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3 Days of Syllamo 2013 Results – Matt Pruitt and Meghan Hicks Earn Stage Race Wins in Arkansas Ozarks

Stage trail racing – An opportunity to challenge yourself in beautiful places within a supported environment across multiple days.

Stage trail racing – An opportunity to commune with the tribe across multiple days.

Stage trail racing – An opportunity to race one day and volunteer the next.

Stage trail racing – An opportunity to manage the little things before they become big things…and they can and often will become big things!

3 Days of Syllamo is just one of these opportunities that occurred in the middle of March in north central Arkansas within some beautifully wooded and varied terrain.

Photo: Courtesy Larry King

Photo: Courtesy Larry King

Day 1 – 50 km

Day 2 – 50 mile

Day 3 – 20 km

Yeah, it’s the real deal. Include unseasonably warm temperatures reaching 82F on Day 1 and 77F on Day 2, required extra attention to the little things to support those attempting the multi-race adventure.

Of course, we don’t sign up for this stuff because it’s necessarily easy. The challenge is one part of the lure. Challenge extended.


Photo: Courtesy Olga Valamova-King

Photo: Courtesy Olga Varlamova-King

[Note: All times and placings based off of preliminary results]

Day 1 – 50 km

The 50 km was a day where a number of runners from front-to-back picked up a few bonus miles. Then add on top of that temperatures bubbling into the low 80s, it became a tough physical and mental day for many involved.

To his surprise, Tennessee speedster, Matt Pruitt, was first to cross the day 1 finish line in 5:36:44.

Matt Pruit

Matt Pruitt surprised to arrive at the finish first. (Photo: Courtesy Olga Varlamova-King)

Robert Wehner of Wisconsin led the chase group for second.

Enjoy as Matt shares his thoughts on the 50 km.

“The story of Friday was “hot and lost.” I started out easy and worked my way through the field passing about seven guys as the mercury rose. I was happy to hear at the mile 19-ish aid station that I was in 4th and was only 2-3 minutes back from the two stage leaders (Ben and ?). Then I missed a turn off a dirt road and ran about 1.5 miles extra. In total I think I ran 2.5 miles extra that day. At that point, I thought I had blown the chance of competing in the overall stage race. I returned to where I had gone off course and proceeded to work my way back through the field of runners I had already passed to my former 4th place position. I suffered through the heat of the last hour with the Lumineer’s lyrics stuck in my head “keep your heaaaaaad up!” (this was helpful advice for staying on course) and finished in 5:36 – about 30-60 minutes later than expected. When my girlfriend told me I had won, I informed her that the other guys must have been so far ahead that they finished before she got there. Nick Lewis was standing there and confirmed her story, I had won. Now to be fair to RD Steve, the turn where I had gotten lost was marked and so was the turn where the leaders had gone off course. I was too overheated to celebrate so my friends carried me to the creek to be revived by Sylamore’s cold waters.”

Matt wanted to first finish the three days of racing, but also was interested in the overall win. On Matt’s top tread watch-list was Ben Creehan of Missouri. Ben finished the 50km in 5:46:11 after collecting a few bonus miles himself, 10 minutes back from Matt. Ben would tighten the turnover screws on day two in chase of the overall win.

Top 5 male (based off of preliminary results)

  1. Matt Pruitt (Breakaway Running) – 5:36:44
  2. Robert Wehner –  5:39:36
  3. Larry King – 5:40:16
  4. Damian Nathaniel – 5:40:51
  5. Corbin Freeman – 5:44:29
A common visit post-run. (Photo: Courtesy Olga Varlamova-King)

A common visit post-run. (Photo: Courtesy Olga Varlamova-King)

Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, was back for the second year in a row as part of her final prep for the seven day, 150 mile, Marathon des Sables stage race in Morocco.

What is Meghan’s approach to survive, manage, and even excel at the stage race format such as 3 Days of Syallamo?

“At a one-day event, you make decisions and behave in ways that let you run smart but arrive exhausted to the finish line, having used whatever you had to give that day. Stage races are about projecting farther into the future, making decisions and behaving in ways that allow you to run at least the same if not better than you are presently running over the course of the whole race. For example, not taking in enough calories during the 50km on Day 1 might cause you to run low on energy during the 50-mile on Day 2. Or, if you get blisters on Day 1 that you don’t address, they might be handicapping by Day 3. Another example, if you run too fast on Day 1, maybe by Day 3 you will have muscle fatigue/failure which slows you way down. As an aside, I love this about stage races, as they are runners’ outings and thinkers’ outings. The folks with the best combined speed and “smarts” will have the most success.”

Meghan would be the first female across the finish line on this relatively sultry day in 6:19:57, while wearing an extra bulky pack!

