Ozark Trail 100 - Race Report
What a relief! After massive blowups in my last two 100's, including a 80 mile puke fest DNF at Javelina and a less than stellar, lots of dry heaving, 27 hour performance at Tahoe in August, I was able to put it all together and run the race I wanted. The goal was simple this time, run a complete race. To do that I wasn't going to go out too fast or too slow. I was going to eat and drink but not freak out and try to over compensate all at once if fell behind a bit. Lastly, I was going to go light on salt and caffeine intake. I've had so many stomach issues over the last few years I needed to cut out the potential irritants as much as possible. My training leading up to the race was good but not great. I knew that I was capable of running 100 miles as my training with Matt has really helped me take it up a notch this year. I was just not quite as primed as I would have liked. I had a few nicks and bumps but was not fighting anything major. I've had a really tight hip/groin that had moved itself into an slight abdominal strain that kept me from going full bore leading up to the race. These things were not causing any specific problems, they were just there and noticeable throughout the race. Luckily everything held up, I just had to stop and stretch things out a few times.
I was accompanied by a top notch crew including my good friends Jason and Dema as well as my mom who was in for her first time to be a part of a 100 miler. These 3 would be with me the whole time. My wife and daughter came in the morning of the race to hang out at a few of the aid stations along the way then go to bed in the evening and meet me back at the finish whenever that might be.
The weather was out-of-sight good the day before the race. Clear skies and low 60's kept the attitude of all the runners upbeat as we all began to arrive and mill around the Bass River Resort main building awaiting the pre-race meeting to start. Co-RD's Paul and Stuart along with the other aid station captains and volunteers were in high gear finalizing aid station supplies and checking runners in. It's a great environment to be on your "home turf." While this is not a St. Louis Ultrarunner's Group race, lots of our members either run it or are working at it since it is so close to the St. Louis area. Familiar faces from Kansas, Missouri, and Arkansas really makes it a fun experience before, during, and after the race. Paul gave the pre-race speech and we were back to the cabin early to try and get wound down. To combat the stomach issues I've had I decided to try an antacid and popped a Prilosec OTC. I'm not big on taking medicine at all but seeing this video with Hal Koerner made me give it a try.
We woke up at 3:30 and met my buddy Tommy, who was also running, and his girlfriend Jen at 4am to head to the start of the race. Tommy and Jen had a secret weapon. They knew about a breakfast place on the way to the trail head where we could get massive breakfast burritos. All of us chowed down on some variety of eggs, vegetables, and meats wrapped up tight then headed to the start of this point-to-point 103 miler.
I was mad relaxed. I kept my mind very clear and knew I was not going to get caught up in anyone's race but mine. I had my super comfortable Salomon XT Advanced Skin 5 S-Lab Set loaded up with some H2O, a few Clif Shot gels, and a flask of First Endurance Liquid Shot. This would be more than enough to get me though the first 17 miles to the Sutton Bluff aid station, where I would meet my crew, especially with that 800 calorie burrito bomb in my gut. We all worked our way toward the start line where we milled around a bit and chatted. There is something really ludacris about just casually talking with friends and fellow runners before taking off into the darkness on a technical rocky trail covered in leaves where we all will be running for the next 32 hours or so. It is so removed from normal life, I love it.
some of my favorite peeps! - Photo by Jason Eads
Paul yelled "Go!" and I found a nice little pace where I just chugged along. The lead pack took off like a shot and I just let them go. I found a pace that was comfortable and stayed there. I promised my pacers that I would not work too hard before I saw them. In fact I told Jason I did not want to get out of breath in the first 50 miles. I stuck to this as well as I could. I leisurely moved along sipping water and talking a gel or hit off the Liquid Shot ever 1/2 hour without fail. I hooked up with another runner, Aaron Norman, who I ran with before at 3 Days of Syllamo earlier this year. This was his first 100 but he is super talented and our paces even out. He's faster than me but I'm really steady so it tended to even out for a lot of this race. We rolled into mile 17 together around the 3 hour 20 mark. I met my crew, told them my food intake, filled my pack bladder up, took a hit of First Endurance Ultragen , grabbed a few extra gels, swapped out my buff for a hat and headed back out. 26 miles until the next crew accessible aid station so I grabbed my music to keep me company in case Aaron and I split up.
Back on the trail and settled in. Very steady pace and eating schedule. I think I popped an Endurolyte or 2 during this 26 mile section but overall my salt intake was really low compared to other races and my stomach was staying happy. Happy guts = not having to be bent over with stomach pain and having my midsection be the reason for not performing. Even with this, I still wanted to be very controlled and keep things in check. The longer I could keep the calories flowing the better off I'd be if things went south later. I had a few low spots though here but just kept clipping along trying to ignore it. Just before the aid station I started feeling really really good. A super random mix of songs came up featuring Five Finger Death Punch, Ke$sh, and LMFAO. I was cruising effortlessly. I may have even yelled "Party Rock!" as I was descending off the bluff into Brook Creek Aid Station. I finally hit the mile 43 aid station at Brooks Creek where I could pick up a pacer. If I was smiling anymore, it would have hurt. My crew was there, my wife and daughter had made it safely, and my boy John Cash came flying out on the trail to meet me and assist with this stop. Jen had made up some pumpkin pie's and had a piece or should I say a 1/4 of the pie waiting for me. I chowed down this whole piece and drank some more Ultragen. I was so pumped right here. it was crazy! The crew gathered, the aid station workers, the sun shining, the atmosphere, this is my church! I wasted little time other than mass pie consumption then Jason and I headed up the hill out of the aid station.
