Oh boy…the last 18 weeks have flown by!! I have been busy training for my first 50 miler – the Hawk 50 at Clinton Lake in Lawrence, KS.
When choosing my first 50 miler, all I wanted was to have a race close-ish to home. What also made me want to sign up was the local trail community, Tailwind and Honey Stinger on course, and I wouldn’t have to travel TOO far for the event. While I held off on clicking the “Register” button for a while, my husband gave me the push I needed. He registered me for the 50 mile as a Christmas “gift”… HA! “Here honey! Have fun!” Basically…
Well, the time is finally here!
My two biggest mantras for this race :
- Start slow and back it off from there (not quite, but I made it work!)
- Make the hard parts easy and the easy parts hard (succeeded…for the most part)
Packet Pickup and Dinner
I took off from work a little early on Friday, ran home to grab our weekend bags, and we hit the road! First (and only) stop, Lawrence, KS! We made it to Clinton Lake a little before 5pm. I checked in, picked up my bag/shirt/bib/etc., said my hellos to Ami and the Orange Mug gang, and then went to play with little man for a bit.
Little man was ready to let out some playful energy and I was ready to just not be sitting in the car… I found a bike (of sorts) and just chilled out until more people showed up. Dinner was served a little while later and we were ready to eat!
After the pre-race dinner and race briefing, little man and I headed home to relax for a bit!
I went through all my bags, found all my gear, re-prepped all my drop boxes, taped my name/bib/drop point/distance on all boxes, and headed off to bed…
One big bonus for me is that I didn’t have to worry about fuel or nutrition AT ALL since they were going to have Honey Stinger chews/gels/waffles and Tailwind Nutrition at every aid station! Wonderful! Keeping track of nutrition throughout a long race is HARD…so having these sponsors providing their products was PERFECT!
Gear : Trail Sisters trucker cap, Handful bra, Oiselle top, SKINS A400 Compression tights, Balega socks, UA Running Horizon trail shoes Nathan Hydration Pack, Aftershokz Trekz Titanium headphones, Orange Mud wrap, Momentum motivation/mantra wraps, Nuun Hydration, Run Gum
Not Pictured : Honey Stinger (on course), Tailwind Nutrition (on course), Nathan handheld (in drop box)
It was 10-10:30 pm before I got to bed…nerves?! Probably… So I spent a few more minutes making sure I had SEVERAL different podcasts downloaded and queued to play on my phone (Ultra Runner Nation, Another Mother Runner, BibRave Podcast, Run Selfie Repeat, Orange Mud Podcast).
My alarm went off around 4:05, 4:10, 4:15…I rubbed my eyes and got out of bed!! I was dressed in a matter of minutes and ready to get out the door! I made some coffee while I braided my hair and I was on my way!
I drove to Lawrence from Olathe, a 25-30 minutes drive. Too much time to think, so I played the radio and rocked out with a local Rock station, 98.9 FM!
When I showed up at Clinton Lake, there were MANY cars in and out of the park gates (I did leave just a little later than I wanted to…so it is ALL my fault…). I was able to get a semi-close parking spot – because who wants to walk ANY distance to your car after a 50 mile race?! Not me!
I said hi to a couple trail friends that were all eager to get running (aren’t we all?!) and then dropped off my drop boxes in the designated aid station drop box/bag areas.
There were a few last minute words from the RDs and we were minutes from the start!!
Ready to run!!
Before any of us knew it, the horn was blown, everyone looked at one another since not many were in the chute, we shuffled together, and we were through the starting line!
There were so many people sort of hanging back because the didn’t want to be the “slow ones” on the single-track trail…but I just jumped in and set out in an easy-to-me pace! The start is on a grassy area outside the park shelter until we got to the trail start.
Before long, we all were walking on the rough, rugged rocks (no ankle rolls before 0.5 miles in, please!), made our first left turn, and heading up to Sander’s Mound! This little out-and-back section is known for having questionable snakes lounging in the sun during the heat of the day…and luckily for us, the sun wasn’t even up yet!
We made our way up the grassy area and rocky climb, went around the bench at the top and made our way back down. Headlights all in shining rows…some going up, others going down. The “downers” yielded to the “uppers” as any knowledgeable trail runner should… #trailmanners
Side Note : I borrowed a couple headlamps from an amazing friend (thanks Tara) and tried them out the days before. Yes…they were mostly new to me on race day. Ensue the ranting “nothing new on race day” comments…I can take it 🙂 Since we were in such a hustle to get out of the starting area, I wasn’t able to be sure it was on the setting that I wanted. So on the trail, the light setting was way too dim, and when I would try to change the setting it would change to RED or OFF. Darn it!
