Tuesday, November 09, 2010

2010 - Ozark Trail 100 Endurance Run

This was a LONG race for me so I will try to keep this as short as possible.  A lot of it I don't remember too well so that should help.  First, the Ozark Trail 100 Mile Endurance Run is a point-to-point 102 mile ultramarathon on the Ozark Trail through the Mark Twain National Forest in south central Missouri. The race is mostly on single track trail with several water crossings and approximately 12,000 to 15,000 feet of elevation gain. The trail surface varies from smooth dirt trail to moderately technical trail with lots of leaves covering the trail.

The trip to Bass River Resort went smoothly.  We arrived around 5 pm, picked up my race packet, dropped off drop bags, and then headed to the spaghetti and chicken dinner.  Hugh was happy they had WiFi for his iPod Touch.  The room where we ate was bustling with activity and there were many familiar and friendly faces from other races.  At about 6 pm we had a pre-race meeting and after headed to our cabin with Lisa and Jeff. I tried to go to sleep around 9 pm but sleeping was restless. 

Alarm went off at 2 am so we prepared to get ready.  Temps had dropped to 23F so it was the coldest morning we have had all fall.  I wore a short sleeved shirt, a long sleeved over, and my warmest running jacket over that one.  Hugh headed over to the bus with Jeff and me and took a couple pictures before we took off at 3:30 am.  The bus ride was interesting.  We were in the first bus which didn't have many people.  I sat in a front seat and Johnny A. from Columbia was in the seat behind me.  There was another bus behind us and then a line of cars.  I tried to close my eyes and rest on the bus, but was pretty uncomfortable.  We stopped at one point for a potty break.  I stayed alert the rest of the way and got the feeling the driver wasn't sure where to go.  We turned around at an intersection and everyone followed.  Then down a narrow gravel road and eventually, he pulled over and a car told him where to go so we turned around again.  We arrived at the starting line around 5:45 am.  I was able to use the port-a-potty, take off my pants, and got back on the bus for a few minutes.

The race started at 6:06 am.  I started pretty far back in the pack so passed quite a few people until I caught up to some other runners running about a 12 min pace.  I used my Petzl Tikka light to start off with since we wouldn't be running in the dark for very long.  With all the leaves it was difficult to avoid some branches which tripped me up a few times.  I fell once over a branch and scraped my ankles some more.  There were lots of stray brambles to scratch the legs and has the temps warmed up, I could feel the sting. The jacket was starting to be too much.  It was light by the Grasshopper Hollow aid station at mile 8.  I refilled one bottle and grabbed some food.  I was carrying Succeed Ultra to drink and a few gels and sweet and salty chewy granola bars. 

Lots of trees were down from the storm last year and there were huge root balls.  They had done a nice job clearing the trail and some sections had very few trees left since about 80% were destroyed in the storm.  I hit my right knee running over a big branch across the trail.  Mostly scraped so not too bad other than the blood looked bad.  Hugh and Lisa were at the Sutton Bluff 17.6 mile aid station where I had my first drop bag and arrived at about 10 am.  Jeff and Allan were about 45 min behind me at this point based on the time of the pictures.  I am guessing I didn't look too great at this point with my legs scratched up and my knee bleeding.  I am not sure how many times I fell up to this point.  I left my jacket with them after Lisa asked if I wanted to leave it.  I had forgotten that I did.

The next part I think I was running alone quite a bit and don't remember much.  My 401 GPS died at about 24 miles, 5 hr 16 min and shows that I had a 13:06 split up to this point.  It had malfunctioned and shut off at one point so I lost a little distance.  My splits up to this point are on RunningAhead and then I switched over to the 310XT GPS.  I also removed my long sleeved shirt (guessing temp was at least 60?) and ran with just my short sleeved and felt a little better.  I noticed that the inside of my right ankle felt strange so I stopped and it was noticeably swollen but not in much pain.  I was worried this might be a problem, but running didn't seem to stress it that much but it was a little sore.  I think I might have aggravated when I tripped over the branch earlier.



