February weather in the Mid-West is not something I would call consistent by any stretch of the imagination. Temperatures have a tendency to get in the 60’s one day then rapidly drop in the the 20’s the next. Mix those things with a dash of rain, sleet, snow and any other name you can give to various states of water in cold weather… know what you get? You get a recipe for a trail run that will keep you guessing with each step. Feb. 14th 2009 marked my 3rd straight year running the Psycho Wyco 50k. Each year has brought a bit of a surprise to me. In 2007 the course was covered in ice. To quote Ben Holmes the RD “It’s like a slalom course out there.” The course was covered in a sheet of ice and I have to put sheet metal screws in my shoes for traction. 2008 was a slop hole to say the least. There was a light cover of snow on the ground and as temperatures rose and foot traffic moved over the trail, the ground became very muddy. You know what 2009 had? Both!
To start the temps were around 25. The forecast called for sun and temperatures rising into the mid 30’s. I hate this type of weather because it’s right on the verge of where I had to decide between shorts and tights. Well I forgot my tights so this was an easy call. I had my trusty tackle box full of various Clif shots, Clif shot blocks, and Endurolytes, which apparently the photographer thought was handy too. I was carrying pretty much everything with the Clif stuff and salt pills. I carried 2 handhelds. One had Perpetuem in it, the other water. After I finished off the Perpetuem I would just drink water the rest of the event.
Kyle and Ben gave the pre-race speech and we were off, As I progressed along though the course it became apparent that things were going to get messy. I concentrated on maintaining a pace and trying to hit about 1:50 for my first 10 mile loop. I settled in with a group of runners that I had met a time or two before in my travels to KC for work. We worked our way up the hills and called out to each other on slick spots, hidden roots and just unsure footing. I mentally felt like crud for most of the first lap. Then I looked up and I crossed the start/finish in 1:45.29. Huh… that was decent and I still feel fine. My water bottles were full and I had enough gels to get though another lap so I just kept moving
So far so good. I was on pace for a sub 6 hour finish and for the most part the course was slick but not bad. I continued on. I hit the “Triangle” about 27 minutes into the lap. The Triangle is about a 1 mile section of the course that starts at one side of an aid station,zig-zags back and forth and up and down then comes up on the back side of the same aid station. This section is pretty vulnerable to being slick and it was for sure on it’s way to being very muddy. around the 4.5 mile mark, you come off the trail and start making your way up the dam. This is a long climb, but the footing is good because you are not on the trail. It goes from wide open prairie, to a concrete ditch, then onto the road. The bad news is this is a long climb, A surprise this year was a fully stocked aid station half way up the climb. This was nice! Good cheering from the workers and welcome site over just an orange water dispenser from years past.
I got off the dam road (double meaning implied) and was back on the trail. Around this time about 5 of us who were running the 50k all ran together for a bit. There was a bit of competition going here. We were all supportive of each other, but it was sort of an undertone that everyone was sort of jockeying for position and not letting on how we were doing. We all crossed pretty close to the same time. I finished my second lap in 1:51.46. So far I was around 3:37 total time. I had a fair amount of time to still keep within my 6 hour time goal, but with the course getting muddier by the minute I better just get going to be safe. I loaded my pockets with a few more gels while the aid station workers filled my bottles. I took off for my 3rd and final lap.
It was pretty sloppy this loop. It was using a lot of energy to keep the pace up. I was walking up a hill when one of the guys that had finished the last loop around me passed me singing. I thought to myself, “there’s lots of course left, give him this and you will catch him later.” As soon as we hit a downhill I passed him. He asked if I minded if he tried to keep up. I was like “no, please do” almost shocked to be asked this. I told him that I did not know if I could match him on the up-hills after seeing him pass me. He laughed that when he passed me on he was “faking it.” Ok, well now I feel committed to keep the pace up. Good, I needed this. We ran together for the rest of the lap. We decided that 6 hours was happening so we set our sites on 5:45. This course was wrecked so we were going to have to push it when we could, because there is just no fast moving in mud. John was a great guy who had ran some hard races including the Leadville 100, so I was pumped to be asked to “push the pace” by him. We just kept talking about work, the economy, running… you know the stuff you talk to people about during an ultra. We were both talking and I’d yell out time checks for us “need to finish up in 50 minutes to hit 5:45.” This was more for me than him, but it helped having someone else to cruise with and to be able to have some confirmation that we could make it. We were both getting pretty disgusted with the really slick up-hills, luckily they were coming to an end. We hit a section that was mid-calf deep mud, and right as I was thinking that I did not want to wade through this for long, I looked up and there was the parking cones leading to the finish line. SWEET!!
I looked and there was the clock staring me in the face. It took a second to sink in. Then when it did, I actually yelled out “WHOAAA, 5:36!!” I crossed the finish line, gave Ben the handshake/hug and talked a little about the course and the day. I looked over and there was my wife getting out of her car with her arms up. “What are you doing?” she yelled in a way that questioned why I finished before she got there. Ben offered to let me run though again to stage it so she could see it. I passed, I ran enough today.
Total Time - 5:36.35
Avg. Pace – 10:50
5th in my age group
This race is top notch. I can’t say enough good things about it, which is why I have gone back 3 years in a row. A tough course that could be almost any condition, but will most likely be muddy adds to the fun/suffering (depending on how you look at it). 3 fully stocked aid station on a 10 mile loop is pretty excellent also, it really goes to show the kind of support the KC Trail Nerds bring from its members and the community. I want to say thanks to all of those that helped put it on and supported it during the event. Great job to all the runners too!!!