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2015 Arkansas Traveller 100: Moments From the Trail

2015AT100sm

Glow sticks.

Miles and miles of spider eyes sparkling along the trail.

Ramen noodles, Hershey’s kisses, and the enjoyment of various refreshments at 3:00AM.

Sounds like the making of a heck of a Halloween party but this bash took place within the Ouachita National forest at the 25th annual Arkansas Traveller 100.

This trail lovin’ party was the largest in race history as 160 runners pinned on the bib race morning with a goal of running 100 miles within the 30 hour time limit. Include a small army of passionate volunteers, friends, family, crews, and weather that had nearly everyone smiling, it was a dandy weekend of creating memories in nature.

The tread in the men’s race this year had extra jalapeno with a handful 100 mile winners lacing them up. 32 year old, Wesley Hunt of Arkansas was back to defend his 2014 win and likely saw more than a few trail ghosts during the final miles on way to set a new Arkansas Traveller course record in 15:36:33. Wesley dropped over 22 minutes from his finish time last year to earn the men’s win for another year.

In her second 100 miler and Arkansas Traveller debut, 40 year old Alison Jumper displayed her keep-it-steady and smile-lots attitude on way to finish 7th overall and win the female race in 19:16:44. Alison’s finish was the 9th fastest in female race history.

Our final official Tough-As Nails finishers were 62 year old Leonard Martin and 53 year old Vincent Swensen who finished with less than six minutes of wiggle room before the 30 hour cut-off.

Something I love about this sport is the diverse age range that comes together to play. From what I can tell, ages 23 to 73 laced them up. Love that. And our 73 year old, Maurice Robinson, completed the entire 100 mile distance but just missed the 30 hour mark by 12-ish minutes.

And something else I love is sharing our athletes Moment from the Trail.

So I asked a few runners:

Could you share the detailed story of ONE specific moment during your Arkansas Traveller 100 adventure that made a special imprint on you?

Enjoy their responses below.


Wesley Hunt (AR) – 15:36:33

wesleyh_at10015

“Stay present, stay focused, do your best.” Running mantras work for 100s too.

My oldest son, Max, who is seven, has given me the same race day advice three years in a row: “Daddy, start off slow, and when other runners get tired near the end, blast by them!” Max’s strategy is sound, but it’s hard to execute because of the emotion that’s involved in racing ultras…and racing in general. Despite running most of this year’s Traveller – the 25th Anniversary – alone, I was able to stay present and run my best race.

I ran alone in the lead through Mile 35, near the outbound Pig Trail Aid Station, where I was passed by Hal Koerner. Continuing to run alone, now in second, through Mile 69, I chased down Hal to reclaim the lead that I never relinquished. When I made contact, I pounced on the opportunity to surge ahead. Digging deep, I gave everything that I had and embraced the pain. After all, running in pain and running joyfully are not mutually exclusive endeavors.

Credit: Paul Becker

Credit: Paul Becker

Regaining the lead was a significant and powerful moment for me, but it is not the moment that made a special imprint on me. Rather, it was a series of moments during the 10-mile stretch along the rolling Forest Service Road hills between the Turnaround at Mile 58 and the inbound Powerline Aid Station at Mile 68. During this stretch, I made up 16 minutes on Hal.

It started with the look in Hal’s eyes. He was human. He was kind. He was encouraging. Hal wanted me to do my best, even if it was at the expense of his 15th 100M victory. The exchange with Hal renewed my confidence, which admittedly had waned, and what happened next was even more uplifting. After the Turnaround, there was a flux of oncoming runners shouting encouragement, providing splits, offering high fives and fist bumps. I will never forget the support of these runners, a few of whom I recognized, but mostly nameless faces of tenacity and will. Around this time, I also crossed paths with co-race director Stan Ferguson, who offered a big smile and a high five in a cloud of dust. I couldn’t resist shouting, “Are we having fun yet!?”, to which Stan replied, “I hope you are.”


Steven Moore (TX) – 16:44:32

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Around mile 20 I had just seen my crew for the first time at the Lake Sylvia aid station and I was six minutes slower than my estimated time there. Even though I was pretty quick through the aid station I lost sight of the runner in front of me as soon as I got back on trail. Those both sound like negative bullet points but I was quite happy with it all. The road climbed gently up for this entire segment and all I could think about was how great is was going to be in 12 or so hours running back the other way. For a while I even convinced myself that if I leaned forward just right and fell into the hill it seemed like I was running downhill going uphill! It wasn’t long before I passed a guy and claimed the forth spot. At that point I knew my plan was working and my day would end up fine. I was running to run and not worrying about anything more than staying steady for the long haul. I really enjoyed letting my mind wander while my legs did the work.


