Had a great run out at the Army Corps of Engineer Trail on the east side of Lake Perry. I completed the 28 mile loop in 4:37:42. Which I believe to be the Fastest Known Time. If I'm wrong in my assumption please let me know. Other than hiking I don't know of anyone running the entire trail in one shot. I have on several occasions run the entire trail in sections but until yesterday was the first time that I had even considered it in it's entirety.
I hit the trail head starting at the Grainary Saloon @ Apple Valley Farms. Which is the 6 mile mark of the trail. A location I have often thought would make a great start/finish venue if I ever decide to put on a 50km out here. Heading north from the trail head the climb up to the first ridge was pretty smooth. Another 200 yards later would be a different story. As I quickly found myself bushwhacking through naval high weeds and grass. To make things worse the grass was still very wet from the night before. This was the last time my feet were dry for the rest of the run. At that very moment I started to doubt that the time I put in if I somehow managed to finish would be far from impressive. The trail remained this way for about 3 miles or so. When I finally hit the 9 mile mark I looked at the watch and it read 31 minutes. Not exactly the kind of pace I wanted to be making for the rest of the run. The second video on the post gives you a real good feel for what I was running through.
Once I made it through the weeds of despair. The trail started running like the trail I remembered. Up one hill and down another along the lake shore. The wind off the lake was a bit chilly and it was beginning to drizzle out. I guess the good thing about it was that I wouldn't get overly dehydrated. Which was good seeing as I only had two full bottles with me and only two drop stations set out along the trail.
I made great time from the weeds to about a mile before I came out onto the road section at Kiowa Rd. That's when I was slowed down by several downed trees and some disappearing trail. Luckily when I lived out this way this was one of the sections that I frequented quite often and fell back on my memory to get me through. At Kiowa Rd. I had my first aide drop which was around mile 12. I quickly filled both my bottles and changed my shirt gloves and hat. Throwing the wet clothes in my Salomon pack. I wasn't there longer than three minutes or so.
On Kiowa Rd. I knew I had to make back some of the time I had lost in the grass and over that last mile. Kiowa Rd. is a nice gravel road that links the north side of the trails with the south side. It's around 4 miles long and with the exception of a few short hills it's entirely runnable. Which is what I did. One thing I forgot about the road section is that it's nice gravel all the way to where the trail picks back up or so I thought. Three miles down the road you make a right turn onto very low maintenance road. And by low maintenance I mean MUD!!! I stayed out of the slop the best I could by sticking to the crest in the road right down the middle.
Just when I thought the worst was over. What with the weeds, grass and mud. I picked up the trail again. Happy and relieved my happiness faded as soon as it came. Running along the trail after shaking off the mud. I noticed a rubbing on the inside of my thigh. When I looked down to see what was causing the annoyance. I freaked the fuck out. The one thing I hate more than running through cobwebs and spiders in the Summer is running through stickers, sticktites and cockle burs in the Fall. When I looked down to investigate I was floored. This was possibly the worst mugging by a bunch of worthless piece of crap weeds I had ever experienced. As you can see from the photos I took at the scene of the crime as well as the video after I finished my run.
Stopping only long enough to get the pictures for posterity and picking the stickers off from around the edge of my shorts where they were the most annoying I got moving again. Cussing the shit out of the trail at this point I wanted it to end right then and there. A voice from somewhere inside told me to keep going. If I could make it through this I can handle anything the Ozark Trail 100 could throw at me. So I pressed on. I had 3 miles or so to my next stop where I would fill my bottles and fix whatever needed fixing by that point.
Those three miles just flew by. The trail isn't that technical through here so I ran all of it back to the road crossing where I had my drop bag stashed. Again I filled my bottles and restocked my pockets with gels. Then got the hell away from there as fast as I could. About 8 miles to go now and honestly. I was feeling very tired. Tired of the cold tired of being wet and damn awful hungry. A short meadow section and through a small grove of pine trees, that if you caught the wind just right smelled as if you were in the mountains. Then I would be back along the shore with about five and a half miles to go.
Moving along and totally spacing out about the trail under my feet I had came up to a foot bridge. Running across it I was trying to keep up my cadence. Coming off the bridge the trail took a sharp right. As I tried to adjust and shift my weight the foot I planted all my weight on slipped out from underneath me and I went down. O.K. Now I was done. At this point the only thing on my mind was not falling and hurting something to where it would take me out of the OT 100. At this point I just cruised it in over the last 7 miles or so back to the car. The last mile I think was the worst. I had forgotten about the rocky creek crossing and the last rocky hill climb to make it up and over before the final run into the car. Coming down the last hill I caught site of little blue parked on the side of the road where I had started from nearly 5 hours before. I was happy that in a few short minutes my run would be over and I could get warm again.
Made it! After 4 hours 37 minutes 42 seconds and about five years of running out here I had finally completed the entire loop in one shot. It's a beautiful trail and there are some sections that I love and some sections, well; not so much... I would enjoy coming back in a little dryer weather to give it another go but fear the trail itself will be more overgrown and the task of trying to better my time would be that much harder. Unless volunteers give there time to bringing this trail back to what it once was. It'll will be lost forever. Which is a shame because it is one of the best trail we have in the state. If anyone has the chance. I recommend getting out here some time this fall or winter when the trail isn't so overgrown and the temps aren't too bone chilling cold.