29 February 2020


Lake Ouachita to my left, sweet single track straight ahead.
When I originally signed up for this race as I laid out my preliminary training race schedule in preparation for my summer running project "The Untamed+Triple Crown", I had actually registered for the 100 mile distance. Good friend and newly crowned world record holder for most 100 mile races run in a single calendar year (50) Walt Handloser told me that this was one of his fave 100 milers. Such an endorsement means something coming from a guy that had 49 others to compare it to in one single year, so I was sold.

Then came January. I was halfway through a work trip to our office in Switzerland when I came down with a severe case of the flu. I hadn't been this sick in recent memory and even after I recovered from the fever and felt able to go back to work (after returning back to the US), my body did not agree. Severe body and muscle aches continued to plague me for much of January and into early February. When I finally was able to return to training, I had lost nearly 4 weeks of training.

I decided to just pull the plug and not travel 7 hours to run a race that I was just not ready for. It would have been all but guaranteed that I wasn't going to finish, but when I went to ultrasignup to cancel my registration, I noticed an option to go down in distance to 100K. Hmm, i could probably manage 100k running it at my goal 200-300 mile pace AND it would still give me an opportunity to finally take my newly acquired used camper van out for its first road trip to test out some things. Why not, so rather than cancel I went down in distance, instead.
Tons of single track trail through the beautiful Ouachita National Forest.
I loaded up my camper van with a couple of packed drop bags and a duffel just before lunch on Friday to start the 7 hour road trip through 3 states to Lake Ouachita and Ouachita National Forest just west of Hot Springs National Park. Sweet, I'd be able to check off a National Park following the race, if the stars aligned and time permitted on my way back home. I arrived at the race start/finish area at a pavilion near the Mountain Harbor Resort. The 100 mile race had started at 5PM, so the area was actually quiet with a few runner's cars parked along the side of the access road. We had permission to camp near the start/finish area, so I quickly looked around for a reasonable flat area to park my van and set up camp. I laid out my gear for the next morning, ate a couple of Avocado sandwiches and turned in for the night.

I ended up getting a full night's sleep by the time the alarm went off around 4AM. The race did not start until 6AM, but I still needed to tape my feet, drop off my drop bags and get my race packet before it was time to run. Some of us gathered around a propane heater until it was time to line of for the race start. I had one goal, to finish comfortable and without any major issues. I am happy to report, mission accomplished.
Sunrise as seen from the Lake Ouachita Vista Point.
Just like the 100M, the Run LOViT 100K is a very well organized and supported race on an out and back course. It touts 12,000' of vertical gain over the 100K distance, not extreme, but definitely a relentless course that can lull you in and spit you out, if you're not careful. We had to deal with below 30 degree temps at the start that would climb to above 70 degrees before noon. That added the unexpected risk component for overheating. 70s may not sound like much, but when its the first 70+ degree day of the year or more than4 or 5 months, then it is a serious possibility. Strangely, I suffer equally bad in cold conditions and hot conditions, so there is no perfect running weather outside the 45-55 degree temp range:-)
The race kicked off well enough. I did not try to keep up with any runners or group of runners. Instead, I just kinda settled into a pace that felt comfortable, also called the "I can run all day" pace. I still ended up running with a couple of fellas and swapping running stories with them before our paths parted again due to different paces. Just over an hour had passed and I was already alone. I figured it would stay this way with such a small field of runners, 50 in the 100k and another 50 in the 100 mile event and I would be right. I would pass the occasional runner, but that was about it.
Nice switchbacks on one of the climbs.
The Run LOViT really is a beautiful course, very runnable trails albeit undulating terrain that should provide a challenge to every type of runner. I continued at a comfortable race and the miles ticked off as I came in and out of the fairly evenly spaced aid stations. There were generally exactly 4 miles apart with one section being 6.5 miles. Since it was an out and back course, you'd end up doing this twice. I kept running by feel and only checked my time once I arrived at the 12 mile aid station. I was moving way better than expected without really pushing myself too hard. In fact, I stayed well below 12 hour pace until and beyond the 50K turnaround spot. The volunteers at the aid stations were absolutely fantastic. That coupled with sunshine and a beautiful course made this race quite enjoyable. As I continued, I realized that I may originally expected finishing time by several hours. 
But in every ultra beyond 50K, there are often low points to balance out the high points. Mine came when I arrived at the 48 mile aid station. I had fallen behind 12 hour pace about 8 miles earlier, but that's not what affected me. I was overheating and I had stopped eating. I kept taking in calories through fluids and I made sure I stayed on top of my salt and I supplemented that with coke and ginger ale at the aid stations, but food just did not appeal to me at this point. My new goal was to not fall apart due to these issues and continued moving, while not under 12 hours, maybe just in 12:xx hours before it got dark, i.e. without the use of my headlamp. I succeeded.
There are definitely mountains in Arkansas, but they're difficult to capture through the trees.
I rolled into the finish line in 12 hours and 37 minutes, elated to have completed this race and still feeling pretty good, aside from the slight nausea from earlier. I hung out at the finish for a minute before shuffling back to my van to grab a towel and some clean clothes to change into after I would enjoy an amazing hot shower in one of the pavilion bath/shower rooms. Did I mention I also enjoyed a couple of cold brews provided courtesy of the race directors. They also provided an impressive buffet style spread. Did I mention this was a very well supported and executed race?
After another full night of sleep, I broke camp and headed back home to Huntsville to lovely wife, but not until stopping at Hot Springs NP and later Memphis for a delicious brunch at an amazing vegan restaurant. With a full belly and another ultra finish, I arrived back home with a renewed sense of purpose and ready to continue my training after a rocky start to the year. DO yourself a favor, put this race on your calendar for 2021. You will not regret it.
Lake Ouachita to my left, a Firing Range beyond the ridge line to my right.

A welcome forest service road up and over one of the larger climbs, allowing me to stretch my legs a bit on the final 3+ miles to the finish.

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