I’m not even sure how to start out this post. I keep asking myself, Where do I start? I think the best place to start is the race directors.

A section of the Rockin K course. I don't remember exactly where this was. Photo by Lisa.

A section of the Rockin K course. I don't remember exactly where this was. Photo by Lisa.

Phil and Stacy Sheridan were amazing, especially Stacy since I didn’t speak much to Phil since he was out running around making sure everything was running smoothly with the race. Gary had told me that these people were truly amazing, but I couldn’t fathom it until I actually got to meet them. Extremely friendly and are willing to give you whatever you need to help you succeed. This is one race that I will definitely do again, simply because of them. No question about it. That said, I highly recommend anyone in the Midwest (hint, hint, Rob!) to run this race because of them and the great environment they provide for a tough race. On that note, yes, this is said to be the toughest 50-mile course in the Midwest (coming from a finisher of the HURT 100 from Kansas). On that note, the toughest course, period. And I’m certain that anyone who has run this course will concur. I didn’t believe it for the first 14 miles or so, but I learned quickly after that. And I know many people reading this who are unfamiliar with Kansas will not believe this either because, well, this is Kansas. Believe me when I say that most of the course you swear to whatever God you believe in that you are in Arizona or New Mexico. If someone were to blindfold you and drop you off in that area and remove your blindfold, you would think you’re in one of those states. Simply beautiful, breathtaking, and physically demanding. These few photos do no justice to other parts of the course I’m referring to.

A broader view of a section of the course. Photo by Lisa.

A broader view of a section of the course. Photo by Lisa.


Another view of a section of the course. I think this was from the first manned aid station. Photo by Lisa.

Another view of a section of the course. I think this was from the first manned aid station. Photo by Lisa.

Lisa and I arrived in Ellsworth, KS later in the evening on Friday, which was a little later than I had wanted to arrive, but life got in the way, as usual. Because of the late arrival, I didn’t get the amount of sleep I would have liked, but it was fine. Plus, before a race or big event, I’m always sleeping “on the edge,” therefore, every time I woke up I thought it was time to wake up. Then I finally woke up at 3:15 a.m. and just stayed awake. It was hard to fall back asleep.

We left the hotel for the race a few minutes before 6. The directions were pretty straight-forward, but come to find out, it wasn’t that easy. Initially, I missed the turn for the State Park, since they never said that the sign will actually announce another park, not the one hosting the race. We turned around and luckily found the place in time. We were definitely cutting it close, but I still didn’t have to really rush. Checked in fine, saw a few of the Nerds, and then it was time for a quick briefing before the start of the race. I heard something about wind in the forecast but didn’t care much about it. After all, it’s wind. Who cares about some baby winds?

When we started, I started with Nick and Mark, fellow Nerds I often run with on Saturday runs. We decided we’d stick together for this thing at a nice pace. Nick was the only one with a Garmin, so we needed his pace report. Quickly into the run, we started seeing the New Mexico in Kansas. At times, it was hard to keep your eyes on the trail. It was the cliffs that had my attention. I really wish I had my camera on me. But I think Gary took care of that for me ;-). Soon after our beautiful view a few miles in, we had our first water crossing that was wide enough to get our feet wet. Nothing terrible. I thought the whole race would be this way and moved on with Nick and Mark.

Several more miles into it, I’d say between 5-7 miles, there was a crossing that was a bit more “real” than the first one. This was maybe knee-high. Wow, I thought. But I was happy since I was wearing my Drymax Trail socks. Some serious water. But my feet had ZERO problems. Again, I thought this would definitely be the worst of it all. Several miles later, we finally hit our first unmanned aid station (only water). I felt great, but I wanted to stretch just to be sure. Nick, and I think Mark, refilled on some water and we were off again on our way to the first manned aid station. At this point, maybe a little earlier, we noticed these “baby winds” were picking up. They were like a quick sucker-punch to the face followed by a few jabs. Not fun.

After that second water crossing, they just wouldn’t stop. At first they were sorta spread out, but it came to a point where they were a few minutes apart, or so it felt like they were. And these were all about the same depth (shin- to knee-high). The mud wasn’t bad at any point during the race, which was a huge advantage for all of us. The water, however, was pretty nasty in some places. You know, that nasty, stagnant water you find in woody areas? Yuck. It really smelled terrible, but it comes with the territory or running these races.

