Arkansas Traveler 100 mile
Ouachita National Forest – Arkansas
October 7, 2017
Let me just start by saying that Arkansas has a lot of really cool bugs. Doing a 100 mile trail run you spend a lot of time looking down in order to avoid tripping over stuff. . . and also avoiding stepping on cool bugs and the odd toad. During the day I saw countless rather large daddy long-legs Also lots of toads. But at night it really got interesting. Lots of spider eyes reflecting back from the headlamp. Mostly some sort of brown spider (looked like Texas wolf spiders), but many of them also had sparkling/shimmering backs that upon a closer look turned out to be a whole bunch of baby spiders taking a ride on Mom’s back. And the shimmering?, all those tiny baby spider eyes looking up at us. Also saw lots of big brown spiders with black and white stripes down their backs. But then up ahead I saw two larger eyes shining back at us from behind a little rock, it was kind of peaking around the rock. . . cute. . . but what the heck is that? Turns out it was a baby tarantula, just a baby but still easily the largest spider I have ever seen, its leg span was probably 3 to 4 inches. A little while later my DD stops in her tracks and says, Dad look!!! a walking stick!!! It was literally a stick with legs slowly walking across the trail. I guess she was also a “sudden entomologist” like me. Saw a jumping spider on one of the low-water bridges, and a very large orange, black and yellow spider that was spinning a web at eye-level that I first saw when the light from my headlamp shined on it about a foot from my face. Quite the shocker. It was the coolest thing though, looked it up later, a marbled orb weaver. Although this may all sound creepy, it wasn’t at all, they were just trying to get out of our lights and let us pass without any trouble.
Oh yeah, about that 100 mile run. It’s one of the old-school 100 miles in the U.S. - this being its 27th annual running, and I wanted to do it because it was a 7 hour drive from the Houston area and therefore logistics would be relatively easy, no flights and rental cars. Then a month before the run a big surprise, a documentary film about the Mongol Derby, a 1000km horse race across the Mongolian Steppe, which features my DD quite prominently would be showing the day I would be finishing the hundred, at the nearby Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival. DD would be joining a panel discussion after the showing of the film, and of course DW and I wouldn’t miss it!!! What that also meant was. . . I’d now have crew and perhaps a pacer for part of the run. It turned out to be a cool family road trip unfortunately without our DS though; run, film festival and also our 38th wedding anniversary. (By the way for future reference, DW says she is planning our next anniversary, I can’t imagine why...)
I trained for this one in the summer heat and humidity of Houston, which really sucked, but would turn out to put me in a decent place for this run. It was going to be a hot and humid day and night. The morning was fine at about 68 deg, while others were concerned with the humidity it was nothing compared to Houston. So I started out at a very comfortable 10+ minute pace, reminding myself to keep it really slow. The first 9 miles went really smooth and easy on the dirt roads and jeep tracks, the moon was so bright I only used my light a few times when the tree cover was blocking the moonbeams. Then we hit the beautiful single track Ouachita trail for the next 7+ miles, my favorite part of the run. This 16 miles looped us back near the start/finish where DW and DD were waiting for me. I was on exactly 24 hour finish pace, I knew that was a little fast and that 27 or 28 hours would be more realistic considering the predicted heat. I was happy to see and hear later that my DW got in a really nice hike in the woods along the trail while she was waiting for me. DD slept while waiting. DD and DW were great to see at that time and after refilling my bottle I just gave DD my handheld to put with the other crew stuff they had.
The rest of the run would be 84 miles run entirely on various conditions of dirt/jeep track through the forest, 42 miles out, and 42 miles back the same way. Some of those jeep ‘roads’ looked like they hadn’t seen any traffic for many years though. I never saw another house, hut, or building except near the Lake Winona aid station. At the high points along the trek there were some really great views of the hillls and lakes that make up the beautiful Ouachita National Forest. Things went well, tried to keep things smooth, eating and drinking. I had set my GPS watch to beep at 1 hr and 20 min intervals and each time it went off I took a gel (Hammer Montana Huckleberry or PowerGel Tangerine) and an S-cap. I was only carrying one handheld bottle that I filled up at each aid station with water and ice. This formula works best for me and I only had one bad patch of nutrition/nausea related junk between miles 20 to 30. But this 20 to 30 mile event is very normal for me and happens each ultra I do, but this time no puking so I figured I was ahead of the game. After this bad patch I was relatively ok the rest of the way, and yes, I took about 20 gels thought the day/night.
