Sunday, April 22, 2012

Perfect Running Day for OT 50

It was a picture perfect day for April for running the OT 50.  There have been times when this race is very hot and you can just suffer out there but this was a course record type day because almost all of the course records were shattered.  Congratulations to all who set course records yesterday.  Unfortunately I could not take full advantage of this beautiful day as I am still nursing sciatica issues.  Not that I could have kept up with Nick anyway.  I had hoped to run the 50 miler but at mile 14 I knew sciatica would make 50 miles almost unbearable so I begrudgingly did the 50K instead and kind of hobbled in at 5:04.

For more details on this race, you can view my race report from last year.  I am going to take this opportunity again to thank Chrissy and Stan for all of their hard work.  I am just in awe of how much effort they put in to making this such a great time.  It is a top notch race and if you are looking for your first 50 miler or just another ultra, this is a must do run.  Beware however, that if it is warm, this race can be quite difficult.

A little more information on the course for those who are thinking of running this race.  You begin near Maumelle Park and can camp there.  You have about 2 1/2 miles of road before you begin the trail.  The trail near Pinnacle can be very technical and so you must watch the rocks and roots or you will go down.  About mile 4 or so, you come into a clearing and can see Pinnacle Mtn that you will soon be ascending.  This is one of my favorite views of the course and I get so excited seeing this at 6:30 in the morning and happy to be a part of it.

The climb of Pinnacle actually goes by pretty quick because you really have to concentrate on where to put your hands and feet.  Yes, I did say hands and feet because for about a half mile, you are scrambling up huge boulders.  Upon getting to the top you can smile for the camera with the sunrise at your back.  Take a moment to look at the views.  Just 30 seconds is not going to hurt your finishing time.

The descent is pretty tricky for the first half mile or so and it is important to go slow here as I could easily see how one could really get hurt coming off Pinnacle.  At the bottom, you hit another aid station and then kind of circle the mtn before beginning the real Ouachita Trail portion of the course.  Again this is a real technical section before you come out on the highway where you run about a half mile across a rustic old bridge to the heart of the course.

Once back in the woods, it is very pretty and the course is just rolling with pretty good footing.  Much less technical than the section around Pinnacle.  In fact, you can pretty much run the rest of the way.  After another aid station you have a section that goes to a vista.  There is a sign on either side of the vista saying that the vista is one mile.  This one mile (two miles total) always seems incredibly long so be ready to just put you head down and run and forget about that sign. 

Once you are down from the vista, it is just another two or three miles before you hit the turnaround for the 50K.  If you are doing the 50 mile, you must in your mind decide ahead of time that your ARE NOT turning around here.  If you are sitting on the fence on whether to do the 50K or the 50M, you will end up doing the 50 K.  I was determined to do the 50 Miler and most certainly would have but because of the sciatica I dropped down albeit very reluctantly.

If you go on and do the 50 mile course, you enter into a low section of the course that can be muddy and one year there were nasty horse flies that stung so often, they forced you to run faster.

You will come to a dirt road and then another dirt road and think you are near the turnaround.  You are but don't get too excited and run very well within yourself at this point.  Eventually you do come out on a hwy where you will cross a bridge which is actually on the OTHER side of Lake Maumelle and you will hit the aid station on the other side and then start the run back.  Only then should you start to consider picking up the pace if you do not want to bonk.  At least that is my strategy anyway.

The return can be pleasant if you have run a smart race (and are not injured) and before long you are at the old bridge again.  The run around Pinnacle can be rough on the way back because it is so technical and the 2 1/2 mile road portion at the end which was SOO EASSSYY going out is SOOO LOOONNNGG and tough on the way back but eventually the pavillion will come into view and Chrissy will be there to greet you and to hang a beautifully hand crafted ceramic finisher 'medal' around your neck.

The party at the finish is awesome with burgers, hot dogs and brews and so much comraderie.  That is why AURA races really are like family.

Congrats to all who finished and broke course records.  I will almost certainly be back next year hopefully with a healed sciatica/piriformis so that I can fully enjoy the entire course.

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