, while watching my pacer as she tried to do the same.  Adam pointed out that it wasn’t going to get any better and that we might as well embrace it.  That made sense, so I just started running as if it wasn’t there.  “Resistance is futile.”  We splashed on.  Mud sucks, embrace the suck.

The first few miles are really rocky and technical and it was really fun the first time out.  People were talking and laughing as they splashed along, exchanging names and stories.   Runners were taking advantage of the easy, early miles by getting to know each other and catch up with old friends.  Aid station 1, staffed by Max and his crew were raring to go even at such an early hour.  They had full service and everything a runner could want at 7 am.  I grabbed some random solid food items off the table thanked them and passed through quickly.  I don’t like to linger at aid stations, especially early on.  Max’s Place, Aid One is ALWAYS quality and totally full of energy, and for me, its main job is giving me that final push on the way in.  I would need these guys to give me a kick in my slow ass later on.

Running with Adam, about six miles in and we passed a walking Justin Chockley, who had been battling an injured knee, but decided to take a shot at “the rock” anyway.  Justin and I had been getting to know each other online in the weeks leading up to the race and he had introduced me to his lovely wife Joell and his beautiful daughters the right before at the dinner.  The look in Justin’s eyes when I asked him how the knee was holding up told me the whole story.  Later when I found out that he had dropped early, I knew how tough it had to be for him to make the smart decision.  Live to fight another day.Goonies

Adam and I were following a group of four runners for a while and we all caught up at just before Oak Ridge aid station.  My plan was to eat real food at every aid station to supplement the gels, and Dana at the Oak Ridge station made this easy!  She had some amazing potato soup, which I am fairly sure I ate all 4 times I came thru.  Part 2 of my plan was to reapply foot goo at Oak Ridge, Tony’s Hacienda, and start/finish line due to the wet conditions.  Changing shoes and socks was pointless in my opinion, but taking care of the skin was critical.  I also joked with Jason Dinkel a bit before thanking them and heading out.

The next stretch is about 5 miles or so to get to the turnaround known as “Tony’s Hacienda” manned by the Badwater Marine himself, Tony Clark.  Adam and I were just out of Oak Ridge when I hear Adam scream like a kindergarten girl and almost jump off the trail!  There was a dead armadillo on the edge of the trail, and Adam didn’t see it until he was right on it.  I chuckled and heckled him a little bit, fairly sure that I am way too manly too scream had I been leading at the time.  This stretch was one of my favorite sections of the race as I got to know Michelle, Tammy, and Bryan from Oklahoma.  We crossed the waterfall in a single file line and were fortunate to be photographed by Dave Renfro from Arkansas, who had been following us for a while at a short distance.  This is my single favorite “race photo” from any event I have ever run in!  Thanks again Dave!   There was ice cold, perfectly clear water rushing over the rocks and it really made for a beautiful sight.  After remaking a few scenes from “The Goonies” we came to a rocky formation and with a dark, muddy puddle right across the path.  As the group leader stepped in, it turned out to be about knee deep!  This reminded me of the leeches scene in “Stand By Me”.  This day was turning out to be a mashup of all of my favorite childhood adventure movies – and I was loving every second of it.  Concluding this leg of the races was about 3 miles of shoe –stealing mud that was completely unavoidable.  It was sticky, mucky, slippery and just an overall pain in the ass.  A short section of maintenance road right before turning toward the final aid station was like tar mixed with superglue.  I just imagined how brutal that was going to be after 75k.

Finishing the first ¼ of the race, we got into Tony’s Hacienda in about 4 hours which was in line with my goal.  I was shooting for about 8 hours for the first 50k, leaving me 16 hours just to survive the second 50k.  Tony’s Hacienda was a kick-ass aid station where they were serving burgers to hungry runners as they prepared for the return trip.  Thanks to Tony and Steve Baker for running an out-freaking-standing aid station!  Also here was my injured pal Justin Chockley, who offered me his wife for the night.  Not what you are thinking… Trail runners are close, but not THAT close.  Joell wanted to get in on some muddy trail fun and had been planning on pacing for Justin on the last 25k of the race.  Since his race was done, he most graciously offered her pacing services to me.  I was stoked, as I much prefer to run with a partner to both keep me moving as fast as I can, as well as passing the time while make a new friend.