Tammy Walther (AR) – 23:38:07

Credit: Sheldon Smith

Credit: Sheldon Smith

What really was my inspirational running muse? My brainchild or inner-push that maintained my existence, focus and force when racing the AT100 or any 100-miler for that matter? Since my first attempt at this challenging race in 2008, which was also my first attempt and finish at the 100-mile distance, I haven’t missed a year and may even find myself looking forward to October as this is the month in which the race always falls. Perhaps it’s the race being in my home state or my comfort with the people and the genuine runner support that is apparent from the pre-race traditions to the last racer crossing the finish line? Maybe it’s a familiarity with the course and my ability to foresee weaknesses and welcome strengths? Or could it be the competition, that runner just a few steps behind me or the one I can make out ahead but can’t touch-in the distance there’s a headlight…but then it’s gone.

After being asked to write about my inspiration on the AT100 course this year, I questioned the ideas and honesty to my response and thoughts? Had I ever truly dug deep enough to discover what my fascination with running 100 miles really was? Had I ever really been honest about my inspirations on these courses? I thought about the positive emotion that I felt when finishing in a certain goal time. I acknowledged that many times those positive feelings shifted to negative as the pressure to retain a certain status or produce a better or similar race result became-well-overwhelming. With all this personal analysis, I came to a worthy conclusion: an understanding of my AT100 inspiration and a respect for my ability to discover that it was really my very own inner spirit, my core psyche that was my true fire on this 100-mile course. Keeping my head in the race, remaining positive and staying connected, all despite the ups and downs of the race were ultimately geared to my inner drive, the cell that captured my desire to finish. Managing my emotions, modifying and adjusting during weaknesses, and pushing consistently during strengths would ultimately lead to a finish with deserving results. My ability to do so was directly linked to my inner drive. It was the necessity for my ability to prepare and react–be it training, nutrition, taking time to regroup, self-reinforcement, maintaining calamity, or finishing with humility. I seemed to have found my essential inside nature to be the meat of my inspirational running muse.

But my muse needed fuel, and the AT100 is known for its passionate runner support that’s better than any I have ever experienced. I was 100 percent assured that even with the strongest of inner drive, a finish just wouldn’t be possible on this course without the personal grace that always accompanies the race support and organization. Having run ultras spanning from California to Vermont to the Florida Keys, the support and organization at the AT100 never ceases to amaze. This year was no different. As soon as I entered an aid station, volunteers were asking me what I wanted or how they could help. Being a solo runner, I couldn’t have asked for more. Shutting off everything else, volunteers stayed committed on race day in helping me achieve my goals to the end. They were my fuel.

Finding my own inner drive to be my fire and the race support to be my fuel, I concluded that coupling the two was how I earned my eighth buckle on the AT100. My inspiration. It was also an enlightenment that I could use in many facets of my life–professional and personal. Understanding that my success in whatever I was trying to achieve heavily relied on my inner drive, and keeping that drive positive, honest, and humble was my greatest asset. Prepared. On to the next with God speed.


Lisa Gunnoe (AR) – 32:00:37

lisagunnoe_at100

My family being”out there” has to be one of the highlights of my life! Kim and Chris, daughter and husband, aren’t runners, they don’t understand this epic ultra thing we do. This lack of understanding makes their support a true gift from the heart. There has only been a few times I have had the privilege of having family at the finish line, on the course or any such thing. It was a fabulous lift of spirits to see them twice, outbound and back.

My family and friends run the Pumpkin Patch Aid Station at miles 22.1 outbound and 93.7 inbound. Chris agreed to keep the aid station responsibilities in the family for this year.

They spent the duration of the race near the HAM radio operators listening for news of #100 making it through the next cut off, the last of these awful beasts being at Electronic Tower, mile 91.4 at 10:15AM Sunday morning. I made it through that last cut off by four minutes.

