Thursday, February 21, 2013

Sylamore 50K Race Report


First thing: This is a recap of how we ran our races.  It’s not a very good description of the race or the race elements.  Nicholas Norfolk has done a pretty good job of documenting that here.

The Sylamore 50K is now in the books for Kevin and I.  It was a great race and we met a lot of great people.  Most of them I have talked to or heard from in one way or another, but it was great to put faces with names.  The volunteers were exceptional and the loot was great as well! 

As we looked back on our performances during our drive home on Sunday morning, we talked about a lot of the highs and lows of our individual races. It was pretty cool discussing what each of us experienced so we have decided to recap the race from both of our points of view.


Kevin and I have been trying to set 3 goals for our races.  Our ideal, and then 2 goals to fall back on.  Here were mine for this race. 

Scott's Goals

1. Finish under 8 hours
2. Finish under 9 hours

Kevin's Goals

1. Finish under 7:30 
2. Finish race in PR if I miss 7:30, previous PR is 8:02


After much debate on whether to leave the night before the race or the morning of, we settled on getting up bright and early to be in Allison by the start of the race.  Allison is a small town just outside of Mountain View, Arkansas and is where our adventure began.  We arrived at roughly 6:15am and began to prepare for the race.  It was a cold morning, just below freezing.  As we were getting our gear ready it decided to spit snow flurries.  I have started races in cold weather before, but this one just seemed colder.  Maybe it was knowing how far we had to go that made it seem worse.  The temperature was supposed to reach the low 40's which, under normal circumstances, is perfect running weather for me.  I would normally wear short sleeves and shorts and not think twice.  I fought the decision in my mind and decided to go with a skull cap and long sleeves.  I was glad I did.

We approached the starting line and were off at 7:00am.  The first mile was primarily a combination of pavement and dirt road.  We followed the pavement down to a dirt road and turned off down the hill.  The road led to the trail head and just through the trees was the infamous Sylamore Creek crossing.  This year we seemed to be lucky.  The water was only knee high which made the wade across a little less pain full.  I gritted my teeth, got across the water and headed up the hill towards the first aid station at Blanchard Springs.  

Allison -> Blanchard Springs


The first section of trail between Allison and Blanchard Springs is technical.  There are a lot of rocks, tree roots, and other various obstacles to navigate.  Kevin and I started out together but he was feeling great and started to pull away early.  At roughly mile 2 he dropped back to me so we could catch the group in front and try to latch on.  I was able to hang for a couple of miles and just decided the pace was too fast for me to conserve energy for later in the race.  I let them go and would catch them at the Blanchard Springs aid station.  I settled into a comfortable pace and proceeded on to Blanchard Springs without incident.  I was mostly running alone, which would be the case for nearly the entire race.  I reached Blanchard Springs in just over an hour feeling pretty good.  I was in for some food, a refill of the bottle, and then I was off.


The start was a pretty quick one, but hitting the creek early at mile one can be important so you don’t get stuck in too big of a traffic jam.  I arrived there first of our three (Scott, new DailyMile friend Darron, and me), with Darron just a couple spots back and Scott a few more spots back. After the climb from the creek Darron and I found ourselves on the back of a decent sized train of about 12 people.  Hooking up with a good pace train can be a great early race strategy.  The pace was good and steady and I felt like we could hang with this group at least until Blanchard Springs.  I was running with Jenny, a popular runner from Arkansas, who had the misfortune of falling in the creek.  Rumor is that there is a good video of the fall.  I got to see it first hand, but I wouldn’t mind seeing the video too.  So I was with her at the moment she realized she had lost her cell phone in the creek.  Her reaction was classic and all the funnier now that she has recovered her cell phone from a runner that fished it out and it actually works.  Scott still had not caught the group so I told Darron I would drop back and pace with him back until he caught this group.  I felt he could handle this pace if he could get through the traffic.  I dropped back, found Scott, and we proceeded back to the train.  At the moment we almost reattached I saw Darron pull out of the train.  I told him “don’t wait, we are almost there”, but it was obvious something else was wrong.  He had a significant calf injury, possibly a pulled or torn muscle.  We chatted with him just a bit and we thought he was going to limp to Blanchard and then pull out of the race.  Scott and I never caught that train again. 
Race starting line at Anglers
Photo credit

