Honoring Resiliency: Setting the Ouachita Trail Female FKT

If you’d like to read about why I decided to run this trail and about some of my preparation please check out the two blog post I wrote before the run. You don’t need to have read them to read this one though.

Blog post 1: Announcing my intention
Bog post 2: One week before the start

Saturday: The day before the start

Saturday morning Justin, Derrek (who was in from New Orleans), and I finished loading up the tear drop camper and truck ready to head north to Queen Wilhelmina State Park (QWSP). Coffee in hand, we bid farewell to our pups looking forward to an adventure like no other! The following day I planned to start running the 223- mile Ouachita trail in under four days.

After about 7 hours on the road we made it to QWSP mid-afternoon and, somewhat magically, my other crew members- Edie, Jeremy, and Keith- that were coming in separate vehicles that day arrived within 10-15 minutes of us. Our plan was to grab dinner as a group from the restaurant within the state park lodge but before that we settled in to visit next to Keith and Jeremy’s tents. As the sun slowly descended, we realized it was time to get a few business items taken care of; namely, debriefing the crew on gear, food, and the game plan.

While we waited for our dinner table at the restaurant we sat on the large porch outside and went over each days plans and clarified any questions or concerns. Since this group and my other 7 crew members that would be coming had met via Zoom video conference call three times before there wasn’t much to cover.

The rest of the evening went like this: Dinner, shower, bedtime, and wondering why I wasn’t filled with nervousness and anxiety yet.

Sunday

My coach, Joe “Stringbean” McConaughey, and I went back and forth trying to determine my official start time. My aim was to finish running by 11:30 each day and sleep from midnight until 4 a.m. I had a goal of completing 56 miles for my first day which conservatively should take about 14-15 hours so we finally landed on an 8 a.m. start. The lodge we were staying at was an hour drive to the start so we planned to leave at 6:45 a.m. Though my alarm was set for 5:45, I awoke at 4:00 a.m. with a combination of peace and excitement. Since I had time, I ran (literally) out to the truck in what felt like 40 mph winds! After laughing at how ludicrous the winds ferocity was, I grabbed my journal to jot down some thoughts while drinking coffee. First, I realized I had some feelings of guilt that 12 friends would be supporting me on such a self- focused effort. I reminded myself that they wanted to support me and would enjoy the adventure and that in a heart beat I would do the same for each of them. Working through that allowed me to contemplate what the start line of an adventure like this meant to me. I wrote, “This run is freedom, privilege, audacious, gratitude in action, the sum of lessons learned from my parents and from my life experiences. Getting to the start line is a result of consistency, discipline, dreaming big, in believing and preparing, having the right people in my corner, willingness to adapt and rolling with the punches.”

Once we hit the road heading east to Talimena State Park, my nerves kicked in and I was immensely grateful for the unexpected time I was able to spend earlier that morning centering myself before such a big undertaking. In turn, we were treated to a spectacular moonset and sunrise throughout the mountainous drive and even saw several deer and a foxing scurrying into the woods. Just like that, my crew was counting me down to an 8:00 a.m. start and I was off. I’d run this section of trail before but had forgotten the trail starts with a winding mile or so uphill. I kept looking at my current pace and worrying that I was already falling off my planned pace. This was the perfect opportunity to remind myself of why I wanted to take on this run in the first place. I was there because the magic of the trail beckoned me. I was there to honor my dad who had unexpectedly died at the age of 59 from COVID-19 two months before. I was there to dig deep and to learn and grow and accept myself and what was without the need for perfectionism. I was there as an expression of resiliency. With those reminders, I settled in and switched my watch from showing my pace and distance to just showing the time of day and allowing the data to be tracked in the background.

The start!

I ran the first 24 miles solo which included one of the hardest, most technical sections of the trail. Matthew McConaughey accompanied me by narrating his memoir, Greenlights, and to ensure I was highly entertained while I slowly picked through rock field after rock field after rock field. I felt strong and centered and like I was managing my effort which was critical on day one. Once I arrived at the Winding Stairs aid stop I devoured a turkey sandwich on a Hawaiian roll, some watermelon, and a variety of items. Keith and I took off on an 11 mile section together.