Meghan Hicks arriving at the finish with her MdS pack. (Photo: Courtesy Olga Varlamova-King)

Meghan Hicks arriving at the finish with her loaded pack. (Photo: Courtesy Olga Varlamova-King)

What’s the story with the pack?

“On Day 1 and Day 2 at Three Days, I carried a pack representing a similar weight to what I’ll have at the MdS in Morocco. Running with a pack changes your speed and biomechanics, and it increases your energy expenditure. It’s like gaining a bunch of weight overnight! So, it’s important to train with a pack if you’re going to race so far with a pack, and that was my goal at Three Days.”

Carol O’Hear earned runner-up honors.

Top 5 female

  1. Meghan Hicks (iRunFar) – 6:19:57
  2. Carol O’Hear – 6:54:09
  3. Teddi Schneider – 6:59:47
  4. Tina Johnson – 7:00:28
  5. Stacey Shaver-Matson – 7:15:01

Day 2 – 50 mile

The female race saw Olga Varlamova-King, mixing it up with the overall lead group of men in the early miles of the run before settling in on a pace she felt was more sustainable across the distance although she did “entertain the idea of keeping up with them.”

Olga felt strong on the day, feeling she could “run every uphill” and celebrated seeing her fast-footed husband, Larry, at various aid stations with the much appreciated core-cooling ice.

Olga feeling good! (Photo: Courtesy Larry King)

Olga feeling good! (Photo: Courtesy Larry King)

Olga went on to finish fourth overall on the day while jammin’ to ‘Eye of the Tiger’ (true) on her iPod and win the female race in 9:46:19!

This was Olga’s first go at the event and run on these trails. How would she describe them?

“Single track that drops and climbs (nothing too crazy, but non-stop) – it goes up to the ridge, runs along the ridge, drops to a little creek (pretty dry this year), repeat. Many called it “technical trails”, but they are not from Texas. It is slanted in many places, and the first/last maybe 10 miles are technical in terms of more of a hiking North East Coast trails, but the rest is easy. There is a good section of double-track and dirt road (about two miles each directions) after the aid station around mile 18 and also a mile or so before the first aid station. Beautiful. Fallen leaves cover the trail. Good mountain views. Nice.”

 Series runner, Carol O-Hear, finished 7th overall and second female in 10:18:14.

Top 5 female

  1. Olga Varlamova-King (Drymax) – 9:46:19
  2. Carol O’Hear – 10:18:14
  3. Dulcinea Groff – 10:33:00
  4. Teddi Schneider – 10:39:01
  5. Meghan Hicks (iRunFar) – 10:53:20

In the early going of the men’s race, both Ben Creehan and Robert Wehner, pulled away in the early miles as Matt Pruitt started very conservatively, hiking the hills…and eating. How about a can of tuna and a can of chicken – yep!

14 miles in, Matt was six minutes behind Ben and Robert, focused on being steady but not pushing the effort.

Speedster Nick Lewis cooking up food before lacing them up in the 20km scamper. (Photo: Courtesy Larry King)

Speedster, Nick Lewis, cooking up food for those going ultra before lacing them up in the 20km scamper. (Photo: Courtesy Olga Varlamova-King)

During the back-half of the scamper, Matt was gradually closing in on the two leaders.

A 50 mile trail run starts to become pretty real after moving through the 50 km mark and at mile 33, it got a little too real for Matt – the sound of rapid gunfire. And it was getting louder with each stride.

“I let out a few loud hollers just to let the plinker know I was around.”

With senses heightened, Matt became aware of Robert up ahead at the un-manned aid station. There was Ben’s name but nothing else.

“I noticed Ben hadn’t given anything away by writing his time down, just a scribbled name. This guy was in a hurry.”

Robert was out of go-jo and focused on just getting to the finish. Matt moved on to the chase.

Nine miles to go, Matt had closed the gap to three minutes.

Somewhere during these final miles Ben caught a glimpse of Matt (Matt didn’t see Ben) and surged to the finish for a 50 mile win in 8:46:20!

Six minutes later Matt crossed the finish in second.

Top 5 male

  1. Ben Creehan – 8:46:20
  2. Matt Pruitt (Breakaway Running) – 8:52:30
  3. Robert Wehner – 9:14:37
  4. Damian Nathaniel – 9:57:11
  5. Corbin Freeman – 10:05:28
What happens at Syllamo, stays at Syllamo. (Photo: Courtesy Larry King)

What happens at Syllamo, stays at Syllamo. (Photo: Courtesy Olga Varlamova-King)

20 km

Heading into the final race of the series was a 20 km scamper.

The fresh-footed speedster, Nick Lewis, flew through the course for a 1:42:14 win!

