|Suzanne, Madeline, Jim and Olivia Inside the Cavern|
As turned out, this year I had the day off and there was no school because of parent-teacher conferences the night before. So we loaded up the family and went to Alison, Arkansas. I had the good fortune of finding a cabin that turned out to be less than a half mile from the race start!
|Learning about Stalagtites, Stalagmites etc.|
After the long drive over the endlessly winding roads, we checked into our cozy little cabin and then went straight away to Blanchard Springs Cavern. We were able to take the last tour of the day and it was great. The ''Cathedral Room" itself is four football fields long and 80 feet high! The formations were so impressive. I had a geology course in college for my science credit and that really makes you appreciate what 80 million years can do over 250 feet below the ground. The kids seemed endlessly fascinated throughout the hour long walking tour. Highly recommend this.
|The Cathedral Room - Blanchard Springs Cavern was not even discovered until about 70 years ago!|
That night we ate at Angler's and it was packed. Then back to the cabin. As it turns out, the space heater was not near enough heat to keep the cabin warm. I kept a good fire going but as you can imagine, once the fire went out, it became very cold. No one else seemed to mind but I sure didn't sleep much because of the cold and because I had two kids to contend with on a sleeper sofa.
|Jim jumping around in the cabin.|
Finally race time came and I ran over to the start line. It was a cold morning and the hardest part of a winter race like this is crawling out from under the covers and venuturing outside. How easy it would be just to stay under the covers and go for a leisurely hike later in the day. But of course I could not do that. Must finish this thing.
|Picture I borrowed from the internet of one of the more beautiful views from the course.|
I did not go to the race last year and in that short time, I had forgotten how enjoyable and beautiful this course is. The water crossing at mile two may make some nervous and cold but I find it exhilirating and exciting. The views are beautiful almost the entire course and although slightly technical in some sections, the course is for the most part pretty runnable. The pace going out felt just about right.
|Water is cold but amazingly, your body warms right back up. Just don't stop running.|
I felt like I was really settling into a groove at mile 13 when I was cruising down a hill and clipped a small rock and down I went on to a much larger rock. I have fallen many times in trail running but always manage to kind of roll right back up. Not this time because I hit this giant rock hard especially because I was going downhill and was going at a pretty good clip. All of the gatorade in my bottle had gushed out into my face and I just laid there for a second wondering if I had broken anything. My chest, thigh, and elbow had all hit really hard but my right kneecap had taken the brunt of the blow. I got back up and was bloodied pretty bad but was most concerned about my kneecap as I had hit it square on the rock. For the next mile or so I hobbled along and was sure I would have to drop out of the race at the turnaround. My knee was really hurting. I was trying to ascertain if I was really hurt or if I was just looking for an excuse to quit.
|I have to show the graphic part as prove.|
It was by far the worse fall I had ever had trail running. After a mile and half, the knee slowly started to feel better. When I reached the turnaround, I decided I was good for at least another five miles to the next aid station. Thankfully, the further along I went, the better it started to feel.
I hit the turn in 2:08 which was a little slower than I had hoped for. I was hoping for 2:05. I think I lost a minute or two on the fall though and that kind of set me back a little. I hoped at this point to mount a charge at two new friends I met from Memphis. (I will have to look up their names in the results - one was named Brian) They were both really nice and in talking with Brian after the race, I have a feeling he will be a great trail runner in years to come. They had about a 3 - 6 minute lead on me and I thought if I could run a reverse split, I might be able to catch them. One year, I ran a 2:01 in a reverse split so I knew I was capable of it.
Or at least I was years ago but not this year. I could never really get my legs to turn over and to really burn it. As usual, the sciatic started to hurt and I just tried to not fall apart. To my credit, I didn't ever completely fall apart and came back in 2:16 and considering the spill I took, I'm happy with that. As for why I was not able to run a fast return split, I'm not sure if it was lack of desire, sciatica and knee pain or what I fear most, just age and slowing down?? I may have to run Sylamore again within the next year or two so that I can find out the answer and maybe just maybe, I can still run as I did four or five years ago.
I certainly was hoping to get another win here but that was not to be. So I am happy with third if not very happy with my time.
|Here I am limping in. Love that Leadville shirt.|
There is nothing like crossing the finish line after a hard effort and having my family there waiting for me. I'm always so glad to see them again after having left the comfortable cabin in the cold dark morning while they were all asleep. That made finishing so much fun. I was also happy to finally share with them the beauty of this place. Every year that I had come to Alison, Arkansas, I had wished that I could share it with them and this year I was able to.
After finishing, I limped over to the car and got some warm clothes on. I was really hurting. We walked back to Angler's resturaunt and my oldest daughter Madeline (10) escorted me like I was an old man. Madeline took so much pity on me that she said that I could have a beer just this once with her approval (she strongly disapproves of my drinking beer).
|Thanks for the beer Madeline (in white jacket).|
Once inside Angler's, I had to lay down for about ten minutes because I felt light headed but after drinking a couple of Fat Tire Beers (with Madeline's approval), all was right again with the world.
After lunch we began our long drive home over the endlessly winding roads having made a great little weekend. As always, it was great to see my ultra running family and special thanks to Greg Eason and Steve Kirk for putting the race together.