Ozark 100 Mile Endurance Run takes place the largest section of Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri.
It is a point to point course with supposedly around 12,000 - 15,000ft of elevation gain.
November 7th & 8th 2015, was the 7th annual running of Ozark 100.
Ozark 100 had been on my to do list for a few years and finally the day was here. I was very excited and a little anxious too. Mostly due to what I had heard about the single track in the forest being rocky and also just finding my way through the forest during the long 13hr night.
Ozark 100 starts on dirt road for 3 miles to spread out the runners, race starts at 6am meaning it was only around 15 minutes till it got light. I warmed up quickly and gave my father-in-law - who came to crew for my husband and I - my light, and a few of my layers. After that its all single-track till the last 3/4 mile of the race.
Within the first 5 miles of the race I had already found some of the rocks and sink holes from horse tracks. I was taking it really steady and easy, walking any little rise in the trail and I was one of the last few runners at the back of the pack.
It was a warmer start than predicted at around 45 degrees. Very comfortable and sunny skies for the day.
The first 50k I would say has most of the bigger climbs. Much of the course after that has lots of shorter up and downs, and swooping in and out of the side of hills. Reminds me of Stephens trail in the Massanutten's. The rocks never really let up. They are small and about baseball sized, only in a few spots like creek beds and steeper mountain sides are they loose but mostly they are small and stuck in the ground rocks.
I ran with Katie Zopf from Michigan, a mutual running friend had got us in touch only about a week before the race. We ran an easy pace together for the first 26 miles until it warmed up, which gave Katie some problems. I knew she would do well and said she had to slow it down for a while. We both enjoy the cooler weather and it was why we had picked this race. The day was getting warmer, reaching to around 57 degrees, that was warm enough for us, we were already looking forward to the night and cooler temps.
First crew point is at Sutton Bluff at mile 13, we descended into Sutton Bluff from a pretty good cliff side in the hill with fantastic views of the forest and the Black River. Arriving at Sutton Bluff I only missed Harry by about 5 minutes. I was hungry after 3 hrs on the trail and had quite a bit to eat, the pumpkin pie tasted especially good!
After Sutton Bluff you still have some good climbing and still plenty of rocks, next crew stop isn't till Mile 40 which would be at least 7 hrs, but you do have some drop bags in between. I was making good time and feeling good, I knew early on that my tendons in my knee was getting aggravated so I took it easy on the sharp switchbacks, turns and ran gentle and tried to closely watch my footing.
I arrived at 3:45pm, to my surprise I saw Harry and I was so happy to see him and he was doing really well and looking good. Lots to do at Brooks Creek, night is quickly approaching so I picked up lights and warm clothes.
Hazel Creek is the next crew point again in another 26 miles, but you have drop bags along the way. Its a tough one to crew with long waits in between, but Dad was having a great time talking to people, watching runners and enjoying his time in the forest.
I made it to Mile 47 aid station, just a few minutes after it got dark. I knew things were getting worse, my knees feeling a little more tweaked and my ankles having some pain when I flexed them. I would keep moving well and taking some sections a little more careful to try and not aggravate things further.
On this next section to the next aid I caught up with Harry. He told me he was doing okay but things were tightening up in his legs. We could still run flats and downs at a good pace. From Martins Rd aid Mile 55ish you have your longest stretch between aid. It was also some very rough trail, the last few miles into the Hazel Creek they had leaf blown but it was still pretty slow going. It took a long time to get there, the stretch took us 3hrs. I kept hearing things and thought I could hear the aid station or see the tent lights for it but It was still a ways. Finding myself hungry again, we finally arrived at Hazel Creek ahead of my schedule and I grabbed more warm clothes and warmer gloves and my tights. After just a few seconds of standing still you start to shiver. Aid station volunteers looked cold but they took care of us and offered us hand warmers, which I regret not taking.
After finding our way out of the aid station I finally felt like we were getting somewhere but still the trail remained rocky. We didn't have many big climbs so we could walk at a fast pace and run a little when I felt the footing underneath get a little easier. The next aid was about 8 miles and it took 2 hrs 40 mins to get there. Meaning we were slowing down a lot and we were both starting to hurt more. Harry was getting slower on climbing but could move well downhill meaning we would keep coming together. Usually 8 miles would take me around 2 hrs. We knew we could hike it in at the pace we were doing, I had no doubts of finishing it was just a question of how much it was going to hurt. I am prepared for that and I have experienced it before.
