Julie Treder's Psycho Wycho 50k Race Report:
Brad and I took a road trip down to check out the trails at Wyandotte County Lake Park for the “Psycho Wyco” Run Toto Run 50K. The website looked appealing, with a “no whiners need apply” feel to it… and I’ve never run in Kansas before – so why not give it a go!!
The only word we kept hearing pre-race is “screwed”. People were hustling around to put screws in their shoes prior to the race. BUT temps were expected to be in the mid-40s and there were also a good handful of people walking around in shorts… so who needs to put screws in their shoes if it will be that warm??? Brad was one of the people running in shorts and I haven’t run with screws all winter… so why should we start now? Good decision or not… we’ll see!
The race consists of a 10.35 mile loop that us 50Kers do three times. Shortly after 8AM, the 50K and 20-mile races started. That meant a couple hundred people were off competing for a spot on the single-track trail a quarter mile ahead… bounding across this field of calf-deep snow of sand-like consistency. Visions of the John Dick 50K floated through my head. Can I deal with a race with this type of terrain a second weekend in a row??? Ugh!
Due to all the snow at the park, the trail was truly single-track. Unless you wanted to trudge through deep snow to pass, you were in whatever position you were in once you hit the trail. Not a lot of opportunities to pass, so there was a long line of runners zig-zagging through the woods. Brad was able to hit the single-track quickly, so he had room to move. I wasn’t as quick to hit the trail, so I was in the midst of a lengthy line of runners. This was probably the best thing to happen to me, allowing me to get my running legs under me… and able to finish the race strong.
A few miles in, we hit the first aid station… and the curviest trail I have ever seen in my life. Run five strides this way, turn left. Six strides that way and turn right. Repeat a couple dozen times. I don’t think we ran more than 10 strides in one direction without some kind of turn. It was crazy!
Just before the half-way point of the loop, you came out of the woods into what looked to be a lunar space. A wide open expanse of snow. No trees, no brush, just an open prairie of white. Where the prairie inclined up and ended, the sky began. It was such an unusual sight after running through tons of trees. You had to run across this prairie (of deep snow!), then up this rock ledge to the third aid station.
After this aid station, you ran (or, if you were like me… walked!) up this long, steeper paved road for about a third of a mile. This next trail section was a bit hairy at the start. The next mile or so was where screws would have come in very handy. Downhills, followed by hairpin turns covered in ice… not a good combination for non-traction shoes. I did learn one thing. Falling in snow? Not so bad, given the extra layer to buffer the fall. It was the ice-covered rocky, rooty section that made me the most nervous… but luckily there were trees to grab hold of to keep you upright. You knew that once you made it to the bottom of a long, gradual decline that life would be good and the worries would be less.
Mile 6 is where the race took an unexpected turn for me. Locked in within a group of runners, I was not paying too much attention to what was around me. I was focused on the ground to make sure I would not slip off the trail. Unbeknownst to me, all the runners in front of me ducked as they ran. I didn’t… and ran smack-dab into a tree terribly placed at forehead level. The impact was so hard, the runners behind me cringed in horror. The good thing was I didn’t lose any teeth with the punch… the bad thing was I got a big knot on my forehead (which unfortunately, my hair does not cover!!) and a very bloody nose. Blood and bruises everywhere… but no tears!! Who said this is a non-contact sport?!? A nice gentleman held up his race to make sure I was conscious and able to continue. You gotta love this sport… nice people everywhere!!
The last five miles of the loop were marked in half mile increments. This was good for me throughout the race, since I was feeling good… but could have been very demoralizing if I were having a bad race. Ultras need to be broken up into segments to get through them… having half-mile markers out there seemed to make those last miles fly by.
You come down a nice hill into the finish-line area/aid station, load up on fluids… and hit the trail for loop two. One of the nice things about loop two is that the temperature was rising, so all the sand-like snow on loop one was packed down pretty nicely at this point, so you could finally get some traction. One of the bad things about loop two is that the warmth also softened some of the previously packed down snow… making the trail rather slick. On some hills, you used the step-and-slide method… take a step and slide a few feet, another step and slide a few more feet. You got down hills fairly quick that way, but for me, I typically just slid down the hills in the crab-like position. Another bad thing was that more of the ice that was previously covered by snow, was now exposed… making some sections pretty treacherous. Luckily, I made it through the loop on my feet… but, more importantly, without any more head trauma.
Loop three, I felt great. My nose started bleeding and draining again, but my legs felt pretty strong. The trail by loop three had deteriorated pretty badly. Slush was the main form of trail for the majority of the loop. If it wasn’t slush, it was soft snow that offered no traction. Would screws have helped?? Who knows! The downhills were made interesting by the soft snow, though. Where I was able to maintain some balance and use my feet as skis and my fists as ski-poles to make it to the base of the hill… word had it that Brad wasn’t as lucky as he toppled to his butt at the top of the hill and proceeded to the bottom in the butt-as-sled method. Where were the cameras for that???
The finish was great! Downhill, through the finish chute, greeted by the race directors… pictures taken. Salted over from all the sweat (temps reached 50!), bruised noggin, bloodied camelback vest, black and blue nose, but still smiling… I can only imagine the shot. Great way to end this memorable adventure!