Elaine Gimblet, my pacer, and I hobbled our way down the mountain to thehe Pumpkin Patch. My family was waiting for me out on the road. Seeing them, hearing their cheers of joy and relief brought a flood of every emotion I had kept reined in tight throughout the earlier 30 hours of barely making those time limits. My heart soared as I heard the voices I love most cheering me in, crying with me, laughing with me and then telling me to get my butt out of the aid station. It was a roller coaster ride of the heart for sure from complete desperation to jubilation as I hugged and hung on to those precious anchors for dear life. It was hard not to show distress, as if being at mile 93 in and of itself doesn’t show distress, when Chris happily kicked me out of the aid station with pie and a smile. I hope they will let me do it again next year!


Deb Baker (AR) – 26:04:51

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Credit: Sheldon Smith

The night before the Traveller, all that I could think about was my DNF from last year, and how I was not going to make those same mistakes again. It was all about crossing that finish line, no matter what. That was the goal. It meant everything to me.

So, not only did I finish the Traveller, I finished with a PR! It was a very special, emotional finish which I will never forget. You would think this would be the one moment that made the biggest imprint on me during those 26 hours. Sometimes though, it’s the smaller moments.

It was somewhere around mile 38 that I would be blessed with an amazing and unforgettable experience. I had been running along with a training buddy of mine, both of us a bit in our own little world. We would talk some, then I would move ahead, then he would catch up, then he would pull ahead. It was nice to have someone to chat with, but the last time he pulled ahead, I decided to stay back, turn on some music, and slow the pace a bit.

At this point in the day it was really sunny and a bit warm. I remember feeling very peaceful and relaxed, enjoying the moment. When I flipped on my music “Sky Full of Stars” by Coldplay came on and I immediately turned up the volume. I really love that song. What happened next was as unexpected as it was magical. People from my life who had passed away started coming back to me, and one by one, they were giving me messages of love and encouragement. They were telling me to remain strong, keep looking up! Some faces would just send me a smile. Friends and relatives that meant so much to me were becoming one with me bringing back so many memories.

Tears were rolling down my face, but I was not sad. I was overwhelmed. One by one, I was being visited by the people who had once been an important part of my life. It really was a mind blowing experience. As the song came to an end, I was brought back to where I was and the task at hand. I remember stopping to walk up a hill and seeing my friend just up ahead. I knew I had to get focused and move along if I wanted to finish. I wanted that finish so badly. I clearly remember the next thought that I had. If for some reason I did not finish, this one moment of being back again with my friends and loved ones would had been enough. Nothing else needed. It was that real and incredible to me.


Chrissy Ferguson (AR) – 28:49:40

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82 miles into the Traveller my Pacer Austin Mader and I were climbing the last big hill before descending into Lake Winona Aid Station (84 miles). As we climbed the hill I was having a really hard time staying awake, I kept veering off to the right side of the forest service road toward a ditch. Austin would have to grab me by my arm and pull me back to the middle of the road. I finally did nod off long enough to dropped my flash light. It scared me so bad, it make it easier to stay somewhat awake to Winona. At the aid station I drank two or three cups of Mountain Dew, plus the sun was starting to rise. I had the feeling of being “reborn”, that’s the only way I can explain how I felt.


Beth Collins (TX) – 26:16:54

I signed up for Arkansas Traveller because I needed an entry for Western States. I had zero expectations except to keep my eye on the prize and finish. The weather gods were good to us and delivered a beautiful, sunny skies October day. I was happy and anxious to start the journey. I knew exactly what I needed to do and was ready to execute. I kept my thoughts happy and was maintaining my fuel. This certainly was ‘good time running!’

Around mile 43, leading up to Power Line, I hit my first low. I was frustrated because it wasn’t a very runnable section and I was getting tired of averting rocks. I felt my focus slipping and the negative thoughts started creeping in. It’s amazing how much energy you waste with negative emotions. I had never really taken the time to recognize in the moment, the correlation between the mind and the body. With every negative thought, came an extra ache in my body…shoulders slump, head hangs low. Now I’m getting frustrated with myself for letting the negative thoughts creep in. Keep your eye on the prize. Just keep moving!

And then I see Hal Koerner heading towards me on his way to the finish. I LOVE him! I quickly had to stop feeling sorry for myself and focus on what the hell do you say to Hal Koerner during a race? I mean I can’t say too much because he’s racing and focused. And my lord I certainly don’t want to cause him to trip on one of these stupid rocks!

As he’s getting closer, I start to really see him and his body language tells me it’s best to just say “hi.” In that moment, I realized that we are all in pain, we are all tired, we are all fighting to finish. The understanding that we are ALL fighting has changed everything. Somehow it made the journey feel less lonely. It sounds silly to be making that connection after running so many ultras, but hey, this is a process! I beat my first 100 mile finish by 1.5 hours on a much more technical trail. The mind is powerful. Run happy my friends!


