Sunday, April 2, 2017

April Fools! Athens Big Fork Marathon

Course Information
Before you read any of this race information - please be sure you have read this first.

The Athens-Big Fork Trail Marathon and Blaylock Creek 17 Mile Fun Run take place on the Athens-Big Fork Trail. This is actually > 100 year old horse postal trail. After running this, you will wish you had a horse!

The race starts at the Big Fork Community Center located on Hwy 8 on the eastern side of the town of Big Fork. See Google Map.

The course is an out and back course. You first run 2-1/2 miles on roads - paved and gravel up to the start of the trail. Then you enter the Athens-Big Fork Trail - White Blazes. Follow the trail over 8 mountains. The 8 mountain crossings on the trail are:
  1. Missouri
  2. Hurricane Knob
  3. McKinley
  4. Brier Creek
  5. Leader
  6. Brushheap
  7. Brushy
  8. Big Tom
You pop out of the trail and need to go about a half mile down the gravel road to get your full 13.1. Then you turn around and go back. It's that easy!
The 17 Mile Blaylock Creek Fun Run only gets to run half of the hills. You will turn around at the Aid Station just across Blaylock Creek.

What this means to you the runner. Here are some statistics for you to consider - this is the "out" of the out and back:
Max Elevation: 1850
Min Elevation: 1050
Climbing Elevation Gain: 4600 feet - Strava says 6,730
Climbing Distance: 7.10 miles
Average Grade: 12%

 This race is usually scheduled for early January.  The weather, the ice on the roads, kept it from happening at that time this year.  It was moved to early April.  I think I like the temps in January better than April!

 In order to run the full marathon instead of being directed back to the start at the 17 mile fun run turn around one has to get to at turnaround at 10:30 AM.  With an 8 AM start that gives anyone 2.5 hours to make that point, 8.5 ish miles.  That is a pace of 17:38 minutes per mile.  Okay, that should be doable.  Well, I have tried multiple times and haven't made it yet.
I received permission to start early.  I started at 6:10 AM.  It took me 2 hours 50 minutes to get to that point.  I'm glad I started early!

Little Missouri Aid Station

 Moving out of Blaylock Creek aid station toward the turn around I was wondering about my desire to do the full marathon instead of settling for the fun run.  Right out of the aid station is a steep climb over a mile long.  This is where the 8:00 AM start runners started to pass me.   It is a thrill to see the speedy runners in action. 

First Hill out of Blaylock Aid Station heading toward the marathon turn around.
By about this time it was really starting to warm up.  I was slowly crawling up each mountain trying to keep from over-exertion.  Taking photos as I worked my way up the hills helped me contain negativity and keep my head in the right place.  

More front runners passing me up the hill

When it is that hot, this is a treat! 

Blaylock Creek Aid Station by Fleet Feet Easy Runner.  They treat you like a rock star here!

This was a story of the slowest hill climbs in history.  I just kept moving, very slow steps.  Every now and then I would come to a complete stop and give myself time to catch my breath.

It was a pleasure to see so many friends, make new ones, visit and just be out there.  

I experienced less negative chatter inside my head with this run than I have in many a run.  It was about survival, it wasn't about second guessing wimpiness.

It was amazing crossing the finish line.  It was a very hard thing.  Celebrating felt right.

Now to the boring stuff:
Shoes - Hoka Mafate 4
Socks - Injinji sock liners, Drymax socks
Lambs Wool under the socks on those places that tend to blister or rub
Ultimate Direction hydration pack with bottles in the front, not using the bladder
Black Diamond trekking poles
In the water bottles:  1/2 Nuun Strawberry Lemonade tablet, honey ginger crystals
Please search for local sources first.  Fleet Feet Easy Runner in Little Rock, Good Measure Market in Searcy has Nuun Strawberry Lemonade tables.  Good Measure Market carries Honey Ginger Crystals.

Ouachita Trail 50 is the next upcoming race for me.
Every year I enter the 50 mile run and end up running the 50K race.  The pace needed for the 50 mile race is under 15 minutes per mile.  I'm not there yet.  With so much of life happening this last winter the miles just weren't put in to properly train.  I do not think I can make that cut off, then the next one, and the next one.  One can't really achieve a goal if they can't envision it.  So this isn't a good place to be.