Day 1 - 50K:
This was my 4th time running the Syllamo 3 day stage race. Previously, ran in 2008, 2009 and 2012 with my friend Jeff and he went with me again. As I have mentioned before this race is worth repeating. The course is very challenging and scenic and requires paying careful attention to trail markers and any flagging since it is not marked excessively.
We drove on Thursday to pick up our race packets and had a good dinner and Pizza Inn buffet. The race on Friday started at 9 am and was about 45F and temps warmed up to upper 60s and cloudy all day. I made the right decision to wear a short sleeve and leave the jacket behind since I was warm within 5 minutes. I didn't really have a plan other than to experiment a bit with nutrition since I just do this race for fun and to finish. It is good to run conservatively the first day since we still have a 50 mile and 20K facing us the next 2 days. In 2008, I ran a sub 5 hour 50K and had a miserable 50 miler which was also my first ever 50 miler. Each year I have run since has been a slower 50K except 2009 when we ran a different course on mostly forest roads due to a storm.
The 50K was pretty uneventful. I started off very modestly and took about 8 miles to actually feel warmed up but pace pretty much remained about the same the rest of the race other than varies a great deal with the terrain. Even with the same pace, I passed quite a few people.
I carried one bottle and used Hammer Fizz which is a zero calorie electrolyte and gives my water a nice flavor (lemon-lime, grape, and mango). I also carried a gel and had a few items in the drop bag at 15 miles. For the entire race I had 4 orange slices, 1 apple sauce, and 1 gel so figure I had about 250 calories. I train without nutrition so I was hoping I could race fairly well and run off of burning fat. It seemed to work since I felt fine the entire race and did not get very hungry.
At around 15 miles point DA caught up and flew by me since she had gone off course for about an hour. About 2 miles from the end I caught up to SJ and another person and we all finished together in 6 hr 4 min. I felt good about my warm up race for the 50 miler the next day. I didn't soak in the creek this year but when back to the cabin to get our plates for the dinner and took a shower before heading back. Jeff had already finished when I returned. My left ankle was a little sore but it felt fine by the next morning. I only took my usual supplements plus an extra turmeric each day.
Map and Elevation
Day 2 - 50 mile:
Saturday's race started at 6 am. Temperature was a bit cooler at 6 am and was down to 41F at the start so I decided to start off with my jacket. I had 2 drop bags on the course which is about and back there was one at 9.5/40.5 and 18.4/31.6. We had to start off with a light so dropped off with my jacket at 9.5 miles and was plenty warm.
The first mile goes up so just stayed behind a line of people and took it slow and took 15 minutes for the first mile. After 4 miles, I began to pass some people but still very slow going since this is a tough course. I knew I would need to eat more to do the 50 miler after the 50K but still planned to wait awhile since I had a good breakfast before the race.
After dropping off the light at 9.5 miles, we encountered snow that had hardened and at a slope on what was supposed to be the trail. Below, you have a ravine that goes down to a river. We had to get around it but it wasn't easy since there was all kinds of dead trees and brush and stuff washed up from the river to climb through. We made it through but I got a little scratched in the process and that mile took 18 minutes.
I managed to stay close to several runners until mile 18.5. I had noticed a little before I was lagging behind and feeling extremely hungry. I decided to wait until the aid station to get some real food. I ended up spending some time eating peanut butter and crackers, probably an entire orange, cookies and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich they gave to me when they noticed I was eating so much. One of the workers just wanted me to grab some food and leave so I didn't waste time. I told him I was way ahead of cutoff so not a problem. I grabbed some supplies from my drop bag, took some more food and was on my way. I estimate I consumed about 1200 calories. I was no longer hungry but had little energy.
I struggled for the next 14 miles. One of the guys in the group I had been running with beat me to the turnaround by 17 minutes. The turnaround came a lot quicker than I expected so that was good. I turned around at 5:57 so had 8 hours to return before the cutoff. I saw many people on the way back including Jeff. At least 10 people passed me. I estimated I would be lucky to finish in 12.5 - 13 hrs at the pace I was moving. I had a bad case of I don't care or whatever you want to call it. Questioned why I was running this race and why I signed up for more ultras this year. I planned to pick up my light at 40 miles so I could make it back in case it was dark.
I had finally figured out I was pretty dehydrated miles back and had drank a PowerAid Zero at my drop bag at the 31.6 miles drop bag which was actually less. I also picked up a packet of Succeed from my bag and added to my drink. I think the fluid loss was my main problem for my sluggishness and it had warmed up to around 70F. Around mile 32 over on another ridge I see Jeff so he couldn't have been too far behind. I tried to pick up the pace a little and things continued to improve dramatically. It became cloudy and the temperature dropped which also helped to bring me back to life. I believe I ended up passing every runner that had passed me earlier and 1 or 2 more. I wasn't moving any faster than a 13 min pace. I began to have hope that I could now finish in under 12 hours and have a negative split.