Ryan Williams (TX) – 22:35:50

ryanw_at100

My AT100 “moment” came at mile 48, at the outbound Powerline aid station when I picked up my pacer, who also happens to be girlfriend and the most amazing person in my life. Seeing her face and knowing that we were going to spend the next 52 miles together brought a sense of calm to my mind and body. AT100 was my third 100 miler and this was her third time to pace me for 40+ miles.

From that moment forward we would spend some amazing miles together talking about life, friends, and travel. Every step of the way she was there for me. When I began puking at miles 60 and 70, she was by my side to steady me and confirm that I wasn’t really seeing a bearskin rug or an albino turtle moving faster than me at mile 85. Without her help I would still be out wandering the woods of Arkansas trying to find my way to the finish line.

ryanw_at100a


Stacey Shaver-Matson (AR) – 23:02:58

staceysm_at100

Credit: Sheldon Smith

There were several great memories made at the Arkansas Traveller this year but the one moment that stands out, that one moment that I wish I had more than just the snapshot in my mind, is one that brings the “It Takes A Village” quote to mind.

Powerline Aid station has always been one of the biggest and most crowded aid stations on the course. This is the aid station where crew, family, and other spectators sit for hours as they get to see their runner twice. Once as runners make their way through at mile 48 going to the Turn Around and a second time at mile 68.

In years past, there have been people lined up on both sides of the road as you enter and exit the aid station all cheering and doing their best to make every runner feel special. Also in years past, pacers were allowed into the aid station to get their runners drop box so that they can have everything gathered and ready to go, leaving very little left to do when the runner enters the aid station. This year was quite a different story.

I imagine with the increase in field size there was worry and concern about this particular aid station becoming overcrowded, hard to control, and difficult to focus on the runners. Not knowing there were big changes I had a mini panic attack as I entered. I came running in, slowing slightly as I take my Orange Mud pack off, and look around for my family and my pacer.

All I saw were volunteers and a modest sized crowd of people off in the distance. I love the volunteers and am generally very happy to see them but my heart sank when I entered their station. “Ok, Stacey, you can do this. No pacer, No big deal. You can do this. You just keep doing what you have been doing. Simply put one foot in front of the other. Constant forward motion. It will be ok. Really, it will be ok!” The thoughts swirling in my head were trying to lift my spirits and motivate me.

The volunteers quickly got my drop box over to me and started filling my bottles when all of a sudden, viola!, my daughter, husband, and pacer appeared! Hallelujah! What a beautiful sight! (My son and daughters boyfriend were there too but off in the crowd taking care of our dogs.)

All three quickly jumped into action. My pacer, going through the checklist I had given her, began gathering things out of my drop box. My husband asked me what I need. You should have seen the look of surprise on his face when I replied, “A Sharp Knife.” “Are you serious?” he asked. “Yes, I need to cut my shoes.” The shoes had begun to dig into my Achilles and rubbing a blister. I didn’t have any blisters anywhere else, so cutting slits in the heel of my shoe was a better solution than changing shoes.

Here is the snapshot I wish I had. I am sitting down, friends in the distance cheering my name, my pacer changing out my pack, volunteers filling my bottles, my husband cutting my fairly new shoes, me changing my socks, as my daughter is hand feeding me like a toddler the avocado egg salad sandwich she had made special for me.

As my pacer and I ran out of the aid station, waving to my son, my friends, and the rest of the cheering crowd I began to tear up a little. I knew that this very moment will be one I will cherish for years to come and this very moment will get me through the dark of night as I complete this race. It took a village to get me out of the aid station quickly so that I could make my sub 24 hour goal. I am extremely grateful for this caring village full of love!

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Steve Griffin (TX) – 27:30:54

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The musty smell of organic decay. The warm autumn sun and leaves just beginning to turn colors. Peaceful quiet broken only by chirping birds or small critters rustling alongside the trail. Near mile 45 at the summit of Smith Mountain with peeks at beautiful vistas through the trees, I felt one with nature. I was at home. This is where I was meant to be.

Anticipation and excitement filled my mind as I realized in only a few miles I would be sharing this mountain experience with some incredible runners, Jessica Milander and Paul Agruso for the next 52 miles. Stealing a line from our former Governor: “It just don’t get no better than this!”