Keith and I

My stomach started complaining which is unusual for me. Many ultra trail runners experience GI distress after long miles but I rarely have any issues especially only 24 miles in. Managing this issue slowed me some over the next 13-15 miles all while I continued to consume calories as planned since I still had nearly 200 miles to cover. This section of trail was beautiful but I was mostly distracted trying to attend to my disgruntled body. One fun encounter I had on this section was meeting Kristy Dodd who I had spoken with on Facebook. She is an active member of the Friends of the Ouachita Trail (FoOT) who’s members regularly use and maintain the trail. It’s an inspiring bunch of people who take their volunteer jobs as trail keepers seriously and always invite others to join them. She cheered me on so loudly and wholeheartedly that I forgot how crappy I felt for a moment!

Once I picked up Jeremy for a 12 mile section I had lost a decent amount of time compared to my plan and was still trying to navigate my stomach distress. The section with Jeremy dropped us down into the valley and we had to cross the gorgeous Kiamichi River about 8 different times. Even with the sunlight and cold water crossings, I was finding myself nodding off a bit. Jeremy tried to help as best he could but I knew something just wasn’t right with my nutrition for me to be experiencing stomach distress and nodding off- not from fatigue as I felt pretty good- but from some kind of imbalance of electrolytes or nutrition…I really wasn’t sure but I was having to really focus with each step I took. Luckily, putting on music helped me click through some miles until I arrived at the State Line aid spot to get some help diagnosing what was going on.

My husband, Justin, had seen me struggle with this nodding off before during a couple of races and immediately declared it an electrolyte issue and thrust a bottle of water with a Nuun Sport Electrolyte tablet dissolving in it. I nibbled on a dinner of ramen noodles with cashews and a homemade sauce of peanut butter, soy sauce, and sesame oil that Jeremy had whipped up. It was so delicious. This aid spot was at mile 46.3 so Edie and I took off to reach mile 52 which was located at the QWSP lodge. Thanks to Justin figuring out a solution for my drowsiness, I was much more alert and able bodied than I’d been for hours. By this point, Edie and I were running by headlamp and I recognized that I’d lost too much time to do the final 5 mile section I planned to do beyond the state park. This didn’t bother me in the least as I had built in some buffer time for the overall timetable and was pleased that we solved the electrolyte issue which could have become a show stopper had we not figured it out. Plus, I managed the day well enough and would be rewarded with the rest of my delicious ramen dinner, a bed, and shower at the lodge. By midnight, I was in bed with a 4:00 a.m. alarm set feeling a bit beat up from the day but knowing I had plenty left to give.

Monday

About to start day 2

The amazing duo of Derrek and Justin had my coffee and breakfast waiting for me at 4 a.m. This allowed Edie and I to be ready to start the trail at about 4:35 a.m. Though sore from the 10,000 feet of climbing and descending during 52 miles of technical trail the day before, my body was much more responsive than I expected. Again, by headlight Edie and I shared miles. We both verbalized how glad we were that we stopped when we did the day before because this 5 miles from QWSP was essentially one long and demanding rock field that seemed to only go up and made what was already slow, due to my body warming up and it being dark, even slower. We felt like we were barely crawling forward. That said, Edie and I had a delightful time talking about the happenings in our life and occasionally laughing at the absurdity of the trail we were on.

Sunrise during Edie and I’s morning section

Unbeknownst to us, the rest of the crew was starting to panic mildly because we were greatly delayed in our arrival. Though I’d sent a text to Derrek and Justin to alert them of our slower progress, they were in an area without service and didn’t get the message. I hadn’t realized this because it appeared as though it went through from my end so while Edie and I soaked in the beauty of an amazing sunrise, one of the guys headed to the top of the mountain in the car to try to get service and call us. They breathed a huge sigh of relief once they saw us and we used the situation to set a ground rule that really should have been addressed before I started. If there was an emergency I would use the Garmin inReach Mini (a 2-way Satellite Communicator) and they could message me using the crew Garmin inReach Mini if they were unclear about my whereabouts. I snagged Jeremy and some PopTart bites and we headed out for 12 miles for some beautiful trail miles which had views and water features.