Eventually, I was able to get it to a brighter setting and the trail never looked more amazing!!
Once we were back on the main trail and my light was adjusted, we made our way along the Blue trail to the first aid station – Lands End.
I made a couple runner friends along the way – they were running the 100 mile. We passed through the “creek crossing” that was under water last week…it was now passable without getting wet (picture later on the second loop). We chatted the miles away and soon came upon the first aid station, Land’s End. While this stop was “early” around the 4.5 mile mark, I decided to grab a couple Honey Stingers, started to head on the trail with my headlamp blazing (see below) but ended up passing it off to be put in my drop box, and THEN head back out to the trail.
The next trail transition is from the Blue Trail to the Red Trail after Land’s End.
The Red trail is known for being a slow moving, open/exposed, rocky section of the course. Heck, as of a couple weeks ago, the Red trail didn’t exist – the water levels at Clinton Lake were high enough that the trail was under water!
I made my way along running mostly solo (since the previous 100 miler-pals got out of the aid station faster than I did) until another first-time 50-miler joined me along the Red. We made quick conversation – and then the amazing photographer Rick from Mile90 Photography was snapping shots ahead of us!
As we went along, the Red Trail didn’t show us any mercy…and I kept wishing it to be over. The views were amazing,…but WAY better facing the sun the other way.
We made our way along the trail, chatting about life and “trail runner” things…she stopped to “check out the scenery” on an adjoining trail, and we kept on moving!
Eventually we wandered around Cactus Ridge (I barely remember…), caught up with some other runners, the trail turned from blue to white (magic!!), other runners caught up to us, and we all found our way to the second aid station – West End Road.
Upon arriving, I headed straight to my drop box, grabbed my handheld, and BAM!! My buddy Wael was in my face, asking me what I needed. Perfect timing! I knew that he was pacing someone later in the day, but I didn’t think that he would also be crewing – a great (and very helpful) surprise! I handed off my hydration pack for more Tailwind and followed him over to the cooler to fill up my handheld with Tailwind for the 2.5 mile Bunker Hill/Goodwin Loop.
This 2.5 mile loop is an up and down grassy climb (the front and side of Bunker Hill), grassy loop around part of the Clinton Lake Disc Golf course (Goodwin Loop), and up and down grassy climb (the back and front side of Bunker Hill). This section can feel a bit slow since we have been running on packed dirt for a while…but it was a welcome change of scenery : )
As I was heading down the side of Bunker Hill, there was the awesome Kristi – the other half of Mile90 Photography! I didn’t see her at first and didn’t pay much attention…ha! I was still feeling good, so I made some funny faces…
I power hiked the uphills, ran/waddled the downs, rounded around the grassy hills and loops and made my way BACK to the West Park Road aid station.
My pack was filled and ready to go!
Thanks a million Wael!! I dropped off my handheld, grabbed a couple snacks before heading out to the trail :
- boiled potatoes with salt
- Honey Stingers (save for later in my pack)
Back to the trails!
After the West Park Road aid station, we are now back on the White Trail – the trail with the most physical and mental ups and downs… While all of the trails can feel technical at times, the Blue trail is mostly runable and the Red Trail is hikable and/or walkable with its boulders and shifting rocks. The White trail is the most mentally and physically draining…
The White trail is full of rocky climbs and rugged outcroppings and the miles seem to go on forever… The miles tick by, by the pace is a little slower and I have to watch my footing more than the other trails.
I started running with a small group, the conversation was easy (mostly complaining about niggles and pains), and we trekked through some rugged miles. Once we started hitting the staircases to the campgrounds, we knew that we were getting closer to the Land’s End aid station! A couple of the runners around me had a cheering crew at the third campground staircase. The bells and hollering was just what we needed!
Before long, we were at the Lands End aid station for the second time. After a quick stop (3-5 minutes maybe), we were on our way to the Start/Finish area!
I was making good time and sort of lost track of time for a bit… Listening to others tell riveting stories of running experiences and life helped keep my mind busy and forget about my sore hips.
