Latest reviews by Richard Reed

(2016)
"Not what you'd expect in Kansas!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This was the 22nd Annual Flatrock Ultra Trail Race. I believe it is the oldest ultra trail race in Kansas. With a name like Flatrock, and located in Kansas, you might expect this to be a relatively flat race....anything but!! The out-and-back course is 15 miles of single track trail that winds up and down the stone bluffs of Elk City Lake, located just northwest of Independence.

The 50K started at 7:30 am with a 10 hour time limit and a midpoint cut off time of 12 noon.
The 25K started at 8:30 am with a 9 hour time limit.

The cost was $140 for the 50K, but I registered only a few weeks before the event. I believe it is less expensive the earlier you register.

Packet pick-up started at 5 PM the day before the race at the same location as the start, just below the Elk City Lake dam. My registration included a nice tri-blend t-shirt, my bib and a pasta dinner there in the start area. There was also a bonfire held that evening which I did not attend.

I ran the 25K last year, so I had some idea of what I was getting into. I wasn't completely prepared for the late September temperature to reach into the 90s. The course was in great shape. It was obvious that a great deal of work had been done to clear the path in a couple of areas. Downed trees had been cut up and moved aside, which was no small feat considering the remoteness of sections of the trail.

There were fully stocked aid stations every 3-4 miles along the route. They were well stocked with water and electrolyte drink, gels, sweet and salty snacks, and my favorite, boiled potatoes and salt. Volunteers did a great job supporting the runners by taking bottles and filling them, having ice soaked rags available, and making sure that everyone got in and out of the aid station going the right direction. The was one point when I came into an aid station that ran out of ice, but I think that was just bad timing. The rest of the manned aid stations were full of ice. There was one unmanned water only aid station in the middle of nowhere. I was glad it was there on my return trip, and wondered how they got all that water out there.

My trip out went pretty well. Once I reached the turn around the sun was high in the sky and the heat climbed quickly. I had to do a fair amount of walking on the way back simply because I was having trouble keeping my body temp down. Getting ice at each stop helped and I was able to continue. The trip back took me nearly 50% more time than the first half, but considering the conditions, I was happy with my race.

There were plenty of supporters cheering at the finish, and the race director congratulates each finisher personally and takes a photo with them. I received a belt buckle and 50K finishers car sticker. If you are looking for a challenging and fun course, I highly recommend this race.

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(2016)
"Challenging loop course at the FGC!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
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I signed up for the 2016 Forrest Gump Challenge as part of my training for a longer race at the end of the month.

The registration was handled through Active.com. The cost was $60 for the half, plus $5.30 online processing fee, which I consider relatively affordable for having registered only a week before the race. I did have some confusion in registration that caused me to register twice. I realized my mistake when I got two confirmation emails for the same event. When I contacted Active.com by phone, they took care of the duplication quite easily and refunded my credit card immediately.

Parking was limited, but you could pay an extra $5 for VIP parking near the start/finish line. My wife dropped me off so no need to park.

This was a small race with no expo, so packet pick-up was prior to the race at the church that served as the start and finish location. Packet pick-up was quick and easy. I received a nice tech shirt with the run logo on it. I would really like the shirt except I'm really not a big fan of white, so I probably won't wear it. The packet also included some advertising of another local race, safety pins, a microchip and twist ties to attach to your shoe.

All races started in front of the church at the same time, but with two different start lines. The first start line was for the 5K and 50K (10 loops) and a second start line just a bit farther down the road for the Half (4 loops) and Full Marathons (8 loops). The races all began with an air horn promptly at 7:30.

The course started with about .2 miles going gradually up hill and then turned onto Hwy 413 toward downtown Reeds Spring. It continued on a nice gradual downhill for about 1.5 miles where there was a right hand turn followed by the first hydration stop. My strategy for the day was to alternate water and gatorade at each stop. After the first hydration stop was a hard right to a .3 mile stretch uphill. It seemed like about a 30% grade, but was more than likely less than 20%. Anyway it was steep, and the vast majority of participants walked this section, including me. At the top of the hill, the road continued on with a gradual uphill for about .75 miles to complete the loop. The second aid station was located in front of the church near the finish line. This station was stocked with water, gatorade, cookies, trail mix, pickles and other snacks. After you finished all of your loops, the finish line was located to the left up a small embankment, just past this aid station.

I have a few small small suggestions regarding their aid stations. The first aid station utilized styrofoam cups which are difficult to drink from on the run. Paper cups are easier as they can be pinched to control the flow of water as you run. It also helps if you use different colored cups for water and gatorade, but not always feasible. The second aid station was located quite a bit off of the road. This may have been in order to create a better straight shot to the finish line, but it meant that you had to exit the course to get water. They also failed to mix their gatorade fully, so on my first lap I drank from a rather full cup an thought it was just mixed too thin, only to find all of the powder still in the bottom of my cup. On the rest of my loops, I poured some out and swished it around before drinking.

These are all minor issues, and really didn't have any baring on my enjoyment of the race. The temperature was quite pleasant and humidity relatively low for the beginning of September. I finished my four loops with a 4+ minute PR for the half distance! I received a nice finisher's medal at the finish line. If you are looking for a smaller, but challenging road race, I would greatly recommend it!

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(2016)
"Sizzling is right!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
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Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

The forecast early in the week for this race was for an afternoon temp of 96 degrees, which had the race organizers prepare by bringing in 1000 lbs of ice and as much water for the day. At 4am when I woke up the temp was 77. The park was easily accessible just off of the interstate in Carthage, MO. The early instructions were clear, and the multi-distance race started right on time at 6am. The course was well marked to the trail entrance. The majority of the running was on the Ruby Jack Trail, a rails-to-trails project, so it was flat and relatively straight. Clouds helped to keep the heat at bay for the first 2-3 hours, and trees provided shade on probably half the length of the trail. Drop bags and crew were allowed at three locations. The snacks were adequate, but it was the huge coolers of ice on hand that really made the day. By the third hour, the sun was up and clouds gone. A ziplock with ice was loaded into the back pocket of my hydration vest which gave me the boost I needed for my last 8 miles. It was a tough but enjoyable experience, and they handed out belt buckles in increasing sizes from 50K up to 100K.

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