FKT: Nicole Fleming - Flint Hills Trail (KS) - 2023-12-04

Route variation
96 miles
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
1d 2h 15m 37s

December, in temps mid 20's to mid 40's with winds 10-20mph may not be the ideal time to attempt an unsupported FKT on the Flint Hills Trail, but it's when I had time! I actually love running in cooler temps, but I didn't expect to wrestle with so much mud once the trails thawed in the afternoon. Normally not an issue when just running, but since I was pushing a 75+ pound cart with all my food, water and supplies, the mud and soft trails definitely put the brakes on.

I started Sunday morning at 7:56am after walking just under a mile from the Prarie Lodge Motel in Council Grove. Amy, one of the owners and operators, was a gem and a source of info on weather since I live in Springfield, MO, about 4.5 hours southeast. Being a point to point course, I parked and stayed the night before my start at the hotel and ran/walked east to Osawatomie where my husband, the memorable Gary Shaw, picked me up after his shift at the fire department and a 3 hour drive. I actually beat him to the finish because I started earlier than planned. But the sun had come out and once I stripped my socks and sports bra off, put on my down coat and laid on the bench at the trail head it was a blissful 45 min wait. We then had breakfast at a local cafe and he drove me back to Council Grove where we both stayed the night again at Prarie Lodge (pet friendly!).

My goal was 26 hours, so I'm pleasantly surprised to have finished in 26:15. I knew I would be dealing with patches of snow and probably soft trail, having done several trips on the Katy trail in all conditions and on foot and bike. But ehe Flint Hills Trail was rougher than expected for a rail to trail. Absolutely not bitching, because I love gnarly trail, but I'm not sure I would have opted to push the cart knowing I would literally be scraping mud off my tires with sticks and my knife. It's not like the whole trail was that way, but long enough stretches where I almost called it, but then I would hit a packed section and start moving well again. When I was on the roads going through Osage City and Ottawa due to the detours I felt like I was doing 7-minute miles because of the ease of rolling right along! I know there was steady rain on the trail a few days before I started but expected it to dry out more. I also called a bike shop in Ottawa to get a trail update. There was unforecasted rain pretty steadily on the Saturday before my Sunday start, so that's just how it was! The conditions are never "ideal" during a race, right? You just roll with it, literally in my case:D. I expected to fight the cold temps and wind more, but between my thermos of hot water, being able to keep running/walking (vs backpacking) and more wind blocks on the trail than expected, I never got cold. The softness of the trail that I was often cursing more than praising, was a blessing on my feet and legs: stiff but not the usual locking up with flat, hard surfaces. There's also more sneaky elevation gain and decent on the Flint Hills Trail then other rails-to-trails I've been on. Maybe just more noticeable because I was pushing the cart? Beautiful views and I'll definitely have to revisit the section of the trail that was in darkness for me for 14.5 hours. I feel like I got the primo sections in the daylight, Council Grove to just past Miller (31 miles) before it got dark and then a few hours east of Ottawa the rest of the way to Osawatomie. I arrived about a quarter after 10am Monday morning. The sun was intermittent the whole way. WHAT a difference it made on temps when the sun was out. I'd strip my coat or jacket and put it right back on once it went behind the clouds or I got in the shade. I should also have worn gaiters. I emptied my shoes 3-4 times, I took brief breaks at mile 31 (Miller) and mile 51.5 (Vassar). I had another scheduled break in Ottawa (mile 74) but didn't take it due to the time suckers of having to work my way around a couple of downed trees, scraping mud off my tires and shoes, making hot drinks, peeing a million times (vault toilets are primo on this trail), shedding and adding layers, lubing myself and my tires, stopping and taking pics of the breathtaking views (I can't upload pics here for some reason)...all the usual excuses that are really the juicy story telling bits that make up an ultra. I was THRILLED to finally be done but looking back I was lucky to make it through unscathed (oh yeah, I had slimed my tires to prevent flats) and in one operable piece with doing every bit of it on my own:).