Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Rockin' K 50 miler

It seems like I start so many of my posts out with the words "I LOVE this race!!" and maybe it's just because I love to run these things... but Rockin' K really is a special race.  I consider it a hometown race even if it is 3 hours away.  Kansas Ultrarunners Society and Stacey and Phil make everyone feel like family.  Stacey has a special knack of knowing names and faces..without ever meeting them before and going out of her way to make sure they are comfortable and taken care of.  I really can't recommend this race enough.  It's one of those races that shouldn't be hard but somehow is and everytime I run it, I think... this shouldn't be this difficult.. there are no mountains, no altitude, no enormous hills, no terrible footing, no rabid beavers to avoid... but somehow it remains a difficult race.

A group of us drove down early on Friday to make sure we made it in time for the pre-race pasta feed... KUS always puts out an amazing spread including handmade meatballs by Stacey.  They make a super yummy veggie sauce and then you can add meatballs for the carnivoursly inclined.  There are always great giveaways and last year I won a free entry to the Heartland 100... I fully admit that I was crossing my fingers that I DIDN'T get it this year... I'll be out there but my ass is volunteering.  I'm not sure my feet are yet totally recovered!  I did however win a free entry to next years Rockin' K!!  YAHOO!!

The next morning started out chilly but not freezing with a forecast of "warm" with the wind picking up in the afternoon (as usual).  We started out with the usual high spirits and joking manner.. much conversation and laughter were traded over the first few miles as groups formed and broke up and formed again.  I found myself running the first 20 miles with Jessica from KC, who I had met when I worked at a gym.  We had been Facebook friends but this was the first chance to run together... Jessica was running the marathon and it was her first trail race.  We had a great time getting to know each other and talking about running and life.  It was a surprise when we hit the first aid station at Gate 6 and all the chaos and attention from all the wonderful volunteers!  We fueled up and Jessica grabbed her dog Jaeda from her boyfriend to try and wear her out on the Big Bluff Loop.

The Big Bluff loop consists of a big bluff... DUH... and some amazing views on top of said big bluff.  It's usually where the wind starts picking up too, and this year was no exception.  We kept a good pace of hiking the uphills...or in Jessica's case, being pulled up the big hills by Jaeda!  As we exited the bluff section of the loop and hit the beaver ponds and grassy section, a whole conga line of runners were coming at us.. from the wrong direction.. lead by Adam, (who has run this race 3 times), they had missed the turn and had to backtrack about a mile.  That sort of situation never makes anyone involved happy, but it was nice to have a new influx of people to run and talk with though.  When Jessica and I got back to the Gate 6 aid station, I told her to take off.. since she was running the marathon she needed to speed up and I would keep on my slow trot.   I walked for a bit while I refueled and then popped on my iPod to get me back to the start/finish.

I had been feeling OK the whole race.. it wasn't one of those magical, everything feels great day like last year, but I wasn't sucking seeds either, so going back out on the second loop wasn't feeling like a chore.  The start/finish area is a dangerous place for 50 milers.. many people walk into the shelter to innocently grab their drop bags and end up getting consumed by the fire, beer and party people inside.  My goal remains to NEVER walk into that shelter until my race is over!  I check in at the line, go to the car and turn and head back out.  I don't care WHAT kind of yummy foods they have in that darn shelter!  Dates and bananas were making me happy so I was sticking with what worked... I did grab a few handfuls of cold watermelon from my cooler before heading back out on loop 2.  It was still early season watermelon so it wasn't very tasty and didn't give me that  magical watermelon high... sadness.

 I ran by myself for a good portion of this loop.  I caught a few guys and ran with them for awhile but went on ahead.... probably should have stuck with them for awhile longer since I missed a well flagged turn while fiddling with my iPod.  The turn I missed just happened to take me to Gate 6.. which is where I was supposed to be heading... but it took me into Gate 6 from the wrong way.  Before the race Phil warns everyone that if you come into Gate 6 from the wrong way on the second loop you will be ridiculed mercilessly.  When I realized what the heck I had done.. I turned and ran back in the opposite direction until I found my missed turn and got on the correct path.  I would have totally gotten away with it if it wasn't for those meddling kids... errrr... if it wasn't for the guys I HAD been running with pointing out at the aid station that I had been in front of them and wondering just why I was coming in after them.  Doh! Busted!

