GOATz Trail Run 50k Race Report

How quickly things can change!!  The tough day I had at the Kansas City Marathon I was getting a bit down.  How could I not be?  It was the first of two marathons & two 50ks in five weeks, so starting off with a race that didn't go well really had me worried about the GOATz 50k just one week later.  Of course I had high hopes that I would turns things around and have a good race, but in the back of my mind I was very worried that I would have a repeat performance of the issues I'd had just a week before.  I really hoped for a good day, I'd been looking forward to this event for quite some time.  My friends Ron & Bobbie Ruhs had told me fairly early this year about a new trail running club up where they live, the Greater Omaha Area Trail Runners (G.O.A.T.z).  I joined their Facebook group so that I could keep up with what they were doing and help support them.  Not long after, there came mention of a GOATz Trail Run 50k, but even better, that this would be the first ultramarathon to ever take place in Omaha!  So I can support a new & upcoming trail running club while at the same time being a part of history??  Yeah, I was sold!!  I put it on my calendar, got it added to the Marathon Maniacs calendar & started telling my local Trail Nerds, Trail Hawks & Tramps about it hoping to get some friends to join me up there.

As the year moved along and I began planning my stretch of four long races in five weeks this was the one I remained most excited about.  As race day got closer I was excited and ready to go see my friends.  Even after the KC Marathon I was excited.  Even if the race didn't go well I still knew I'd have fun seeing friends.  Kristy & I stayed with Ron & Bobbie (thanks for graciously welcoming us into your home again!) and I would get to meet many of the GOATz I'd gotten to know via the FB group.  The week before the race I set the following three goals:
  1. Have fun.
  2. Finish all three loops of the 50k.
  3. Set a new 50k PR (2011 Blue Springs 50k - 7:00:28)
Nerds/Hawks/Tramp (L to R): Me, Wael, Deb, Kristy & Beck
The race was on Sunday, so Saturday morning Kristy & went to a yoga session at the Lululemon store in Overland Park then hopped in the car to drive up to Omaha.  We went directly to packet pickup at Mama's Pizza.  They were kind enough to offer the runners free drinks and the GOATz (including Ron & Bobbie) that were working packet pickup shared some of their pizza with us.  We tried out a couple of local beers and a couple different types of pizza.  Wow!  Let me just say, if you are ever in Omaha stop by Mama's Pizza for a couple slices!  It was OUTSTANDING!!!  While there I ran into Rikki (see her report here), Beck (both of whom would be running their first ultras), Wael (a new grandpa) and Deb.  All of these fine folks are either Trail Nerds, Trail Hawks, Tramps or some combination of.  It's always great to see friends at races!  I also got to meet a few of the GOATz from the FB group.  Once pickup closed Kristy, Ron, Bobbie & I loaded up the remaining packets & shirts into our cars and took them out to race director Scott Giddings who was busily setting up at the race start line, then we headed to Ron & Bobbie's for dinner, some conversation, then off to bed.  Bobbie had made some chicken & rice soup that was excellent!!

RD Scott Giddings with a
pre-race briefing
The next morning we woke up at about 6 am to get ready and leave at about 7 am to get to the race.  Lindsy (who was running the 21 mile as training for the Kansas City North Face Endurance Challenge 50k) met up to ride to the race with Kristy, Bobbie & me; Ron had already headed out there to help set up the audio system.  It was a very cold morning, sitting right above the freezing point, so I was bundled up with some tights, shorts, long sleeve compression shirt, Team RWB shirt, gloves and Trail Nerd ski cap.  Since the course is three loops I decided not to wear a pack (I'm not a huge fan of packs), I'd wear my Nathan belt with two 10oz bottles instead (filled with just water), and take some Stinger Chews, S-Caps and, most importantly in this weather, my inhaler.  For those of you that don't know, I have cold induced asthma, so in temps below 40* my inhaler is the single most important thing to have with me.  I also had my Under Armour duffel bag packed with various types of clothes, extra Stinger Chews, and anything else I might thought necessary to leave at the drop bag spot by the main aid station at the start/finish line.  I found Rikki, Beck, Wael & Deb and said hello & wished them all good luck, then Scott started his pre-race briefing.  The excitement to finally get this thing going after months of anticipation was building!  Finally it was time and we were on our way!

(L to R) Kristy, me, Bobbie & Lindsy before the start
I started out with Rikki & Beck and we all had the intention of following their coach (Head Tramp & fellow Trail Hawk) Coleen's great advice, "don't go out like an asshole!"  Meaning, of course, not to start way too fast and end up burning yourself out.  At the start the 10.5 mile, 21 mile & 50k runners followed cones out to the right on the grass along side the road as the 5 milers headed left and up the hill we would come down to the finish at the end of our loop.  After about 1.2 miles or so we suddenly saw that everyone in front of us had just stopped and were standing lined up for some reason.  As we got closer I could see that there were two water crossings and everyone was stopping to take them very slowly.  I'm not 100% sure why, because once I got down there I could see they were pretty easy to cross.  The first you could just do a short jump over and the second one had rocks that, with strategic steps, made crossing quick & easy.  At one point I must have been following the people in front of me instead of watching the trail because we ended up slightly off course.  We were not off for long at all and didn't really add much distance, but it was a good reminder to pay attention to the course and trail rather than just following other runners.

