Ouachita Switchbacks 50k Race Report

12573228_10206567674803521_9178131988965485725_n1) Then sometimes it decides to start sleeting and raining down little ice pellets 5 minutes before the race starts. Well that’ll make things fun!

2) It’s a mountain race, minus the altitude. Only three hills on the whole course…but they’re each 5 miles long.

3) Find the biggest ass hill you can. Do hill repeats. Then do more.

4) Do your lunges. All of your lunges. Then do more.

5) Do your squats. All of your squats. Then do more.

6) If you do all of these things, you’ll be just fine on 5 mile long hills. Better than you thought you would be, even.

7) Find people you know. Run with them for the first three miles until the conga line thins out and the race adrenaline wears off. This prevents going out like an asshole. And is more fun.

8) Eventually you should really quit annoying them though and let them run their race.

9) Hooray for pine needles and leaves!
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10) Except for when they’re covered in sleet and mixed in with a generous dose of rocks.

11) If you don’t need anything from the aid station, don’t stop at the aid station. Trust your nutrition. Trust your hydration.

12) The 1st half of the race determines the 2nd half of the race. You don’t know what kind of day it really is until you’re at least a quarter of the way in.

13) If you get a quarter of the way in and everything is feeling good, go try to do something.

14) At least until you discover the 2nd half of the race is a completely different animal all together.

15) Holy shitballs, mossy rock fields.

16) Picture a rock field. Cover the rocks in moss until they’re all green. Add a layer of pine needles. Sprinkle in fallen leaves. Dust everything in a layer of fresh sleet and melted snow slick. Throw in multi-mile climbs with lots of switchbacks. Rinse and repeat until you have the 2nd half of a 50k.
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17) Trust your trail blazes. When it looks like you’ve lost the trail, you’ve lost the trail. Look for a tree with a blaze. It’s incredibly easy to keep going one way only to discover the trail went a completely different direction, probably around the dry river bed that was nothing but rocks.

18) Find gear that you like, then find gear that works. Use it correctly. Trust your gear.

19) That way when it’s 34 degrees outside and you have to cross a waist deep stream, then you slip and fall in on your left side soaking your arm and glove, you’ll really only be freezing cold and miserable for about ten minutes. When this happens, much cursing is allowed.
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20) If the course is an out and back, yell a few words of encouragement at every runner you pass. If you’re on your way back and they’re still heading out, don’t lie to them. Tell them how far to the next aid station. A few words of encouragement can pick somebody up and out of a dark place.

21) Random trail hugs from complete strangers always make me smile, especially if it’s from a little elderly Asian lady who’s slogging up a hell of a hill.

22) If you find another runner in front of you going your pace, it’s ok to hook onto them for a little bit. Strike up a conversation. They may turn out to be an interesting person you’ll be glad you met. Company makes the miles go by faster.

23) There’s something beautiful and peaceful about running in a pine forest with nothing but the sound of falling sleet surrounding you.

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24) Be self-sufficient. Carry what you need with you. Don’t trust an aid station. Don’t trust a mileage marker. Your watch is lying to you. Where are you REALLY?  Learn the course.

25) That way, when you finally look at your watch for the first time and think you have two miles left to go and are completely out of Tailwind in your pack, you won’t stop for a final bathroom break and to shove a snack in your mouth when you really only have a half mile further to go.

26) Do NOT let a guy with hiking poles beat you at the last minute on this hill climb.

27) Don’t underestimate the power of seeing a happy helpful face at an aid station. It’ll give you something to look forward to and leave you feeling better when you head back out for the 2nd half.

28) I really enjoy the smaller races. Loosely thrown together, no amenities, just enough to keep everything from falling off the rails. Everybody’s happy, recognizes faces, and even if they really don’t know what they’re doing, their enthusiasm and energy more than make up for it. No pressure, no B.S., low entry fees. Trail, a few aid stations, and good people. That’s all you really need.

29) It’s awesome to cross the finish line and that’s just kinda it. No hoopla. No big grand ceremony or barrier to cross. You’re just done. Nothing more than the satisfaction of knowing you did it, you pushed through, you overcame, and you still feel pretty damn good. That’s one of the best feelings in the world.

29) It really is possible to run on nothing but Tailwind and water. You may get some weird looks at aid stations when all you ask for is a cup of water though.

30) Eat better, feel better, run better. It really seems to be that simple.

31) Travel with good people. It makes everything better.
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32) Just put on the damn goofy hat and smile already, you idiot.
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33) If you ever get the chance to go hiking in Devil’s Den State Park, go do it. It’s gorgeous, even on a cold grey day. IMG_20160117_112042 IMG_20160117_110746 IMG_20160117_105825 IMG_20160117_103157 IMG_20160117_101901 IMG_20160117_101822 IMG_20160117_101432

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