Scott bottom left, Darron in front of him, Kevin to the right of him.  No, we did not plan the yellow.
Photo credit

Blanchard Springs -> Gunner Pool


The next section was from Blanchard Springs to Gunner Pool and was a bit longer than the first. This section was the steepest incline and decline on the trail.  We headed straight up the hill out of Blanchard Springs.  The sun started to peak out and the scenery was awesome.  I kept maintaining a comfortable pace on the flats and descents while power hiking the hills and felt great. I was with the group up and over the first climb and the descent down.  After that, I had to let several runners pass that were keeping a much faster pace than I was, but I tried hard to fight the urge to go with them.  This is where I decided to let Kevin go.  I would only see Kevin twice the rest of the day.  Once as he was passing me at the turn around and again at the finish line.  We pass by the creek a couple of times on this section and a waterfall if I recall.  After roughly 5-6 miles, the decent into Gunner Pool was very much welcomed.  Again, I ate some Pringles, a couple of pretzels  topped off the water bottle, and I was on my way to Barkshed.


I saw Darron’s wife at the Blanchard Springs aid station and explained his injury.  I didn’t expect him to go on after Blanchard Springs.  Scott and I left out of Blanchard Springs together with five other runners.  I took the lead of this small group and proceeded to power hike up the big climb out.  This is the steepest climb of the day, but provides a good descent on the back side.  Our group fragmented on the climb, but reassembled at the top for a good descent.  Scott had pulled back to the back of this pack.  On the next climb we fragmented again and on the descent into Gunner Pool I separated with a Crossfit guy from Memphis names Justin.  He was not a runner, he was a lifter and Crossfit guy, but had no problem keeping my pace. Note to self: Check our Crossfit.  Justin and I came into Gunner Pool together.  I did not see Scott at the aid station.


Gunner Pool -> Barkshed


The section between Blanchard Springs and Barkshed is the easiest section of the race.  It consists of pretty easy terrain, mostly soft trail and consistent elevation.  This was my fastest section of the trail.  I was able to pick my pace up a bit and hit a groove.  I was still running alone but had received a boost of confidence that helped me shave some time and get to the turn around point at Barkshed fairly well.  However, about a mile outside of Barkshed (roughly mile 14) I began to get a bad headache that I chalked up to dehydration.  I had been drinking about 20 oz of fluid between each station, but apparently it wasn't enough.  I wasn't hot, so this caught me by surprise.  As I descended into Barkshed, Kevin was already heading back to Gunner pool.  He passed me on his way out and looked strong.  I knew at that moment he was going to PR this race.  I reached Barkshed and knew I needed salt.  I had already taken 2 tablets on the way in and I was still suffering from a headache and could tell cramps would be coming soon.  The awesome volunteers gave me some chicken noodle soup, some potatoes with salt, and a peanut butter sandwich.  I ate, topped my bottle off, and headed back to Gunner Pool at 3 hours and 33 minutes.


I left out of Gunner Pool aid station more quickly than Justin and proceeded to run by myself.  I caught and joined a woman about 2 miles in and we paced this section together. We would spend quite a bit of time stepping out of the way to let the lead runners passing us on the way back have the full trail.  I believe that you always yield to leaders and downhill runners.  This is by far the easiest section of the whole trail and I felt really good.  Justin would join me just before we reached the aid station.


Barkshed -> Gunner Pool


The first mile after the turn around was rough.  I was still experiencing the headache.  It wasn't until about 2 miles in or so that the food I ate at Barkshed really kicked in.  Once that happened I was able to kick it into gear and make good time back to Gunner Pool.  I was still by myself but only a couple of runners had passed me back at this point.  I was feeling pretty good at this point and made it back into Gunner Pool in a little over an hour.  I really wanted more salty food to make sure I didn't begin cramping.  More chicken noodle soop and a fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich (yes, it was awesome) hit the spot.  I filled the bottle up with some Gatorade and I was off to Blanchard Springs.


