Sunday, September 28, 2008

Flat Rock 2008

My count is now 186 miles of rocks, with 62 miles rocks as extra credit. Let me explain. Yesterday, I ran the Flat Rock 50K in Independence, Kansas on the Elk City Reservoir Hiking trails. This is one HARD trail race. Harder than Sunmart, harder than McMurtry, harder than AOK, and yes, harder than Turkey and Taturs.

I have swiped a good trail description from the FlatRock website:
(Originally written by Randy Albrecht in 1998,
revised & updated by Eric Steele in 2006.)

"The Flat Rock 50K Trail Run is an out and back course run on the Elk River Hiking Trail. While it is hard to imagine a trail run in Kansas as being difficult, this race will definitely challenge your running ability and put your skills of mental concentration to the test. How tough of a race is Flat Rock? To answer that question we reviewed all 50K race results listed in UltraRunning magazine from October 1997 to September 1998. To eliminate very small events, which may not have a quality field, the study only included races that had at least 20 finishers. Based on either the winners’ times or an average of the top three finishers, Flat Rock ranked as the fourth toughest 50K out of the 85 races included in the survey. Only Silver State, Baldy Peaks, and the Western Washington Fat Ass 50K were tougher.

A reasonable argument could be waged that Flat Rock has not had as deep of a field of good runners as other races and is really not that tough. While the race has not attracted as many well-known runners from the east or west coast, several very good runners have taken on “the Rock.” Amazingly, only six runners since the inception of this event in 1995 have broken five hours on this course, which is only 1.7 percent of all 345 finishers since the first running in ’95. One of these five is 2004 Grand Slam Finisher, Paul Schoenlaub, who managed to break five hours in ’03 by just a little over 2.5 minutes.

What makes the Flat Rock trail so tough? Extreme concentration is required when running Flat Rock, as you will take very few steps where there will not be some potential obstacle. Most of these will be in the form of rocks. You will very quickly learn why the race motto here at “the Rock” is “If you look up…you are going down!” Buyer beware please. While the trail does not have any long hills, there is an estimated total elevation gain and loss of about 3,000 feet for the 50K. Most of these hills are very steep and rocky and are not runnable, unless you can run trails like a mountain goat, due to the treacherous footing."

My slowest 50K times have been at this race. I have finished this race feeling more beat up than from any other. Yet I keep going back. Why?

Race director Eric Steele devised a cruel plan years ago to bring poor saps like myself back year after year. Anyone who finishes 10 consecutive Flat Rock 50Ks, will be knighted into the royal order of the Knights of Flat Rock. To date, there have been five such honored ultra runners. David Dinkle, Dave Noltensmeyer, Dennis Haig, Thomas Lassater, and this year, the first woman was knighted: Teresa Wheeler. These knights receive a lifetime entry to the Flat Rock 50K, and a permanent cloth embroidered bib with their permanent race number. As I mentioned in a previous post, 10 entry fees at a price of 500 to 700 dollars to run ten 31 mile races totaling 310 miles on savage rocks, to receive a free ticket to run more miles on these relentless rocks. Where do I sign up?Every September, 7:00 am brings cool temperatures, and usually a little fog to the starting line of the long days run. Each year, I realize I have made more friends, kindred souls who try to tame this course.
Pictured_above are Teresa, Dennis, David with the flag, and good friend Earl.
Tammy and April came up from Tulsa to run the 50K. This was April's 1st 50K, and Tammy's second 50K this month. My friend Marvin ran the Turkey and Taturs 50K last week with Tammy, and he and Tammy ran this race together and you'd think the rocks did not bother them at all as they looked pretty good after I drug myself in.

A group from the Kansas City area ran their first Flat Rock.

Kim and Doug, Christy, and
Coleen the Cynical Mud Babe are all smiles early on.
Quickly, we were off the pavement and onto the first of 30 miles of single track.One of the cooler attractions of the 1st mile of the trail is a crevice that I call the "Devil's Butt Crack".CMB has no problem passing through.

Pictures speak louder than words, so take a gander at the following. Double-click to enlarge them.An early vista from the bluffs on the north shore of the Elk City Reservoir.

A typical section of trail.

To make matters worse, sometimes these rocks are on hills.

