Friday, January 10, 2014

Athens-Big Fork Trail Marathon

Well, it finally happened.  After ten years and eight wins, I finally was beat at A-BF.  (Two years I did not run - one year because my grandmother passed away and the other year I did the Houston Marathon.)  It's ironic because it was ten years ago that I was finally able to beat Stan Ferguson, the legend in these parts of ultrarunning, after running behind him for a number of years.  Stan is about ten years older than me and I think age was finally catching up with him at that time.  And now here I am ten years later and on the receiving end of that scenario.

I suspected last year it might happen after I barely squeaked out that victory but I never thought that it would be Josh "the Butt Crack" Snyder who would beat me!  (inside joke)  But that's the way it goes.  I feel like I am just a little slower either due to age or coming back from injury and Josh has definitely gotten faster, especially in the last year and so now I may be chasing him instead of the other way around.  I really am proud of him for a great effort and really maturing as a runner.

Nonetheless it was a very fun race and I was grateful to just be able to run without pain.  Last year in that very narrow victory I ran through a lot of piriformis and sciatic pain and this time I had very little pain to speak of and that allowed me to enjoy the race much more.

I followed Josh all the way to the turnaround, staying just about 30 yards behind him.  Part of this is because I like to just zone out and enjoy the scenery and not get caught up in conversation that can detract from the experience of being out in nature.  I also had more practical reasons for staying back and that is because I did not want to be whipped by small branches after Josh went through.

We made the turnaround at around 2:16 or 2:17 which was right around the usual time and then Josh let me lead and so I thought I would push the pace.  In past years I have been able to leave behind people by really ramping up the effort.  This effort definitely would have left Josh behind in previous years but he hung tough and ran a great race.  With about three mountains to go, Josh began climbing very strong and I just couldn't maintain that effort any longer and he left me behind.

Picture from A-BF Course
With that done, I was able to kind of relax and just take it easy the rest of the way.  May as well enjoy the scenery.  Remarkably I felt pretty fresh at the finish.  As well as I've ever felt after a trail marathon and that means a lot to me because I feel like I'm ready to get back into the longer distance ultras again and can run without pain.

More and more in recent races, a tough trail marathon or 50K has left me very debilitated and limping from sciatic pain and stiffness but that is gone.  I'm not sure if it's the anti-inflammatory that the doctor prescribed, my new stretching routine or new foot strike or even just the dry winter weather.  For sure, I am going to keep on doing what I'm doing because I'm ready to finish another 100 this year and I hope it is Bighorn so I can get another Hardrock qualifier in.

View from the top of Winding Stair Mountain on the Ouachita Switchbacks Course

Now it's time for my own trail race - the Ouachita Switchbacks 50K.  Last year was the first year for me to put on this event and so I did not run because I wanted to make sure things ran smoothly.  But this year I feel comfortable with how the race is going and my wife Suzanne will take over RD duties and I will get to run this beautiful course that I laid out.  It's going to be great!

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