I came upon Anthony L. and friend he was running with and another guy off and on.  I ran with them for quite awhile until we reached the 43.5 miles.  I was really needing someone to run with since I don't think I was doing so well. I was having issues with my right ear feeling plugged and could here my heart beat which was very annoying and continued off and on for quite awhile.  They were running the perfect pace that was pushing me just a little and walking the hills.  Finally, we hear the people at the Brooks Creek 43.5 mile aid station and the time is about 4:10 pm. so I have dropped about a minute to a 14 per mile overall pace.  I did not place a drop bag here.  There were 7 places for a bag and I used 6.  I was unsure if I would make it to my other light before dark so the first thing I asked Hugh for at the Brooks Creek 43.5 mi aid station the light I had left with him back at 17.6 miles.  Andy S., Michael, and Lisa were also at this station.  I was feeling better and thinking, I just need to make it to 68.5 miles where Andy S. would begin to run with me.  However, I realized that was going to be a long time at the pace I am running.

Now, I am thinking just make to the next aid station at 51 miles and I will be half done.  Those were a tough 8 miles, but I made it just before dark so I was able to get my Petzl Myo XP light.  I came into that station with a few people and more arrived behind.  I put on a long sleeved shirt and had some food and was ready to go so I took off ahead on my own since I figured they would all catch me.  I turned on my light shortly after leaving.  The temp is dropping and I am starting to feel like I have new legs.  I am not breaking any speed records, but feeling pretty good.  A couple from Iowa running their first 100 together catch up to me and pass me.  They are really flying and I try to keep up.  They did walk the uphills but pace seemed really fast where they ran.  The funny thing is it looks like we were only averaging 14 - 15 min miles with all the walking up the hills.  I came in with them at the next aid station and then took off without them figuring they would catch me again.

I am on my own again in the dark but didn't have any problem finding my way.  There were a few OT markers on the trees and pink and silver tape every so often that showed up well with my light.  I kept hoping the couple would catch me but I didn't see them again.  Temps were really starting to get cold and even cooler in the low lying areas. I was really in need of my gloves since some of my fingers were feeling a little numb.  I came upon a creek that was pretty deep and said a few choice words and there was a guy across that said I had to cross there.  He was from the aid station and asked if there were flags missing since someone had mentioned they were down.  I had noticed some of the reflector part of the flag on the ground but didn't have a problem.  I figured since he was from the aid station, I didn't have far to go, but seemed like it took forever to get there.  I finally arrived at Hazel Creek 68.5 mile aid station at 11:20 pm so overall had dropped to about a 15 min pace.  I spent some time here eating, changing my batteries and warming up.  Then I was ready to head out with Andy S. and see how quickly we could get this over with.  Unfortunately, I couldn't even keep a 15 min/mile pace at this point so it would be very quick.  My legs were just done.

We headed out at my snail pace about 17 min per mile.  I attempted to run which helped the pace since walking was worse.  Attempting to run also helped keep me warm.  I wasn't in a very talkative mood and it was often hard to hear with all the leaves we were wading through.  My shoulders more near the center of my back just below my neck were in excruciating pain due to so much tension.  Might have been the bottles.  I tried to relax and helped just a little, but then it would come back.  We made it to the next aid station at Machell Hollow at 76.1 but I don't really remember much.  I am thinking the guys running it said they were from Kansas and I remember eating something.  I was getting hungry between stations and eating a bar and a gel and still hungry when we reached at stations.  I think I ate more at the aid stations than my previous 100 miler due to the cold.

We headed out and the next aid station was the Berryman Campground 81.5 miles.  Pace for these miles was between 16 - 18 min.  I was really looking forward to getting there since I desperately needed a bathroom to do more than pee which I had been doing about every hour.  Finally, we see a sign and have to turn off to get to the aid station.  I head straight to the bathroom and enjoy a few minutes there.  Then ate some soup, peaches, and and probably some other stuff.  I left one water bottle in my drop bag since I wasn't drinking as much in the cold.

