Monday, September 24, 2012

Flagstaff 50 mile race report

We started off at 6a.m. with a small field of 30 runners, right off the bat I didn't feel energetic.
I tried to heed Mike and my wife's advice of taking it easy, so I held myself back a bit. During the first climb I kept getting light headed and dizzy. This continued throughout the race. Though I felt pretty bad, it didn't have a horrible effect on my performance. I was still able to keep up.
This course wasn't particularly technical, but it was tough, REAL TOUGH. The climbs seemed to be steady and long as well as the descents and the parts that were technical had a lot of loose rock or scree.
I kept Michael Carson in my line of sight until mile 18 when he started to pull ahead, by that time I knew I didn't have a chance to close the gap on him.
I hit my usual wall at mile 25 where I contemplated giving up running after the race. Wondering what the hell I thought was so fun about it. Because it wasn't fun. At all.
When I got to the 25.4 aid station one of the volunteers asked me how I was feeling.
I said "I feel like shit!"
He replied with "Well you're more than half way through, that's a good thing right?"
I looked up at the mileage sign.
"Oh yea! Huh?"
I smiled and went on my way.
I ran into Tom Gormley on my way back up the fire road.
He said  "Hows it going?"
"Shitty." I said.
He looked at his watch.
"The front runner is only 15 minutes ahead of you."
"That's awesome." I said, not really knowing what I meant by that.
I started the never ending ascent up the fire road.
I hate roads. Any kind of road. Especially this road because it didn't want to end.
Adam Barstad caught up with me. He seemed to know a thing or two about ultra marathons and he also used to be a heavy drinker, so it was nice to chat about something that wasn't running related. We had quite a bit in common.
I told him I wasn't having a good day and he said  "Just keep going, you'd be amazed how great you can feel later on in the race."
"You mind if I run with you for a while?" I asked.
He said "Not at all, lets help each other, if we can keep this up we both have a podium finish."
That's one of the best things about ultras: people helping each other. And honestly that was the only high point of my whole race.  We ran together for about an hour, but around mile 33 I slowed down and he took 2nd. I said "See ya a little later, maybe."
The aid stations were stocked and I practiced eating solid foods throughout the race which worked very well. Oranges. I was  loving the oranges. I thought about them a lot: "Just get to the next aid station and have an orange and then see how you feel."
I had my ups and downs but all in all I felt "alright" until the descent at mile 39. This descent was STEEP with lots of rocks, but I love technical downhills so I was stoked. I had just got my ipod from the mile 37 aid station and I was blazing down it when I felt a twinge in my right knee.
I kept going. I ran into a lady who said Adam was only a few minutes ahead of me. I was stoked to hear that so I just kept pounding down, "Mistaken for strangers" by The National on full blast, ignoring my knee. By the bottom of the descent I had a debilittating pain on the right side of my knee and under my knee cap. I couldn't run anymore.
I'm not sure if I twisted it or if my ITB flared up or what, but I tried a run/walk mixture for about a half hour before I gave up and had to walk because it was too painful. I threw my water bottle at a tree as hard as I could and screamed. "FUCK!!!!"
I knew I wasn't going to be able to finish.
I picked my bottle up off the ground. Sat down in the dirt and just stared at the ground.
"That's it. You gotta get up. Nobodies gonna come carry you to the aid station."
It took me 2 hours to get through that 8 mile loop, it had gotten warm and I ran out of water.
I went back and forth with myself trying to talk me out of dropping. I tried to run a few steps here and there, but was unable to. At one point, about halfway through the final climb, I just laid down in the middle of the trail and stared out at the valley. "A new error" by  Moderat came on my ipod and I got up. I limped my way up to the aid station at mile 45 and told them I was done.
When I dropped I was in 3rd place and only 5 miles from the finish.
Did I dissapoint myself?
At the time I felt that I would rather drop than risk an injury that would side line me for months. Now I wish I would've just walked the last 5 miles to finish. After all it was my first 50 miler. It would have been nice to finish, podium or not.
My experience aside, It really was a great course. It is bound to be popular. I heard quite a few runners say it was more challenging than Zane Grey, though less rocky. Jamil and Nick Coury did a great job. I guess you couldn't ask for much more in an ultra. It was clearly marked and the aid stations were top notch. The volunteers were really helpful. They made me feel like a pro at a nascar pit stop. They would grab my water bottles, fill them with whatever I wanted, grab whatever I asked for out of my drop bags, anything I needed, they had right there.
Thank you to Nick and Jamil.
Thank you to all the volunteers.

(Photo: Aravaipa running)

(Photo: Ian Torrence)


  1. Hey Korey,

    Sorry to hear of your injury. Hoping you recover quickly with no lingering problems. Never second guess a decision from race day after the fact. Once you start the "What if's" game, you'll never see the end of it. You did a great job describing the experience and I think anyone who has run a race, DNF or not, can empathize with your thoughts throughout. For your first 50, when most people are just trying to survive, I'd say you did quite well. Rest, recover, get back out there.


  2. That's a great report! It was nice to finally meet you at Sunset on Saturday; now I know who you are instead of just seeing your name everywhere. I never ever want to see that descent ever again. Or anything even remotely like it. It took me almost 3 hours to do that 8-mile loop and every step was awful. Sorry about the knee; hope you recover quickly.


  3. Thanks for the positives Brian!
    Nice to meet you as well Christie, I'll never see that descent again... until next year.