I asked Michael to do a write up on his race, he did it before on his running blog, but no longer keeps up with it…
2012 Arkansas Traveller
It all started about 5 months before the race. I developed a training plan and tried to adhere to it. I did pretty well with the exception of a couple weekend where we went to a wedding or had some kind of function that interfered with my training. The two tapering weeks before the race give you a chance to take a stock of what you have done and if you have done enough. I felt like my training had gone well. I felt healthy, my body felt strong and comfortable on my long runs. I never got in a run over the 50k mark during my training. However, I did manage to string together a slew of back to back weekend long runs. Two weeks before the Traveller I ran Bartlett Parks Ultra 50k and posted a PR of 4:58:13. My confidence for the 100 was high. However, there is always a doubt of whether or not I had done enough. Normally that doubt starts to reach a pinnacle the night before the race. This time I started thinking about it the Monday prior to the event. This made the week feel super long.
Claire & I drove to Arkansas on Friday. When we arrived, I weighed and checked in. We listened to the pre-race briefing by the RD’s Chrissy & Stan and indulged in the pasta dinner. You should have seen the plate of spaghetti that Claire took out. It began to lightning, thunder and pour down rain. We went back to the campsite and watched a movie in the car since it was raining. The night before the race I was actually able to go to sleep. This is a rare occurrence for me. Normally it is around 12 before I can go down. I woke up early the next morning and prepared my coffee. I then got all of my stuff together and we headed to the start.
Everyone was milling around and chit chatting prior to the start. It was not raining anymore, but there was still a chance throughout the day. I had purchased a new rain coat in preparation for this occurrence. Next thing you know, we were toeing the starting line and everyone was off. I cruised nice and easy for the first section of the race. I talked with several people as we made our way to the bacon and pancakes at the first aid station. The next section is the only single track of the course. It is very rocky and technical. I ran the majority of the section with a couple of crazy guys from Illinois. I love technical trail, so the time passed by here pretty quick. Next thing you know, I arrived at the first crew aid station, Lake Sylvia (16.4 miles, 9:00am). Claire was there with my chair and all of the items I asked her to bring to the stops. I felt pretty good and moved through the stop fairly quick. I ended up by myself so I decided to switch on the ipod. I had plenty of time to kill so I had downloaded a Stuart Woods book called Fresh Disasters. This is a series of books about the situations lawyer Stone Barrington get into. It’s kind of a “who done it” type series. As I listened, I noticed a flash of lighting. This was around 10:15am and to this point, the weather had been perfect. I had the view of 2 runners in front of me. We were on a fire road just at the top of the tree line. I counted the time between various strikes and the responding thunder. It went from 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and finally almost instantaneous. The rain started pouring down. I had on my new jacket and it kept me fairly dry. The rain was cold and I started to get soaked from water rolling in by my collar. I thought about stopping to seek cover, but there was really nowhere to stop and I had a ton of ground to cover. I figured if I got struck by lightning, one of the two people I could see would help me out. I rolled into the next aid station and stood under the tent while they refilled my bottle. I was off in the rain to make it to the next couple of stops. I was getting cold and my fingers were losing feeling on the tips. When I finally got to the next crew aid station (Lake Winona mile 31.9, 12:19am) and Claire was there with all of my stuff, I knew I needed more clothes. At this point, it had stopped raining but I was cold. I had a short sleeved shirt, long sleeved shirt, shorts and my rain jacket. I added a fleece vest under my rain coat, a hat, a beanie and gloves. It would rain on and off for the rest of the day. I was constantly adjusting my outfit for rain, wind, cold, heat or something. However, I was not cold anymore. I was deep into my book at this point and had accidentally stopped my watch around the 6:25:00 mark. I just said forget it and didn’t even keep track of the time anymore. I got into a zone of just logging miles and not thinking about it. The next thing you know, I had arrived at Powerline aid station and crew spot (mile 48.2, 4:05pm). My book had just ended and it had let me pass the time without my brain concentrating so hard on the run. This is the part of the race where