Katerine Seywerd (AR) – 32:00:37

katerines_at100

Credit: Sheldon Smith

I was only three to four miles from the finish, but due to a “minor” detour I had already done well over 100 miles.
That evil voice in my head was telling me to stop and my legs were revolting on me. I could not resist my body’s urge to lie down at the side of the trail. I was convinced I could not go on. After all, this was my first 100 miler and the furthest I had ever run was a 50k. As I lay there images of cats drinking from my water bottle and strange appearing/ disappearing men with giant cameras flickered before my eyes.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, two individuals ( Runner Lisa Gunoe and her pacer Elaine Gimblet) appeared and insisted on rubbing peppermint oil on my quads. I felt a little better. They then coaxed me to stand. I felt even better. Lisa and Elaine then acted as my human crutches and I was able to take a few steps. Suddenly my whole mindset changed. Come Hell or high water I was going to do this!

As we progressed along I graduated to using a single hiking pole and finally ( and victoriously) crossed the finish line with Lisa. Granted, I finished dead last and the 32 hour time was a far cry from my original projected 26 hour finish, but I did it. Chrissy Ferguson is right. Finishing is winning. Cheers to future 100 milers!


Shannon McFarland (AR) – 22:23:35

Credit:

Credit: Sheldon Smith

At the 48 mile point we get to see crew for the first time in about four hours, and for the first time in the race I got to see my wife, who could not get to the course until the afternoon that Saturday. When I came into the aid station my crew lead Stormy Phillips was trying to keep me very focused on the task at hand and getting back on the trail. But then Jody, my wife, kind of pushed him out of the way and gave me a hug. It was just awesome to see her and know she was going to help me get through the back half of the event, I got a little choked up (my emotional intelligence falters a little in endurance events). Between when I was able to see her the first time, and then running the last 16 or so miles with her as a pacer, it really was a special memory I will cherish forever.


John Nobles (OK) – 20:37:49

johnn_at100

Credit: Sheldon Smith

The most memorable part of the race was coming into Powerline Aid Station the first time. The gap between Lake Winona and Powerline where you don’t get to see your crew feels like a long way. Coming down Smith Mountain, seeing everyone was all I could think about and they didn’t disappoint!

Everyone in my crew and a few other friends’ crews was grouped up loudly cheering everyone in. It was great. I found out later they had been calling out the names of all the runners as they came in. I talked a lot to folks I ran with about how the people make the running worth while and that moment encapsulated that: they all decided to spend their weekend in the middle of nowhere to help their friends and family accomplish their goals and besides that, show support for everyone running.


James Reeves (AR) – 24:55:05

Credit: Sheldon

Credit: Sheldon Smith

I came into the race, my first 100 miler, with the intent to be positive and mindful. That worked well for a long time. I even picked a small bouquet of wildflowers for my wife as I rolled into Lake Winona at 50k. About 75 miles in I hit my low point. My pacer, Chuck Cates, suggested I have conversations with folks that are important in my life. Just talk to them. So I did. My wife. My kids. My dad. It helped. That, some warm soup and ibuprofen turned things around and I was able to finish with a pretty good head of steam.


PoDog Vogler (AR) – 20:36:57

Credit: Sheldon Smith

Credit: Sheldon Smith

The part of the race that I always look forward to is seeing the other runners around the turn around. It’s great to see your friends both runners and pacers and shout out encouragement to them and see how their race is going. High fives, hugs, and smiles. It’s a great part of the race. And this year for me was even better. I was running good, but not hurried, so I took the time to talk to my friends and really enjoy the moment.


A special thanks to our runners for sharing some of their experience with us.

Top 5 Men

  1. Welsey Hunt (AR) – 15:36:33
  2. Steven Moore (TX) – 16:44:32
  3. Pete Kostelnick (NE) – 16:55:50
  4. Hal Koerner (OR) – 17:19:34
  5. Alex White (MI) – 18:06:26

Top 5 Women

  1. Alison Jumper (AR) – 19:16:44
  2. Stacey Shaver-Matson (AR) – 23:02:58
  3. Tammy Walther (AR) – 23:38:07
  4. Julie Seydel (CO) – 23:42:01
  5. Cindy Stonesmith (CO) – 23:52:09

Complete Arkansas Traveller 100 Results.

Congratulations to all our athletes that took on the Arkansas Traveller 100 adventure!

Be active – Feel the buzz!

David – EnduranceBuzz.com

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.

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