4.09.2014

Croom Fools Run race review


by Rich Flint

Croom is part of the Withlacoochee State Forest and was named one of the “10 Coolest Places in North America” by the World Wildlife Fund in 1999. 

The race has three distances: a 16-mile, a 50K and a 50-mile race. I was originally signed up to run this race last year, but some life events caused me to defer to this year. The 50-mile run consists of a 5-mile starter loop followed by three 15-mile loops.

The event is limited to 250 participants with 125 maximum at the 16-mile run and is put on by Tampa Races.

The weather forecast for the race day was 80% chance of rain with humidity around 90%  and temps from 65-80 degrees - typical Florida winter/spring weather.

The 50-milers started at 6 a.m., so a light of some sort is needed for at least the first hour and 15 minutes of running. It had been raining during the night, but at start time it was nice and 62 degrees. 

At the start of the race, with most of the runners staying together in groups of two or three, the pace was slow mostly due to visibility. I stayed comfortably with the lead pack, most of whom had run the course several times and knew the way. At the end of the 5-mile loop we passed through the drop zone, but it was still too dark to ditch the head lamp, and the five or six guys and two girls I had been running with all stayed together and kept running. 

As soon as we left the drop zone we hit about a quarter-mile stretch where we were running downhill over a heavily rooted trail, making it sometimes necessary to hop from root to root. After that, the trail widened, the pace quickened, and the group thinned out even though it was still mostly single track at this point, and running was comfortable and easy. 
After a while only three of us were running together and talking. Around mile 10 or 12, I happened to comment "So who do you think’s lea." At that point I laughed out loud and looked at my watch. We were only running 9-minute miles, but that was far too fast for me to keep up for 50 miles. I told the guys I would have to talk with them later and slowed the pace. 

It was around 3 hr 40 min when I made it back into the drop zone and was met by my wife Denise. She took my light and empty drink bottle and handed me a full one, gave me my ration of gels and kicked me out the other side. I had instructed her to ask about how much fluid I had been drinking and if I needed salt, which she did but I declined the salt. 

That proved to be a mistake as I started cramping in the calves within the first three miles of leaving the drop zone. I slowed the pace even further and started walking more. I was only halfway through the race and I was feeling spent. (To back up just a bit, I always set two goals for my races. The first one is an unrealistic or a "if everything goes just right and I get a good tail wind" and the other a more reasonable one. This being the first 50 miles I had ever run and 20 miles further than I had ever run before, I thought to set any goal was foolish but this was the "fools run" so I decided that absolute very best for me 
would be 9 hr but more likely would be 10 hr.) But at this point I wasn't sure I was going to make it through the entire race. 

At the next aid station, which was about seven miles from the drop zone I asked what they had for salt, and said I was cramping. This older, wiry-looking guy grinned and pulled out a bottle of potassium pills and gave me two. They also gave me some Gatorade and some potato chips, and I was again on my way. 

After about another mile, a young lady passed me then slowed down, and we talked for a while. She had run the race the year before as her first 50 miler. She told me she found that after the first 25 miles the pain doesn't really get any worse. I found that somewhat comforting. I could tolerate what I was feeling as long as it didn't intensify. About three more miles we came to the next aid station, which also happens to be the start of the hardest part of the course. It was set up right after the place known as "Devil’s Hole," a deep sinkhole that you have to climb down, then back up out of. I stopped at the aid station and asked what they had with sugar and the lady smiled, handing me a cup and said, “Mountain Dew?” 

Just the thought lifted my spirits, and I drank 3 cups. The energy boost was almost instant, but so were the hills that made up the last four or so miles into the drop zone. By the time I got there, I was not at all happy.

Up to this point the weather had managed to cooperate with only a light sprinkle here and there, but the skies were getting darker and it looked like a storm was about to cut loose. Denise told me we were under a tornado alert. My feet were damp but not soaking, but I still decided to change into dry shoes, socks and shirt. I also took some salt, put on my hydration pack with some solid food for later, drank a little more Dew, then I told the wife I didn't want to do this anymore and headed down the trail. 

I had just made it past the section of roots when the first of the rains started. It was a slow sprinkle at first, but by the time I had gone a mile it was pouring and I could hear thunder in the distance. After another mile or so it was raining so hard I could barely see a few feet in front of me, the trails had turned to rivers and I was running in ankle-deep water most of the way. 

Oddly enough, in site of the weather, I was feeling good and holding about an 11-minute-mile pace. At the next aid station I stopped for them to record my check-in time, drank some Dew and thanked them for sticking it out, then headed on down the trail. By the time I made it to the aid station where they had given me the potassium pills, I was feelling so much better that I burst out of the woods to where they were and shouted, "HEY IT'S MY FAVORITE AID STATION PEOPLES!" They had been huddled under the small tarp that was over their table trying to stay dry but when they saw me coming they sprung into action asking me how I felt, what I needed, could they refill my hydration pack? (I have to say at this point, that everybody at the aid stations was amazing, but these guys were my heroes.They had pulled me from the pits of hell, and I had come out the other side running strong again.) 

To put icing on the cake, I heard someone behind me say "There you are." It was my Denise, she had come down from the drop zone to meet me and give me a motivation boost and it worked. I was happy and smiling. 

Did I also say they they had Mountain Dew at that aid station, too? I have to tell you that I seldom drink soda and almost never is it Mountain Dew, but I was drinking it like it was the elixir of the gods at this point. 

It was still a tough seven miles to the end of the race, and my legs were on fire. I still had to make it through Devil’s Hole and all the hills, but I was feeling good and starting to do the calculations. If I pushed and everything went right I might, just might make it in under 9 hours. 

