The 2013 Arkansas Traveller 100 was everything I was hoping it would be and more. Months of training on the trails and dirt roads all geared towards one race came down to a 6a.m start on a warm humid Saturday morning. Here’s my story:
"That’s cute"… A simple, two worded, statement is all that it took to grind my gears enough to make me think about doing this insane race in the first place. Jimmy Sweatt, my future crew personnel, is the one to thank for that. Back in the Easy Runner days and when I ran for UALR I would go into work after a long-run and tell the guys about it and course I would catch some flack. Our long-runs were around 15-18 miles and most of the guys I worked with at the time, and still true at Bill Torrey’s Rock City Running, had ran a marathon at least. Then there was Jimmy, a man that I really respect and look to for advice in this world of ultra running. He would give me hell about my “long-run” saying how it was his warm-up distance and proceeded to say how “cute” it was. “Oh, that’s cute Brock! A nice little 15 miler”.—Jimmy. After a few months of giving me a hard time I decided to make a deal and I’d run a 50K. The 50K turned into 50 miles which turned into a 100 mile race. The problem is that it wasn’t possible because I was running for UALR still. The 100 miler would kill my legs and put me out for a while so it wasn’t truly possible for a few years.
I decided in March of this year that I was going to leave the team and run on my own. The main reason was because my back just wasn’t handling the track/pavement very well. After about a month and a half of training and racing on my own I decided to quit running completely which brings me to the month of May. I decided to work at Rock City Running and help from the start. So, I had an awesome opportunity of helping Bill and open his running store and through this I had the chance to talk to Jimmy a lot (we all left Fleet Feet Sports to join Bill). After they knew I was off the team Jimmy brought up that I could now try an ultra. The problem is that I wasn’t really running anymore, but I accepted the challenge and began training again. The deal? Finish a 100 mile race and Jimmy would pay me $100. A dollar a mile! Making bank huh? For me it was all a joke at the beginning but the more and more Jimmy would talk to me about it I could tell he was truly invested in me finishing this 100 mile race and I decided I should put in my part and train at a high level. A few weeks go by and I’m really getting into the longer runs each week and things were going well. I sat down in my room one night after a trail run and decided it was best if I set some goals for the race.
Goal #1- Win
Goal #2- Finish
Goal #3- Run Fast
Are those goals out of order a bit? It appears that way to me now that I look at it. So, after writing my goals down I decided I’d let Jimmy and everyone else at work know them, so I did. Well, it was taken ok by everyone I guess. I had some laughing, some “yeah right’s”, but at the end of it all everyone at work was extremely supportive. I expected the nay-sayers- “you’re young, inexperienced, cocky, an idiot… and the best of them all…… you don’t respect the distance, so the distance isn’t going to respect you.” I completely understand where those people were coming from but I don’t think they took the time to understand where I was coming from. I’d had a chip on my shoulder for a while leading up to training for this race so nothing was out of reach for me I felt like. The one person that told me that he believed I could win was the same person that said my long-runs were “cute”, Jimmy Sweatt. Jimmy never one time told me it was out of reach. He continually told me to just make sure I’m training smart, hard, and eating on the runs. So I trained over summer and was extremely blessed to get into a training group of some Arkansas ultra running veterans. Robert ‘PoDog’ Vogler, Paul ‘PT’ Turner, Thomas ‘I sell houses’ Chapin, Stan ‘The Man’ Ferguson and Tyler ‘Overachieving’ Wilkerson. This group is truly what got my training to take off for the Arkansas Traveller. If it wasn’t for these guys pushing me, feeding me BBQ waffles, and giving out some GREAT advice, I can honestly say I wouldn’t had the race that I did.
Let’s skip forward to the Mt. Nebo 14 mile race. So it’s not August 24th and it was now full blown on the press that I wanted to not only win the Traveller, but I wanted to set the course record. So at Mt. Nebo all the ultra guys for the most part were there and I ran it pretty hard. I won the race and although it was extremely short that gave me just a tad bit more confidence. It was my first trail race and things went great. I continued training and the next race for me was the Bartlett Park 50K. September 14th arrives and a true test comes with it. I wanted to win the race and run under 4 hours. I was happy to say that I did both. I won the 50K in 3:45. What I was happiest about was the fact that I felt like I could’ve ran under 3:40 for sure. That gave me even more confidence leading into the October 5th 100 mile race.
After the Bartlett Park 50K time really went by quickly and the next thing I knew it was October 3rd. I was at work the Thursday before the race and my boss Bill Torrey sat me down and explained to me that it was my first 100 so I needed to be extremely smart. He told me to go out slow and completely throw time out the window. One of the few times that I listen to people, I did listen to Bill Torrey. I promised him that I would stick to our ‘new’ race plan and I’d go out pretty slow. Time was now not on my mind, just winning. Finishing was somewhere in there too.
Friday before the race I had to go to Pre-Race meeting and that really let everything set in for what I was about to embark on. Here I was: This 22 year old man, little to no experience, ready to win a 100 mile race. I had made it clear enough of my goals that I had some pressure for sure, but I really thrived off of that. Friday evening I went with a great friend of mine, Mason Collar, to a place for a bit to talk about the race and just pray together. Afterwards I went home and relaxed for the rest of the evening. I treated the race as any other race I’ve ever had so I just tried to stay calm and not think about the race a whole lot. Listening to music, shaving my arms and legs, watching TV, and getting all the final preparations ready is all that my night consisted of.
