Friday, May 27, 2011

Strolling Jim 40M - May 2011

My fifth journey through the hills of Bedford County, TN, the Strolling Jim 40-Miler is a Southern ultrarunning classic. Seemingly innocuous on paper (I mean, heck, just 40mi of road. Kinda like an extended marathon right?), the "4 Small Hills" scattered through the race have a habit of chewing up unsuspecting runners (and even a few veterans!). But I always love coming back to WarTrace for the people, the scenery, and a well-executed race.

Got up 0430 on race, left the house, went through Shelbyville 0615, ended up coming in right behind Rob/Kathy Youngren. Saw Gary Cantrell on final mile of his overnight race into WarTrace. Got a chance to talk with DeWayne, Blake, Rob, Dink, Stan/Chrissy Ferguson, and more before the race. Fairly cool morning, great racing weather. Wearing NB760 shoes (needed extra firm for the toe fracture from the Ouachita 50M), Injinji socks, Desoto shorts with UnderArmour compression shorts underneath, tech shirt from Cheaha race, Nathan racing vest (non-hydration), hand-held bottle for water, carrying 3 flasks of Perpetuem, plus plenty of electrolytes tabs and ground sea salt in a ziploc bag.

Started 0700 on time. I posted a number of photos at my Picasa account. Here are the split times:

Mile Marker


Elapsed Time

5 mi



10 mi



15 mi



20 mi



25 mi



30 mi



35 mi



40 mi





37th OA out of 112 finishers (116 starters)

Not atypical for me, first 1-2mi were a little slow as I got my body warmed up and running smoothly. Had to take a pee break in the early miles, hadn’t quite recycled all of my coffee before the race. Caught up with Christy Scott and ran with her for a while; her daughter Courtney crewed her all day long and did a bang-up job. Went through 5mi marker alongside Christy and no issues at 42:07.

Kept steady pace but made more pee stops (!) as we passed through Normandy and made the right turn for Climb #1. Ground out that climb, no walking for me. Hit the 10mi marker at the top of the climb in 1:27:36 (45:28 split) and eventually moved out of the midpack into about 40th place.

Smooth sailing thru half-marathon point and across US-41. Trade spots back and forth with Christy and a few other runners until the late miles, but was running solo for the most part. Passed the 15mi mark in 2:21:04 elapsed (44:28 split). The middle toes on my right foot started to cramp around mile 15-16, really hurts, damn things want to curl up into a ball. So no choice but to throw down sea salt or extra S-Caps. Alas, over time, the extra salt makes me a bit nauseous, so have to manage that as well.

Passed into flat area with a couple of now-familiar motivational saying painted on the road, “No Pain No Brain” and directions for “Running Fools” to make a right turn onto Bottle Hollow Rd. Some very pleasant countryside along this stretch of the course, but the runner’s focus changes as the long, winding, grinding Climb #2 starts. I am still feeling loose and relaxed, and just ground out that climb, no walking. Rewarded by a water stop up top then saw Courtney Scott as she waited for her mom who was right behind me. Passed the 20-mi mark is up top at 2:59:33 elapsed (47:29 split, not bad with the climb, still running even splits), followed by a right nasty little descent with “Quad Killer” painted on the road before reading the halfway point with its wry humor.

Couple of flat miles before a left turn onto Hill Top Rd and the approach to Climb #3. This is not a long climb, but the road seems to run into a pocket of the Earth, then pitches upward at a right nasty angle. Runners, of course, are greeted with another motivational phrase, “Big Girls Run This Hill”. I am still feeling good and grind out this climb it, no walking. Matter of fact, I ran all of the climbs today, only walked about 10min total during the race. Grabbed a water refill up top, BS’ed with some locals for a minute before another crushing descent to the 25mi mark below in 3:49:49 (split 50:16, last climb). Stomach is edgy now, having to take in more salt than normal to keep my toes from cramping. Putting in calories help, but only so much.