The rain had mostly stopped, but it was still cool and overcast as we set back out for the next section of the race.  I had broken this race up in my mind into 4 – 25k “legs”, as it was a double out and back course.  Michelle, Tammy, Bryan and I all left Tony’s at the same time and were running, talking and joking the entire time.  Tammy was a total hoot and just loved the scenery – pointing out the beauty of all the flora and fauna along the way.  Still fairly early in the race, everyone was really feeling good and despite being wet and muddy, having an overall great time.  We had gotten ahead of Adam before Tony’s Hacienda, and I wouldn’t see him again until he and his speedy pacer Zach Bailor passed me early in the third leg.  Heading up the rocks just before we got to the waterfall for the second time, I landed a foot strangely and rolled my ankle – and took my first real fall of the day.  NOOOOO!!! I still have WAY too far to go!  I immediately tried to put the idea of dropping due to injury out of my mind and just limped along hoping the searing burn in my ankle would just go away.  I had failed in both of my last 2 ultras to make it to the finish… that was NOT an option today.  I gimped along and the pain turned to numbness, which I decided I could deal with.  Just. Keep. Moving.

The pain subsided eventually and I felt like there was no real damage, but it did slow me down some.  Before getting back to Oak Ridge again, I had fallen back from the little group of Okies I had been with and started leapfrogging with Dave, who due to his bib number, we were calling #1.  We chatted a little bit, and it helped take my mind off of the pain some.  At Oak Ridge, another cup or two of Dana’s potato soup worked like magic to revive me, and I ended up catching back up to Bryan, Tammy and Michelle.  We all made it back to Aid One and got resupplied with what we needed before taking on the “Devils Ass Crack”, and reaching the halfway point of the FlatRock 101K.  If that needs further explanation, then you need to go experience at least the first few miles of the Elk City hiking trail for yourself.

FR101K (242)At the start/finish I saw Eric, Polly, and Warren who welcomed me and got me everything I needed to get ready to repeat what I had just done.  This is a tough 50k with good weather.  A few times the thought passed in my mind, that now I have to do it AGAIN.  I forced myself to stay focused on the task at hand; getting ready for the third leg.  My strategy for the next 25k was to power-hike all hills and treacherous terrain and run the smoother, safer sections.  I didn’t want to tweak that ankle again if I could avoid it, and was well within time cutoffs at this point.   As I finished lubing up again, I thanked everyone at the start/finish and was wished well out of the gate.  I can’t repeat enough how amazing the aid stations were, both in the quality and quantity supplies and the enthusiasm and energy of the people working there.  Coincidentally, Michelle and I ended up coming back up the road and heading out again at the exact same time, and fell in to run together as we had the better part of the last 25 miles or so.

The third leg was mostly uneventful.  The trails were a little dryer, and water crossings had subsided since the first pass, but it was still muddy and very wet.  Water and mud were basically forgotten as they were as ever-present as rocks and trees.     Michelle and I chatted the whole way, talking about anything and everything.  My right knee was really starting to throb and ache but nothing that was going to stop me.  Once we got to Oak Ridge, I was told that Jason was supposed to let Justin know about what time I was going to be back at Tony’s Hacienda so Joell could jump into her role as pacer.  I grabbed a soft knee brace and slid it on while greasing my feet.  More awesome potato soup from Dana and we were on our way.

After leaving Oak Ridge, we once again ran by Andy the Armadillo (still dead) and the fearless Michelle didn’t even flinch – but I had an idea.  I stood Andy up on a rock in the center of the trail hoping to maybe get a scare out of ‘someone” on the return trip.  We laughed about this for a while and honestly I forgot about out it – for a while.  We trekked onward through the mud and muck.

My knee was really hurting a couple miles before the Hacienda and I had my first real low point of the race.  Michelle and I kept talking while internally I kept telling myself that I would feel better.  I may or may not have whined extensively about it to Michelle, who told me I should take some ibuprofen.  I have always belonged to the school of thought that fixing a few aches and pains wasn’t worth shutting down my internal organs, so I declined.  From what I have read, taking ibuprofen when exercising isn’t a great idea.  I managed to keep on moving and focused on the mental bonus of turning around, which helped get me through the 2 mile mud bog and into Tony’s Hacienda for the final time.  We had managed to hold our pace and got there around 8:30pm., well before the 10:30pm cutoff.  Justin and Joell were there and she was ready to go, and helped me get ready as well.  It was just starting to get dark, so I grabbed my headlamp and got ready to sprint to the finish.  Tony asked me how I was feeling and I remember telling him something like, “Pretty shitty actually.  My knee is killing me.”  He told me I should take some ibuprofen, so I did – which might have offended Michelle a little.  But hey, he did finish Badwater 135, and I was feeling pretty desperate.  We took out walking and I was pretty stiff after sitting down for a couple minutes.  With 75K done, now every step was a step closer to the finish line, and a sweet finisher’s buckle.buckle

