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Sunday, November 11, 2012

2012 - Ozark Trail 100

On November 2nd, Michael and his friend J.D. headed out to participate in the 2012 Ozark Trail 100 mile Endurance Run.  I went along as an observer (and "crew" member).  What I learned was -- my son is pobsessed and J.D. is a really nice guy,  Both have running in their blood.  (An earlier post detailing the beginnings of the trip are here - - )

The Ozark Trail 100 Mile Endurance Run is a point-to-point 100 mile ultra-marathon on the Ozark Trail through the Mark Twain National Forest in south central Missouri.  The race is mostly on single track trail with several water crossings and approximately 12,000 to 15,000 feet of elevation gain. The trail surface varies from smooth dirt trail to moderately technical trail with lots of leaves covering the trail.  The pictures in the video below shows some bits and pieces of the terrain -- rocky, covered by leaves.  What can't be seen is the ups and downs of the weather - chilly at times, downright cold at others, and at times very dark in the wilderness
Friday, November 2, 2012 --
After driving from Cedar Rapids/Iowa City, eating lunch at Hermon, Mo., and heading into Cuba where we stayed for the evening -- we went to the run headquarters at Bass River Resort in Steelville, MO.
Saturday morning, November 3rd,2012 at 6:00 a.m. in the dark - and in the cold.  Michael headed out with long sleeves and shorts.  We were cold in our winter parkas.

We saw Michael off in the dark and then tried to find someplace for breakfast -- the restaurants were few and far between.  No amenities for us"> -- the area was too remote.  We finally ended up at a Subway shop, it was the best we could do.  Same with gas stations -- plan well or running out of gas would be a problem.  The landscape we saw during our drive through the Mark Twain National Forest was typical of the terrain encountered during the run.
The first aid station where we could meet the runners was at Sutton Bluff - 17.8 miles in to the run.  Michael went through 3 more aid stations before we could meet him. Several stream crossings - at least one waist deep.  At Brooks Creek - his feet were again an issue. Runners could have a pacer at this point, but Michael was running strong -- and J.D. had planned to join up when we meet Michael at the Hazel Creek Aid Station, at mile 68.3. At Hazel Creek, J.D. headed out as Michael's pacer.  This leg was problematic as the two of them veered off the trail and had to back track.  This leg of the run began at Hazel Creek, went through Pigeon Roost and I would meet them at Berryman Campground.Whereas Michael was about one hour ahead of the cut-off at each previous stop -- this next cut-off point would have him coming in with seconds to spare. J.D. helped Michael tend to his feet, and they were off again in minutes.  I headed to Henpeck Hollow to wait at the 96.3 mile mark.  They would go through Billy's Branch before heading to the Hollow.

Once at Henpeck Hollow - I waited for word that the two of them had left Billy's Branch. The ham radio operators were keeping track of who had checked in to Billy's Branch and who had checked out.  All the active runners had checked in and left the station.  Michael and J.D. were still on the course.  There was a lot of chatter on the air waves, a lot of speculation, and questions about what had happened.  #67 had been well ahead of other cut-offs (except for at Berryman Campground), and had appeared strong at all the aid stations -- now he was not in sight.  Officials were relieved to know that Michael had a pacer (J.D.) with him but they sent out a "sweeper" to spot them on the trail.  When they were spotted they were still 15 minutes from the Billy's Branch aid station.

It was well past the cut-off time of 10:00 CDT a.m. when run officials determined Michael would be pulled from the run - but he had to get to Billy's Branch (a non-crew accessible station).  The last hour or so must have been grueling -- and painful.  Officials at Henpeck Hollow suggested I go to Billy's Branch and meet them. When I arrived he was still on the way in.  Soon though the two of them, Michael and J.D., were spotted.  J.D.'s red shirt was easy to spot
-- the aid station crew had a dog at the station that joined in the "watch" as the two of them came in sight.  Michael looked strong when he came in - but it was clear that his feet were sore and would force him to pull the tab on the run.  After handing in his run tab - the shoes and wet socks came off.  His feet looked as if they had been in water for 24 hours -- wrinkled, soft, white, and sore.  But he had run the course to Billy's Branch -- just 10 miles short of the ultimate goal.  He had traveled ninety miles - quite a feat(pun intended). I don't even like driving that far.

Things I learned (or am very very glad that I already knew):

  1. Never leave home without food - -crews working other runs take note.  Sometimes the running segments won't allow you to drive far enough to get food for yourself.
  2. Take camp chairs -- although a cooler works well to keep food from getting crushed among the other gear and works pretty well as a "seat."
  3. Being part of the crew is "boring" while one is waiting so take along a great book to read.
  4. If the run will stretch through the night, take a flashlight for yourself -- the facilities are often away from the aid stations (and its very very dark in the woods).  
  5. And take blankets and pillows -- the runner will thank you when the run ends (and you will be glad you are a little comfortable until then.) 
And finally -- I learned that critical elements in my son's life is challenge, obstacles, and the chance to meet a goal -- not just any goal but an elusive ultimate goal.  Gee, it's no surprise that he is definitely the materialization of the clich√© -- no guts, no glory.  Now the question to ponder:  Is that why he became a SF guy or -- is being a SF guy the reason why he is so ultimate?  And what is  the excuse for all of the other runners?

Young readers who are interested in challenging their own endurance through ultimate sports might be interested in:
Ultimate Obstacle Race Training: Crush the World's Toughest Courses by Brett Stewart (Ulysses Press, 2012) -- its 144 pages long, and speaks of Spartan Race, Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, Savage Race and more.  The book details training, workouts, and step-by-step instructions.

If you are not interested in running -- you might try a psychological thriller by Nancy Werlin -- my favorite is Double Helix or a piece of historical fiction by Laurie Halse Anderson, such as Chains.  

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