Getting close to our first manned aid station (which, by the way, wasn’t until the teens of running; approx. mile 14 or so), I was a bit worried whether Lisa would be able to drive to it. As we got close enough to see cars, I didn’t see her car which made me a bit more worried. But as we reached the aid station, I saw her outside Gate 6 snapping shots of us coming in. Boy was I relieved since I had some specific requests and I needed a refill on Nuun. Nick, Mark, and I refilled, quickly got our bearings, and were off again.

Photo from the first manned aid station. Photo by Lisa.

Photo from the first manned aid station. Photo by Lisa.


This is where we came in to the aid station from the course. This is a zoomed in shot of the one above. Photo by Lisa.

This is where we came in to the aid station from the course. Photo by Lisa.


Yours truly arriving at Gate 6, a.k.a. first manned aid station. Photo by Lisa.

Yours truly arriving at Gate 6, a.k.a. first manned aid station. Photo by Lisa.


Gary (orange cap) at Gate 6 aid station. He did a fantastic job in this race. Photo by Lisa.

Gary (orange cap) at Gate 6 aid station. He did a fantastic job in this race. Photo by Lisa.


Me at aid station 1. Check out the crazy hair! Ha! No, I'm in perfect position with the branches of the tree. Photo by Lisa.

Me at aid station 1. Check out the crazy hair! Ha! No, I'm in perfect position with the branches of the tree. Photo by Lisa.

It was around this area that we noticed the winds picking up. Okay, I’m not sure if anyone reading this has experienced heavy winds gusting between 40 and 45 mph. They are no joke. We were all getting knocked off course, that’s how powerful they were. There was actually a wind advisory in effect. When they were head winds, it was serious hell. I found myself exerting way too much energy in these situations. When we were lucky and the winds were behind us, you can literally feel as if someone’s simultaneously pushing and lifting you up. This helped when I was tired.

It was on this loop that we ran into the other Nerds, Coleen, Gary, Laurie, Debbie, and someone else I believe but I can’t remember. It was also on this loop that Nick, Mark, and I realized what Gary was talking about when he mentioned inclines. Goodness. These inclines are not meant to be run on, it doesn’t matter who you are or how good of a runner you are. Imagine going hiking in a hilly area and adequately preparing yourself for climbing. That’s what those hills looked like. Insane. There was a time where I passed a woman and I was passing her on my hands and feet, almost literally climbing the hill. It was ridiculous, my friends. Strangely enough, however, the descents were not bad at this point. But common sense told me that have to come at some point, whether sooner or later.

It was around this point when Mark took off with the girls and Nick and I ended up going to the manned aid station (the second time). Nick is a stronger runner, so it was nice to follow his pace at that point and throughout the race. Lisa was there again waiting at the gate to snap some shots. Took in my needed nutrients and refilled on Nuun again. Karen, Gary’s wife, was working the tent at the aid station. She was awesome. She asked what I needed and I ate a half of a potato and took some Hammer Endurolytes (Hammer sponsored this run, by the way. Thanks, Hammer!). At this point, we were pushing mile 20 or so. I was not doing as good as I was when I came to the aid station the first time, but I wasn’t horrible either. Lisa asked how I felt and I told her I felt my hamstrings tightening up. So as she refilled me and gave me nutrients, I stretched them out as best as I could, given that I only stayed at the aid station a few minutes. She later told me I was a bit disoriented at this point. I think I was trying to concentrate on this hamstring issue and what I was going to do about it. Nick had taken off with Mark and told me he’ll walk and wait for me as I was finishing up a few things with Lisa. I then ran out and caught up with them. Mark had taken off either by himself or with the girls, I don’t recall. So it was Nick and me once again.

Nick, me, and Gary coming into Gate 6 aid station for the second time. Photo by Lisa.

Nick, me, and Gary coming into Gate 6 aide station for the second time. Photo by Lisa.


Me checking into Gate 6 aid.

Me checking into Gate 6 aid.

About a mile out of the aid station I could feel the hamstring pain gradually getting worse. I took fluids, food, gels, endurolytes, and nothing seemed to work. We ran the flats and descents and walked the uphills. The uphill walks were getting more painful for me, as were the descents. The descents were getting fast at this point (I knew they had to appear at some point!). My body was perfect at this point, but the hamstrings I can tell were about to really do me some damage.

Nick was awesome and walked with me for a while, even at some of the flatter areas. I wanted to tough it out and not hold anyone back, so I pushed forward and told Nick to start running; I wanted to suffer a bit. We made it back to the unmanned aid station, stretched for a second and took off again. A little bit after this point, somewhere in the low 20’s of mileage, I could feel that lifting my legs to move up in elevation was becoming painful. Moreover, the winds at this point were hell, partly because at this point it was wide open fields in Kansas. We definitely hit gusts of 50 miles per hour and a lot of them were head-winds. I’m not talking a lot about these winds, but believe me when I say that they were pretty consistent throughout the race. I, personally, have never experienced such winds before while being outside.

