It was hectic trying to get ready and get out of town since I couldn't take the whole day off work. It took me awhile after we got on the road to relax. The drive to Elk City Lake Park near Independence, KS was almost 5 hours and Hugh went with me. We had no problems until we arrived and then we weren't sure where we needed to be but eventually figured it out. We arrived just in time for the yummy pre-race dinneer of spaghetti, meatballs on side, rolls, and salad. I was pleased they allowed one guest to eat free. We ate dinner with Jeff and Lisa and then headed over to their campsite to set up our tent. It was a beautiful clear night and the temperature cooled off. Jeff built a fire that we enjoyed and I ate some chocolate. Then we we headed to bed about 10 pm.
The 50K started at 7:30 am so we got up at 6 am. Temp was a cool 54 degrees. I slept okay considering I woke up several times and some of the air leaked out of the mattress and pumped it up again at some point in the night. It really wasn't that comfortable with the lack of air so will take the foam pad next time I sleep in the tent. I ate a pre-race shake, cereal, and banana. I decided to carry 2 gels and 3 packets of Succeed Ultra and then put 2 of each into Jeff's drop bag. I also had 5 Succeed Caps and planned to take one about every hour. We walked to the start line before 7 am for the pre-race meeting. Basic instructions from the race director Eric Steele were to follow anything marked blue and "if you look up, you're goin' down!" (see the videos at the end) as the course was supposed to be quite rocky. My goal was to try to stay upright as much as possible and not hurt myself.
We started off on the road and ran a quarter mile or so until we headed into the woods. I tried to place myself where I thought I needed to be so I wouldn't need to pass people as soon as we got onto the trail. Immediately, the trail was very rocky. It is amazing that all this seemed to be hidden amongst trees. There were 3 guys way ahead out of sight and then I was near about 4 others. My pace was almost as slow or even slower than my training runs at Rock Bridge park due to extreme difficulty of this trail. Occasionally had to look up down or around to see the next blue marker but never got off course. Filled my bottle at the first aid station and may have eaten some peanuts, but didn't waste any time and I was off running again.
Several runners passed me and we kept passing back and forth for several miles until finally some of them went on ahead of me. I was feeling good other than felt like breakfast wanted to come back up for the first 8 miles. The course was beautiful with lots of limestone bluffs that we ran beside or in some cases ran in between. It was a fun place to run and almost seemed like running though a maze at some points with all the rock formations. Any places that were runnable, I picked up the pace and then slowed down when the course became more technical. It seemed like I was speeding up and slowing down a lot based on the condition of the trail and not so much the hills. I passed one of the guys that had been running ahead of me and pacing me so well before the turn around. I hesitated to pass since it was really easier to just follow someone but I needed to keep my pace and he was slowing.
I counted about 7 guys that had turned around with Brad leading the pack so I was in 8th place at the turnaround point. GPS had 15 miles, but I think it was slightly further. I picked up my 2 extra Accel gels and Succeed packets and filled my bottle. On the way back I got to see quite a few runners including Jeff that were headed to the turn around. There were 42 starters in the 50K so it was good to see a few people since otherwise I was running alone most of the way back. Also, saw a few runners from the 25K but never did see Lisa. At several aid stations, the volunteers would mention the next runner was only a minute or so ahead. At most of the aid stations, I had a small square of peanut butter and jelly sandwich and refilled the bottle. I always had my lid ready to come off and the Succeed ready to dump in and didn't spend much time since I find it is best to keep moving.
About mile 22 I slipped and fell but just got a little muddy and nothing hurt. I passed 4 people at different points even though I slowed a little. I felt good but didn't want to risk falling. I filled my bottle at the last aid station where the guys seemed to be having a good time with their own bottle. Not far to go and I was feeling strong and felt like trying to run faster. As careful as I was trying to be, I fell again about mile 27 and fell on my left side on some rocks. The front of my leg just above the foot was over a small log and left a scratch and the tissue was a little sore to the touch. Also side of my hip was a bit scratched up but not too sore. I got up and was still feeling good but trying to run too fast and fell again about mile 27.2.
The last few miles were really rocky so I just hoped not to fall again. I was relieved to finally see the ditch we had run across earlier and when I got to the road I passed a couple 25Kers that were walking. I kept going at a steady pace and then one of them catches up to me and is running pretty strong so I try to keep up. I finished pretty fast as I looked down and my pace was 7:20-something. They definitely knew we were coming at the finish line since they made a lot of noise with their noise-makers (see video below).
Lisa had finished her 25K in one piece and Jeff was about 1.5 hours out from the 50K. They had chili to eat but all I could drink at first were 2 cans of lemon lime soda. Then I had some chili and some of Krispy Creme donuts that Hugh had purchased. Once Jeff had finished I was ready to eat again. Overall I placed 4th out of 40 finishers, finishing in 5:35:18 (18 min behind Paul). The next runner was 7 min behind me. At the turnaround which wasn't quite the halfway point since we ran extra at the end, I was at 2:39 so I did slow about 15 min in the second half. This was the most challenging course I have run. This was the most challenging course I have run in the sense of trying to stay upright. It took a lot of concentration to not fall and I was glad to finish with no major injuries.
This race has a unique honor for the craziest called the "Hall-of-Pain". This is bestowed on any runner who runs and completes 10 consecutive FlatRock 50Ks. This honor means they are knighted into a brotherhood, and have a permanent cloth bib with their permanent race number, and lifetime free entry to do the 50K. Paul, the runner that finished before me earned this honor on Saturday. It is amazing that anyone would subject themselves to this course that many times. However, it is an awesome race so I can see why people would come back to run it again.
|From L to R: Brad (#1), Paul (#3) and Andy (#4) talking before the 50k. The numbers in parentheses are their finishing places|
|Andy, Lisa, and Jeff |
Picture of trail