During the worst of the storm, the winds where blowing so hard that debris was falling out of the tree. At one point a dead limb about the size of my arm hit the trail about 15 feet ahead of me. But now it was only a drizzle, and I was on a mission. 

The aid station right after Devil's Hole was manned by only one person. He was soaked to the bone . His check-in sheet was so drenched, if he touched it it would have fallen to pieces. But when he saw me coming he was to his feet, ready and eager to do whatever he could to help. I have never seen such a great bunch of folks. I told him how much I appreciated them being there for us. 

My watch had died at mile 42, so I was pushing as hard as I dared and making calculations based on assumptions but I was pretty sure I still had a shot at making it in under 9. As I came up out of the woods to the finish line, I could see the clock was reading 8: 57:15, and I crossed at 8:57:40. 

I had run my first 50-mile race, I drank water, I did not die, and I even managed to smile a time or two. 

Of course, none of this would have been possible had it not been for the love and support of my wife Denise, who knows how much these things mean to me and helps and encourages every step of the way.

3.25.2014

Not your typical race report....

Jeff Jones - Idiot #81
Skunk Run 2014 Overall Winner

Not your typical race report….well, not your typical race. Skunk Run 2014

"I run because it's so symbolic of life. You have to drive yourself to overcome the obstacles. You might feel that you can't. But then you find your inner strength, and realize you're capable of so much more than you thought." -Arthur Blank

I’m still not sure why I thought that a place named Caney Mountain Refuge would be just another walk in the park when I was thinking about mileage goals on Friday. My co-workers are always asking me; “How far is this race?” “How fast will you run this one?” In this case the Skunk run was different, I had never run an 8 hour endurance run, and it had certainly been a while since I had done anything like it. I made bold predictions and rationalizations because your first goal is always a little aggressive. My goal was to go out and run it hard, and well….

Derek Glos, who is finding himself in crazier situations as each day passes, just drove in from a trip to Oklahoma to pick me up in the wee hours of the morning to head an hour and a half to Caney Mountain Refuge. We stopped at McDonalds to pick up some food, I try to make sure I get 600-800 calories before my trail races to try to stay ahead of the calorie deficit. We spent all hour catching up since last time we had run together and a little strategy, but as we approached the first words out of my mouth were something to the effect “Well this probably won’t be flat and fast.” Goal one just adjusted to goal 2.

Upon arrival to the park the start finish area was already set up and a few people had already arrived. For any readers who have never run a trail race….DO IT unless you a major Type A personality with OCD, well then stay very far away, for your own good. The aid station was stocked and we received the warmest welcomes I have ever had at a race. I would say that this more closely resembled a family reunion that your typical trail race. As people continued to arrive they would introduce themselves as the offline version of themselves and then start a conversations where it last left off on the IRC Facebook page; jokes about the number 28, rubbing dirt, etc., etc.

Now for those that are typical trail runners you know that one of the best things about the trail race is the atmosphere, comradery, and fun, well... and beer. This race will not disappoint! You will not find a race that can challenge you to the point this one did that is as laid back and fun anywhere. I would say that this is as laid back as any fat-ass race out there but more organized. The best of both worlds!

As usual on the trails we all started a little slower. The trail started through a rough field and hung a sharp left into an immediate climb, both the 5ish and 11ish mile loops had to go through this roughly 2 and a half mile (on and off) climb. This was challenging, we kept the pace slower through the first loop. During this loop we decided to take the 11 mile turn, since we had plenty of time. About 40 minutes into the run is where I met Derek Sparks from Ava. This guy was closing fast on us, but instead of passing stopped to keep pace with Derek Glos and I. This made conversations a little difficult because every time I said hey Derek, I got two answers. So I just smiled and would talk to whoever answered first.

After running for a while Derek Sparks told us his stories and both of us were quite impressed by this guy. This was his first marathon. I felt very privileged to share that experience with him, while laughing and calling him crazy for making this his first marathon. He told us he was tired but we would have never been able to tell by the look of determination on his face and the sheer will to succeed. Not only did he finish the
marathon, but because of the two Idiots he was running with he had to finish his first marathon with a 2 and a half mile victory run back to the start and finish area.

This wasn’t the only inspiration for this day. I say at least a dozen kids out on the trails running, smiling, and having a blast. It is good to see kids out enjoying time with their family and enjoying that same passion that their parents have for running and the outdoors. I saw people who committed to walking the trails who were getting it done, some out all day, a very impressive feat in itself. And then I saw Emm Foster whom I though wasn’t going to run at all laying coming down the backside of the hill at a good clip, and later found out not only did she run but she got the most overall miles for the ladies.

The great times continued when I heard the award for most blood went to a kid that fell while playing at the start finish line. I heard the race director handed him the medal and said “now you’re a legend”, which isn’t too far from the truth.

I continued on and was approaching 30 miles when strategy played into my run. If you left before 2:15 you could go out on one more loop, but if you didn’t get back before 3:15 you only received 5 miles for that loop. Looking at my watch I was getting close to time so my only choice was to run the two five mile loops instead of one 11 mile loop. The up side I got to take in more food by hitting the aid station more frequently. The downside was that I got to see the finish line more frequently and had to do that initial climb through the first two miles more frequently.

By the time I was climbing that first climb on my last loop I completely understood why they called it Caney Mountain. I was spent. My legs were shaking uncontrollably. I was thirsty, hungry, and getting a little grouchy; and loving every second of it. This race had the best balance I have ever seen at a race. Good trails for people just coming out for the first time and here I was a little wobbly after seven and a half hours of running. I was glad to come in on that final loop to the group where we sat and had a couple of beers and talked about how we all smiled, drank water, and didn’t die.