Before Derrek and I took off for a 17.5 mile section, I scarfed down some energy balls my friend Miranda made for me as well as several salted potatoes and an orange. It was nice to have a happy tummy again so that I could focus on consuming about 4,000 calories a day. I felt like my job for the trip was to eat and run and eat and run.

Both from a physical and emotional perspective, this section was brutal. The ascents and descents were particularly steep and not having fresh legs I wasn’t able to bomb the downhills like I normally would. For the ascents, I managed my effort by attending to my heart rate and though I was hiking slowly up the long, steep ascents I could feel the trail taxing me. On top of that, we were often on the tops of exposed, sunny ridgelines in over 80 degree temps. On this section, I met Carol Lee and, later, John Benton who were both thru-hiking the trail. After chatting with each of them Derrek commented on how pleasant the interactions and conversations were. This is typical of the backpacking and ultra trail running community in my experience which is part of what draws me in to those activities.

Uphill and rocks!

By this point, I had drank all of my own water and Derrek was sharing his with me which I knew he needed. I tried to be conservative with my liquids but between the heat and climbing I felt zapped. I kept grinding and put my music on to help me stay focused. A few songs in, smashed between Pitbull’s Give me Everything and Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin, the song Get Up by Shinedown rang through my headphones. I was only familiar with the song because my dad sent it to me the year before expressing how he always thinks of me when he hears the song. I added it to my running playlist so it would make me smile when it would click on in the rotation but, in this moment, I broke out into a sob instead. Derrek kindly comforted me and allowed me the space I needed to express my grief. I realized that though my dad was unable to verbalize his love and belief in me, I could experience it through the music he loved. With this thought, I stood up and turned the song back on in time to hear the chorus:

“Get up, get up
Get a move on
Get up, get up
What’s taking so long?
Get up, get up
Get a move on
Stop stalling, I’m calling out
Get up, get up
Get a move on
Get up, get up
Ain’t nothing wrong
‘Cause I believe you can be whatever
And I agree you can do much better, trust me”

Hearing these lyrics, I burst out into laughter at how relevant it was to what I was doing in that very moment on the trail. The next three songs, including Zeppelin, were all songs I added from my dad’s playlist so on top of that hot, exposed ridge I got some musical time with my pops as I gleefully glided on the trail.

A couple of miles later Derrek called Justin for hydration reinforcement since we were both nearly out of water even after conserving what we had. Justin ran about a mile and a half in from the aid stop with a Gatorade and water. I downed a substantial amount then topped off my own bottle and Derrek followed suit. We finally made it to the crew but I needed to lay down and regroup after that challenging section. Jeremy treated me to delicious cheese quesadillas topped with guacamole and a few other snacks while Edie massaged my hamstrings, calves, and quads. This 30 minute stop helped replenish me physically and mentally with the added benefit of Emily, David and Miranda arriving right before I was about to head back out with Keith.

Emily, Me, Miranda

This 9 mile section was one of my favorites of the entire trail. Keith volunteered to carry my trekking poles for me to employ on climbs to take some of the effort off of my tired legs. Using the trekking poles in this way was a real treat. Keith and I enjoyed the cooler temps and the flora while he identified several plants I was unfamiliar with.

Arriving at the Big Brushy aid station, I was overjoyed to see the Woosters- Chris, Liz, Johnny Ruff Ruff, and Pig- I’ll let you guess which two are dogs! Big Brushy was a big milestone as a friend who is familiar with the trail told me this spot signified the hardest most technical parts of the trail were behind me.

