I now have two data points to tell me that the 50k is not "only" 5 more miles than a marathon! Prairie Spirit didn't go quite as I hoped, as I didn't better my debut time or negative split, but I set a Kansas overall female 50k state record and a new Prairie Spirit female course record with a 3:37:06 on the rails to trails gravel course. I loved this training cycle so much, so I stepped up to the starting line feeling like I'd already won. I couldn't execute as I wanted, even though I had great weather, a nice course, fantastic pacing buddies, and the best crew. Thankful but not satisfied...and I am definitely going to run a third 50k now, once I forget how the end of this one felt!
Official results are here, including course records.
Kansas state records are here (you have to click on 50k after following the link).
Top 50k 2022 North American performances are here, and currently I sit at #5.
My Strava activity is here.
Race photos are here.
|Awards at the finish|
I was more intimidated going into this race than going into my first 50k, because I remembered how agonizing the final 4 miles of the race felt last time! I think I benefitted a lot from the ignorance is bliss thing before I'd run a 50k - not only about how the race would feel but also about what performances were good. I ran fast in my debut but I didn't understand the implications until afterward, some not until days or weeks afterward (e.g., I ended up with the 4th best North American/3rd U.S. women's time of 2021 and was under the time standard of 3:35 needed to apply for the 2021 USATF World 50k team).
This time I had higher goals and expectations based on all of that, namely to break 3:30, make it into the top 3 women's 2022 times (the U.S. 50k national champs took place a few weeks before this race so there were some fast times to beat), and net a time to apply for the 2023 USATF World team (under 3:33). Conflictingly, I also was really scared of the end-of-the race pain!
Colin and I trained for the race together through some pretty brutal winter weather, including the two coldest races either of us had ever run, but race day gave us nearly perfect weather at 32 degrees at the start. The north wind was 8-10 mph by the time we were at midway, meaning we had a headwind from mile 17.3 to the finish, but considering the race was in Kansas I don't think we could have done any better! My biggest fear going into the race had been a 30+ mph headwind for half of the race.
Colin and I planned to run together, and Andrew was joining at the mile 17.3 aid station, which was when 50k pacers were allowed. I was confident that Colin and I would be together at 17.3, so I knew I'd have someone to run with the whole time, which was comforting. It was also great knowing that Andrew would be with me during the hardest part of the race with 17.3 fewer miles on his legs than I had on mine! The rails to trails course wasn't very scenic and much like Frisco looked about the same the entire way - also much like Frisco it kind of felt uphill both ways. My race plan was to run the first 5 miles at about 7:00, the next 5 miles at about 6:50, then the next 21.1 [gulp] at 6:40-6:45, hoping to average 6:45ish. I positive split my first 50k and really wanted to negative split this one. I thought my fitness was similar to where it was for Frisco, so I hoped more conservative early pacing would yield an overall faster time.
Colin and I were leading the race before mile 1, tailed by two men who we met shortly after. Hans was an experienced ultra runner and Logan was an Ironman triathlete running his first ultra. We bantered, laughed, and worked together for the first 20 miles of the race. At mile 10 I pointed out that we were 1/3 finished but it turned out I was the only one optimistic about that! The miles flew by, and I was trying to keep tabs on where we were so I could execute my fueling plan of a gel every 3 miles, but many times I'd look down and be further along than I thought, which is always a nice surprise. I stayed on my gels well though, and it felt like I was almost constantly taking one. The race required that you carry fluid so I ran with handhelds that I switched out at each manned aid station.
|The mile 10.8 aid station|
We picked up pacer Andrew at the turn around, which we ran past because there was just a timing mat on the ground - no cone or sign or other indication. I knew the turn around was supposed to be at that aid station so I asked "where do we turn around?" after we'd run well past the mat, then someone told us "there!" pointing back to the mat. Jon said he was yelling at us to turn around at the mat but we didn't hear him. He also said that aid station wasn't ready for us since runners from the longer distances had been coming through - they started earlier than us and continued on south to their turn arounds, plus they were more apt to stop vs. our turn and burn plan. We probably lost about 10 seconds there, which didn't seem to matter in a 50k but in the end it did (stay tuned!), especially since we'd also run a bit past the ~2 mile turn around for a similar reason.
