Flint Hills 50
April 15, 2017 — Manhattan, KS
I was unsure of myself heading into this race, as in many others. My training had lagged a bit due to being busy at work and with helping coach track and field this season at Shawnee Heights Middle School (Go, T-Birds!) But I learned in a big way that there’s something to be said for fresh legs.
I’ll say it right now: This is the smartest race I’ve ever run. Due to that and several other factors, so far it is perhaps my new favorite one as well.
I was almost five hours behind the overall winner and one hour, seven minutes and 24 seconds behind the person in front of me. But I tell kids all the time to just do their job and worry about themselves. For once, I did a good job of following my own advice. I simply ran my own race, and it felt great.
During the race, I texted Kami every hour with some updates — partially to help her know how I was doing, partially to aide in this very race report. So, here goes…
Only 18 signed up for the 50-mile distance, although there were two no-shows, leaving 16 of us at the start. Here’s me…
One thing I loved about this course was the breaking up of the route with two 25-mile loops, the three different one-mile-ish stretches of pavement each loop (total of about six miles of pavement) and more turns than the Heartland course I was more accustomed to.
After 1 hour — 5.25 miles; 15th place of 16
I was keeping a smart, steady pace and never really worried about other runners — at least until later on when I tried to avoid last place.
Ate a small chunk of banana at the aid station 4.35 miles into the race. Eating during a race is always something I’ve struggled with.
The official race photographer was out and about getting good shots all day. Here’s one of me at some point in the first couple of hours…
After 2 hours — 10.42 miles; 15th place of 16
Ate another chunk of a banana at Mile 10 aid station. Seriously, that’s all I ate? Sheesh, man, I got problems.
The rains were off and on early in the day, tough steady and fairly heavy at times through mile 10.5 or so.
I took this shot to send to my friend Lisa at Mile 14.5 after the rains had cleared but some clouds remained.
After 3 hours — 15.18 miles; 15th place of 16
Ate one cookie at Mile 12, then popped a Gin Gin candy shortly thereafter. That lasted until Mile 15.
It was during that third hour that I really started to feel soreness for the first time and the winds started picking up quite a bit. Pretty sure the gusts were in the 30s at certain points in the day.
After 4 hours — 19.45 miles; 15th place of 16
Dry heaved at Mile 16.3. It’s an odd thought, but I’m always thankful when this happens, as I really struggle with breathing during long runs and this somehow helps clear my air ways or something. Felt better immediately and kept going. This would happen three or four more times throughout the race.
Ate one Lemon Oreo, one piece of watermelon and drank one cup of Coca Cola at Mile 19.45 aid station.
After 5 hours — 23.4 miles; 15th place of 16
I don’t remember much of that stretch, which I’m taking as a good sign. I was ready to recharge a bit at the end of the loop and was already determined to run the second — versus being convinced I was quitting halfway through like I felt the last time I ran a 50.
Even as the sun came out and it began to warm up quickly, I found a way to stay upbeat for the most part.
One last mental boost before the end of the loop, as I crossed paths with a group of supporters who was clearly waiting on a particular runner. But they were friendly and enthusiastic, so what did I do?
Back at Green Valley Community Center, where the race started/finished, I recharged a bit. I applied some sunscreen, grabbed my shades, toweled off and changed my socks.
I also ate another chunk of banana, another Lemon Oreo, another piece of watermelon, a tiny sliver of turkey from a sandwich, drank another cup of Coca Cola in addition to my regular all-day intake of water and Powerade Zero (I alternated blue and purple).
Oh, and of course I grabbed a picture with my biggest supporter…
I left the start/finish area for my second loop after 5:28, giving me 7 hours and change to complete the second loop and beat my 50-mile PR of 12:55:39. I was feeling positive mentally and knew that if I stayed smart, I had it in the bag.
I was informed that three people had opted to drop out of the race, knocking the number of us still on the course down to just 13 for the 50-mile distance.
After 6 hours — 27.25 miles; 12th place of 13
The guy behind me was entering the start/finish area as I was leaving. He stayed a little less than I did, too, and continued to gain on me for the next couple of hours. I was convinced he’d pass me.