I have to stop right here to say that the race organization, aid station folks, trail marking, just everything. . . was the absolute best. It’s no accident that this race has been around for 27 years, which the camaraderie and runner family vibe well proves. A few years back I had met two guys from Arkansas at Leadville and Hardrock, their names; Podog and JT. Podog is currently the head trail marker and JT is the aid station captain for the Powerline aid station at the Traveler. Podog is also a 10 time finisher and 3 time winner of the Traveler. I saw Podog at at least 6 or 7 aid stations during the run. You could tell he was just quietly monitoring the progression of the run making sure that the markings were good, which they were the whole way. I did tell him at one point that he had somehow forgotten to get rid of the rocks and they were starting to hurt my feet, he gave me some lame comment about hearing that some folks from Texas were attending the run and he didn’t want to spoil us. Later Podog also helped me out filing my bottles and stuff at Powerline outbound. JT was really great to see both outbound (mile 48) and inbound (mile 68) at Powerline. Although at check-in he told me that somehow he got “volunteered” to head up the aid station, it looked to me that he had continued the long-standing tradition of having that busy aid station running like a well-oiled machine.
As the morning turned to afternoon it started to get warm, but I kept up with the ice water and drank a full bottle between each of the many aid stations that were typically spaced about 4 miles apart, plus I drank a lot while at the aid stations themselves. I also grabbed a few ginger snaps or fig newtons on the way out that I’d eat while going down the trail. I had drop bags at Lake Winona (miles 32 & 84) and Powerline. I was in and out of aid stations as quickly as possible. Also to be noted, the aid station folks kept a close eye on the runner’s actions, engaging them in conversations, a subtle way to assess how the runners were doing in the heat, they were looking out for everyone. I few times I gave my number “113 as in 1+1=3”, just to mess with them. The other thing is they wrote down race numbers and split times at each aid station and the person checking the runners in would welcome me by name so the others at the station could hear and sometimes he’d mention that I came from Texas. At one point one of the guys asked with a smile if that was Texas math, but also seriously asked how I fared during the recent flooding down our way and was happy to hear that we came through ok. Again just a nice thing and gives you an idea of the nice Arkansas hospitality.
Over the first 45 to 50 miles I was slowly giving back the 24 hour pace, but I knew it was only a matter of time before the inevitable big slowdown would happen. I think the high temp hit 88 deg, someone said it was about 92 deg, but that was in the town some miles away. We had a breeze at times plus we had the forest the whole way and that really helped. I hit the 50 mile point in about 11:20. While I didn’t check at the time, this was about 30 minutes behind the 24 hr pace chart, I guess the second half which doesn’t redo the Ouachita trail part is a little more rolling and difficult than the first half so the pace chart allots for that, at least that’s the story I’m deluding myself with since I really slowed down later.
Unfortunately I steered my crew wrong when I plugged the aid station location into the car GPS and DW and DD missed me at Powerline outbound and Copperhead outbound. I was wondering where they were, but figured that they were having fun exploring the dirt roads of rural Arkansas, while hoping that they hadn’t gotten a flat tire. Due to their independent navigational skills they got back on track and in the end had just missed me at Copperhead outbound, but would simply wait for me to run the 5.7 miles down to the turnaround and then back up to Copperhead inbound (mile 64). My DD was going to pace me a bit at this point, but I figured that I’d just see them at Copperhead inbound. But in the back of my mind I was also thinking that DD would probably come down the hill and meet me while I was on the way up, which is what she did but I was only a little bit past the turnaround point when I heard a voice in the dark, “Hi Dad!!!”. Of course it was great to see her.
We met my DW back at Copperhead and Powerline, DD was supposed to let me go then but decided (probably because I was going so slowly) that she’d just continue on. So that’s what we did grinding away at the undulating rollers, walking the ups, slow running the downs. More ice, water, gels and S-caps through the night. Oh yeah, plus all of the fun bug encounters.