Long, relatively flat stretch up Hwy 130 and Hwy 276. This is a tough stretch mentally, because it is a fairly long pull (~4mi) but you want to get it over so that you can start tackling Cathey Rd and The Walls; thus it always seems longer than it really is.

Finally comes Cathey Rd and entrance to the infamous Walls (site of many flameout for Jim runners). This stretch spares few athletes, one of the toughest pieces of ultrarunning in the South. “Gentle Grades Ahead” my ass. I linked up with COL Jeff Hager who works at Redstone as well, and we ground out the climbs; again, I ran it all (admittedly as slow pace), wanted the training effect for Western States. Hit the 30mi mark in the Walls at 4:39:58 (split 50:08, got a little faster), passed through all that nastiness before making the descent out of it, only to be lied to again by the painted “No More Hills” on the road.

Traded spots with Jeff Hager a few times as we made our way back to US-41, keeping a focus on knocking down 10min/miles, and keeping the water/calories/electrolytes flowing. Passed the 35mi mark at 5:33:48 (53:50 split) and made the turn onto 3 Forks Rd. Finally pulled out the mp3 player to help me get a better running rhythm going, just keep running and grinding it out! A pair of 2min walk breaks helped me consolidate myself for the final 10K stretch to home. Wide open country now, no shade at all, but fortunately overcast at this point.

Finally reached US-64 at 39.2mi with the age-old SJ40 joke of “Only Two More Miles” (making the race about 41.2mi in reality). Jeff Hager caught and passed me, looking strong in the final miles. Passed thru 40mi at 6:26:47 (52:59 split, ran pretty even all day long) then finally to the finish at 6:40:33

Talked with Rob Y and others a bit. Took some time to pour some cold water on my feet, bring swelling just a touch and rinse them off, plus load up Nathan hydration vest and pull on add’l gear and calories. Then after 30-35min, pulled up my gear, slipped across the tracks trying not to attract attention, and headed out for another 10 miles! [Ran the course out the 5mi marker and back.] the first mile was tough, as the legs had to start moving fluidly again. After 15min it started to work OK, took up a rhythm of 15min run (or 10min run), 5min walk break. Lots more cars than in the morning. Had to take a pitstop about 4mi out, but got to 5mi marker w/o incident and began the grind back to town. Took about 2hr 15min total, not great but not bad either. ~51mi on the day, I’ll take it!

Grabbed the hose at the Walking Horse Hotel again and just let the cold water run all over me, totally rinsed off and cooled down. Pulled on a change of shorts and t-shirt, then bellied up to the tables for a soda and bbq chicken. Spent some quality time BS’ing with Gary Cantrell and Ray Krolewicz, then RD Mike Melton. A very pleasant late afternoon hanging out in downtown WarTrace, TN. Finally peeled my ass out of the chair and 1700 and took a leisurely 2hr drive home. The boys immediately pounced on me as I walked in! ;-)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ouachita Trail 50M - 16 Apr 2011

A few weeks behind in posting my race report for the Ouachita Trail 50M, but better late than never. With RDs Stan and Chrissy Ferguson, you can be sure of a well-executed, challenging event, and the day did not disappoint. I drove over to Little Rock on Friday afternoon, camping out on Maumelle Park before the race. Follow this link for another fine race report, or go to this for a link on the 50k variant of the race, along with very cool flyover video.

The race started right on time at 6am. The first 3mi uneventful, as we headed west on Pinnacle Valley Rd towards the state park. Typical ultrarunner BS’ing, getting our legs warmed up and finding the right stride. Soon enough we got off the road and turned down onto the Ouachita National Recreation Trail. A bit unexpectedly, we made an extended descent down into a hollow before rolling out to the East Pinnacle aid station at the 4mi mark.

Now the real fun begins and we make the climb onto Pinnacle Mtn. Now that trail is probably among the coolest I have been on in the South, a rock scramble that goes right up the side of the unique terrain feature, climbing about 700’ in under a mile. Forget running, the trails consists of red/white paint blazes up through the rocks to the top; not dissimilar to climbing up Cheaha, but no dirt to speak of. Lots of jabbering and laughing and wry comments from the runners, we were still fresh and smiling and enjoying the scenery and the company. The view from up top on a cool, windy morning was fantastic; the climb up Pinnacle alone was worth the drive and race fee! Somehow I am surprised the race directors never opted to have folks make the climb at the end of the race as well, just as means of extra punishment!

