Psycho Psummer 20 Mile Race Report

I'll admit, I've been avoiding writing this one.  Normally I get my race reports done within a day or two, but this race has been a tough pill to swallow for me.  I haven't really been very excited about going back and writing about it and reliving it.  Basically, WyCo made me it's bitch.  I want to start by saying this was an AMAZINGLY well run event by Bad Ben (the race director) and a fantastic job by all of the volunteers!  I can't say enough about them.  I'm told that it topped out around 105* during the race and the humidity was very high.  There was a risk running in this heat, but Ben & the volunteers reduced that risk drastically.  The course is an 11.25 mile loop with FIVE manned aid stations and FOUR unmanned water stations!  Nine opportunities for water and/or aid in just 11.25 miles.  THAT is how you set up a race in this weather!  As you will hear in this report, the volunteers were awesome!  They were more than willing to help however possible, offer smiles and encouragement and hand out water and ice with mad efficiency.  They were out there in the heat suffering like the rest of us but they all smiled, worked feverishly and never complained.  I was in awe of their efforts!

For me this was a race I was quite excited about but ended in defeat.  I'd like to blame the heat & humidity, but it had to be more than that.  Sometimes it just isn't in the cards and that was the case for me at Psycho Psummer.  I was registered for the 50k and quite excited about it.  I had run one official 50k (Blue Springs in Oct '11) and one unofficial 50k (Gen-no's 4-OH! Run), but this would be the toughest course & conditions so I wanted to meet the challenge.  Distance wise, I've been training pretty well, but it's been tough.  It's been near-record heat, near-record draught and extremely high humidity.  I like hot weather, but this year has been crazy!  I've been doing my runs but they've been tough and very slow.  Even with that I felt plenty ready.  I knew it'd be tough with the weather so I set out a plan for the day that I thought would get me through it.  The cutoff for the race was 9 hours; three 3 hour loop.  I figured if I could do the first two loops in 2hrs 40min each (approx) then I would have 3:40 for the final loop.  I've done this course in 2:40 in the heat and I felt like it was slow enough to leave me enough to do the full three loops but with the heat the last would be mostly walking so I wanted to leave a cushion.

I got out to the race early for a picture with some fellow Marathon Maniacs and get ready.  It was already fairly warm when we took our group picture at 7:30 am.  I chatted with Maniacs and fellow Trail Nerds, got my drop bag over to the main aid station and went over to wait for the start.  Been said a few words then sounded the gun and off we went.  There is a long open stretch (interrupted by a small bridge) from the start line leading up to the entrance to the trail.  The group was mostly running until we hit the trail and things bottled up.  We slowed to a walk with some running in spurts as the crowd slowly thinned out over the first mile or so of the trail.  After that it was smooth sailing as far as the crowd goes.

The first several miles are on the bridal trail leading up to an aid station at the entrance to the interior single track trails.  I was still feeling really good when I got to the station so I grabbed some watermelon and took an S-Cap before crossing the road and heading off onto the interior trails.  These trails are less hilly, less rocky, more shaded and generally easier to run than the bridal trail so I was excited to hit that section.  I was ready to make up some time!  I was moving pretty good, but it didn't take long to start to feel the effects.  The day before the race there was a brief rain that had shot the humidity through the roof and the close quarters of these trails just trapped it.  Rather than getting relief, it was almost worse; stuffy, humid & generally stifling.  I was making good time and mostly feeling comfortable but it was slowly getting less & less comfortable.

See KC Run's photo of me
starting down Fall Down Hill
I came off these trails having made up lots of time and headed up the steep road to Shelter 11 at the very top of Fall Down Hill.  I got some more watermelon, water, took another S-Cap, dunked my head under the water spout next to the shelter to cool off and headed to the hill.  I have a love-hate relationship with Fall Down.  I hate running up it (crazy steep with tons of switchbacks) but I LOVE sprinting down it!!  I've never been too tired to sprint down this hill with a smile on my face.  As I started to get to the steeper section where I could really let it loose and go I saw Dick Ross of See KC Run (official race photographer) and he got a great shot of me having some fun with the sprint.  I made it down fast and with a big smile on my face; love that section!  The down side?  After that is a long trudge up the dam.  Dead sun, dried out grass, steep uphill that you're walking up the side of leaving you walking leaning to one side.  No fun.  I can run up the dam on a short run, but running it here would kill the rest of the run so I just powered up it at the fastest walk I could muster.  I got to the top and headed toward the top section of the Shelter 14 loop (which I run every Thursday evening) knowing I'd see friends at the aid station after this section.  This section has lots of fairly steep uphill; honestly I wish the course would use the lower section instead of the top section, but I didn't create the course so I just dealt with it.

