Over the weekend Nov. 5th 2011, I had the opportunity to run the Ozark Trail 100 in the Mark Twain Forest in South Central Missouri. The entire race is run on the Ozark Trail and is a point to point race. This race was absolutely awesome, 100+ miles on single track trail thru the Mark Twain Forest is well, a trail runners dream. Paul and Stuart (the Race Directors) have a gem in this one, and I must say it will be hard not to go back and run this race every year. The aid stations were great the volunteers were great and the trail was awesome. I couldn't of asked for much more (other than maybe a few less leaves) in a race. We arrived on Thursday evening and shared a cabin with my friend Brad Bishop and some other runners. On Friday me and my lovely wife and son, set out to drive the course and find all the aid stations where she would crew me. The driving directions were awesome and we had no problem finding our way between aid stations. A couple times I got out and hiked back in on the trail and knew right away I was going to love running on this trail. Footing was going to somewhat sketchy as the trail was covered with leaves and all the obstacles were hidden by the millions and millions of leaves. It also appeared there would be very few flat sections as the trail was either going up or down some gradual climbs and some good ones also. After finding all the aid stations and driving the entire course, we headed back to the cabin and attended the pre-race dinner and meeting where we got our final race instructions. Then back to the cabin to get everything ready for the race in the morning. Not soon after that my friends Sherrie and Henry showed up. They were going to help crew me as Sherrie is eyeing her first attempt at 100 miles. She was also going to jump out there and pace me from Brooks Creek to Hazel Creek. Dave Wakefield was coming down Saturday to help crew and pace me from Hazel Creek to the finish. We loaded the crew vehicle got everything situated and settled in for the night. Race morning came early as it was a good 1 1/2 hour winding drive to the start line. We woke at 3am and was on our way by 4am to the starting line. I gave my crew all their final instructions on the long drive and couldn't wait to get running. We finally arrived about an hour before the start and stood around talking and doing some final preparations. We then headed to the start line and stood around chatting with other friends and runners. Finally Paul yelled out 5 minutes to the start. I shed my sweats donned my waist pack and water bottles, gave my wife a kiss and thanked my whole crew for coming out to help me. Paul counted us down from 10 and we were off at 6am sharp. We would run the first hour plus in the dark. I settled in the first mile or two in a really comfortable pace in the front of the pack and chatted with Brad and a couple other runners. Kyle Gibbs and Tommy Doias took the lead and a few of us other runners were close behind. The pace stayed really manageable in the dark as we were all feeling out the trail and getting used to running thru all the leaf cover. As the sun started to rise Tommy and I ran together for several miles and chatted like we had known each other forever. We came into the first aid station at Grasshopper Hollow (mile 8) together and I made a quick stop and headed back out. I was now running alone as Tommy made a longer stop than I, but he was not far behind and Kyle was not far in front of me. The miles came and went and I tried to keep myself in check and running easy. I mostly ran this section other than a few steeper climbs where I power hiked. Eventually I caught up to Kyle and we ran and chatted before arriving at Sutton Bluff (mile 17.6) aid station together. This would be the first time I would see my crew and they were ready for me when I arrived. Everything seemed to be going as planned and I arrived here right on time feeling good and relaxed at this point. A quick stop to shove down some food, grab my waist bottle pack with Powerade and my handheld with Nuun, I was in and out in no time. Me and Kyle left at the same time and headed up the road and back onto the Ozark Trail. Eventually Kyle took off and left me behind as it was to early in the race I felt to chase him as I wanted to keep in check until I seen my crew again at mile 43. From here I just ran easy, enjoyed the time running in the wilderness and really had a great time with the solitude of being alone on the trail. I hit the Stillwell Hollow(22.8) Johnson Hollow (28) and Gunstock Hollow (34.8) aid stations. Pausing only long enough to refill my bottles and grab some food to go. This was a long stretch, 25+ miles without seeing my crew and I was looking forward to seeing them again at Brooks Creek (43.5). I was really enjoying all this single track trail thru the Mark Twain Forest. The miles were easy running on such a great trail in the middle of nowhere. It was hard to enjoy all the