Due to writer’s block, The Run Down will occasionally post a race re-cap from one of our readers. We pick worthy runners and choose races that are geographically undesirable; not to say we wouldn’t participate. Plus, The Ozark Trail 100 Mile Endurance Run conjured up too many images of over-friendly relatives and Burt Reynolds white-water rafting. We’re glad Jeremy Scarborough had the guts to (puke) attend.
On this particular weekend, The Run Down was attending a metaphysical conference channeling Steve Irwin for some advice on how to deter rabbits from eating our geraniums. We’ll let Jeremy take it away from here; TRD comments in (italics).
By Jeremy Scarbrough
Most other race reports give their credits at the end, but I think this one deserves them at the beginning. Paul Escola, Dan Hauser, and my brother Sean, had it not been for you all and knowing exactly what I needed when I needed it, the outcome of this race would have been much different. From the bottom of my heart, Thank You!
These past few weeks have been a whirlwind. On Oct. 29, I flew back to San Diego from a “business” trip in Pensacola, Fla. to only rise the following morning and drive to Fountain Hills, AZ to support Kara (my wife) in her conquering of the Javelina Jundred. Then I drove directly from Arizona to Missouri (Phoenix airport closed?), which ended up covering roughly 1,400 miles. When I finally arrived in Missouri, I felt like I’d already completed an ultra. My body wasn’t right. The good thing, I had an entire week to rest for the race.
On Nov. 5, I picked up my great friends/crew/pacers from the Kansas City airport (ah, airport open!). From there we went to visit Brody Fuller. For a little guy who has had such a difficult time through surgeries, chemotherapy, and now frequent visits to the doctor for follow-ups, you wouldn’t even know he had ever been sick at all. We visited with Shannon (Brody’s mom) for about 30 minutes before heading to my brother’s home, where we were staying, in Liberty, MO.
On the 6th, we loaded up the car and made the 6-hour drive to Steelville, MO where the pre-race activities and packet pick-up were held. The atmosphere was different (ya, think?). I’m used to knowing at least one person running in a race. This time, I didn’t recognize a soul (although there was a Ned Beatty lookalike). We chowed down the pre-race dinner and bolted to our hotel, which was still about 30 miles from the start of the race. I put all my stuff together for an easy transition in the morning, drank a beer (true athlete), and went to sleep. Oddly, I slept very well and I’m glad I did, because tomorrow was going to be a long, long, long day.
I will preface my race report by saying that I had high expectations. I was set to pull off a sub-24 hour race. The course’s self-proclaimed flat profile provided the look conducive for a fast race. Rolling hills, no climbs over 300-400 feet (more climb in a McDonald’s play area). The odd thing was the 32-hour time limit given to finish. That should have been the sign (light bulb!) that this wasn’t going to be as easy (if any 100 is easy) as I expected. But, I just overlooked that fact and marched on. Paul put together my pace chart (dot-to-dot coloring book) for a 22-24 hour finish and we were set.
The start of the race was like many other ultras: early, cold, and you could feel the nervous excitement in the air. At 6 a.m., the sirens (bad things usually happen around sirens, missed clue #2) sounded and 125 (relatives) starters were off. Early on in most races you can tell whether or not it’s going to be a rough day, and this was no different. Now, I have only read and heard stories of Barkley, and of H.U.R.T. but as soon as I disappeared into the Mark Twain National Forest, those are the images that flashed through my head, and those are the images that flash through my head even while I’m writing this report. Unlike the “exposed” (like naked?) races I’m used to running in Southern California, this is Missouri, in the fall. If you know anything about Missouri (thank the Lord no), there are trees in the forests (really?), and in the fall, the leaves are no longer on the trees (thus the whole fall name thing), they cover the ground. In this case, there was about 4-6 inches of them on the “trail” throughout the race. Also, I put trail in quotations because you couldn’t see a trail, anywhere. Lucky for me, I was following people, so I got to follow the line of crushed leaves for the most part. Now the problem wasn’t that there were leaves on the ground, it was what was under them (we see dead people) that made for a tough race. Loose rocks, planted rocks, roots, holes, tree limbs, random mud puddles were just a few of the hazards we had to deal with. There must have been a relatively recent storm, because there were downed trees (and displaced mobile homes), and on several occasions I literally had to low-crawl under them.
The first aid station was a little over 8 miles away, according to the race literature (all lies), but the theme throughout the day, night, and next day was if it says it’s a certain mileage, add another mile(especially in Appalacian speak). I thought maybe my Garmin was going in and out of signal (damn moonshine labs are a nuisance), but wait, if that were the case, the aid station would come up short. At any rate, at this point I was on pace for the 24 hour finish, but wow I was working way too hard to stay there. That’s when I pulled from what Scott Mills (can't wait for the President to quote Scott Mills?) instructed me on a while ago: “If you are breathing hard in the first 50 miles, you’re moving too fast.” The next aid station was 9 miles away, and was the first time I got to see my crew. Though I was killing 80 ounces of fluid, I could already tell I was getting behind (Miller time). This was going to haunt me for the next 45 miles. This was the section where blisters were already forming on my feet from the constant shifting on the rocks and roots. Oh, and did I mention the three knee-deep streams (Deliverance, watch out for bodies) I’ve crossed up to this point? I won’t mention them again until the end, but I’m very happy I brought three pair of Cascadias (shameless shoe plug) and plenty of socks. That part I was prepared for.