Ava (Ammanda's daughter), Ammanda, Bryan & Keke at
the Shelter 14 aid station
As I came out of the trees by the shelter I could here my evil twin Bryan Hay hollering at me.  It was great seeing Bryan, Keke & Ammanda from the B.A.R. crew at this station.  Ammanda started to walk out to me asking if I needed a refill on water or anything.  I normally don't like to carry a hand held bottle but knew I'd want to keep water on my head in the heat so I had brought a small one that until this station I had kept tucked into my Nathan hydration pack's pouch.  I took it out and tossed it to her and she filled it with some ice & water for me while I dunked my head under the spout and had a couple snacks.  Bryan had said he'd have some potatoes for us so I asked about them and he got one for me.  I ate about a quarter of a potato as I headed up to enter the trail on the other side of the station.  They were running an awesome station and I felt great physically and re-energized as I left my friends.

Me headed up the toughest of the 3 or
4 HUGE hills the course finishes with.
I got back on the trail for the last 4 miles to the finish/start line.  This section is one massive hill after another much of which is out in the sun.  This section is where things started to head south for me.  I hiked the hills as best I could without burning myself out, but hill after hill I was getting hotter, my heart rate was getting higher and I was feeling more discouraged.  I kept putting water on my head from the bottle I was carrying and that really helped a lot.  I better remember this for future extreme heat long runs.  These hills are humbling.  I ran when I could between the hills, but they come up one after another; no way to keep a good rhythm.  I finally came out of the trees and got down to the main aid station right before the start/finish line.  Waiting there for me was Theresa working the station.  She took my water bottle and filled it with fresh ice and water while I took off my hydration pack and got the bladder out of it.  She dumped some ice into it for me and I went to fill it with water at the end of the table and drop in some Nuun tabs.  I was really hot suddenly standing at this station for some reason.  Maybe it was the memories of having worked this aid station during the 1* windchill of the winter version of this race in February!!  Whatever it was, while I was at this station I really felt drained.  I grabbed some more watermelon (I swear over the course of all the aid stations at this race I must have eaten a full watermelon) and headed on my way.

Remember above when I said I wanted to finish each of my first two loops in 2:40 each?  I walked across the finish line to start my second loop at EXACTLY 2:40:00!!  That gave me a big boost as I head out for loop #2.  Okay, I was getting hot but I was right on plan so no worries.  This attitude and excitement dwindled quickly as I headed up the long, hot, sunny field to the entrance to the trail.  My legs were getting heavy.  As I turned onto the trail I felt drained.  It was like in the 1/4 mile from the start to the trail I had run 20 miles.  I went from pretty okay to sore and drained in that short time.  I hoped that as I walked I would cool down a little with the ice water in my bottle and cold Nuun in my pack and hopefully feel better by the time I got to the aid station at the entrance to the interior trails.  Beck passed me along the way to her first 20 mile with a big smile on her face!  She chatted with me for a minute and I told her how I was feeling.  She encouraged me and reminded me that things tend to turn around in a long run.  I appreciated the encouragement and hoped she was right.  As I came out of the woods at the aid station, the opposite was true.  I was drained.  You guessed it, I grabbed some watermelon and took an S-Cap as I tried to just keep moving and got over to the start of the interior trail.  As I was getting onto the trail some of my Maniac friends were there waiting for someone to catch up.  Through the rest of the interior trails we played leap frog.  I'd catch them, they'd get out ahead, I'd catch them, etc.

