E. Smith Productions

Arkansas Traveller 100 Miler Race Report

11.10.08 | 12:47 PM CST


This is an entry from the archives I was excited to find.  It always brings some great memories and gets me motivated to train for my next epic race.  Original article posted on October 4, 2005.

I think it started back in May after the Ice Age 50. I was running with a fellow Buffalo, Brian Kuhn and we were talking about his experiences with his first 100 miler, the Arkansas Traveller. He told me that I should run it this year. I had my mind set that I was running the Chicago Marathon again, and discounted the idea. I was planning on entering the marathon along with Marla Luckey, and we were going to make a weekend of it. Another couple of months or so went by and she was wavering on whether to take a big trip to see a friend, or run the marathon. It was at this point, where I knew I wanted a new challenge. Instead of running the marathon again, why not try a 100 miler with Brian this year. It would be a huge goal since I had just completed a 50 miler, which up to that point was almost the toughest thing I had done.

We left Champaign Thurs morning, after Brian made an early morning pit stop to get 2 new tires on his sister’s van. I’m sure he can talk about great Wal-Mart service! We got into Little Rock at about 5, stopped for some groceries, and headed to Lake Sylvia to find our camp site. We had to hurry when we got there because we would have just under an hour before it got dark. That night we cooked bratwursts and cooked some rice on my small gas grill which worked out perfectly. That night was very cold, and thanks to Brian’s extra sleeping bag, I made it through.
The next morning we had a big breakfast, and then headed down to get our packet and to weigh in. When we got back to the campsite, there were other runners setting up camp right next to us. It was good to talk to many of them and hear their stories. Later on we had the race briefing and pasta dinner. We all made sure to stock up on our pasta reserves. We met Tracy and Laura and headed back to the camp site. That night we had a big campfire and told stories. I wasn’t really getting nervous, but I was thinking about the race and making some mental preparations& ok, I was still wondering what I had gotten myself into! We hit the sack early in anticipation for what was to become an epic adventure, or at least in my mind!
Saturday morning I awoke at 4:30. I ate a Pop-Tart, a banana, and drank some Gatorade. I gathered up all of my drop bags and then we headed to the start. Since it was still pretty chilly outside, we waited until the last minute before heading to the start. It was kind aerie. There were small firepots near the start that people were huddling around. The speakers were blasting a CD of various barnyard animal sounds. It was enough to creep one out that early in the morning, especially since the first couple of miles were in the dark. I didn’t bring a flashlight to the start because I knew the beginning of the race would be flat and it would be light very soon. Plus I could always follow in behind someone with a light. The first mile or so started on a paved road, and then went off onto a gravel road. As we approached the first aid station, I could smell the pancakes and bacon. It really made me hungry. I stopped for a minute, enough to gobble down some pancakes, dip them in syrup, and eat some bacon. I also grabbed a couple pieces of melon that tasted really good.
The next section was the Ouachita Trail. This was a very nice section of single track trail. It was pretty rocky, but I was very enjoyable this early in the race. I was going pretty fast this point, but I was still reserving my energy. I was running behind a couple of runners that were talking about doing the Grand Slam and various other 100 milers. I got my first taste of the great aid station help at the first drop bag location, Lake Sylvia. They were all cheering, and immediately handed me my drop bag when I entered into the station. I took a couple of Gu’s and some TP out of the sack, grabbed some grapes, and headed out. The next part was downhill on a nice gravel road. The pumpkin pie at the next aid station seemed to go down really well, despite the day’s increasing temperature. I met up with Brian shortly after the Electric Tower aid station, and I enjoyed talking with him and sharing race strategies at this point. The section to Rocky Gap was very rocky, and I’m still not quite sure why they call this a road. Many tough 4 wheel drive vehicles would have a tough time down this “road.” Although I tried not to think about it, I knew this section coming back would be extremely difficult.
The next 25 miles went very well. Brian and I would run together on occasion through out this part. I changed socks at the Lake Winona aid station. I was pleased that my feet were blister free and feeling very good. Nothing hurt at this point, and the only concern was staying cool as it was getting quite warm at this point. A couple of times I would use the Brian Kuhn method of staying cool by stuffing your hat with ice, and letting it gradually melt until you reached the next aid station. I could only stand a few cubes, but it seemed to work pretty well. At the Club Flamingo aid station I remember receiving first class treatment. As I sat down to dump rocks out of my shoes, I got a cold sponge bath from a gal at the aid station. I grabbed some Red Bull from my drop bag. It tasted really good. I knew coming back around; this aid station would sure be a welcome sight. Going up Smith Mountain wasn’t as bad as I thought, but it was still pretty warm that late in the afternoon.
