I was about to attempt my 2nd Marathon distance race, and my first Ultra Marathon distance race. Psycho Wyco Winter is a 10.35, 20.7, or 31 mile race (1, 2 or 3 loops).
I have read others race reports listing around 5000ft of incline per loop. For those who don’t feel like doing the math only 22% of the race is flat or 2.277 miles are flat and almost 1 mile of climbing PER LOOP!
Sarah and I woke up at 5:30am.
Kansas City, Ks weather was reporting: 48F/26F (High/Low)
Race will begin @ 8am.
We had to leave the hotel round 7am HOPING we could get a parking spot (we were wrong).
I got out my Garmin 405 out only to realize in my haste I forgot to grab the charger and consequently it had fully discharged overnight. That was so very frustrating but lesson learned.
We had breakfast at the hotel.
I had a bagel with peanut butter, banana and a coffee.
The girls had some cereal and Sarah had something (sadly I didn’t pay enough attention since I was getting mentally prepared for what was about to happen)
I was dressed in tights, shorts, compression long sleeve, and technical mizuno long sleeve shirt, injinji smartwool socks, and my NB MT101’s. I figured I’d be cold/cool in the early hours then hot later. It was a calculated risk I was willing to take. I also had 2x handheld water bottles, my older Nathan, and my newer Ultimate Direction both full and ready to roll.
We arrived at Wyandotte State Park in Kansas City at 7:20am to find the entire parking lot was full and Sarah and our two little girls would have to shuttle to the starting line if they wanted to see daddy.
Race directors: it doesn’t matter how many aid stations you have, what food or drinks you have, if my wife is pissed at me and the race itself before I even come close to toeing the line, I have lost. So please plan on more than you expect then be pleasantly surprised when you have TOO MUCH parking. I know there are a lot of things race directors and organizers go through and I appreciate and respect their sacrifices! But I need my support team happy! Even if that means you have separate parking for racers (Especially for out of towners) . Heck I’d PAY to have a space available stress free, hassle free.
As a result of the parking stress I really didn’t expect to see my family until after the race. I met up with another awesome runner and good friend, John Mossman. JoMo, Super Moss, UltraMossman, we have so many names for this guy! John and I sat in his car after I got my bib, shirt, and then had my shoes screwed. (3/4” sheet metal screws for grip on ice/snow covered trails.)
I took a GU Roctane at 7:40am in John’s car.
We got out and wandered over to where the runners were collecting.
John said last year they started over there in the snow (pointing about 50ft away). At 7:55am Sophia (race director) announced that everyone needed to move to the starting line down in the snow. So the 20 and 30 milers moved into place to toe the line. The 10 milers would start @ 9:00 am. Yah! Let’s ROCK!
So everyone shuffled down into the 6-8in of snow. We all listened to Bad Ben and his wonderful (fiancée? I think they are engaged…) Sophia announce the last minute race info. Trails are still snow covered, and we should expect them to not remain that way for too much longer. When we started running the temperature was in the 30’s and by the end of the race it was in the 50’s.
Initially John and I were together but within 10 minutes I realized I had lost John somewhere behind me!? I was a little sad considering it was my first Ultra and I was hoping to run WITH my friend. But what occurred on the trail made up for it in spades.
The distance to the Triangle (named due to its Bermuda Triangle like impression since all the twist and turns make you feel like you’re either right on top or right below the other runners in the Triangle. I was running at this point with a VERY jovial and kind runner in front of me wearing a yellow shirt. He was calling out technical trail conditions. We were joking around about different things like how great it is to have someone taller than you in front to find all the low hanging branches. About 2 or 3 minutes after that joke the guy in front of “Yellow Shirt” got clotheslined by a vine right at neck height, and almost dropped to the ground. “Yellow Shirt” guy and I made sure he was cool and we all kept going. That is really badass! This runner in front of “Yellow Shirt” guy almost sustained a serious injury but got up and continued the race. That is pretty damn cool and NOT something you’d experience in a road race!