When we turned around, we also turned into a headwind. We went single file: Andrew, Colin, me, Hans, Logan. I was still in a good place but didn't feel like I should drop pace much, so I told Andrew 6:45-6:50 instead of the planned 6:40-6:45. He's a great pacer and also took the wind for us as much as he could. I could tell Logan was struggling to hang onto us, and I'm not exactly sure when he fell off but it was between the turn around and mile 20. He'd been hoping for a sub-3:00 marathon during the race, which would have been a PR for him, so my heart went out to him.
|Mile 17.3 aid station bottle hand off|
Hans picked it up around mile 20, and after we clipped through a 6:39 mile I told Colin that he should go with Hans if he wanted to race for the overall win, but I didn't feel ready to pick it up. Colin didn't feel comfortable speeding up either, so we continued at 6:50ish. There was also a fast man who'd started late, so that was an X factor for the guys' placings; the race changed their start times from past years and some people had planned around the old start times so they allowed people to start late and use chip time. Hans knew who the other fast man was and thought he would be the one to beat (spoiler: Hans won, the other man was 2nd, and Colin 3rd).
The final manned aid station was at 23.8, and I was looking forward to seeing my family one last time on the course and getting my gel with 100 mg caffeine. My bottle/gel hand off from Jon went seamlessly, as had the first two exchanges, but when I unzipped the pocket of my fresh handheld my gel wasn't in there! I almost asked Andrew to go back for it, but muling was against the rules. I asked Colin if he had an extra gel with caffeine, but he didn't have any with caffeine. I didn't think I needed the gel - I still had one on me to take between there and the finish - but I sure needed the caffeine!
I tried to stay positive, and looked forward to seeing our marathon split. Our average pace for the entire race was hovering at 6:52-6:53, so I knew we wouldn't quite be sub-3:00, which was somewhat disappointing but finishing strong was more important to me in this race. I felt like at Frisco I was really concerned about keeping my marathon under 3 and not having any miles over 7:00, which may have hurt me in the final miles there. We passed the marathon in about 3:00:40 on our Garmins, but don't worry, I am not counting that against my sub-3:00 streak since it was in a 50k - although if I was under I'd have counted it, haha!
I felt a little better than I had at Frisco at that point in the race, but also not as good as I'd have liked to have felt, meaning I didn't feel confident about finishing strong. Colin began pulling away from me. Before the race I kept telling him that it was going to be just like Run with the Wind, where he pulled away in the final miles at 6:15 while I stayed at 6:45. This time I didn't stay at 6:45, but he did pull away! I stopped looking at my watch at that point and just gave all I had to get in as fast as my legs would carry me.
|Pain face final stretch|
I felt okay enough until a bit after mile 28. When my watch beeped 28 I told Andrew, "Only a 5k to go!" but I was losing steam quickly. I kind of knew where we were at since we'd run the opposite direction on the same trail early in the race. I kept willing us to get to the highway crossing, for my watch to beep 29 and 30, to get to the pavement for the final mile. I could see Colin in the distance ahead of me and I also kept willing him to turn left, because I knew when he did it was only about 200 m to the finish from there. In my mind, the last 5k took longer than the first 28 miles, and I gritted it out but it wasn't pretty, and the final mile was all gentle incline which sure didn't help. I was quite thankful to hit the finish line because I was beyond running on empty! My official time was 3:37:06 - the 5th fastest women's time in North America in 2022. The reason those little bits of lost time at the turn arounds mattered? The 4th fastest time is 3:36:58. I'm more frustrated with myself for my slow final mile, but at the time it was all I had.
|5th in North America in 2022|
|Prairie Spirit top times|
After I took a couple of minutes to gather myself while holding onto the building, the race organizers continued to announce information about my race - course record and Kansas state open female record. I knew I'd hit those times because I'd looked them up beforehand; they were my C and D goals for this race (A was sub-3:30, B was PR...but E was finishing of course!). I celebrated with my family and friends, accepted my awards, and vowed to never do that again.
But, of course I'll do it again! After all, I just know I've got a faster one in me! The agony of those final few miles and the pain for the remainder of the day will fade away, and I have very much fallen in love with 50k training. I'm still primarily a marathoner and this race was also my longest long run for the 2022 Boston Marathon on April 18, but there's something about those 5 extra miles that, God-willing, I am determined to solve.
More race details are here.
|Miles from Mentor reps|
The race asked me to pose for a pic
by the finish for their social & I wasn't
wasn't quite sure what to do, but this
is what they got from endophin-me!