One of a few water crossings, although most of them were easy to step over.

Keep to the right. It's a long way down if you fall.

Follow the blue blazes.

It's hard to run on sections like this, especially on the way back with 20+ miles on your legs.

Where does the trail go? Turn right and go right between the rocks.Seen enough?After about 14 miles of almost nothing but rocks, you get to some trails that go along a river bottom. It's a muddy river, and sometime earlier this year, it must have been way up out of it's banks and there was a lot of driftwood along the trail. The trail however was cleaned up nicely and this short section was quite runnable, if you had anything left.And no, it was not my blazing speed that knocked these trees over!

There was a trail angel at the turn-around. Dana worked the 1/2 way point, filled water bottles, encouraged the tired runners, made sure they ate and drank, and then sent them on their way.

This year, I ran a stronger race. I made the turn-around in 3:48, and took 12-13 minutes rehydrating and eating a sandwich. I was in and out of all other aid stations so quick I might have seemed rude, other than the Oak Ridge Oasis where I gabbed for about 3 or 4 minutes. The last 4 miles which usually turn my tired feet into hamburger did not do me in this year. I told myself over and over again, "I own this course and it did not own me!" If overheard, I must have surely sounded either insane or retarded. I did run the gnarly sections near the end, only walking the short steep uphills and the technical maneuvers like the Devil's Butt Crack. I finished in 8:06, 1:44:13 FASTER than last year.

I have always been fairly certain that each year there are more rocks than the year before. Eric denies that he puts more rocks out on the course, but this year, I think I may have caught him. I kicked this rock in a grassy area and nearly fell over it. Upon turning it over, I saw that he had forgot to tear off the bar code sticker.So, Mr. Eric Steele, what do you say? Are you in fact trying to make this course HARDER every year??

Congrats to Kurt and especially Shelley who both ran the 25K. Kurt's reward was a trip to the emergency room for an x-ray for a possible broken clavicle. Shelley won the women's title, and set the course record as well. Way to go!!

Many thanks to the many volunteers who help make this race a big success.This is a race that I will probably still be doing when I am in my 70s, provided my legs will carry me.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Beware!! Fat pix

As I start getting into the mindset of another weekend of racing, I have given thought as to where I was before I started running. Oh I was quite the athlete, spending 2-3 days a week....golfing, riding around in a golf cart, and drinking suds and margaritas.

These are pics of a golf game in Playa Del Carmen north of Cancun. Of course I rode in a cart. I doubt I could have walked and carried my bag if my life depended on it.

I was a big boy when Dana and I got married, and I steadily gained in the following years.

This in New Mexico where there are no doubt miles of mountain trails. No chance of finding me running back in those days.In the past few years, Dana and I have changed our lifestyle, eating healthy for the most part, running almost every day, biking and hiking regularly, and living life to the fullest.

Ken and Dana in 2008.
This week I go to Independence Kansas to run the Flat Rock 50K. This is the 6th year in a row doing this race. I have also ran a 100K there the one year they had it. If I make it this year and then the next 4 years, I will be inducted into the Flat Rock Hall of Fame, and will receive a permanent cloth embroidered bib, and a lifetime entry to this race. Let's see.... $70 per year times 10 years equals $700 to run 310 miles on receive a lifetime entry to run more miles on rocks. Does that make sense at all?

Friday, September 19, 2008

quick post before I fly out the door

This is week 2 of my insane fall series. Turkey and Taturs is done and past. This weekend, I will be doing the running leg of a 1/2 Ironman at Lake Hefner in OKC. I was asked to join a coed team and I am thrilled to get my feet wet into tri's. (No, make that NOT getting my feet wet! T Z <~~~lousy swimmer!) My team is comprised of Stephanie Fouch swimming, Erin Schuster biking, and me running. Our team is "Ken and the Barbie Dolls". Many pictures and an epic race report to follow.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Turkey and Taturs

