In April 2019, I was able to cheer on my friend’s Tara and Don as they tackled an ultra on the Arkansas portion of the Ouachita Trail. Conditions were not ideal- wet & cold- but they both dug deep and crossed the finish line. As a crew, we were able to meet them throughout the day at different junctions on the trail and I found myself itching to explore the trail. I’d sneak off onto the rain-soaked trail and was in awe at it’s beauty…the rain sometimes has a way of illuminating subtle colors in the woods that get masked by a sunny day. I was instantly in love with this trail! The next day, running shoes on, my friend John and I were able to explore the trail a bit more including summiting Pinnacle Mountain.
I left this technical, undulating, magical trail wondering how I could come back and see all 223 miles of it from Oklahoma through Arkansas. I considered the most reasonable option of a backpacking thru-hike…but that would take a couple of weeks, at least, which is a lot of time away from work. Then I considered trying to fastpack the trail to reduce the time it took to complete it but I didn’t have all of the gear necessary for that type of adventure. I tossed around the ridiculous idea of running the entire thing, my preferred sport, as it wouldn’t take as much time from work and I would get to explore the entire trail. Out of curiosity, I logged into the Fastest Known Time (FKT) leader boards online (this is a website where people document speed records on established routes or trails) to see what the fastest female time was on the trail to gauge what I could potentially run it in. I was both terrified and excited to see that no woman had posted an FKT for the trail and only 2 records existed for the men’s FKT. I immediately knew going for the female FKT on the Ouachita Trail would be my long term goal…but maybe in a few years… or a few years after that. The idea of running all day for several days in a row seemed unfathomable and would be harder than anything I’ve ever done before!
Then 2020 hit the world like no other year we’ve recently experienced. I started a new job as the Vice President of Operations for Boys & Girls Clubs of Acadiana three weeks before the shelter at home order was issued for Louisiana, I was stressed and needed an outlet to process the global pandemic. Running quickly became my space to reset, gain perspective and let some of the stressors melt away. Since races were cancelled I began to develop a love for the daily grind…the trials of miles as it is known in the running community. I eventually found myself consistently running 50-60 mile weeks and wondering what I’d do with my fitness. Perhaps I’d search for another 100- mile race or set the goal of running a fast marathon. During this time in the ultra running community, people all over the world were knocking down Fastest Known Times on local trails to create their own adventures and push their limits. In August of 2020, elite ultra runner Kaytlyn Gerbin went after and crushed the highly competitive FKT on the Wonderland Trail in Washington state. In a Instagram post about her recent record she said,
“I’ve spent years telling myself my secret goals like this are crazy (I think a lot of us women do that), but why not set a scary goal, call your shot, and see what happens?”Kaytlyn Gerbin
Upon reading that, I knew what I was training for. Thus, this blog post is my public announcement that I am “calling my shot”. Weather permitting, on Sunday, March 28th, I will begin running at Oklahoma’s Talimena State Park which is the western terminus of the Ouachita Trail. I’ll head east to reach Pinnacle Mountain State Park which signifies the end of the Ouachita Trail with the hopes of covering all 223-miles in 4 days or less. Gratefully, I’ll be crewed and paced by my husband, Justin, and many friends throughout the adventure!
I feel so privileged to have been exposed to the backcountry, backpacking, trail running, and just running in general. I want to provide that exposure to others during this personal adventure and, in particular, to the club kids we serve at Boys & Girls Clubs of Acadiana. The 5 weeks leading up to my run our 6 clubs- spread throughout Lafayette, Iberia, St. Landry, Vermilion, and Calcasieu Parish- will collectively work towards running 250 miles total. We have fun incentives and lessons built in for the kids to learn more about running and adventure while working to reach a personal goal they set out from themselves. We are even exploring a field trip to a local trail for the top runners at each club! I ask that you please consider sponsoring a kid today to show your support. This is a self-financed adventure so ALL donations go directly to supporting the work of Boys & Girls Clubs of Acadiana.
$0.10 mile = $25
$0.50 mile = $125
$1.00 mile = $250
$2.00 mile = $500
With less than 3 months of training to go, logistics are being finalized and my excitement is building. These past few months I’ve:
- Worked with the accomplished ultra runner athlete, Joe “Stringbean” McConaughy, to ensure I’m physically and mentally prepared for this challenge.
- Watched hours of YouTube videos to learn more about the trail.
- Talked with many people who are regular hikers and trail maintainers to understand the unique challenges of this trail from terrain to river crossings to trail markings to access points.
- Gotten great information from Randy Windle who has the second fastest known time on the trail.
- Scoured Friends of the Ouachita Trail website to gain helpful information.
- Ran the first 30 miles of the trail which is, unanimously, considered the hardest section.
As you can see, I’ve had fun preparing for my big adventure and believe I can accomplish what I’m setting out to do…but I know it will hurt which is why I’m calling this project:
The Big OUaCH Run on the Ouachita Trail!
Thanks for your show of support whether financially through Boys & Girls Clubs or by sending me well wishes! I’m looking forward to sharing more about the planning and prep, and, ultimately, the run itself!