But as long as I stayed on pace to beat my best time, I genuinely did not care.
After 7 hours — 31.52 miles; 12th place of 13
Ate an Oreo and drank a cup of Coca Cola at the Mile 29.35 aid station. For the past several miles, I had been counting steps and walking hills. In my last 50-miler, when I was really struggling, experienced ultrarunner Ken “TZ” Childress encouraged me to run 200 steps and then walk. I did this off and on until very late in the race when I could only muster 100 — or sometimes 50 — at a time.
This sounds, and is, incredibly monotonous, but it helped keep me focused — and most importantly — it kept me moving forward.
After 8 hours — 35.28 miles; 12th place of 13.
Ate a piece of watermelon, drank a cup of Coke and drank some Sprite as well. I also snacked on some Sour Cream & Onion potato chips off and on during these late hours. Ah, salt.
Guy behind me was still on my heels, as he and his brother (his pacer) were now just a couple hundred yards or so behind me for the next few miles. I just knew he’d get me, but was doing my best to hold him off. That, too, kept me going.
After 9 hours — 39.05 miles; tied for 13th place of 13
The dude behind me was no longer behind me by this point, as he caught up to me at the aid station. The three of us — me, him and his pacer/brother, walked together for probably near half a mile or so. He said he’d be walking the rest, but I wasn’t sure if I believed him or not — despite him saying 50K was his previous long run.
Even still, his eventual finish time was still far under my previous best time. Great performance by him — and all the other runners out there in both the 50-mile and the marathon distances.
After puking up some nasty green goopy-looking stuff that was impossible to identify since I didn’t remember eating any algae, I again felt much better and took off. After being even at 39.5, I would eventually hold on to beat him by a little more than 15 minutes.
After 10 hours — 42.89 miles; 12th place of 13
Not by an exorbitant amount, but I covered more ground during my 10th hour than during my ninth or my eighth. Hey, that’s neat. Managed to stay focused and moving throughout the day. Big win for me.
Couldn’t get my iPod to turn on, so I had zero music all day long and only the last inning and a half of the Cubs game. Otherwise, it was just me and nature. And it was kinda awesome.
After 11 hours — 46.56 miles; 12th place of 13
Counting steps was still paying off, as I was really covering some ground with the whole run/jog/hobble-but-at-least-it’s-faster-than-walking thing.
I knew I was going to smash my PR, but the majority of that second loop was spent also doing math, trying to stay on pace to beat my PR by an hour. My previous PR was set at Heartland 50 in April 2015, and I hadn’t PR’ed in any distance in longer than I care to remember.
As I hit the pavement for the final time about a mile from the finish, I knew I had it unless I fell down and knocked myself unconscious — which wasn’t a given at that point.
Mission accomplished, though.
It’s always nice to cross that finish line in long races like this — especially feeling accomplished like I did. It’s no secret that I’m my own biggest critic, so it’s no small thing when I say I’m very happy with how this race turned out.
This was a great day and a sweet race that I’d definitely love to do again. Huge props to Race Director Adam Dolezal, who did a terrific job with this first-year race. I know he was excited to host this event in his hometown of Manhattan. I even got a shot with him after I finished.
And to top things off, I earned my first buckle. Even though it’s a common finisher award for ultra races, my other ultras have given different awards. So, yeah, first buckle for me. Sweet.
Now, with less than two weeks to prepare for this year’s Heartland 50 (9 days, 11 hours, 20 minutes at the time of this post), I need to shake off the soreness and get ready to do it all again — on a tougher, longer (almost 52 mile) course. Until then…
Because I’m a stats/numbers geek, let’s wrap this up with some numbers…
Mile 1-10: 11:29/mile
Mile 11-20: 13:25/mile
Mile 21-30: 14:57/mile
Mile 31-40: 15:43/mile
Mile 41-50: 15:45/mile
- 6, 205 calories burned
- 7th ultra finish
- 4th longest run ever (for now)