Besides being my massage therapist extraordinaire, Edie started her third shift with me that required a headlight. One of the riches of this trail is the beauty of it and the magnificent views you can see during this time of year since the leaves were still off. She had yet to get much daylight on the trail but nonetheless she was committed to me and my goal. What a friend. She is the only one that can say she crossed mile 100 of the trail with me at least. 🙂

Our camping spot was cold as it was near water but the Wooster’s RV provided a quick hot shower and the treat of their potato soup accompanied by a bean burrito Jeremy made me. The burrito was so yummy that I tried to get several people to try it. No takers. In my defense, I had been running for two days and may have lacked a bit of awareness. At least, I was friendly in that lack of awareness! Ha! I was allotted another four hours for sleep but didn’t sleep more than 20 minutes at a time. My body ached and my mind raced. Without that knowledge or any concern for me, the alarm clock still did her one job and rang at 4 a.m.

Where Jeremy, top Michelin Rate Chef in my heart, made all of my meals!

Tuesday

Start of day 3

Justin and I took off a bit later than desired at 4:54 a.m. but excited to be running together for the first time for this trip. We immediately were greeted by an ATV trail section which was rutted up and really muddy and wet. The trail often gave me slower sections each morning that I took in gratitude as a way to start off slowly and ease my way into the long days. After a while, the sun peaked through some clouds and we enjoyed some buttery smooth trails working our way through many switchbacks. I chatted with a turkey hunter who had ridden his mountain bike onto the trail and was sitting quietly enjoying this slice of nature. He expressed surprise at seeing me as he claimed in all his years on that section he hadn’t ever seen anyone else out there. He wished me luck on my adventure and we parted ways. Within 20 minutes of talking with him Justin saw turkeys but I only got to hear them as they scattered upon seeing Justin.

We arrived at the highway 27 trailhead, mile 122 on the trail, where Jeremy had creamy tomato basil soup and buttered white bread awaiting me. This was gourmet cooking in the backcountry! Edie did some solid and needed work on my tight legs. David and I took off for a 12 mile leg which had just been maintained with a prescribed burn. There is a unique beauty to a trail after a prescribed burn and I was grateful to experience it. After a few miles the lack of sleep the night before caught up to me and I was slammed with wanting to take a nap. David gave me a caffeine running gel he had as well as some caffeinated Nuun but it was barely touching the fatigue. I realized I was going to have to put on an audio book and just grind out the miles until I could reach my bed at the next aid stop.

When I arrived at the aid station, I announced to my crew, “I only have 90 miles left! Woo hoo! And now I’m going take a nap.” While Jeremy was at the next aid spot waiting for me since he would be running with me later, he had pre-cooked a hearty potato, egg, and cheese burrito. That was the perfect pre-nap meal and I passed out right after eating it. Awaking after my 20 minute nap, I felt significantly better and set out with Miranda and Emily for a 5 mile section. This was Miranda’s second trail run ever so for those of you that know these two ladies you can imagine how much we laughed. I was still really cold after a half mile of climbing on the trail so Emily sprinted back to the aid spot to get me a jacket. She barely got there before the crew left. It was taking her longer than expected to return so Miranda went to find her. I found myself alone on the trail laughing at the current situation on a short 5 mile section. When the ladies returned we laughed about it together. After all of Emily’s hard work to get me that jacket, by time she reached me I had warmed up. The nap and laughter helped carry me for many miles after I started running the last section of the day- a 22 miler with Jeremy.

Justin built this tear drop camper during the shelter at home orders during COVID-19. We have a queen size convertible travel mattress and many other things inside to make sleeping and camping away from home comfortable!

Most of the day I couldn’t shake the dread I felt about ending the day with a 22 mile segment. I knew most of the miles would be in the dark and that I would likely struggle with fatigue. They were also forecasting rain. Since Jeremy and his family moved back to Rhode Island I don’t get to see him often. It was such a treat that he flew in for this adventure and to share miles with him and talk about life. About halfway into the section, my mental state began to erode a bit and all I could focus on was finishing the leg. With another 11 miles to go through the night, undesirable weather conditions and challenging terrain, that really isn’t a helpful mental state to be in. I tried to center myself and remind myself to accept what is instead of wishing it to be different. I thought of my deceased parents and the hardships and joys they experienced. I reminded myself “I can do hard things”. None of my mental musings or mantras shook my desire to be done for the day. I reached for my headphones as a distraction but even that barely broke the surface of this mental low. Jeremy was encouraging and supportive and smartly kept a space from me that required me to stay focused on keeping up with him. At one point, I realized I just needed to give into the fatigue for a moment. We clicked off our headlights and I napped for 3 whole beautiful minutes laying on the trail. Before Jeremy told me my time was up, I got up and said let’s get it done. The second half of this section was a somewhat brutal reminder that my mental game didn’t have to be sharp to make progress. We arrived into camp at 12:30 a.m. After another warm and soothing shower I was treated to a dinner from a Mexican restaurant the crew ate at early in the night. I shared some laughs with Liz and Edie as Edie worked on my legs in the RV. Around 1:30 a.m. we turned off the lights in our camper and I slept well until 6 a.m. when the alarm let out it’s cry moments before I had my very own cry.