How would the series win play out?

Roughly three minutes separated Matt and Ben, with Matt holding the small overall time lead, this run was going to be tough.

“Ben is more aggressive than I am on the climbs so I knew this day would hurt. And he did make it hurt. He was flying”

Matt’s focus…be Ben’s shadow for 12 miles.

“We ran each step and I just marked him. The guy pushed the whole way, even throwing in a huge surge in the last half mile. We finished the three day race like a cross-country 5k.”

Matt and Ben would not be separated on this day. Matt went on to finish second, a few seconds in front of Ben.

“This was a really fun day to run harder and get to chat with Ben a bit since I had run so much of the three days alone. This guy was awesome to run with. Total class act.”

Top 5 male

  1. Nick Lewis – 1:42:14
  2. Matt Pruitt (Breakaway Running) – 1:52:21
  3. Ben Creehan – 1:52:24
  4. Gary Hamer – 1:52:50
  5. Jake Anderson – 1:54:32
Photo: Courtesy Larry King

Photo: Courtesy Olga Varlamova-King

Meghan Hicks took off the MdS pack for the 20km scamper and had to feel a little extra float in her stride. Meghan went on to lead all females across the finish in a time of 2:13:37.

Stephanie Knowlton led the chase group for the second place finish.

An experience like this often creates a number of strong memories. A couple of Meghan’s include the Arkansas terrain and one of its peaceful little inhabitants.

“The Ozark Mountains are beautiful, and very different from the western US where I live and mostly play. Rolling terrain, thick forest canopies, beautiful and highly runnable trails and trail substrates, and great overlooks/views every several miles along the trails. It’s Spring, so some of the trees have buds on them and the wildflowers are just starting to poke up.”

“I think armadillos are fantastic and the Ozarks of Arkansas is a great place to possibly spot one still alive, not as roadkill. ;)”

Top 5 female

  1. Meghan Hicks (iRunFar) – 2:13:37
  2. Stephanie Knowlton – 2:29:16
  3. Corina Miller – 2:30:52
  4. Angie Coleman – 2:32:01
  5. Jenny Wilkes – 2:32:10

3 Day Stage Race

Matt Pruitt had a little over a three minute overall time differential on Ben Creehan, to win the stage series in 16:21:35!

“My first goal was to finish so getting the finisher’s award as I crossed the line was a great moment.”

What did Matt think of his 3 Days of Syllamo experience?

“Billy Simpson described this race to me as a “trail running festival.” There’s some Ozark music. Many people camp. You may see the guy you were racing on Friday working an aid station on Saturday. Or you may see the guy who won the last two years sitting out and cooking for the whole crowd this year. (that did happen – Nick Lewis) It’s that festival atmosphere that makes 3 days so fun.”

Top 5 male

  1. Matt Pruitt (Breakaway Running) – 16:21:35
  2. Ben Creehan – 16:24:55
  3. Robert Wehner – 17:03:54
  4. Damian Nathaniel – 17:53:28
  5. Paul Schoenlaub – 18:58:56
Photo: Courtesy Larry King

Jay Danek and Brian Ricketts (Photo: Courtesy Olga Varlamova-King)

Meghan Hicks finished ninth overall in the series, with a female winning time of 19:25:54!

“The culture of Three Days is peaceful, warm, and so laid back. Race director Steve Kirk and his family create this feeling and then it’s perpetuated by almost everyone who attends. It feels like a social gathering rather than a race.”

Carol O’Hear rounded out the top 10 of the overall and second female of the series.

Top 5 female

  1. Meghan Hicks (iRunFar) – 19:26:54
  2. Carol O’Hear – 19:49:15
  3. Teddi Schneider – 20:22:50
  4. Tina Johnson – 21:26:48
  5. Stacey Shaver-Matson – 21:30:48

Complete preliminary results

The Tough-as-Nails Award

Melissa Linan finished the 3 day stage race in 24:56:03, earning our Tough As Nails award!

Enjoy at Melissa reflects on the three day adventure.

Day 1 – 3 words – Pain. Rugged. Beauty.

 The first day was extremely tough and hot! I thought to myself there is no way I can run 50 miles tomorrow. I remember being pretty miserable in the heat and during the climbs. However, the Ozarks are quite beautiful so I took in as much of that scenery to get my mind off of the discomfort.

What saved me on day 1 were the water crossings. When we got to the first one I was running with my friend Greg and I remember jumping in and oh my, was it refreshing! Then I thought I would be silly and try to splash Greg and I ended up slipping on a rock and going in waist deep. And if I recall there was a photographer laughing at me and yelling out, “I got that”. Can’t wait to see those pictures. The water crossing definitely got me out of my funk and helped me to energize and finish strong on day one.

