Each bench along the trail looked so at peace. They faced the sparkling Lake Ouachita positioned besides the pine needle covered single-track within the Ouachita National Forest. To witness the changing seasons, the twinkling stars within the dark night-time hours, the majestic lightning storms, these benches must be the envy of the forest.
The entire Hanenburg tribe made the trip up to west central Arkansas for the LOViT 100 km located a short drive west of Hot Springs within the Ouachita National Forest. A new race by experienced RDs, Rachel and Dustin Speer. They have interest in turning this race into a 100 miler but I hope they keep some shorter distances as well. Too pretty of an area not to showcase it to more running folks.
The course basically consists of two different out-and-back segments with Crystal Springs Pavilion the central hub of action. The first out-and-back segment was 42-ish total miles with Hickory Nut “Mountain” waiting as the biggest challenge. The final out-and-back was 20-ish miles that took you up, down, and around Big Bear “Mountain”.
At 8:00 am, the intimate group of 34 runners headed out on some sweet pine needle covered single and double-wide trail within a forest of big pines. The sun was glimmering through the trees, the skies were clear, the temps were cool while standing still but once on the trail, it was darn near perfect conditions.
I positioned myself towards the back and in typical ultra fashion at the word “go!” I started walking. Ultra race starts are about as exciting as they come…assuming you lived in a cave…alone…your entire life up to this moment.
The trail gradually drifted to the right…then the left before beginning our first warm-up climb.
Early on, the trail reminded me of Tyler State Park back in Texas…on Viagra. Big pines. Sweet single-track. Longer climbs. All fun!
After the first couple miles we hopped on a forest service road for a couple miles to short-circuit some of the single-track and try to keep the race distance closer to 100 km (from what I heard from another runner).
In and out of the mile 4.25 aid station feeling like we haven’t even started yet. That’s a good thing.
Around this time, I chatted with fellow north Texan, Dat Le, who had twisted his ankle in the first couple miles. Tried to share some encouraging words before I slowly moved on down the trail.
My strategy for this race was pretty simple. Power-hike the uphill and run the flats and downhills…from the start. I didn’t feel my low mileage training supported much uphill running especially in the early miles. With 10 miles to go and I felt like Jack on the Titantic screaming “I am king of the world”, I would let myself roll with it but until then, it is all about 50+ miles of patience.
And then I started lactating!
The shirt fabric around my left nipple is this nice circular orb of moisture.
After some assessment, like realizing I have not recently given birth to a child, and I’m a dude…I realize my CamelBak bladder nipple (tucked in a Nathan pack) had one of those micro-leaks from a digger during some previous run or race.
So I guess it’s going to be a soggy left nipple kind of day.
After re-establishing my manhood, it was time for a nice climb up Hickory Nut Mountain. Step after step to the top and the mile 8.5 aid station. Beautiful views looking out over Lake Ouachita from up high.
And then an interesting aid station moment…The bananas at the aid station were still in a bundle and full size. I ask if I could have a bite size portion of one of the bananas. A very kind and wise gentleman pulls out his huge buck knife out of his pocket, flips open the blade…oh…big…shiny…and slices through the banana like it was warm butter.
Time to get moving.
Down the backside of Hickory Nut was a bit more exciting with loose leaf covered rocks densely populated in sections but overall a fun scamper down. This is also where I met up with a fun 3-pack of local Arkansas folks that included Deb Baker.
At the base of the descent, we all chatted for the next couple of miles. Banter about other local events including Ouachita Trail 50, Ouachita Switchbacks, and other running adventures.
Arrived at Tompkins Bend aid station (mile 17), feeling great. This was also the first time I would see the rest of the Hanenburg tribe. Or not. I looked around. Did a few 360s. I don’t see them. Looked at my watch and realized I am about 45 minutes ahead of the projected arrival time. Oops.
Back on the extremely enjoyable singletrack. No major climbs but not completely flat either. A really fun, kind of rhythmic flow to the trail. Plus some more scenic views of Lake Ouachita. With the mid-day sun, the water sparkled. At times it reminded me of Turquoise Lake in Leadville…but at 1000 feet instead of 10,000 feet.
The trail benches throughout this section smiled as I passed. They knew how good they had it.
This was also when I began to see runners on the return-trip back to Crystal Springs. Big Woots! to Greg Sisengrath and Jeremy Day as they glided along the trail. Jeremy mentioned Wendy was waiting at the turnaround. Cool!
I arrived at the mile 21 turnaround ready for a pack re-fill and a little cola. Wendy and I chatted a bit about how she found out I had beat her to the aid station and she was able to easily get to this one. Griffin was having fun at the water’s edge. After a couple minute break, I reloaded the legs and started the 21 mile journey back to where I had started.
Over the next four miles I felt like I was slowing a bit but was still running all the downhills and flats.
