Monday, September 22, 2014

Race Report- Konquer the Konza 25k

Back in June when we found out we were moving to Kansas in early September, I was still registered for Augusta 70.3. I tried to make it work, and went through several scenarios in my head on how to make it work. In the end I came to the conclusion that moving halfway across the country three weeks before race day was just too big of an obstacle to overcome. After I gave myself some time to be bummed out about it, I began looking for another race around the same time frame in my new home. At first I decided on the Kansas City Marathon in mid October, but four weeks into marathon training, I knew my heart just wasn't in it. The search continued. I wanted to do something big, epic, something that symbolized living in my new home. Browsing the races on the local running store's website, I found the prefect race, Konquer the Konza 25k. A trail 25k taking runners up and down the tallgrass prairie across part of the Flint Hills. The description was a challenging course u and down hills with beer and pizza at the finish line, I found my race. Race day was exactly two weeks after our arrival to Kansas.

Fast forward to race day, which was yesterday. My training had been lackluster leading up the this race. I did what I could while we still lived in Southeast Georgia, even though it is completely flat. My longest run was a 10 miler. The two weeks leading up to the race I had been running hills in Kansas, but I really had no choice. There are hills everywhere here, there is no way to avoid them. Even when I do a "less hilly" running route, it is still hilly compared to what I had been accustomed to the past four years. This wasn't the first time I had gone into a race completely undertrained, so I knew it would hurt, but that I'd be ok. This was, however, my first long running race since my emergency gastrointestinal surgery back in January, when I perforated an ulcer after my 50k.

Race morning Joel and I didn't have to wake up ridiculously early since the race site was only 25 minutes away from our house. I had my usual pre race fuel: a Monster Java Light, a Honey Stinger Waffle, and half a sleeve of Cliff Shot Bloks. My friend Mary was also doing the race. Mary has been one of my virtual running buddies for three years now, she lives in the next town over from me. So surreal to be in the presence of people you have only known through a computer, and then to be standing with them and talking and exchanging hugs in person. Met up with Mary before the race and chatted with her and Joel before the start of the race.

My biggest fan, love him so much

Start of the race
The weather was cool, in the mid 50s, when the starting gun went off. The first mile was a long, flattish, crushed limestone path. About 200 people started the race, most of us being in a large herd for that first mile on the narrow path. After that first mile, when the hills started, the crowd broke up. The hills came one after another, they were tough but I was happy to be out there, with the ability to even attempt this race. At the 3.5 mile mark I saw Joel at the top of a hill, I gave him a smile to let him know I was feeling good.

Top of a smaller climb

Happy to be back
I was really settling into a rhythm on the trail, my pace was good. I wasn't exerting too much energy on the hills, but 5.5 miles in, when I saw this, my jaw dropped.

Up and up
I climbed this like stairs, knowing that since this was a two loop course, I would have to climb it again, and I didn't want to burn all my matches when I still had 10 miles to go. Made it to the top and suddenly I was rewarded with the most beautiful, spectacular view of the Flint Hills. It was truly breathtaking. A few more small climbs and I realized we were running across the highest hilltop. As much as my legs were aching from going up the hills I was happy for the privilege to be running in such a beautiful place. Stopped at the aid station at mile 6.7 and filled up my handheld with water and ate a half sleeve of Shot Bloks. I had been running at a little over a 9 minute pace so I was on target for my sub 2:30 goal. Left the aid station, a few more small climbed and suddenly and almost mile-long downhill, it was a nice break.

Started the second lap still feeling good. Saw Joel again around mile 9

Woohoo, downhill!
Right before mile 11, I climbed the stairs up the hill again, happy that it was the last time I would have to climb it today, after that I knew the rest of the hills were manageable. Got to see the spectacular view again, in my mind trying to think of how I would describe all this to Joel, thinking how much he would love to see this. I stopped at the aid station at mile 12, filled up my handheld and ate another half sleeve of Shot Bloks, and before I left I thanked the volunteers for taking the time out of their weekend to be here for us. Up the few short climbs before the nice long downhill. Made the turn to the finish, a little over a mile to go on that same flattish, crushed limestone path. The path was empty now, me and a few onsies and twosies pushing our tired bodies to the finish line. As always, this last mile felt like the longest. Finally saw the orange finishing arch and crossed the finish line in 2:23:11.

Trilled to be finish
Was given this awesome looking finisher's medal, with a bison on it since the Konza Prairie is full of them

By far one of my coolest running race medals
Got my post race hug and kiss from Joel, then my legs got a little shaky. Sat down with my beer and pizza and told him about the race: the hills, the stairs, the spectacular views, everything. My Garmin 910xt read an elevation gain of 1155 feet for the 15.59 mile course.

Free beer!
About an hour later I walked half a mile down the course so I'd be able to run Mary in. This was a tough course, I was so happy to see her come into view knowing she would finish this race. I ran alongside her until right before the finish line arch.

This was the toughest, most challenging, most epic, and the most beautiful running race I have ever done. This race makes up for not being able to do Augusta 70.3. It was exactly the race I was looking for when I began searching back in June. It was Kansas's way of welcoming me to my new home.

StatsFinish time 2:23:11
Overall 53 out of 186
Female 16 out of 98
Age Group (F30-34) 4 out of 25

Thanks for reading!

The beautiful Konza Prairie 

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