Then it was off to the healing waters of the creek at base camp for a leg soak. Initially it was shockingly cold but then it felt AWESOME! That is a must do if you run 3 days of Syllamo!

Photo: Courtesy Larry King

Photo: Courtesy Larry King

Day 2 – Had the most climb. I thought if I can complete at least a marathon here I will be happy.

I ran super conservatively the first half through some amazing single track. Some sections of the trail were extremely rocky and others were completely covered by leaves (which made it difficult to know what was under foot). At one point on the trail I didn’t know which way to go, I was surrounded by boulders and a cliff? Turns out the trail went through two huge boulders…so wish I had my camera with me! That was really cool!

Again it was really hot but at the half-way point I felt like there was no turning back…I was doing this!

I don’t like running in the heat and it caught up to me. By the last eight miles of the race, I couldn’t keep anything down but continued (very slowly) forward until I finished. My awesome friends met me at the finish line with chicken broth and a sprite. Then it was off to the creek.

Day 3 – Woke up feeling awesome! This is it. I’m almost done. I think the first two miles were uphill. Probably ran too conservatively thinking there were going to be more big climbs. It was actually very mild compared to the previous two days.

Finished strong and was SO HAPPY to be done!

And guess what?? I can’t wait to go back next year! This time I will be better prepared.

Special thanks to Matt Pruitt, Meghan Hicks, Olga Varlamova-King, Melissa Linan, and Larry King for their gracious support with this article.

Check out the TALON Race Guide

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David –

About the author

David Hanenburg David Hanenburg is the passionate dirt-lovin' creator of Endurance Buzz and has been playing in the endurance sports world since 2000 after knockin' the dust off of his Trek 950 hardtail thanks to a friend asking to go ride some local dirt. In 2007 he ran his first ultra on the trails and fell in love with the sport and its people. For more information on David's endurance sports journey, check out the About page.

12 Responses to “3 Days of Syllamo 2013 Results – Matt Pruitt and Meghan Hicks Earn Stage Race Wins in Arkansas Ozarks”

  1. on 11 Apr 2013 at 2:23 pm olga

    I remember gunfire very well too, but somehow it didn’t bother me one bit. And you messed up photo credits! But we’re family, I’ll let him have more…:)

  2. on 11 Apr 2013 at 2:37 pm David Hanenburg

    Oops…email me credit updates and I can fix.

  3. on 12 Apr 2013 at 7:54 am Jonathan

    Already on my calendar for next year as prep for Miwok. Looks fun!

  4. on 12 Apr 2013 at 9:26 am David Hanenburg

    Jonathan – Cool dude! Any trail adventure coming up? Still entries available at Jemez. 🙂

  5. on 12 Apr 2013 at 9:35 am Jonathan

    No Jemez for me this year. I have the Big Sur Marathon end of this month, San Francisco Marathon in June, and the Knee Knacker in Vancouver in July. All are training runs for the Squamish 50 in Squamish, BC August 10th. I’m super stoked to get out of Texas for the summer.

  6. on 12 Apr 2013 at 10:07 am olga

    Jonathan, Squamish will be awesome, and so worth getting out!
    David, I’ve actually, despite things happened, being thinking about doing 3-day stage next year…shh, don’t tell Larry!

  7. on 12 Apr 2013 at 11:20 am David Hanenburg

    Looks like a fun schedule!! Heading north for a few days during the Texas summer – always a good idea. 🙂

    Olga – You better stay alert, Larry may have already signed up. 🙂

  8. on 12 Apr 2013 at 1:28 pm Jonathan

    Pure fun Dave! I’ll try to write something up about my summer in Vancouver. I think it would be cool to read about TALON runners stepping out of the region/comfort zone and the same races they do every year. Experiencing new places, people, and trails is well worth the experience.

  9. on 12 Apr 2013 at 1:37 pm David Hanenburg

    Jonathan – Absolutely! I have always been into sharing TALON runner adventures outside the region. The challenge is finding people interested in sharing. I will pencil you in… 😉

  10. on 12 Apr 2013 at 2:14 pm Brandon Ostrander


    Is that an Ultra Aspire running vest?
    If so, what kind and how do you like it?



  11. on 12 Apr 2013 at 4:11 pm olga

    Brandon, yes, it is, Surge, but I really want Spry because I don’t use the bladder anyway.

  12. on 12 Apr 2013 at 7:45 pm olga

    Oh, and I totally love it! 🙂 I was sponsored by Nathan as prt of Montrail team, and had used every one of those and liked them too, but Ultraspire (company is, by the way, originated by the same guy who started Nathan) is better thought of with straps locations, little pockets and sit better to the contour of the back.