Free State Trail Run 2011 Roundup

Monday, April 25, 2011

Welcome to another boring race recap courtesy of moi. :P

On Saturday April 23rd, I ran the Free State Trail Run Half Marathon
in Lawrence, KS. It's home to Clinton State Park, which was the theater* for this race. There were 3 other races going on that day as well: a full, a 40 miler, and a 100K. So unsurprisingly, the event is primarily billed as an ultra. It's also rather low-key, with approximately 300 runners in all participating, and give or take a few dogs.

Because I am a doofus, I didn't take any pictures at the event, so bear with me. Besides, I'm sure you can paint a (somewhat fuzzy) image in your mind with the (limited) verbiage provided here.

Free State was a "C" goal race for me. The half marathon I SO BADLY want to PR on, and have been training for crazily in the last few months is scheduled for May 15. So being that Free State is less than a month away from my May 15th shindig that's the Five Trails Half,** ( www.fivetrailshalfmarath
) I figured it would be best to handle it as a training run, not as an all-out event. I know I've been a wuss in treating nearly all of my 2011 races thus far as "non races," but honestly, it's been working for me. I need to conserve my mental reserves for one to three races per year, tops. I hate putting pressure on myself where it's not necessary. I already do a great enough job of that in other areas of my life.

Now, here's the nitty-gritty on Free State 2011:

-The course is... uh, interesting. Quite rocky. This video clip ( runswithcamera.blogspot.
) from someone who ran its 40 miler last year nicely illustrates the course's rockiness. Fast forward to the 1:38 mark and you'll see why I don't want to look at another rock for a day or two. My feet were still pretty sore yesterday, meh.

-Course notes, part deux - there's constant elevation. Rolling. But it's not bad. The hills aren't really hilly, they're just right. My Garmin calculated a total elevation gain of 998 feet, so it's no big deal. And I honestly cannot believe I'm typing that, because if I'd done this race a year or two ago, I would've been like, "You're sh******g me, right? A 1000 ft. elevation gain is A LOT!!!!!!!!!!!!! WTH???!!!"

-Final time, as posted by Race Day Timing Solutions, was 3:15:16.

That brings me to another point: I'd set up the not-so-terribly ambitious benchmark of completing 13.1 miles in under 3 hours here. I'd figured that my trail inexperience, mediocre running and challenging course would produce that number. And I technically met my goal! I crossed the 13.1 mark at 2:54. In grand trail race tradition, the course measured out to be more than half marathon distance, heehee. My Garmin picked it up as 14.57 miles, though honestly, I dunno if that's accurate, either. But yes, it was definitely over 13.1. I spoke with fellow Garmin-armed racers and they had recorded distances over 14.5 miles.

Other observations & random thoughts:

-I went into and came out of this race feeling strong. I've been closely monitoring my training for the last 2 weeks because I've been posting some pretty great numbers. Thing is, I'm also one of those folks who's skeptical of singling out an excellent training session. For example, the other day, I ran 6 miles, then did a "fast finish" of 4 miles at tempo pace (~8:46 min/mi). And felt good afterward. I looked at the runs I did prior to, and after, that very robust workout and it's been good all across the board. But Saturday was going to provide the final confirmation of, yes, training is coming along the way it should! I compared my average pace on Free State with the other trail races I've done this year. I shaved off 4 minutes and 20 seconds from my first trail race's average pace, which was a 5K.

-A major shout-out is due to the Kansas City Trail Nerds ( They have done such a phenomenal job in organizing KC metro area trail races, and yesterday was no exception. Their volunteers are always gracious, the courses at races are well-marked, aid stations are stocked to the gills, and they just have their overall act together. Some race organizers should follow their lead and take logistics lessons from the KC Trail Nerds.

-If you want great post-race chow, volunteer for, or do, an ultra-centric event such as Free State. They have all the stuff runners want after slogging it out for a few hours: hot dogs, lentil stew, fresh fruit, Coke, brats, potato chips, pretzels, Nutella and PB on tortillas, and that carb & electrolyte-replenishing drink of champions.... BEER. :D Oh gawd, the Michelob Light I had post-race yesterday was the best-tasting brewski I had all day, LOL.

Alright, here's one picture from yesterday for the books, courtesy of

The one on the left is me crossing the finish. The question is, am I photobombing the other woman's finish, or is she photobombing mine?

Until the next time!

*I'll use my hubby's Army terminology to help me describe my race experience, heh.
**Despite its name, the Five Trails Half is strictly a road race, not a trail one. BTW, its race director is a cool chick and she is working hard to provide a good experience for this year's participants. That's why I love home-brewed races - there's not a lot of corporate BS, and it's all from the heart.
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  • ELISA322
    Wow great job!! Haha, 998 ft elevation gain is no big deal.. crazy! That trail looks beautiful, I would love to run on it but afraid of what I might do to myself out there.

    That woman is photobombing your finish, you look great!
    2916 days ago
    AWESOME RACE! Good luck with your upcoming race... you'll rock it I'm sure ;)

    2917 days ago
    What a great race! I also think it's awesome that you can trail run-I am not sure I could do the uneven path. Way to go in meeting your goal to- that is awesome!
    2917 days ago
    AWESOME job, Joyce! I am in awe of trail runners - I would definitely irrepably injure myself on trails. Sounds like it was a great day all around, from the organization to the post race party - you even got some "bonus" mileage! hehe!

    Well done!
    2917 days ago
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