3.17.2014

The Skinny on the Skunk Run

by Amber King Idiot #931

The short of it is, I met the mo’st awesome people and ran some mo’ ridiculously fun, yet challenging trails! The long of it is……

We got a late start so we didn’t leave Clarksville, Tenn., until around 6:30 p.m. The trip there and back was just as much a part of the “non-event” as the Skunk Run. Just a few words about the trip: Have you ever wondered where the remains of dead skunks and other road kill are taken to? I’m fairly certain we passed through the city in which they are contained. Witcliffe, Ky., or as we have named it – Sewer City –  is FOUL! 

We traveled on a two-lane highway (I hardly call it that when the speed limit was 55 m.p.h. and filled with semis going 45) for what seemed like forever until we reached Death Trap Bridges. We crossed two bridges that were barely wide enough to fit two cars, but were safely supported by guard rails that were ankle-high. After what seemed like forever (6 and a half hours) we rolled into Ava around 1a.m. Right as we reached the Ava sign, my youngest Kidiot announced, “Mama, I found the Skunk!” as we got a big whiff of dead skunk. It was obviously a good omen for a great day to come! 

My husband David went to check us in at THE hotel in Ava. The desk clerks asked him if we were there for a wedding. He said no, and the clerk asked him why we had driven to Ava because there seemed like a lot of people checked in other than the wedding guests. David explained that we drove to come to a run. 
The clerk said, “You drove all the way here to run? For 10 hours? Why would you do that?????” 
My husband replied, “Yeah, I know, but my wife really likes to run. She’s an Idiot.” 
Clerk-(laughing) “Oh, I bet she wouldn’t be happy to hear that, but she’d have to be an Idiot to want to travel this far or to run that long!” 

Since it was now 1:15 in the morning, my husband didn’t take the time to explain, but did voice his opinion that he should get a shirt that says “IDIOT SPOUSE SUPPORTER” because he’s no idiot…he knows what makes a marriage work…keeping Mama happy. Got settled into bed around 1:30 a.m. and was up at 6. I was anxious about knowing how to get to the site since there really isn’t an address for it, but was greeted at the door by another fellow Idiot, Gary Croy, who graciously led the way.


Once we arrived, picked up our shirts (love them!), bib #s (met April Wilson-super sweet), greeted each other and heard what I feel was the quote of the day, “There’s some good running up there once you reach the top of the ridge.” ~David Murphy 

That’s a lie. 

There is never a top, but it was all good running…or climbing rather. I set out and splashed through the creek crossing eager to get to what looked to be an open grass field up the entrance of the base of the “rolling hills”. I took about four strides and was almost taken out! This area I dubbed Mountain Goat Gully, booby-trapped by a million divots (excellent ankle strength training).

I reached the base of the “rolling hills” and started my ascent of the first of MANY steep inclines.  Note: Never trust David Murphy’s interpretation of the course. Along the way several fellow Idiots introduced themselves and chatted for a bit. Of these, the “Elites” were among them! Just an example of the mo’ awesome friendliness of the group! The running community is generally nice as a rule of thumb; however I think what makes this group excellent, is the acceptance and encouragement of the variety of levels of runners. These three stopped to walk alongside of me to make introductions, then galloped up the giant “rolling hill” like it was no big deal. 

I kept trucking up the steep inclines…I mean “rolling hills” thinking and even saying to another Idiot at one point, “Well, we eventually have to reach the top sometime right? Then we get to go down!” 

Yeah…that never really happened. 

Eventually, it seemed as though I was all by myself. I enjoyed the time reflecting on a variety of thoughts, let a few “WEEEEEE!’s" go on the downhills and an occasional "Are you kidding me?????" on the uphills.

Then the solitude got a little creepy. No worries because about that time, Jon Wilson was at the top of one of the MANY “rolling hills” on the four-wheeler. He kindly took my jacket back to camp and I felt a little lighter. I realized I had not eaten breakfast, so I chomped down a few GU chews, which was kind of difficult to do when you are trying to breathe in as much oxygen as possible through your mouth and chew at the same time. Chugged some GuBrew and climbed the rest of the “rolling hill” I was on. 

This was the first run I actually got to use my hydration pack my sweet husband bought for me for Christmas and I loved it! FINALLY, I think I reached the most “top” point of the “rolling hills” and the views were beautiful. I knew I only had a short time to run due to other travel obligations so I stopped to take pictures/videos to take it all in. 

Now, as much as I have explained – not complained – about the “rolling hills,” I have to say the downhills were F.U.N.! Stuck my arms out like an airplane for balance and flew down them. Behind the intense, focused look on my face was a huge SMILE! The last mile and a half was just enough to make me feel like a trail blazer and forget about how difficult the first part was, leaving me thinking I could absolutely do another loop or two. 

I checked into camp and hit the bathroom, because listening to all that water sloshing around in the hydration pack that was now empty because I sucked it down made me have to GOOOOOO! Refilled my hydration pack and didn’t realize that I had accidentally hit my watch and turned off my Garmin. Turned it back on about a quarter of a mile once I was back out onto trail. Because I was kind of crunched on time I decided I would just do the 3-mile loop twice. I followed three Kidiots on the loop.<-----Never trust a kid with directions about loops. Lost one, but the other two were quite the conversationalists and excellent pacers! We talked about family (siblings) and then we talked what we were going to eat once we made it back to camp as a reward. 

Logan taunted me with his detailed description of his breakfast burrito that he had eaten earlier. We came to the end of the trail loop to the road and the boys turned it into an obstacle course, scaling over the gate. I, on the other hand, took the trail out to the road. They weren’t impressed, but kindly waited and said, “Come on ma’am!” We were almost finished, but had to take a quick photo of their accomplishment of climbing the mountain. That’s when I realized I had taken the wrong loop. That was the 1-mile loop. Oh well, it was fun! I made it back to camp again and asked where the 3-mile loop was. David and Jon said to just follow the road back up from the 5-mile loop towards the conservation area.