After that aid station, the troubles began. My stomach went south (Georgia?) and began to cramp, making it very hard to breath, but I kept pushing, realizing now that there is no way a sub-24 hours was going to happen. I twisted my ankle for the first time (Tito, get me a tissue) as well on this stretch. Not that this isn’t common in any race, it was the first time I heard it crunch in years. Well, that was a good time to throw down some Tylenol (generic brand is cheaper) and keep moving, so I did. I was trying to wait until I got my hydration under control, but it was necessary at this point.
I will skip (is that a pun?) ahead to 43 miles, where I met my crew again. I was looking for the book to tear a page out of at this point (Barkley ultra reference for those of you who don’t get it). Here I was really feeling rough. I hadn’t urinated in over 10 miles (too much info), though I was pounding the water. I knew when I rolled into the aid station I was not looking good. I could see that on my crew’s faces, but they sat me down, forced me to eat and drink, and drink, and drink. My brother was on top of getting my shoes and socks changed out (would you like to see this in an 11 ½?). Paul (homie) hooked me up with everything I needed in my pack, and shoved another water bottle in my hand to carry with me. This is the point where I could pick up my first pacer, so Dan was up, and ready to rock the next 25 miles with me. After being helped out of the chair we were moving again. Just about a mile past this particular aid station, my stomach couldn’t take it anymore (too much iPod Britney Spears). I tried to force down a couple S-caps and that began the round of puking (extra chunky or clear?). I sat down on the trail and purged everything (chunky). It was just miserable. I didn’t want to go on, but in the back of my mind, the thoughts of pride and letting everyone who has supported me in all this craziness helped get me back on my feet. The part that really got me moving again was Dan saying, “You can dothis man, but you gotta dig deep.” Coming from a captain in the Marine Corps (love the testosterone here), that seemed like an order to me, so we began moving. He was right on top of everything I needed. He got me to force down the S-caps and GUs and it was like night and day. I felt 100% better. I even urinated (a #1 for the easily offended), but that was not looking too good yet (when does pee look good?).
The heat of the day was over, dusk came, and we started to move much better and faster. At least Dan was telling me my pace was good. I would say at about mile 48 my stomach was no longer cramping and I was breathing well again. Through this portion of the trail, there must not have been too many rocks and roots, because I only tripped and fell a couple of times (comforting), which was a huge improvement from the previous portions. At mile 60, hydration was finally under control (that was quick).
Skipping ahead to mile 68, I picked up Paul for the final 33 miles of the course. I felt great when we got into the aid station. We got our stuff together and left. About 30 minutes into this portion, the trail got really nasty again (a surprise turn in the story). Tiredness, pain and uneasiness on my feet really made it difficult to move fast at all. Literally, every time I would begin to get into a rhythm (a tall white Marine with rhythm, surely you jest) I tripped or kicked a rock or root. At this point, that sent pain all the way up my leg, not to mention the pain on my toes. At roughly mile 70 I was moving along and went to step on what I thought was solid ground under the leaves, only to find that it was a hole (tourist trap), about a foot deep hyper-extending my knee. That sh_t hurt, and still hurts. Something is pulled, but I don’t think torn. We will wait it out on that one (paid medical leave already, Jeremy?). Paul and I literally drudged through the night. Just a constant grind. Paul did his best not to complain, but I could hear in his voice (‘golly jeepers Batman this is annoying”) and see him fighting to stay on his feet enough to know that this terrain was really pissing him off.
At about 79 miles we were in a valley, and it was very cold. We could see our breath as though we were smoking a cigar (not that either have ever done that). I was still sporting shorts, sleeveless, and some bamboo (clashes with the Pine Trees) Moebens. That is when we came to yet again, another thigh-deep water crossing (shrinkage). If I wasn’t awake and freezing before we climbed through that stream, I was now. The only good thing about that was that my feet went numb until we got to the next aid station. My only thoughts were to keep moving before I become hypothermic. We reached the 81-mile mark where my crew was waiting. I was told I was the 21st person (the previous 20 were all related) to get to the aid station, which really just amazed me considering how terrible the first 60 miles were. At this point I knew we only had 20 miles to go. This was the fourth shoe change (what, no brand name drop?) because of water crossings. I was out of dry shoes, but had dry socks, so Sean and Dan recycled the first pair I changed out. That worked great.
Miles 81 to 94 just took forever, but when I got there, Dan and Paul were pumped. Sean had his running gear on and insisted he spend the final 7 with me. It was awesome to have Paul and Sean take me in. I couldn’t run much anymore. My walk was faster than the shuffle I tried to do. We ended up letting a few people (also related) pass. At this point, that didn’t bother me. I just wanted this F’in race to be over. The last three miles were on a gravel road, which was such a welcome sight at this point. I couldn’t bear to walk across the finish line, so we shuffled the last 200-300 yards. I crossed the finish in 30 hrs 27 minutes, then planted my ass in a chair (tired or something?) for about 30 minutes. Took a cold shower, and we were back on the road, five hours back to Kansas City.
For the first time after a race I had to be helped into the house. It was all worth it, at least that is what I will continue to tell myself. I will say this: I will run 100s, but never (never say never) again an Ozark Trail 100. Hope this long-winded report helps many of you sleep at night.
Great report Jeremy. Congratulations on finishing a very tough race and earning a Run or Die INKnBurn Tee. The Run Down is calling out for personal reports on your last trail run or ultra. Send your thoughts and experiences to Charlie@therundown.net. Have an ultra we should cover? Let us know; we’re mobile and don't need parental approval.