Going into this race I was prepared, but this was also my first go at this distance. I had my go to nutrition, my go to gear, my race pace and strategy.We had put in all the work and it was showtime. Saturday Morning at 6am the race kicked off and I was ready to get moving. The temperature was perfect but the day showed an 80-100% chance of rain in the forecast and we knew it was coming.
The first couple of miles I settled in and started putting my plan to work. Every hill or climb we came to I would power hike (walk with a purpose) and I spent a lot of time training at this pace and could move at 15:30 to 17:00 pace with not much strain. When I came to the top of a climb headed to a downhill or a flat section I would run and I planned to run at a 9 to 10min pace. This effort would always seem easy but I knew it would be a long day and that’s how it needed to be.
I should mention that the majority of my training was with my older brother Matt and we had planned to run the race together as we trained on the same strategy and knew each other’s areas that we could push to keep moving and also could enjoy the company of another runner. In this race we picked up the company of another buddy Mark Riley and ended up running the entire race together.
We saw our crew at mile 16 and they had everything ready to go, like a Nascar pit crew. Luckily they had a tent setup as it started raining just as we arrived. Our crew had been out on the trails with us and knew exactly what we would want and had all of our food, fresh bottles and nutrition laid out and ready to go. We made quick work of this stop with fresh bottles and away we went.
The rain kept coming down and around mile 20 the sky just fell. Like the type of rain when you are driving on the road and you pull over because you cant see more than 5 feet in front of you. We were on two track jeep roads by now and the trails became rivers and in all the low spots there were ponds of shin to knee deep water and it was quickly becoming a muddy mess. We laughed about the rain kind of like kids playing in the rain but ultimately knew it would bring new challenges to the day. We continued with the plan hiking the hills and running the down hills and flats.
We talked strategy between each other and how we would take care of our feet as they were pruning up as we ran. Just before we came into our next crew point at mile 30 it stopped raining and we all agreed it was our chance to do a sock and shoe change and do our best to dry off our feet. The crew had everything setup as we rolled in. We went under the cover of the tent and plopped into our chairs and started working. Socks and shoes came off and started drying off the feet, they looked pretty pruny and white. With lots and lots of baby powder, fresh socks, fresh shoes, new bottles and refills on nutrition we headed back out onto the course.
We knew if it started raining again, as the sky still looked like rain, this all would be pointless but we had to try and save our feet. The heavy downpour stayed away and we kept moving. It would lightly shower then the clouds would go away and the hot and humid temps would come out and then it would switch back again, over and over.
I was looking forward to mile 48 as that’s when we would get to see the crew again, pick up our first pacer and get to see all the people hanging out at the powerline aid station. Mark, Matt and I slowly made our way there. We would stop at every aid station, refill our bottles with water, grab a quesadilla, some potatoes or watermelon and keep moving.
We showed up to Powerline and I was starting to feel the 48 miles in my legs.I had felt a hot spot on my right heel and when I came in I took my sock off to find a big blister that we popped and got it taped up to keep moving. I got my Hypervolt out and worked on my quads and put on a healthy dose of Bengay all over my legs, lots of squirrel nut butter to keep the chaffing at bay and away we went. We left this time with our first pacer, Shawn Wierick, who also happened to be our coach and we went back to running. He ran with us for 20 miles and he quickly started telling us how it was all going.
THE FATIGUE WAS AWFUL, THE QUADS SCREAMED AND YOU COULD FEEL EVERY STEP,
He gave us splits from other runners as if we were in a race. I love this, he told us how we were gaining time on our goal pace and that we looked strong and needed to keep moving. When we started getting close to the turnaround we waited to see the first runner coming back and counted how many people were in front of us. I said ok we can count the people but we can’t get all jacked up and throw the plan out the window. We counted 20 people in front of us before we made it to the turn around and now we knew where we sat.
We topped off our bottles, enjoyed a frozen towel to wipe down with and applied some more Bengay to the angry quads and back out we went. It was now time to slowly start reeling people back in. We passed 3 people before we made it back to powerline at mile 68.
Shawn brought us in and gave a report to our next pacer Zac who would be taking us to mile 86. Our crew and entire team was bringing all the excitement everytime we got to see them, they had the music going and made sure we got everything we needed. We worked on the quads some more and away we went with Zac.
Out of powerline on the way to the finish we had some climbing to do and it made the time take a little longer and It seemed like 3 miles before we got to run again. As we came to our first down hill of this section we took back off and the quads were angry. The soreness and fatigue was here to stay. Zac did a great job taking care of us and would fill our bottles, make sure we ate enough and kept us moving. We passed another 2 people in this section and this kept the spirits high. Our race plan was working, we hadn’t worn ourselves out by trying to run up the hill and in return we still had the energy to run on the flats and down hills and others were beginning to fade.
We made it to lake Winona at mile 86 and it was just after midnight and we had been running for 18 hours. The Legs were fried on the down hills but we could still hold our paces. Our crew again was on point and had the music on blast as we came up the hill to the crew spot, this lifted the spirits greatly. We worked on the quads some more, re applied some bengay and nut butter and got ready to go back out. I should note that our team did an amazing job not letting us hang out and we never spent more than 8 mins in a crew spot.
Our last section was paced by our buddy Daniel and he was in for a treat. From this spot it all seemed uphill and the legs didn’t have the power to really move as fast as we once did. I think he was all jacked up from all the hype of the race and we were trudging through the water and ponds, remember from earlier in the day, and heavy mud and not going anywhere in a hurry. We needed to make it to the next aid station at mile 91.3 and we thought most of the climbing would be over. This took forever. Every once in a while it would look like a place you could run and as soon as I got my overly tired, stiff, and hurting buddy moving we would come to another muddy pond of water and walk again. You could only see 5 or so feet due to the fog and we kept moving along. In this section we still managed to pass 2 or 3 more people.
We wrestled our way to the dirt road which was believed to be 2 miles before the finish but when we got there the ham radio operator told us we had only 2.8 miles to go. We started running but it was tough, the fatigue was awful, the quads screamed and you could feel it every step, your knees felt like that of a 90 year old and my feet seemed to have many blisters that I felt on every step. We ran for 5 mins then I walked for 1 min. It was so painful. We repeated this 2 times and on the third time we didn’t stop, we just kept running. I should mention our goal for this race was to finish right under 24 hours and we knew this was achievable if we stuck to the plan. Mark had run this race before and wanted to set a
new pr and run sub 22 hours and we were on pace for that but no one would say it out loud until we lost this goal in our last death march out of mile 86 to 91. As we kept running down the dirt road we hit asphalt and knew that ment 1 mile to go. But not before one last hill. We got to the bottom of the hill and power hiked to the top and for one last time we took back off running like the tin man and ran our way into the finish.
We finished in 22 Hours and 48 mins in 13th place well below our goal time and earned our colored belt buckle for the hundred mile race of the Arkansas Traveler. Our entire crew was there, all of our pacers, the two crew men, other brother Taylor and Freddie and our amazing wifes, Kara and Martha Marie, who had been there the entire time and watched as we absolutely destroyed our bodies all for the reason of proving that if you set your mind to a goal, put in the work to be ready and work your plan you can achieve virtually anything.
Heres some stats
- 188 signed up
- 45 DNS
- 139 Started the race
- 54 dropped during the race
- 85 Finished
- 100.3 miles
- 12,375 calories burned
- 12,380 FT of Elevation gained
- 192,000 Steps
- And memories to last a lifetime
Thanks to everyone for your help and support we couldn’t have done it without you.