Monday, March 17, 2008

3 Days of Syllamo

Update - I've posted race photos on my photo site 3 Days of Syllamo Photos.

Race results have been posted 3 Days of Syllamo Results

I placed:

50K - 4:58:55 - 10 of 71
50 mi - 12:17:20 - 10 of 29
20K - 2:35:06 - 23 of 67

Overall - 12:45/mi - 19:51:21

Overall I placed 10 of 26 out of some tough competition, but think I could cut quite a bit of time off if the 50 mi and 20K had gone better for me.

It was so much fun that I think I'll put this one on the calendar for next year. If anyone wants to join me, let me know. You can run any or all of the 3 days.


Day 1 – 50K-

After going to work for 3 hrs, I picked up Jeff and we headed to the 3 Days of Syllamo, a 3 day trail running stage race in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. We left about 11:30 am, stopping only once at Subway in Rolla for lunch. We made good time and arrived at the packet pick up at 4:30 pm. We could not pick up since the race director was delayed so I went ahead and set up my tent. We waited until 6 pm and Jeff decided that he would pick his up packet in the morning. We then went to find the cabin he was staying with Andy P. and Nicole. I then went to fill up the Prius in Mountain View and then went inside the Wal-Mart to purchase a new air mattress. I had discovered the cap was missing from the one I intended to sleep on. I felt out of place in Wal-Mart and got out as quickly as possible.

I headed back to race headquarters where I was camping. It started to rain just as I was getting the stuff I needed inside the tent. It rained hard with thunder and lightening but at this point I was staying dry. Later, I woke up and noticed water in a couple areas on the tent floor so made sure nothing was in those areas. Up higher on my bed I stayed dry and slept fairly well waking up with the intermittent rain and claps of thunder.

I had set my alarm for 6 am but woke up at 5:30 to use the restroom. I decided to stay up and started eating, hydrating, and getting my gear ready. I ate some bananas, Nature’s Path toaster pastries and a Lean Body shake with instant coffee mixed in. I opted not to have a drop bag for the 50K. When I had everything ready, I then walked around the campground looking for the shower for later and found Allan B.’s car. He was not in it and then found him a few minutes later near the packet pick up. He had arrived at 3 am and slept in his car and then set his tent up before the race. The shirt for this race was unusual. It was a dark gray button down bowling shirt with the race logo.

Andy, Jeff, and Nicole arrived at the race site. I then went to put on my race clothes and Nicole took some pictures. After a brief description of the course and what markings to look for, the race started at 9 am. The temperature was 50F and felt cool, but I opted to wear short sleeves since I would warm up. We were off without any dramatic start. I settled into a pace behind a female. At some point passed her and made a wrong turn but we got back on track quickly. I then got behind and followed her and another guy for awhile. Her name was Ashley and she was a fourth grade teacher from Mt. Baldi, CA. She had run the race last year and this year her husband and a friend were running too. Last year she was the first female finisher.

At some point, the 3 of us veered off the wrong way and soon realized we were off track. Then we saw 2 other runners down below and joined them back on the trail. I stayed with this group and it felt like they were running a little faster than I wanted to run. After we stopped at the next aid station they slowed down. At some point, I was feeling good and taking the lead with everyone in our group following. Ashley and I ended up running with them for about to 22 miles and then one of them dropped back and the other sped way ahead. Ashley stayed behind me and we continued at what seemed like a very steady comfortable pace. Sometimes I would walk a few steps up the hills but was surprised how I kept running up some. This course was quite hilly with rocks and some trees to climb over as well. Every so often we would see some insulation, plywood, tin, or siding that had dropped into the forest from the recent tornados.

My GPS kept working until sometime during mile 28 it lost signal, and got back a little later. We veered off another wrong turn with about 3 miles to go and Ashley noticed the flags way down a hill below so we took a shortest route down the treacherous hill through some brambles. The area through the brambles was the safest to avoid falling down the hill. I was scratched pretty badly on the upper legs and already had some scratches on the lower from earlier encounters.

Several of the creeks we crossed on this course had some very swift moving currents and the rocks were quite slippery. I could feel the current pulling me and would walk at an angle against the water. I managed to avoid falling on the 50K course and only turned my left ankle slightly one time.

As we were running to the end, I told Ashley to go ahead since I really felt like she deserved to place ahead of me. She said we would cross the finish line together. We crossed in 4:58:55. After talking with others, I suspect the course was short by about 1 mi based on my pace for the part where the GPS didn’t work.

