Race report: Flint Hills 50

Flint Hills 50

April 15, 2017 — Manhattan, KS

Place: 12/13

Time: 11:52:57

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Race shirt + bib courtesy of Manhattan Running Co.

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…

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Before starting my third 50-miler.

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…

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Photo courtesy: William Layton Photography

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.

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The Flint Hills never disappoint.

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.

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Selfie on the course.

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?

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I took a selfie with them.

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…

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She’s my favorite.

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.

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11:52:57 (New PR)

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.

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The company when I’m done isn’t too bad either.

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.

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Thanks for a great race, Adam.

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.

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50 mile buckle.

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)

Race report: Journey for Sight 10K

Topeka Lions Journey for Sight 10K

April 1, 2017 — Topeka, KS

Place: 3/8

Time: 47:47

In just my third race of the year, I ran a small, local 10K at the Combat Air Museum here in Topeka. This was my fourth race in town since moving here 10 months ago — my second on this course.

It was nearly my smallest race ever, with just eight of us participating in the 10K. I was told it used to be a big event, put on by the Topeka Lions Club. The event, among others they have, went towards helping provide eye glasses to folks who couldn’t otherwise afford to see. So, good cause and all that.

Let’s be honest here, their advertising for the race was essentially nil. I didn’t mind. I’m a small town kid; I like the small ones.

Despite the low turnout (there was 20 or so in the 5K) I knew an overall wasn’t likely, as there was one guy who you could just tell was super fast. And I haven’t been in 10K PR shape for quite some time. But I’ve got two 50-milers later this month, so I really just wanted to get out there and have fun running a short race.

Sure enough, fast guy took off like a shot, breezing by me about 10 steps in. He was probably in his mid-20s and finished in 35:something — a time I wouldn’t have sniffed even 40 pounds ago.

Another fellow passed me a little under a mile in. For awhile, I thought maybe I’d keep up with him, but he wound up beating me by a minute or so. The remainder of the race was basically trying to keep my pace steady and hold off the guy behind me.

I managed to do both, finishing in a not-fast-but-fast-enough-to-make-me-sore pace, coming in third place overall and first in my age group — though I was likely the only one in it.

Nothing super noteworthy about this event, but I had a good time and got in some good conversations, a neat medal and a post-race brownie. Good enough to keep me happy. I’m a simple person, y’all.

If they continue to have this event, I’d do it again. One guy suggested he’d be surprised if it continued. I maintain their primary issue was advertising. They didn’t update the event info for this year’s race until only a few weeks ago. That’s not going to get you many participants. But whatever — good day for me, anyway.

That’s pretty much all I’ve got for this one. Here’s a couple pictures, the end.

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Bib and medal.

10K 1

Taking off from the jam-packed start line. The crowds were intense, folks.

10K 2

Dude in white beat me by a good 12 minutes. But here I am, sorta almost looking like I’m ahead of him, but not really.

Race report: Chocolate Rush Half Marathon

Chocolate Rush Half Marathon

February 4, 2017 — Olathe, KS

Place: 80/215

Time: 1:58:45

After a five week stretch of running at least 5 miles or more every day (though mostly treadmill miles), my ankle was slowly feeling a little bit stronger heading into this one.

The Chocolate Rush Half Marathon took place in Olathe, starting and finishing on the campus of Mid-America Nazarene University.

Another cold race, similar to the one I did on New Year’s Day, five weeks earlier. This one was windier, however, which made it that much less desirable for most folks. But the course was a good one and mostly flat, which suited me just fine.

I decided to start with a pace group for the early miles, which I never do. If I’m being honest, talking — or listening — when I run. Well, to strangers, anyway. Maybe I just don’t do small talk well. I enjoy running with friends. But when a stranger tries to chat my ear of during a race? I’m not all about that life.

Anyway, I stuck with the pace group for most of the first 6 miles or so and kept them in sight through about mile 9 or 10. I sprinkled in bits of walking the last few miles, as my recent head cold had made it tough to breathe in spurts — although not nearly as bad as I’d expected.

But my lungs worked harder than the rest of me seemed to throughout this one, as my legs, feet (ankle included) and brain all felt pretty good following the race.

Since I’ll likely never PR this distance again as long as I live, I really just wanted to run fairly consistent and finish sub-2 hours, if at all possible.

Once I lost sight of the pace group, that plan was in jeopardy, but I managed to keep my walk breaks brief and stay on track, coming in just under the two hour mark.

I did visit a little with a girl over the last few miles who said this was her first half marathon. She is a soccer player at MNU, who was talked into running by some teammates. After going together for a bit, then alternating leads between the two of us, she finished strong, just ahead of me.

My splits were good early and tapered off late. Still managed to maintain a sub-9 pace overall with an 8:58 through 13.24 miles.