scenery as if you looked up to long you were going down and the leaf cover did not help matters. This last stretch is where I made my only mistake of the day. I had crossed a road and never really thought much about it. But soon I thought to myself, I have not seen a trail marker for awhile, so I ran on looking for a marker. The trail had been marked really well to this point and seemed like I ran a mile without seeing a marker and I didn't remember seeing one when I crossed the road. This freaked me out so I was running and looking back also hoping to see an OT marker on a tree in the other direction. Finally I thought I was off course and turned around running hard to get back to find where I went off or find a trail marker. Eventually I ran into the 3rd place runner Tommy and he assured me I was on the right trail. Shit, I must have waisted 10 minutes looking for markers and ran back at least 1/2 mile till I ran into Tommy. Man was I pissed, I had let my paranoia get the best of me and I had wasted a lot of energy running the wrong way hard and again when I turned back around to make up time. Tommy stayed right on my ass, and we ran the last 1 1/2 miles together to Brooks Creek (43.5). Here I sat down for the first time, my wife and now Dave took care of me getting me new bottles and shoving as much food as they could down me. I put on a new dry shirt and picked up Sherrie to pace me thru this next stretch. Tommy left right behind us as we power hiked up out of the aid station. Sherrie and I would put some distance on Tommy going uphill and he would catch right back up to us on the downs. We did this for miles and finally on a long downhill he blasted by me like I was standing still. This took a little wind out of my sail after thinking I was lost and working extra hard and then have him fly by me. This is the only rough spot I would have all day, I wanted to run harder and stay with him but felt if I did at this point I would pay later as we were not even to the 1/2 way point yet. So I let Tommy go and just tried to be smooth and steady. Sherrie and I ran and power hiked all the hills in this section till we hit the Highway DD (51) aid station. When we arrived at Highway DD Tommy was there changing shoes and I got a little shot of adrenalin when we left the aid station in front of him. From here I was back to my old self and Sherrie did her damndest to keep up with me. But I was on a mission now and she told me to go get em and leave her behind. I kept up a good steady pace thru Martin Rd. (59.5) aid station. When I arrived Paul was there and told me how good I was doing although he said the leader was 40 or so minutes ahead of me now. So I pushed as hard as I could to get as much as I could in what light was left. I was hoping to get close to Hazel Creek (68.5) before it got dark. I was about 3 miles out when darkness set in. The only time I got my feet wet was in Hazel Cr. right before I arrived at the aid station (68.5). When I arrived I was absolutely starving and was needing to refuel and change into night clothes and shoes and socks. So while my crew went to work getting my shoes and socks off I shoved down a couple Turkey roll ups and 2 cups of Potato soup a Rice Crispy treat, a couple cookies some coke and grabbed a couple Nutella roll ups to go after I got on some warmer clothes. It seemed like I was there forever, but with my buddy Dave now pacing me he told me not to worry we would get it back when we got back on the trail. We headed back out on the Ozark Trail and Dave soon had me running again. After the extended stop, I had got the chills and was a little stiff when we left. Dave and I have ran hundreds and hundreds of miles together and kept telling me we were just on a nice easy training run. We ran everything runnable, running and chatting like we have done many times before. With Kyle still 40 or so ahead was all we could do was run steady and keep putting time on those behind us, and if Kyle hit a rough spot we would be there. I ran nice and steady thru this section to Machell Hollow (76.1). Then to Berryman Campground at mile 81.5. My crew was there again and shoved some food down me and informed me at Hazel Cr. the 3rd place runner was about 8 minutes behind me. I didn't waste any time I grabbed my new bottles and headed back out alone, while Dave refilled his pack. There was a short out and back section here to the aid station then back to the trail. I wanted to get back to the trail and out of sight before the 3rd place runner arrived. To no such luck I seen him coming down the trail as I was heading out. This lit a fire under my ass, and I put the hammer down. Dave had to work hard to catch back up to me. I was no longer worried about catching Kyle just putting more distance on those behind me. We worked hard running everything we could and even running some of the steeper hills. I just shut my brain off and told Dave to run and I would follow and that's what