After the turn-around I left out with a group of guys about 5 deep including Justin.  5 minutes into this section I would pass Scott and give him five, but we didn’t stop to talk.  5 minutes after that, much to my surprise, I would pass Darron.  He was actually giving it a go.  After talking with Darron for a minute and fumbling to turn on some music for the first time of the day I lost contact with my train of guys.  I ran a lot of this section alone just jamming to O.A.R.  I would catch this train just before we reached Gunner Pool.


Gunner Pool -> Blanchard Springs


The section between Gunner Pool back to Blanchard Springs was the hardest for me mentally.  The trail out of Gunner heads straight up the hill.  I power hiked thinking I was never going to see the down hill of this section.  I felt exhausted and my feet were really starting to hurt at this point. A few runners I had passed coming out of the turnaround were passing me back and I was beginning to get discouraged.  I had already downed most of my bottle and still had a couple of miles to go.  I pushed on slowly until I had finally made it back to Blanchard.  This aid station came at the perfect time.  The last few races, the final aid station has propelled me to a strong finish.  I ate some chicken noodle soup, boiled potatoes with salt, and sucked on some rock salt.  I drank a couple of cups of Gatorade, topped my bottle off, and I was gone.  I headed to the finish line back at Allison.


I spent a little more time at Gunner Pool and several other runners came in.  There is a short section of road, maybe half a mile that interrupts this section of trail.  We went from trail to road but then missed the trail on the other side and proceeded to power hike the road.  We would go a quarter of a mile before someone mentioned this didn’t seem right.  It dawned on me immediately and we headed back down the hill.  We’d lose 10 minutes before hitting the trail again.  Once we hit the trail my new groups’ pace was too much for me.  I was really starting to labor and couldn’t hold on to the back.  Jesse (is awesome) from Arkansas would join me with another guy, but soon their pace was too much as well and they would drop me too.  I’d descend into Blanchard Springs by myself just catching Jesse and his friend before the aid station.


Blanchard Springs -> Allison


As I mentioned before, the section of the trail is the most technical.  There are a lot of rocks and my feet were not happy about it.  The first mile or so out of Blanchard is fairly smooth so I was able to cruise along without much pain.  The food was kicking in and I was feeling pretty good.  I would soon hit the rocky terrain and the pain reared its ugly head again.  Each step hurt and slowed me down.  I was almost there so I fought through it the best I could.  With about a mile to go, I saw the Sylamore Creek again, the one we had crossed that morning.  I have never been so happy to cross water in my life.  It numbed my feet and allowed me to get up the hill to the road without tip-toeing. As I reached the top of the hill and hit the pavement, all I could think about was getting to the finish line.  I was walking because my feet hurt so bad.  At that moment, a new running friend of ours showed up behind me. He had hurt his calf pretty bad very early in the race.  I honestly thought he had dropped because of the pain.  It was really good to see him because I had been running alone most of the race.  I hadn't looked at my watch in a long time because I just wanted to finish.  My friend told me we still had a chance to break 8 hours.  We had 4 minutes to do it! Both of us could barely walk but we took off.  Immediately he had to stop because his calf locked up.  I didn't want to go without him but he insisted.  I mustered up everything I had and trotted across the finish line in 7:59:15 and was very happy about it.  Kevin had finished about 30 minutes earlier and cheered me into the finish line.  It was good to see him and I knew he had a fantastic run. As soon as I stopped, I turned around and our friend crossed in just under 8 hours as well.  His run was one of the most gutty performances I have ever seen.  I would have dropped early with his injury. Everyone seemed to have accomplished something they thought they couldn't.


I left out of Blanchard alone and a bit demoralized from the previous section.  Soon, Ying, a woman that had passed me on this section last year would pass me again this year.  I tried to hitch on and stay with her and she eventually would drag me back to Justin again, but just as I had a chance to say hi to him I blew up again.  I would spend the rest of this section alone.  I hit the creek and asked the woman at the creek how much further.  She told me a little under a mile.  I checked my watch and felt 7:30 was still possible and I took off.  I held a decent pace until the bear of a hill that is the dirt road.  I power hiked this hill passing a photographer and I held my hands high because 7:30 was going to happen.  I ran down the pavement toward Allison before having to walk a bit.  I then mustered up enough energy to run in and finish at 7:28:38.

