Where to start??? What makes for a “good” race? Uneventful and easy or if it can go wrong? Free State was the latter for me. It started with a late night Friday evening for a meeting and I didn’t get everything together for the next morning before going to bed. I set the alarm for 4:00 AM. I was awake at 3:00… I gave up and crawled out of bed, deciding to get my gear and fuel in order since I hadn’t the night before. I usually fix my Perpetuem and gel in the bladder, then place it in the fridge to be nice and cold. Yep… didn’t do that. So I was mixing it Saturday morning. Oh, and did I use the COLD water in the fridge… nope! Not thinking about it at all! Water straight from the tap… I never do that. Oh well… on with my day. It will take me an hour to get to Clinton Lake so I’m heading out the door just after 5:00 AM. One last trip to the bathroom… seriously… the handle breaks and there is water all over the bathroom floor. Fix the handle, clean up the water… out the door, finally… Oops, I forgot something… back in the house, oh yeah, I need that too… out the door again. On the highway headed to Lawrence. Damn! I didn’t get the cash that I went back in the house to get. On to Lawrence anyway.
When I get to the park I realize I might not have enough cash to pay for the day pass. I manage to scrounge enough change together to pay for my pass and head in to the race area. Once I park I try to call Courtney. The service is not good at this end I’m told so as soon as she answers – I lose signal. We do that 3 times before I give up. I’ll find her when she gets here. I have her race packet. We have to check in at registration so I head over to do that and start to see many Trail Nerds on the way. Hey and good luck… you’ll do great! Debbie and Laurie are venturing beyond a 50K for the first time. Jonette will do great too at her first 40 miler. They will be fine. They are strong runners. I’m sure there were others I just didn’t know who was doing what. Coleen is happy and all matching in her Moeben sleeves and skirt! I meet a few others whose name I recognize but have never met in person before. It was nice to put faces with names.
Courtney pulls into the parking lot and parks right next to her oriental friends that I met at 3 Days of Syllamo. She met them at Syllamo last year and then saw them at Brew to Brew. She asked if they did B2B this year and they said no – too much road. Here, here to that! Actually I like both for different reasons…. Trails are beautiful and challenging. You must be “present” to run them. Road allow my mind to wander. It’s what I do when I need to “run inside my head” sometimes.
We check Courtney in at registration and say Hi to the others around. Ben is busy being RD but stops to say Hi and that I’ll be fine – if I toughed out Mt. Hood I can do this. Thanks Ben. I’m concerned over the humidity. I haven’t really run in it yet this year. I managed to miss the heat each time I ran and those of you that know me…. Know that I sweat! The ring your skirt out, dripping wet kind of sweat…. No girly, girl “glistening” as my friend from the south would say!
So the race begins. It’s a nice easy pace. Courtney and I are joined by Beth Hilt. We run the first several miles together. I’m miserable. My stomach hurts, my head hurts, and I have NO “umph” – I am definitely not having fun. But I keep running. It’s nice conversations though and it helps take my mind off how bad I feel. Courtney does a nice ankle roll early (maybe 6 miles) so we walk it out. I’m not wearing a Garmin – sometimes I’m too much of a slave to it. So I had decided not to wear it. That and I didn’t think it would last the entire time I’m running. Speed is not my forte and the battery will die in 8 to 9 hours. I’m hoping for 10 to 11. I’m also hoping that not being a slave to Garmin will allow me to relax and enjoy the run. Relax… I’m trying. Courtney keeps reminding to just enjoy the day. It’s going ok but I feel like puking most of the time. And I’m really bloated – what’s up with that?? Taking my fuel regularly… Taking electrolytes and anti-fatigue caps on the hour. I’m nauseous anyway.
We get to the manned aid station at Land’s End. Kyle Amos is cutting up watermelon. He offers me a HUGE piece. I laugh – that’s good – at least I can laugh. Stacey gives me one that is more manageable! Courtney grabs a little something while we are there and we are off. Beth decides to hang for a little bit. She’s been running strong with us. I wasn’t prepared for as much mud as there was. I knew there would be some but I just knew it could not be like Psycho Wyco in February. It wasn’t. but it was close. And it was the super sticky mud in some places and the kind that you sink into past your ankles at other places. I am seriously about done with mud this year. We keep trying struggling along but making progress and our time is reasonable. Courtney’s ankle is holding up well and she is keeping me in the race.
The next aid station is manned by Phil & Stacey Sheridan from Rockin K. Stacy gives me a huge! It was good to see her. Very nice people and they put on a GREAT race! As we come all the way into the aid station another volunteer asks us what we need and what they can do for us. It’s some Coke for me and watermelon. Courtney grabs something too. Then we are off. We wave to Dick Ross on our way out of there. He’s always smiling out on the course! And volunteers countless hours taking pictures for us. Back to the Land’s End aid station we go. More mud, more streams… we stop sometimes in the streams. The cold water feels great! Clean the shoes off a bit and find more mud! J
When we get to Land’s End, Kyle puts ice in my Camelbak. I’m carrying Perpetuem and it’s starting to get warm. Not a good thing with the protein in there. Some more Coke (since Mt. Hood – this is my ultra drink of choice that isn’t fuel – Thanks Boss!) I’m still feeling icky but it’s manageable. Courtney is her happy self and keeping me motivated. Somewhere in this stretch (I think – could have been on the way to Land’s End…) we pass a woman who has signed up for 40. Courtney is talking to her. She is cramping some she says – just in the legs. Court asks “how far is your longest run” She answers “12 miles” WHAT??? Courtney is very nice and encouraging. Seriously?? Why do people do that? Reminds of us the girl we saw at the KC Marathon who had never run more than 5 and was doing the full – no fuel and not stopping at aid stations. At least this person was stopping at aid stations. We later learn she makes the right decision and stops at 20. DNF also stand for Did Nothing Fatal.
