Monday, June 30, 2014

Outback In The Ozarks

This year has been a year of profound running experiences with Outback in the Ozarks being a large part.

Outback in the Ozarks is a 200 mile long relay race in Northwest Arkansas, starting in Eureka Springs, AR going through numerous state parks and through the Ozark Mountains.  Most teams consist of twelve members in two vans.  Only one van is active at a time as those six members take turns running their legs of the race.  Then there is a handoff to the other van, the other members as the first van members rest, recover, eat and get to the next van exchange zone.  This relay takes place the first weekend in May.  2014 is the second year of this relay.

In March Jennifer Pannell mentioned putting a team together.  I know I'm a slow runner so I suggested that maybe I would make a great support person unless they couldn't find enough runners.
Lucky me, the team decided that this slow runner was a-ok to join in the adventure.  So multi-workout days, multi-run days, and hill training became the normal routine around here.

On April 25th, 2014, one week before Outback in the Ozarks 2014, and one day before Ouachita Trail 50K, on a wee lil slow bike ride I took a fall.  Slick mud, a novice rider, and a curve in the bike path just didn't mix well together and it sure didn't end well.  I went down, superman pose style, fracturing the ball of the humerus on the left arm in two places.   X-rays determined that everything was tight together and a sling was going to be the stabilization method.  With one little slip summer plans changed in a second.

Jennifer was one of the first phone calls I made.  She had to know I was probably out.  I told her that as the slowest runner of the team, I now may have to walk every step, but was willing as long as the team was okay with that idea.  I didn't want to go there and have everyone frustrated with me.  Jennifer assured me all would be well.  It turned out to be a good thing that I didn't drop as another team member had to due to a family emergency.
Our team consisted of:
Van 1:

Van 2:
Me (Lisa Gunnoe)
Valerie Hunt
Julie Miles
Andrea Williams
Jennifer Pannell

We had challenges right from the start with the breakdown of a van.  Thanks to the nice guys at a parts store, who replaced the alternator without charging for labor, things were back on track.  This was all before we ever even got to Eureka Springs.  #idontquit turned out to be a theme of the weekend.

Early Saturday morning Van 1 was off to the start.  We just waited, ate breakfast, and waited some more till our turn.  Its kind of challenging just waiting because you don't know what is going on with the other team members.

I was first runner in our van.  My turn came soon enough with a beautiful trail section, with lots of hills, starting at Hobbs Nature Center. I found a back brace type wrap to wrap around my whole body, broken arm to give it stability.  It still hurt but no more than sitting home on the couch.  The lack of mobility made running much harder.  I did walk more than I wanted to walk.  My leg was just under five very hilly miles.
Waiting for my first run

Oh the beautiful trail

Almost done with my trail run
I love running, but I was glad to have my section over with, hand off the arm band, get some ice water and have a faster runner make up time.

Jennifer handing off to Andrea
 The idea was to just keep moving, just keep moving, #idontquit

Van 1's last leg, Andrea, come in to the exchange location just as it was getting dark.  We than had hours to shower, nap, eat and wait till it was our turn again.

About 2is AM Saturday morning it was time for Van 1 to rock and roll once again.  I was up first.
My leg started with a brutal 6 miles uphill in the dark.  The dark never did bother me, the constant uphill is what was a killer.  I thought I was doing well, making good time and moving forward when along came the race officials telling the team to pick me up and head for the next exchange point.  I only had 1/2 mile left in my leg, but we were behind the cut off.  So we drove to the exchange point and Valarie started her leg.

There are no pictures from the night portion of the run because, well, it was dark.

We were glad to be done with our legs and hand things off to Van 1.

Early Saturday afternoon we were getting ready to become active again, waiting at Devils Den State Park.  We were discussing strategy, we were behind on expected times chasing cutoffs.  I mentioned to the team that my next leg was more than six miles and most of it was steep uphills.  Valerie offered to swap legs with me.  What a hero!  She knew it would be hot, hard and uphill in the dust, but she really came through.  Thank you Valerie.  I took her up on the offer.  She saved us a lot of time.  It would have taken me two hours to get in that mileage.

Then came my turn to run.  Its funny, day one we were all cheering, taking pictures and such, day two we were quiet, encouraging but quiet.

Once again the cut off caught up to us on my leg.  This was twice I got taking off the road.  I did have a bit of a mental melt down over this.  The ladies, in their kindness and wisdom, just let me melt down and cry.  Its hard to be the weakest link.

Just keep moving

The migration continues

Jennifer waiting for gum 

Julie and Andrea handing off

Valerie and Jennifer

Andrea getting to know the foam roller!  OUCH!

Julie showing us how its done late in the race

We won the women's division.  

We finished the race dead last, but we finished.  We were the only all woman team.  Most of the teams used men for the toughest climbs, we used what we had, just us women.  One team even bothered to cheat, but that is another story.

I'm very humbled, grateful, and overwhelmed by this experience.  It is very close to my heart.  I started it not knowing what to expect having never participated in a relay before.
I learned about love, grace, leadership and true self-sacrifice during this amazing weekend.  Every woman adder her flavor of strong to the experience.  I learned about true leadership when I was melting down over my slowness and they just let me, talked me off the cliff and loved me anyway without judgement and negativity.  What a great example of being accepted for who, what, where and in the condition one finds themselves.  I owe much gratitude to these amazing ladies for their example of sportsmanship and pure guts.

Do I want to do it again, WHY YES I DO!!!
Next week, no, once a year is enough :)

P. S.
I left much out.  Its not my place to tell other people's stories.

My Legs:
Leg 7:
Starts at Hobbs Nature Center, 4.9 miles ends at Horse Trailer Parking Lot on Piney Road
This leg is all trail, it has some serious uphills.  One section just keeps going up and up back and forth over the top of a ridge.  It is runnable for a strong runner.  Use of gaiters is recommended, a waterbottle is fine.  There is one water stop on the trail.

Leg 19:
Starts at Pig Trail Cafe in Crosses Community, 5.36 miles ending at Brannon Mountain Cemetary
This leg is run in the dark, on pavement, up up and up, winding roads up.  Lots of hill training is required to get prepared for any leg in this race, but Leg 19 definitely.  Using a 30 step run/walk strategy is helpful to just move a little bit faster.

Leg 31:
Valery swapped me legs so she took Leg 30, dusty dirty uphill out of Devils Den State Park for 6.5 miles.
Leg 31 starts at Liberty 86 Church for 4.63 miles ending at Zinnamon Chruch.  This is rollers, mixed between dirt roads and paved.  Some uphills but not a lung buster.  On a good day I could have run the whole thing.