8:44 | 8:30 | 8:15 | 8:17 | 8:23 | 8:12 | 8:38 | 8:34 | 8:55 | 9:41 | 9:55 | 10:13 | 10:22

Factor in the sweet, chocolatey food at the post-race festivities, this was an event I’d definitely do again.

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Race swag + my pink-laced kicks. Loved the medal from this race, not to mention the post-race chocolate.

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Hold up real quick, lemme pose for a second.

Race report: Hangover Half Marathon

Hangover Half Marathon

January 1, 2017 — Leawood, KS

Place: 72/250

Time: 2:07:09

For the fourth year in a row, I ran a race on New Year’s Day. In 2014, it was the Hangover Half Marathon in Wichita. In 2015, it was the Last Run/First Run 10K combo in Lincoln. Last year, back to the 13.1 in Wichita.

But this year, after moving to Topeka this spring, it was the Hangover Half Marathon in Leawood/Overland Park. This one is a lot more low-key than the one in Wichita. At a cost of just $20, there wasn’t much complaining to be done. I got 13 miles and change out of the deal, plus a knit cap and an event pint glass. Not too shabby.

Oh, and some free race photography. Here’s Kami and I hanging out before the race at the KC Running store:

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With our matching Cubs World Series hoodies and all.

With the nagging ankle injury hounding me since the DNF at Heartland 100 on October 8 (almost three months earlier), I hadn’t done a lot of outdoor running since then, minus a couple for-fun 5K events and so on. So, this was a test.

The ankle held up fine, I suppose, although it’s more sore the day after than I’d hoped it would be. I’ll get back to the treadmill for the foreseeable future — seemed to help the past few weeks.

As it turns out, I was probably only ready for about nine miles or so, and certainly wasn’t prepared for hills — I rarely am. What I got, though, was 13.31 miles and a few nasty hills that left me cursing under my breath a time or two.

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After I jokingly scoffed at the race photographer for popping up at mile 11.5, I tried to force a smile.

I held a decent pace for the first 5-6 miles and had hopes of running a goal marathon pace and finishing in the 1:54 – 1:56 range. But once the unexpected hills popped up, I knew that wasn’t happening. I became frustrated with myself and my progress (or lack thereof) for the next few miles.

But for the final couple of miles, despite the soreness, I decided to just be grateful for the miles and the excuse to get the heart beating a little faster to kick off a new year. Results will come later, I figure. This wasn’t a race I came into aiming for speed anyway.

So, all things considered, I’ll call it a good day.

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Crossing the finish line. I then helped clip off other runners’ chips. Not to be generous — I just wanted an excuse to sit in the open chair.

I like the half marathon distance. Whether I’m in race shape or 30 pounds over my ideal weight, it’s a distance that is long enough to force me to work hard, but short enough the soreness doesn’t generally last more than a day or two, max.

Obviously if I’m racing, I prefer the ultras (50-milers at the moment), but for just a getaway/experience type of event, this will do. Especially at $1.50 per mile.

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Pre-race selfie + race swag and logo.

Race report: Heartland 100

Heartland 100

October 8, 2016 — Cassoday, KS

Place: DNF

Time: –:–:–

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Pre-race, Heartland 100.

I was ready for this race — until I wasn’t. I dropped out of my first 100-mile race after 58.1 miles, but the October 8 DNF could have easily been a DNS due to a pretty gross September 10 ankle injury. See injury below:

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The ankle.

It honestly did feel a lot better prior to race day. Fastest healing I’d ever done, I told people. Maybe it was the gradual pounding on the gravel roads of the Flint Hills. Maybe I shouldn’t have tried in the first place. I dunno. But I’m paying the price since race day.

Sure, I have fleeting moments where I tell myself “You should have kept going. You should have gone until it fell off.” But let’s be honest — that would have been beyond dumb. Some long-term healing is needed at this point.

On to the race.

It was chilly early, but when the sun began to rise, the stunning views made it difficult to feel any pain or have any negative thoughts. I love Kansas.

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The Flint Hills at sunrise, ladies and gentlemen.

After the 8.5 mile aid station, the hills get bigger and longer until the next aid station at 17. I knew this, however, having finished the spring 50 each of the past two years. I still felt decent heading into that 17th mile and beyond.

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One of my favorite shots of the day. Pretty sure I look tougher here than I felt.

My beautiful wife (and crew) Kami, did a tremendous job all day long and in to the night, as I expected she would. My other crew member (and pacer) Melissa was invaluable, as well. They were there for me when I needed them most. They almost had me convinced at mile 58 to go another stretch to the next aid station (64). Mentally, I was still in it. Emotionally, I was as prepared as possible to go the full 103+ or whatever it wound up being.

Physically, I was finished. My foot just couldn’t take the pounding any more.

I actually considered quitting at mile 25, when my foot/ankle acted up a bit and I was struggling to breathe — same song, different verse with that one.