Back to the start/finish area… through the aid station there. Sophia is there with smiles and “mud hugs” – we are at 5 ½ hours for 20 miles. I’m not pleased but it’s ok. Courtney’s still doing ok on her ankle. Somewhere before we get to the first unmanned aid station, Courtney says that it sounds like my spirits are picking up. Maybe it’s the caffeine from the Coke. Maybe it’s the carbonation helping my stomach. The ice is also watering down my Perpetuem/gel mix. I’m thinking I might have had too much fuel to early. We have some GREAT conversations… I won’t tell you what they were about. But it was fun! I’m in a great mood except my feet are getting bad. Blisters in the usual spots but the raw that is happening on my ankles is starting to suck. I’ve never done that before. Maybe it’s the shoe-sucking mud. The run is uneventful. Oh I don’t like running on all the rocks on the shoreline. Didn’t like it the first time either. My biggest fear trail running is having muddy and/or wet shoes then slipping on a rock and cracking my head. That almost happened on the first loop. We get through it the second time… whoosh! Glad I’m not going for 3 loops!
Stacey Amos is queen of Land’s End aid station. She’s a bright spot in the day. Happy to see you and happy to help. Coke for us and some watermelon and a handful of Peanut M&M’s for me. Court snacks too. We are off and things are ok. Sometime in here Courtney’s ankle is beginning to bother her. We are slower but making steady progress. Overall it’s uneventful – just great conversation and beautiful views.
I said uneventful, right? That’s when the thunder rolls…Courtney is NOT used to Kansas weather. She asks about the thunder. We keep moving. Stacy Sheridan is at the aid station when we get there. She gets our numbers the volunteers fill our packs with ice again. We don’t stay long…. Just enough for Coke or Pepsi this time while the guys fix our packs. Coke for me. Pepsi for Courtney. Some melon and we out.
Somewhere in the next couple miles the lightening begins. Court wants to know if we should head up to the road. Nope… Stay on the trail. The road is in the open. Oh… then the sirens begin. Now if you grew up here you know what that means and you know what to listen for. I don’t know how to explain it. You just know. The sirens stop and the rain begins – a little more than a sprinkle but not really raining. We keep moving forward. At this point, Courtney says “when we get to the aid station we have a decision to make.” I don’t say it to her but I’m thinking “no – I’m going on. Boss will kill me if I stop due to marginal weather.” And I plan to pull her through with me. The sirens start again. I’m listening… the rain has stopped again but the critters are still making noise and the wind is blowing. Keep running. We pass the unmanned aid station and hear yelling. Is it someone calling for us to get off the course? We keep hearing it. Nope, it’s Rick Mayo pacing John King. Rick runs ahead then yells at John to get there. It works for John. He’s doing the 100k. Court & I keep going. We pass 2 guys who are on their 3rd loop. They tell us that everyone is supposed to get to a picnic area. We are about a quarter mile from the aid station maybe slightly farther. At this point with the sirens back on Courtney decides to head to the road. So I follow her. She does not know where to go when we get to the top. I’m pretty sure the road is not there but she’s already on her way. Into a small clearing amongst the evergreens. Yeah I do NOT like this. I’d rather be on the trail. I start to go in the direction of the aid station. She says “are you sure?” If there is one thing I’m good at it’s usually directions. I might not know exactly but I am one of the few women that know my North, South, East and West. I know which way I need to go. I also have a general idea of where I am. Land’s End is where I took pics for the Pod Trod. So I know which way to go – this is the way they sent me on that day. As we pass through a line of evergreens the lightening cracks! Holy Cow that was close! We both shriek… then sound is almost immediate. It couldn’t have been 50 feet away. The hair on my arm felt it. We are moving now – I can see Kyle & Stacey’s SUV. We have actually passed the aid station and need to go back.
At the aid station, we see several people who have to stop. Rick and John are already there, four more come in while we are there. Courtney calls into the news station and reports on what’s happening. Bonus points for her! We are at the aid station for about 20 minutes. Long enough to get cold and for my body to start feel the aches and pains of the run and the blister and chafing to make their presence known. The station tells Courtney that the storm is moving NE and then circular motion above has stopped. Then the rain comes down hard for a bit. When it stops we decide to head out. We have a little over 3 miles to go. The 3 miles takes forever. I have no “umph” left. The adrenaline rush of the last push to the aid station before leaving the trail and then the rush with the close lightening left me with nothing. I think Courtney was feeling the same way. She was doing better than I. My feet hurt and I have that pain that resurfaces after breaking my foot. It’s not broken but feels like it. Every step hurts. It takes us just shy of an hour to do the 3 ½ miles.
We finish though and at this point that’s what matters. We both have a recent DNF and are trying to clear the slate. It feels good to be done. Shortly after we cross the finish line and Sophia takes our picture the rain begins… this time it’s a downpour! I finished this event because Courtney kept me going.
So what makes a good race… the new experiences with great friends and the best volunteers…Free State has both.