Soon, we were at the last rocky climb…where I met my only snake friend of the day! I was luckier than others that saw some more interesting (and far more venomous) specimens along the trail…
We rounded the trail onto the grass and headed to the Start (not yet a finish line, not done yet!)! I saw my MIL to the right of the course and little man playing at the playground. I watched him run after me for a bit and then finished my first loop. As I normally do when finishing races (mostly trail races), I whooped and hollered up to the line : )
There were a bunch of people milling around the area watching people come through the aid station or finish their races – including my impromptu crew of Wael and my family. My dad was also planning on stopping by, but he wasn’t there while I was…
I didn’t plan on sticking around for long, but I refreshed my Tailwind, grabbed a snack or two, got some ice for my wrap and headed back out for my second and final lap for the day!
Photo bomb #2 for the day…sorry!
Back out on the trail! I set back on course behind the Orange Mud founder Josh and his buddy Kevin. Their conversations were fun to listen to – kept the miles moving! We trekked up to Sander’s Mound for the second time, grabbed our trinkets (to prove we went up), and headed back to the Blue trail towards Lands End.
Remember that creek that had high water a couple weeks ago?! Well, it is completely passable now : ) Didn’t even get my toes wet!
Somewhere along the Blue trail, I received a text that my dad showed up as my MIL and little were leaving. I ended up calling my dad (on my great AfterShokz headphones) to see what his plans were and if he wanted to find his way over to the next manned aid station. I was still feeling alright, a little sore in the hips, and ended up telling him that I would be there in around an hour or so…well that “or so” was more like it!
Somehow, I forgot about a couple sections of the course from the first loop (mostly Cactus Ridge)…and it was closer to and hour and a half to 2 hours before I got to West Park Road…
I got to the aid station in one piece, but I knew that my dad needed to leave for a meeting…and he was already going to be late since I took longer than expected between aid stations. Wael fixed up my pack, my handheld was filled, and I was off to the second (and final) trek up Bunker Hill/Goodwin Loop. I said my goodbyes to my dad but he insisted that he was going to stay until I got back.
Side note : My dad really enjoys the “thrill” of watching me run in ultra events : ) This is the second ultra distance race he has helped me at…and if he had the energy, I would totally want him on my crew next year! (…did I just say “next year”?!)
The grassy loop was a welcome sight, but the heat of the day was no fun… I was sure glad to have a fresh bandanna filled with ice…even though most of it melted off in the 2.5 mile loop! I made my way around mostly unscathed and back to civilization.
When I arrived back at the aid station, my dad was there with my Tailwind filled pack in hand : ) Wael was gone (probably needed to head back and meet up with his 100-mile runner at the main aid station) but my dad was eager and willing to help! We got some more ice for my bandanna, a couple more snacks for my pack, and then he took my drop-box back to the main aid station once I hit the trail!
11.5 to go!!
Back on the White trail…it was hot. My hips were sore…but I was always moving forward. I sent along some “love” (see images below) to family and friends who would randomly text me about my adventure today…lol! No fun…not at all ; )
Seeing evidence of more recent clean-up efforts made me thankful for the Lawrence Trail Hawks and Mike Goodwin for the awesome looking trails!
Up and down the hills of the White trail is tiring…but I was able to meet a couple quick friends along the trail! First time 50-milers (like me!!), second loop of 4 for the 100 milers…everyone in decent spirits and ready for the heat to go away…
Around mile 7, the hubs told me that he was still busy at work. I didn’t want him to get a speeding ticket just to see me finish… Yeah, it sucks that he wasn’t able to spend the time on the trails with me, but there are worse things in life… With 7 miles to go, I found some new energy and I was ready to get this course completed!
My last stop was Lands End aid station! Gary was there ready to send me on my way : ) I filled up my pack one last time, grabbed some goodies, I was told they were low on ice so the guy didn’t put any in my Tailwind…but I was able to get a couple cups in my bandanna while he wasn’t looking… Whatever! It WAS cooling off but I still had my last leg of the race to go!
I left the aid station and realized that I didn’t take any pictures of them! Shoot!…so I just turned around, took a picture, and left!
Now that I was on the last 5 or so miles, I wanted to finish quickly! : ) There were many areas that I needed to be sure of my footing…and then several areas that I just didn’t remember from the first time around.
No, I didn’t get lost, but I felt lost a couple times until I saw a pink flag or white diamond on the trees…
With each passing mile, I knew that I was going to finish soon…and the sun was starting to fade! Also, I quickly realized that I left my second headlamp in my Lands End drop box and forgot to grab it! I WAS smart enough to grab the one from my West Park Road box before my dad took it…but I planned on trading it out at following aid station…
Finish before the sun goes down!! With 2-3 miles to go, I really needed to book it to finish without my other headlamp!
