This was my first year running the 3 days of Syllamo. I had been wanting to run it for a couple years and this was the year it worked out. The race is a 3 day stage race with a 50K on Friday, a 50 miler on Saturday and what they called a 22K on Sunday which was actually 14 miles. We headed down to Blanchard Springs near Mt. View, Arkansas on Thursday with our friends Dave and Jessica Wakefield. We hit the park where the race would start everyday and picked up my packet, then headed to the cabin we had rented for the weekend. Dave has been dealing with an injury for quite a while now, so he would be crewing for me and supporting me thru the races. It was nice to have my running buddy there for advice and support thru the race. The best thing was all 3 races were on different trails and we would get to see a lot of the Ozark National Forrest. I must say this was a great race and Steve Kirk (RD) puts on a great race with wonderful volunteers.
Day 1 50K
The first day started out great, nice running weather and clear skies. I wasn't really sure how hard to go out on the first day, but Dave had told me to stay up front and hang on the best I could. There were 75 runners in the stage on race morning and we were all ready to get going. The race started and 5 or 6 of us hung together for the first 4-5 miles. We chatted a little as we ran, feeling everything out and getting ready for someone to make a move. Soon Nick Lewis took to the lead and a few of us followed behind. I felt really good, but also knew there was a 50 miler tomorrow. I ran with Adam Dearing and Aaron Norman for a bit during the early miles before heading out and chasing Nick on my own. There were some great views on this course along the ridges overlooking the White River. Running single track trails thru the Forrest is really my thing, and it's what I enjoy the most. The miles came and went and I came into the aid stations grabbed some food, and new water bottles and back to the trails. I seen Dave and my wife twice during the 50K. I ran in second most of the day and really ran pretty well, maybe a little faster than I would have liked. But, only time would tell if I went out to hard on day on. I finished day one with a 4:36 50K with 7000ft gain in 2nd place stage. I would of took a 4:36 50K here any day.
Day 2 50 miles
This is where the fun starts.
After a hard 50K the day before, now you half to get up and run a hard 50 miler. I wasn't sure how this would all play out, I was a little sore and stiff the morning of the 50. The weather was great again today and we started at 6am. This course would be a 25 mile out and back on a different trail system. At 6am we were off on day 2 and 50 miles of single track trail. The pace started slow as we climbed out of the park right off the start. Once on top of the ridge the same pack as the day before held together for the first couple miles. After we hit the first aid station at mile 4 or so the pack thinned out and Nick Lewis again took the lead. I settled in behind Nick and was feeling good after loosening up in the first 5 miles. This was a beautiful section of the course running along the bluff with rock formation over head and the river down below. It was stunning, and the views were gorgeous, it would of been nice to stop and enjoy the scenery but we were in a race. My legs felt great considering and running was feeling really good. Mostly I just kept my head down and ran hard. I seen Jarret and Dave at a couple aid station and they had my new bottles and some food waiting for me. As I was approaching the turn around at mile 21 or 22 I ran right by a flag on the jeep road we were running on. I went a mile or so before running into another runner (who was running the 50 but not in the stage race) he thought we were lost and off course. I convinced him we were fine, I seen the flag a mile back or so and there was nowhere we could of got off. So we kept on truckin' finally we seen a highway and figured that was the aid station. When we got there there was no aid station and no flagging across the road. Yep, we were off course and that was a dagger in my heart. At the last aid station Dave had said I had put 14 min on everyone behind me, and now that 14 min was gone and I still had to get back to where we got off. We turned around and ran hard, looking for a marker or something. We got back a mile plus and ran into 4 other runners also off course. And as we kept running back we ran into other runners 7 of us total by the time we found where we got off. It was the place where I last seen a flag. The flag was tied around a tree right on the road, making one think you were to stay on the road. Upon further inspection we noticed the trail heading off the road. Let's just say this turn was poorly marked. We dragged some sticks across the road so others would not do the same. (however we heard later some people even went over our sticks down the road) By this time I was pissed, I ran about 4 extra miles and lost at least 30 min. That completely diminished my 14 min lead on those behind me and was now behind the 3rd and 4th place runners. They made the turn as both of them had ran this course in 2010 and were familiar with it. I ran stupid hard trying to get back the time I lost. Finally, I seen Dave he had come back down the trail some looking for me since the guys behind me came thru the aid station ahead of me. He knew I took a wrong turn. He kept telling me to stay calm I was only 7 min or so behind them. But I was pissed what should of been a comfortable lead on them was now a deficit. I rushed thru the last aid station and had 2 miles to the turn. Again, I was running really hard to make up ground and caught the 2 guys in 2nd and 3rd at the turn. I was a little pooped at this point and was trying to stay calm as I felt better getting back into 2nd. They stayed close till we made it back the 2 miles to the aid station. Again, I rushed thru the aid station and headed back out. One of the 2 behind me stayed close and eventually caught me. It was Adam Cassoday, he was running a good pace and I decided to just try and hang with him, plus it was nice having company at this point.