I saw the leaders coming back at me. You also get to see your crew a lot over the next couple of hours. I left Powerline and headed to Copperhead Road aid station, where I saw Claire again. I started to feel really strong and decided to take advantage of the situation. I went out to the turnaround and started booking it back. I ran small uphill’s, jogged flats and hauled ass downhill. My book had ended and I had music on at this point. I started singing loudly as I made my wake back to Copperhead. I was feeling really good for the distance I had run. I had to turn on my flashlight for the last ¼ mile back into Copperhead. I arrived and told Claire that I was feeling great and going to be changing my shoes at Powerline and to have them ready. I continued to move pretty quickly. I had started passing people and had calculated my spot to be around 15th. I arrived at Powerline for the second time (mile 67.7, 8:35pm). Claire was there with my chair and all my other stuff. I changed into my second pair of shoes and took off. The next time I would see Claire was at Lake Winona. I still felt good and kept picking people off. My feet started to swell and had begun to rub on the tow box of my new shoes. I could feel blisters starting to form. I didn’t really have time to stop and take a look. I knew I would be changing shoes at Winona. Normally, this portion of the race is where I begin to get tired and start sleep running. This time, my brain was pretty alert and I was cruising with little degradation. Then, it slapped me in the face around mile 80ish. I started to get tired and noticed that I had started to slow down a little. I did get passed by two people and I started to take a better stock of what kind of shape my body was in. I was getting about 5.5 miles per hour when I rolled into Lake Winona for the second time (mile 83.9, 12:21am). Claire was there and I told her that I was starting to slow down, and it was going to take me a little while to make it to the end. The next time I saw her, I would be finished, if I could make it. I took off my shoes and socks and had two huge blisters on both big toes. I popped them with a safety pin and wrapped the toes in tape. I then changed into my tights and road shoes (mistake). This section of the race is the most difficult. There is a lot of uphill, erosion, puddles and football sized rocks. I started picking my way through each section and slowed to about 5 miles per hour. I ended up catching a passing several people including one of the people who passed me earlier. I was able to run the slight uphills at this point but couldn’t go downhill very fast. I started to walk more frequently. Then I kicked a rock around mile 88 or so. After various expletives which no one was there to hear and several minutes of walking, I could feel my heartbeat in my toe. I knew I had smacked it pretty hard. Then I reached the last official aid station (Pumpkin Patch mile 93.7, 3:25am), I started to do some trail math and decided that I could probably make it in under 23 hours if I hurried. This last section took forever. I had begun nodding off and was trying to keep it together for the last 6 miles. I came out onto the road with 2.3 miles to go and a long downhill, a short flat stretch and a steep uphill climb to the finish. I could barely run downhill because my quads were hurting so bad. I was running about 20 yards at a time and looking over my shoulder constantly. I didn’t want to be passed with only a couple miles left in the race. I never saw anyone but I kept turning and seeing the glow sticks marking the course. They kept tricking me into thinking they were people and giving me a little jolt to keep moving. I cut it close and came in at 22:59:33. That is my best time here by and hour. I also finished 10th out of 105 starters. I collected my sub-24 hour buckle and sat down for a minute. Claire decided she was not going to be able to sleep. She drove me to the showers at the campsite. After a feeble attempt at a shower, we loaded in the car. I had the back seats laid down and climbed into my sleeping bag. I stayed awake just long enough to get Claire to the interstate. Next thing I knew, we were back in Memphis. It seemed like I had my eyes closed for about 5 minutes.
Looking back on the event, I am still baffled. It is hard to believe that I made it that far in that amount of time. It was the culmination of a lot of time spent training, race experience and listening to my body. I was sore for about 2 days after the race. Now, my legs are recovering nicely. I can tell that I abused them a little but for the most part, they are fine. My toenail has turned black and will be coming off. I was talking with someone before the race and mentioned that I had never lost a toenail during a race. I knocked on wood and everything, but apparently it didn’t matter. Overall, I am pretty excited that I made it and I am proud to say that I did it.