3 Days of Syllamo Race Report
Three Days of Syllamo
If any runner keeps a list of “must do” races, Syllamo should be at the top. Steve Kirk and his family put on a tremendous, well organized, three day event. Last year I went out to Arkansas by myself to give this race a try. I was intrigued by the idea of a stage race and the pictures from the website looked incredible. I was not disappointed. I had such a blast, I decided I had to return. This year my husband, Josh, was not going to let me have all the fun, so he came too. We arrived at Blanchard Campground around 8:00 at night on Thursday to a thunder and lightning storm. We both sat in the car thinking maybe it would stop. As the rains came down harder, we even contemplated going to a hotel, but it was getting late and we were pretty far from town. We finally just dashed out into the storm and set up the tent. I had to put our beach towels on the tent floor before our sleeping pads because it was so wet!
The first stage of the race is a 50k. Day one and two of this year’s race would be different from the previous year, so I had no idea what to expect. I looked forward to the first day because its more like a training run, with most people saving some legs for the next two days. At check-in we saw my friend Matt Hart, who I did a crazy three day training camp with last summer ( I guess we only meet up for triple day runs), and was introduced to Ty Draney and Corena and Kevin, from Wyoming. There were several runners from the year before, so it was like a mini running reunion. My favorite part of these races is the people, and this race seems like it has the nicest group of runners. At 9:00 we were off. The course had many creek crossing and scattering of debris from the winter tornadoes. I ran much of the race with a guy named Andy from Missouri. We managed to get off course a couple times, so when a local runner passed by us, we decided we better keep up with him. It was a blast. I took a few gels, drank some tri-berry nuun, and never hit any low worse than “ I feel ready to be done soon.” Before I knew it, we were on the home stretch. For good measure, Andy and I got off course one last time and had to bushwack through thorn bushes to get back to the trail. We finished together with bloody legs.
Day two is a 50 miler, which rumor had was going to have 16,000 feet of elevation gain. I was skeptical, but when it took me over five hours to reach the turn-around, I was hoping that statistic was true. I ran much of this day with Andy from the 50k and another Andy, also from Missouri (at least I could not mix up their names). I had to conserve gels because I miscalculated how many I would need, so around mile 35 I was feeling a bit hungry. When I reached the unmanned aid station, I discovered a bin under the table that was filled with treats. I ate a few cookies, which tasted like the best thing in the world- for about 5 minutes. Then I remembered why I can never eat food during races, especially several cookies. I had a low point for a while regretting the cookies, but even then, I was still enjoying the day. With nine to go, I saw Kevin and Corena, and they were so encouraging, I started to re-energize. Andy #2 was right behind me and was dealing with some cramps, so we gave him a nuun for his bottle and the two of us took off together for the final leg. Everyone hung out again at the finish eating and cheering in runners well into the dark. No matter how long they had been out there, how bloody their knees were, every runner seemed to manage a smile at the end.
The final stage is a 20k, but we all know it is really more like 14 miles. I ran a bit with some runners I had met last year. At one point I had to get over a big log, so I stepped up onto it and waited for gravity pull me down the other side. Another runner, Stuart, was behind me and from his perspective he thought I hurdled the thing. I had to laugh because there was definitely no hurdling going on in my stiff and sore hobble. The 20k course is very scenic. It winds through mountain bike trails, over bluffs, and along creeks. It is a perfect course to complete the fantastic weekend. When we crossed a gravel road I knew the finish was close, and I could not stop smiling. It feels like such an accomplishment to cross through the finish on the third day. That night, while hanging out with Josh, Matt, Ty, Corena, and Kevin, we began making plans for our trip to Arkansas next year for another three-day adventure.
congrats again ashley ~ awesome effort out there!