This course had some monstrous hills and treacherous terrain, and downed trees which slowed us down at times. Whenever we had down hill, we used to our advantage and picked up the pace trying not to fall over the rocks. The last few miles were a little quicker since we were going down.

Here are my splits:

M1 – 9:02
M2 – 8:27
M3 – 11:54
M4 – 12:29
M5 -10:24
M6 – 9:13
M7 – 9:02
M8 – 10:03
M9 – 11:04
M10 – 9:31
M11 – 9:06
M12 – 9:20
M13 – 9:06
M14 – 9:49
M15 – 10:42
M16 – 12:04
M17 – 9:27
M18 – 13:09
M19 – 9:20
M20 – 9:49
M21 – 8:45
M22 – 11:15
M23 – 9:42
M24 – 9:52
M25 – 11:58
M26- 10:42
M27 – 9:56
M28 – 30 – 23:37

I suspect my GPS was a little short as it usually is on trails so I am calling it 30 miles.

Andy P. finished about 10 min behind me. I then ate some food, drank some Accelerade and went and stood waist deep in the creek with a group of people for some recovery. The water was excruciatingly cold but actually felt good. I then ate some more and prepared my things for the 50 miler and went to shower. At 6 pm they served us meatless pasta with marinara sauce, garlic bread, salad, and Oreo cookie cheesecake. I was eating at a table with 7 of 9 people that were left-handed. At some point, one of the persons got up and a different left-handed person sat down. We wondered if a higher % of ultra runners are left-handed. After dinner, Jeff, Andy, and Nicole headed to their cabin and I headed to higher ground to find a phone signal.

I called Hugh to tell him about the first day and then was getting hungry and in need of some meat so went to KFC and had the buffet. I then headed back to camp, got my things ready and set the alarm for 4 am since the 50 miler would start at 6 am.



Day 2 – 50 miles

It rained, thundered, and there was wind during the night. I did not sleep very well, but managed to get a few hours. Once again, a little water got in my tent. My alarm went off at 4 am and I shut if off and fell back asleep. I woke up at 4:40 am and heard signs of life. Even with the race starting at 6 am, I was the first person to turn in my drop bags at 5 am. Since the course was out and back we could access our bags 4 times. The course which varies from each year had to be changed last week due to too many downed trees on part of the trail.

I was surprised to be walking. I had taken 2 Ibuprofen before bed and 2 when I got up. My left ankle hurt just slightly but once I walked around everything felt good. I did not even notice any muscle soreness. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started running. I ate the same breakfast as the day before and then dressed for the race. It was 48F but humid so again opted for just a short sleeved shirt.

After a very important pre-race briefing so we would know what trails to follow, we were off in the dark at with our headlamps. We were to follow the trail with the blue blazes and also some different multicolored tape each day. By the time we reached the first aid station at 9.5 miles, it would be light and we could leave our headlamps. The first mile was excruciatingly painful. I decided to start with Ashley since that worked out well the first day. We went up hill for at least a mile and I really wondered if I was going to feel this awful for the entire 50 miles. Once that mile was over I started to feel better, but more of the same kind of hills came sooner rather than later. I realized at some point that I had forgotten to wear my right ankle compression support that I wore the day before. Too late so I hoped everything would be okay.

My GPS only worked for 6 miles. At 6 miles were running right next to rocky cliffs so no way to get a signal. Splits up to this point were M1 – 13:48, M2 – 11:36, M3 – 11:21, M4 – 14:45, M5 – 11:04, M6 – 11:07. I was pretty much staying with Andy P. and Ashley and feeling okay. There were a lot of downed trees on this section and it became very tiring climbing over or going around these trees every few yards in some cases. At mile 9.5 we dropped off our lights and then it started to rain, but stopped in about 15 min. I ran with Ashley and Andy until about mile 22 and then started falling behind. I must have been losing it at this point since I don’t remember a lot of details.

I do remember at some aid station they told us there would be a code word at the 25 mi turn-around. I also noticed I had only drunk one of my small bottles since the last aid station which wasn’t enough water. I started feeling worse and walking up more hills. I remember Ashley yelling back if I was okay and I said I was okay. At this point we were looking for white blazes on trees and it didn’t even look like a trail to me. It looked like someone had dumped rocks everywhere in the woods (not just the trail) and I had to keep looking for the next tree with the white blaze to figure out which direction to go. I was really not looking forward to more than 25 miles to go and likely going them alone. I was craving sugar and took an Accelerade Gel and almost immediately felt better. I had been using several kinds (Hammer, Power Shots, and Power Shot Blocks).