Before arriving at the 40.5 mile station, I had to go through the area earlier with the snow. I think it had melted some so I stayed on top the ridge and hung onto the rocks or anything I could grab and made it across much more quickly than on the way out. When I made it to the 40.5 mile aid station, I was pretty sure I was going to finish under 12 hours and in the light so did not take the headlamp. I grabbed something small to eat and headed on my way passing 2 runners before the end. Finished in 11 hr, 49 min so a negative split by 5 minutes.
Maps and Elevation
Day 3 - 20K+:
Two years ago when we ran the 20K it rained and this year was not looking good either. It had been raining through the night and was still raining in the morning. The temperature was 54F, the warmest starting temp of the races so didn't seem quite as bad but I knew I was going to get wet. I couldn't find the rain jacket I had taken to the race so ended up wearing another jacket. It had been in my drop bag the day before but was now gone and still has not turned up. I wore a different jacket and a short sleeve shirt underneath. I was soon soaked but warm enough. The trails had turned into tiny rivers with water running down them.
After the first 2 miles, I was able to pick up the pace a little and start passing the line I was running behind. Details are a little fuzzy for the rest of this race. I remember the wind really picking up while we were on a ridge. This made me cold which made me want to run faster to stay warm. Eventually got out of the wind, but it was apparent the temperature was dropping. The rain did let up some. I was running alone for most of the time but occasionally would see a few people and catch up to them and pass.
Then I didn't see anyone for awhile. I was starting to question if I was on course, but there were still the yellow markers. I had run this course before so not sure why I had so much doubt other than I was cold and now running for survival. I kept checking myself to make sure I was really okay and figured if I could keep moving I would be okay. I caught up to a couple runners at some point and then they somehow got way ahead of me very quickly. At one point I crossed a road and the race director was driving around and asked if I was warm enough. I lied and said yes and continued into the woods on the next portion of trail. I only had 4 miles to go so hoped I could make it. He said to be careful crossing the river. I kept running but not very hopeful. I tried to avoid running in the water if I could since it was making me feel even colder.
By the time I reached mile 12+ turned down a trail with yellow flags, but saw a green marker which really confused me since all flags and markers were supposed to be yellow. I was about to turn around and recognized the area and then 2 runners came behind me. I had to walk down some "step rocks" that turned. I told the I was feeling pretty shaky and to go ahead but I would try to stay with them. At this point, I was shivering and running at the same time. The river was rushing but not too wide where we crossed and we hung onto some branches. Somehow this mile took me 18 minutes. I guess between climbing down the steps, climbing through some trees and the river added a little to the time. I followed them to the end and the road to the finish came sooner than I expected. I've never been so happy to see the finish line in a race.
I was quickly pushed into a tent with a heater and a cup of hot chocolate that I was shaking so much I could barely keep from spilling it. DA was in there and told us we needed to get out of our wet clothes. I stayed a little longer and then realized she was right so ran to my car, drove less than a quarter mile to dry off in the beach house and put on dry clothes. Then went back to the heated tent, shivered some more, got out and back in about 3 times before I stopped shivering. In between all of this I missed Jeff finishing but was thankful to see he had finished.
My finish time was 3 hrs, 1 min. I ate nothing during the race and had drank less than 1/3 of my bottle in those 3 hours.
As soon as I got to the car, we took off and were ready to get out of there. I had 2 jackets and the heat set pretty high for the drive home. Getting home was an adventure. It was still raining and the temperature kept dropping as we headed north. Before we were out of Arkansas it had changed to ice but the road was still warm enough it wasn't bad yet. Then it changed to snow and we were reduced to speeds of 43 mph for quite awhile until we got to a point in Missouri where the plows had cleared and treated the roads. At this point, we stopped for lunch at 3-something. By the time we were less than 30 miles from home, there were not signs it had snowed but it was still cold.
Maps and Elevation
Day 1 - 12:27/mi - 6:04:10 - 22 of 58
Day 2 - 14:51/mi - 11:48:56 - 11 of 38
Day 3 - 13:21/mi - 3:01:39 - 28 of 63
Overall - 13:51/mi - 20:54:45 - 12 of 31. This is based on my GPS distance of 90.6 miles for the 3 races. There were 48 signed up for all 3 races but not sure how many started the first day. Slowest time ever for the 1st and 3rd day and second slowest for the 2nd day.