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.