Kevin celebrates the shot at sub 7:30
Photo credit
Kevin finishes with way too many arm accessories.
Photo credit
Scott finishing strong, going to get his sub 8:00.

Post Race

I crossed the finish line and received my finisher’s glass (which is pretty cool) and immediately began to scan for Darron and Scott.  They more than likely were behind me, but given my 10 minute detour they could have passed me there.  I did not see them.  I would learn later than Darron made the same mistake, but took it even further, 3/4ths of a mile.  I went to my truck, grabbed a drink, put on some pants, and proceeded to the finish line to cheer in the other runners.  A bit later I saw Scott and Darron coming in together.  I cheered them both in as they finished sub 8 hours.  Incredible for both of their first trail 50Ks and Darron with the injured calf muscle as well. 

The word says it all.

Later That Night

We joined some friends we met on DailyMile (Michael, Joshua, Jody & Jody’s wife) at Anglers for supper, a drink, and a live band.  Darron and his wife would join us later.  We chatted about the race before Scott and I returned to our cabin at Holiday Mountain Resort less than half a mile away for a celebratory toast in our new Sylamore glasses.

Our finishers loot - Sylamore 50K Pint Glasses




Overall I was very pleased with the outcome of my first Ultra.  The weather was perfect, I just met my goal, Kevin met his, and we met some great people.  After the race there was no way I was attempting the 50 mile at 3 Days of Syllamo, but now that I have let the pain wear off, I am going to try.  I hope I have found the new pair of shoes I need to make it through.


In the days after the race I have crunched the numbers a hundred different ways and I can’t seem to calculate a way to success at my first 50 miler next month.  Even though this race went really well I still feel that I am not ready for the 50 mile stage at the 3 Days of Sylamo.  I’ll hit that start line because a DNF is always better than a DNS.

Sylamore 50K Route

Sylamore 50K Elevation Profile


Friday, February 15, 2013

Sylamore 50K Eve

Just a quick thought about race day tomorrow.  It will be my first attempt at a 50K.  Kevin completed this race last year.  I was at the finish line when he crossed it.  He was exhausted but I could tell how proud of his accomplishment he was.  I had been telling him how crazy he was all along but I will admit, part of me was jealous.  I never had thoughts of even attempting it.  I was running my first Little Rock Marathon 2 weeks later and never thought I would pull off two races this long in that short period of time.  Kevin did, completing both races and doing very well.

Several months later when Kevin and I started hashing out plans for our races this spring, I decided I would try to focus on trails.  In true "Average Joe" fashion, we think we bit off more than we can chew.  The key word is "THINK".

I woke up this morning very nervous, very anxious, while also being very excited.  I am a Christian and Jesus is the cornerstone of all I do in life.  I try to follow him in all I do and all decisions I make.  I fall short of that often, but I am thankful for a God who forgives.  This particular verse has helped ease my anxiety today.

Mark 9:23 

23“What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.”

This makes me believe I can do it, even if my feet give me trouble, even when I am wondering why I would do this about mile 22.  I plan to enjoy the outdoors, enjoy the new people I am looking forward to meeting tomorrow (along with the beer afterwards!), and enjoy the fact that I am about to complete the longest race of my life.  Pretty awesome stuff.

Good luck to all those at the Sylamore 50K tomorrow.  I hope everyone gets a PR!!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Sylamore Test Run

Scott and I decided to make the trip up to Sylamore to try out the trail in advance of the Sylamore 50K in February.  Scott arrived at my house at 5am and we headed to the trail.  We stopped briefly for fuel in Drasco and for a little bite of food and a bathroom break in Mountain View and arrived at Anglers White River resort at 7am.  We gathered our food, put on our Garmins, and started the same spot that the race will start on.  We planned to run from Anglers to Blanchard Springs on to Gunner Pool and then turn around.  The race will continue on to Barkshed before turning around. 
We started off up the pavement and then turning on to the dirt road that would lead to the single track trail head.  It started to rain on us and rained on and off all day.  It’s easy during the first mile on race day to go faster than you should because the terrain is so easy and all the other runners are going faster, so you’ll want to be aware of that.  On the flip side if you go to slow you’ll find yourself deep in traffic at the creek crossing and the half mile past the creek and could cost you some time.  I lost five minutes here last year and missed my race goal time by two minutes.