I stayed with Adam and we chatted about running and got to know each other. Adam, last year ran the entire Appalachian Trail averaging 40 miles a day for 2180 miles incredible. I had a blast running with him and we stayed together for 8 or so miles. It was then that I started cramping a bit and realized I had not been taking care of myself. I was so focused on getting back what I lost and staying with Adam, and having blown thru the last 2 aid stations I was boinking and cramping. I had let my fueling, fluid and salt intake slip and was now going to pay a price for it. I had to let Adam go and downed some salt caps, water and a couple PayDay's and a GU trying to get back on track. This was at mile 35 or so and the next 10 miles were miserable for me. I just couldn't go, my legs were dead and if I tried to run hard my legs would cramp. I did all the things runners do when things got to hell in a hand basket. I asked my self why the hell I do this to myself and generally just felt sorry for myself. I am really disappointed in my performance for this 10 miles, I let my emotions get the better of me and was just content with the minimal effort I was putting out. And a couple other runners got around me. In hindsight I was not in that bad of shape, just feeling sorry for myself and could of gave more effort for sure. When I hit the last aid station, my buddy Dave gave me a stern talking to, which I needed and told me to run the last 5 miles as hard as I could I couldn't afford to loose any more ground. I kicked it into high gear or as high a gear as I had, and made up a lot of ground over those last few miles, and got one of the runners back and could see another ahead. Now I was running like I should be, but why did I wait till 5 to go to screw my head back on. Anyway, finished the 50 miler in 9:36 and 4th place on the day. Again, a little disappointed with my performance for a 10 or so mile stretch in this race, should of finished 2nd on the day. Would of, should of, could of but didn't. Live and learn and I learned the hard way today.
Day 3 22K or 14 miler
The last day was rough, everything was stiff and sore and 14 miles seemed far. So I went into the race telling myself it was only 14 miles, and when I was done I could rest. Adam Cassoday, who was right behind me in 3rd place had an Achilles problem and drooped out of the last day. This made my last day a little easier. I was now comfortably locked into 2nd overall barring any catastrophe. We would run the entire 14 miles in the rain today. So I just went out and ran at as easy of pace as I could and not give up to much ground. Dave and Paul Scholenlaub had told me to go out as hard as I could the first 4 miles and that would loosen things up. We'll I thought they were crazy when we started out running up hill. I was running with Aaron Norman and my heart rate was soaring. But when we got to the top of the ridge, things settled down some, but my legs still felt rough. Aaron soon left me as he was still racing for position, and I was comfortable at just finishing out the day. Finally with about 5 miles to go I really started feeling better and was able to run the last 5 miles hard without to much discomfort. When I finally hit the road I was relieved to be done and glad to see the finish line. I finished the 14 miler in 2:07.
All said and done 3 days of racing 95 (plus 4 extra) total miles 26,000 feet of gain in a total time of 16:19.39. 2nd Place Overall and First place Male Masters. I really had a great time and this was one awesome race. I feel like I learned a ton about stage racing, and can't wait to go back next year and give it another go. Shout out to my buddy Dave and my son Jarret for crewing me in the 50K and 50 miler. And of course my wife for her continued support of my running. Thank you. Can't wait to go back again next year.