The Flint Hills Trail 40-Miler and Marathon was held by Epic Ultras on Saturday, May 30th. I ran the marathon option with fellow Skora Ambassador, Geoffrey. We have been having a particularly rainy patch in Kansas, so we were fortunate to avoid a monsoon on race day.
About Epic Ultras
Epic Ultras was founded by Eric Steele with the mission of running the highest quality ultrarunning events in the world. As a race director, Eric is always straight-forward. His welcome packets tell you “No Whining!” and his briefings advice you to “Not be an asshole!” I ran one of his ultras last year, and he puts on very consistent events. This race was a comped entry for me, having won a photo voting contest. All Epic Ultra events feature Hammer Nutrition gels, electrolytes and HEED drinks. The volunteers are all runners and really seem to know what you need to “just keep running.”
About the Trail
The Flint Hills Trail, an old railroad corridor comprised of decompose limestone, stretches 117 miles from Osawatomie to Herington. It is the longest trail in Kansas and the seventh longest in the US. The course is non-technical, of course, being a rail-trail, but the views were very pretty. On either side of the trail, you could spot wildflowers, birds and bunnies. In the clearings, we were greeted by cows. The rail left the trail under water in just a few places – which made for soggy shoes and muddy shins. Although the temperature was perfect, the humidity was quite high. I noticed many runners were bright red.
About the Course
The race started at Celebration Hall in Ottawa, Kansas and routed 2 miles through town, via the Prairie Spirit Trail, to a mile-long stretch on the river levee before dumping us into the Flint Hills trail system. Aid station #1 was at the 3.4 mile-point right at the start of the Flint Hills trail. Aid station #2 was located at 7.3 miles and aid station #3, which served as our turnaround point was at 13.1. Each aid station was fully stocked with Hammer products, fruits, soda and sandwiches. Epic Ultras really does have amazing, knowledgeable people crewing the stations.
The start / finish line was quite muddy so I immediately got my shoes and socks soggy. The initial running through town was a nice chance to warm-up and get some speedier miles in. There was a slight little hill up to the levee. I didn’t really enjoy running the levee as it had a slight camber to it, and I don’t care to run a constant slope for a mile. I was happy to drop into the trail system.
My plan was to stay somewhere between 11:00 – 12:00 pace and see how long I could hang on. I tend to speed up too much when I zone-out and just run, so I had to reel myself back in a bit in the first half. I carried only a small handheld which I refilled at each aid station. I did grab a peanut butter gel at the second aid station (7.3 miles in). I drink a small cup of soda at the third aid station (13.1 turnaround). At aid station 4 (20.1), the volunteers talked me into a small wedge of watermelon after I drank a cup of soda.
Somewhere between miles 16 and 18, I began to feel the hurt… My hips and knees started letting me know they were tired. I told myself, just make it to the next aid station. From there, I knew it was 3 more miles to the last aid station and I kept trucking along…. I thought the last few miles would be easier since I was back in town, but I thought wrong. I ran the levee stretch into a strong headwind, but kept pushing. I ran thru the city streets, stopping at a few stoplights, but kept on trucking. It was the final mile on the paved trail that did me in. One mile of perfectly straight, endless sidewalk, with no landmarks… no end in sight. I couldn’t see the finish and I couldn’t hear announcers. At that moment, I quit trucking and walked. I was hurt and felt like laying down on the sidewalk. I was pretty mad at myself when I was passed by a female runner. Finally, I saw the signage telling me the end was near, so I picked it back up and ran it in. I crossed the finish and saw my boys at the finish. Nothing is more rewarding than seeing the smiling faces of my five boys. My legs decided they were done and I wanted to lay down in the mud. I managed to stay on my feet for a picture with Eric, the race director, before shuffling slowly to the car.
At least 20 times during the run, I told myself that I was never doing another marathon. And then I got home, cleaned up and saw my results.
2nd place age group.
5th place female.
And I thought, if I had not walked, I would have been 3rd or 4th place female. Surely, I could improve by the fall? And wouldn’t an October marathon or ultra be fun?
Yeah… I am currently scouting my next big race. My yellow Skora Running Tempos will likely be retired as they have survived many training miles and two muddy marathons. Time to start breaking in the gray / coral Tempos.
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