The creek crossing was calf deep in places.  Be wary of expecting larger rocks to be good foot holds, they tend to be slicker, try and stick to walking on the gravel.  Last year I saw a couple of people run with extra socks and shoes.  I don’t advise it as the entire section to Blanchard Springs has small several creek crossings and is overall a fairly muddy section, you might could stay dry, but it would take a lot of effort.  So, even if you change shoes after the creek your second pair of shoes will get pretty wet.  If this is your first Sylamore 50K you may be thinking this trial is fairly technical, no worries, after Blanchard Springs it smoothes out real nice.  On this section after a small creek crossing we could hear a waterfall just below, we took a short hike down (40 feet) and found a campsite with a view of the waterfall.  We held a nice steady 15:00 average pace until Blanchard Springs.  

Scott at the first campground we noticed.
At Blanchard we stopped and topped off our water bottles at the rest room as the water has been turned off for the winter at Gunner Pool.  This is where the first aid station will be.  The trail coming out of Blanchard is the steepest of any section on this race route.  We hiked up it before resuming running after the top.  We descended toward Gunner Pool pretty quickly.  You’ll pass a memorial to Arkansas State Trooper Jimmie White shortly before a campsite.  It was during this section that we encountered all of the people we would see during the run.  On the way out we bumped into a hunter and a game warden chatting beside a campfire.  Shortly after them we came upon a group of about six packing up camp and having breakfast.  Once past them we came upon a group of about seven hikers headed to Barkshed.  The run after this will take you down next to the creek, literally on top of the creek.  It’s easy to tell where to go on the way out, it can be a little confusing on the way back, just remember on the way back to run toward the creek.  I checked and there was a clear blue blaze on a tree this year, I don’t remember it being there last year, so you shouldn’t have any problem.
At Gunner Pool we stopped so I could use the restroom.  I’d been battling a stomach virus the night before and it wasn’t treating me well on the run.  Scott did a little sightseeing and snapped a picture of Gunner Pool.  What we call Gunner Pool was apparently Camp Hedges, check out the writing on the sign in the picture below.

Waterfall at Gunner Pool built by CCC.

Kevin at Gunner Pool (Camp Hedges)
After turning around and heading back we both felt pretty good, thankful for the pit toilet.  During this section we stopped and snapped a picture of me next to a tree cut down by a beaver, that’s the Little Sylamore Creek in the background.  We would encounter all the same people as earlier but also we passed and stopped and chatted with Nancy Kirk.  She’s the sister of Steve Kirk who puts on the 3 Days of Sylamo in March.  Scott and I are currently training to run just the second day, the 50 mile trail leg.  We descended into Blanchard and topped off the bottles and headed on to the end.  At Blanchard you get to cross the nice bridge in the picture below.

Kevin next to the Little Sylamore Creek
Scott running the bridge at Blanchard Springs

The section from Blanchard to the end saw Scott’s feet really start to hurt.  They have started to bother him since taking up trail running.  He’s still seeking a solution to the problem, but basically he has pressure points on the balls of his feet that cause pain after long trail runs.  He had blood blisters after Athens Big Fork Trail Marathon earlier this year.  We slowed the pace and brought the training run to a close.  With Scott’s feet and my stomach bug we still had a pretty good day.  Looking forward to Sylamore 50K in two weeks.

Scott crossing the Little Sylamore Creek, ahhh, feels good on the feet.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Athens Big Fork Trail Marathon Race Recap

This IS the toughest marathon in the south.  I heard several people say just that the morning of the race. Eight mountain crossings on the out and then you turn around and cross the same eight mountains on the way back.  After running this I will be one of the ones saying it is the toughest marathon in the south.  Here is the profile from my Garmin report of the race. 