I see Andy P. and Ashley heading back so know I am close to the turn around. Within 10 minutes I am there and head back at 5 hrs 15 min. I drank all of my water on the way back to the aid station. Nicole had volunteered for the 50 miler and she was at this aid station. She filled my bottles and I just kept eating handful after handful of M&Ms and I think a few Gold Fish and drinking several cups of water. I continue on and am thinking if I don’t see Jeff and Allan in the next 20 min, they aren’t going to make the cut off. I see a few people and don’t really remember much of what we said.

At about 6+ hrs?, I get to a tree with a white blaze and am looking around wondering which way to go next. I turn around and Jeff is there. I ask him if he had already turned around which I should have known he hadn’t. I then realize he is coming from the way I need to go. I am also thinking he is going to be close to making the cut off. After this, the M&Ms must have kicked in soon since mentally I am feeling better. Physically, I am having a hard time making myself run especially up any hills. I am feeling like I will be able to finish but it isn’t going to be pretty. I am also peeing a lot and it is now clear.

At 6 hrs, 50 min, I see Allan. The cutoff at the turn around is 7 hrs. I knew there was no way he would make it and asked him what happened. He had missed the pre-race briefing, made a wrong turn, went 4 miles back to the start to look at the map so was behind 8 miles or he would have easily made it. He figured they would pull him off the course. I continued on wondering how long it would take me to finish. Thinking, can I do this in 11 hrs? I keep reminding myself to run when I can. I’m even having a hard time making myself run down hills and had to walk up hills. I hear one of my water bottles drop, look for it, and can’t find it so I move on.

I make it to the 31.5 aid station and pick up some more of my gels and refill my 3 bottles. The next station is at 40.5 miles. I keep thinking in my head how long it will take. I ran the first half at 12:36/mi so I am thinking if I can keep at least a 15 min pace, I would be at 40.5 in 2 hrs 20 min. It takes me a little over 2.5 hrs to go 9 miles. Knowing 11 hrs isn’t going to happen I think 12 hrs might be possible. I then realize 12.5 hrs would be more realistic since I keep falling behind.

The volunteer at 40.5 mi tells me that everyone is saying this is the hardest 50 miler they have ever done. I told her it was my first one and I ran the 50K yesterday. I told her how far I had fallen behind since the turn around but they tell me I am doing great. She had my water bottle I dropped earlier. My bottles have my name on them and someone had given it to an aid station in between. Nicole was there and figured it was mine and they had it for me at this aid station. I didn’t expect I would see it again. They keep offering me all kinds of food. I think the only thing I ate was M&Ms. I verify that I know the course and move on.

At some point I see the photographer in between some rocks and wonder how he got there. I can’t wait to see some of these pictures. Mentally, I’m feeling good but just not able to push my pace. I have reached the section of trail again where there were more fallen trees than usual and now could barely pull myself over or duck myself under them. At about 45 miles, I hear a runner behind me. He says something like he is surprised to see me. It is Pat, a runner from Kansas City. I remembered him from the Berryman Trail last year.

I let him around and then notice myself running again. I notice I am keeping up and things are starting to click. He is talking to me and saying he feels good to be running with a 3 hr marathoner. I am running down hill again, and managing the technical parts quite well. My legs are going over trees again. I’m feeling more like I did for the first 22 miles of the race. He asks if I want to pass him and I told him I needed to stay behind. I needed the motivation. Eventually, the trail starts descending down hill so we know we are getting close to the end. He bangs his knee on one of trees we have to climb over and stops in pain. I wait and we continue on.

We see someone on the hill down and they tell us we are almost there. He says we will finish together and once again I find myself finishing with another runner. I’m sure I would have taken 15 min longer if he hadn’t pulled me along to the finish. We finish in 12:17:20. So after running a fairly decent first half in 12:36 pace, I run the second half in 16:54 pace and as slow as that sounds I was running more than 70% of the time. Average pace was 14:45. I was happy to just have finished my first 50 miler alive after running 30 miles the day before. The course was treacherous and difficult, but overall enjoyable even if not the pace I wanted. And I didn’t get lost on my own for most of the time.

