Friday saw continuous rain throughout north-central Texas and Arkansas. During the night, the front moved through and brought a trail runner’s delight Saturday morning at Maumelle Park in western Little Rock, Arkansas, for the 22nd running of the Ouachita Trail 50. The day started in the high 40s with clear skies and a slight northerly breeze. Temps peaked out around 70F for the day.
A sold out event of 200 runners began their 50 mile or 50 km journey shortly after 6:00AM. A mostly out-and-back course that includes a few miles of rolling back-top before hopping on the Ouachita Trail that includes a mix of varied wooded and scenic terrain with one guarantee – rocks. Small, medium, and large, they were all there and they weren’t moving no matter how hard you kicked them.
One slight detour is included in the early outgoing miles – a 700 foot climb up and down Pinnacle mountain. Instead of a nice run-able or hike-able trail, it is more of a sadistic stair-stepper workout with each step being 2-3 feet high. With the sun gradually rising and showcasing the surrounding landscape, it was worth every step to enjoy the imagery from the top.
Former Arkansas resident (now Tennessee), Nick Lewis was back to defend his 2011 course record breaking run of 7:26:12 and had much bigger plans for this course. After winning the 3 Days of Syllamo (results summary) overall in early March, it was clear Nick had a good bit of fitness coming into OT but felt he needed to increase the jalapeno over the last month to be ready.
“I had sort of planned on hitting cruise control after recovering from 3 Days and going into Ouachita feeling really strong but that is definitely not how it worked out. I actually focused on doing shorter/faster stuff during the last month, trying to get my legs back under me.”
Nick set a solid pace early on with eventual 50 km winner and Tennessee athlete, Matt Pruitt.
“He [Matt Pruitt] wanted to be at/under 2:20 at the turnaround so I said “why not, let’s roll together” and we went for it hard from the start.”
Even for elites, it isn’t if something will happen but when. The art is being able to manage it. Around the first hour, Nick had to address an electrolyte imbalance.
“At a little over an hour into the race, I looked down and noticed my fingers were really swollen so I switched to drinking water and backed off my S!Cap intake. No clue what caused that, but I am glad I noticed it as early as I did.”
With the electrolyte issue stabilizing, Nick and Matt pushed a spicy tempo effort through the first 16 miles.
“It was a big help having someone to run with through Northshore for me and I think it really helped Matt to have someone to hold him back a bit on the way out but to also have a really solid line up/down Pinnacle. I felt totally relaxed through Northshore and we had I think one or two miles that were over 8:30, so we were cranking.”
Arriving at the 50 mile turnaround approximately 20 minutes faster than last year, confidence was blooming and Nick was ready for the push back to the finish at Maumelle park.
Feeling like a 6:45-6:50 finish was possible, Nick kept the effort high until his stomach rebelled 5.5 hours into the race.
“I took a gel and it refluxed on me. Then I tried to drink some water, same thing happened. The last thing you want happening at that point in a race is to start throwing up and lose your caloric bank, so I skipped a gel (I eat on the clock) to see if that would help. Unfortunately, same thing happened with the next one, so I started nibbling on a Shot Blok and didn’t even finish it by the end of the race. Once this episode started it seemed almost instantaneous that I began cramping up, so I really backed off the gas and went into survival mode to finish.”
Maintaining a solid turnover through the final 2.7 miles of rolling pavement, Nick crossed the line in a course record time of 7:06:04! Over twenty minutes faster than his effort from last year. What a run!
The race for second had some additional excitement between Texan Raymond Brintle and Tennessee runner, Feb Boswell. These two were separated by less than 90 seconds at the finish with Raymond earning second place honors.
Top 5 male
- Nick Lewis (TN) – 7:06:04 (*course record*)
- Raymond Brintle (TX) – 7:43:24
- Feb Boswell (TN) – 7:44:52
- Jake Anderson (TX) – 8:25:48
- PoDog Vogler (AR) – 8:33:54
For those not aware, Arkansas speedster, PoDog Vogler, is going after the slam this year. What did PoDog think of his OT finish?
“The race Saturday went really well for me. I generally have had problems on the return trip in the past, but Saturday I really felt pretty good all day…I was very happy with the result. In my training plan for the slam that I made in January, I wanted to run about 8:30, so I am right where I want to be.”
The female race saw 50 mile rookie, Emily Ansick, make the trip from Alabama and set a new course record of 8:49:48 and finished seventh overall! Emily came into the race waffling between run-to-win or run-to-finish. Her husband helped set the mood for this day.
“Since it was my first 50, my original goal was just to complete it. But of course he [Emily's husband] had other goals for me. He had looked up the record and was determined I could break it. ”
You would think someone going for the win would be all Type-A and ready to go…about an hour before the start. This is trail running and most in this tribe are fairly laid back…even the speedsters. Emily was still taking care of a rather important detail at the word “Go!”
“I was tying my shoe as Chrissy started the race.”
After a trip and swollen left hand around mile 15, Emily continued to push a solid effort before having to manage a low spot during the middle miles.
