Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Ozark Trail Endurance Run 2012

I realised that whenever I DNF a race, I would find no inspiration and very difficult to update my blog.  But needless to say, I must try to find the positives from my failure.  So here it is, my race report for the Ozark Trail Endurance Run after a 7-month hiatus!

This would be my 2nd attempt for the Ozark Trail Endurance Run.  I did it last year but missed the CP5 Gunstock Hollow cut-off time by a miserable 1min.  I didn't felt too bad then as I was out injured for 3 months and frankly speaking, it was suicidal to even stand at the start line!  This year, I was fully fit and I felt confident after completion of the TNF Singapore 100km just 3 weeks before.  I decided to spend a night at Chicago before flying to St Louis.  From there, I rented a car and drove to Bass River Resort in the town of Steelville.  This year, I decided to share a cabin with other fellow runners in order to save cost.

After arriving at Bass River Resort, I settled down and went to pack my drop bags.  Then I went straight to collect my bib and race packet.  I went back to the cabin to update my bib number for my drop bags (I reused my drop bags for the various races I took part) before bring them all to deposit them with the organiser.  I deposit a total of 6 drop bags.  It was more than necessary but since the drop bag service was available, I might as well make full use.  :p  It was close to briefing time and I went up to the dining area where dinner would be held.  There, the RD gave a detailed briefing on the trail condition, trail markings, before handing the mic over to the "spokesperson" of the national park.  She would be retiring this year and everyone applaused her dedication.  A lucky draw was also conducted and lucky winners walked away with a year's subscription to Trail Runner's magazine!  After dinner, I went back to the cabin as there wasn't anything to do in such a remote part of USA.  Besides, we had to wake up early to take the shuttle to the race start.

I woke up at about 2am in the morning - an unearthly hour!  The rest in the cabin also started to get ready too.  I took a light breakfast comprising of a bun and a can of milo before walking over to the Resort's "gift shop".  The temperature was cool (about low 40 degree fahrenheit) and some runners gathered there to keep themselves out of the wind.  At around 4am, the organiser lined up 2 yellow buses (the school buses were exactly like what we saw in the movies!) for the runners to check-in.  Once the buses are full, we left for the race start about an hour's plus drive away.  When we reached the race start at about 5:30am, it was still dark and the sky remained dark until 7am.  Some runners left the buses to do their warm up routine while others like me choose to remain on the bus until nearer the start time at 6am.  At about 5:50am, I reluctantly left the bus.  Luckily, the organiser had a burning stove which we could stand around it to keep warm.  At 6:00am sharp, the RD flagged off the race promptly!

Start Point to CP 1 @ Grasshopper Hollow (8.2 miles)
I started the race slowly as it was still dark.  But soon I'm no longer feeling cold.  Most of the runners were running in a single file as the trail was narrow.  I managed to keep up with the person who was running in front of me although occasionally, a few runners would overtake me.  Although the elevation chart for Ozark was not that bad, sometimes, it could give you a false sense of security, especially when you were not keeping track of time.  At about 7:10am, the day finally brightened up!  I reached the first CP1 at Grasshopper Hollow almost 2 hours after the start of race!  As with last year, there was a iceman greeting us at the aid station.  I probably spent too long taking photos and food before leaving for the next CP.

Total Distance: 8.2 miles

CP 1 to CP 2 @ Sutton Bluff (9.6 miles)
As I did this race last year, I could roughly remember the type of terrain, which was varied.  Lots of small little hills up and down the national park. This was also the longest segment of the whole race at 9.6 miles.    The trail was easy to follow with the Ozark National Park signage found on the trees.  I was getting warm and decided to take off my long sleeved running tee.  I was chasing two other runners not far in front.  It was good to have someone to follow.  We also encountered a big water body.  Luckily for us, there was a fallen tree trunk lying across it and we decided to use it instead of wading through the icy cold water!  Unfortunately for me, I was unable to keep up with the guys and I soon lost track of them.  Nevertheless, it was nice to run by myself in broad daylight.  While I was enjoying, I tripped accidentally and twisted my left ankle!  Ouch!  The fall also sent my glasses flying and I panic as I won't be able to run without having my glasses!  I managed to find them hidden among the fallen leaves.  Then I checked myself for any bruise.  When I tried to move my left ankle, I knew i must have sprained it.  In my mind, I didn't think I could finish the run in such condition.  So I plodded along to the next CP not far away.  When I reached there, the pain in my left ankle sort of subsided.  And I decided to continue instead of giving up!