“Yellow Shirt”, clothesline guy and I all dropped through a crazy set of switchbacks that dumps runners below the Wyandotte County Lake Dam. We MISSED the turn towards the dam and started going off the race course. I was in the back and heard the other runners YELLING at us that we had gone the wrong way… “Yellow Shirt”, clothesline, and I give a collective OH F… Turn around and are quickly out on a nice flat stretch below the dam.
“Yellow Shirt” guy and I pass several people having to posthole though the deep snow. I realized this was really taxing my energy but I wanted to stay with “yellow shirt” guy since I was having fun so I didn’t care about the loss of energy in preference to increased spirits.
Just before we started climbing up to damn dam aid station (mile 5), I BIT OFF the nozzle of my Nathan water bottle! Wow. I tried reattaching it by pounding my other handheld onto the nozzle after I jammed it back in with my mouth. It SHOT off my bottle into the snow. Thus the end of my Nathan bottle for Psycho Wyco 2011! RIP buddy! (It was ditched @ the main aid station…)
We made it to the top of the dam at the 5 mile aid station and I started falling behind “yellow shirt” guy. I was very sad to see him go but I wanted him to go kick some trail ass and not worry about me so I put it out of my mind and started running my own race.
I finished my first loop and crossed the finish line. The clock read 51 minutes!!! HOLY SHIT I am a freaking running GOD! I am a ROCKSTAR! I was 9 minutes ahead of even the 10 milers start time! It took me until mile 15 to ask another runner (just after the damn dam aid station) what time it was. He told me it was 10:45am. I was VERY confused at this point. What happened?! Did I really slow THAT MUCH!? Then it hit me. I am so stupid, so so stupid. The 51 minute clock time was for the 10milers! Not me… I crossed my first loop in 1:51! Wow what a big blow to my seriously overinflated ego! No I’m not a running GOD or any kind of running stud, just doing what I wanted to do, run each loop in 2 hours. Well I was 9minutes ahead but I was hoping I could be closer to 30 ahead at this point.
I finished my 2nd loop in 2:11:52. There went my little 9 minute buffer! I was now OVER my 2 hour per loop hope/dream time! 4:03:22 still not bad for 20 miles!
At this point it was 12:00, and I was HUNGRY! At the main aid station I found pbj wraps and started shoveling them as fast as I could. I didn’t want to hang out here with just one loop left but I also didn’t want to run hungry either! Yet another humbling experience: stuffing my face like an 8mo baby with its first jar of sweet potatoes. The volunteers refilled my one bottle while I fed at the pbj trough and I was off.
Loop 3 was quiet, almost peaceful to a certain degree. It was dangerous at the switchbacks and along some of the ridges due to melting snow and ice which made running seem crazy… It took 2:33:16 and I finished in 42nd place overall of 78 finishers at 6:36:40. If I hadn’t slowed so much in my last loop I believe I could have easily dropped 10-15 minutes but I was drained. I walked in MANY of the areas I knew I had run in the last 2 loops.
- Bring the Garmin recharger. Then at 1:51 I wouldn’t delude myself and I might have fought harder in the next 5 miles knowing it was very close to my 2 hour per loop goal.
- If you don’t find someone jovial on the trail, BE the jovial one. Who the hell wants to spend hours in the woods surrounded by a bunch of runners who are silent? Feels like a death squad, or a zombie raid
- Eat, keep eating, and eat a little more. I probably lost 10 minutes at the main aid station before the last loop. If I’d eaten a little at a time at a few of the aid stations I probably could have saved 5 or 6 minutes.
- 26.2 miles in 4:00 is not bad… But 26.2 FLAT miles in 4 or less SHOULD be easy for me now with the memories of this race in mind!
I had a great time! “Yellow Shirt” guy and I shook hands when it was over and I never caught his name. I used the race photos and his bib number with the race results to find him on Facebook. We are now friends there and will hopefully run together again in the future!
So in order:
Thank you Sarah, Amber, and Katelyn for supporting my running and making the sacrifices that come with my hobby.
Thank you to the Race Organizers! Ben and Sophia you guys put on a FUN race!
Thank you to John Mossman. I would probably NEVER run an Ultra if I’d never met you.
Thank you to YELLOW SHIRT GUY! Farhad Zarif your spirit shines into everyone’s lives connected to you.