Next morning came fast. I got up at 5, and was at the start area by 5:30 with my notes to announce to the race participants, and to take in a relaxing 25K run in sweep position. Then as the crowd started gathering and registration was going on, something changed the whole day. We were informed that nobody had seen Dean all night, or this morning. Panic struck us all, not only for Dean's safety, but he was a lynch pin in the morning logistics for volunteers and aid stations. We all sprung into action. Chad went searching for Dean on the trail. Mike and I started figuring out what needed to take place to get aid stations set up and volunteers on the course. Barney Fife started (yes, Barney was there...) started making announcements on the bullhorn.
It was very soon that we found out Dean found the same hole we did with the jeep, with no radio on hand, and no cell service, he simply slept (sort of) in the jeep, in the creek, all night. We were all thankful he was OK, but had to keep moving to get this race on the trail.
One of my announcements (among others) was that the course would cross the state line into Arkansas. And not to worry, because even though there was no 'line' on the ground denoting the state line. that the racers would know they are in Arkansas. Amber had hired a couple of bonafide Silver Dollar City hillbillies to sit in the woods at the state line....
With the bang of Barney's single bullet, the race was off. I hung back to make sure the rest of the race logistics were in place, then started walking. As I hit the woods, I started a slow jog, and within 50 yards of leaving the pavement came the first of many creek crossings.
I was less than 3 miles into the race when I saw a blur of three guys going past me the other way. This was the elite runners, who had already completed 9 miles at a blistering pace (the averaged a 7:23 pace on the 50K)
I yelled at them, to no avail, that they were headed the wrong way. Later I find out that Aid Station 1 had set up their table right in front of the signs we placed out the day before... Lesson #1 (of many) don't leave the set up of the tables to volunteers.
The route had multiple stream crossings (one of which had a jeep right in the way) and 8 major clims on the 25K course. The 50 K was a reverse of the 25K and thus had 16 major climbs. Over 9000 feet of elevation gain on the 50K course.
The rest of the day went well. I chatted with people, cheered some of them on, and walked with Monty, who taught me the art of picking up trash, which became a twist of fate for me. I had twisted my ankle, and was hobbling a bit, when I saw a Ziploc baggie on the ground. I picked it up to keep the course clean, and voila - inside were 4 Advil. Just what I needed when i needed them. I spent time talking to each aid station, and checking in on race radio to help coordinate last runners on the course, bag drop off pickup, and aid station supplies.
In the end I finished the 25K in about 3:20 moving time, 4:45 elapsed time. When finished I ate a bison burger (mm mm) and then took a load of boy scouts to one of the aid stations to begin packing up. On my way back to base I noticed the engine sputtering. Funny, it feels like it's out of gas, but the gauge reads 'Full'. So I eased it back to the aid station and called Chad up on the radio. 'Sounds like my jeep is out of gas, but the gage reads Full'. Chad replies 'It always reads 'Full'. Nick, lets take him a gas can...'
That's how my day ended, waiting on a can of gas so I could make my last trip on the course back to the Start / Finish line. It was a gorgeous day. Mid 60's a nice crisp breeze, leaves of every color on the trees, and sunlight through the forest. That's how I'll remember the first race that I help set up, and also participated in. I'm already thinking about what we can do to make next year better!
What is a Trail Nerd?
A trail nerd is a runner who loathes the pavement, does not let a little bad weather stop them, does not whine, and is always ready to help a fellow trail runner. They originate from Kansas City, then like little seeds, propogate in other areas. Wanna be a nerd? Just join one of our group runs.