Saturday, March 17, 2012

3 Days of Syllamo - Race Report

I was fortunate enough to revisit one of my favorite races, 3 Days of Syllamo, and enjoy the trip to AR with my friend Dan Lehmann.  This is a great race and a beautiful area.  I was really looking forward to it, the break from work, and seeing all the great friends that I had made the last time at 3 Days in '09.
Dan and I rolled into Blanchard Springs Campground on Thursday afternoon and quickly set our tents up in the light drizzle of what was promising to be a soaking rain.  The prospect of extra suffering looked great as we heard some pretty dismal reports of constant rain on the horizon.  Luckily, the clouds and rain avoided us and we had some great running weather for the races.

In '09 I was fortunate enough to win this race.  The course was re-routed that year due to an ice storm that had decimated the trails.  Even though we repeated much of the trails and had quite a bit of dirt FS roads in the 50-mile day, I loved every minute of it.  I was looking forward to seeing the "real" course this year, even though I knew it would be far more challenging.

I had no preconceived notions of grandeur for this year.  I knew Nick Lewis, the previous year's winner, was in the race and it was his to lose.  I just really wanted to test my fitness and to see where I stood in the 8-weeks preceding Masasnutten. My pre-race goal was to run conservatively for the entire 50K, run easy for the first 50K of the 50-mile day, then try to run as hard as possible for the last 20-miles.  I figured that this would be some of the best simulation for 100-mile training that you can get.  I didn't even think about the 20K on Day 3 . . . that may have proved to be oversight.

This race really is more about camaraderie and fellowship, than competition.  But . . . there was still some racing going on and here's how it shook out for me.

Day 1: 50K
Immediately the pace went out faster than I wanted to go.  I knew the distance would be no problem, but if I ran too hard the first day I knew I would pay dearly on Day 2.  In a wise move, I quickly decided to just run my own race -- just as I planned, but I've been known to be persuaded.  Although my fitness has greatly improved over the last 3-4 months, I still have not yet regained my pre-AT speed; not that I ever was a super speed demon, but I've historically had much better turnover than I do now.  It will come (it will most likely require more effort than what I've been giving it), but on this day I knew well enough to pay heed to some restraint.  Ashley Nordell and I fell into a comfortable pace together very early on and we simply stuck together until the end.  It was great catching up with Ashley and I was amazed at how well she was running after giving birth just 9-months ago.  She is tough as nails and ultimately ran her way to yet another unanimous victory at 3 Days.  Ashley and I crossed the line in 4:55.  A solid time and legs "well"-preserved.

Day 2: 50M

As race director Steve Kirk says, "This is where the fun begins!"  His words proved true as he sent us out at daylight to tackle the unrelenting hills of the out-and-back single track course he had prepared for us intrepid runners.  I ended up running with Travis Liles to the turn around and had a good time getting to know him better -- yet another awesome person that I've been lucky enough to meet in the sport of ultrarunning.  At the 30-mile mark, I moved through the aid-station a little quicker than the group I was running with and slowly picked up the pace to try to catch up with Darin Schneidewind -- a very strong runner from KS.  I eventually caught up and Darin and I ran together for quite a while and enjoyed the boost of conversation and shared pace.  From there it was nothing exciting, just putting my head down and making sure I did the work to find the finish line.  I finished in 9:29 and felt no worse for the wear after the arduous day of running aside from some nasty heel blisters from the insoles in my shoes.  Back to the drawing board there I suppose . . .

Day 3: 20K
"2 out of 3 ain't bad."  Dan and I both decided to not start the 20K.  My left achilles was pretty sore when I arose from the tent the next morning and I had no desire to push the issue and jeopardize my training or ultimately my race at MMT.  Dan had some tendinitis in his shin and wisely decided to abstain as well -- for the same reason.  Regardless, the 20K wisely didn't happen for me.  We enjoyed an earlier than planned start to the trip home and the comfort of knowing that we might actually be becoming smarter with age.  I'm glad I decided not to run since I recovered in just a day or two and was back to running my normal load this week (until I got the inevitable horrible cold that comes with with post-race immune system depression and working in the health care profession).

Full race results HERE.

3 Days of Syllamo is an awesome race.  I highly recommend it.  This race was the impetus behind Dan and myself starting the WV Trilogy.  Multi-day races provide a unique challenge and are a very rewarding experience.  If you've not yet entered this realm of running, I suggest you give it a try.

Don't just take my word for it, check out this video tht Dave Wakefield put together.