Thursday, April 7, 2011

Brew to Brew Road Trip

Time to add another great racing/roadtrip weekend to the books... and honestly, this one was better than most, if not all of my big races to date.

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.

In possibly the most unorthodox preparation of all time for a runners first ultramarathon, she came into the race prepared with a stubborn disposition, and a longest training run of 8.3 miles under her belt. Fast forward to later that afternoon, and she had succesfully completed 44 long, hot, windy miles through Satan's blast furnace! I'm proud to officially welcome her to the club! With that kind of determination (and maybe some stupidity), it's only a matter of time before she's lined up for a 100 miler... and likely with a longest training run of less than 20 miles.

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.
  1. Excitement. It felt incredible leading the race and gave me a huge surge of adrenalin for the first few hours.
  2. (Nobody as far as the eye can see)
    (About a 3 mile lead at this point)
  3. I have a newfound hatred for wind. I don't even want to get started on it... so much pent-up anger.
  4. Rednecks in trucks trying to veer onto the shoulder to take out runners are plentiful in KS.
  5. 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.
  6. This is possibly the worst song to have stuck in your head for hours:

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)
With a mile to go Andy directed my attention to a bridge in the distance that signified the end of my suffering for the day. Apparently I was overdue for one more cruel and sadistic joke, and we discovered that the finish line location had been moved about a half mile away from where the race ended in '09, the year Andy won. I had nothing left in the tank mentally or physically, and had to walk for about a minute before finally running it in.

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.

Even when taking the Brew to Brew handicap structure into account, this time was good enough for the overall win and Kansas state ultrarunning championship title! Who knew there was such a thing?
(Kansas state champ... from Colorado)

To round out the whole experience, I was invited up to speak on behalf of the CF Foundation at the post race dinner. It was so surreal to have actually won a race to benefit CF, while having the disease myself. This excitement - and the few beers I'd had before going up there -  made it very easy to speak in front of a packed house.

After saying bye to Andy and Lizzie and getting a cat-nap in, the evening was spent with Natalee and Kristen, as well as fellow Colorado racers Dave, Geoff, and Andy. BBQ, beer, and video putt-putt golf kept us entertained, but we were all pretty gassed so we opted to save our big night on the town for Monday.

Monday was a pretty chill recovery day with the Indianapolis crew that consisted of frequent eating, limping around the Plaza shopping district and spending money, lots of whining from Natalee, meeting and interviewing with the local Mizuno rep, and fellow ultrarunner, Sophia Wharton (who provided me with the awesome shoe choices for the race), a short run, relaxing, more whining, watching the NCAA Basketball championship downtown, and then a little bar hopping. We were even able to teach the art of 'shaky-face' photography to some new people!

(Trained professionals, kids)

(Running long distances affects all differently)

(The seemingly gracious loser of the darts championship....)

(... stabbing me in the neck shortly thereafter)

So just in case you suspected I had a decent maturity level, I hope the above photos and story prove otherwise.

The drive home always seems longer than the initial trip. Amidst fighting off sleepiness, boredom, and extremely stiff legs from driving all day, I had the excitement of getting pulled over by yet another Kansas State Trooper. This time I was speeding, and swerving while playing on my phone. Surely I was overdue for my first Kansas ticket... nope. A written warning and I was on my way. Not trying to press my luck, I finally gave in and did the speed limit the rest of the way home.

1200+ total miles of driving was seriously improved with the addition of great new tunes. I stocked up last week and had 7 new albums to keep me company. Despite 3-4 which got major play-time, I think The Strokes newest takes top honors for being album of the trip. Here's the track that got me through:

Many thanks to my friends both old and new for being there last weekend! It was definitely the people that made this trip so awesome!


Beth said...

That race sounds pretty hellish, but congrats on your multiple PR's and win!!

I also like that the minors played right after the majors at the same field. What a fun double header (well, if you had seen the first game...)

brownie said...

All those words and not a single mention of either brewery? FAIL!

GaryB said...

Great race review. Congrats on the win on what sounded like a brutal day for ultra running

PatrickGarcia said...

Gotta side with JT on this one...

Big atta boy for the win though!

Brad Poppele said...

Nice race report! Congrats on the win! Catchy song!

Jim P. said...

Nice work out there, Brooks. I recognize the scene in the "homestretch" pic. That's the levee in Lawrence just before heading over the bridge over the Kansas River (and the last few blocks to Free State), right?

And, I have to add my "boo" for not at least giving props to Free State.

Finally, big props for not changing clothes before speaking at the CF banquet. Who says featured speakers can't smell like they just ran 44 miles?

Well done, man!

GZ said...

That hurl photo is pretty awesome.


Brooks said...

My bad, guys.

I tried so hard to not forget any of the events of the weekend that I completely forgot to mention the Breweries themselves!! (Probably because of the quantity of their product that has been in my system for days now...)

Free State beer gets credit for the lack of nerves when I spoke afterwards. I didn't have much Boulevard this trip, but I drink their sampler packs like they're going out of style all the time.

Yeah buddy, I agree! Maybe it will be my new photo at the top of my blog soon...

BLOS said...

Nice job documenting the shaky face though!

Baby monkey...

sophianchor said...

Proud of you! Great to meet you in person.

Brandon Fuller said...

I almost feel like I missed out. But it was Kansas...

Natalee said...

Dear Kansas's State Ultra runner of the millennium (or something like that),

It was an honor to race behind you but still with you. Thanks for the motivation and congrats on your finish. You, Sir, are a big deal.

Til next time *sigh*,

David said...

Sweet write-up Brooks, and it was fun hanging with you, Kristin & Natalee in KC after the race... Congrats again on the victory, and let's do it again soon!
~ David said...

Great job Brooks! You're an inspiration to all distance runners and especially to all those with CF! My son, who has CF, would like to meet you when you're at the LD 100 this August. I'll also be there, running my first 100 miler. Take care, Ray

Anonymous said...

you and natalee are totally an ultra item. the gossip column has it all covered.