Tag Archives: FlatRock 50K

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

“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

FlatRock 50K: Legend of “The Hand”

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

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

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

Zach