Unfortunately I had a not so great section though here. It was sluggish, moving but not optimal. I remembered my major crash out a Tahoe that I think was sugar related and took a gel just to try to get things back on track. It worked, back in the game! We hit the 50 mile mark AS ran by my friend Coleen who had a snicker bar waiting for me. The temps were dropping suddenly and I did not bring any extra clothes. Fear not! Co-RD Stuart was there and lent me a pair of arm warmers. I gave some high-fives, some hugs and got the hell out. This next section continued to be a bit troublesome. I was having some knee and groin pain that kept the pace a little slower than I would have liked, especially since this section was some of the most runnable of the course. We worked thought it by being stubborn and just accepting that this was what I had to deal with. I was rolling up on mile 68 where I was going to swap pacers and Dema was going to join me and give Jason a break.
We arrived at the Hazel Creek aid station at mile 68. I decided on a sock change and to do a little work on my feet as they were getting a little chewed up. All the rocks and loose off camber footing can take a toll on you out here. I also grabbed some warmer clothes as the temps were going down into the 30. After a relatively quick transition given the foot care, I was back on the trail. Dema decided it was time to take things up a notch. We ran along until about mile 75 where the Aid Station folks let me know I was in 8th and that 6th and 7th were 11 and 9 minutes ahead of me respectively. Dema said "let's go get them!" We pressed this section HARD! I don't recall walking much of it. The next aid station was the Berryman Campground at mile 81. Dema would swap me back to Jason here. We caught a glimpse of some headlamps and put the hammer down. I was charging up hills and had caught 7th and 6th place just before getting into Berryman. I was tired and my stomach was in knots but I was not going to hang around here long. I grabbed some soup and some coke and walked out to let things settle. One of the guys who I passed, passed me back but after 10 minutes or so I was back running again and regained the 6th spot again. When we arrived at the mile 89 aid station Nick Lewis was sitting down, all bundled up. He had hurt his ankle earlier but was still pressing on as much as he could. Nick is a top notch runner so to see him still out there gutting it out after things went really south shows a lot of character. I said a few quick words, grabbed a chicken quesadilla and kept moving. I felt like I was fading so continuing to move seemed like the right choice versus hanging around at the aid station and thinking about it. This next section seemed like I would never get though it. Time felt like it was standing still. I was still running the flats and downhills but was just not in it mentally. We had rolled up on the 5th place runner but I did not think I had the sauce to stay in front of him at this point so I waived Jason back from passing him and we let him go. I figured it would take 2 hours to cover this 7.5 miles then all of a sudden Jason said "we're here, you made great time!" I almost cried as I was so relieved to be at the last aid station before the finish and it took about 20 minutes less than expected. My mom and Dema were there and I needed little as it was just time to finish this thing off. I saw the 5th place runner sitting in a chair and I said "let's get out of here" to Dema and we were out.
I threw down on this next section. I don't know what pace I was running but it was fast for 97 miles into a race. I was not letting up. This trail was trending downhill for a few miles and I was not going to walk an inch of it. I wanted to. I kept hoping for a hill to walk up but there were none coming. After about 30 minutes I finally got my hill. I walked up it with a purpose. If someone was going to catch me here, they would have to be flying. And if they did catch me, I was at my top end so I don't know that I could have responded much. I just kept my head down and giving everything my legs would give me. Dema did not have to say much here as my motivation to finish was high. I had told Jason earlier in the day that 22:30 was the goal and I was going to be around it, the question was over or under?
We finally rolled off the trail and hit the campground area around the Bass River Resort where we had left from the morning before. I was still running. 102+ miles down and I could still run. I wouldn't win a 5k moving like this but it was fast enough to be considered at least a fast jog and above a shuffle. Training paying off and realizing in the moment. This is why you do it, why you train, why you sacrifice sleeping in on the weekends, why you pass up the night out having some beers. All culminated in the last few steps of a run that started the day before. I see the clock glowing in the distance, I thank Dema and we roll into the finish line. RD Paul is there to congratulate me on my 4th place, 22:17 minutes finish along with the rest of the crew. Hugs for everyone! What a day.
Tommy had taken 2nd in a sick time of 20:07, Kyle Gibbs took 3rd nipping at his heels in 20:19. Pierre Deragne broke the course record in 18:33. Katie DeSplinter took the ladies crown and new course record also.
I can't even put in to words how it felt to run a decent 100. It's just been this thing that I could not quite reach. Was this my best 100? Maybe. If the courses ended at 100, I would have been under my previous best time on a much harder course, but with way better weather so it is hard to compare directly. It was my most complete race. I left a little out there by keeping things really conservative early on but this race was about finding some confidence and I found it. Now I'm taking a little time off. I need a break to heal up. I'll hit the gym a little, get my diet back in check, do some yoga, sleep in, run a little here and there, no real plan.
I need to thank Paul and Stuart, the volunteers, crews, and other runners. Thanks for making the experience great! Congrats to all the finishers and others who toed the line to dance in the leaves on Nov 3-4.