Like I mentioned already, my fresh legged and clean pacer Joell Chockley was attempting to dodge mud and puddles as Michelle and I (covered in mud) snickered behind her.  It didn’t take her long, the first knee deep water crossing I believe, to just start barging headlong into the muddy quagmire of a trail.  The good news is that, despite the darkness, the trail was easy to find.  Just follow the mudslide!  About 10 minutes out of Tony’s Hacienda, something MAGICAL happened.  The pills kicked in and I felt about 100% better.  My knee stopped hurting almost completely and we were even mixing in some good longer jogs into the power hiking.  I took advantage of this as best I could and we started making a really good pace despite the darkness.  My light was great, and never even flickered when I nearly tore the top of my scalp off with a low hanging branch and sent it flying into ankle deep mud.  Getting close to Oak Ridge for the final time, I remembered our friend Andy the Armadillo, but not before a shrill scream from Joell, who was leading the pack!  It was hilarious, even after 15 hours of slogging thru the mud.  We got into Oak Ridge and told the tale of Joell’s armadillo attack, which her husband Justin thought was pretty damn funny.

From Oak Ridge to Max’s Place seemed like a million miles in the dark, but I am at least glad I was able to keep on moving fast enough to stay plenty warm.  Somewhere before the final aid station, we caught up with Adam and his pacer and we all ran together for a while.  Adam mentioned his hip hurting him and they were struggling some to keep the pace, and told us to go on ahead.  I don’t think Adam liked feeling pressured to lead the group especially when he was hurting pretty bad.  I didn’t feel too bad given the distance covered and the condition of the trail, but coming into Max’s Place my right hip was really starting to hurt.  The night before I had promised Max I was going to do a shot of his fine bottle of whiskey when I came through the final time.  Max remembered and poured me a shot into a Styrofoam cup.  I can’t say it was the best I ever had, but it did burn the Hammer gel taste out of my mouth for a few minutes!  No time to linger now… less than 5 miles to the finish line!  Should be easy right?

 

FR101K (356)These last 5 miles were among the most painful I have ever run.  The steep up and downs and rock climbing was killing my hip.  It got to the point I was planting my left leg and pulling my right leg up with my hands.  I thought maybe I had torn something it burned so bad.  It made these miles slow.  I knew I had enough time to finish, I just wasn’t sure if I had the pain tolerance.  My goal at this point became just not stopping.  After climbing up the “devil’s asscrack” the final time, I did have to stop for a minute.  But I timed it… ONE MINUTE.  I told Michelle and Joell to go on and not let me slow them down, an offer which they continually refused.  Michelle looked like she could have kept going another 100K.  I have never in my life run with someone as cheerful and positive as Michelle.  Never once did she say she was tired, hurting, or feeling bad.  I totally want to be like her when I grow up.  When we made the final descent off of “the rock”, I felt like the trail had almost beaten me.  This trail, which I love to run on so much, had just about done me in.  But now we were on the barely visible road to the big black inflatable Epic Ultra finish line where we would be greeted with cowbells, airhorns, a laser light show, and grins and congratulations from the best finish line crew in the world.  I whooped and yelled a few times to signal our arrival and was answered with a round of cheers.  We kicked it up as best we could coming in down gravel road and the final few yards.  Considering we had run almost all of the last 55 miles together, Michelle and I grabbed hands and simultaneously high-fived FlatRock Freddy’s dismembered arm hanging from the Epic Arc De Triomphe.  We had done it.  Over 20 hours on one of the toughest trails in Kansas.  I was now an Inaugural FlatRock 101K official finisher and race director Eric Steele handed me the buckle to prove it.FR101K (361)

Stay tuned for a couple post-race thoughts, and a description of how good a made-to-order breakfast can be at 3:00am when you HAVEN’T been drinking all night.

Be Epic!

Zach Adams

 

2013 Flatrock 101K – “Go Time!” or “Wanna be Friends?”

DSC_9349_s_jpgSo the Inaugural Flatrock 101K Trail Race is this Saturday. Registration is closed and there are 39 total badasses ready to go all in.  We are prepared to step up to the line, stare directly into the eyes of a nearly invincible force, and charge fearlessly into battle. Will everyone finish? Probably not. Will it hurt? Absolutely.  Everyone that even attempts to slay this dragon is a badass. So long as they give it everything they have, they have already won. Overcoming the fear of failure and pain and just TRYING something that you know might be outside your physical limits is a victory, and is what separates true EPIC ultrarunners.  This is a field of amazing people that I am super proud to be a part of – regardless of individual outcomes.  The tenacity and spirit of these people who are determined to live and experience life in a way that most people wouldn’t even dream of  truly inspires and impresses me beyond words.  And if you didn’t sign up because you were too scared to try, I say, “Bahahahahaaa!!!!!  Suck it up WUSS.”

buckle
…SOON…

That said, I want to get to know you all.  I want to hear your stories.  I want you to talk while we are running in a group.  I want you to come find me and talk to me.  Ask me about the blog… ask me anything you like.  I love making new friends and want to get to know anyone and everyone who has a passion for ultrarunning.   One of the best parts of these ultrarunning experiences is the interaction with like-minded people who can truly understand why you do what you do!  Don’t pass on the opportunity!  Come to the pre-race pasta feed and lets make it the social event of the year.

