This is my third year at Freestate. The first year as a volunteer and then last year as my first marathon. I had planned to participate in the 40 mi event this year but overslept. As I was driving like a maniac to make the starting time, I realized that I could drop down to the Marathon. I was smart for doing that. Traveling to the west coast for work the entire week had me more worn out than I anticipated.
I always try to help as much as possible for a Nerd event, even if I’m running it. This year I decided I was only participating in marathons or longer races so that I could help more on the smaller Nerd events. Being gone most of the week before didn’t afford much time for me to help with Freestate this year. But dropping to the marathon would allow me to pitch in pre and post finishing.
Photo by Dick Ross of Seekcrun.com
I started out slow, trying to run below my lactic threshold for the first half of the race. My other strategy was to stay hydrated and eat more. Two things I haven’t gotten very good at yet. I only drank one cup of coffee on Friday and then tanked up on water the rest of the day. I also skipped coffee the morning of the race. My plan was to finish an entire hydration pack (64oz) before Lands End aid station and then another before returning. That would leave about 3.5miles to the finish with my 26oz water bottle. Having it to do over, I should have drank an additional water bottle before getting to Lands End the first time.
I did well with my eating. I had two packages of Stinger Chews, one Hammer Gel, one Hammer bar and ¼ of a chocolate chip cookie at Lands End. I have to gush a little about Lands End. This aid station is organized and staffed with some of the areas most seasoned and accomplished Trail Nerds, Stacy and Kyle Amos, Caleb Chatfield, and Rick Mayo. This aid station is right in the middle of the course and you hit it twice which makes it somewhat of a logistical challenge with the inbound and outbound trail intersection. Not to mention it is hard to re-stock because it is a good deal away from the road.
This year it was organized like the I-70 service area near Lawrence. They created an Island rest stop, much like between west and east bound highways on I-70. The canopy was erected in the open area with caution tape strung so that the outbound and inbound runners were kept separated. You had to go out of your way to go the wrong way. Each side of the canopy had a service table with everything from cookies, oranges, bananas, m&m’s…etc. Each table was staffed with the most highly trained Nerd customer service representatives on the planet. I was waiting for “May I help you….PLEASE!” It was like a well thought out drive through. Kudos to the Lands End aid station volunteers and thank you very much. You will not be outdone. I nominate Lands End for best aid station ever.
I didn’t stop at the Corp of Engineers aid station organized and run by Phil and Stacy Sheridan, Race Directors for Rockn K and The Kansas Ultra Society but I bet it was first class too. If you direct a successful race then I’m sure an aid station is like taking a vacation. After I passed the Corp aid station, I decided to put on my headphones and play some tunes. Something I have never done at a race but since I find myself running alone, usually at about this point, I figured I’d give it a try. I have to say it certainly took my mind off my discomfort (for awhile) and helped me pick up the pace. I actually passed four or five other runners which rarely happens this late in the race for me. I got so focused that I nearly stepped on a big black snake laying across the trail.
I finished another hydration pack before getting to Lands End and opted to just have my bottle emptied of Clip2 and filled with water. I ate a chocolate chip cookie and took off. With 3.5 miles to go I figured I would pick up the pace and see how much better I could improve my time over last year. This lasted for about a mile and then the wear of the distance started getting to me and I walked most of the up hills. I rolled into the finish at 4:26 about 15 minutes better then my time last year. I think the key is hydration and fuel. I’m starting to learn that these two items are essential.
I cleaned up a bit at the campground showers and then spent the rest of the day pitching in at the finish line. There was a sufficient amount of great help that I mostly stood around talking with friends and eating over-done bratwurst (inside joke) and hamburgers. This race has evolved into the best run and staffed event in the area in only three years. Ben Holmes has it down to a science and should start a school on race directing “The Bad Ben’s Race Directors Academy.” This year he put Sophia Wharton in charge of organizing volunteers which was a great move. She had a corps of friendly help assembled that stayed focused on the racers needs. Greg Burger, was the master mind behind marking the course. Not one misplaced flag or sign. Great Job Greg!
Thanks to Ben, Sophia and all the other Nerds and volunteers that went into making this a must do event.