Coming out of Chile Pepper, I passed Tracy Thomas, who was just flying down the hill. We yelled “Buffalo” at each other. I immediately felt better after we passed each other. I told her that my shin was really hurting, and she said to take some Tylenol. I had never taken that during a race, but at this point I was going to try anything to get me through this.
After we reached the turnaround, Brian and I decided to take some time to take in some fluids and get something more solid to eat. I ate half of a Powerbar, some Ramen Noodles, a Red Bull, and some saltines. I had put my headlight in this drop bag, which turned out to be the perfect place for it because it was just starting to get dark. My left shin was really starting to hurt. I wrapped some ice in my handkerchief and iced it for a few minutes before we took off again. I was feeling much better after that aid station. As Brian and I were out of the aid station he asked me if I wanted him to stay with me to see that I finish, or whether I wanted him to go on. I knew that Brian could run faster than we were going at this point, all due to the fact that my right shin was really hurting. I told him that I would really appreciate his company, and just like that he decided to stick with me and finish the race together. As I look back now, without Brian’s encouragement throughout the remainder of the race, I’m not sure that I would have finished in the time I did, or even finish at all. It is a really great friend who would sacrifice like that, and to which I am greatly appreciative!
At this point we were running with a couple of SLUGS enjoying their stories. It was good to see Paul S at the Chile Pepper aid station. I grabbed some more soup and some chips. It was really cool finding some quite large spiders on the trail. You could see their eyes reflect our lights from quite a distance. I changed socks and shoes at the Powerline aid station. I also changed into a long sleeved dry wick shirt, which would prove to be entirely too warm. I remember being really out of it and thought it was really chaotic. I was weighed and was right on target. I tried to tape up my ankle to help the pain. I was lucky to have some assistance from a girl that seemed like she knew what she was doing. She helped me wrap my ankle and gave me some advice. We spent quite a bit of time at this one, and even though I didn’t eat as much as I should have. As we left the lights of the aid station, I started feeling very tired. The road was pretty smooth at this point. I found myself sleep running at times. I knew that I had Brian next to me incase I ran off the side of the road. I was starting to feel pretty bad, and just wanted to sit down.
It was nice having Brian with me because we would constantly be calculating how long it would take to the next aid station. A few times I would get annoyed that we hadn’t reached the aid stations yet. I was getting really cranky at this point. I enjoyed coming into the Club Flamingo aid station seeing the pink glow lights and Tiki torches. I grabbed another Red Bull, a caffeine pill, and a Tylenol. I shed my long sleeved shirt and put on a different short sleeved one. I felt much cooler. The night was still a bit humid and warm. At this stage solid food really was not sounding good. I had been surviving on GU’s, and my supply was really dwindling. I think I tried to take in some soup, but it made my stomach queasy.
Lake Winona (83.9 mi) was the last drop bag location. There was an elderly gentleman who was waiting on Brian and me. The volunteers here were top notch. They were very helpful in getting food and ice for us. I took another Red Bull and a caffeine pill. I grabbed some ice and continued to try and soothe my shin. Everyone kept asking if I had sprained it, or tripped on something. My stock answer was, “No, it’s just this 100 mile race!” It was here where we heard word of how Tracy did. When the volunteers said that she had won, we assumed that she had won the women’s division. To find out that she won the entire race was very exciting. We were yelling and saying “Yeah, she’s with US! Buffalo pride was flowing!
It was a long climb up the hill to the Rocky Gap aid station. I remember how easy it was going out, but didn’t realize that it went on for so long! After we passed by a spillway, there was a nice grassy area that I really wanted to lay down in. I knew that Brian wouldn’t have let me, and would have encouraged me to get going, so I dismissed the thought.
The Rocky Gap aid station was a welcome sight, especially since the toughest section was yet to come. I ate some more soup and grabbed some more of my Powerbar. I thought these would go down easier but they seemed to make my stomach really acidic. Brian drank half of a beer and gave me a sip. At probably around 4:30 in the morning and after 87.2 miles it tasted really good, but I knew I had better not drink anymore. At this point we were running with SLUG Joe Kallo and his wife Allison. Previous to that we had fun chasing each other in and out of aid stations. The company really made the miles go by much easier.