Here is a cool video glimpse of the Pinnacle Mountain climb by vonralls.

Descent off the Pinnacle, down a different trail, was all huge rocks itself, so no way to go blowing down it. Back through the aid station, then heading west again on the Ouachita Trail. Brief stretch on State Hwy 300, passing along east end of Lake Maumelle and then the long run across the north shore of the lake. The trail and the course, while short of major climbs/descents, is nonetheless rarely never flat, sure as heck ain't straight, and always very rocky. In short, it is more challenging than I had really anticipated, very akin to running on Monte Sano or across major stretches of the nearby Pinhoti in terms of rocks and technicality. And so for the next 3 hours I simply ground out the miles, trying to avoid major spills, passing through the Northshore and Long Crossing (unmanned water drop) aid stations. I had some real low moments around 22-23 mi once we got in sight of western end of the lake, my fun meter just about pegged.

Crossed over Hwy 113, put my head down and went south eventually crossing over the western edge of the lake and to the turn-around. Had a change of shoes/socks at the turn (26.5mi) but since I was going to get wet in just a few minutes anyway, and my Inov-8s were working just fine, opted to not to make any changes. Just loaded up on the water, ate a couple of cookies, and began the trip.

I rode out several low points, had a nice resurgence around 31mi. Then my old friend Murphy made a visit. While crossing through a creek, water up about 10-12” deep, I somehow slipped/tripped, and just hammered my left big toe hard. Damn that hurt! Did I just break that sucker? No way to tell, just took a pair of Aleve and tried to keep moving. In addition, toes on my right foot wanting to cramp badly, kept throwing down more and more Endurolytes to keep it that at bay.

The left toe was just really painful. I though seriously about stopping in the Northshore aid station to peel off the shoe/sock to look, but didn’t dare. If I so much as sat down I knew I would not get back; and sure as hell if I pulled off that sock and saw the damage, no way I would get my spare pair of socks back and then rise to finish the race.

Passed through an unofficial aid station run by the local Hash group, where they had more Vitamin-I, took three of those and just kept going. Can feel the toe swelling in the wet shoes, but little choice except to keep moving. The silver lining is that with all the anti-inflammatories I have in my system, all the minor aches/pains that come with a 50M run are all gone! While every rock I step on my sharp pain to the toe, I can otherwise run fairly well with no other minor aches!

I passed 4-5 folks in the final stretches, but almost made a wrong turn at the entrance to Pinnacle Mtn State Park! Fortunately, Stan Ferguson had painted “NO” on the road when I tried to make a left turn, which became my clue to look up then straight ahead to find a mass of blue flagging and blue blazes marking the trail going back into the trees! How the heck could I have missed that?

Ground up another mile of trail, through the last aid station, then a tough little climb up into the park and back out onto the pavement at last. 3mi of road to the finish, so set myself up on a 9min/mile pace and just kept pushing, pushing pushing. Several rolling hills on the way back, with the sun now out warming things up a bit. But kept focused and steady, making the final right turn and left turn into the race HQ, crossing the line at 10:24:57

A gorgeous late afternoon, so took a few minutes to walk around and get my body back under control. Swallowed down some recoverite, then finally took off my shoes/socks to reveal the damage:

Rinsed off with a hose in the picnic area, then had a couple of burgers while meeting some locals: Paul Turner, PoDog Vogler, Charles Flannigan, etc. Talked with Stan/Chrissy for a bit, generally BS’ing. Left the race HQ about 1900 and headed for Embassy Suites. Spent some time in an ice bath, little bit of laptop time, then crashed about 9pm. Enjoy a well-earned (and huge) Embassy Suites breakfast the next morning before heading home.