Sunday, April 08, 2007

Rockin' K: 6-inches of Snow, Camping at 15 Degrees F

Wow. The Rockin' K trail Run.

Every year that I've shown up for this race, the weather has always been a factor. We've had "the wind year," the "rain year," the "heat years" and now the "snow year." Record cold temperatures made for an interesting trail run, and a fun time camping, too.

Kyle, my son and I decided to carpool to the run and camp out. We left about noon on Friday. Kyle had trained well and was looking for a decent race. Matt was going out to just get away from town, and to help crew us during the run. I was just looking to finish the damn 50-miler for once, rather than opting for the marathon option (like I have for 3 tries in a row). I haven't completed the 50 for 4 years. It's usually due to a pre-existing injury or illness, but this year I went to the race feeling fit and fine, for once.

Many Trail Nerds showed up for the race. The list was large:

50-Mile Starters:
Kyle "Famous" Amos
Greg "LeCompton Gee" Burger
Gary "Dam" Henry
Bad Ben
Willie "Ya Shoe, you betchyou" Lambert
Rick "Hyperbolic" Mayo
Paul "Chatterbox" Schoenlaub

Trail Marathon Starters:
Gabe "Buff" Bevan
Ed "Silver Bullet" Payne
Josh "by Gosh" Pool
Sarah "Forgiven but Still" Sinning
Krista & Richard "Cutest Couple Ever" Stigall
Julie "Swiftfoot" Funk

Caleb "Gumby" Chatfield
Matt "Coffee Whore" Holmes

Caleb is recovering from an injury, so in lieu of running, he was pitching-in to help Phil Sheridan at the main aid station. He's a true-hearted Trail Nerd. You can always count on Caleb to help out, whether or not he's running in a race. His dad Lonnie is always a big help, too.

My son and I took Friday off from work. We loaded up the rig, and Kyle showed up around noon. After a couple of in-town diversions, we rambled off on our 3-hour westward jaunt to Kanopolis State Park. Around Salina or so, we started noticing this weird white stuff on the side of the road. SNOW!!! There had been record cold temperatures, and it had snowed in this part of Kansas. We also found out when we arrived at the park, that it had snowed 6 inches on our course! This added an extra ingredient to the mix, for sure.

A preview of our course from the car window.

Sunset. Photo by Matt Holmes.

We were once again fed a delicious spaghetti dinner by Stacie Sheridan and her daughter, and had our little "trail talk" from Phil. After some good conversation, we decided to hit the rack and check out how cold the tent was going to be that night. I think we all slept okay, but I did have to get up at one point and put on another layer, and lay my coat on top of my sleeping bag. I also had a chance to see the stars in all of their glory that night, and listen to the coyotes sing.

The next morning I awoke with ice on the outside of my sleeping bag (from my breath). Must've gotten real cold. Actually, it dipped to 14F, that night. Kyle and I got ready and went through our normal pre-race routines. I decided to wear a thin layer of Capilene long underwear under my shorts. I might regret it later, but I could always take them off...right? We got up to the start/finish shelter early enough to find a close spot to park the Element. After another "Phil talk," we were off.

And we're off! Photo by Matt Holmes.

The course started out with the breaking of new snow, and the mud was frozen solid, so there wasn't much slipping going on. I got into a nice pace and held it. I ran with Willie and Julie from Topeka for a while, and had a good time talking with them. At a couple of early (low) water crossings, I pulled up my thin layer of long underwear to my knees. Willie asked if I was wearing "men's Capri's" at one point. I told him that I was a trendsetter, and he should probably carry them in his Topeka Running store. When we got to the manned aid station for the first time, I got to see Caleb. He was helping all of the runners. I opted for a little bit of mashed potatos, and they hit the spot, believe me.

From the aid station we went out toward the "Big Bluffs" loop. On the way there, we had to straddle some barbed wire fence, and slog through some 20-inch high drifted snow. Big Bluffs. As Gary "Dam" Henry describes in his race report, this section consisted of "three gnarly ascents in a short distance that require you to pull yourself up with your hands, using rocks, trees and cuss-words." Going down the hills requires some finesse, in this section. The views and scenery in this section were awesome, though.

After Big Bluffs, you head back in to the only manned aid station. Caleb fixed me up with some mashed potato and noodle soup. Once again, it hit the spot. Heading out from there, the course started to thaw in the sun. Sections were now getting slick with mud and fresh snow melt. In one of the downhill sections, I slid for about 10 feet (but stayed upright), and came to an abrupt stop with my right foot on a big, dry rock. My right foot could not be bent without pain, from that point on. I thought, "great, 8 miles to the main shelter, and my right foot doesn't work." From that point on, I tended to favor my other foot more, since I had no push-off with the right. I slowed considerably. Somewhere along here, Julie "Swiftfoot" Funk passed me like I was a rock or tree. She was finishing very strong indeed, in her first-ever marathon! (What a 'thon to pick for a first). Gary Henry, Dann Fisher, and Bart the Ultra-Dog passed me about there, also.

One of many water crossings. Photo sent by Gabe Bevan.