I’m starving and immediately go get some rice, beans, and sausage. I then sat down on the ground and eat near the finish area. I seriously wondered if I could get up, but managed to get up and get another bowl of food. Allan had been pulled off the course but seemed to be doing well. It is getting dark and I decide to forgo the creek and shower, thinking Jeff should finish about the time I get back.

After I get back, he had already finished. He finished a little earlier than I expected and had picked up some time on the second half. He ran it in about 6.5 hrs and it took me 7 hrs after I run the first half in 5:15. He finished before 8 pm so had made the cut off. We are both thinking we are going to be walking the 20K the next day with 6 hrs to finish.

I quickly prepared my stuff after Jeff, Andy, and Nicole went to their cabin. Nicole decided to stay an extra day so she could see us finish. I prepared my stuff for the 20K and went to bed at 9 pm and slept very soundly for 10 hrs and there were no storms during the night.


Day 3 – 20K+

I woke up at 7 am feeling very rested. Again, I had taken 2 Ibuprofen before bed, and 2 when I woke up. I wonder if I will be able to get up. I get up and am actually walking better than the previous morning. The more I walk, the better I am feeling and am thinking I will at least be running today although doubtful it will be very fast.

I eat the same breakfast again as the previous days and start to pack the car for the ride home. We start a little after 9 am and I’m running. I settle into a comfortable pace at about 12-something per mile with a group of 7 including Allan behind me. We are all running and walking the up hills. Eventually, Allan passes me and part of the group pulls ahead and I’m running with the second place female struggling to keep up with her pace. She said that she had run her first 50 miler as well for this stage race.

There is an unmanned aid station at mile 8 but I have plenty of water so keep going. At this point, I’m keeping about an average 12 min per mile pace.

Splits up to this point:

M1 – 13:38
M2 – 12:44
M3 – 11:18
M4 – 10:49
M5 – 12:29
M6 – 11:46
M7 – 11:50
M8 – 14:02

I take an Accelerade Gel and immediately start to feel better. Of all the gels I used for this race, the Accelerade gel which I had not used before really seemed to do something for me.

My pace picked up and I was now running up the hills again. I started to catch and pass people. I caught up to the group Allan was running with and passed them. I caught up to another guy and passed him. I caught up to 2 more people and passed. Although the up hills were really slow, I felt like I was flying fast on the downs.

Before the race, the race director told us the course was 20K-ish. After 12.3 miles, we still weren’t near the finish. Allan had caught back up to me and 2 of the people I passed earlier, passed us on a really technical descent into a creek down some rocks.

I asked Allan if he wanted to pass and he said he didn’t want to miss a chance to finish a race with me. At 13.5 mi on my GPS, we cross the finish together. We made up the mile we lost the first day. Once again, I crossed the finish line with someone. We finished in 2:35:06 at 11:30/mi pace. My final splits were M9 – 11:22, M10 – 9:38, M11 – 10:49, M12 – 9:59, M13 – 10:42, M13.5 – 3:54.

Since I finished all 3 days, I received a finisher’s award which is a hand-carved Ozark Hoot Pipe. The tag says “When yore up in the hills lost and alone, this “tooter: will surely cheer ya. Just take a deep breath; give a hoot on the pipe and somebody’s bound to hear ya.” I think I needed that on Day 2.

Jeff and I drove back to Columbia. He and Andy P. also finished all 3 days but Andy P. placed better than me the second and 3rd day. The 50 miler was also Jeff’s first.

I have no idea how I placed each day or overall for the 3 days since the results have not been posted. My overall time for the 3 days, 93.5 miles was 19:51:21, 12:45/mi. It was my first event of this type, first 50K, and first 50 miler. I ran a trail 60K last fall. I felt like I trained pretty hard but could have been more prepared for hills and done a few longer trail runs. Considering I was injured in January and didn’t feel almost recovered until mid-February, I’m lucky to have finished and finished alive and uninjured. I knew it would be hard but the hills, rocks, climbing over trees, made it at least 10 times harder than I imagined.

I’m recovering nicely, walking (even down stairs). This 3 day event has proven to me that trail running is definitely easier on the joints than running on the road. Mentally, I’m not exhausted and physically I know it could have been much worse. Muscles are a little sore. I felt like I could have even run a few steps today but didn’t. I will try running a little tomorrow and just elliptical today. I gained about 6 lbs which is likely just fluid retention which isn’t uncommon for me even after a road marathon.