The trail was a mix of grass, single track, bridal, and paved trails.  I would describe the trail as deceptive.  It's mostly pretty easy compared to some place like the Clinton Lake North Shore Trails or the bridal trails at Wyandotte County Lake.  There is only one small section with any roots and there are virtually no rocks on the whole course.  There is only really one steep hill, so certainly nothing like the hills you have to climb on the bridal trails of WyCo, but there were tons of short, easy rollers that kind of add up on you after a while.  Really, for me the toughest part of the course was how often you go from unpaved to paved trail and back.  The vast majority was on unpaved trail, but going to short stretches of pavement were beating me up.  I can do marathons on pavement & I can do marathons on trails, but when I'm going back and forth between the two it takes it's toll.  All in all, I was impressed with the course overall.  It's a nice park and the views down by the lake are great.  I'd really love to come back and run this course again during the spring when the grass is a bit greener and the leaves are on the trees rather than on the ground!  I have no doubt that when it's alive and green this is a beautiful place to run.

Walking up the steepest hill on
 the course
Several times through the first loop I caught up with and lost Rikki.  She was generally keeping a faster pace than me, so we would only be together for a few short times.  I finished the first loop in about 2:10 and grabbed a few Stinger Chews from my drop bag to refill my stash in my belt.  It had warmed up a bit, but there were a number of spots on the course were the wind still made it feel quite cold, so the only wardrobe change I made was swapping out my Trail Nerds ski cap for a Marathon Maniacs hat.  That way I wouldn't get too warm in the spots without wind, but still be warm enough in the windy places.  Even with the cold, I had managed my asthma quite well.  I used my inhaler about 10 minutes before the start, then about every 45-50 minutes and as needed.  My lungs were feeling good and I was having no issues breathing so far.  As I started out onto the course for the second loop I was still feeling pretty good, but I had a feeling getting a PR was pretty unlikely.  With two loops to go, I had 4 hours and 50 minutes left to finish ahead of my PR.  The only way I could do that would be to lose an average of 10 minutes per loop.  I felt like that might be possible for this next loop, but I felt like most likely I would lose too much time on the final loop as the last ten miles are generally far slower than the first 21.  No need to worry about that now, though.  I was feeling good and still having fun.  My plan was to just enjoy this second loop again and see how I felt when I got to the third loop.

Everything was going quite well, but when I got to the water crossing I made a bit of a misstep and ---glug--- my right foot sunk about ankle deep in the water.  My shoes (Saucony Kinvara 2) are light and thin, so they don't hold much water and the Injinji socks I wear dry out pretty quick, so generally I don't get too worried about stepping in a stream like this, but with the cold air I was a bit concerned about how it would effect me.  I could feel a chill all the way up my body right off the bat, so I took a hit off my inhaler just to be safe.  I got over the rocks of the wider crossing with no issues.  Right after the crossing there is a grassy field to run across, that slowed me down a bit.  An unexpected result of the wet shoe/foot, every step with my right foot would slip a little!  It wasn't a big deal, though, my foot dried off very quickly.  I was running along, slightly slower than the first loop, but still moving well and feeling good.

The start/finish line
I was running with a few different runners here & there, meeting new people and enjoying myself.  Just before the mid-point of the loop I started getting a side stitch, so I took an S-Cap and drank a little extra water.  Within minutes the stitch was gone and I was feeling strong again as I got to the manned aid station right around the 6 mile point.  I didn't really need anything other than filling up my water bottles, so one of the workers helped me fill them and I was back on my way.  From this point on I started seeing some horses put on the trails with us.  That was pretty nice, I like horses, so I enjoy seeing people out riding while I run.  Not far after the aid station my right knee really started to bother me for some reason.  Nothing bad, just kind of a little annoyance.  It definitely was getting in my head though, I was worried about it getting worse or leading to an injury, but I just kept on moving and tried not to worry too much about it.  I did slow down a little more hoping that easing up on it a little would let it settle down some.

As I was coming to the finish line of the second loop I was very happy to see Kristy there waiting for me.  She had run the 10.5 mile (one loop).  I finished the second loop (21 miles) in about 4:30, I'd lost about 20 minutes on my second loop, but considering I was this far in I was happy with how I was doing so far.  Kristy asked if I needed anything, so I told her I need a few more Stinger chews for my belt and a Red Bull.  At this point, my biggest problem was that I was tired; not tired from running, just tired.  I'd slept well the night before, but just really had no energy left.  I told Kristy my knee was bothering me some and I was tired, but I hoped the Red Bull would help.  I told her this loop might be pretty slow if my knee kept bothering me so she asked if I wanted her to meet me at the mid-way aid station and I told her that'd be great.  She said she'd wait for Lindsy (running the 21 mile) to finish then head out there.  Then I was off for my third & final loop.  I was happy to be on the final loop, but I was excited to know I would be finishing my second official 50k before too long.  This time I had no issues with the water crossing and as I went on my knee felt a little better.  I was running some, walking some; basically just going the pace that felt good and not stopping.  I suddenly realized that my Garmin wasn't going to survive back to the finish.  It's a couple years old now, so it only gets about 6 and a half hours out of a charge.  I texted Kristy and asked her if she could bring my drop bag out to the aid station since it had my mother-in-law's Garmin in it that she had let me borrow as a backup and asked her to get it out and find satellites with it so it would be ready to go for me.  She said she would.

