Sunday, February 22, 2009

Back to the Scene of the Crime

I went back to WyCo Lake Park yesterday and ran the Psycho WyCo loop. The trail was frozen hard and I discovered that my feet are still tender (read horribly bruised) from the twenty miles last weekend. By the time I finished, I was walking and whining. I tried not to whine too loud though because WyCo whiners are buried in shallow unmarked graves. I came home, iced my feet and watched Big 12 basketball.

While approaching "Fall Down Hill" I came across Ben and Jim who were out marking new trail. Ben explained that they are closing some sections that are eroding and replacing them with new. Sounds like there will be volunteering opportunities for trail building and maintenance.

When I finished, there were two bald eagles working the west side of the park. They are gorgeous birds. At one point, they came in for a low pass and I got to see them from no more than 40 yards away. Wow! A red tailed hawk decided to chase them away. I'm not sure how THAT works, the hawk being about half their size, but it was successful. The last I saw of the eagles, they were circling high toward the Missouri river. I wonder if these eagles nest in the vicinity. I will ask one of the rangers next time I'm there.

Monday, February 16, 2009

2009 Psycho WyCo, Run Toto, Run!
20 Mile Race Report

First things first. The KC Trail Nerds are an outstanding bunch. All you have to do is show up and Trail Nerds will go out of their way to make you feel welcome. During group runs, they will wait for you if you are slow. Some will back track and check on you if you're real slow. And generally act as though their happiness depends solely on your personal well being. Thanks to all the KC Trail Nerds that made this race, the dozen or so other races and fun runs as well as the 10+/- weekly training runs possible. Proud to be a Nerd!

I arrived at the race too late to get a prime parking spot but the walk/jog down to the ranger station was a good way to get warm and loose. I said hello to various and sundry fellow Trail Nerds and found Beth and Colleen (#2) from the world famous Alternate Chili Run Turtle Group. Erica, whom I had run a loop with a few weeks ago, joined us and said she would like to run along. When I explained that I would be going “painfully slow” she said, “That’s okay, I just want to finish without crying.” She did.

Some one must have said go because we proceeded across the bridge and headed for the woods. I started out at the back of the pack because, well, it would have been demoralizing to be passed by all 300+ entrants before reaching the woods 200 yards away. I vowed not to run up any hills until I was good and warm and I kept my promise. By the time we reached any significant downhill sections, I was ready to rock a little. I told Beth I’d be waiting for her at the finish and Erica and I moved ahead.

I actually passed some people during the next mile or so. A fact I attribute to gravity and a total disregard for my personal safety. I note this because it happened so rarely. As we crossed the road on the approach to the Wyandotte Triangle, I noticed one of my shoes was untied and told Erica to go ahead. I could hear the cowbells and cheers from the Triangle aid station long before I got there. Have I mentioned that KC Trail Nerds rule! A couple of folks let me pass at the top of the Triangle. I could tell by the white showing around their iris that there was no way they wanted to be below me if I got out of control. Good plan. I made pretty good time through the Triangle in spite of it being just a little slick in spots. As I was coming up one of the last switchbacks, I saw Erica hit the straightaway back on the bridle trail. I shouted: "Erica! Go! Go! Go!” That was the last I saw of her.

Soon (by my standards) I arrived at the top of Fall Down Hill. So, I fell down. Flat on my back, with a leg pinned under me, at a slow walk, I fell down. That’s when I figured out that the dry looking bare dirt spots were slick as snot. I picked myself up and tiptoed the rest of the way to the bottom. I was passed a time or two on the dam because, well, it’s not down hill!

After grabbing a cup of coffee at the dam aid station, I caught up with Jackson Jones walking the paved section. I asked him how far he was going and he replied in a very matter of fact way: “Just ten miles, twenty’s too far.” Jackson is the most awesome 9 year old Trail Nerd in the universe.

Sadly, Speed Demon Ridge was too slick to stampede down in my usual wild abandon. But, I still made decent time to the top of the steep gully that goes to the bottom of the ridge. At this point I fell down again. Flat on my back, at a slow walk, I fell down again. It is hard for my brain hold onto the fact that I shouldn’t step on the dry looking bare dirt spots. To make a long story short (well not quite so long) I fell down three more times before escaping Fester’s Wander. The trip from the archery range to the Amos Family aid station was uneventful.

At the aid station I said hi and thanks to everyone I could. Got my bottle filled. Grabbed some salty snacks and hit the trail all in about 20 seconds. Gary Henry was gathering volunteers for a group picture. Stacy Amos asked: “Will we see you again today?” I replied, “Absolutely!” Kyle Amos told me that since I marked it, I should know the trail from here.