I quickly left on the Big Bluff loop to avoid the laughter and derision that was coming my (well-deserved) way.  The course was marked great.. it was my stupid fault I missed the turn!  This loop was pretty slow.. I started feeling pretty crappy and I had been having problems with my shoes from the get-go.  I had bought a new pair of my favorite shoes (La Sportiva Fireblades) before 3 Days of Syllamo and  for whatever reason they just hadn't felt right.  Now I am an expert in these shoes since I have had roughly 13 pairs of them since I found them... when I say something ain't right with them.. something ain't right!  I was irritated with them at 3 Days and (stupidly) decided to give them another try at Rockin' K... yup... still something wrong.  My feet and legs don't usually get sore and achy during 50 milers but these shoes were making me sore and achy less then 20 miles into the races,  the arch felt like it was in the wrong place and even the heels felt wrong.  I don't usually like to play the blame game but these shoes where not helping my race at all.  I ended up walking a whole bunch of the big bluff loop and came into the Gate 6 aid station ready to be done.   Thankfully.. a bit of ice in my pack and another banana perked me up and got me going again.  It's amazing how much just a bit of ice can help when it's hot and humid.

The 6 miles to the finish were a put-the-head-down-turn-up-the-music and try not to think too much slog. It was hot and windy and all I could think about was the special vegan brownies that Stacey had made for me and a beer.  I crossed the finish line in 12:16... a good 30 minutes slower then last year.  But the important thing was that I had fun and it was another 50 mile race closer to Western States.  I ate 2 huge bowls of yummy, yummy bean soup and waited for the last few finishers to cross the line with a cold beer in hand.  Another fantastic race by KUS and the Sheridans at Kanopolis State Park.

Oh yes... it's not every race where the RD not only makes vegan brownies to have at the aid station but also puts aside a special pan just for you! (the whole pan was gone in 2 days.. and I was practicing restraint!)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Pi Day River Rotation 1/2 marathon

My friend (and President of the Lawrence Trail Hawks) Laurie is a math nerd.  I mean that in a loving and mostly jealous way since math was always a struggle for me and I remain in awe of those who don't have to use their fingers to add (totally not joking.. watch me add a tip on a bill sometime.. hilarious!)  Anyway... only a math nerd would come up with the idea of hosting a race on Pi day (March 14th = 3.14) and serving pie!  The Trail Hawks ran with the idea (ha!) and since it was Laurie's idea she got the honors of being race director. Jacob Kaplan-Moss volunteered to make pie for the race... as in many, many home-made pies.. YUM!!

 Unfortunately Pi Day actually fell on a Monday this year, so we opted to have the race on March 19...but the spirit of Pi was not diminished in any way by this date change.  (I'm not actually sure what the "spirit of Pi" is.. or if Pi even has a spirit, however I have had some pie that has made me spiritual)  Anyway... the Lawrence River Trails were chosen as the site and Laurie decided that the race would be 3 rotating loops..  hence the name Pi Day River Rotation which is PiR2 (even my computer is math phobic and can't type the Pi symbol!)

My original plan was to run the race with my recently- started- running husband (!), since it was to be his first half marathon... but after marking the course we decided that we really needed another course marshal at the far end of the loop... which meant that I would be doing time at that very spot.  I didn't really mind, I like helping out at races and it meant that I would get to see Erik (and everyone!) twice anyway.  The worst part about volunteering has to be the super early hour of the morning that you have to be there.  Since everything has to be set up before the runners arrive, it was dark, cold and early.... and I have a feeling Erik was having second thoughts.  Warm and still asleep was probably how he would have preferred to be!

