The good news is that Les, Wayne and I all finished the Psycho Wyco Run Toto Run 50k. It was a real interesting day, I asked the question before the race:
"By the end of Saturday will I hate mud more than snow?"
The answer is no I don't hate mud but I do have a new appreciation for it. Before the race as we drove down, Les and Wayne described the mud as something you just had to experience to fully understand. I didn't understand their comments and pretty much figured it couldn't be as bad as they described.
But first the race report.
The drive down was a bit problematic as we encountered snow around Des Moines which resulted in our 6 and 1/2 hour drive, turning into a 10 hour drive. We had one stretch where we went 8 miles in an hour. The conversation in the car was of course about running, Les commented that this was going to be his 285th event, I know both Wayne and I were impressed. We all went through some of our past running events, how long we have been running and countless other things, all in all a nice exchange. We ended up arriving in KC around 11:00 pm.
Race morning came quickly, the temp was in the mid-20's, the sky was clear, it looked like a great day to run. Les parked the car so that we could use it as a drop station, he knew the exact spot to leave it so we were set. For those that don't know about Psycho Wyco you first have to learn about Bad Ben and the Kansas City Trail Nerds, Bad Ben and the nerds put on many great events. Take a look at their website and you can quickly get a feel that they are no normal running group. We got ourselves ready, headed over to the start and waited for the day to begin. At Psycho Wyco, you have three groups of runners who start together, 10 milers, 20 milers and the 50ker's. Ben gave the final instructions and provided a race course conditions update, I just remember him saying that the first 2 1/2 miles wouldn't be good but that the rest of the course should be ok. Based on what we experienced, he was right about the first two and 1/2 and wrong about the rest of the course.
Here we are at the start.
Early in Loop 1
I wasn't sure what to expect on the course, they told me it had some fairly steep hills, rocks and depending on the mud might be extremely runnable. I told them ahead of the start that I was thinking of running loops of 2:20, 2:30 and 2:40. I figured I would fade as the day went on but thought it was doable. The first loop started fine and the first 2 1/2 miles weren't too bad as the trail was frozen and you had all of the energy from the 10 and 20 milers. I had talked with Les and Wayne about how I wasn't very good at running downhills and that I needed to work on it. Well, I got kind of cocky around all the 10 milers who weren't good at all at descending the hills and when I finally got some space I went flying down a hill. I was feeling good and felt great when all of sudden my feet flew out from under me and I was sliding down the hill, all I could think of where two things, the first was I hope no one saw me and the second was "safe". I got up quickly and I was fine (but humbled) but I had discovered that the trail was icy, it was like black ice, you couldn't really see it until it was too late.
To give you a feel for the course, the loop consisted of 4 to 5 distinct sections, the first section was from the start to the triangle about 2 1/2 miles, a series of ups and downs, across the small shallow creek, it was pretty beat up from the horses so the footing wasn't the best. The second section is the triangle. They had an aide station as you entered the triangle which you hit again on your way out of it. It is only about a mile and it is a goofy switchback that they say was a by product of a dog running through the woods. The third section takes you from the triangle, across the dam, and onto to the road and into the 2nd aid station, then up the road and back into the woods. The fourth section takes you up and down through the woods, past the boat storage and then into another aid station. From there the fifth section has a couple of fairly steep hills and some more nice singletrack.
The way the first loop went was interesting, in all of the sections I saw many runners wipe out and I slid through many sections but I didn't go down again. I ended the first loop exactly on schedule in 2 hours and 20 minutes. I was stoked, I was going for a PR. I changed out of my long sleeve shirt to a short sleeve shirt at the car as it was getting warmer, probably had gotten into the mid 30's, reloaded the hydration pack. Wayne and I came through pretty much at the same time and we both headed off, Les got there as we were leaving. I lost Wayne fairly early in the 2nd loop (can't quite remember when and where he pulled away) as I was having a bit more of a problem with the footing. The previously frozen section had thawed and it was like running in molasses. Into the triangle, the footing was treacherous, I had to grab trees to keep from sliding off of the course and falling down. Into the next section, I was careful but I thought I was making ok time. Into the fourth section, as I descended from the road I came across a runner who was hopping his way out. I asked him if needed help and he said no he would make it, he said his day was done and that he had told other runners to send help for him the top of the hill. I grabbed him a stick to lean on and we said our goodbyes. (I later found out he broke his ankle). I took back off and almost immediately wiped out. I then thought about what Les had said during the drive, it was something like run smart as if you injure yourself, you really mess your year up. I proceeded a bit more cautiously as I was having a really hard time with the footing as it was getting muddy and it was even more problematic than before with the ice. I also was having stomach issues and gagged a couple times during this loop. I went through the 3rd aid station and grabbed some coke which Les had said worked to help his stomach during some races. I was descending a hill where I promptly fell again. When you descended these hills, you just kept sliding into the ravine that was created from the water erosion. I finally just tried to run down the center, the only problem was the mud was 4-6 inches deep in places. You just kind of slide through it, push off, slide, try to run, slip, slide and repeat, a struggle at least for me. Maybe running in snow isn't so bad.