On the way through the three hills section, I passed a young lady and asked how far she was going today. When she said, “10 miles” I told here she was almost done. She said, “Thank God!” I don’t think she was having as much fun as I was. Soon I passed through the gate at the end of my first loop in about 2 ½ hours. Ben told me to keep moving “No beer for you.” Someone filled my bottle. Vickie Holmes pointed out the boiled potatoes and salt. I grabbed a pack of fruit chews and started loop number two. I was afraid to stop for fear I wouldn’t start again.

Loop number two was more of a mental game than actual race strategy. After all, the only person I was racing was me. I arrived at the Triangle again to more cheers and cowbell. I handed off my bottle and took off down the hill. Oh no! The Triangle had turned to mud! Luckily there were strategically placed trees that helped me turn the corners until I could adjust my speed. Before I got out of the Triangle, a couple of the 50K racers lapped me including Trail Nerd Rick Mayo. That guy is so nice he tripped and practically killed himself just to make eye contact when I said “Hi”. Great job Rick! Second overall! Got to the top of the Triangle, grabbed my bottle, downed a half cup of sport drink (had a cup in my pocket), and was told I had nice straight section that I could “Hammer!” Well I didn’t feel much like hammering anything at this point but the notion that someone would say that to me tickled me so much that soon I was running and singing: “Swingin’ a nine pound hammer all day, workin’ for the state, the rent’s all paid.” I got a big lift out of every aid station. Thanks again.

I got to the bottom of Fall Down Hill without falling down. Across the dam and got some more aid in the form of pretzels and sports drink. Negotiated the pavement and took off down Speed Demon Ridge at a pretty good clip since it had thawed enough to give better traction. As I was going down I passed a runner who had turned (broken?) his ankle and was on his way back to the road. I stopped long enough to be sure he was okay getting back to the road without help and went on my way being extra careful not to turn my own ankle.

The early stretch of Fester’s wander was better footing the second time through and I was beginning to think I might make decent time (for me) the rest of the way. However, everything soon turned to slop and it was a struggle to remain upright. Shortly after another 50K runner lapped me, I built up too much steam on a muddy downhill, made a bad choice of footing and wiped out in spectacular fashion. The guy who had passed me called from halfway up the next hill: “Watch out for that sharp turn!” Thanks.

I was just starting to loose a little momentum when I puffed into the final aid station. There I saw friendly familiar faces and got to meet Tony and Angel Clark for the first time. For some reason, it really pumps you up when people tell you “you’re looking good!” when you know you look like an overheated water buffalo in the final stages of mad cow. I pounced on a couple of Kyle’s quesadillas, Tony filled my bottle, Stacey and Angel made sure I stuffed some candy in my pocket, dropped some Pringle’s and headed out at what Kyle kindly referred to as “Still running!” Just 2 miles to go!

Halfway back to the finish I caught up with and met Steve Breeding we visited for a short while and he invited me to a race in Scandia, Kansas later this year. Since he said he was done running, I forged ahead at the next downhill and soon crossed the finish line in 5:35:12. Ben gave me my medal, Cherie took my bib since my opposable thumbs no longer worked, and I walked immediately to my car at the park entrance. I drove back to the ranger station (parking was now available) and had hot chocolate, snacks, and black bean soup. Yum! Yum!

It wasn’t long before my fellow turtles were crossing the finish line and we were congratulating each other on a job well done. It was a great experience for me and I am looking forward to many more in the future. Special thanks to my wife Susan for putting up with me through thick and not so thick (literally), and Beth “Relentless” Hilt for the weekend training runs and helping to give me the confidence to tackle 20 miles even though 13+ a few weeks ago was my previous long run.

Photos courtesy of Dick Ross at See KC Run

Links you should visit:
- KC Trail Nerds
- Bad Ben's Trail Running Site
- Psycho Wyco Run Toto, Run!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Animals, nerds, and a long run in the woods.

Last weekend, Susan and I saw two bald eagles at Wyandotte County Lake Park while we were helping mark the course for the Psycho WyCo, Run Toto, Run! Wednesday night, a bobcat crossed highway 69 in front of me just 3 miles from my house. I don't see exotic animals all the time. In fact, I see a bald eagle about every 10 years and have seen bobcat twice in my life! Maybe I will see more wildlife since I am running trails.

I am going to race 20 miles with the KC Trail Nerds tomorrow. What fun!