Total Distance: 17.8 miles

CP 2 to CP 3 @ Stillwell Hollow (5.2 miles)
This segment is the shortest, together with the next segment.  After I left the Sutton Bluff aid station, I had forgotten that I fell earlier and the pain in my left ankle.  Whether that was because of my high pain threshold, I wasn't sure.  (But perhaps not since my massage therapist would testify that the slightest of massage would make me scream!)  This was also the segment where I got lost for a short while.  Luckily for me, I realised my mistake when I couldn't see anymore trail markings and decided to retrace my route.  I saw some runners running past me in the other direction and followed.  Although it was the shortest segment, I still took 1hr 35mins to reach the next CP!

Total Distance: 23.0 miles

CP 3 to CP 4 @ Johnson Hollow (5.2 miles)
As the Stillwell Hollow aid station was a small aid station, I made a quick pit-stop before continuing my run.  The Ozark Trail National Park was also a horse riding course and I saw some folks riding their horses in the trails!  They stopped their horses to let me cross the path and wish me the best of luck.  :)  There were more obstacles in this segment - more water bodies to cross and some very rough terrain of huge rocks.  Just like the previous segment of the race, I took 1hr 27mins to reach Johnson Hollow aid station.  As I knew I was running on a very tight timeline, I made another super quick stopover after refueling my hydration.  The availability of a dry pair of socks at the next aid station was also a good incentive to push on as fast as I could.  I certainly had forgotten I fell earlier and the pain in my left ankle!

Total Distance: 28.2 miles

CP 4 to CP 5 @ Gunstock Hollow (6.6 miles)
By the time I left CP5, I knew it was probably the same scenario as last year when I missed the cut-off by 1 min.  I dared not stop to walk but slowed down whenever I encounter hills.  Luckily while there were many hills, they were mostly short hills and nothing too daunting like the huge mountains found in the Canadian Rockies or the mountains around Mt Fuji in Japan.  There were more water bodies in this segment and the weather was also getting cooler.  I took 2 hrs 10mins to complete this segment.  When I reached, I was apparently 5mins past cut-off time!  But the aid station captain decided that I could push on.  By then, the sweeper had also arrived at CP 5!

Total Distance: 34.8 miles

CP 5 to CP 6 @ Brooks Creek (8.4 miles)
I left CP 5 as fast as I could.  But I knew I would not be lost since the sweeper was with me.  He was running at my pace and whenever we passed any trail markings, he would removed them.  By then, I was apparently the last runner among those still running in the race.  :p  As I was getting tired, and the sky turning dark, I slipped an fell a few times.  I felt exhausted and decided that I would fast march instead of jogging and falling.  This segment of the race was one of the longest.  My hands were feeling very cold and the gloves were not as insulating as it claimed.  :(  The sweeper was very patience and encouraging.  But I knew I won't make the cut-off.  It was disappointing.  The good thing was I would cover a longer distance as compared to last year, if it could be considered a consolation.  By the time I reached CP 6, it was almost 4 hours later!  The volunteers quickly handed me a blanket as I felt very cold as my body was not generating heat.  I sat down next to a huge heater, removed my shoes and put my feet near it.  They radioed the RD who confirmed that they could pack up as soon as the last runner who left CP 6 had reached CP 7.  The sweeper continued onwards to CP 7 while I waited for one of the volunteers to drive me back to Bass River Resort.

Total Distance: 43.2 miles

I felt very disappointed to DNF the race again.  And I wasn't sure why.  Perhaps I could attribute this failure to the sprain I suffered early in the race.  (After note: a week after I returned, I had to check myself into the Emergency at CGH due to a slightly swollen ankle.  I was bandaged up and given an appointment to see the sports doctor, who diagnosed a Grade 2 left ankle ligament tear!)  After knowing that I sprained my ankle, I consoled myself that it was a miracle that I could still continue jogging for another 26 miles.  While the Ozark's rolling hills were relatively "not difficult" to run, the condition of the trails was somewhat obscured by the fallen leaves during the autumn season.  We won't be able to see the rocks, roots and ruts hidden beneath the leaves and if we were not careful, we could trip and hurt ourselves.  I certainly hoped to go back to Ozark (also known as Mark Twain National Forest) soon to complete this monster race!

Race Terrain Difficulty: 3 (hilly; total climb between 50 and 150 feet per mile)
Surface Terrain Difficulty: 4 (trail or dirt road with substantial rocks, roots and/or ruts)
(Above ratings courtesy of Ultra Running)

1 comment:

midnightrunner said...

It's nice to see you finally blogging again. Then again, can say the same about me! Ha ha ha! Still, I am doing my best to keep up with my current blog about the MILO MARATHON training. See you next weekend!