I was able to finish packing and finally hit the road a little after 8:00 am for the 600 mile drive to Kansas City.
|(Fueled up and ready to roll)|
Not having planned this trip too well, I forgot about the time change and had to make up an hour in order to pick up friend, pacer, and runner extraordinaire, Andy and his lady-friend Lizzie, at the airport. Needless to say, I was not cool with the 70 mph speed limits and might have gone a little fast at times...
Friday afternoon I got pulled over near Manhattan, KS for...
... no front plate. There was a huge sigh of relief as the cop let me go without even an official written warning. It was shaping up to be a good weekend.
I arrived at the KC airport right on time at 5:30, and increased the size of the wolfpack from 1 to 3. The rest of the evening was super chill and included an easy 4 mile run to break up the stiffness of sitting in the car, as well as some beer and pizza with our host, Shelley. Around 10:00, Matt, the last member of our core group for the race, arrived.
Since it's a good idea to keep the time on your feet to a minimum before a big race, Saturday was the day of spectator sports. After a late breakfast and an early lunch, we started the festivities by going to watch Shelley's son, Josh, dominate at peewee soccer.
|(Don't let looks fool you. We are all children)|
This was followed by packet pickup. We had jokingly said there was going to be a life-size cardboard cutout of my likeness when we walked through the door... and there was! (Just kidding.) I got to meet the race director, Lou Joline, as well as a fellow CF patient who was volunteering with the race. It's really exciting to see more and more healthy individuals around my age with the disease.
Packets in tow, it was time to head to the Royals game (2 hours late) to see if we could still get tickets. The only advantage of showing up super late was the great parking options.
|(Our makeshift parking permit that got us into the VIP lot)|
We figured it would probably be in the 5th or 6th inning, which made $15 bucks a totally fair price to pay. After buying our tickets and getting inside, we discovered it was actually the 9th inning. Within 2-3 minutes the game was over... apparently the game started an hour earlier than we'd thought.
Thankfully, as we were feeling Royally ripped off (corny, I know) and leaving the stadium we caught wind of a 2nd game, and although minor-league, it was a pick your own seat format so we made our way behind home plate, grabbed some brews, and enjoyed the beautiful day.
After a great homemade pasta dinner, I hit the road for a couple final pre-race miles while the rest of the crew pre-drove the course. I called it a night around 10:00.
Sunday - Race Day
Race morning arrived quickly and my crew and I headed over to the race start at Boulevard Brewery around 5:30 to meet up with Natalee and company.
Anyway, back to the race. The first 5-6 miles are through an industrial district in downtown KC with a very 'rapish' feel to them. Due to the number of turns with underpasses to run under, over, and along, as well as the early morning darkness, Andy offered to pace me through these miles. He and I took the lead right out of the gate and followed a motorcycle escort for the first mile or so.
|(Taking the early lead)|
It was downright scary how easy a sub-7 minute pace was feeling, and I made it a point to remind myself that 44 miles is a long way and that I wasn't going to feel so hot all day. Regardless, the pace kept picking up through these miles, until I was sustaining miles in the 6:35 range. Through this first stretch, the only thing that had me a little concerned was the fact that it was already in the mid-60's, and the sun wasn't even up yet. It was gonna be a hot one!
For close to 30 miles the race is on paved roads and rural highways, which doesn't afford a lot of room to elaborate on the scenery. Instead, I'll talk about the thoughts and observations that were bouncing around in my head.
- Excitement. It felt incredible leading the race and gave me a huge surge of adrenalin for the first few hours.
- I have a newfound hatred for wind. I don't even want to get started on it... so much pent-up anger.
- Rednecks in trucks trying to veer onto the shoulder to take out runners are plentiful in KS.
- Fast splits. After about 20 miles, I realized I was going to be close to my marathon PR, despite a relatively moderate exhertion level. I ended up running just under 2:57 at 26.2, despite constant headwinds or hills from miles 20-26. My 50k time was approximately 3:33.
- This is possibly the worst song to have stuck in your head for hours:
|(Nobody as far as the eye can see)|
|(About a 3 mile lead at this point)|
Around the 50k mark there was a river crossing where we got to take a quick breather and a boat ride.
|(We're on a boat. Lonely Island would be proud)|
Then it was more of the same, except on crushed rock this time, which is like a Vitamix blender for the bottoms of your feet.
|(Miles and miles of this crushed rock...)|
This is also where the heat started to take a serious toll on me both physically and mentally. Combined with a badly cramping left leg, and sustained 40 mph headwinds, my wheels began to fall off. The course was all on rock or gravel from here to the finish, and also began to get hilly. Walking became the only option on some of the uphills, and around mile 35, my body revolted.
|(The calm before the storm)|
|(Pretty self explanatory)|
Until this point I was still hovering around Andy's course record pace (5:11), but it was now time to kiss that goodbye. After a few minutes getting my bearings and trying to get some determination back, Andy and I were soon running again. I had to sit down as we arrived at the last aid station (mile 39-ish) and dump water on my head while trying to figure out why I was feeling so disoriented. I couldn't tell if it was dehydration, or hyponatremia, I just knew my body was hating me.
Hitting the last levy stretch of the run, it was virtually impossible to even WALK at a decent pace due to the constantly increasing wind speeds. About 3 miles from the finish, I started running again.
|(The home stretch. 1.5 to go)|
Final time: 5:35.31. 1st overall.
20 miles - 2:13
26.2 miles - 2:57
50k - 3:33 (New PR)
Had I been extremely motivated, I could have run 6 more miles JUST for the sake of claiming a huge 50 mile PR, but I'd had my share of being miserable for one day.
|(Kansas state champ... from Colorado)|
|(Trained professionals, kids)|
|(Running long distances affects all differently)|
|(The seemingly gracious loser of the darts championship....)|
|(... stabbing me in the neck shortly thereafter)|