Athens Big Fork Trail Marathon Profile

Who could have known before the race that it was going to be this hard?  Well, the race organizers give you a hint to that with this warning on the race website.

NOTE: This event is NOT for trail-newbies.

If you are not an experienced trail- or ultra-runner (or adventure racer), we happily invite you to one of the other UTS runs, BUT NOT THIS ONE. This is a difficult event on a difficult trail that presents many opportunities for one to get lost, injured, exhausted, or incapacitated--with sparse access for rescue.

MORE Notes:

Please do not be enticed into trying this run because of the difficulty warning--it is merely an honest attempt at preventing the run organizers from having to find and rescue someone ill-equipped for the event.

A cut-off time of 10:30am (2.5 hours) will be enforced at the turn-around (half-way) point for the 17-mile run. Runners reaching that point after 10:30 must turn around (--NOT proceed on the marathon course).

If you cannot find the Big Fork Community Center without further instructions--please disregard this race.
That’s a pretty serious warning and you need to take it at face value.  We took it serious, but thought we were conditioned for it and decided to give it a go.  We setup three goals prerace so as to keep things in perspective.
  1. Finish the race in 8 hours
  2. Finish the race
  3. Finish the Blaylock Creek Fun Run (17 miles)
I got up at at 3:45 and picked Scott up in Conway at 4:45 and headed on to Big Fork Community Center.  We stopped and grabbed some breakfast in Hot Springs on the way.  We arrived later than we had planned and didn't get much of a chance to socialize with the other runners.  We made our donation to the community center, purchased a t-shirt from the race and after a brief instruction we were lead to the highway in front of the community center and we were off.

The first 2.5 miles are run just a little on a highway and then on a county road with a gradual incline.  Nice easy warm up before you hit the first climb.  The first climb (Missouri) is a bit overrun with undergrowth so staying a good distance back from the runner in front of you is needed so you are not popped by a recoiling tree branch.  After ascending and descending this first mountain you come to the first aid station at around 4 miles.  This aid station (run by TATUR) was well stocked and friendly and had the music cranked up. 

The next section of the race until Blaylock creek crosses 4 mountains (Hurricane Knob, McKinley, Brier Creek, & Leader).  It's a nice stretch of trail with some technical parts and a few sections of scree.  It finally ends with a crossing of Blaylock creek and arriving at the Blaylock creek aid station.  This station was also well stocked and manned by a very friendly crew from AURA.  This is the turnaround point for the fun run.  At this point you have a decision to make.  If you are feeling anything less than great I would suggest turning around here.  Scott and I discussed our three goals briefly and decided to push on. Goal number three was no longer an option.  It would be goal one or two.

Scott crossing Blaylock Creek

The next mountain (Brushheap) is the monster on this trail in my opinion.  The climb out of Blaylock creek and up this mountain seems to have the highest gradient and seemed to go on forever. If this were a cycling course I'd have to rate it HC.  Someone had bulldozed parts of the trail and near the trail and the race organizers did a good job of putting down flour markings to lead you the correct direction. 
I really enjoyed the next mountain (Brushy).  It had some great views and seemed match well for my descending.  At this point it's important to note that I am more comfortable descending faster than Scott.  So we would power hike the hills together and then I would descend off the front.  Once at the base I would walk/hike until Scott joined me to hike up the next mountain.