The big slowdown was now in full swing, I really couldn’t push too much more since the warm temps did take some toll earlier. I was wondering about the dnf rate because there didn’t seem to be a lot of people out there, but DD and I were still churning and moving so I wasn’t worried about the cutoff times at all. I should add that early on I didn’t run with other runners at all and when DD was pacing me we didn’t run with other runners either, there’s a lot of space between runners during a 100 miler with a relatively few number of runners.
Eventually at about mile 85 - 90 we fell quiet and watched the slow glow of the sunrise up ahead, marking our return to the Lake Silvia start/finish point. Then the last 5 or 6 miles seemed to take forever, but that’s the way it usually works. In the end we made it and the people lingering around the finish gave us a bit yell which was topped off by a short blast of this really cheesy music that just had to make you laugh. It was great finishing with DD, who ended up pacing me for about 50 miles!!! Best pacer ever!!! And having my DW there to greet us with open arms, despite our rather ripeness (did I mention that it was our anniversary weekend?), was priceless.
For the record, I ended up finishing with an official time of 27:18:37, and 45th place overall. There were 139 starters, 80 finishers, 9 unofficial finishers after the 30 hr cutoff, and 50 drops. Nearly half of those drops occurred at JT’s Powerline aid station. I later heard that the dnf rate was a little on the high side this year due to the heat.
Unfortunately we couldn’t stick around for the awards ceremony, because we had to get our DD to that screening of the Ivo Marloh directed “All the Wild Horses” and their discussion panel which was to start a few hours later at the Film Festival. Which was another whole amazing experience of the weekend, seeing a huge extremely beautiful, funny, poignant and professional documentary on the race across Mongolia with my DD’s own epic adventure included. Just incredible, especially after what the three of us just went through all night. You should try to see the documentary once it is finished with its festival run and out in public release.
Of course I did get the Traveler buckle.
Wow, some sort of record for you on the RR. Must be slow at work.
Luckily my DW is also an ultrarunner, so we've spent many anniversaries running. But for your DW, she's probably due to pick the next one. Happy wife ...
Sounds like a priceless weekend with your DD. First running 50 miles with her and then seeing her on the big screen. Let us know if it goes to Hulu or Netflix's. I was following her on those races in Mongolia. I still think she won that first one since it was the horses fault it had a high HR. Did she cramp up at all at the film festival?
Like the short first loop coming back to the start. That way you could change things early if they weren't right before the next 84 miles.
Did you see a lot of people on the out and back section? How fast was the winner? It might be a little demoralizing for some if the winner past you coming back and you had a long long way to the turn around. That doesn't bother me, but I know some who would really get worked up seeing how far ahead the leaders were.
Thanks for sharing, and congratulations. Sounds like you ran a smart race in the heat.
Well done. Great report. I have never been able to figure out why more of that course is not on the Ouachita Trail. Maybe it has something to do with wilderness areas.
AT: About the anniversary, it was sort of a running joke we had going, but in the end she will be planning the next one… My DD and I have run quite a bit together but this is the first time we went through the whole night, it was really great. I guess I saw everyone on the out-n-back at some point but I may have seen some in aid stations and not known they were going the opposite way. I did see the leader coming back I think it was when I was at mile 45 and he was at mile 71. He was really nice and we exchanged the typical ‘nice work’ kinda stuff. He’s a local guy who ended up killing it and finishing in 16:44, 2nd place was 2 hrs and 45 min behind him. I’ve done a bunch of out-n-backs and don’t mind seeing the leaders coming back. I’ll let you know when the film is available.
LB2: Not sure, but even through it was on jeep trek stuff, it was pretty rustic for the most part, lots of rocky bits. The parts of the Ouachita trail itself were nice, there were some very technical parts too. The trail part reminded me a lot of Pinhoti and some small parts of the better smooth stuff reminded me of Tussey MountainBack, but most of Traveler was in between, pretty rustic jeep treks with rocks.