Once I cross the finish (assuming I am not dead or DFL), I will be sitting at the finish line with a cooler of cold beer and everyone is welcome to join me cheering on every last finisher in this unadulterated show of supreme badassery.  Join me.  Oh…and good luck to all of you 39 psycho bastards about to do a double-battle with “The Rock!”

Be EPIC!  — Zach

Zach Adams

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2013 Prairie Spirit 100: It Was Indeed EPIC – Part III – “Yetis in the Mist” or “Hand me my Lightsaber…”

DSC_9349_s_jpgPrairie Spirit 100 Part I

Prairie Spirit 100 Part II 

Previously, on “Prairie Spirit 100″…  Our unlikely hero has arrived in Ottawa in an effort to reach his goal of completing a 100 mile trail run.  A fun filled evening of dinner and camaraderie with other ultrarunners is ended with a restless night of sleep.  The morning greets our hero with overcast skies, cold temps, and the possibility of catastrophic weather conditions later in the day.  Undeterred, our hero gears up and sets out.  Having reached the Iola turnaround with his fearless companion Adam in less than 11 hours,  Zach connects with pacer Lisa and dives headlong into a burgeoning blizzard – determined not to let his solid 50+ mile effort be in vain.  Will the weather stop our determined friend and his companions?  Will they finish the race in spite of the screaming winds and the falling snow?  Will they be buried under ice waiting centuries to be thawed and reanimated?  Stay tuned to “Prairie Spirit 100, Part III – Yetis in the Mist” to find out!! 

So there I was, no bullshit… (every great story should begin with those words) getting ready to  leave the Iola aid station restocked and ready to rock.  Feeling good.  Joking, laughing, taking some pictures, and just having an overall great time.  I knew the weather was going downhill and that I had 51 or so miles to go, but I still had not for a single second entertained the idea that I might not be able to finish.  At almost exactly 5:00 p.m. I stepped out from behind the Iola shelter and started a jog directly into the whipping north wind.  I turned to Lisa and said, “HOLY F*&^#^g SHIT… IT’S GONNA BE A LONG NIGHT!”  Having that wind at your back was one thing; looking forward to it blasting you in the damn face for the next 16 or more hours is something totally different.  But we did what we do… we set our jaws and starting putting our left foot in front of our right foot.ps100lisa

I don’t know that many ways to keep describing the blowing wind and snow.  I was cold, wet, windy and snowy.  There were some places along the trail that offered some decent protection from the wind, and that became the goal.  Instead of running to the next aid station, we decided we would run to the next wind break.  Lisa talked to me while I just kept concentrating on keeping the fuel schedule right and kept moving as quickly as I could.  A few hours passed and we made it to Colony in pretty decent time, probably between 3-4 hours before the cutoff.  I was starting to get chilled from the wind and moisture but not bad as long as I was moving pretty good.  Coming into Colony, my goal was to get in and out ASAP so I didn’t get cold.  Adam had gotten out ahead of me and was already at Colony when I got there, heading to sit in the car with his wife and warm up some.  He hadn’t packed nearly as many drop bags as I had or as much cold weather gear either.  At Colony I busted open 4-5 hand warmers and shoved them in the fronts and backs of my gloves and in my balaclava on my face. I also grabbed another pair of bigger glove shells to wear and a big fleece hood with a drawstring around the face.  It was dark by now and I had a light clipped to my hat with the hood over the top, drawstring cinched tight.  I must have looked like Kenny from Southpark with a beam of light shooting from my head.  It was quite comical I am sure.  Lisa and I left Colony before Adam and wouldn’t see him again.  61 miles done.  Next stop Welda.

Not much to say about the trip from Colony to Welda – except that about a mile out of Colony I lost my water bottle from its waist holster.  Now I am taking Hammer Gels and Endurolytes every 30 minutes for the next 2-3 hours without water.  If you don’t already know this – be aware- cold gels are hard as hell to swallow with water.  Shit.  Now I am starting to feel like I am royally screwed.  I begin to get colder in my core, despite the fact that my hands and feet are still fairly comfortable.  Lisa reassures me that we will find a new bottle at Welda, which reminds me that Travis will be there and I convince myself somebody will hook me up.  We make it to Welda and Ben and the Trail Nerds contingent once again hook me up with that awesome broth.  I end up just grabbing a half full Sam’s Club water bottle off the table that they said had been there for a while, filled it up and headed out.  I did not want to linger, I could feel the cold really starting to set in.  I grabbed some food, ate a gel, put on another layer of jackets (I think) and we took off again.  Almost conciously feeling my body temperature dropping, I said, “C’mon, we gotta go.”  to Lisa.  So, after a less than 5 minute stop, we went.  Sixty-nine miles down.  Garnett, here we come.