Laurie had everything ready to go, so set up was quick and easy and the rest of the time before the race was spent greeting people that I hadn't seen in ages.. I had been doing so many races out of town that I felt like it had been years since I'd seen a bunch of the local runners.

About 15 minutes before the race started, I kissed Erik, gave him a few last pieces of advise and grabbed a few extra "wrong way" signs and Jim B and I headed off to our positions on the course.  Jim was going to be at the "short loop" turn around and I was a the "big loop" turnaround.  Runners would do 1 large loop (5 miles) counter-clockwise, hit the aid station and then do another 5 mile loop but this time clockwise, hit the aid station and then do a small 3 mile loop counter -clockwise.  As Jim and I ran out to our places, we made sure that all the ribbons were still up and signs were pointing the correct direction.  We had marked the course the night before, and since the trails are pretty high traffic we were lucky that nothing had been disturbed.  I placed a few extra "wrong way" signs in a couple of questionable places just to make sure there was no snafus.  Sometimes it can be hard to mark course on trails that you know really well.... a turnoff that seems so obvious to me can be clear as mud to a newbie to the trails. 

I got to my spot in plenty of time... time enough to eat a Honey Stinger Waffle for breakfast (SUPER YUM) and read a few pages in the new Ultrarunning magazine.  Before I could get TOO comfortable, Jim texted me that the lead runners had just come past him and should be arriving shortly.  I barely got a tweet sent out about it before they were flying through the loop... I brought my cowbell and made sure I made plenty of noise for them as I pointed out where they were to go.  After the lead guys came through, there was a lull and then another sizable group and then another lull and another group.... the lulls were just about long enough to let me tweet the goings on.  I had asked Jim to let me know when Erik came through, so while I was anxiously awaiting that text, I was making sure that no one came past me without a word of encouragement and lots of cowbell noise.  When I heard the telltale "ping" from my phone, I got the camera ready and was happy to see Erik was running with a group of Hawks that he had done some group runs with.  He was smiling and seemed to be maintaining a good pace and having a good time.  I snapped a few pictures and yelled my head off... I was about bursting at the seams with happiness!

I had a great time for the rest of the race, ringing the cowbell, talking to people, and giving lots of encouragement, but I was also looking forward to getting back to the finish line before hungry runner ate all the pie!!  After the last runner came through my section I pulled up the signs and hauled ass hoping that I would make it in time to see Erik finish the race.  While trotting down the trail I rounded a curve and there was a gorgeous red fox in front me, also trotting down the trail.  The wind was blowing his scent to me, and he didn't realize that I was back there for quite awhile.  I was quietly trying to find my phone so I could snap a picture, but alas, he heard me and took off into the bushes.  I just LOVE spotting cool wildlife on the trails!  I used my course knowledge to shorten the run back to the finish so I was able to see Erik finish in 2:17:15.  I was SOOO freaking proud of him! Everytime I saw him, he was smiling and looked like he was having fun.  I think the monster piece of vegan apple pie afterwards certainly helped the mood too!

Laurie did a fantastic job of RD'ing and all the volunteers were spectacular.... as far as I know, no one got lost or off course!  WHOOO!!!  I'm looking forward to running this one next year... only so I can justify eating more then 1 piece of pie!!

Photos courtesy of

Girl Gallops

The Lawrence Trail Hawks decided to start a companion Kansas City run to our Thursday night Lawrence girls run this spring. We meet at Shawnee Mission Park at 6 pm on Thursday nights and I'm really pleased with the interest the run has generated.
The first couple weeks we had some threat of bad weather but we still had 6 ladies ignore the weather reports of severe storms and come out and trot anyway on the first week. ( I'm really sad I forgot to take a picture of our first run!!)  The next rainy Thursday we had a bunch of different people out.. I love the rotation!

  This week we finally had a beautiful night... sunny, warm but with a cool wind.  It was the perfect night for running and we had a blast! I miss all my Lawrence girls, but I'm loving running with and getting to know a brand new group of kick-ass chicks!