Thursday, October 9, 2008

AT100 race report

Arkansas Traveller 100 miles
Perryville, Arkansas
Oct. 4th/5th, 2008

It’s 5am, dark and cool. The weather forecast calls for mid-80’s daytime/60’s at night, with 30% chance of rain. Well…the weatherman was way off. Lightning flashes in the distance. I figured it’s way off some way, and probably won’t come our way. Well…I was way wrong too.

Since I didn’t make the pre-race meeting on Friday, I had to be there before 5am for runner check and weigh-in. I drove up into Camp Quachita, and cars were already lined up along Hwy 324. I’m making my way to race HQ, and I hear some strange sounds in the woods… like sounds of animals being tortured. Maybe it was some sort of warning of what we are about to endure for the next 20+ hours. I thought… bring it on! I don’t get nervous anymore about 100 milers. If I get some good night’s sleep 2 or 3 days ahead, I’m good to go. And if I know that I’ve covered enough mileage to prepare, then might as well get the show on the road and have some fun.

I came into AT100 with the notion of a long and enjoyable training run. As always, I shoot for sub-24. I went over the race material, made out my pace chart, and anticipated a finish time. For AT100, if it happens…great. But in my mind, I was just going out for a good long run. That’s gotta be abit insane I thought... an easy 100 miler, and making it enjoyable? That’s nuts. Only some crazy person would have a mind-set like that. I have learned that you can make anything you want of trail running, or any 100 miler. You can give in to the rigorous terrain and eat you up. Or you can go out and enjoy what nature brings your way.

It's almost 6:00 am, runners were assembling at the start line. 6am sharp, RD Chrissy Ferguson yells... “GO!” And we’re off into the darkness. The first 8 miles was on well-maintained roads. It was abit hard to tell if the road was gaining elevation. About an hour into the run, it was beginning to get light. We were gaining elevation. While it was not steep, it was a gradual incline for some more miles. After hitting a couple of aid stations, we were off into the woods on a single track trail. I liked this part. The ground was really soft, covered with leaves and very few rocks. Light rain started coming down. And temperature was staying cool. And throughout the day, the temperature did stay cool. For a couple of hours in afternoon, it did get a little bit humid, but it was bearable. As we continued thru the woods, the rain was getting heavier. This would last for a few more hours. The rain was welcomed, but I was thinking… I really don’t want to run the next 20 hours soaking wet. My thought went back to “you have to deal with what nature gives you”. So I went on.

I reached Lake Sylvia AS (mile 16) in good shape. From start to this point, the course was not to be covered again. From here, it was basically an out and back course. I changed my shirt, and ate some food. Brian Hoover (aka Head Tatur) told me I was on pace for sub-24. I felt good about that. But in reality, I didn’t really want to be faster than that. Now after covering 16 miles of this race, I knew there was going to be more ups and downs…especially Smith mountain area. So my plan was to slow down, and not risk injury… because I will be running another 100 miles in a month.

The rain was still coming down heavy, and I’m off to the next aid station. While we were still running jeep trails, there were some areas that had large pools of water in the road, and you had to go straight thru them or around thru some bushes. It was abit tricky at some spots. For the most parts I manage these spots and maintain steady pace. My shoes are now completely soaked. Running over 20 miles in soaking clothes was beginning to bother me in some sensitive body parts. This made it kinda tough going. I was just hoping to reach mile 48 so I could change into some dry clothes. I had extra pair of shoes there too.

TATUR tent at AT100 aid station.

The rain would eventually stop after 6 hours of running. The sun peeked out for a short time, and it got a little bit humid in the afternoon. However, the temperature stayed cool most of time. The footing was a different story. The ground was all soaked, and very slippery on rocks…and there were lots of rocks. Even some parts of the roads were slick. The bottom of my right foot was beginning to feel it…a hot spot. I’m still 10 miles away from Powerline AS (mile 48). I continued but stepping gingerly so the hot spot doesn’t get worse.

Coming into Smith mountain AS (mile 42), I was still on a sub-24 pace. I took about 10 min. break eating some soup and crackers, I was now facing the big climb of the race. And most of it was just straight up with some poor footing due to heavy rain early on. I walked all the way up, and just barely shuffled on the way down into the next AS. My pace had really dropped off on... somewhere around 20 min./mile on this section. From there, I was just moving along and not really pushing to gain time. I was still trying to protect my foot. The hot spot was still there. But fortunately, it didn’t feel like it had gotten worse.

I reached Powerline AS (mile 48) around 10-1/2 hours. I was back on some good gravel road again. Again, I thought…I’m still on sub-24 pace. I kept thinking, should I continue at this pace and do sub-24? Or should I just slow down and stretch it out for 26 hour finish? My legs were beginning to tire more now. And off I went to the next AS. I reached the turnaround point (mile 58) just under 13 hours. OK… I’ll just take it easy on the way back.

At Lean Horse, it was a different story. From turnaround point, I was focused on catching people. I pushed myself all the way back to the finish. Here I just let people pass and not even think about keeping up with them, but gave them a “great job” they were doing. Through the night, I kept trudging alone. I was basically in a zone though. I was now doing about 18 to 22 min./mile. Trust me… going at this pace really hurts. As matter of fact, I was really hurting myself going at this pace than pushing the pace abit. My legs were beginning to hurt a lot more... especially my IT bands. Going downhill’s were now killing me. I could do the uphill’s much easier than slight downgrades. Strangely enough, I was looking forward to any hills. But we were now heading to the finish, which would mostly be downhill.

I reached the last AS (~mile 94) in 25 hrs. 11 mins. I had about 6 miles to go. I thought...forget the slow pace, my legs are really killing me, and I want to get done now. I just filled my water bottle and took off. I picked up the pace (17 min./mile) for the last section. While it’s not blazing speed, at least I was running at a good clip for the last 2 miles. At mile 98, Cheryl Zwarkowski, a runner from CA whom I had crewed/paced at Badwater this past summer, passed me. She was also doing AT100 to get up to speed for MR100(II). (note: see my BW report about Cheryl) I wanted to keep up with her, but she had a little bit more zip than I did. So again, I relinquished the chase. I finally made the turn into the finish line. I would cross the line in 27 hours, 1 min., 13 sec. I was completely exhausted. I got some cold water, and went to my truck for a 2 hour snooze. Breakfast will have to wait abit.

AT100 is not an easy course. But with every aid stations and some TATUR’s involved, this race was a great experience. Congratulations to all finishers!
Congrats to TATUR's Robin Saenz and Ken Childress for a strong finish. They finished right after I did. Not to mention another TATUR who looked cool as cucumber on his way to another fantastic 1st place finish.... Tom Brennan.

Also a big thanks to Team Childress for helping me out. Doing 100 milers solo is kinda tuff. That's the coolest about doing these races, helping each other out, no matter who they are.

My reward for finishing. cool buckle.

Already out running again. Next Mother Road 100 (II). I can't wait.


T Z said...

Awesome job, AB. Gotta say the AT100 is my favorite 100 so far. But MR2, here we come!

AB said...

Hey TZ... AT100 is a great 100 miler. I plan on doing it again next year.