by Ben Holmes, RD
The 6th annual Rock On Lake Perry 50K has always been a labor of love. Prior to the race, there is more that goes on behind the scenes than just signing up volunteers, and ordering the T-shirts, finisher medals and awards.
The hardwood forests in this part of the Midwest can become quite jungle-like by late April. Like all of our Trail Nerd events, we prepare the course’s trails with lots of volunteer hours to make sure that on race day, nobody has to climb over fallen trees or come in contact with stinging nettles or poison ivy. We work closely with the trail steward of each trail system to accomplish this. In this case, two weeks of weed mitigation, lopping, chain-sawing and trail maintenance prior to the race paid off with a perfectly prepared race course.
On race day, the weather cooperated with an absolutely ideal temperature and sunny skies. The 50 km started at the same time as the half marathon and 5 km distance races. We had a couple of fast and furious half-marathoners up front to set the pace for the 50 km frontrunners, who were definitely capable of hanging onto the pace. The 50 km and half-marathon courses diverged at mile four, which left the ultrarunners to slug it out on their own terms on the rocky singletrack.
Jeremy Morris (Kearney, Nebraska) was the first runner to come through the main aid station, one-third of the way through the three-loop course, followed by Tim Peterman (Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas) nine minutes back. The top females’ race was a little closer. Stephanie Cundith (Wichita, Kansas) came through the first loop only three minutes ahead of Alli Moy (Oakland, California). Jeremy and Stephanie have both raced (and won) on this trail system before, so they had the benefit of knowing what to expect from this technical course in the woods. That knowledge and experience paid off with wins by both of them: Jeremy Morris in 4:05:56 and Stephanie Cundith in 5:17:16. Tim Peterman and Brady Poskin finished as second- and third-place males, while Alli Moy and Andrea Devin (respectively) followed Stephanie’s win.
Post-race at any of our four Lake Perry trail races are always a nice, laid-back hang, with craft beer on tap, kids playing, cowbells clanging, and a contingent of revelers to cheer on the runners finishing on the steep switch-back hill leading up to the finish line. Many of the participants hung out until the very last runner, Alejandro Flores, trotted across the line to finish his first ultra. It doesn’t get any better than that.