Friday night before the race I rode to Mountain View, AR with my running buddy Shawn and some of his teammates on the Journeymen Racing team out of Memphis, TN. It was a really fun ride, and we stopped and got pizza (shocker!) at a little pizza chain in Wynne, AR. There were about nine of us. Some people I knew, and some I was just meeting for the first time. All good people and lots of fun. I had my Crossfit Handbook with me in case I got a chance to study so that generated some good conversation. I got to work a little bit on my “What is Crossfit” pitch. It still needs a little work.
We arrived at the race check in around 9:30 p.m. There were a few people there checking in. I was excited to get a new hoodie. It was brown this year. I’ve worn the blue one from last year out. It’s a nice item to get at a race since most of the time you just get a t-shirt. I checked in, signed my waiver and got my hoodie. We then headed out to the cabin that we were going to spend the night in. It was probably 20 minutes away from the starting line. We hung out for a little bit, blew up our air matresses, had a couple beers and went to bed about midnight (Way too late, but wasn’t much we could do about it).
I slept horrible. My air matress just wasn’t comfortable, and it was freezing in the cabin. I slept with my hoodie on and hood tied tight. After a couple hours (at the most) of sleep it was time to get up and start getting ready. Last year I was with my family, and not with a bunch of other runners. It’s funny to see everyone’s pre-race routine. We all have our own little quarks, and it’s interesting to see how everyone else gets ready. I picked up one HUGE protip while we were getting all of our stuff together from a great runner, Bobby Gallagher from Memphis. You can pin your Gu or other gels to your race belt with safety pins!! It’s genious, they just hang there like grenades ready for you to yank them off whenever you need them. Like this:
So, once we were all geared up and ready to go, we piled in the van and headed to the race start. We arrived at about 6:20 a.m. and the race was to start at 7am. It was a little chilly, but still not too chilly to run in shorts and short sleeves. I had a hat and gloves to wear until the race started and planned on just ditching those once we crossed the creek. I walked around and talked to a bunch of people until we had about 5 minutes left until the race started. This pre-race was completely different from last year. Last year I knew one guy (my running partner this year), and this year it felt like I knew everyone! Way better! I felt like I was running a race with two hundred friends. Pretty cool! So, 5 minutes until the race, I located my running partner that I would be running with and we got ready to go. Here’s a pic of me, Shawn, and Charles:
(I need a green shirt I guess)
3,2,1…we took off. I was running with my buddy Shawn McKinney. Shawn has a way of tricking me into running a lot faster than I think I’m going to. I’m not quite sure how he does it, and normally I don’t find out until the end of the run. I think he lies to me about what pace we’re running when I ask. I don’t have any of those fancy gadgets that give you all of that information so I have to ask. I need a sponsor to buy me some gear!! (HINT, HINT). Stuff is expensive…anyway, it was roughly 1.5 miles to the first creek crossing. People who run Sylamore for the first time always seem to be worried about that stupid creek crossing. I stressed out about it big time last year, but I knew this year that it wasn’t going to be a big deal. It didn’t seem like much time had passed when we came upon the first aid station. That’s what that creek crossing does for me, it takes my mind off the race for a few miles. I stopped to fill up my bottle while shawn politely waited for me. He had a camel back with 20 gallons of water in it or something so he was irritated whenever we had to stop. Hah! We pressed on.
I felt great, and was enjoying the scenery when I could as well as the hot chicken broth! (love that stuff) It wasn’t much longer before we started seeing other runners that had hit the turn around and were heading back. We knew a lot of them, so it was fun to give out high fives and encouragement as they passed. We arrived at the turnaround. What’s with that gnarly hill you have to run up to get to the aid station? Sheesh! Shawn’s wife and another girl from the Journeymen team were waiting at the aid station and took a couple of pics for us which was awesome!
After chatting for a bit, gulping down some chicken noodle soup and some other goodies, and filling up my bottle we took off to head back to the finish line! I still felt pretty good, but I could feel the fatigue coming in my legs. I was running out of Roctane (next time I’ll take more…experience) and trying to conserve it which was probably a bad idea. We made it to the next aid station at around 18 or 19 miles, and I knew I was probably going to be slowing down a little bit after this. I only had one gel left and about 11 miles left to run. I had been eating the gels a lot more regularly than I have in the past. This is the first race where I could actually feel when I needed to eat one. I guess I’m getting to know my body better during runs now which is good, but I needed some more fuel. I ate a little at this aid station, grabbed a couple of mini snickers bars, hit the bathroom and we headed back into the woods. It was only a little while later that I knew I needed to eat my last gel. I could feel my calves starting to complain. I ate my gel, and pressed on. Not too long after this, I lost my partner. I just couldn’t keep up the pace, and that was fine. I knew I had to run my own race and was going to try my best not to let that get to me. This positive feeling didn’t last very long.