Well, the race has been run, all the race stuff has been packed away, my medal is on the shelf with all the rest of the medals, I have had my second dose of vitamin I, and now it's race report time. After spending 12 hours the day before marking trails, and then getting 4 hours sleep, I was confident of a record setting time. To ensure that, I made sure to get to the starting line a good 13 minutes after the start of the race. Had to let everyone get on down the trail so I could run without having to wait any. Actually, I was out on the trails putting up a few signs that we had decided yesterday to save for next year due to Ike spewing torrential rain all over creation. But gosh darn the weatherman, they were wrong. Who'da thunk it? All of the rain must have shifted over into Arkansas or somewhere, because we were treated to partly cloudy skies and a steady north breeze. It was an awesome day to run.
So, I started my race with a nail apron, some roofing tacks, a 7 ounce hammer, and an armful of signs that Carolyn had made for us. tried to get as many up in the appropriate places before the speedy 25K runners blew by me. Let's just say I was about 65% successful. No other details will be offered about my pace early on.

The Turkey and Taturs Trail Race uses about 90% of the trails on the "L" shaped wilderness area. Some of the trails are nice and smooth, lending to a brisk pace for everyone.Other trails are ROCKY and very technical, and bring most trail runners to a walk.After running out of nails, I stashed the few signs I had left over, and my apron and tools and decided it was time to stop lallygagging and try to get myself out of last place. I ran hard when the trails were anything other than boulder fields and started catching up with a few of the 25K runners. "Nice job", "looking good" was the general comment as I managed to catch a few of the 25Kers, but I had a lot of ground to make up to catch anyone in the 50K.

Bobby and Susan were manning the lower parking lot aid station. Kristin and Russell joined them and they stayed all day, working a double-shift. Many thanks, guys.They were the next to the last aid station for the 50Kers, and did a super job. Part of the great job they did was keeping a nice cold Ultra waiting for me both times I came through. mmmmmm!

After running about 14 miles, I finally caught a few of the 50K runners. I passed five, but two of them decided to drop down to the 25K and call it a day. Upon reaching the 1/2 way point at the start and finish, I was treated to thunderous applause from several of my RunnersWorld runners who came out to be specTATURs. Thanks ladies! I love ya!
I still continued to push the pace, and had grand illusions of catching a few more runners and running a negative split. But as is common in an ultra, I slowed down a little in the late miles, and my 2nd half was about 20 minutes slower than my 1st half even though I had a few very slow miles early on. I did not pass any other runners and the only friendly faces I saw were at the aid stations.
It heated up a little around 1:30 or so, and I found a few more excuses to walk a bit here and there. Reasons like "ya need to work on your power walking" and "it's a little rocky here" and "let's see how quick the Garmin picks up the elevation changes", and I considered doing some snorkeling.
But I did not want to be passed, so I ran about 95% of the time. That 5% just showed up a little more in the final 3 miles or so.

Finally, I popped out on the very north end of the powerline and had a final look at downtown Tulsa. I knew there was only one more mile, and two more short hills. The finish was in the bag.

One of the trails along the way is one that we do not use all that much. I found this tree root which was picture-worthy.

I am proud of my dear wife Dana, who has ran the 25K all three years, and managed to shave 36 seconds off her time last year.
It was a good run for me. I ran hard at times, but all in all, it was more of a run than a race for me, although I did try to catch a few people.

I am one of six people who have ran and finished all three 50Ks. The slowest composite time for sure.
A long list....many many thanks. Tatur Uno who kept the aid stations stocked with water, Gatorade, and ice. Darcy, who spearheaded so much in the organization of the race, helped get sponsors, stuff donated, and then worked all day at the start/finish. Uni-cycle Doug for pitching in as he always does. Arnold who almost single-handedly fixed the washed out Hi-Ho trail, worked an aid station for half a day, and then picked up several miles of course markings. Brian and Kathy for dreaming of a big trail race and now we have had three years of Turkey and Taturs. A host of people from RunnersWorld....first, Stefani who rounded up and organized the volunteers. Linda, Brenda, Dustin and his wife, Bobby, Susan, Kirstin, Russell, Carmie, Cindy and her husband John, Simone, Candice, Joye, Sandra, Lisa, and Cassie (yummy hamburger!) From the Tulsa Running Club, Bobby, Ken, George, Marsha, Trani and Wayne. Earl and Jenn at the powerline aid station. Dana for making awesome chili, and making sure there was some left for me. Keith Winn for directing runners at the split. I am certain I am forgetting someone, and maybe several people.