20 March 2022


I can't remember if I suggested Three Days of Syllamo to Jeff or if he mentioned it to me. I had heard of it before, but never signed up. Until this year, when I figured it would be a great opportunity to use it as a heavy load training weekend. This event is a 3 day stage race that has runners run a 50K on Friday, a 50 Miler on Saturday and a 20K on Sunday for a grand total of 94 miles over 3 days. The race takes place near Fifty-Six in Arkansas at Blanchard Springs Recreation Area in the Ozarks. The different race courses utilize the Ozark Highlands Trail, Syllamo Trail and Sylamore Trail, which mostly consisted of beautiful single track trail. The biggest challenge were the number of cambered trail sections that would do a number on my ankles, especially my right one which is already held together by medical tape only.
Jeff and I decided to ride and camp together, so Thursday around noon, I left my house in my camper van and stopped by Jeff's to pick him up for our 7+ hour ride to Fifty-Six, Arkansas. Our drive to Arkansas was rather uneventful, dare i say boring, but we did stop for lunch in Memphis at my favorite vegan restaurant. In case you're wondering, anyone that ever travels with me for a weekend of adventuring out of town usually has to experience a plant-based meal or two as my hometown has a very very limited offering for plant-based folks.
Three Days Of Syllamo offers free camping to all runners, which makes this a really cool weekend of camping and ultra running with the trail running community. While there are many runners attempting to run the entire 94 miles, just as many runners sign up to run just one or two of the events. Whatever you choose, you are definitely going to experience an awesome weekend of camping and trail running in an amazing location. The race location even had a clear river nearby that many runners would use as a post race ice bath throughout the weekend.
Jeff and I arrived at the Blanchard Springs Recreation Area just before dusk to pick up our race packets for the weekend, which included a nice long sleeve shirt, a hat and CBD/THC brownies, yup. Unfortunately, we were too late to grab one of the most desirable camping spots near a big cliff wall, but our spot afforded us a short 30 yard walk to the start and finish line for the weekend as well as the bathroom. 
Jeff and I called it an early night, but thankfully, we didn't have to toe the start line until 9AM the next morning to know out the first of three races, the 50K. The 50K was an out and back with the lollipop loop near the turnaround that had us on a steady climb for the first mile, barely allowing you to get acclimated and instead, working hard from the get go. Jeff and I started the race together and stayed together for the first section, until I decided to push a little...big mistake. The trails in this area were absolutely amazing, but since I decided to run hard early on, I didn't get much footage of the course. That would change later on in the race, as both my pace and mojo deteriorated, both because I got tired and because I remembered that I still had a 50M and a 20K to do over the following two days.
The 50K consisted of 99% single track trail with only a double track section at the beginning and end of the race. While my pace slowed towards the end, I did end up just in the top ten as I crossed the finish line. The finish line has a large permanent pavilion right next to it, where the RD had set up race HQ as well as  a finish line food buffet and a cooler loaded with drinks. After I finished, I quickly nabbed a hot shower before grabbing one of my camping chairs to head back to hang out at the finish line while downing a few Athletic Brewing beers (non-alcoholic) and eating some of the free grub and deserts. Once Jeff finished, we hung out a bit longer before getting our gear ready for the long 50 mile day ahead.
The next morning called for a 4:30AM wakeup call, so I could brew up some fresh coffee before the 6AM race start. I woke up feeling only slightly worn from the day before. In other words, it could've been worse. The 50 miler started the same way as the 50K the previous day, only steeper. It assured that I was definitely not going to run too hard too early. I had decided before the start that I would run at least the first half of the race together with Jeff to make sure I had a more evenly paced day vs. the previous day. 
Jeff and I settled into a more comfortable pace pretty much from the start, making this quite a bit more enjoyable and less punishing on the legs. The race course for the day featured lots of natural highlights, from cliff walls to beautiful overlooks and challenging single track trails. As intended, Jeff and I continued to run together until and through the halfway point, slowly passing a few runners, who had made the same mistake I had made the day before. I was still feeling pretty good as we continued to make our way back on this straight out & back race course. As on the day before, the volunteers were amazing, cheerful and helpful. My favorite memory was a warm cheese and egg sandwich mid morning, which provided some much needed energy. Sadly, they had run out of these sandwiches on my way back. I am not gonna lie, I was a bit sad as the though of another one of those sandwiches had sustained me for the better part of the 10 or so miles leading back to this aid station. Oh well, I just have to make it back to the finish, so I could enjoy some of the delicious finish line food.
Jeff and I got separated with about a third of the race left and I continued on my own, slightly increasing my pace in hopes of running a negative split. As I made my way to the finish, I reeled in a few runners here and there, which always gives me an added boost of energy. I maintained a reasonable pace for the remainder of the race with no reason to slow down as the next day "only" featured a 20K race. Having saved my legs during the first half of this race, low energy thankfully wasn't an issue. 
When I finally crossed the finish line, I managed to finish just inside the top 20 overall for the day. Another hot shower and some beans and rice later, I was back hanging out at the finish line watching and cheering the remaining runners across the line. Jeff finished not much later and with a 9AM start time for the 20K the next morning, there was no reason to rush back into the camper van. Instead, we relaxed and enjoyed the beautiful sunny day that had turned much more pleasant after the rather chilly early morning start.
As expected, the final race day would be the easiest featuring a 20K loop that felt like a road race. It seemed like everyone was ready to get this final race done. I decided to push early and hang on for dear life. I managed to do that for the most part with only 3 stage race runners finishing ahead of me, the guys that ended up top three for the 94 mile stage race. Elated to hear the crowd at the finish line, I sprinted one last time to complete one of the most unique race weekends ever. Another hot shower and a small snack later, Jeff and I were loaded up and ready to make the 7 hour trek back home, but not until collecting our finisher rocks and finding out that I managed a top ten finish for the stage race.
If you enjoy camping, running trails and ultras and hanging out with a bunch of likeminded people for an entire weekend, then you need to out the Three Days Of Syllamo on your bucket list. Better yet, don't delay and sign up for next year. You won't regret it. I may just be there again myself:-)

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