The next couple miles were very hard for me.  I was starting to shake really badly right out of the aid station and had to start fighting the urge to go back and call it a day.  The weather was getting worse by the second.  Stronger winds, colder temps, heavier snow, and less tree cover all combined with my dropping core temperature were giving me serious doubts.  These doubts served to anger me, and I just kept telling myself, “Move and get warm or stop and freeze.”  Over and over I kept telling myself this.  Eventually I did get a bit warmer and maybe 6 miles from Garnett, I was moving pretty good again.  It was so hard to even see the trail at this point, much less find footprints to follow. Judging speed and distance was downright impossible.  The snow was getting deeper and was starting to take its toll on my feet.  Every step was just getting tougher and shuffling wasn’t much of an option with how much deeper it got.  Once again I slowed to the point that I quickly started to get really cold. The best I could manage was a swift walk.  This was not enough to keep my temperature up, and unfortunately, about an hour away from Garnett I was shivering uncontrollably.  My thoughts started to get cloudy and I was getting disoriented. Once I thought I had gotten turned around because Lisa got a bit ahead of me and I contemplated turning around.  Then I realized the footsteps I were going to follow were mine.  Honestly, it was getting pretty scary.  Getting close to Garnett, I could see the glow of a town in the distance and this gave me some renewed hope.  The Garnett train station was warm.   All I had to do was put on some warm, dry clothes, warm up for a while, and then I could go on.  At this moment, I realized I wasn’t shivering anymore and that my lips felt “asleep”  – like your foot when you sit cross-legged too long.  Yeah, this is not good.  Exclusively walking at this point, it took about 30 more minutes to get to the train station.  We got there really close to 12:30 am.  77.5 miles done.  Less than a marathon to go.

Courtesy Fun Memories Photography

The cutoff for Garnett was now 4 a.m. so I feel like I have plenty of time to eat and get warm before going back.  I sit down and grab some ham sandwiches and start eating.  I really had a hunger for real food.  While I was eating, something strange happened.  As I warmed up I began to violently shiver.  I mean VIOLENTLY.  It was like the warmer I got, the colder I felt.  This was the beginning of the end for me.  People were dropping like flies at Garnett.  It is getting worse and worse by the second.  Then, without warning, the power goes out.  Of course there is no problem with light, as all the runners have headlamps, but it is dark.  The ranger in charge of the trail shows up and offers to get a radiant propane heater.  I overhear talk that roads are being closed and people are getting stuck.  Power is out all over town.  I see RD Eric Steele talking to him and although I didn’t hear the words, I feel like they are discussing when to pull the plug.  After an hour I am colder than when we were outside, and upon trying to stand up to go to the bathroom, I realize my legs are locked up.  After shuffling to the bathroom I go outside and the snow is blowing from EVERYWHERE.  I think to myself, “Well.  I’m done.”

That was it.  I told Lisa I was done, and she almost looked relieved that she didn’t have to go back out.  She called her sister who would come from Ottawa to get us…. assuming she could.  We eventually made it back to the hotel and I think I found a bed somewhere around 4:30 a.m.  I was upset but would find out that even if I had gone on after Garnett that the race was officially stopped around 5 a.m., and that I would have likely pulled at Richmond.  Adam gave it up a mile out of Welda, calling his wife and declaring that enough was enough.  All said and done, there were 5 official finishers in the 100 mile race.  FIVE.  Congrats to those five insane bastards.  I know there are others who would have finished had the race not been stopped, so cheers to them as well!

The logistical concerns of 100 & 50 mile races with nearly 150 combined participants are immense under even the greatest of weather conditions.  Race Director, Eric Steele, was facing weather conditions which could only be described as horrendous.  As a race director he was forced to walk the edge of a razor and ultimately make the decision at which point it was no longer safe enough to let his 100 mile runners continue.  Caught in the middle of an all out shootout between loved ones SCREAMING to shut it down and ultrarunners hell bent on finishing AT ALL COSTS, Eric ultimately had to make the decision.  As a hardcore ultarunner himself, he knows what it means to give it everything you have to achieve your goals, and well understood the heartbreak it would cause to stop a runner that physically could continue.  I did not envy his situation in the slightest.  Ultimately, it came down to a question of  life and death, so when the Park Rangers informed him Sunday morning, shortly after 5 am, that they could no longer access the trail, he knew it was done and had to pull the plug per his agreement with them.  If a rescue was needed and could not be made, a runner could die.   I appreciate that Eric kept the 100 mile race going as long as was possible given the circumstances, and I truly feel that if there was any possibly way to even somewhat safely let the runners keep going he would have.  I applaud his efforts and those of his Epic Ultra Brigade.  And if you are one of those who was screaming at him, smacking his car windows, or possibly threatening him over it – for EITHER stopping or not stopping the race – then I say, why don’t you pull your head out of your ass, quit acting like a thumbdick, and shit and fall back into it…just my two cents.