There’s a sign..you’ll see it, they said.

No, you won’t. 

So, off I went out again, thinking I had just enough time to get the 3-mile loop in. I went down the road, then turned onto the back portion of the 5-mile loop following a kid, thinking she was running the 3-mile loop. Here we go with the “rolling hills" again. It wasn’t until I was 2 and a half miles into the trail that I asked another Idiot if she was doing the 5-mile loop and where she was at. That’s when I realized I had to turn around and go back because there was no way I could finish the 5-mile loop in time and this definitely wasn’t the 3-mile loop. I enjoyed chatting with her and it made the time pass quickly. She noticed on the way back a small conspicuous sign that said "cabin loop" and asked if that was the way back to camp. 

Um, yes I suppose it was if we were running the 3 mi loop! Grrrrrrr! 

So, we headed down the rest of the 5-mile loop, and I made it back to camp just in time to snag a breakfast burrito and a cinnamon bite, and head out. Jon reminded me that I had almost forgotten my medal!!!!!! Now, I will say, that about this time my cinnamon bite disappeared. Hmmmm….suspicious! 

I got in the truck and was a half mile out of camp when I realized I had forgotten to turn my watch off…excellent pace! When I arrived back at the hotel I realized that the hydration pack that I was so excited to use had concealed the blue bleed from my fairly new undergarment that went through my new IRC shirt. Skunk Run NOT Smurf Run! BOOOOOO! 

I took a quick shower, jumped back in the truck and headed to our friend’s house where the questions began: "Why would you come to Ava to run?" "Why is it called the Skunk Run?" "What kind of Idiot would run for 10 hours?" 

We enjoyed our time with friends, then headed back home. Arrived home at 1:30 a.m. and sprayed my IRC shirt like crazy with Resolve. Meltdown averted. Shirt is fixed.

And this is all why I will be back next year!!!!!!


*If it seems like there is a lot of mention of rolling hills, that’s because there are a LOT of them!



3.05.2014

Pain is a Privilege




by Jeff Jones

Every hundred miler I run seems to have its own personality and this one was no different. Rocky Raccoon 100 takes place in the Huntsville State Park in Huntsville, Texas. That is about an hour northwest of Houston. I found this race last year thanks to fellow local runner and Idiots Running Club President David Murphy. I understood that this was a great first 100 because this course was very runnable, and I liked it so much that I had to come back and run it again. That and the 2014 Rocky Raccoon was hosting the 2014 USTAF (United States Track and Field) 100 mile championships.

Although the course is deemed to be very runnable, because it only has 5735 ft. of elevation gain, it does have its own obstacles. Pacing is very important in running these distances because a very runnable course tends to draw you out faster than you would like. The second obstacle is the tree roots, getting caught up in these can trip you up, or worse, end your race.

Leading up to this race I had an off training cycle. I tweaked my ankle at Bass Pro in November, and then like a runner, decided it would be able to make it through Pensacola marathon a couple weeks later. After that I would have a little time to rest. This was a very bad assumption. Although I was able to keep a pretty good weekly base mileage I found it very difficult to run over 20 miles at one time. Each time I attempted, I would cramp and my ankle would swell ensuring that I would get another 3 days rest minimum. In the month leading up to the race I was able to get 3 quality long runs in and felt comfortable that I could finish even if I wouldn’t be at my peak. 

The morning of the race I woke up at 3 a.m. sweating and feeling like I just ate a porcupine for dinner. I immediately started coughing and hacking all kinds of slime out of my chest and throat. Yes! Just to top it off I now had some sort of upper respiratory infection. So I attempt to clear things up to the best of my ability, drink my two cups of coffee, get my race gear ready, and get my game face on.

Showing up to the race I forgot how big this event was. Close to 500 runners all packing in to the starting line, setting up tents and getting gear laid out. I don’t get real nervous at hundred milers, there really is no need to, but I do get intimidated. This year there were a lot of fast runners and even a few pros like Ian Sharman. My team, consisting of my wife and Derek Glos, got me all ready and began setting up camp as I made my way to the start line. I have a new race strategy that puts me further to the middle of the pack on the start. This helps me conserve energy in the beginning of the race, plus since you spend such a long time in a pack of runners you get plenty of time to meet new people.

My first loop seemed pretty uneventful, other than a feeling of extreme fatigue. I started getting a little concerned when I was only 15 miles into a run and just wanted to lie down. I could tell it was not looking good when I saw the faces of my wife and Derek Glos. Their expression said it all, "Dude, you look like death walking." One thing I know about running ultras though, if you are feeling bad wait awhile.

Over the course of 100 miles things will change, hopefully not for the worse. Derek and my wife got me filled full of aid-station food and my favorite protein shake and I was off again.

Loop two was a bit better. I began to get in a groove and liven up a little. Sometimes I get into the rhythm during my run and just get lost in my thoughts. I think about work, about life, about bills. I often solve some of my problems while running as if this is my main time to really focus, but today this allowed me to pass the time of the second loop without much concern. Coming in from this loop I must have looked much better because I saw relief on my crew’s faces. They asked if I needed anything. I think I took some food and a fresh bottle of Gatorade and I was back off. One more loop to go and I can pick up my pacer.

Loop three is always of test of my will. This is the point when you are staring down 50 miles and only halfway there. I find it very difficult to not focus on time, distance and pace. I started to look for a way to take my mind off it. I focused closely on pacing off the runner in front of me. He was hitting a great pace and seemed like he had been going forever and finally came to a walk as he approached the next hill. “Great run,” I said. “Thanks. You, too” he replied. And that was the beginning of an ongoing conversation that would take us through the third loop and well into the fourth.

