Monday, March 23, 2009

Arkansas


Although diverse in character, there are just a few places in this world I would consider near perfect. Ely, MN near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is near perfect.The beaches that make up Outer Banks of North Carolina are close to perfect. The island of Kauai, just about perfect. And for trail running, the mountains of North Central Arkansas are just about as perfect of a place as you could find.

Last week, good friend, Dave Wakefield and I along with our families headed to Mountain View, Arkansas for the fifth annual Three Days of Syllamo. A somewhat masochistic, 94 mile, three day trek through the Ozark "mountains". RD Steve Kirk prides himself on finding every foot of elevation gain available to test runners with an event that kicks off with a 50K on Friday, followed by a 50 Miler on Saturday and finishing up with a 20K on Sunday for those who are still standing. "Base Camp" for all three events is the Blanchard Springs Campground about 20 miles from Mountain View. Blanchard Springs is a spectacular setting and is only to be outdone by the beauty of the Syllamore Trail which runs out each side of the campground.


Last year Steve out did himself with the elevation charts, and after battling through the tough 50K on Friday, I was only able to manage 50K (of the planned 50 Miles) on Saturday, before struggling through Sunday's finale. This year, Steve's resourcefulness was tested by an ice storm that brought down thousands of trees, literally shutting downs the region's trail system. Not to be defeated, Steve rerouted all three races, still managing to find around 24,000 feet of elevation gain and worked with local authorities to open what trails he could.

Day one's 50K, which became a just a little more then a Marathon this year went as well as could be expected. Both my new orthodics and my new nutritional plan (Vespa and Shot Bloks) worked wonderfully. I ran it in just about 5:20 and felt like I left a lot in tank for tomorrow's 50 Miler. Dave was true to his name (Rock Star Ultrarunner) and blistered the course in 3:38 finishing second heading into day number two.

Day two's, 50 Miler is where the fun begins. First a couple chest deep water crossings in 30 degree tempertures, then heading on out onto a course with over 12,000 feet of vertical gain across it's 50 Miles. The orthodics I used on Saturday were awesome and teamed with a pair of
Brooks Cascadias my feet felt about as good as they have in a long while. Vespa continues to amaze me as I only took in about 700 calories during the 10:36 event. Big Dave ran his heart out, finishing second, some 20 minutes behind new race leader Adam Casseday of West Virginia.

My legs, now with 77 miles and nearly 40,000 feet of elevation change on them were two hurtin' units and simple things like walking to the car seemed like a monumental challenge. How would my legs feel the next morning? How would I get up and run another 20K?

The start of the 20K on the third day of this event is somewhat comical as seemingly no one wants to go out first. Slowly but surely we all "jog" across the large field near the start, hoping that by the time we hit the trail out legs will have woken up. With five runners within just ten minutes of me heading into Sunday, I make the decision to try to push my pace a bit, and after about two miles I'm surprised to find out my legs have more left then I would have imagined. I'm able to push myself through the 20K in 2:17, feeling fortunate to maintain my position and finish the event in a time of 18:14:01. Dave ran with the leader on Sunday securing second place, while Paul Schoenlaub moved up to third, giving the GPRC/Salomon team a strong showing with a second and third. Stuart Johnson also ran strong and finished in the top ten.


This is really a great event, with a great feeling of community surrounding it. Beauty, mountains without altitude, miles of great singletrack, awesome organization and helpful volunteers, what could be better? I heard one runner ask Steve Kirk "is this Heaven?" No, it's Arkansas.

1 comment:

davidultra49 said...

It's about as close to Heavan as you can find in the Midwest for sure. You ran great boss. Great finish.