The last few miles have some interesting water crossings. The deepest one hit me slightly higher than my belly button, (and I'm 6-feet, even). It's also tens of yards across, and has shoe-sucking mud on the bottom that feels a lot like quick sand. I knew it was coming, so I was mentally prepared for it. I was still fearful that with the combined cold of the water and air, my "body parts" might retract like landing gear into my body, never to be seen again. To hell with "shrinkage," this was "private parts terrorism."

Gabe crosses "the deep one." Photo sent by Gabe Bevan.

After that crossing, I knew that I was only 2 miles from the finish. My foot had stopped hurting entirely (due to being completely numbed by the cold), so I could manage a fairly decent pace again. I ended up running in with 3 others, and finished the marathon in 5:45 or so. I thought about continuing on another loop to complete the 50-miler, but after taking my right shoe off and checking the functionality of my foot, I decided to cut my losses. (As it warmed up, it hurt like hell). The rest of me was fine though, so fitness wasn't an issue. It was a good decision. I have a busy running schedule, and I don't want to jeopardize myself pacing my buddy Patrick at Western States, this year...especially since he's funding my trip there.

I hung around the finish line and got to see the 50-milers finish. Tom McCullough (sp?) was 1st, and Paul Schoenlaub was 2nd, overall. Kyle was a little further back, but had a decent run. Ed had left me two "special" beers at our campsite. I sipped those while watching runners come in.

Julie Funk Finishes her first marathon and looks Stong! Photo by Matt Holmes.

Kyle Finishes the 50-Miler. Photo by Matt Holmes.

Dann and Bart. It was Bart's first 50-miler. Photo by Matt Holmes.

My son drove Kyle and me back to town. We stopped in Salina along the way at a restaurant called "Nacho Mama." Of course, we had to order nachos! We also stopped at a gas station, where my son remarked to Kyle that running from the car to the station's door was probably the only footrace he could beat Kyle in, due to his haggard condition at the time. Some tunes and comedy kept us awake for the drive home.

Once again, despite all of the difficulty, this is one of my favorite races to run. What makes it special is the Sheridan family, KUS, and the volunteers. And as an added bonus, the course is beautiful and challenging, as well

Happy trails,
Bad Ben

Tres Nerdos Amigos: Rick, Gabe, Caleb. Photo by Matt Holmes.

The Shelter's Fireplace. Photo by Matt Holmes.


robtherunner said...

I am sure you will get that 50 mile finish again one of these days. I have had creek crossings in summer races, but those must have been brutal. Looks like you had a great time nonetheless.

Ben, aka BadBen said...

Well, I've at least had a 100-mile finish in the last couple of months. It was a good time.

Dirt Runner said...

You shouldn't look at it as not finishing the 50 miler again but keeping a marathon streak alive.

Kim said...

Wow, great race report and pics! You have some really nice races out your way. I guess that water crossing would help with the ankle pain (while still frozen.)

Travis said...

what a miserable looking race, awesome!!! It's pretty early in the season, so no need to over-do it this soon. Great pics.. Oh and avoiding "landing gear" trauma is crucial!

D said...

I've got one word for you, Ben: BRRRRRRRRRR. I can't imagine going through all that water during a 50 miler (I can't imagine at this point even doing a 50 miler) or during a marathon especially in those temps. You guys are hard core. Great photos. Smart choice on doing the marathon instead of the 50. Better to finish the shorter distance and then be able to continue training than go for the 50 and be on the sidelines for the next couple of weeks/months.

olga said...

That water crossing looks brytaly cold!!! I wouldn't even enter that race:) The marathon finish is all good, it's a finish by Maniac standards anyway. Brr...

Rae said...

Wow!! What a race! Excellent job in some tough conditions! Great photos, it looks like a blast!

Loomdog said...

Whats up BEN!!!!!!!!!! Man, its been a long time. Nice blog. I remember you telling me about it back in 2004 was it? Anyway I too am now in blogger land. Currently I'm in Egypt but hope to be back stateside in 2-3 months. I hope to come back to Heartland for a finish one of these years....but not if its 15 and has water crossings. AWFUL! Take care,
Greg Loomis

Loomdog said...

Hey BEN! its been a long time! I finally found your blog again. Great stuff and man you are still just as tough and crazy. I am in Egypt by the way, but still have fond memories of meetin gyou at RR years ago. Take care,
Greg Loomis

Gabe said...

Hey Ben, I hope you plan on providing a little more heat at Free State. I think it's a blast that Matt comes to some of those races with you. I hope my kids want to do that when they are that old too.

Caleb said...

I was cold just watching everybody come into the aid station. Anybody that was out there had "Balls of Solid Rock" in my opionion!! Get that stone bruise healed up and get ready for WS!!!!

Ben, aka BadBen said...

Yes, it's great to maintain a good relationship with your kids. My son could have bagged-it when he saw the weather forcast, but instead came, anyway. He's pretty darn special.

The foot felt better after the "mud run" last night. I iced it (for good measure) when I got home, though.
I think I just need to give it more activity (within reason) to help it heal. I'll run tonight, take Friday off, run short on Sat, and try a long run on Sunday. We'll see how it feels on Monday. I'll be doing the alternating ice-then-heat therapy, the rest of the week.