What an adventure!   It was only in the following few days that I was really able to pull the entire event into perspective.  Amazing is the only way to describe it.  Everyone involved contributed so much to make this event what it was… Epic.  That is the only word I have to describe this race.  EPIC!

Final thought.  I would have finished this race.  I know under any other weather, that this is true.  You can guarantee that I will be back for redemption.  Until then, I will content myself with a ‘little’ 100K down at the Flatrock 101K next weekend.  Join me, who knows, maybe it will be even more EPIC!!!  If you have any thoughts, questions, or comments I would love to hear them.

Be Epic!

Zach Adams

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2013 Prairie Spirit 100: It Was Indeed EPIC – Part II – “A Tale of Two Races” or “I Heard it Might Snow”

In case you missed part one of my Prairie Spirit 100 adventure, I suggest you go back and read it.  If you are really that lazy or computer illiterate, I’ll make it easy.  Click here for Prairie Spirit Part I.  That brings us up to the morning of the race.

As usually is the case I did not sleep worth a shit.  Almost unequivocally, I do not sleep well in a hotel.  Add this to the fact that I am facing a 100(+) mile race in the morning and the result is a tossing, turning, miserable attempt at sleep.  All the while my scumbag brain repeatedly bombarding itself with a torrent of random thoughts ranging from drop bag contents to the why there was only one female Smurf.  Despite this, I felt pretty damn good once my alarm granted me the mercy of a wake-up call.

Everyone was hanging out inside the building at the start milling around and chatting.  The energy was palpable in the room even though the tone was subdued and pretty quiet.  One of the main things I love about ultramarathon culture is the people, so I had set a goal for myself that every time I was with the group of runners I would try to meet at least one new person and find out a little bit about them.  I was doing very well executing my strategy– with one flaw – I am terrible at remembering names.  So, if I talked to you friend me on Facebook and we can connect.  As expected, everyone that I talked to was freaking awesome.

Eric gave us last minute instructions and sent us on our way.   When he yelled, “GO!” I really could feel my heart beating in my chest.  A twinge of nervousness was definitely there and I could feel the adrenaline pumping.  Consciously, I knew this was the start of a possibly 30 hour journey that would be consist of good times, bad times, pain, suffering, and despair.  Still, this was not enough to kill the euphoric feeling generated by my  love of this sport.  Luckily I had ‘ice-cold’ Adam Monaghan to set our pace and I didn’t race off like I was in a 5K.  We run pretty close to the same pace, use the same general walk run strategy, fuel plan, and had planned to try and make it to Iola turnaround together between 4:30 and 5pm.  At this point I would meet my pacer Lisa and see what happened.

The weather was really good for running offering no real risk of overheating, yet making it easy enough to stay warm.  Getting through Ottawa took a while and everyone was pretty bunched together but started to thin out once we got out of town and on the true Prairie Spirit trail.  The trail itself was fine gravel and very smooth with almost nothing in the way of hills.  Sufficient tree cover lined both sides of the trail in most spots which provided pretty good protection from the wind, that was mostly out of the east.  Honestly, other than chatting with Adam and few other runners here and there, the trip out to the first aid station at Princeton was mostly uneventful.  The Princeton aid station crew was excellent.  Every single person there offered me specific items to eat or drink, asked me what I needed, and told me what they had, or told me I was looking great.  I was curious if they would tell me that in 24 hours or so.  Although Eric said it was not the Epic Brigade’s job to massage my feet, I have a feeling that they would have, had I asked.  Here I also saw my friend from Talequah OK, Travis Owens.  I met Travis at Midnight Madness 50 miler back in 2010, and later he also set me up with my pacer Lisa.  Travis was crewing for someone else, but he also made it clear that if I needed anything, he had me covered.  I love ultrarunners.

The next stop on the way to Iola was Richmond.  Again, the run between Princeton and Richmond was mostly uneventful.  Adam and I were comfortably sharing pace and conversation.  We were also yo-yo running with a guy and gal who were running during our walk breaks.  It became a game that we seemed to play with several people on the way to the turnaround.  The catchphrase became, “Tag you’re it.”  and “Hello again!”.  At Richmond a very nice woman had a huge pot of ramen soup cooking and eagerly obliged me with two steaming cups.  I popped a Hammer Gel that tasted like a cinnamon apple pie from McDonalds and washed it down with ramen juice.   Yeah, I know its gross, but I have an iron stomach and just think of it as fuel during a race.  Offhandedly, I made the comment that the gel was cold, difficult to squeeze out, and was hard to swallow – only to look up and see her (the aid station worker) warming some gels up over the burner!  Talk about service!!!  Another amazing aid station filled with Epic attitudes, which I tried to reward with my gratitude.  Sixteen miles down and we were off to Garnett.