But they convinced me to keep going.

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The view from last place was actually super peaceful. Then I said “F this” and took off, passing a handful of runners over the next 5 miles.

I struggled until about 28. That’s when I hit a groove. I’m not sure what got into me, but I was probably a solid half-mile or more back in last place when I picked off seven or eight runners over the next few miles. I moved surprisingly well until hitting another wall around mile 34.

I again considered tossing the towel at mile 37, when this picture Melissa took summed up my feelings perfectly.

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Mile 37 feels.

Here’s another from that same aid station, after changing clothes. Had to work on the ankle a bit here…

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Kami works on my ankle while I attempt to eat some food for once.

I made it solo to mile 43, where I was allowed a pacer. Melissa joined me for those next 15, but it wasn’t more than 3 or 4 before I knew I was in trouble. I did get a small boost or two while listening to the Cubs NLDS Game 2 victory over San Francisco, which is probably the only reason I don’t look completely miserable here…

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Listening to the Cubbies near mile 47 or so.

All in all, yes — I’m immensely disappointed with how this race turned out. But given my fitness level (I’ve gained back the majority of the weight I lost when I started running in the first place) and the relatively short turnaround after the ankle injury, I’m not sure what else I could have reasonably expected.

Though I’m upset with how I did and the circumstances that unfolded, there’s not a doubt in my mind that shutting it down was the right call. Each step I take, I wonder if maybe I should have shut it down sooner. But I live to run another day — eventually.

I love the Heartland course, and I will be back. Perhaps at the 50, perhaps for the 100 again. Who knows. Either way, until next time, Cassoday…

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This place is something else, you guys.

Race report: Winged Foot 10K

Winged Foot 10K

September 24, 2016 — Topeka, KS

10K #17

Place: 20/47

Time: 57:14

This was my second race since moving to Topeka — both 10Ks. Took 20th place overall in both; what are the odds? As it was part of the Kansas Chocolate Festival, we got M&Ms in our packet, which was pretty cool. No shirts as we signed up late, but we have too many goofy race shirts anyway.

I went the first 5K loop with Kami as we kicked off our anniversary weekend, then the last part solo as she finished the 5K in 33rd out of 93.

But this race was really just a test for my ankle, which I had injured badly two weeks prior. Kami and I took it easy those first three miles, though our pace was still faster than I’d gone since the injury — 9:18, 10:18, 10:05 splits for our miles together.

Didn’t anticipate speeding up, but threw on the headphones and took off. Ankle loosed up and I felt good the rest of the way. While I didn’t set any records, my second half splits of 8:49, 8:16, 8:15 were quite the happy surprise.

While Kami placed second in her age group for the 5K, I took third in mine for the 10K and wouldn’t you know it, they only gave medals to the top two in each category. No worries; I’m not a big medal guy anyway, especially when I don’t feel like I’ve actually accomplished something noteworthy.

As I rapidly approach Heartland 100 on October 8, I needed this race for the simple purpose of seeing what my ankle could handle. Let’s face it, even my slowest of those 10K splits will be faster than any mile at Heartland.

This is a race I could definitely do again. Despite the size of this city, this event was on an airport/air force base and was a cool, low-key atmosphere. I like it.

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Winged Foot 10K for me, 5K for her

Race report: Cauldron Run 10K

Cauldron Run 10K

July 9, 2016 — Pretty Prairie, KS

10K #16

Place: 20/-

Time: 55:17

This was my first race in Topeka since moving here on May 31. I wasn’t remotely ready for a 10K with all my long distance training. The nasty humidity didn’t help matters either. But it was nice to feel a race environment again, even if I wasn’t “racing” myself.

The race took place as part of the Sunflower State Games at Lake Shawnee, where I do probably two-thirds of my running. I like it over there.

I had a few walk breaks, which felt silly in a 10K, but like I said — I wasn’t prepared for fast running. Went out hard in Mile 1 (go figure) and the humidity hit hard.

Had to keep reminding myself I wasn’t there for a fast time.

Regardless, I still found a way to take second in my age group and get a sweet medal. It was a fun day all around, as Kami and I took off immediately after the race to coach a 6U soccer team we’d got roped into coaching since I couldn’t get a parent to volunteer at work.

We then spent our evening and ensuing afternoon participating in the mixed double tennis competition for the SSG. It was our first ever time playing tennis.

How did it go? We stunk. And it… was… awesome. We had a great time, despite the heat. I’m sure we’ll participate in another event or two next year, whether it’s tennis or not.

As for the Cauldron Run event, I can’t think of a reason why I wouldn’t do it again. It’s a location I enjoy for a good price with neat medals and a good atmosphere. Oh, and snacks.

Cauldron Run 10K

My cool medal and bib — and the shirt that I have two of but will never wear. Stop it with the white shirts, folks.