My overall impression is that ultra events are always fun events and I enjoyed this one although the second day was the most difficult race I’ve ever run. Things were a littlel out of and beyond my control and mentally I coped with it. Several of the runners remembered me from Berryman and all were very supportive and impressed with those of us doing our first 50 miler after running a 50K. These events are very intimate and everyone treats you like family. Also, they have the best foods at the aid stations.

Before leaving on Sunday, Ashley thanked me for pacing her for the 50K and asked if I was considering a 100 miler yet. I’m not quite ready to commit to that kind of distance at one time but would do a stage race again.

Other Reports:

Ashley Nordell

Carey Smith

David Wakefield

Matt Hart

Andy Pele

Ty Draney

Training Week Pre-Race

Date: 3/10/2008 5:45 PM
Type: Easy
Course: Dog Run
Distance: 4 miles
Duration: 38:47
Pace: 9:42 / mile
Shoe: Mizuno Wave Alchemy 7 (White/Orange)
Weight: 153 lb
Misc: Quality: 8/10, Effort: 1/10
Weather: 41° F, Sunny
Notes: Ran with Bruno, Rusty, and Hugh. Roads dry and clean dogs! Kept the pace very easy.

Date: 3/11/2008 5:30 AM
Type: Tempo
Course: Tripp 10K - A Route
Distance: 6.1 miles
Duration: 44:51
Pace: 7:22 / mile
Shoe: Mizuno Wave Alchemy 7 (White/Orange #2)
Weight: 153 lb
Misc: Quality: 8/10, Effort: 7/10
Weather: 23° F, Sunny
Notes: I didn't expect it to be so cold this morning. I didn't want to run too hard today so was glad to hear it was the Tripp 10K course. Dan stayed with me and didn't feel like we ran too hard, but our splits still look pretty fast and overall pace is fast too.

M1 - 8:36
M2 - 7:15
M3 - 7:22
M4 - 7:01
M5 - 6:54
M6 - 6:47
M6.1 - 0:54

Date: 3/11/2008 9:45 PM
Type: Weight Training
Course: Weights, upper lean #2 (Back/Biceps/Abs), PT, & Wobble
Duration: 20:00
Weight: 153 lb
Misc: Quality: 9/10, Effort: 2/10

Date: 3/13/2008 5:30 AM
Type: Tempo
Course: MKT - Dogs
Distance: 5 miles
Duration: 38:20
Pace: 7:40 / mile
Shoe: Mizuno Wave Alchemy 7 (White/Orange #2)
Weight: 153 lb
Misc: Quality: 9/10, Effort: 6/10
Weather: 38° F, Sunny
Notes: Ran with Hugh, Dan, Copper, Tanner, Rusty, and Bruno. We thought bringing the dogs would make the run easy, but their competitive nature made their pace faster than normal. I think Bruno's pulling helped ease the effort just a little. The dogs thought it was a race and I could have let Bruno go faster, but didn't.

M1 - 8:07
M2 - 7:48
M3 - 7:50
M4 - 7:26
M5 - 7:10

Date: 3/14/2008 9:00 AM
Type: Race
Course: 3 Days of Syllamo 50K -
Distance: 30 miles
Duration: 4:58:55
Pace: 9:58 / mile
Shoe: Mizuno Wave Ascend 2 (Yellow)
Weight: 153 lb
Misc: Quality: 7/10, Effort: 8/10
Weather: 50° F, Sunny, Partly Cloudy

Date: 3/15/2008 6:10 AM
Type: Race
Course: 3 Days of Syllamo 50 mile
Distance: 50 miles
Duration: 12:17:20
Pace: 14:45 / mile
Shoe: Mizuno Wave Ascend 3 (Red)
Weight: 153 lb
Misc: Quality: 3/10, Effort: 10/10
Weather: 48° F, Sunny, Rain, Humid, Partly Cloudy

Date: 3/16/2008 9:10 AM
Type: Race
Course: 3 Days of Syllamo 20K+
Distance: 13.5 miles
Duration: 2:35:06
Pace: 11:30 / mile
Shoe: adidas Supernova
Weight: 153 lb
Misc: Quality: 6/10, Effort: 9/10
Weather: 43° F, Sunny, Partly Cloudy

Running: 108.6 Mi - 21:53:19

Weights: 20 min

YTD Running: 667.7

March 22- Sedalia Half Marathon
April 12-Jay Dix Challenge to Cure 5K
April 21-Boston Marathon
May 17-Berryman 50 Mile Trail Ultramarathon
September 1-Heart of America Marathon
October 5-Twin Cities Marathon
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