It seemed that every aid station was marked with a grain elevator, so you could always tell when you were getting close.  Pavement greeted you at the north end of Garnett and another mile or so got you to the aid station.  Adam and I were still pacing each other and he was looking forward to seeing his lovely wife (and crew chief) Sarah and his baby daughter.  I was looking forward to grabbing some sandwiches and reapplying some Vasoline, A&D Ointment, and Desitin mix to protect my feet and a couple other “sensitive skin” areas.  I learned this mix from the legendary badass Ken Childress and I also now swear by it.  I have no clue how Ken came up with this, but that shit works wonders for blisters and chafing.  The parents of RD Eric’s girlfriend Polly had been assigned the Garnett aid station which was in an old train depot building.  They were awesome!  They had everything in there that a good aid station could possibly ask for including running water, flushing toilets, and HEAT.  The warmth inside the building almost matched the warmth of their greetings.  I knew this was going to be both a blessing and a curse on the way back – in the dark and almost certainly snowy night it would seem like an oasis.  Hopefully, it wouldn’t be like the call of the Sirens, luring you in and never allowing you to leave.  As we checked out and got back on the course, we were offered many cheers and much luck.  It was now 11:30 a.m. with about 25 miles done.

I left Garnett a little bit before Adam but jogged slowly at first and he caught me within a mile or so.   From Garnett, the tree cover lining the trail really thinned and we started getting a lot more wind, still primarily out of the east.  I don’t think there was a grain elevator in Welda, but there was a blue tarp-tent and an enclosed trailer staffed by the KC Trail Nerds offering aid to weary runners.  I chatted with fearless Trail Nerd leader Ben Holmes and received aid in the form of some excellent homemade soup, which they gladly poured into my Ultimate Direction water bottle.  Side note – this bottle is perfect for soup, as it has a rubber spout with an X cut into it like a baby bottle nipple.  Or at least it was, until I lost it in the blizzard later that night.  Adam stayed in the car with Sarah for a bit as I went back out, thirty-four miles now done.

This is about the time the sleet started.  Rainy, sleety, icy crap was being spit at me from above.  It did eventually start to soak in and I knew this was going to be a long night.  As of now, I was feeling amazing – not feeling much different after 35 miles than 10 miles.  Cruise control was engaged and all I needed to do was keep putting gas in the tank and try not to blow a tire.  Adam caught me before we got to Colony and again we got aid from the most finely staffed aid stations I have ever had the privilege to utilize.  This was a quick stop, as we were still on pace to make it to the turnaround at Iola between 4 and 5pm.  At this point the wind was blowing like hell and the ice was coming down pretty damn hard.  It was a windy and cold stretch south out of Colony and I knew this was going to SUCK on the way back.  The wind was blowing hard and we were getting decently wet but I didn’t really feel cold yet.  Really I was feeling great about the way things were going and basically trying really hard not to think about what “might” happen with the weather and how it would affect the return trip.  Adam pulled ahead before getting to Iola as I felt the uncontrollable urge to investigate a nice sheltered spot off the trail under a large cedar tree.  I was sick of carrying that spare sock I need to get rid of it.  A short time after I got back on the trail, the snow began to fall.  HUGE snowflakes, nearly the size of pancakes, were coming down in the most beautiful snow showers I have ever seen.  It was amazing!  It was also beginning to accumulate.  Quickly.  Unencumbered by the extra sock, I caught Adam in Iola.  At 4:44pm I check in by my bib number and had 51 miles done.

Warren took spectacular care of me, getting me geared up for the long, cold trip home.  Travis was also here, offering me anything I might need, as he had at every single aid station along the way.  My body and mind were both really feeling good at this point.  I honestly did not feel like I had done been running for the lats 10 hours and 44 minutes.  They had a nice fire going next to the shelter house and the smell alone got me ready rock.  I ate, reapplied my skin goo, found my pacer Lisa, and I was ready to roll!

Since this really was a tale of two races, I think I will stop there.  Nowhere to go but home at this point.

If you want to hear about the return trip, please comment.  Also any questions you might have I would be more than happy to answer.

Stay tuned for Part III – “Yetis in the Mist”  or “Hand me my lightsaber, I saw a Tauntaun”

Until Next Time….  Be EPIC!!!

Zach

Zach Adams

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2013 Prairie Spirit 100: It Was Indeed EPIC – Part 1 – “Pre-Race Jitters” or “What in the Hell Was I Thinking?”

