I decided to run this race again this year even after it proved to be a big challenge with the mud last year. I had set the alarm for 4 am, but woke up a few minutes before and got up. I slept pretty well since I remembered having dreams. Since the race didn't start for 4 hours, I had a protein shake (with banana, coffee, and chia seeds) and Frosted Minis. I showered, did back stretches, and then was off at 4:47 for the 2 plus hour drive to Wyandotte County Park in Kansas City, KS for the race. I only stopped once for a couple minutes to use the outdoor restroom next to my car so made really good time.
I arrived at 7 am and the lot was already pretty full. The temperature had warmed up on the way from 23 in Columbia to 32 F which was the opposite from last year when it cooled down on the trip. I had been hoping for weeks before the race that the ground would be frozen since I knew the ground was not going to dry out. Last year, I didn't know what I was getting myself into, but this year I expected it to be a muddy race.
I picked up my race packet which contained the timing chip, race number, a nice soft wicking shirt and Psycho Psoup mug. I went back to the car and filled my 3 Nathan bottles (one for each loop) with water. I had already added the powdered Acclerade and each also contained 2 gels in the bottle pocket. Since I now have 3 bottles, I figured this would save time after each loop since I would just stop and pick up the bottle from my bag and continue. I also like to keep moving and not having to fill bottles would keep me moving. I decided to wear 2 wicking shirts, shorts, and gloves which turned out to be perfect for the temperature. I checked out the bathrooms one more time and then dropped off my bag and only had to wait a few minutes for the race to start.
The race started promptly at 8 am. This year only the 50K and 20 milers started at 8 am and the 10 milers started at 8:30. I lined up in front and we were off. It seemed like I was starting a bit fast, but I hate getting stuck behind people once we get into the woods even though we had about a 1/3 mile to spread out before going into the woods. There was some snow on the trails in places which actually helped smooth out a bit where the horses had trampled. The ground was already a bit soft and with the temps warming up, I knew it would soon be a big muddy mess. I passed a few people and finally settled into my own pace. Soon, I was to the Wyco Triangle, a confusing switchback section where it looks like other runners are closer to you than they are at times. The turns are really sharp and just as you get up to speed you have to nearly stop to turn. I escaped the triangle and the rest of the loop was uneventful and the mud was not that bad yet.
The first looped seemed harder than last year and I ended up finishing 3 minutes slower in 1:32:05 and I felt like I had probably run it a bit hard for the conditions. I knew I would not be going under 5 hours this year. I got to my bag, grabbed a new bottle, Dave asked how I was doing, and I was off not feeling too bad for the second loop.
The course overall is very hilly and I felt like I was handling the hills pretty well since I was running up them. There were only a few trees to climb over, and the terrain was challenging with lots of rocks and roots. The mud was pretty bad the second loop. Going down hills I would slide part of the way, run and slide some more. Once I slid down on my left leg but did not fall too hard so kept right on running. My shoes were trashed and I could feel the mud oozing inside. I wasn't sure if my toes were doing okay or not, but the ends of toes on my right foot felt a little tender at times.
There were some grassy areas we got to run and some short road sections although the one road section was all uphill so it was not any easier than running on the trail. As usual, the trails were very well marked and I can't imagine anyone making a wrong turn for this race. There were a few signs along the way to encourage us or tell us it was okay to puke at the top of one really bad hill. I did not use the aid stations along the way but the volunteers would usually ask how you were doing and if I needed anything. They always told me I looked good. I made sure to drink at least every mile and took a gel about every 5. I was hoping to be faster, but was keeping the effort about where I felt it needed to be for the second loop to have enough left to finish the 3rd loop.
I finished the second loop in 1:49:19, 13 minutes slower than last year. This was definitely going to be a tough 3rd loop since it would have felt great to stop after the 2nd. I think maybe that is one thing I like about the ultra distance is just as you think you can't go any further or it can get any worse, you can keep going and you just have to keep yourself moving. I grabbed my new bottle and continued on and figured somehow I could finish the last loop, and call it a good workout.
I kept moving and did not feel like I needed to walk at any point on the last loop. I was passed by a few people and passed some as well and I'm pretty sure some of those were running the 20 miler. Some of the climbs were very hard to get up and I had to grab the trees to pull myself up due to the muddy slippery conditions. This is where upper body weight training comes in handy for running. There was some downhill where I also had to run into trees to keep from falling. I did not let the mud discourage me though and kept moving. Sometimes the mud can really drag me down mentally. Several times I felt like my shoes were almost sucked off so will have to remember to tie them a little tighter next time. I did feel like I had better balance than last year running through the mud or maybe it was just stickier this year although it was very soupy in places. I kept running up the hills and felt like my legs had the strength to do so. The momentum from attempting to run made it easier to get up the slippery hills. Near one aid station, they said I was the only person they had seen run up that hill. I was moving really slow through the third loop, but at least I was moving and not deliberately walking due to being out of it mentally.
At times, I questioned why I was doing this. I like running on trails, but excessive mud and slippery conditions makes it so much more difficult. At no point though, did I want to just give up, so mentally I was doing very well. The first loop, I did notice a bit of sensation down to my calf from my bulging disc, and then somewhere along the way, I noticed I couldn't even feel my legs anymore which was kind of nice and I think the reason I tried to run up all the hills. The legs just didn't hurt. Everyone around me was having the same difficulties with the mud. I wanted to run faster, but it just didn't happen.
About 1 mile to the end I get a low battery warning from my Garmin, but I am not too worried since I am almost to the end. As I approached the finish, there are 2 girls ahead of me that were running the 20 miler and they sped up as they neared the finish. I finished the 3rd loop in 2:11:47, 12 minutes slower than last year.
I was not really happy with my overall time, but talking to others and seeing the results, it looked like it was harder than last year. One guy told me he was 27 minutes slower. I was 33 minutes slower. A guy that I came in just ahead last year beat me by 1.3 seconds this year. I noticed we had the same splits each loop other than the seconds. I never really felt like we were running with each other but I do remember passing him and him passing me back. It is kind of interesting, we had the same splits. Also, just like last year, everyone ran each loop slower and looking at the results, my splits look pretty normal compared to everyone else. Still, if I had been more prepared to run in mud I think I would have done better. I guess I need to do speed training in the mud.
Results are posted here. Official time was 5:33:11 and I placed 14th out of 85 where last year I was 4th of 77. I think there were over 140 registered for the 50K so a lot must have dropped to the 20 or not run. For all the races combined, there were over 500 signed up.
Even though this was a hard run for me, I felt pretty good when I finished and was ready to eat right away which is unusual for me. I had 2 bowls of vegetable soup and then a protein shake and banana. I attempted to scrape the mud off my legs with an ice scraper, but didn't seem to go as well as last year. I scraped what I could and put my clothes on over the mud. I really wanted to stop somewhere and eat more, but I needed to get back to Columbia so we could attend a Mardi Gras party.
The day after the race on Sunday, I ran 14 miles on the MKT. The first 6 were okay and the last 8 were a struggle just like the race. There was snow on the trail in places and which made it hard for me to run and I could feel my legs and they hurt. I felt like I really had taxed my cardiovascular system. I found it a bit more difficult to breathe almost the rest of the night. It was like I just couldn't quite get enough oxygen, but today I feel more recovered.
Photos Courtesy Dick Ross See KC Run, Rick Mayo, and myself.