Wednesday

Before Wednesday morning I had shed tears a few times when the feat I was embarking on felt really hard and exhausting. I found it helped to just let the tears fall and keep moving on. This particular morning was the first morning I started with tears though. I knew I had over 60 miles left to run and that, because of my slowed pace, I’d have to run through the night to make my goal of running the trail in under four days. Justin offered love and support as the tears streamed for a solid 15 minutes. During that time, I drank my coffee, got dressed, grabbed items I needed for the first leg and ate breakfast. When Justin recounts this moment he shares, “I looked over at you and you were just eating your cereal crying into your cereal bowl.” I knew this was going to be hard and I had committed to myself that I wouldn’t deny my feelings when they arose but I also wasn’t going to let them dictate my behaviors or hinder progress. So, I cried into my cereal while I ate then got out of bed for the last time during this FKT attempt.

Start of the last day! John and I setting out for 8 miles.

When I exited the camper all 12 crew members were there with cheers and smiles. That almost set off another round of tears but for a totally different reason! My friend, John, and I started out to cover 8 miles together. My body felt really good considering I was over 160 miles in. I was amazed at my bodies ability to adapt and recover, as well as, hugely thankful Edie was willing to consistently massage my dirty legs all day, everyday on this run.

Because I was running with John, it began to sleet. If you know John, then you understand this bold statement. Luckily, we were able to just laugh about it and worked to quicken our pace enough to stay warm. John had prepared a list of dad jokes and puns to share with me…what I mean to say is he literally had a piece of paper in his pocket with a list of jokes he wanted to tell me on the trail. If that’s not a good friend I don’t know what is! Ha!

Coffee and french fries (made by the Woosters using their air fryer. Dreams do come true, y’all!)

Through my morning tears, Justin and I formulated a plan to make all of the sections (except Johns) a group run! Since it was my last day on the trail it would allow my friends to have a “victory lap” with me since they were such an integral part to helping me achieve my goal and would make for an even richer experience for me throughout the day.

Arriving at the next aid spot Derrek, Miranda, and Emily joined me for 11 miles. There was lots of laughter and picking on each other during this leg. We also had the most beautiful but technical water crossing of the entire trail! Emily crossed it by scooting on her booty which made all of us laugh and we finished the leg with Emily literally running into a tree. She was unhurt and she erupted into laughter which made the entire crew laugh. So far, the day was filled with fun and laughter even if I was deeply exhausted.

Liz, Chris, Edie, Johnny Ruff Ruff and I set out to cover 12 miles. This was a significant leg for a few reasons: Edie finally got a leg in daylight- yay!, a pup was running with me- yay!, this was my other favorite section of the entire run, I saw Kristy Dodd again (and spoke to Ron on her phone), and I took my one and only fall of the entire 225 mile run! This section was exceptionally beautiful. On top of that, my friend Chris was gleeful to get some trail time and it was so fun to watch him play on the trail with Johnny Ruff Ruff. I thought to myself, “Ahh, I’m just running with friends on a beautiful trail. There’s no better place to be.”

