For the past five weeks this race has been in the maybe column because of a nagging sciatica injury. When the deadline to register came, I felt pretty good that day and so sent off the registration.
A little history - Bass Pro Shops hosts this event and it is very well put on. My guess is that they definitely do not make money on the event and they put a lot of time and money into it to make it happen. For ultra trail runners who are use to very simple low budget affairs, this event is unique. The fact that they off prize money is actually unheard of elsewhere in the ultra world.
So it was last year that I was shocked to find myself in the lead at the ten mile mark with $1000 on the line. I went on to win in 4:17 and collected the money in cold, hard cash! Remember that finishing time as it will be very important later in this story.
This year, the prize money was lowered to $500 but I thought that would be enough to induce some fast marathoners when they looked at what seemed like a pretty slow finishing time. But I certainly have never run for money and am not about to do it now. Besides, that would be a losing proposition. So my goal was to go to Dogwood Canyon, camp, read, have some beers, relax and enjoy the event just as I had last year.
The drive up was incredible. The foliage while not as stunning as in years past, was still very pretty. I stopped at the Ozark Highlands Trail and hiked a few miles and took a picture.
The night was great with campfire, reading, music, and beer. Very peaceful and relazing. Zach and his brother even brought some smores which were great!
We started off and Dave was really anxious to go out faster and he soon left me. Here is the very beginning of the course. Most of the course is on very difficult and very steep terrain so the picture is misleading but it does show the beauty of the place.
And so I went on to finish just as I had hoped and my time was 4:34. I was sixth. I was pleased with this as my legs till felt pretty fresh and I did not feel as though I exerted too much energy. So I walked over to the results and low and behold 1st place was a 4:18! (The Kenyan had dropped out!) The winning time was a minute slower than my time last year. Though to be fair, I heard that they spent some time off course.
I really could have had a serious shot at winning. I do not know if the sciatic would have held up but I am pretty certain I could have run under last year's time because it was a perfect day for running and last year it rained very hard for about 30 minutes and the course was muddy. But I will never know now and it is probably for the best because either you are feeling good and can go for it or you are not and in that case, caution is the better part of valor.
Dave ran a great race and came in third, only a minute behind the leaders. I had fun racing a couple of young kids just finished with their college running careers as I suspect the winners were.
So the moral here is that I should not have been intimidated. I may have some age on these young guns but my experience could have made up for it and given enough distance, I think I can be as fast as a lot of people. Not Anton fast, but I can still hang with the second tier of runners.
Arriving back at my truck, I got the spare down and discovered it was flat too! Good thing I bought that sealant. It filled the tire just barely enough to get it down the road to air it up more. I drove to the Bentonville Wal-Mart and got a new tire. $100 and one hour later I was ready to get home. My kids were there with hugs and kisses. It was a good time but it sure feels good to be home!