DSC_9349_s_jpgPrior to Prairie Spirit 100, the longest race I have completed was a 100K put on by the KC Trail Nerds.  In October, I tried 100 miles but was unsuccessful in my first attempt.  For me, 100 miles is still my number one running goal.  The DNF in October really left a cat shit taste in my mouth and has provided EXCELLENT training fuel and motivation.  My training was very tenacious and consistent all winter long, racking up several 80-100 mile weeks that included several back to back 25-35 mile training runs.  All were solo miles almost exclusively outside in the elements and on minimal fuel.  The only exception was  a single mind-numbing  25 miles on the dreadmill, which I look at as more mentally challenging than any run outside.  Having no nagging aches and pains and a great tapering rest period, I felt like I had done what I needed to get my mind and body ready for my first 100 mile finish.  Plus the official “EPIC ULTRAS Prairie Spirit 100 Mile Inaugural Belt Buckle” is FREAKIN’ RAD!  I want this thing sooooo bad I can all but taste it.

MY PRECIOUS

Prepping for the logistics of the race for me was pretty easy.  I had booked a cheap room at the Days Inn Ottawa from hotels.com.  A few weeks earlier, I invited my friend Lisa Pivec, who paced for me in my first 100 try, to come back and help me cross the finish in Ottawa.  More on Lisa later… she is AWESOME.  As far as drop bags go, I made one for all 6 aid stations and they basically consisted of some fuel and every piece of winter running gear I own; this is important, as I don’t think I would have made it as far as I did had I not done this.  Again, I will provide more on this later.

I rolled into town about 4 pm, checked into my room, carried up my bag, and headed to packet pickup.   It was only a few minutes from the hotel, and I found it easily – gotta love smartphone navigation apps!  It was indoors with plenty of room.  The areas to drop off drop bags were well marked and easy to find.   Everything at packet pickup went like clockwork and was handled efficiently and effectively.   I got my bag from the very sweet and charming Polly Choate and proceeded talk to several other runners and their friends, family, and crewmembers.  I also briefly got to talk with a very rapidly moving Eric Steele, race director, who was in full on RD mode.  To be honest, Eric looked busier than a one-legged kickboxer in a battle royal.  Eric was very busy doing all the things that race directors of 100 mile races do – but he still took the time to greet many of the runners, introduce himself, welcome them, and wish them luck.  There was a great buzz of excitement in the air, as well as some pretty serious nervous energy about what the weather was going to do.  Snow… blah… blah… wind, blah… blah… sleet… blizzard…   Whatever.  We are ultrarunners!  We don’t care about the weather.  Right?

This time spent hanging out getting to know people is one of my favorite things about ultra events.  The people make an ultra amazing.  Ultramarathons take a bunch of folks, who to most of society seem borderline insane, and put them in pursuit of a common goal.  They all know what it will take to push further than most people feel is possible, they understand each other’s desire to cross the finish, and they can relate to one another.  In many cases people who were previously strangers can immediately bond – and in some situations will forge lifelong friendships.  Very cool .

From packet pickup I drove to the location of the pre-race meal and briefing.  The food was pretty damn good and I got to talk to some of the people I have met over that last 3 years at various ultras.  Race Director Eric Steele gave us a rundown of the event and went over most of the information in the race info document.  This thing was great!  It was loaded with gobs of information covering all aspects of the race.  In fact, I don’t think I had a single question that wasn’t answered in the race brochure (including the one I asked out loud during the meeting…oops).  Great work to the Epic Ultras staff for putting this thing together – I wish more race directors would follow their lead.  I am sure they will use this experience to do an even better job at the inaugural Flatrock 101K (which I will also be running – JOIN ME).  That makes me cringe a little inside just thinking about it.  Can’t wait.

Polly kickin ass and takin names

It was nice to catch up with friends -old and new.  We talked about other events that we had recently run, races we were running in the near future, strategies for the race, and, of course, the weather.    Again, the air just had this electric vibe to it.  It was a mixing of feelings of anxiety, excitement, fear, courage, defiance, determination, and anticipation – all thick enough in the air to almost form a tangible cloud.  I think I had butterflies the whole time.  The packet pickup and meal just served to build even more tension that would not be released until 6 a.m. the following morning.  As the crowd started to disperse, I decided to make a quick stop at Wal-Mart to pick up some hand warmers based off of a recommendation from another runner at the dinner.  This turned out to be a GREAT idea.  My final stop was my deluxe master suite at Days Inn, to try and get a good night’s sleep.

So concludes part 1.  Stay tuned for part 2:  “A Tale of Two Races” or “I Heard it Might Snow”

Comments?  I would love to hear them.  And Oh… remember… BE EPIC!

Zach