We are off and I am feeling better, but still couldn't get the legs to move very fast.  GPS survived another 7 miles and those were 19 - 20 min miles.  Stats for the 301XT GPS are at RunningAhead.  Between the 2 GPS devices I had 90.75 miles, but we still had 14 miles to go at the next aid station which was supposed to be 88 miles. This is a map and elevation for the second and last GPS.



The next aid station at 88 miles seemed further than it was supposed to be.  I ate in between, but wasn't drinking much since it was so cold.  When we arrived at Billy's Branch at 88 miles, Brad Bishop was getting ready to leave and didn't look too good.  They told us he had been there an hour.  Based on the 88 miles and it was 6 am, my pace was at 16:20 so had dropped another minute. Probably good I was done with the GPS at this point, but was nice to have to get an idea how close to an aid station.  The final aid station at mile 95 was 7 miles. 

We catch up to several people including Brad.  There was another guy on the way bent over and apparently sick. Once it got light, I was a little more talkative.  It seemed like there was maybe hope that I would finish.  We kept moving forward.  We make it to the last aid station at 95 miles in pretty good time - about 2 hours for 7 miles.  We eat and visit with them and don't see any other runners before we leave.  Things are looking up in the daylight!

We take off and the next part seems pretty runnable.  I am still trying to run but legs were tightening up every time I stopped even though I didn't sit down.  They told me at the 95 mile station I was in 10th place.  Earlier in the day at 43.5 I think I was in about 15th so the competitive side of me is emerging even though I am in pain and exhausted.  I don't want to lose my 10th place.  Neither of us has a working GPS so don't really know for sure how far to go.  I managed to get my GPS back on with the little power that was left to check the time at one point and figured about an hour to go.  There are some huge climbs before the end so we are back to walking quite a bit. 

Finally, we come to the part where I remember they said there was a fence row near the end.  It flattens out but still over a mile? to go.  We are even walking some of the flat.  I am sure Andy S. was ready to be done as well after being out there for over 10 hours.  It seems to take forever to reach the finish.  We run some more and finally can see where we need to go.  So after 27 hrs 50 min (16:23 pace), I am done with at least 102 miles and Paul handed me my buckle!

Finally, I could sit down.  I wasn't hungry but did have some milk and mixed nuts. I am not sure how long I sat, but when I got up I could barely walk and realized the inside of my left knee also hurt and was very stiff.  I really wanted a shower but knew that was going to be painful with all the cuts and just walking the few feet to get there.  I took a shower and then went outside and sat in the sun with way too many clothes on but just wanted to be warm.  Eventually had some Ibuprofen and when I went to get up later as Jeff, Allan, and Andy P. were coming in, I was walking better.

I am sure I missed a lot in this report.  As I was running at one point, I though I am just going to write "It sucked!" and be done with it.  However, this well-organized race deserves more.  The trail was very scenic, the aid stations top-notch (great food, positive and helpful workers), other runners were encouraging, my pacer for the last 34 miles got me through to the end and took good care of me, and Hugh and Lisa made everything happen so our pacers could run with us and took care of other needs.  This was the hardest race I have ever done.  I told someone at 51 miles that I already felt much worse than I did at the end of Kettle Moraine, my first 100 in June. There was no way I could have driven home after this one without a lot of sleep.  I slept most of the way home only awaking when we stopped for food and then slept about 14 hours that night.  I woke up feeling better, less swollen, but still some healing to do 2 days later.

Would I do this course again?  After I finished, I said I wouldn't but as the pain fades, of course I will reconsider.  There was just so much positive about this race that made the pain worth it.  I would make sure I am better trained on hills and try to figure out how to not get so beat up from the first 20 miles.  I have posted pictures on Facebook (publicly viewable) and I am looking really bad at the end and still don't look too good today, but time and rest will heal.
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