Fortunately this race Lety and I had some vacation planned so we turned it into a runcation and spent half a day in Little Rock doing a little sight-seeing. Walked around downtown, stopped by the local Flying Saucer and did some shopping.
Going in to the race I knew I had a sub-24 with the assumption that everything went as planned and that the advertised 12k feet of gain wouldn’t bother me. Olga’s last advise was not to push until after 70 miles so I tried to stick to that plan, my plan was to run a sub-23. My finishing time was 22:01:21, good enough for 9th overall. One of the reasons I ran this race was because Joe P. had suggested it so much, he had done it multiple times and only had good things to say about its Race Director, Chrissy and top of the line volunteers. The race itself has plenty of aid stations and it helps a lot that it is an out and back course, with a small figure eight loop that goes through about 8 miles of the Ouachita trail. The weather I think for the most part is usually cool, this year during the day we had a little rain, followed by some humid and not so hot weather (the temperature at one of the aid stations read 80F degrees, add a bit of humidity on top of that and things can turn real quick). A down pour in the afternoon that brought the expected colder weather, followed by cooler winds at the top of Smith Mountain at night. What follows is my attempt at putting a few words together about how my race went.
Start to Lake Sylvia
First part of the race is a 16 mile figure eight loop and some of it goes through the Ouachita trail, this section is not hard and it was a welcomed experience having run on rocks (more about this later) for a good 5 months I enjoyed the single track as much as I could, savoring every step and a bit of up and downs. Tried very hard to not spend unnecessary energy here. Three things I remember here are: 1) it was too freaking humid, coming into the race I was hoping that it would cool down more than it did the days prior to the race, unfortunately this didn’t happen and I might have done too much salt here :-\. 2) We had a very light sprinkle that made for some awesome pine tree with midst/fog views during our run through the single track. 3) Hearing a guy behind me after I had just left the Brown’s creek aid station hurl and hurl hard, to think we were only 12 miles into the race and the heat was already playing with our heads and bodies, good times.
Lake Sylvia’s aid station came by (took me 3:06 to get through this section, probably a little faster than I should have) and caught Lety off guard because she didn’t see me coming in to the aid station. As always seeing her is an instant energy booster an added bonus was that I was feeling in top shape. Plantar was still there but it was still runnable so I kept going, it probably bothered me for first 30 miles and then it sort of went dormant or I ignored it.
Lake Sylvia to Lake Winona
This was the roughest part of the course to me, I mentioned getting out of Texas to experience something other than rocks. This race embraces jeep roads and they don’t try to hide it, the rest of the course was on jeep roads, with maybe half a mile from the finish on road. There are sections here that I did not look forward to coming back, if you ever walked on a river creek when its dry this is how the first and last sections felt like, except there was overgrown grass just to make it more entertaining and there were a few hills going to the Rocky Gap aid station. At some point here I run with Keith from Georgia and later ran with Stan (Chrissy’s husband) who was trying to come back after a slow start and probably being dehydrated. The heat got to me here but it dissipated quickly as soon as the cold front started to make its way south.
Lake Winona to Powerline
This was the best part and it made up for all the jeep road running, there were some beautiful views after passing Smith Mountain aid station, sure it is not a real mountain, but it sure beats mounts and hills back home. The first sight came after the aid station while I chatted with a guy Russell from Oklahoma, to our left there were glimpses of the Ouachita trail mountains that were very entertaining. Chatted about how neither of us were football fans and the weather was a bit warmer than we had anticipated. After we had crested the top of this hill, I told Russell that play time was over and started some smoother run hill running that felt so liberating. Not too far from the powerline aid station there was a clearing where I caught a glimpse of the rest of the park and slowed down and enjoyed the moment. After that there was a slight uphill to get to the aid station and this is where rain downpoured for not too long and I ran like my kids in the rain, splashing and enjoying as one must do when it rains, forget the problems in the world and enjoy nature.
Powerline to Turnaround and back
I got to the aid station and weighed in at 163 lbs, hmm something is off I tell myself, the lady weighing in tells me I’m retaining water, possible but 6 lbs of water seems a bit too much. On the way back I would weigh in at 145 lbs and the first thing I hear is: “It’s ok, the scale is a little off”, just a little I reply. I proceeded to pick my pack and a tech shirt because it would cool down a bit after the rain. I would start passing a few folks here and made a good effort to not get passed the rest of the way. Since this course is an out-and-back mostly I could tell what place I was and I was glad I wasn’t that far behind (at least in the standings, time is a different game). I see people coming back from the turn around and I shout some sort of encouraging words, when I see the guy that was in 5th place, he’s cheering me on and telling me that the last bit is easy, piece of cake, almost there, yeah right I think. Turned out we were not almost there and there was a little bump that we needed to get through, darn elevation profiles can be deceptive :) There was still daylight and I was trying to hold on to it for as long as I could, in fact I ran in the dark for quite a bit and didn’t turn my handheld on until I couldn’t see any longer, well-played I told myself.