Brian and Allison would run just ahead of us while Joe and I talked about photography and computers. I was getting really delirious, and a simple conversation was extremely difficult. Joe seemed to be in great spirits at this point, and I was just glad to have someone else to talk to. Allison was very encouraging at this tough section. She told us that she was planning on doing the AT100 next year. Good Luck!! This was 4.2 miles of pure hell! I don’t even know why people call it a road. It was very rocky and a lot of small hills. I stopped in a couple of places to sit on a large rock to try and get it back together. I was really tested here. I really wanted to rest more, but I never wanted to quit. I look back when people describe their worst parts in a 100 miler. I can say that this section was certainly my darkest. I knew when I made it out of this section, it would be light and I would feel immediately better. Sure enough, as we made it to the Electronic Tower aid station, it was just starting to get light. There was a lot of fog, and we could see some bats flying in and out of the trees. Some candy corn, peanuts, and Mountain Dew, and we were off& very slowly I might add.
We had been walking a good portion since the turnaround compliments of my shin. I was constantly reminded of the RFP (relentless forward progress.) At one point coming into the Pumpkin Patch aid station, I remember coming down a steep hill. It was really killing my legs, so Brian and I decided to walk down backwards. It was MUCH easier, and felt really good. I’m disappointed that I didn’t think of that earlier. No one passed us at this point, so we couldn’t be made fun of with our strange walking. The pumpkin pie at the last aid station gave me the needed boost to the finish line. I was feeling much better since the sun was all of the way up at this point (7:30.) We were having a good conversation for the finish. We were determined to try and not let anyone pass us on this last 6.3 mile stretch. That ended quickly. Three people passed us with about 5 miles to go. It seemed to take forever to make it out onto the road (2 miles left.) Another 3-4 people passed us, and there was nothing I could do about it. Paul Turner, whom we met before the race, was looking really strong as he passed us. We yelled congrats and watched him storm up the last hill. Since Brian and I were going to finish together it was decided a long time into the race that the Buffalo hats were going to come out for our final approach. We got to the van, grabbed the hats, dumped off our water bottles and gear, and headed to the finish. I was on a high like no other. It was just now hitting me that I was going to finish 100 miles! It was really emotional, and I certainly had tears in my eyes. I had done it! 27:33:03.
Chrissy, the race director congratulated me as I came in, and noticed that my leg was swelling, she told me to see one of the paramedics when I got into the lodge. The paramedic asked me if I was planning on doing any running soon. I told him that I planned on taking a much needed rest! Tracy was doing well in the lodge, and was disappointed to miss us coming in. She looked fresh and ready to hit the course again! It was good to see Joe and Allison in the lodge eating breakfast, and we talked to them a bit over breakfast.
We showered, changed clothes and headed back to the start for awards. It was very cool to see Tracy receive her silver belt buckle. I was happy to hear my name called with the first time 100 miler also noted. I could hardly get out of my chair to get my buckle. I’m glad I picked a close spot! After the awards, we crashed for awhile in our tents. It was a hot afternoon, which, coupled with the pain and soreness made it very difficult to rest. We got up after a few hours, ate some snacks, and sat around talking about the race. It wasn’t long before we were tired again, and we went back into our tents at around 7:00.
As I was reflecting after the race, I realized a few things about the race: I was extremely amazed that I did not have a single blister, black toe, or sore digit. I attribute this to my Injinji toe socks. I changed them 3 times during the race, and had no problems with my feet. I need to eat more. That is the hardest item to concentrate on, especially when you know you need the calories, and your body is not letting you. GU’s really help here. You have to tell yourself you are not quitting. Your body and mind must be on different pages. You can physically endure much more than you think you can. Never underestimate the time it will take to do a certain distance. For someone who is inexperienced with these, the time you think you can cover said distances will be greatly reduced. Hold on, and enjoy the ride as much as you can.
I was extremely lucky to have a group of friends that have encouraged me so much. Without them, I wouldn’t have made my goal. Thanks especially to Brian Kuhn for sticking with me even though I know he could have gone faster. The Arkansas Traveller 100 was an incredible experience, and one that I will remember for the rest of my life!

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