At mile 192 John and Don joined me for 11 miles. For much of the remaining trail we would be near Lake Sylvia which I hadn’t accounted for as we went into the night. My stomach was starting to push back on the multi-day effort I was demanding of it. It had become a bit distended and generally uncomfortable. That really started to affect me on this leg but I motored on and listened to John and Don’s banter and joke telling. The three of us regularly run together back at home so it felt comforting to be with them on the trail even if my body was starting to revolt. Later in the leg we had no choice but to get wet which was mentally challenging for me as I was already battling being pretty cold from the nearby lake’s moisture and lower than expected temps. The end of this leg was, by far, my lowest low of the entire run. Don pulled be along while John trailed me offering words of encouragement. When we finally arrived at the aid spot I darted right into the camper to change into warmer clothes and warm up. Both Edie and Justin gave me pep talks while Derrek and Jeremy hustled to get me food and additional gear. What an all-star team.

John and I happened upon a beautiful water feature on our leg.

After about 15 minutes (including consumption of unicorn shaped macaroni and cheese), Don, Keith, and I set out for my second to last leg. Don had added layers and was ready to lead me again even in my mentally- rattled state. I intentionally scheduled Don and Keith as my second to last leg because we run together nearly every Friday morning. Those runs always feel like a weekly celebration so I thought it was a fitting way to run towards my very last leg of this audacious goal I set. Within a couple of miles, my mindset had shifted and I was again enjoying myself. The trail was determined that I would earn whatever I got, though, as this section of trail was covered in water. With the help of Keith and Don I would balance on whatever logs on branches were available to get across the long stretches of water-soaked trail. Added to this, the trail navigation became challenging as the blue blazes seemed to suddenly disappear. We lost about 30 minutes trying to determine the right way forward on this murky section. Then there was more water and the inevitable happened- we simply had to get wet. With more layers on I was able to manage the cold and after a few minutes I was able to shake off the navigational challenges. After all, I was getting to run on a trail at night with my friends…I wanted to enjoy it as best I could.

We cruise into mile 212 for the last aid stop where I picked up Justin, my bestie and boo, to get this damn thing done! After eating some ramen, my last delectable meal created by Jeremy, we were off. My stomach was still pretty mad and I had to take it slow as we started this leg. Pretty early on, the trail became really technical and presented lots and lots of climbing. This surprised me as the last 20+ miles of trail had offered wet but some runnable sections so I assumed it would be more of the same. I lost focus and started complaining a bit which, in turn, slowed me down. A few miles in Justin brought to my attention that I had slowed substantially. It had the effect of making me focus. What do I want this last leg to look like…how do I want to close out this huge run that I had prepared so hard for and that inspired 12 of my friends to join me to help me get it done? The answer was I wanted to grind out the last 8 miles in a way that left me satisfied that I left everything I had out there. Getting to the start line was the way in which I honored my dad and the skills and characteristics he taught he that helped me even believe I could do a big goal like this. The in- between was about digging deep into my own resiliency and grit and leaning on my friends. These last 8 miles were to honor my mom, my dad, my brother, my husband, my self, and my friends. A way to remind us that we can all do hard things and we are all capable of responding with resiliency. It was about gratitude that others taught me that lesson too. So I grinded. And I have to say, this was a rather challenging section to decide to do that on! It included huge rocks that I essentially had to single- leg squat to climb, a long road section, and rather confusing navigation. But I didn’t care about any of that. I ran hard while Justin and I sang along to the music that blared from my phone- we even stopped to dance for 10 seconds together.

3 days, 22 hours, and 15 minutes after starting the Ouachita Trail in Oklahoma at Talimena State Park I finished at Pinnacle Mountain State Park in Arkansas with my dear crew there to cheer me in with a red carpet and the groups “FINSH” sign because there’s no “ish” in FINSH!

Finished and with my entire crew!

A big thank you to the following friends (and their families):

Core Crew (there for the entire show!)
Justin Hernandez– Crew Chief/ Chief Emotional Support Officer/ pacer
Derrek Sander– Chief Operating Officer/ Gear Guy and all the things!/ pacer
Jeremy Howard– Nutrition Nazi (tracked everything I consumed)/ Chef/ pacer
Edie Couvillon– Massager/ People logistics/ Asst. Emotional Support Office/ pacer
Keith Delhomme– Map guru/ plant identifier/ pacer

Crew/ Pacers that drove up during the event
Emily Normand
David Normand
Miranda Blanchet
Liz Wooster

Chris Wooster
John Robideaux
Don Schoolmaster

Oh- and Pig and Johnny Ruff Ruff of course!