I was running as much as I could! For a little while, I thought I was closer to the finish than I actually was… I was running at a good clip, and then I would see a 3 mile post…GAH!
Just keep moving!
The switchbacks were deceiving…I could hear the finishing area for miles and thought I was way closer than I was, I would start running hard…then there was a road crossing, and more switchbacks, and more finish line deception! My family (minus hubs) was waiting at the finish line for a little while and knowing that just gave me more energy to push ahead!
I am not sure if it was just my nerves or what,…but after I saw the “mile 1” post, that last mile went on FOREVER!!
Somewhere in the last mile, I hit a “best pace” of 9:13/mi…the fastest of the day! I knew the finish line was close, but with every switchback, I would get a little more frustrated that it wasn’t yet the turn out of the woods!
The sun was setting fast, and I started seeing headlamps of people walking towards me on the trail. I could still see the ground and area ahead of me, but the darkness was closing in!
Before I could think about the people in headlamps, I could see the light at the end of the wooded tunnel! A small light that grew bigger as I got closer to the end of the trail!
I started whooping and hollering at myself to finish and finish strong!
KEEP IT UP!”
Yeah, I am weird.
I know this…but you just do
whatever you can to stay motivated!
I started really running hard to get through the trees and into the light – or at least whatever daylight was left outside of the tree cover.
I busted through the trees… There were people all around… I could still see the pink flags on the ground (I think I ran into one…)…
I could see people all around, but I heard nothing… I was in my own “finish this NOW” mindset and I just kept telling myself to keep moving!
I came around the playground area… I just kept running and soon noticed the tiki torches. I dodged to the right so I could run THROUGH the finish line area…I almost missed it!
My race is merely feet away from being finished!! I saw my in-laws and little man to the side and ran through the finish line!!
That was amazing!
Tough, sometimes seemingly impossible, but complete!!
I finished strong and the flashing of the camera blinded me for a second.
One of the RDs approached me with my finisher mug options and with that, my day was done!
13:51 – my “ideal” plan was 14 hours, and I made it happen in 9 minutes short of my goal! Badass! I was riding the runners high for that last mile or two…and it was now starting to fade into soreness…
I was still able to walk for a few minutes…but the fatigue started setting in. My post-run walk started looking more and more like an elderly person…and not an endurance athlete 🙂 I had my in laws snap a couple “finished” pictures before we got out of the aid station area.
The hubs arrived to the lake around the same time that I finished – so while he didn’t necessarily see me cross the line, he was there to take care of me after *true love*
We corralled my drop boxes and headed to the cars.
During our walk, we talked about the future. I mentioned to him that “whatever I say in the next 48 hours can be taken with a grain of salt”…knowing that I was going to be in a decent amount of pain. We talked about longer distances in the coming years…
Yep, already thinking about 100K and/or 100 miles!
One step at a time…
I decided to change out of my day-old, super sweaty/stinky clothes into some fresh ones… The hubs walked me to my car, dropped off my boxes, we then walked to the bathroom (with no light…), I changed into some new clothes but forgot shoes…so we slowly walked (more like waddled) back to the vehicles.
I didn’t have much of an appetite, but I found a Honey Stinger waffle or two in my pack to snack on : ) Nothing new after the race!…is that right? : ) Still snacking on waffles…
The following day was torture…and my birthday! Happy Birthday! I hope you can walk…
As the days went by, so did the pain.
Even now, I haven’t comprehended that I spent nearly 14 hours running…An amazing feat that cannot be taken away from me!
And somehow,…………I crave more! I guess this story is to be continued : )
I want to first thank my hubs! Without him “gifting” me the registration to this race, I am not sure I would have bit the bullet and registered on my own… Also, he was understanding of the commitment I had to my training and toughed through all of my long training run weekends, weekends away for training, and crazy sleeping schedule : ) I couldn’t have completed all my workouts without his support and time to helping me with little man. Thanks babe!
Thank you to my wonderful in-laws for always being ready and willing to watch little man when I needed to come out to KC for training runs or races! While making the drive isn’t very fun, the excitement it gave little man was enough incentive to make the trek!
Thank you to the cast, crew, and RDs of the Hawk for their commitment to the runners and making an amazing race that we all want to run! The awesome sponsors help make the event even more successful with amazing fuel and gear and the aid stations are the cherry on top! The aid station volunteers know just what to say and do to make everyone’s story a success story for the day! See you again next year… : )