Location: Perry Lake; Meriden, Kansas
Trail Type: Single Track
Host: Trail Nerds
Atmosphere: Traditionally speaking the month of April in northeastern Kansas tends to be cool with the possibility of rain. It is definitely worth prepared to be wet through this race. 2017 was a strange year with near record breaking heat during the day, 85 degrees, mixed with humidity, and severe thunderstorms late in the night resulting in the race being called. Free State has a historic reputation of being a weather rollercoaster, but the 2017 heat was something completely new to the race. Also note that a good chunk of the race is deep in the timber meaning that any form of a breeze is not likely to take place.
Terrain: This is a 100% single track course. It is extremely rocky, and can be quite technical in some areas. There are not large elevation gains in one specific area, but it will be challenging to find a single section where you can stretch out. With part of the 100K potentially being in the dark, this is definitely a course that you do not want to take your eyes off of the trail.
Logistics/Aid: As goes with the reputation of Trail Nerds races, the aid stations are full of volunteers and supplies. This is a HEED event, so those who have their own style of electrolyte blend that they prefer should bring it along for the ride. It is a very smooth race by way of logistics as well. 2017 was cut short due to severe weather, but in the end the race director made the right choice to get the runners out of the woods. This move speaks volumes towards the importance of safety in the mind of those in charge of the race.
Post Race: Expect music, photos, and hot dogs when you pass through for the post race. Meals and beer are available to the finishers. There is plenty of areas to rest, eat, and recover. Additionally, there is an opportunity to stay overnight at the starting point with shower houses as well. A.R.T certified trainers are also available to assist runners coming through with aching areas on their body.
Beginners Luck: Is it possible for a first timers? Yes. From the initial overview this looks to be a very friendly race for new trail runners. However, the course is very technical that can result in risk of falls, and the weather historically has been “entertaining” for this course. If a first time runner comes into Free State, it would be suggested to start with the half-marathon, or perhaps the marathon. 3 loops for the 100K is a daunting task with a motivational cutoff time.
The secret with Free State, especially in 2017, was the logistics of the aid stations and the overall direction of the race. The race was delayed only because someone had pulled the course markings the night prior, and they had to be replaced prior to start time. The heat was unforeseen, but very brutal to the longer distances. The race director made the call to end the race early due to severe weather, and the wellbeing of the runners still on the course. This was all factored into a rather challenging course via technical work to begin with. For the Trail Nerds organization this is one of their more challenging races of the year, and the only 100K race they offer.