There are several different types of runners; I would qualify this particular gentleman as a philosophical runner. His opinions and insights into ultra-running and the ultra-running community have kept me thinking for days following the race, but one thing he said stuck with me at a moment of extreme discomfort. “Pain is a privilege.”

The philosophical runner guided us through loop four a little slower than I would have liked, but given my feeling sick and undertrained, any type of finish would be better than none. I could walk the rest of the way and probably get this done. This is where having a good pacer is very valuable. At mile 72, Derek approached me as I was getting some food down and said,“Jones, man what are you doing? You are faster than this.  Let’s go and get this thing finished, and stop messing around.”

Although I probably looked at him like he was insane, I responded, “Yeah. You’re right. Let’s get back on track.”

You always want a little left in the tank for the last 20 miles of one of these races. As we stepped off Derek said, “Hey, look at the bright side, only about 5 hours left to go.”  I got a good chuckle as I responded, “Yeah, that isn’t even quite a full work day.”

You really must put aside time and distance to finish one of these because the thought of running 24-30 hours straight is almost unbearable, but if you are able to break it up and tell yourself yeah I can run 10 more miles, 5 more miles, a 5k you can make it.

We kept a fairly steady run going through the fifth loop and passed several runners. This is a tough time as you see people doing what is called the death march, people passed out at aid stations, and people heaving in the tree line.

Although no finish was emotionally lifting as my first 100 miler, every 100-mile finish is a beautiful thing. I know the sky parted, and a golden light came shining down upon the belt buckle that was about to be presented to me as I stood on a podium tall and proud. Or someone may have just said,” You look like a finisher; you guys always just stop and bend over at the finish line,” and tossed me a buckle. But nothing is more emotionally uplifting as conquering the race. It is you against the 100 miles, irrelevant if someone else is out there or not. I looked down at my buckle and thought “Yep, pain is a privilege."

I met with Derek and Stefani, my wife, and we had a small celebration at the finish line. I can never express how awesome it is to have a good crew and how, in every race, the part they play determines how well I run. Because of them I finished the run slightly off of my PR with a time of 22 hours and 28 minutes, in a tough race that had a drop rate of almost 50 percent. The rest of the group we were with slowly trickled back in. Several IRC and PRS FIT members ran the race as well. Some finished ahead of me, some behind, but we all shared a common bond after that race, whether running or crewing.

I strongly recommend Rocky Raccoon as a race for either 50 or 100 miles. The race support is excellent and the race is well put together. Joe is a great race director and keeps the race and trail clean and organized. The downside is that the park is very strict. If you choose to race this, talk to someone who has raced it before about what you can bring, where you can put it, and what amenities you can use.

As I said, each race is different. The support we had from the IRC, OMRR, and PRS FIT, Norene and Tim Prososki, Ellen Losew, Jon Wilson, David Murphy, Chris Oles, Shane Naugher, and especially Stefani Jones and Derek Glos, all made this race like one long 22-hour party. THANKS!