“Had a bonk between miles 24-36. During that time I really had to think about everything my family and friends sacrifice to allow me to train and race in order to keep me going. Oh and my knee was really hurting and kept buckling. So at mile 36 I changed shoes, took some Advil, and drank some delicious ginger ale and got my wings back.”
How did Emily feel about the event?
“Overall, great experience. Great crew. Well organized and wonderful volunteers.. Just warning for future runners… enjoy the first 47 miles because the last three take an eternity!”
Little Rock local, Deb Baker, knocked off over 45 minutes from her time last year to finish second in 10:45:58.
Deb felt stronger than last year and was hopeful for a better time but a special 26.2 mile run the weekend before made it a bit more uncertain.
“I have been doing a ton of hill work and knew I was stronger than last year. However, having just run Boston five days earlier, my legs were not fresh. I was a bit worried they would give out on me. After I got over Pinnacle I fell into a rhythm and just kept moving. It was such a fabulous day to be out there doing what we all love. Congratulations to Emily Ansick for setting a new course record! Spectacular run!”
Top 5 female
- Emily Ansick (AL) – 8:49:48 (*course record, 7th overall*)
- Deb Baker (AR) – 10:45:58
- Emily Conley (TN) – 11:13:55
- Sarah Miller (MS) – 12:03:18
- Tammy Walther (AR) – 12:37:14
Tennessee athlete, Stephanie Spurgat averaged a 10:42 pace to win the female race in 5:32:55. The dash for second included Arkansas athletes, Jessica Soroka and Natalie McBee, who were separated by 69 seconds separated the finish.
Jessica made her move 2.7 miles from the finish and it stuck as Natalie explains, “I wish I could say the race was a little tighter at the end but Jessica did a great job of making it up the final uphill coming out of the single track trail onto the road ahead of me.”
How did Natalie feel about the day’s adventure?
“All in all, my general feeling was I couldn’t have asked for a better day to do do a trail run.”
Top 5 female
- Stephanie Spurgat (TN) – 5:32:55
- Jessica Soroka (AR) – 5:50:42
- Natalie McBee (AR) – 5:51:51
- Katie Helms (AR) – 6:11:53
- Stephanie Stewart (AR) – 6:22:03
1:17 road marathoner Matt Pruitt of Tennessee, enjoyed the fast footed company of 50 mile winner Nick Lewis through the half way point of the race. On the return trip, Matt continued to push the effort with an interest in breaking the previous course record set by John Muir in 2008 in a time of 4:14:08.
Matt crossed the line, reducing the new course record by over three minutes in 4:10:54!
Charley Hogue and Thomas Chapin led the chase group similar to last year’s scamper. Once again Charley was able to create the separation for second place honors.
Thomas had this to share about the day, “I felt great all day. The weather was perfect and the trail was clear with good footing, which definitely showed in the fast times. And, this was the second year in a row that Charley left me in the dust.”
With the tightening of Charley and Thomas’s finish time difference, next year may come down to a sprint in the final 100 meters.
Top 5 male
- Matt Pruitt (TN) – 4:10:54 (*course record*)
- Charley Hogue (MO) – 4:21:28
- Thomas Chapin (AR) – 4:25:47
- Owen Bradley (AL) – 4:52:48
- Kyle McWilliams (AR) – 4:53:33
Check out some of the wisest finishers. I hope this stuff fires you up as much as it does me.
- Matt Varner (age 67 – MS), Dennis Baas (age 65 – AR), Nofal Musfy (age 70 – TX), Abdel Fustok (age 71 – TX), Jim Ingralls (age 67 – TX), Pete Ireland (age 71 – AR), Jeffrey Vieyra (age 65 – CA), and Eugene Bruckert (age 76 – IL) all 50k’d it!
Life is play. Play is life.
The Tough-as-Nails Award
The final finishers of an ultra distance event are some of the toughest athletes that are willing to stick with it to the best of their current ability and cross that darn finish line.
The Tough-as-Nails award recipients:
- Sammy Barnes (AR) finished the 50 mile in 12:52:24.
- Eugene Bruckert (IL) finished the 50 km in 11:47:45.
Race Reports and Pics
- “There was a stair case of sorts made out of rocks in the dirt that didn’t seem so bad coming down them. But when you approach them on the way back, there are only two possible explanations for their existence. 1) it WAS a full set of stairs, yet every other one got eroded/washed away OR 2) this was a hangout spot for Zeus, Hercules and Poseidon back in the day. I found out later on that #2 was in fact the correct answer.” by Tyler @ Going for more
- Arkansas Outside article - Includes link to photos atop Pinnacle.
- David’s 50km report
- More photos on the Endurance Buzz Facebook page
Talk some Dirt
- How was your adventure?
- What did you think of the Pinnacle climb? Was it tougher going up or down?
- What was your favorite section of the course?
Check out the TALON Race Guide
There are 150+ regional trail/ultra races in the TALON Race Guide. Be sure to check it out if you are looking for the most complete list of events in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. New events are always being added.
Be active – Feel the buzz!
David – EnduranceBuzz.com