It was a record-breaking year at this year’s Ouachita Trail 50, as both the men and women’s course record for the 50-mile race and the men’s 50K record was broken. Registration at this year’s event was at an all-time high too, with 208 entrants. Cut-off was supposed to be 200, but you know what happens when the race directors move….
I picked my race packet the day before with 5 minutes to spare, and Stan, the RD’s husband/co-RD, was as friendly as ever even as the deadline approached. “Anything else I need to know before tomorrow?” I asked him. “Nope. Show up early to avoid parking hassles. See you then!”
After meeting up with my husband at our campsite, I doublechecked my packing and promptly buried my head in a book to ignore those niggling pre-race jitters. All too soon, it was bedtime…and then it was the alarm going off. I gave myself plenty of time to eat breakfast and get dressed, but the bib pick-up time arrived all too shortly just the same.
Racers milled about in the darkness, picking up their numbers, standing in line for portapotties as cars kept searching for a non-existent parking space. Chrissy periodically yelled the countdown until the race briefing. Race briefing began at 5:45a – DO NOT mess with the volunteers. Mess with them and you will have to face me! Cut-offs are strictly enforced! Don’t be late. What color is this tape? Follow these markings! – and the “Alright, let’s go!” came suddenly, gut-wrenchingly soon.
Somehow I found myself at the front of the pack but luckily, the two-lane highway left plenty of room for everyone to pass comfortably. I settled into a nice pace and found a conversational group to pass the time til Pinnacle Mountain. The first miles clicked off and then we were scrambling UP that thousand foot mountain then right back DOWN this thousand foot mountain; and then the marathon began (or marathon+, for the 50milers)!
Even after the loss of a contact, I found the trail to be well marked between both the permanent blue blazes and the blue tape. I wasn’t prepared for the technicality of the trail though – when the race introduction said rocky, I thought it meant sharp and pointy; this trail was more like small boulders through some parts of the trail. Other parts of the trail were smooth and grassy, some was nearly swamp after the previous nights’ rain and the aforementioned 200 runners, and even the sections of asphalt were a welcome note of variety in the terrain.
There were three main aid stations for the 50k – one on the way, one at the turnaround, two on the way back – with an additional AS at the turnaround for the 50 mile. [I won’t mention the homegrown bonus AS stocked with super goodies.] I found all of them to be well supplied and featuring some unbelievably helpful volunteers (who would want to mess with them when they’d charge your phone for you, or bring you contact solution?). Hammer Nutrition sponsored the OT50, so I was pleased to try the Endurolyte tabs for the first time. Maybe one day I’ll even be a gel convert! But as the day was fairly warm, I stuck with the pretzels and potato chips.
I had a remarkably smooth run, especially for first-timing it up. As I crossed the finish line, Chrissy waited until I shucked my made-on-the-run eye patch and switched back to glasses to adorn me with a fabulous finisher’s medal she handmade herself! I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you Arkansawyers also got their race bibs personalized by Chrissy as well – mine said ‘Go girl!’ – and maybe a couple Texans had theirs signed. “Texas Sucks!”, indeed! The Ouachita Trail 50 is a well-sized, friendly race that is superbly organized and all-around good fun. ost runners know each other, and if they don’t, they soon do. Come on down and run a 50 with us next year!
P.S. Big congrats to Nick Lewis, who took 20:08 off his 2011 course record with 7:06:04, and 50:37 off the 2010 record; Emily Ansick, who took 7:47 off the 2005 women’s 50 mile record with a time 8:49:48; and Matt Pruitt who, in his first ultra, shaved 3:12 off the 2008 course record for the men’s 50k with 4:10:54. Cheers!