As I came into the finish area, I looked at the clock and saw 5:15, I had run a terrible time for loop 2, ~2 hours and 55 minutes. I knew the mud had slowed me but I was surprised, I figured I was still coming in around 2 hours and 40 minutes. I then debated just quiting as I was drained both physically and now mentally and was concerned about the stomach issues. I stopped by the car and grabbed some Succeeds hoping that they would settle the stomach, I thought about quitting a bit more but I knew Les was behind me and would continue so I said WTH and continued on. The 3rd loop was terrible from the start, the footing was even worse and I felt like a failure as I struggled to walk and run through it, the triangle was simply treacherous and I fell for the fourth time. The dam section was bad as well but I made it without falling, the final two sections seemed slightly better as it was starting to get colder again but they still were extremely tough and I was happy that I only fell once more. I did have a nice cup of broth at the last aid station and the volunteers were still very enthusiastic, the broth really hit the spot and I was happy that my stomach issues had cleared up as well. Something to note for future races, just keep going and keep trying and things may get better. When I got to the finish I was covered in mud but had survived finishing in 8 hours and 48 minutes. At the finish I was greeted by Bad Ben himself, Wayne and other volunteers and I enjoyed a nice bowl of bean soup as we waited for Les. I can also clearly say, I was humbled by the mud but I loved it too, it was a fun and very challenging day.
So to answer my question would I rather run in mud than snow, the answer would still be yes but I have to admit that you can run a whole lot faster in snow. I had never imagined that in a 10 mile loop, about 8 miles would be in mud and at least 4-5 of those miles would be thick Kansas slippery, gooey, sticky mud.
I have to complement Bad Ben and the Nerds for putting on a great event, the aid stations and volunteers were great a very friendly group, the course was fun, it was well worth the drive down. I made the comment after the race to a volunteer that I was concerned about running the same loop three times before I started. Turns out that I ran three different courses as each loop was indeed unique. Another note, this has to be one of the best value runs I have ever seen. For $35 you get a finishers medal, long sleeve technical shirt and a coffee mug (all the goodies come with the Psycho Wyco logo below) and you get to run a fabulous course and to have great aid station and volunteer support. Everyone I met was very friendly and it was also great to see plenty of food items at all of the aid stations for me a back of the packer to enjoy.
On the way back we all caught up with how each others day had gone and talked about future runs. Turns out that both Wayne and I want to do our first 50 this year and we both were eyeing Superior which everybody says don't do for your first one. We also discussed our training methods, race selections and lots of other running things on our return trip which thankfully only took 6 and 1/2 hours.
Today, I am sore in places I have never been after any previous races as well as a few normal areas. Besides feeling pretty drained, I have pain behind my left knee/ITB/hamstring area, the back of my right hand is very sore, probably from hitting the ground so many times and I have lost another toe nail and have a small blister on my big toe. I did learn from Les how he prevents blisters and toe nail losses, he uses a combination of Vaseline and Desitin which I will definitely try out before my next run. Looking back, the biggest thing I walk away with is a new found respect for the hills and mud of Kansas as I was definitely humbled by both. I also got to know a couple of other Minnesota ultra runners which was great, I will look forward to seeing them at Chippewa and other events this year. My thanks to Les for organizing the carpool which got us there.
Back to the conversation about 50's. Turns out that Les gave us another option as he is thinking that at this years Surf the Murph on October 24th (current date), in addition to having the 25k and 50k, he will be adding in a new distance, a 50 miler, which he thinks would be the first ever 50 miler in the Twin Cities metro area. An interesting option to ponder..................