2015 Free State Trail Marathon

Date: April 18, 2015
Location: Clinton Lake, Lawrence, KS


What a shitshow. I was not looking forward to recapping this one, but here it goes…

I felt OK coming into my first trail marathon. Or ever marathon. There was the uncertainty about what it would be like to run over 18 miles. I had been doing double-long run weekends in lieu of a single long run. I was wondering if I would bonk. How much it would hurt. If my IT band would decide to rear its ugly head.


I didn’t have a clue…


I headed out to Clinton Lake and found some of my friends who were running the half. The ultra-runners had already started earlier in the morning, so it was a joint start for half and full marathon. I wasn’t (and am still not) familiar with Clinton Lake trails, although I had run on them a few times. I just hadn’t ran any more than 6 miles or so out there. I had no idea what the course entails. Many of my friends can rattle off about Land’s End, Cactus Ridge, Bunker Hill, etc. I have no idea. I just follow everyone else and planned today to just follow the flags.


My Strava Map from the race


Our first bit of course I do remember was a cross-country bit through grass. Our race started with a sprinkle, and I didn’t think much of it. But by a couple miles in, it was a downpour. I wasn’t sure what to do, or how the trails would be, so I just kept running and followed the conga line of runners in front of me.


My Strava elevation map from the course


After the grass running, we ran into the trails. At first, it seemed OK. I was able to run and was hitting the paces I had planned. After a bit, the trails started getting slippery. I went down hard at about mile 6. I was hurting. I thought I sprained my ankle. I laid there for a few minutes crying, and not wanting to get back up. But I realized, I had no idea where I was or how to get help, and that I was just going to have to run my way out of there. I got up and started running again. Eventually, the stiffness went away.


I ended up catching up to Lisa, a fellow Trail Hawk. I didn’t know her that well, but recognized her from Facebook pictures, so I settled in behind Lisa and a guy I didn’t know. We made it through the red trail together, which was kind of scary. It had stopped raining by then, but the trail was precarious and rocky, and slipping would have been a serious injury. We were grabbing on to branches and vines, anything we could use to keep us from falling down as we made our way over the rocky section.

(Note: red trail was pretty much lost after this race. It has taken nearly a year, but it is finally open again to run).


I was not happy.


We made our way down to a marina, which was mile 16, I think. From there, we ran along the road and bit and ducked back into the trails. This is where things quickly headed south for me.


I still wasn’t happy.


The trails were not runnable. Most places were hikable, or slightly shuffleable. But any attempt I made to jog, I was sliding and falling down. I jogged the sectioned I could, but mostly just walked. Hills, I slid down on my bottom and crawled up but grabbing trees and rocks. It was not a good time. I was covered in mud and my shoes weighed a ton. Every water crossing, I would stop to splash around and try to get the mud off of my shoes and legs. I plodded along, constantly checking my Garmin… it was miserable. I would think, oh, there goes 5 hours… There goes 6 hours…


A runnable section


I made it to an aid station and they said there was just 5K left. And it took me nearly an hour to walk it. It was that bad.


Pretending like this was fun.


During the last couple miles, I realized my hands were swelling. A lot. I looked like I had Hamburger Helper hands. I wondered if it was an allergic reaction to some strange vine I had grabbed. Was it all the rain? Was it something I ate? I hadn’t eaten much – just Pringles and Coke. What was happening to me?

I ran into a couple Team RWB guys and asked them how much more I had to go, and they told me I was almost done. I asked them if my hands were supposed to do this, and he said no and took my Garmin off of my puffy wrist. He stuffed it into my pack for me. He also told me to try eating something and handed me some lime Honey Stinger chews. I thanked them and jogged after them. And I really was almost there! Right around the corner was the finish line.


I ran up the hill and crossed the finish. 7 hours. 7 HOURS! I spotted my family and immediately started to cry. I was holding my hands out, hoping that someone could help me figure out what was wrong.

Someone brought me ibuprofen to reduce the swelling. My husband removed my shoes and socks while I received my medal.


A volunteer told us there was a water pump nearby, but I couldn’t walk across the gravel, so my husband picked me up and carried me over. He washed the mud off my legs as best he could but eventually my legs became too cold from the water. He carried me back over to the SUV and helped me start changing out of my dirty clothes. We slid the Camelback off my back and found that my back had been rubbed raw. We applied some Aquaphor to my back and I changed my shirt.





Once I was cleaned up a bit, I decided that I was hungry since I hadn’t eaten. I felt like I wanted a hamburger and waffle fries, so we drove to Henry T’s for lunch. At some point, I remembered my Garmin was still running, so when we went back out to the car, I fished it out of my Camelbak and stopped the time.

Once I got home, I took a shower and rested in bed. I was feeling fine by dinner and stretched a bit. I didn’t have any soreness the next day and was able to walk up the stairs, so I had that going for me.

I can say that was the most miserable race of my life and it took me a long time before I would run at Clinton Lake again. Beyond that, there was fall-out from the race. Mountain bikers, and some runners, were angry at the race director for not canceling or stopping the race. Many even blamed the runners for the damage done to the trail.

My thoughts were this:

  • Did runners damage the trail? Yes.
  • Did runners mean to damage the trail? No.
  • Did runners feel bad about damaging the trail? Yes.
  • Did runners volunteer to repair the trail? Yes.


2 thoughts on “2015 Free State Trail Marathon

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