Said goodbye to the benches as I passed.
Back into Tompkins Bend aid station (mile 25) were I reloaded my fuel with some help from Dat and Byron Benoit, and a kiss from Wendy. On the way out of the aid station I enjoyed this giant homemade rice krispy / granola-coconut cereal bar. Soooo good. I never tried it in training and not sure how the stomach would handle a fry pan sized food item but the body smiled.
I was cruising along until about mile 30 and I hit my first low spot, a mile or so out from the grunt back up Hickory Nut Mountain. Ugh!
Things began to slow. I walked some of the flats.
Had to tell myself to stop thinking about 30+ more miles to go. Just get to the next aid station. The next aid station. The next aid station. That is your only goal.
The grunt up Hickory Nut…included a 30 second butt-plant on a fallen tree (1/3 the way up) and a 30 second sit on one of the nice benches (2/3 the way up) for a few moments to soak up the views as my body threw a couple virtual body blows and an upper cut.
Finally back into the Hickory Nut aid station at the top. This was one of those moments where I will either turn things around or it could get really, really ugly.
I probably took a 4-5 minute break and drank two cups of cola, a dill pickle, some banana bread, and some chips.
I walked out of the aid station with another cup of cola and within a quarter mile I was back running and I could feel the mojo progressively returning.
Into the mile 38 aid station and two more cups of cola, a couple minutes of sitting, and I was back down the trail.
Kept things groovin’ all the way back into Crystal Springs Aid Station (mile 42). Got a hug from Ainsley, and chatted with Wendy as I sat down and grabbed a few items from my drop bag. Shirt change and lights were the largest additions. Another magic homemade bar, more cola, and I was on my way out for the final 20 miles at 9:52 race clock time.
I was actually pretty excited and feeling good on the way out because I would get a few miles of running before needing to turn on my lights.
There were a number of creek/stream crossing through these early miles where we could hop across or walk on large boulders. If the water was up, these crossings would be a completely different experience.
Up, down, cruise along, up, down, cruise along. The trail had this very repetitive rhythm.
The next aid station was only 3.25 miles out and I arrived fairly quickly which required a rock balancing act across a little stream which added to the fun.
The next section was 7-ish miles before arriving at the turn-around aid station. When the body and mind gets used to that 3-4 miles between aid stations, seven miles feels more like 15 miles…at least on the outbound.
The sun had fully set. The skies were clear. The stars were seemingly on fire. So bright. So beautiful. It was one of the grateful-for-this-opportunity moments. Wow.
I also chatted briefly with Jeremy Day who had been struggling with some stomach issues for much of the day but was still cruising along in good spirits enjoying the night-time hours.
The trail along Big Bear Mountain was like a roller coaster. I road the coaster and gave what I had to, and took what I could. Simply accepting the terrain.
This section of trail also has some amazing views during the daylight hours (so I was told) and provides some spectacular lake views. I will need to get faster to enjoy those…maybe some motivation for a future year.
Midway through this seven mile out-bound section, the front-runners were making their way back to the finish. We all shared positive support to one another and tried not to blind anyone and send them off the ridge with our lights.
Hey, there’s Greg and Byron (pacing) on the return-leg….a few “Woots” to each other and I almost take a digger. Poetic.
It seemed to take forever to get to the Brady Mountain Rd turnaround aid station but it finally happened. My energy levels were getting low so I took a seat…and ate once again.
Two PB&J quarters
While walking out…
Two more PB&J quarters
Cup full of Ginger ale
Another rock hopping stream crossing to get back on the trail. My body flails while stepping on a loose rock but fortunately I don’t take a seat in the stream…but I did lose half of my Ginger-ale. Oh well, keep moving.
My energy levels start returning and I am back in a good run-hike rhythm dictated by the terrain.
And then I realize I forgot to put any water in my pack at the last aid station. OK. I had about four pulls from the pack available for the next seven miles so a bit of rationing was required.
Running on a path just traveled, seems so much shorter on the return trip…at least in the mind.
Into the last aid station with three miles to go. Talked briefly with CO-RD, Dustin Speer, who was helping at the aid station.
Coke and Ginger-ale…and maybe some PB&J.
A half mile later, I realized I still didn’t grab any water.
I keep things rollin’, dance across the streams, and arrive at the finish in 15:22 with a smile.
That was fun! A beautiful area and a great trail. If you dig flowing singletrack in a forest of pines, beautiful lake views, a few moderate climbs along with an abundance of smaller grade changes, this event is definitely worth a day of play.
A huge thanks to RDs Rachel and Dustin Speer, the gracious volunteers, and my family for all their support and making it an extra special day.
Be active – Feel the buzz!
David – EnduranceBuzz.com
Posted on 26 Feb 2014
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