Interested in hearing more about my adventure?

Check out the Podcast I did with my friend David Theriot on his Run the Riot Podcast.

Questions/ Answers

  • Several friends asked questions on Facebook about my run so for those that weren’t answered above I’ll answer them here.
How many miles did the club kids run at Boys & Girls Clubs?

Over 650 miles! The original goal for the four week period that the members were running in support of my run was simply the 223 miles to match my miles. They blew that out of the water!!

What did you do to loosen up/get over the soreness the day(s) after a long mileage run?

Massages from Edie were the biggest factor! I also just ran on sore and tired legs. I did utilize Ibuprofen sparingly in the last 30 hours as well.

What did you do to minimize your feet from getting beat up (not blisters, but just the fatigue and soreness from the endless pounding on roots etc.).

I surprisingly didn’t have to manage my feet much. I ran in La Sportiva and Topo trail shoes most of the way then finished in my Topo road shoes. After day one I had a couple of hot spots that I taped but didn’t have additional issues! Feet soreness really wasn’t a problem for me. In fact, here are my feet the afternoon after I finished the run! Chris couldn’t believe how normal they looked so he took a picture. Ha!

Nutrition. I don’t have a question; just tell me everything.

There’s a picture above of my non-perishable items and I mentioned many meals I ate along the way. As I stated in the blog, I tried to get in about 4,000 calories daily. That consisted of Stinger Waffles, Fig bars, Clif Bars, Cheez-its, and many other things!

What’s next?

Support my friends that are doing big things! I will likely try to qualify for the Boston Marathon later this year then turn my attention back to ultra trail running. I picked this trail because it drew me in 2 years ago when I first visited it. I expect something will tug at me at some point and I’ll respond to it then. 🙂 For now I’m soaking up this unique experience.

Did you encounter any snakes or critters on the trails that startled you?

Not much surprisingly. I mentioned some things in the blog but I saw deer a couple of other times on the trail as well.

During the run, what kept popping up in your mind? How did you pass the time during all of those hours of hiking/running? 

All the things! I would oscillate from philosophical musings to singing silly songs to thinking about my dad to wishing I was sitting down. I employed audio books and music to accompany me at times and other times I would play a game with myself to see how many interesting things I could see on the trail. At times I would just count to 500 and start all over again. I used that particularly when I was leaning towards negative or complaining thoughts.

How far apart were the aid stations? What did you do at the aid stations?
Here are the aid spots I designated as meet up spots with my crew. I would sit, eat, diagnose issues, swap gear, be updated on any weather or trail conditions, and get massages.
What kept you going?

Two of my main mantras were “the only way through, is through” and “this is temporary”. Sitting down and wallowing in my exhaustion and fatigue wasn’t going to help me finish so those phrases helped keep me focused. I never once considered quitting or thought I couldn’t complete the trail so it was all about relentless forward progress.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

I’ve thought about this some and talked to Derrek and Justin about it also. I wished I had been better prepared for when it got cold as that caused more suffering than necessary and led to my lowest low. Outside of that, I don’t necessarily think I would change much. I planned to incorporate more hiking in my training but that went out the window with my dad’s illness and death. I would definitely add more hiking into my training plan next time.

I want to know about the river crossings, how deep and cold and how many?

We had to cross the Kiamichi River about 8 times and it was very cold! The highest crossing was probably up to my knees which is why I had the trekking poles with me. Since it was a flowing river it’s easy to lose footing on the slick rocks and the poles added stability.

The weather?

First I’ll say considering I ran for nearly four days we were lucky to have overall great weather! The adverse weather included heat, cold, sleet, and some rain but none of those conditions were sustained for long periods of time.

Running in darkness, How can you see the trails?

I ran with a waist lamp (and occasionally a head lamp) which illuminates the trail. It’s fairly easy to see the trail utilizing quality light sources.

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