Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Fried Cheese (head) - Jeff Mallach's Psycho Psummer Report

This isn’t one of those reports where the author triumphs over adversity, sets a PR and inspires the assembled volunteers, spectators and race officials with his extraordinary tenacity, humility and grace. 

This would be the opposite of that. 

In this report, the author sweats, struggles and swears – ultimately succumbing to hardship and achieving nothing more than a t-shirt and a PW (personal worst). 

Race day for the Psycho Summer 50K in Kansas City started with a cup of coffee, blueberry bagel with cream cheese and temperatures in the low 70s.  By mid-afternoon, the thermometer would rise to 92 degrees with a relative humidity of about 80%.  

The race, hosted by the Kansas City Trail Nerds, is held at Wyandotte State Park in Kansas.  Participants have their choice of running one loop (15 miles) or adding another and making it an ultra. 

After a few instructions and some door prizes (including a Garmin Forerunner, nice!), the race director, Ben Holmes, asked runners to assemble on a park road that, about a tenth of a mile later, would siphon us onto a single track trail that led into the middle of the park.  

The first half-mile was crowded and slow, as many of the runners tentatively made their way over the gullied trail. For the first hour or so, I stayed with a group of 15-milers – not running too fast and promising myself that I would drink a full bottle of water between each station (the aid stations were three miles apart).  Climbing Hedgehog Hill – the steepest hill on the course – I remarked to a group of runners nearby that the trails were very similar to those we run in Wisconsin – except hillier.  Imagine that.  In Kansas. 

There were several stream crossings, patches of shoe-sucking mud and longer stretches of trail covered with shattered flat rock, but the hills and the heat were the story of the day.  As the sun pushed the clouds away, I realized I wasn’t taking in enough water.  I drank a full bottle of water at one aid station while waiting to dowse my head under a hand pump. 

Not long after that stop, I met a guy from Marquette, Michigan and we spent time talking about Wisconsin ultras, the new Marquette 50-miler, mutual acquaintances and how the cool northern summer had made heat training impossible.

At the halfway point (the start and finish), I ran by the shelter and the tables covered with goodies and ice-packed coolers full of beer and re-entered the woods.

At the next aid station, I had to sit down.  A young woman filled a bag with ice and placed it on my neck.  A volunteer in his late 20s, I’d guess, refilled my water bottle and brought me a bowl of watermelon.  His wife, standing next to me, commented that she wished he would pay that much attention to her.  I think she was kidding.  With all this attention, it wasn’t long before a senior aid station volunteer walked over and started asking me questions – mostly, I presumed, to determine whether I presented a liability risk.  I briefly thought about pretending I was President Eisenhower or Magic Johnson, but I’ve had enough experience with myself to know that these sort of jokes usually aren’t well-received.

I drank three 20-ounce bottles of water at that aid station – and completely melted the bag of ice on my neck – before the young guy suggested that I get back on the trail before the inevitable lactic acid build-up.  Good advice. 

I thanked everyone and jogged into the woods, still dehydrated (all that water – and still no sloshing in the stomach), slightly stiff and, more than anything else, preoccupied by the persistence of the bright sunshine.

All this must have affected my focus, because a few miles later I blew by a course arrow and added another three-mile loop to my run.  The definition of a “sinking feeling” is passing by the same landmarks three times, when you know there are only two loops.  When I re-joined the course, I conceded that this was not my day.  I walked in the last eight miles… chatting with a guy, fresh out of the service, who was hoping to run a trail marathon or 50K in every state.  At the finish, he introduced me to his expectant wife – we wished each other well and I left for the car to lick my wounds.

On a scale of 10, with 10 being exceptional, I’d rate the Psycho Summer 50K: 

TRAIL:   8   Lots of twisting and turning single-track, some bridle trails and park roads.  Relentless hills.  Very well marked. 

ORGANIZATION:  9  Great volunteers – friendly and helpful and many experienced runners with good advice:  “When is the last time you took an S-cap?”, “Why don’t you just quit and go home?”, that sort of thing.   Negatives:  No beer left for the lingerers. 

CHUM:  8   Technical t-shirt, colorful enameled finisher’s medal and free downloadable photos.            


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