Rock The Night Away! Trail 1/2 Marathon Race Report

It was another fine Trail Nerd event and my first night time race.  Let me start by saying that I did not treat this one as a "race" (as in trying for the best possible time, preparing properly, etc) but rather as a learning opportunity.  As I am currently getting deep into my training for the Hawk 50 mile and the Rocky Raccoon 100 mile I wanted to test myself out a little on this run.  I've run in the dark on trails quite a bit this year during the winter months, but I've never had a run out on the trails deep into the night where I was really struggling.  I wanted to get a feel for that with this race so rather than preparing for a race I set myself up to be very tired and (dare I say) overtrained leading in.

I've been running a TON lately.  With the completion of this race my June total would be 204.48 miles and the 7 days from Sat-race day Fri would be 80.9 (over 25 miles more than I've ever done in a 7 day period.  Last Saturday I ran a marathon distance run at Clinton Lake, then Sunday I did a 1/2 marathon distance at Shawnee Mission Park, Monday was 7 miles and both Wednesday & Thursday were about 10.5 milers.  That leaves some pretty tired and overworked legs going into this!  It's been slightly warm (sarcasm) the last week, so that's added to the exhaustion factor.  In fact, just an hour before the race started it was still floating around the 100* mark!  I figured it would cool down some during the race and I like hot weather anyway so no huge deal there, but it certainly brings an extra element to be ready for to a race. Even with this, I was very excited about this event!  Any chance to hang out with my fellow Trail Nerds is a welcome opportunity; especially if camping out after the race with the B.A.R. Crew and drinking beer with them!  No matter how the run goes, it is a guaranteed good time!!  I took the day off work so I could get my stuff together and not have to rush around trying to get things done and get out there.

I got to the Branded B Ranch (start/end point of the race) at about 5:45pm to help out a little with set up.  Wael & I started unloading Ben's trailor and getting all of the check in and clothing sales stuff inside and setting it all up.  By the time we got that all set up people were starting to arrive so I got my race bib, shirt & mug and headed outside to start saying hello to my friends.  I was going to share Brian & Ammanda Warren's tent with Mel, Keke & Sarah so when she arrived she told me where the tent was and asked me to help set it up.  That was an experience!!  I've never put up a tent before and this is the world's largest tent!  It took a few of us about 45 minutes or so to figure it out and even then I'm not real sure we did it right!  After that I headed back over to my car to get my hydration belt and bib and get ready to get started.  Wael was there eating a sandwich and a major miss on my part suddenly became clear.  This was the latest I've ever started a run so I hadn't thought about eating before it!  Luckily Wael had some cookies and chips that he was willing to share with me.  Not ideal, but it got the job done.

It was time to get started so everyone headed over to the start area.  On the way I had a surpise; Sue (whom I'd met after a trail marathon in Lincoln earlier in the year) was there and said hello.  It was nice seeing her and it was great that she had come donw for a Trail Nerd race.  I chatted with a number of friends as we got ready, took an S-Cap, then the gun sounded and off we went!  It starts with a quick downhill on a road going to the trail (maybe about 1/4 mile) then we took a hard right ont the trail.  It was slow going for a little bit at first when we got onto the trail because there was a low hanging branch everyone was having to duck under a little.  Once we got passed that it was fairly smooth sailing.  I didn't need a headlamp for the first 30 min or so, so we got to enjoy the nice sights along the trail for a bit.

The first half of the race went fairly well.  There were some long uphills I power hiked and some fun, rocky downhills that (while it was still light out) I got to take advantage of and enjoy.  This was my first time running the Lake Perry trails.  I really liked them and would very much like to run them in the light of day; I got the impression it is a very fun & pretty place to run when you can see the woods around you.  I was mostly feeling okay through the first half, but my legs were definitely not 100% and I was quite tired.  I normally don't expect to hit a wall in a half marathon, but I knew given all the running I've been doing I would definitely hit one and it would get ugly.  I wanted to see if I had what it took to fight through a solitary, exhausted run out in the dark of night.