This is where our race went wrong.  I descended off of mountain seven (Brushy) ahead of Scott and proceeded to run to the base of the next mountain where I started to hike.  After about half a mile he had not caught me and I began to worry.  I stopped and waited, the time was 3:22.  At 3:29 another runner who had been behind Scott passed me and informed me that he had not seen Scott.  This meant that Scott was off trail.  I ran back down the mountain and out a short spur trail until I decided he wasn't down there.  I encountered another runner who had already made the turn around and explained he had been lost earlier by making a wrong turn at a T after Brushy.  I ran with him back to the T and sure enough it was a very confusing intersection.  On the way out it is a T after Brushy.  Looking left you see a tree with both a yellow and white blaze.  Looking right you see a tree with a yellow blaze.  Further inspection and you would also see a tree with a white blaze a little further.  Now, I'm not sure the point of having blazes on trees together versus having them on separate trees, but Scott only saw the white blaze to the left and he turned left.  This was the same mistake that the runner I encountered had told me he had made.  I was lucky enough when I came through the intersection just a few minutes ahead of Scott to pass 4 runners on their way back from the turnaround coming into the intersection.  I turned toward them and never considered which way was the correct way to turn.  So, I ran about a half mile down this trail and found Scott and five other runners running back towards me.  I latched onto the train, but soon Scott and I were both unhitched.  Here is the lesson, when you come to a T after descending the 7th mountain, TURN RIGHT!

Scott and I were on our way to the final aid station after mountain eight (Big Tom).  We arrived at the well stocked aid station run by a group out of Texarkana about 30 minutes behind where we were on pace to arrive as the trail debacle had cost us half an hour.  Scott had some chicken noodle soup and I had a large banana and took a second one for the run back.  It was obvious at this point that race goal number one, finish in eight hours, was no longer attainable, so we moved down to race goal number two.  We left the final aid station just as the last 3 runners were reaching it.
Scott at the turn-around post trail mishap.

We ran/walked/hiked the next three mountains back to the Blaylock creek aid station.  Scott told me more than once to go on, but pre-race we had agreed to stay together until 10K to go and then if either of us felt good and had a chance at doing better we would split up, so I stayed with Scott a while longer.  We went through Blaylock Creek aid station together and we left out just as the first of the last group was arriving.

We proceeded to go over mountain five (Leader) together and start up four (Brier Creek) together.  On the way up Brier Creek when we were about six miles out Scott could tell I was itching to take off.  I turned around to ask if I could go but before I could get the words out of my mouth he said "Just go man".

Scott after 20 miles
Kevin after 20 miles

I took off with intent on catching at least one person.  I power hiked up the remaining of four (Brier Creek) and flew down the other side.  I hit both three & two (McKinley, Hurricane Knob) with the same intensity and just as I hit the base after Hurricane Knob I saw a runner leaving the final aid station.  I picked up my pace and hit the aid station only long enough to eat a handful of chips and have my bottle refilled.  I was off.  Somewhere on the way up the final climb (Missouri) I hit my limits.  My walk/hike slowed to barely moving and for the first time of the day I was not able to run down a mountain.  I couldn't navigate the leaf covered rocks with my wobbly legs and I had to hike slowly down the mountain.  When I reached the base and the road I could not see the other runner at all.  I decided to just shoot for breaking 9 hours and slowly brought it in.

Meanwhile, Scott had gone over four and three (Brier Creek, McKinley) and topped out on two (Hurricane Knob) when he could hear the faint noise of the aid station at the bottom of McKinley.  He gained inspirations and picked up his pace.  He came into the final aid station strong and took in a variety of fuel before leaving out.  He powered up one (Missouri) and ran down the back side.  He finally hit the long dirt road and ran much more of it than I did.

I hit the pavement at 8:48 with only 8/10ths of a mile to finish the race.  Three cars full of runners passed honking and clapping as I neared the finish line.  Unbeknownst to me, the same three cars would honk and clap for Scott as he ran down the pavement just half a mile behind me.  I would finish in 8:58 as a couple of women got out of the cars and ran to the finish to cheer me in.  That’s just what these runners are like.  I proceeded into the community center to sign out.  A race organizer came in and said that 84 just hit the pavement.  I knew 84 was Scott and I ran (if you could call it that) out to the finish line just in time to catch him crossing it and cheer him in.

Scott finishing strong

We changed clothes and cleaned up the best we could at the community center before heading to Hot Springs and Rod’s pizza for some supper.  We recapped the race together and really enjoyed the day.  Scott stated he will never run this race again, but I’m not so absolute. Keep in mind, Scott always says he will never do something and before you know it he is doing just that.

The Rodfather Pizza at Rod's Pizza in Hot Springs
Garmin Link: ABF Garmin Link