I did. We stopped briefly at Billy's Branch (88) where Deb Johnson was working the aid station and made me the best damn Cheese Quesedilla I ever ate. This was the fuel I needed to push to the finish. I was starting to get a little tunnel vision running at night thru all the leaves and I must of tumbled a 1/2 dozen times since darkness fell. But each time I would pop back up and run on. At times we were running what seemed to me at the time to be crazy fast for 90 miles into the race. I just kept thinking don't twist an ankle now your to close to the finish. The last aid station was Henpeck Hollow at mile 95, my Garmin was already 3 miles past 95 and we still weren't there. But I knew my Garmin had been off all day and we ran until we arrived to see my crew one last time. This stop was fast, I took 2 cookies and grabbed some food from the aid station. I took off my waist pack and took only a handheld for the last 7+miles. My crew gave me some big cheers as I left, and I told my wife I would see her soon at the finish line. I took off out of there like I was shot out of a cannon. I could smell the finish, and I was ready to get this thing done. We were flying and I thought we were going to fly into the finish. Little did I know we had 3 big climbs ahead of us before the finish. Dave had ran this race in the first year when they had 1 big climb at the end then 3 miles of gravel road to the finish. After the first climb Dave kept saying "we should hit the road soon" then we decsended and could see the river and Dave said I don't remember that. Then we started the second climb, and was all I wanted to do was run. But instead we had to climb. Soon we realized they had changed the course from the first year to take out the gravel road. It was what it was and we power hiked up and blasted down. The last climb was a killer like adding insult to injury, putting the 3 toughest climbs in the last 3 miles. But it was what it was and we attacked the last climb. Soon the final decent and we could see the finish, the closer I got the harder we ran. We popped out of the trail and had less than a 1/2 mile of gravel road and field to the finish. This last 1/2 mile was run at a sub 7 min pace I'm sure. Not bad after 100+ miles. I was elated to be at the finish, still feeling good and running like I was. I now had 2nd place and 1st masters runner in the bag. As soon as my wife and crew seen our headlamps coming they cheered me in. I finished in 20:20 2nd overall. My wife, son, Sherrie and Henry were all there congratulating me. It was a huge relief to get a good finish for me after my DNF at Blackhills. Paul congratulated me and told me I had one hell of a run. This was a great run for me and I felt like I got stronger as the run went on. This was the best I have ever felt at the end of a 100, and was really happy with my performance. Here is what my pacer posted on my Facebook page after the race.
David Wakefield "Nice race again brother! You were really digging deep from Berryman to the finish. Really impressed with your ability to get stronger and stronger the closer we got to the finish line. It's very rare for a pacer to not have to ask his runner to give him more during the closing miles. I don't think I asked you to run once the last 20 or so. I just ran and you followed without complaint. Very Impressive!!! I hope you realize how awesome that final 50km was. You did in the dark! Under those conditions with tired legs. What 80% of the rest of the ultra running population would consider a solid effort in the daylight!!!"
A huge thanks to my wife and crew babe, you did a flawless job and I can't thank you enough. Your support has been none short of amazing. Without your continued support none of this is possible. You allow me the time to train for these events and put up with all my craziness, from coming to find me when I take off on a 5-6 hour training run, to letting me go and run all night. Thank you honey you are my ROCK and I couldn't do it with out you.
Thanks to my son, Jarret for coming out and helping and taking pictures and video. Thanks to my good friend Sherrie and Henry for coming out and crewing for me. Henry for navigating my wife around in the Forest. Sherrie for pacing me. And last but not least, my best friend and training partner Dave Wakefield for all his support, encouragement and knowledge he has given me. For pushing me to a new level and for seeing potential in me I didn't even know I had. Thanks buddy, you have really helped me a ton, weather you want to admit it or not. I can't wait for you to get healed back up so we can resume our crazy training runs. And of course your wife Jess, who like mine puts up with all this craziness. Thank you Jessica! And finally to Paul and Stewart for all the time and effort for putting on this great race. 100+ miles point to point on some of the most awesome trails around. This is a trail runners dream and I will be back again and again.