Rock Away Night and Day: The Spider Factor

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By Ben Holmes, RD

Rock Away Night and Day is a Friday night trail half marathon followed the next morning by a 50-mile trail run in the heat and humidity of a northeast Kansas summer. There is also the option to run either race as a separate entity. For those who run both events, the interlocking medals have a glow in the dark night side and a sunny day side. A custom 100k sticker is slapped onto the back of the two. The dual race finishers also get a custom finisher’s trucker cap to show off their crazy accomplishment.

This year’s race was held on August 11 and 12, usually a scorcher of a weekend. But for this third year of the event the runners got a break, with temps no higher than the low 80s and with somewhat lower humidity, around 40%. The course is on the rocky single track of the Perry Lake mountain bike trails. These trails are the RD’s favorite trails in Kansas, and he spends a lot of time in this hardwood forest helping to maintain them with help from his gal (Coco) and others, all guided by Lyle Riedy, the trail steward. The Branded B Ranch venue is very conducive to camping and hanging out near the on-tap craft beer, and has showers and flush toilets available.

Travis Jewell of Cairo, Nebraska, is the overall champion of the Night and Day double. Photo: Rick Mayo/Mile 90 Photography

Krystle Dalke takes first in the 50 mile after also completing the 13.1-mile race the night before. Photo: Rick Mayo/Mile 90 Photography

Timothy Adams of Baraboo, Wisconsin successfully completes the 13.1- and 50-mile races. Photo: Rick Mayo/Mile 90 Photography

Destine Hemphill is one of two women to finish both the 13.1-mile night race and the 50-mile day race. Photo: Rick Mayo/Mile 90 Photography

I know that 2017 is supposed to be the (Chinese) Year of the Rooster. Somehow that got “lost in translation” here in Kansas, because 2017 will definitely be known to the runners as the year of the spider; namely the spiny-backed Micrathena gracilis. These gals can build a web across the trail in the time between runners passing through. They don’t bite the runners, they just drop to the ground to race back and rebuild their major engineering projects. You can always spot the front runners on the three-loop, 50-mile course: they are the folks lapping you practically encapsulated in webbing.

The lead two-day runners went out at a brisk pace at dusk on Friday night. The middle pack followed at a more sane pace and slowly spread the conga line out as the race progressed. Friday night’s temperature was comfortable, but in the dense woods there was no breeze to be had, so it felt hotter than actual temperature. At 11 a.m. the next morning, after a pancake and bacon breakfast, the 50-mile race started. Once again, a few folks went out a little on the fast side. This would prove to be all but one of those folks’ undoing.

Kevin Smilor wins the 50-mile race. Photo: Rick Mayo/Mile 90 Photography

Mary Nero manages the shady but humid woods along Lake Perry to take second female in the 50-mile race. Photo: Rick Mayo/Mile 90 Photography

Kevin Smilor was first 50-mile male in 11:14:58, followed by Travis Jewell and Timothy Adamski. Krystle Dalke was first 50-mile female in 11:47:11, followed by Mary Nero and Dustine Hemphill. Ultimately, we had Travis and Timothy as first and second also in the two-day race, followed up by Scott Stith. Krystle and Dustine finished first and second in the two-day. Those five were the only five to finish the challenging two-day event, despite the great weather! Was it the Spider Factor? The DNFers dropped out for their own various reasons, but many of them promise to exact revenge on next year’s two-day.

If you want a low key, well-marked and challenging event with some fun camaraderie (especially at night), show up next year at Rock Away Night and Day.

50 Mile Results

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