Thanks for the report Sandy. I enjoyed the read and well you made it sound like no big deal to cover that 100 miles! More impressive to me is that you had the energy for the film festival a few hours after your finished. I would have been bushed but maybe you caught a catnap. Sort of an amazing co-incidence that the race your daughter was in was featured in a film festival right near your 100 mile race. So, where has the missus picked out for #39?!
In dog beers, I've only had one.
XT: Thanks. Actually I have to admit for this one I was very low key and had no pressure or time I was shooting for other than the cutoffs. Since it was going to be warm it also helped to take away any time goal pressures. So then it was a matter of not pushing, keeping 'good form', watching the footfalls, and most importantly doing the slow trickle of constantly eating and drinking. I did have some twinges of calf cramps and bottom of my foot cramps due to the heat, but it was the sort of thing where I could baby it for a while, drink more and it just sort of faded away. They came and went a few times but nothing serious. By the way, I ran the whole way with what you see in the finish photo, shorts, compression undershorts, shoes, socks, gaiters, and a handheld bottle (gels stuffed in the pouch). At night I added a headlamp and handheld light (better to see all the bugs). The only other thing is after I finished I realized that I had gotten one tiny blister about 1/4" in size on the ball of my right foot, that's it I didn't even feel it. It was the most chill 100 I have ever done. I think that helped with my ability to go to the movie afterwards. But make no mistake, I didn't go to the movie after-party and totally conked out Sunday night, next thing I knew light was coming into our hotel room on Monday morning.
It really was an amazing coincidence that film was being shown at a festival on the same weekend right near the run. I will say that my DD did ask if they could schedule the showing for Sunday night so she could run with me on Saturday night, not sure if that influenced anything, but in the end it worked out perfectly.
I have no idea about our #39, but I doubt running will be involved.
running under the BigSky
Sandy congrats on a very well run race! That certainly qualifies as a full weekend- holy crap
How cool to run with your daughter for 50 miles- I'm guessing the number of dads that can say that are probably can be counted on one hand
Also congrats on 38 years of marriage- a great milestone
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Congrats on a well run race, apparently all that TX heat training paid off. Sounds like lots of bugs down there. Either that or late night 100 mile hallucinations . Reading RRs from other areas always makes me want to run someplace other than PA.
Congratulations on your finish and how cool to run 50 miles with your daughter. The other night I had my head lamp on and it was reflecting sparkle on the ground and closer observation it was a spider. I didn't look close enough to see if it was babies. I am guessing it was your DW that got down on hands and feet to see that.
Le professeur de trail
What a life you guys lead! So cool. Thanks for sharing and this must be a PR for getting out the RR.
And while I don't have issues with spiders, your initial description of them had my skin crawling a bit!
My favorite day of the week is RUNday
Here's a copy of Devan's Pacer Report from TAUR on FB:
Working on the World's Worst Pacer Award!! ✌🏻
This weekend I had the luck to pace my dad (Sandy Horn) through his 9th 100 miler, Arkansas Traveler. He had an epic run and finished in 27 hours...despite his pacer.
Sticking to the plan: F-We had a plan to run together at mile 48 for 12 miles, and then the last 16 a few hours later. I figured that was my maximum fitness level. I ended up running the entire last 49 miles with him.
Dependability: F-We got lost getting to the 48 mile aid station and missed him. I had to chase him 5 miles before I caught up.
Keeping him focused: F- We could've possibly shaves 20 minutes off of our time, had we not stopped and looked at every single bug we found on trail. There are many bugs. We had many happy moments trying to identify them.
Strong Motivation: F-I wasn't in the best of shape to start, so we were both looking equally...desperate by the time we hit 90 miles. Instead of uplifting motivational chatter, it was just dead silence periodically punctuated with "fu%k".
Driving him crazy: A+He was insistent for 10 miles that he could hear aid stations, howling, or people coming up behind us, before I finally confessed that sometimes I sing really softly under my breath when I run.
16 hours of bonding time with your kid: A+
There's absolutely no better way to spend a Saturday night. We had so much fun at the race together, and he swears I didn't slow him down too much. The course is really great, and maybe one day we can switch jobs!
^ that's excellent; indeed a good sense of humor!
The owner of the orb weaver image requested the image be taken down.