We were both disappointed to start our hike in and thought we would have both been running for longer than we had. Harry was dead set on quitting Ultras and kept telling me this would be his last. I told him he couldn't decide that on a low point during a Ultra. Things would always feel different later on.
One of the gentleman at the next aid station had been helping also that morning at the start of the race. I thought that was really sweet. I couldn't thank him enough. It was really cold now and Harry and I had already stopped to put on our tights and jackets.
From Pigeon Roost to Berryman the trail levels off more but still has rough footing. I could still hike a fair good pace but knew it was slowing down. There is a deep crossing before you reach Route 8, just a few miles out from Berryman Campground Aid. There was frost on my tights and gaiters after crossing the river, and my feet were cold. I was hoping for a fire and change of shoes at Berryman when I arrived. From Pigeon Roost Mile 73 to Berryman Mile 78 it took us 2 hrs to go almost 6 miles! Wow, I knew this was going to be a slow finish but I was hoping to at least maintain 3mph pace for the rest.
No fire at Berryman and so I didn't change, I just hopelessly shivered from the cold and hit my lowest point of the race here. Feelings of quitting came over me, I was getting stiff and my ankles hurt but I knew I would not stop. I needed to get out of there and get moving now. Harry grabbed his down jacket out of Dads car, so I grabbed mine too. I thought I would be sweating in no time with that on, I now had 5 layers on (t-shirt, 2 base layers, brooks jacket and now a down jacket) but we both remained cold for the rest of the night. We found out later on that the temperature had dropped to 26 degrees.
The pace stayed the same on the next section about 3mph but the final hour of darkness was really hard on me. My eyes kept blurring and it looked as thought the leaves were in sand or that I was crossing little wooden bridges, every 20 seconds I would close my eyes to clear the vision. It got really frustrating that last hour of dark. I thought Harry would be way ahead but from when I caught him on the trail the first time he said he would stay with me, so he would keep stopping to check if I was okay. He could move faster on downs, but it was the downs that gave me the biggest problem. My knee would be painful making any steeper descents, while Harry was having more trouble with the climbing.
Finally daylight and then I started to see things that weren't there. Reasonable things mostly, like I thought I could see people on the crest of a hill or cars, in hope of getting to the aid station soon. The pace was staying consistent but the pain getting worse.
We were on our way to Henpeck - the last aid station. I tried to run again because I was started to get excited and found myself falling shortly after so I called it in on the running and decided I would hike as good as I could.
It would be a long morning. I couldn't wait to see Dad, drop my pack and go light to the finish. We finally started to take off a layer here and there.
The last stretch is only 6.5 miles but it took us 2hrs 30 mins. I had great pain on moving down any steeper descents and we had 3 good climbs (by Ozark standards) before the finish left.
There was really nice views of the river getting closer to Bass Resort and the finish. We were passed by many runners who moved slowly but steadily.
Harry and I would finish together, our first Ultra together in 29hrs 49 mins. Placing 39 and 40th place out of 53 finishers.
I had a good time on the trails but there is some disappointment in not being able to run for more of the race, but I am happy to finish and receive the biggest buckle I have yet! Ozark 100, 7th annual running had its highest finishing rate of over 70%
Quick Overview of Ozark 100
*Nice cool weather
*Great if you love single track running, expect more hilly climbs first 40 miles, lots of switchbacks and trails winding in and out the side of the hills
*Minimal chaffing with cooler temps
*Climbs are not too long
*Aid stations are further apart than most Ultras, but they are extremely well stocked with a variety of drop bags. Eat plenty at the aid stations.
*Sponsored by Hammer so lots of GU and Heed.
*For Crewing it is a long wait, but you can have drop bags between
*Runnable trails but you need to toughen up your ankles and maybe expect to fall.
*Lots of creek crossings, long dry stretch between Brooks Creek Aid until you get closer to Hazel Creek Aid, then after Berryman to finish.
*Dress and take more layers than you think you will need. In the chance that you start to move slower you will be colder.
*Expect temperatures to be up to 10 degrees less than what they say for Steelville, MO
*Long night - 13 hrs of darkness, take back up lights and batteries.
*Trail is well marked with OT signs and heavily marked on a couple of the important turns. A flashlight is helpful to scan and locate the OT reflective signs on the trees ahead.