At one point I was walking along part of the paved trail and completely didn't notice the turn.  Yep, walked right on past it!  Luckily there were a couple guys not far behind me and they whistled at me so I would turn around and see that I'd missed a turn.  I wasn't far past it, so I got back on the trail not far behind them.  I'm not sure how I missed it, just not paying attention, I guess.  No harm, no foul, I was back on tracking and running along.  I passed the runners that had called out to me just a little before we got to the 2.5 mile unmanned water stop.  Once I got there I refilled my bottles and Mark Kellogg (one of the runners that told me I had gotten off course) got there as I was filling my bottles up.  I joked a little with him about how much I wanted to sit down, but just didn't know if I could get back up!!  He sat down to stretch a little and I headed back out.  He caught up to me again as I was getting to the 26.2 mile point and I shouted back at him that we had just passed a marathon!  He told me this was his first 50k and we chatted a little about what each of us had done with triathlon and stuff like that.  Nice guy to chat with.  He headed out a bit in front of me as we got to the manned aid station.  I was glad to see Kristy when I got there.  She is a great aid station worker, so she grabbed my bottles and started filling them as I took a couple cups of Coke and the backup Garmin.  I told Kristy I was about 0.1 miles from being at 27 even so I asked her to walk with me for a minute so I could start it and stop my Garmin at an even mile so I'd know where I was.  She did.  So that led to a funny story.  We were walking and talking on the way back down the road to get back on the trail.  Now keep in mind, I almost never drink carbonated beverages, especially soda, so when I do my body doesn't really know what to do with it. I started the new Garmin, stopped mine and handed it to her.  Suddenly, in mid-sentenced, I let out a big long belch!  I couldn't help it, carbonation just does that to me!  She laughed, I laughed, and it gave me a smile as I got back out to finish the run.

I was doing quite a bit of walking, but still running some as well.  It didn't take too long before Mark & I were together again.  Eventually we came upon Lee (for those that read my report on the Psycho Psummer Trail Run you'll remember Lee as the guy I finished with after some issues on the trail).  We had about a 5k left so he walked/jogged with us.  It was nice to have the company of some good people like Lee & Mark through these last few miles as they are physically and mentally the toughest.  Finally with about a mile to go I decided I was going to finish this thing running strong.  Lee & Mark ran with me for a bit, but eventually walked again so I was solo.  That was okay at this point, I was in a battle with myself.  There are a couple hills along that last mile so it was challenging to keep running rather than walking.  I had long since missed my PR, but I was proud of myself for a strong finish.  As I got down the hill for the final short stretch I saw Kristy, Lindsy, Bobbie & Scott at the finish line cheering me in!  I ran a little harder and crossed the finish line at 7:36:42 and Scott put the awesome medal around my neck.  I had run my final mile+ at about a 12 min mile even with the hills; not bad for the last mile. 

So in the end it was actually 32.86 miles in 7:36:42 (Garmin data) for an overall average of 13:57 pace.  Sure, I'd missed my PR goal, but I was extremely happy with this!  My first 50k was actually a bit short at 30.78 miles, so this was a full 2.08 miles longer.  Also, that first one was on a very easy, soft rail-to-trail in Independence, MO so comparing the trails this was a MUCH harder course.  Add to that the simple fact that I had felt better and ran stronger through much more of the race than the previous 50k and I'll say, although not a PR, this is by far my best performance in an Ultra (this was my third ultra).  Sometimes doing better doesn't always equal setting a new PR.  I'd also gotten to meet lots of new friends and seen some people accomplish their first ultras, you can't ever be upset about that!  Also, I found something interesting happening mentally.  With Kansas City Marathon the weekend before and then a 50k, this was the closest time frame I'd ever run two marathons/ultras in, but rather than excited that I was going to have the next weekend without one, I found myself disappointed that I didn't have another coming right around the corner.  It would be two weeks after this before my next (Pilgrim Pacer Marathon).  I guess I really am hooked on this marathon thing!

After I finished this I saw Rikki & Deb and congratulated Rikki on her first ultra, then Beck came in and finished and we all congratulated her on her first ultra, then Ron finished.  This was an outstanding event and I never would have guessed it was a first year had I not already known.  I cannot wait for next year to run it again!!  This was lifetime marathon/ultra #10, #8 in the last 364 days (earning me a second star with the Marathon Maniacs), and #6 for 2012.

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