I came through the half way aid station at about 9:55pm (6.55 miles in 1:25:00; 12:59 avg pace).  I have to give some props here to Bad Ben (race director), Bryan Hay, Ryan Knapp & Sarah Rackleff.  That was about the best and most fun aid station I've ever seen at a half marathon.  Tons of water & sports drink cups all set up and them there ready to hand us whatever we needed, S-Caps, fruit snakcs, and most importantly cheers & enouragement.  The aid stations at a Trail Nerd race are second to none and this one definitely lived up to the standard!  Thanks to them for volunteering in the middle of the night to be out there for us!

The second half went as expected.  It was a complete and total grind.  I ran when I could, tried to keep my walks at a good power hike pace even when I wanted to slow way down and just tried to stay positive.  Every time I would start to think negative thoughts I would tell myself, "you want to run a 100 miler you better be able to handle this."  That perked me up every time and I'd get moving again.  It one point I came to an unmanned water station and had a little group there with myself, Sue & her friend and Keke.  It was nice to chat for a minute with a few people before we all got moving again.  It was late, I was slow but moving and I really wanted nothing more than to go to sleep!  Eventually I found the one bad thing about the placement of the aid station.  It is located in a spot where sound really travels.  I heard Bryan & Ryan's voices and got excited, I was much further away than I thought!!

I came through the station finally and Bryan & Ryan once again were ready to help out and Sarah was directing us where to go.  I grabbed a cup of water to drink then grabbed another to throw on my face.  At this point it wasn't terrible hot anymore, but it was humid so getting some water on me felt good so I started to reach for another cup when Ryan offered to pour some on me from his pitcher.  Man, that felt GREAT!!!  Thanks, Ryan!!  I started tp head back off to the trail and Sarah pointed me the right way.  There are several ways you can go, at this point I had a 2 mile loop left, then I'd be back at the station and turn for the final 1/4 mile uphill to the finish.  I wasn't sure on the mileage so I asked Sarah how far was left.  She told me it was 2 miles and I jokingly pointed toward the finish and said I thought I'd just go that way instead.  She yelled "No way!! I'm not going to let you do that!!"  It gave me a good laugh as I headed out for my last 2 mile trek.  That stretch was relatively uneventful; more power hiking and slow running.  I finally came back out of the woods and headed up the road toward the finish line.  It's a long, steep hill (the one we ran down at the start) and I just didn't have enough left in me so I power hiked it until I turned toward the finish to run it in.  I got to the finish line and jumped across like I had at the Summer Intro race!  I'm not sure why I'm all the sudden jumping across finish lines, but it sure is fun!  The last half was 6.55 miles in 1:35:48 (14:38 avg) for a total of 13.1 miles in 3:00:48 for an overall avg of 13:48 pace.  Not terrible by any means, and an EXCELLENT training run and fun event.

I was glad to be done.  Ben gave me my medal and I headed inside for some water, a hot dog and (of course) a beer.  Wael & Luke were already in there so I sat down with them and chatted a little.  It's always great to have friends at the end of a race to chat and hang out with!  After a little while I headed outside to join the B.A.R. Crew for a night of craziness.  We sat around drinking beers, joking around and generally having a blast!  At some point it turned into an old-school rap party, then became Matty's own little dance party.  Never a dull moment with the B.A.R. group!  I really had a blast but was completely exhausted.  I finally headed off to the tent to go to sleep around 3:00am and woke up around 6:30.  I wanted to sleep later, but once I wake up and it's light out it doesn't matter how tired I am, I'm up.  I was extreemly hungry so I left at about 7am and headed home so I could get something to eat.

One of the highlights or the evening (morning) was a group sing along to this classic gem:

It was a great, fun event.  Running through the rocky, rooty, hilly trails in the dark of night was great!  I really love night trail running!  I'm thankful to have a group like the Trail Nerds to be a part of here in our area.  Great fun!!


  1. Loved reading of your race experience. I just joined the Trail Nerds a few weeks ago and the intro fun was my first. The Rock the Night event was my first 5K and my first time running at night with a head lamp so it was an interesting experience. I was actually very pleased with how the run went, thrilled I didn't go tumbling at all, and despite the heat I had a great time. Ben and the crew really do seem to know how to put on a top-notch event.

    Congrats to you on your goals. I'm not at the point where I am doing anything beyond 5K runs, but I'm having a blast doing them and running during my weekly running sessions. I only started running about 3 months ago and never realized just how much fun it would turn out to be, especially at 43 years of age.

    I wish you all the best in your upcoming races and will be checking back in to read of your experiences in those races.


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