by Fred Thompson
March 18, 2009
Last year it was a tornado, this year an ice storm prior to the event that created challenges for the RD and runners alike. With downed trees everywhere, especially up on the high ridgelines, many trails were impassable and so, against the RD’s philosophy, some trails were repeated and forest roads were utilized. The end result was a consensus easier event this year, but that, my friend, is a relative term. It is still 3 Days of running (50k,50m,20k) in the Ozarks so there was still plenty of elevation gain and loss to go around even if we didn’t get to do the scheduled 25000′.
I didn’t see the sun from the time I left the house late Wed evening until I returned late Sun evening and temps probably ranged from the 30’s to the 50’s. The 50k started at 9A on Fri. from the Blanchard Springs Campground and turned up immediately on single track cut into the side of the mountains through thick trees, giant rocks (and often under giant rock overhangs), and constant up and down until it emptied out onto forest roads about 10 miles out and then, guess what, turned up to the turnaround. We then backtracked to where we started and I finished the first day’s run in 5:45 for what turned out to be 26 miles. Then it was off to ice my legs in the cold creek, followed by a hot shower, and then pasta and beer courtesy of the race director. A few tall tales and, before you know it, it’s dark and time to crawl into the back of the suburban and sleep.
The second day’s run started at 7A in the opposite direction as the day before and stayed a little more level following the creek out about 5 miles where we had to cross the waist-deep water to a turnaround aid station on the other side and then cross that same stream again and head back to Blanchard Springs. This stretch was awesome because it had water everywhere– 100′ waterfalls, wet rock crossings, water sliding slowly down the giant rock faces, and, of course, a little mud. We came back through the start/finish area after 10 miles and then headed right back out where we were the day before. This time, though, we turned up the forest road in another direction and followed 10 miles out and 10 miles back. This forest road got us up on the ridgeline where you could really see the devestation of the ice storm. Now, this may not have been single track, but the scenery and views are still awesome and elevation gains just as gnarly. The long sustained downhill back off this ridge really had these oldtimer’s knees and feet singing the blues. A brief stop at the aid station just to let my quads stop smoking, gulp some hot soup, and head back on single track for the last 10 miles and a full 50 mile run in 12:15. This was a good indication of the difference in trails between last year and this year because last year I finished just 11 min ahead of the 14 hour cutoff. It felt good to be done. Skipped the icy stream this night because it was dark and headed straight for the hot shower and back for red beans and rice, beer, and more tall tales. Then, it’s crawl into the back of the suburban (which wasn’t quite as easy as the previous night) and zonk.
The last day was a full 20k out the same water-filled trail as the day before with a little forest road tacked on which, of course, turned up. Turn around, wade through the waist-deep stream one more time, and head home. Finished this in 2:43 and received my official finisher’s beer glass. And damned proud to have it!
This is a tough challenge in a beautiful setting. If stage races are not your cup of tea then get your 25000′ of gain in one shot at the inaugural Syllamo 100 later this year. That’s just shy of Hardrock elevation, folks. The only problem is it conflicts with Cactus Rose, if you favor your local challenges.
Marshall was also there representin’ and I’m really hoping he geeked the course to see what our elevation gains were and includes in his report or blog posting. Lynn Harkey and Woody were there for HCTR and I’m anxious to hear what it’s like at the front of the pack.