Powerline to Lake Winona
Heading back I knew I needed to push a bit harder and it was a mental battle the rest of the way, that time of the day when all your legs are telling you is “sit down and stay there” and your brain is saying the complete opposite. Going up Smith Mountain was fun up to the point where it was raining and I made the rookie mistake of leaving my long sleeve shirt at power line, not change my techshirt, which was now wet and I had a rain jacket over it (a sleeveless rain jacket ). Right before the Smith Mountain aid station there was some tree that had fallen from the wind and rain and I came to a stopping point, my battery was dying and I needed to replace them, panic ensued and I though I was lost, looked forward no ribbons within eyesight distance, look the other way, same deal, crap, did I get lost? no way I think, this was a straight shot from the bottom clearing that had been majestic earlier to the aid station. I regroup, replace my batteries and start going around the tree that had fallen (which really didn’t look like a tree but more like someone had covered the trail so we wouldn’t go through it, I was thinking the worst here given Chrissy had mentioned the hunters playing with the ribbon markers and light sticks). Eventually I made it around past the tree and far enough to see another ribbon and was running again. By the time I made it to the aid station I was cold and asked the volunteers if any of them had a spare tech shirt or arm warmers I could borrow and, in ultra fashion, one of the girls manning the aid station asked if socks would work, I quickly and happily said yes! she then proceeded to ask if pink would be a problem to which I replied: “Ofcourse not!” Those arm warmers probably saved the rest of my race. Smith Mountain to Lake Winona went by pretty fast, the volunteers mentioned I was rocking my pink arm warmers to which I nodded and proceeded to the last part of the race.
Lake Winona to Finish
There were two things that were certain for this last section: 1) There was a bit of a hill going back and 2) the rough patch I discussed earlier. I proceeded to tackle the first one and I tried hard to walk with a purpose this last section. Everything that resembled a hill, I power hiked and everything else I ran. Honestly I don’t remember much about this uphill section, only that I wanted to finish. Running through this last rough patch was harder because I had been playing tag with another runner, looking at the splits I had been playing tag with him for most of the race it seems. Good things come from competition I guess, because he made me run the rest of the 6 miles left to the finish, except I had given out so much that by the time we got to the road before the finish line, there was a final bump that was not pleasant at all, I tried to hold on for as long as I could, hoping I was going to finish sub-22 but lost that battle, thankfully there are other battles and I will get that sub-22.
The first and most important of all is Lety, without your support and knowing you are always there these challenges would not be fun. Thank you for being there and putting up with my incorrect estimates. To my parents for taking care of the little ones and let us turn part of this into a mini-runcation :) To the AT Race Director and husband Chrissy and Stan who put up and excellent race. To the volunteers who were top notch and literally went above and beyond. To my friends (runners and not runners, you know who you are), and to my coach Olga.
If you have a hydration pack and you can carry stuff, carry it! Especially if its important, do not make assumptions but instead be prepared. I made the mistake of not taking my long sleeve shirt and that would have probably cost me my race if it weren’t for the awesome race volunteers.
At some point on my way back, I sat for a few seconds in a chair, gasp!, that probably cost me sub-22. The chair did not look comfortable at all and sitting and standing was painful, beware of the chair.
Race time running progress
|Bib||Name||Flatside Pinnacle||Browns Creek||Lake Sylvia||Pumpkin Patch||Electric Tower||Rocky Gap||Lake Winona||Pigtrail||Club Flamingo||Smith Mountain||Powerline||Copperhead Road||Turn Around||Copperhead Road||Powerline||Smith Mountain||Club Flamingo||Pigtrail||Lake Winona||Rocky Gap||Electric Tower||Pumpkin Patch||CrossRoads||Finish|
Oh the excitement and anticipation of training for a race with no training races before it, that came to a halt when plantar flared up during my last long taper run. Panic ensued and I contacted Olga, her reply basically read like this: “don’t run and rest”, needless to say it was a long week of not running and overcoming negative thoughts. “Fortunately” it was only painful the first 30 miles and it went into dormant state afterwards.
Pearl Izumi EM Trail M2
These shoes have been good so far, I definitely need half a size longer since they are a bit narrow on the edges. They did slip a little on wet rocks but held pretty good for the mud puddles and jeep road. I did get some rubbing on the tongue section, which I didn’t feel during the race at all it was just there on both feet.
Fenix E25 handheld
I definitely need to revise what is a better option, seems to me like the battery is running out faster than it should.