2.19.2014

Sylamore 25K Trail Run

Sylamore 25K Trail Run
February 15, 2014
Race Recap
April Wilson

After completing my first 25K trail run at Dogwood Canyon last fall, I pretty much decided I had no interest in running Sylamore. Sylamore is a run that I have thought about for the last couple of years. I’m not sure what the lure is for me but it became a race to work up to and train for. My very encouraging husband, Jon (AKA: the ‘Stache), said I could do it…I just needed to train.  The first time I considered signing up I was too late. The race sells out very quickly!! And that was comforting. So I thought I’d start working up. Having already accomplished a half marathon rather successfully, I clicked on the link for the Hoof It for Heifer 20K and registered. The “run” through Pettit-Jean State Park in central Arkansas was, in my mind, was more of a physical challenge than a run. Running was not even an option for parts of the trail.  This 20K lead to the 25K at Dogwood last fall which lead me to the 25K at Syllamore this winter.  I had talked myself back into the run and thought it would be the perfect birthday gift for my 40th birthday, just four days after the race. I would be taking 40 by the horns and showing it I was in control.
Soooo…we arrive in Allison, AR; which by the way is not recognized by our GPS unit. I picked up my packet and hoodie. I was very excited to see it was actually a hoodie rather than a sweatshirt. And the colors are great too! The timing chips were explained by the kind guy from a different part of Arkansas. This is important because I asked how deep the creek was and he didn’t know. The creek crossing of this race has been my biggest fear. When David Murphy tells you “Don’t drown!” I get concerned. After all, that is NO WHERE in the motto….Run, Smile, Drink Water, Don’t DIE.  Now I will confess, I have been praying for the weather and creek depth since registration November 1, 2013; 50 degree weather and low creeks. We have dinner and go to find our cabin. As we are driving along, Jon notes, rather surprised, that they still have a lot of snow. And they do. Ours had already melted. So this is what the weather man means by the “higher elevations in the Ozark Mountains” may get more snow.
On race day, typical preparations are made to get ready, get my gear, and head to the start line at the appropriate time. Jon made up my GenUCan at the cabin, I downed it, and off we went with extra time to worry.  When we arrived at the start line we waited with the rest of the racers and then with ten minutes to go went out to acquire satellites, etc…  That’s when we were told the race was starting a half an hour later 8:30 to allow the 50K runners to get across the creek before the 25Kers got there.  Oohhh. So we waited a little longer and then acquired satellites again. Then the race director needed our attention.  He told us that there is a lot of snow on the course and the water crossings will be slick come in and going out because of the temperature and the frozen stuff around the water crossings. OOhhh.  With kisses, hugs, and good lucks I headed to the line and shortly after that we were off.
Ice
The first 6.5 miles can be described as ICE. The first hill we went down was packed and frozen over snow which was very slick! The creek wasn’t where I thought it was going to be but we arrived pretty quickly and stood in line to cross.  Everyone was crossing in pairs so there would be someone to assist the other especially upon exiting the creek. The creek was COLD and a little less than knee deep. Perfect! Answered prayer! The creek exit was as expected and forewarned, slick! Water drips off of everyone and makes the exit rock difficult to maneuver. Then the rest of the water drains out of your shoes on the stairs up the hill. It was a slow crawl but everyone was making the best of it and everyone was right there together anyway.  Once on top on the hill and actually on the trail (single track hiking trail), the conditions were more of the same frozen over snow. So we kept on going. Everyone in a line trudging along. The first waterfall and second water crossing found us very bottle necked again. One poor gal had fear-of-heights issues and stopped. We shimmied around her and crossed the water. (I felt so bad for her because I deal with this too. But I tend to look at the trail more than anything and that helps a lot!!) It was an incredible view. The rocks went up so high and the water went so far below. It is very difficult to look up and run! These first two miles took 45 minutes! Ugh!! The second mile alone 33 minutes to cross the icy water. The next few miles were more water crossings (large and small), rock climbs, and crusty snow. At one creek crossing the gals in front of me just sat down and slid to the water then crossed. I really didn’t want to get my bottom wet, so I tip toed across. I should have just had fun…
At some point the snow gave way to sand and dirt so we could actually get a decent run going. My botany trained eyes picked up on the surroundings: Spanish moss in the trees, a cane thicket that we actually ran through, reed thickets, and glades everywhere. The plants were so beneficial to the run. I was able to get out of some snow on grass along the side of the trail, hugged a few trees as I crossed rocks and water, and grabbed what every was handy to help pull me across. On down the trail, I looked at my watch and noticed we were close to mile 5. The aid stations were approximately every five miles. Good! Ha ha…the aid station was at 6.5 miles. I was beginning to get concerned about my fuel. I had trained for about 5 mile intervals.  With the extra distance and with the half hour set back, I hoped I hadn’t gotten behind.
At the aid station, my family was waiting on me. What a treat!! Jon helped with my GenUCan and pushed me out the aid station. But not before I grabbed a warm potato dipped in salt. YUM!!
Snow
The next section can be best described as SNOW. After leaving the warm, friendly, helpful aid station, we went up the hill in the snow. It was crusted over snow that was beginning to melt the whole way to the turnaround point about another 2 miles. The challenge with the snow was that once the foot was planted and then pushed off there would be a slide. Down, push, slide. Down, push, slide. Kinda like running in the loose sand at the beach. ALL the way out and back. This becomes very tiring on the legs. I decided quickly I would definitely have more GenUCan at the return to the aid station to keep my energy going. At the turn around, I punched my bib and headed back. 8.? miles!! My mental conversation went like this: ‘Do these race directors even run???? If they run, they would know how much a runner plans and trains for specific distances and would keep the run to the actual length!!’ Back up the mooshy snow covered hill. The sun had come out and while so refreshing to see, was beginning to melt the snow which caused more sliding when pushing off. I went ahead and took a Pocket Fuel for some calories and energy. I think it was a good decision. It sets very well on my stomach and tastes like Nutella. WIN-WIN!
When I got back to the aid station I had hoped to see my family and have some help with the GenUCan. I didn’t see them at first but Jon found me. He was such a good help!! I refueled and headed back out for the last leg.
Mud
The snow had mostly melted on most of the trail and made a lot of MUD. Some of the mud was very thick and tried to take the shoe but most was very watery: mud puddles and mud rivers. This kind of mud doesn’t bother me and I don’t mind running through it. The lady in front of me did not like mud, though. I stayed behind her for quite a way and passed when the opportunity politely presented itself. Along this stretch my legs tightened up, feeling like I was going to have a cramp. I really didn’t want to cramp. So I ate the majority of a packet of sport beans. They have electrolytes in them and would keep the cramps away.  I kept looking for that first waterfall. Finally I found it, and then kept going, ready to find the finish line. Those first steps now presented a different problem. My sore legs weren’t going down those semi slick steps in a normal upright position. So I turned around and went down the steps like a two year old. It worked. I made it back to the creek! It was still cold! The end was getting closer but I wondered how that hill was nearly five hours later… It was still frozen over and slick! The sun could not get to the surface to melt the snow. Somehow there was a little gravel road showing through on one side. I managed to continue running up most of the hill. My body felt great, less my legs. My energy was good and I felt strong.  The top of the hill was such a welcome sight. As I trotted down, I noticed my shoes felt funny. I think there was mud on the bottom. It finally came off and felt normal again. When I got to the road crossing, there were cars coming. Really!!  So I paused and waited.  I was not going to risk finishing the most exciting race to date.  My boys met me and ran with me till I turned to the finish line. They told me someone was coming up behind me so I gave it all I had and “sprinted” to the finish line. It was not going to hurt any more or any less. I was really surprised my legs even moved that fast aft 5 hours and 30 minutes.  Jon said I had a stone cold look on my face. They were not passing me in the finish corral.
I received my finisher’s glass and then grabbed a slice of pizza, oh that tasted so good, then went to get my time. I really felt good. Strong. It was a great race. My help was outstanding. I would not have finished as well without them. The fuel was spot on. I would highly recommend it. The race was beautiful and challenging. The snow made it an extra challenge. I’m so glad I did it. I hurt. But if it was easy, everybody would do it. Come on 40. It’s gonna be a great decade!!