The Shelter 11 crew (before my wife & mother-in-law
got there.  Captained by Erica & Elliot
I was so happy as I was getting to the Shelter 11 aid station to see that my wife & mother-in-law were there.  I was so exhausted at this point that I sat down on the bench and ate more watermelon and tried to gather my thoughts.  I talked a little with Kristy & Rosie, but they were focused on a couple other runners there that were having some big heat problems.  As I talked with Erica I did something out of character for me.  I reached for a cup of Coke.  ALL of my ultra runner friends champion the greatness of Coke during an ultra.  I don't like soda; I've tried it during races and still hated it.  But I was tired, hot, discourage; why not try it now?  What could it hurt?  I grabbed the cup and downed it.  AWESOME!!!  I grabbed another cup, then another!  I probably drank 4 or 5 cups of Coke!  I told Erica I hated soda at races but this was SO good!  She said she was the same way; she never liked it at races but at some point there was a turn around and she loved it.  I jokingly said, "well, that turn around appears to be RIGHT NOW!! This is SO good!"  Great aid station with lots of encouragement!!!

Dam Hill (photo credit to Linda Ballard)
After that I headed back to the top of Fall Down Hill.  As I was getting there one of the faster runners on his third loop passed me and headed down as well.  We chatted a bit as we sprinted down the hill.  It was cool to be able to keep up with one of the faster runners even if it was only thanks to the hill.  When we got to the bottom and started up the hill I told him good luck and slowed way down again.  Ugh.... sun, hill, sideways, again.  Remember everything I said above about why I hate going up the dam?  Multiply it by 12 and that's how I felt about it in this moment.  As I was on my way up the hill I could hear an ambulance and it sounded like it was about where the shelter was.  I wondered if it was for the guy I saw laying up there.  After the race I found out it was but that he was okay.  I got to the top of the hill completely demoralized and exhausted.  I trudged through the Shelter 14 trail and got to the aid station.

Trying to muster a smile at Shelter 14
(photo credit to Keke Pounds)
As I was walking from the trees to the shelter I think Bryan could see that I was hurting.  He walked out to meet me and I told him I didn't think I was going to make the third loop.  I wasn't even sure how I was going to finish this loop.  I aid more watermelon, chatted with Keke and Bryan and some other runners that were coming through and eventually got moving again.  There was a guy that had been just behind me for while so I waited on him so we could walk together.  As much as I was struggling, he seemed to be struggling more.  His name was Lee and as we chatted it turned out he was from Omaha and is part of the GOATz trail running group up there with Ron & Bobbie Ruhs!  We kept talking and kept walking.  At some point I hit my second wind.  I suddenly felt pretty good!  I wanted to get to running so I could make cut off and go for the third loop no matter how it might hurt.  I decided to tell Lee I was going to see him at the end and start running but when I looked back he was struggling bad and having cramps in his calves.  I decided it would be best for him to not be out here alone and who knew when I might fall apart if I tried to run too much so I decided to forget it and stay with him. 

Me, Lee & Ben walking to the finish
of the 20 mile.
We started up the monster hills toward the end and reminded him to just keep moving.  In my experience, stopping on a steep hill while you are tired and cramping is the worst thing you can do physically and mentally.  At one point on a very steep hill I looked back and he had stopped so I started to walk back down toward him.  I asked if he was okay and he started to look toward me and his legs locked up and he felt to the ground.  I got down to him and asked if he was okay; was it just the cramps or was it the heat?  He said his calves were locked up so I tried to help him massage them out a little.  It took him several minutes to try to get up again.  When he and started to try to walk he couldn't get his momentum going so I tried to push him forward up the hill a little, but he started to go down again.  I tried to catch him, but he fell off to his right toward the trees trying to stay up grabbing trees and blocking me out from being able to grab him.  He was on the ground again.  That's when I realized he wasn't just fighting cramps; he looked at me completely zoned out.  Then I was worried.  I know what to do to help someone in this case, but you need something to cool them down.  I had no cold water, no ice, nothing to cool him down.  I kept talking to him and quickly he started being coherent again.  I changed my message from "keep moving" to "relax for a few minutes and cool down".  He seemed like the more he stat there the better he got.  Eventually another runner came along and said he had some ice water left and offered to pour some on Lee's head and neck.  That helped him a lot and he started to try to get up.  Both the other runner and I told him to just stay down for a little longer and collect himself.