As my hamstrings got worse, I did, however, get some relief when we reached a stream crossing. This baby was waist deep. No joke. And, seeing how it’s in the Midwest and it’s far from being consistently warm, it was pretty cold. But this helped my hamstrings. The almost freezing water was awesome for my legs. I came out of there wanting to go strong simply because my legs now felt better and also I wanted to warm up. Fortunately the weather was awesome that day (mostly sunny and 70ΒΊ–I got my first sunburn of the year!). At that point, we had several miles to go to get to the start/finish line. Those were some long miles on my legs. Nick and I pushed it a bit towards the very end (about a mile left or so) because some dude was trying to pull some stuff that we considered rude of him to pull. So I think we pushed our pace to about a 10-minute mile. We pushed it until the start/finish line we crossed in 5:50:XX and some change.

Me and Nick coming in. Slightly small to see, sorry. Photo by Lisa.

Me and Nick coming in. Slightly small to see, sorry. Photo by Lisa.


Coming home. Photo by Lisa.

Coming home. Photo by Lisa.

My legs, primarily hamstrings, were pretty spent from the course and the winds. I hate to report that I stopped at the marathon length, but it’s the truth. But, the good thing is that I again learned about myself, which is something I try to do in all things that require a lot from me, especially races where I tend to push myself. I’m not one to make excuses, so I’ll put it simply and bluntly: my body, again primarily legs, isn’t ready for a 50-miler yet. I had done what I signed up to do, which was good. I signed up for the marathon but later decided I wanted to do the 50-miler. Gary had recommended to just stay registered in the marathon and talk to the race directors letting them know that I may want to go out for another loop. The race directors allowed me to do this, so I prepped as I was going in it with 50 in mind. But I simply haven’t trained enough. There could be several reasons to this, but that’s probably the most honest answer with no excuses. Sure, the course was tough as nails and the wind was even worse. Could I have finished it if the winds were only blowing at 15 mph or the course was easier? Who knows. But that’s neither here nor there. As I’ve stated in previous posts that some of you may remember, I’ve really only been “seriously” running (trails) for three solid months (early January is when I started). It’s this reason why I say I just haven’t trained enough. But I’m not embarrassed by this. I really, really, wanted to do the 50 since I love nothing better than pushing my limits, but I knew when I finished the marathon that I didn’t have it in my legs. Just no way. The course was really tough and I’m happy with my performance in the marathon length and for even finishing the marathon length. Lisa had said to me that people often train for marathons in the length of time I’ve even been running, or sometimes longer. And many of those people are preparing for “easy” road marathons. I’ve got a 40-miler coming up in three weeks here in Lawrence (our Saturday running spot, so I’m very familiar with the course) that I’m really hoping to finish. The course is technical but much easier so I’m hopeful. I must admit, however, that I have a great feeling that this is my last marathon length race. Anything from this point onward will likely be an ultra. Let’s hope this is true with my first ultra in three weeks. I won’t let you all down. You have my word. I’m very positive at the moment because my recovery is coming along with awesome success. I’m relatively fully recovered. I hope this is a good sign.

After the race in shelter area with medal. Last marathon length for me. Memorable.

After the race in shelter area with medal. Last marathon length for me. Memorable.

I do need to extend a sincere thank you to Lisa, Nick, Mark, Gary, Karen, and the rest of the Nerds I came across who helped me run a successful race. I feel I have let all of you down in some way by not running the 50, but I promise you next year I’ll run it. When it’s physically not possible, it’s not possible. Lisa was a life saver in her support and help at the aid stations making sure I was taken care of properly. I couldn’t have made it through this race without her support. Nick and Mark were awesome “pacers” for me. I couldn’t have done this as well as I did without Nick. Thanks, bro. And you killed it out there. I look forward to our 40 together. And Mark, I heard you murdered it out there as well. Nice work. You two are awesome friends and excellent runners that know how to push me a little farther each time.

My finishers medal. According to Stacy, this is a horseshoe that has been used! I could have had an unused one, but what's the fun in that?

My Kansas Ultrarunner Society (KUS) finishers medal. According to Stacy, this is a horseshoe that has been used! I could have had an unused one, but what's the fun in that?

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