2.05.2014

Musings from the background of RR100

by Ellen Losew
For the life of me, I cannot come up with any sort of clever, cutesy name for the people with whom I spent this past weekend – Rac-backers? Raccoon Crew? The 101st milers? Meh...
Several of us did a short run on the trails Friday before RR100.
From left, Adam Stauffer, Shane Naugher, Norene and Tim
Prososki, David Murphy, Coach Jeff Kline, Dane Liebel,  Ellen
Losew (me), Jon Wilson, Mark Hebert and his adorable
kids, Mark and Chloe.
Nonetheless, I took a couple days out of the office, packed up every piece of running gear I could think of, and dragged my husband 500+ miles to south Texas to crew/pace/watch a group of Idiots & PRSFit teammates at Rocky Raccoon 100. I'm sure my coworkers, friends and family think I'm crazy. It wasn't even MY race. These were people I met ON THE INTERNET. Idiot. I don't know why I wanted to do this, but I did from the first moment that Coach Jeff sent out the call for pacers. If they would have me (I'm a girl, not blazingly fast, and I'm a girl), I would go.
We met Dane and Coach for dinner at Chili's. I had seen Dane's Facebook pic, and we had chatted online some, so he seemed familiar. It wasn't like meeting a stranger; it was like we were already friends. We hugged immediately. I would have the same reaction with each new Idiot all weekend.
We went for a quick run on Friday out the first three miles of the course. This was where I met most of the other Idiots. What an amazing group of people. Val Kilmer showed up (my husband looks like him), and we set up a tent and tables for the next day. Back out to lunch- "Hey, how about Chili's?" We had the same waitress.
On game day, I actually slept in. I was anticipating running 20 miles that night, so we didn't go out for the start. We ran a couple errands, but went out to the race by about 11:30. I couldn't stand being away from the action any longer. Things were in full swing, and coach was pacing around with his fingers in his mouth. Nervous Nellie. He said he felt "like a cat in a room full of rocking chairs." Turns out we timed it well, because the group was expected in for the 40-mile turn any time.
We didn't know who would come in what order, then there came Dane covered in pine needles, dirt, rocks and debris. "I fell down a few times," he said. No! Really? Dane looked great. He had a couple blisters that needed attention, so we dug through everyone's supplies and I fixed them up. I was glad I brought a few medical supplies. A new bottle of GenUCan and he was off!
David was in next. It was hot and humid. We could tell he wasn't exactly pleased- I asked if there was anything he needed. "A bullet to the head. Twice," he replied. Coach gave the reassuring affirmations, David restocked his nutrition, pulled on a fresh shirt, and then he was off again.
Then we waited. We had no informatio on Chris or Shane. And we waited some more. Someone saw online that Shane had dropped, but we couldn't find him. Not at the medical tent, not at any aid stations, he had disappeared.
Then Chris came stumbling in... And he looked awful. He couldn't stand up straight, couldn't catch his breath, couldn't complete a sentence without gasping. The doctor in me kicked in. I asked him a few questions. Coach asked some questions. We conferred. Everyone fussed about – grabbing this, mixing that.… Aha. Chris hadn't taken ANY electrolytes. It was somewhere around 95 percent humidity. He was drenched with sweat - couldn't keep up with his fluids. We kicked into action. Jon grabbed electrolytes, I grabbed a cup, and coach grabbed-- pickle juice. Yep, pickle juice. I didn't say anything, but what the heck do I know? I'm just a doctor. I'm not questioning Coach Yoda. We got Chris to choke down a cup of pickle juice and most of a banana. Norene, Tim, and Steve helped with bags, clothing and gear, then he was stumbling off again. What is going on with these people? It wasn't hot, but lawdy, it was muggy. They were miserable. Drained. I'm not interested in putting myself through this, EVER.
Shane came in a little while later. He looked about like Chris. Someone had transposed bib numbers so Shane had been listed as DNF. We helped him some, but he was more self-sufficient. We were glad he made it back out.
The pace crew had trickled in throughout the day. We were getting prepped, because we would head out with our runners when they turned at mile 60. We goofed around, cheered, bantered with teammates on FB, and posed some for the camera (the live stream camera was pointed directly at our tent most of the day). There may or may not have been a little dance party thrown in... I will neither confirm nor deny.
Dane was first back in, and he picked up David Pittman. David came in next, and he picked up Coach Jeff. Chris was expected to pick up David McNett. I left, somewhere about this time, with Jon Wilson and Mark Hebert to head to the Damnation aid station. We would meet the runners there and trade out pacers. We had all kinds of gear with us, as it was expected to turn chilly. It would soon be dark, so headlamps shone. I must say, I had the most impressive headlamp of all! I blinded everyone within a 100-yard radius! A small star on my forehead!
Damnation was one heckuva place! Music, food, lawn chairs, drinks. We found a log and waited. We observed the runners. The good and the bad. The leaders looked fresh. Everyone else, not so much. A few looked deathly ill. I sincerely hoped some would drop out. One volunteer was a makeshift podiatrist. He was practically performing minor surgery. He spent forever fixing blisters and toenails. I wondered why it took so long? A few runners were more than comical- one woman fussed and fussed about poison ivy, her pacer bouncing around like a little squirrel, retrieving soup, soda, water, chips. Another guy made very loud comments about his penis as he liberally applied some sort of salve down under. Oh, how we laughed. Some runners puked, some sat down, some shuffled, some were dazed and confused. It was like an anthill – organized chaos. This is where the "fist bump rule" was solidified.
We traded out pacers as the teammates came through. Shane came back through, but he looked worse. He rested awhile, then was off. I didn't get to go out yet, as I had expected. I'm not sure if coach doubted me, or if he was worried about me, or if he wanted to be nice to me and not work me too hard. So I waited for my turn. We sat, watched the circus in front of us, and I drank more coffee. Then more coffee. I think I must've hiked down the road about six times to take care of that coffee. Hard to be discreet with the nuclear reaction shining out from my headlamp!
Eventually, David came back through. Coach had me go out on the 6-mile Damnation loop with him. He looked a little pained. He asked for another bullet to the head, then we were off. He told me we would probably walk quite a bit. I said do what you have to do, this wasn't about me.
We talked and talked, lamps on, heads down. I don't have a clue what the trail looked like, just roots. A couple bridges. Ups and downs. We kept talking. This was a guy I could hang out with. Good stock. We passed a few folks. We came upon the one-armed man, chatting still. David warned them we were passing on the left, and BAM! David was down on the ground. Crap. He turned around and said, sarcastically, "You tripped me!" I laughed, the one-armed man and his pacer made some sort of comment, then I said, "Yeah, settle down," or something equally snarky/sarcastic. We laughed, after making sure he was OK. (I could've easily performed reconstructive surgery with the light from that headlamp.) He told me that was the first time he had fallen in two years, and that little event was going in the Idiots Running Club blog. Well, that's fantastic. I'm going in the blog for tripping the founder of the IRC. Sheesh! Haha!
Our six miles seemed like it was over very quickly, but it took around 1:40. Then we were back at Damnation. Jon ran in the last eight miles with David. We hung out for Chris' last trip through, then hiked down to go back to the start/finish. We heard that Shane had dropped. I felt terrible for him, to DNF after all that training. But it was a smart decision. We later found out that about half the runners dropped out - the most ever at RR100.
The finish was a party. My husband Steve had spent the last 8-9 hrs there without me, hanging out with Norene and Tim Prososki. Such great people. We all formed a bond. The cold front started through. The beer began to flow.
Dane came through somewhere around 21 hours! Awesome!! We cheered and laughed. Then David came through! More beer! Oreos! More cheering & laughing! It started to rain somewhere in there, so we picked up the stuff and prepped to pack out. Chris came in not too long after, sprinting the last part of the race! Such a great finish!
I think we left the park around 4:30 or 5 a.m. or so, I'm not really sure. Wet, cold, salty and tired. But I felt like I had made lifelong friends. When I was in medical school, my friends and I used to talk about how we would always be lifelong friends because of the bond we formed through enduring the same trials. Others who have not been to medical school just wouldn't quite be able to understand us, understand that experience. I feel the same about Rocky Raccoon. I didn't run but a tiny fraction of that race. It wasn't my race to run. However, I witnessed amazing things. Chris said something about experiencing every human emotion during the course of that race. I didn't doubt it one bit. I observed true strength and most of it was mental.
If I'm asked to pace/crew again, I'll be there without hesitation. It would be an honor.

