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FlatRock Twenty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be Epic!

Zach Adams

2014 Prairie Spirit 100 Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Be Epic!

Zach Adams

10 Keys To Insure A DNF In Your 1st 100 Mile Race

zach10 Keys to Insure a DNF in your 1st 100 Mile Attempt

1.       Select an Insanely Difficult Course

If you are going to run a freaking 100 mile race, why the hell would you run some wimpy flat course with no technical terrain or high altitudes?  What kind of wimpy hundred mile racer needs decent weather and tons of course support?  Don’t be a pussy just because you have never run 100 miles before!  Go big or go home!  I mean, you CRUSHED that last 50K you did… right?

2.       Continue Your Usual Training

It got you from the couch to 5K didn’t it?  It even helped you slide in before cutoff on that trail 50k.  One hundred miles in 30 hours – that’s only 3.33 miles per hour!  That is a slow walk.  There is no reason to destroy your joints with a bunch of back to back runs of 20 and even 30 mile runs.  Besides, who has the TIME to do that?

3.       Just “Wing it” On Race Day

This isn’t rocket science folks!  Here is all there is to it:  1. Show up.  2. Go to starting line. 3. Left foot forward, right foot forward, now repeat.   It’s that simple.  All these runners obsessing over distance between aid stations, what to put in drop boxes, cutoff times, weather, what to wear…. Blah blah blah.  The shit seriously makes me sick.  It’s never-ending.

4.       Race the First 50K

All this ultra-conservative talk about pacing in a 100 doesn’t make any sense.  Go out and run that 50K like you know that you can, and then slow down.  After all, you are experienced and know what pace you are comfortable to finish a 50k, why would you slow down before you need to?

5.       Eat and Drink Only When You FEEL Like It

Only eat and drink when you are hungry and thirsty.  Don’t cram food down your throat if your gut is upset.  All that will do is make you puke, and when you puke you are DONE.  Everyone knows this.  If you aren’t hungry – don’t eat.  If you aren’t thirsty –don’t drink.  This isn’t a shitty Weight Watchers meeting or your company fat-boy weight loss competition… why the hell would you count calories?  Besides, you have plenty of extra to burn, I mean c’mon we have all seen these fatties who run 100’s.

6.       Avoid Lube

Lube?  Seriously?  Are you a car? No. So why would you lube yourself?  Quit thinking you are some kind of machine that needs to stay fine tuned and well oiled.  What an ego you have!  All it is going to do is make you all greasy, smelly, and uncomfortable.  It will settle in your expensive running gear to grab all the dirt and road dust.    When you get that stuff on your fingers, it is nearly impossible to get off.  No one wants you grabbing stuff off the aid station tables with gross fingers.  NASTY!  Save the lube bottle for the bedroom fun you will be having with your significant other the night after!

7.       Go It Alone

You already have very few friends outside the community of ultrarunning weirdoes you know.  Do you really want ruin the few remaining friendships you have by asking your high school BFF to chase you around the countryside just to wait a few hours to do it again – just to fill your water bottles and pop your blisters?  I think not.  What about asking an ultrarunner who is injured or tapering?   Don’t think so… you already have to spend enough time with these psychos at prerace and at every aid satiation.  Take my advice; Go it alone.

8.       Find a Chair

25-30 hours is a long ass time.  Find a chair, take a load off and sit down for a while.  Hell, lay down for a while if you want.  Find a nice warm fire and get comfy.  A stop of 1 or 2 hours isn’t going to do anything but help.  I mean, it’s not like you are going to win. And you DO HAVE 30 hours.  Why not take a nap here or there.

9.       Stop if it Hurts

You have trained like you always have trained.  Surely that poke in your knee, burning toe, or swollen knee is a sign of serious injury!  Don’t risk missing next month’s Color Dash Diva Plunge because you are too hard headed to stop when you are in pain!  Do the right thing and listen to the pain and that little voice telling you that you need to stop.  Keep in mind your feet know best.

10.   Rationalize Failure

It’s ok to quit.  It is fine not to finish.  It’s not THAT BIG of a deal.  It IS just a hobby after all, you would have been running anyway.  Only a tiny fraction of the world’s population even ATTEMPTS to run 100 miles.  Quit acting like this is some kind of soul searching, healing, and transformational experience.  It’s just a race – not worth pain and suffering.

P.S.

If for some reason you did NOT read the title – this is the shit to do if you want a DNF.  If you want a finisher’s buckle – DO THE OPPOSITE.

Until next time, BE EPIC!

Zach