If you’ve been following my very short racing career, you know that I blew up at the St. Jude Marathon in December. I finished that race at a respectable time, but it wasn’t anywhere near what I wanted to do. As I lost sight of Shawn, and it felt like he was putting some serious distance between us I started panicking. I could no longer see him, and I was starting to get really tired. I didn’t have anything to eat except those two little snickers bars I had grabbed earlier. They tasted SO good though! I finally made it to the last aid station. I knew I only had about 6 miles left. Not having a watch though, and being alone in the woods I had no way of knowing how far ahead Shawn had gotten. I knew he was probably going to reach our goal of 6 hours, so every corner I turned and every hill I walked I felt like I was adding 10 minutes on to my time. If I could just get to that damn creek! I was angry at myself. I had visions of crossing the finish line at 7 hours. Had I fallen that far behind? I just couldn’t know, so I gave it everything I had. Just kept moving and putting one foot in front of the other. I put the negative thoughts out of my mind and tried not to fall down. FINALLY, the creek! That lovely, stone cold creek! It felt SOOO good on my legs. I knew I couldn’t spend a lot of time in it so I got across as quickly as I could while still trying to let my legs take in that nice cold water as much as possible. I came out of the creek, and began what I knew was the final mile and a half of this race. It felt great to know I was going to finish. Even if I didn’t finish faster than last year, I knew I had ran pretty good and I didn’t get lost or DNF. So I got to that last hill that brings you up to the road to finish the race. It’s a big hill, and last year I attacked it! Not so much this year. I would say I “jogged” it, not “attacked” it this year! I came to the road and I could see off in the distance some other runners. Probably 5 or 6 of them. Where had these people come from? I couldn’t see them in the woods. Could one of those runners be my running partner? Had I not really fallen that far behind? Suddenly all of the bad thoughts were gone, and I was getting excited. I ran as fast as I could to the finish line (not very fast). I looked around for the clock, but there wasn’t one. I had no idea what my finish time was. I turned my bib slip in to the gal at the finish line and was asking “Where’s the clock? What was my time?!?! Come on people!” A guy standing behind me told me that I came across right at 6:03!!! I couldn’t believe it! Shawn had finished in 6:01 so he wasn’t that far ahead after all. I guess in the woods a couple of minutes can seem like a much longer time. My wife was there waiting for me at the finish line, and it was awesome to see her. I told her I couldn’t believe how well I did. 39 minutes better than last year. WOW! I couldn’t ask for better results. I can’t tell you how great it felt to know that I had indeed improved quite a bit over the last year. I’ve felt pretty discouraged since St. Jude, and really didn’t know what to expect out of this race. This was a huge boost to the ego, and further proof that my non-traditional training methods work. I talked to my wife for a little bit, had a workout shake and a beer then we went inside to have lunch.
Here I am coming across the finish line:
Here are Shawn and I after finishing:
The Journeymen team eating afterwards. Great group of athletes:
Lift Heavy Run Long!!
Some of the terrain on this course is pretty slippery and the rocks can be sharp. After last years 50 miler and Warrior Dash, my Salomon trail shoes where toast so I switched to Inov-8 X-Talons for a change. I’m still on the fence about them. My feet were pretty wrecked for the last few miles and after this race. I’m not sure if I should go back to the Salomons or continue to give these a shot. I’m not sure the Inov-8’s would be that great for a 50 miler. I carried about 7 or 8 Roctane gels with me of various flavors. Next time I’ll take more, but I love the ones with 2x caffeine! I wore a pair of SmartWool socks during the race, and SwiftWick compression immediately afterwards. No sleeves or compression during this one.
Of course I ran St. Jude in December. That’s 26.2, then I did an 11 mile run at Shelby Forest and a 20 mile run at Stanky Creek sometime in January. Other than that I didn’t run any. There may have been a 6 mile run on the street in there somewhere. I’ve really just been hitting the Crossfit MetCons really hard and have been enjoying doing that. I actually PR’d my back squat by 10 lbs and got to 300lbs, and my bench press went up to 185 from like 160 or something. I may add a little more mileage between now and Ouachita.