In the meantime, here are the top 10 things I learned spectating/crewing/pacing at Rocky Raccoon 100:

10. Fist bump. Do not hi-five or shake hands. Fist bump. Trust me on this one.
9. The "junk" everyone is referring to is NOT in the trunk. See #10.
8. Hand sanitizer. See #9. 
7. The 'stache is even more impressive in person.
6. Ultra runners are a different breed.
5. The human body can do amazing things.
4. Humidity. It literally sucks the life out of you.
3. Pickle juice can save lives.
2. A coach who cares about you is like a parent. They push, scold, comfort, suffer alongside and share immense joy and pride.
1. It is possible to develop a bond and care deeply about people one has only known 48 hours.

Proud to be a part of greatness.

1.09.2014

The road to the prize

     

I have this awesome pink Idiots Running Club tech shirt that says "#EyeOnThePrize" across the back. This year, the prize I have my eye on is a sub-5 time at the Bass Pro marathon, which would be a 45-minute improvement over my 2013 race. That's a big jump for anyone, but especially for a chubby grandma like me. I'll tell you a secret - sometimes I think there's no way in the world I'll be able to do it.

I had one of those little moments Saturday. Several members of the Idiots Running Club met at 7 a.m. for a group run in Gainesville. When David Murphy announced it on Facebook earlier in the week, my husband Tim and I immediately started looking forward to it. Those are always fun, and it had been a long time since we had all gotten together.

I really wanted to stay with the main group this time. Usually I'm at the back of the pack, but this time, I had a pretty short run on my schedule. Everyone else had very long runs, so my hope was that our pace would match up enough that I could hang with the big dogs until I hit my 30-minute turn-around point. So there I was, running along with Jon Wilson, David Murphy, Billy Pippin and Melissa Hayes. I felt like I would imagine a beginning guitar player who knew three chords might feel if he was jamming with Van Halen. It was cool.

I could even join in the conversation without being too out of breath – until about the 25-minute mark when evidently my heart rate decided to skip right from zone 2 to zone 4. Breathing got a little harder, and I started doing much more listening that talking. I glanced at my watch, looked at my pace and was instantly disheartened. It was only about 10 seconds faster than the pace that I was going to need to run the whole entire marathon! How am I ever going to be able to run like this for 26.2 miles? What in the world was I thinking?

I told my daughter Jenny about it on Monday. "Mom, you don't need to worry about that," she said. "All you need to do is execute the plan. Do your workouts each day. Eat right each day. The results will take care of themselves."

Goodnight - how did she get so wise? And it occurred to me that she learned that here, right here in this club. I'm often amazed by how much my family has learned and benefited from being part of the Idiots Running Club. We have more than 2,700 other runners who support us, offer advice, write blogs, coach, and encourage us each day. It continually awes me, and I'm extremely grateful.

So, I'm taking Jenny's advice (which I think she may have learned from Ann Brennan's blog "How To Eat an Elephant.") I'm just going to focus on the little things: each little workout and each little decision about what to eat. I still have my eye on the prize, but I'm focusing on the road that leads to the prize.

You can read Annie's blog here:
  http://www.annsrunningcommentary.com//?s=how+to+eat+an+elephant.