The other guy went on his way eventually and Lee got back up.  Now it was just about surviving to the finish.  He was feeling better and looking better so we just took it really slow and easy.  I stayed behind him so I could keep an eye on how he was doing.  Hill after hill we both said "I think this is the last one", it never was!!  Eventually as we were nearing the finish Ben came walking the other direction with a bag fill of ice.  He asked us if we knew how the guy that was down on the trail was doing and Lee said "yeah, that was me!"  Apparently the guy who helped him had let Ben know when he got to the finish.  Ben put the bag of ice around his neck and we walked to the finish line.  We'd missed the cut off for the third loop, not that we would have done another anyway, so we were credited with 20 miler finishes.  It's actually 22.5 in 6:30:30.  This is a pathetically bad time and result; I was very disappointed.  But I was glad Lee was okay and we were both done.  I sat around and chatted with Lee and many other friends.  I even got the chance to talk Megan into doing the Kansas 70.3 with me next June!!

This race was a disaster for me.  I'm disappointed, discouraged and in general not real happy about it.  I'll get over it, but it's tough to take a hit like this.  The event was extremely well run and well organized.  Ben did an amazing job and the volunteers did the best job I've ever seen at a race.  I later found out that there was a major ice shortage due to a truck of ice that was ordered not being delivered.  Not one runner ever knew about this during the event.  They had PLENTY of ice and gave it out freely.  Little did we know they were scrambling off to the store over and over again to get more.  What an amazing effort by them.  Although my result wasn't what I wanted I am proud that I took the time to help a fellow runner and I'm proud to be a member of the Trail Nerds after seeing how they all worked so hard to make this race a success and safe for everyone.  I will most likely be at this event again next year knowing that Ben & the group will have things well in hand.  Time to move on from this one and on to bigger better things.  I need to get this one out of my head.


  1. Great report -- I don't think it was a disaster at all for you, but we can agree to disagree. First, I am so happy I am mentioned. I love being name-dropped. It makes me feel famous. Second, you went above and beyond helping another runner -- that's the kind of shit that makes this world a better place. Be VERY proud motherfucker. PS - your wife and m-i-l were fantabulous - we had a good time :)

    1. Of course you get name dropped; that's what happens when you run an amazing aid station! Thanks for all your hard work & encouragement. You guys saved me, then you literally saved another guy! Cheers to you, Elliot & crew!!

  2. Enjoyed your report, I definatly have a tough time writing or saying much about races that don't go my way, but bad races will happen, espically when they are this long.

  3. I know the feeling, thinking you did everything right, both in terms of preparation and execution, and it just didn't happen. Of course, someone smart once said that shit happens, and on a tough trail, in the heat, it does. I just try to remind myself that everyone - from the elites on down - have off days. The fastest marathoners and ultrarunners have all dropped out, been humbled, felt defeated. Ultimately, the good races will feel so much better, having overcome challenges like this.

  4. bad races happen and it was a tough course on a tough day! Learn and let it motivate you! Above all you did a a really great thing for another runner and that karma is the best thing you can carry forward! There will always be good races and shitty races..but helping someone in need counts for so much more beyond any race in my book!!

  5. I had been wondering if you would write about this and am so glad that you did. We learn so much by experiences like this and although I'm sure you were disappointed (I sensed several disappointments from runners that day) I'm glad you had the courage to put it all out there.

    I meant to introduce myself at Shelter 11 because I recognized you from the blog. Had I known at the time that you were the husband of Kristy I would for sure have done so. This was my first volunteer experience at a Trail Nerds event and I loved it. I felt more proud to be a newbie Trail Nerd as a volunteer than I have at any of the events I've done, and that is saying something. Meeting and getting to spend some time with your wife and mother-in-law were highlights of the day. They, as well as the rest of the great Shelter 11 crew, were wonderful and it was a real pleasure for me to be a part of supporting all the runners as well as get to meet such great people. That day has been a highlight of my summer thus far.

    Having read your latest post about goals and training it is readily apparent that you've taken some lessons from this experience and are using it to shape the kind of runner you want to be. I think that is awesome and know that I'll be cheering in your corner as you work to achieve those goals.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Carl! I've volunteered at a number of events (Trail Nerd & others) and it's great to go away at the end knowing you may have saved someone's race. On this day you guys may well have saved lives. Kudos to you for being out there on such a hot, tough day.

  6. It was a fun way to end the day when I saw Kristy at the Glow Run 5K that night


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