So my alarm started buzzing at 2:45 a.m and I jumped out of bed ready and excited. Did I mention that I fell asleep at 1:30? Yeah, 75 minutes of sleep is all that my body would let me get. So I got out of bed, well… off the couch, and drank the coffee that was awaiting me in my 62 degree apartment. As I was drinking my coffee I began writing all of the aid station mile markers on my arm in permanent marker. My numbers were all over the place from my hand shaking so much… I was terrified. It’s terrifying when you’ve been training for one race for a while and you wake up that morning and just think, “it’s here”. I showered, brushed my teeth, packed my car, told Oakley that the next time I’d see him I would be a winner, and left. I met Tyler and some others at the Metropolitan Bank at 4:15 and we headed to find out my fate along with Tyler doing the same. We were pumped and very nervous because it was both of our first 100’s.
Once we got there I put my drop bags where they needed to be, used the restroom, talked to my crew man Jimmy Sweatt (he had surprised me a few weeks prior that he would be crewing me), shook a few hands, and then it was time that the grind began. We called the hogs (which I didn’t really participate in.. BOOMER) and then we took off. As soon as we took off quite a few guys shot to the front and really dropped the hammer. I was sweating within 3 minutes of running and that really worried me. I was next to PoDog and PT so I asked them what in the hell was going on. PoDog told me he kind of expected the race to go out pretty quick because the field was probably one of the deeper fields the race has had, but that I just needed to stay relaxed. Even with those guys I was a little worried so I made the ballsy decision to sink back even further in the pack of runners. My great friend and training partner, Tyler Wilkerson, went backwards with me. It was dark at this point so alls I knew was that headlamps were getting further and further ahead of me. I was kind of freaking out but I had promised Bill that I would stay back, so I did. At around an hour Stan Ferguson caught up to Tyler and I and he was surprised himself that I was up at the front. He said I was running the race smart and just to keep focused and to remember that it’s 100 miles. We came up on an aid station and I continued so then I was alone. I felt like I was keeping pace but I guess I had picked it up because I began reeling runners in which felt great. Before I know it I catch up to PoDog, PT, Thomas Chapin, and then Shannon McFarland . All of these guys are great ultra runners so I just telling myself that I was doing great. We were on single track trail at this point, which is my favorite, so I really started to run at a pretty good clip. We leave the single track and arrive at Lake Sylvia where I grabbed some food and Chrissy Ferguson (an elite elite ultra runner-Ran for team USA) yelled at me, “RUN SMART”. Although I didn’t show much acknowledgment to anyone throughout the race, what she said really kept me focused on the overall goal and kept me running within myself. We were then on dirt road for most of the rest of the race.
84 miles to go…
I continued running and at this point I’m alone and probably in about 4th place I think. I passed Tom Brennan who was having some sciatic nerve issues, rough stuff. I was then in 3rd I believe and really running strong. I finally caught up to a guy by the name of Lucas and we ran together until Lake Winona(31 miles). He stopped at the aid station, but I just grabbed stuff from Jimmy and kept moving along. So now I’m in 2nd and there’s red in my eyes. I catch up to the leader around mile 33 or so and we kind of just go back and forth for a while until I finally dropped him by a little ways. I continue moving along and at 48 miles my first pacer, Dustin Speer started pacing me. He did an unbelievable job and I couldn’t have done it with out him I don’t think. He forced food down me and kept me motivated during my low. At mile 57 Dustin split his watch and we had something like a 7 minute gap on 2nd place so told him I really wanted to relax as much as possible so I let him control the pace until mile 63 which is when I was passed by Wesley. He was hammering the hills so hard that it was a little discouraging but I had a race plan and Dustin forced me to stick with it. I continued getting dropped by Wesley and then we came up on Powerline aid station which is mile 67.7. I’ve ran in a lot of races but I can honestly say I’ve never felt the way I did at that part of the AT100. It was so loud from crew people and fans. I had to weigh in and my great friend, Harold Hayes, came over to help hold me on the scale and calm me down and then I took off. I let a yell out that was filled with pain, intensity, and confidence. Rodney Sasse was now my pacer. He told me I was about 4 minutes back and that Wesley looked pretty good. I let him know that I was ready to win the damn thing and that the race started right there. We got up and over Smith Mountain and then it was grind time. We were rolling some pretty quick miles and along the way people would say I was catching Wesley and then we came to a stand still in time. I stayed about 90 seconds behind for awhile but then Rodney and I really starters running hard. I finally got a glimpse of Wesley and I looked at Rodney and said pretty loud, “I smell blood, lets get him”. Lucky for me, Rodney held me back and once he saw some weakness on the hills we took off. This was right around 80 miles probably. We then see an aid station and weren’t expecting one so we come into it and what I experienced there was some running high I’ve never had. My parents, friends, girlfriend Lauren, her parents, my boss… all of these people were hanging out under the tent just yelling as I was coming in. I knew who every one was but my mind was in such a blur and I was the focused at that point that I really didn’t know what to say. I grabbed some water talked to Jimmy and was about to take off when Jack Evans grabbed me and said that I had to weigh in. So he held me on the scale and then at the snap of a finger, I was gone. At that point it was getting extremely cold to me and rain was moving in which I didn’t know that. It had rained earlier in the day but I thought that was all for the race.
Rodney starts cramping more and more and by about mile 87 or so he had to drop back and I didn’t see him again until I finished. He did one hell of job pacing me and again, I don’t think I could have done it without him. From there it was a cat and mouse game. I would run hard enough to drop Wesley’s headlamp and then I’d relax until it came back into view. I did this until mile 99. We were now on the pavement, tears coming down my face somewhat because I just couldn’t believe it. Pretty quick after this “moment” with myself I look back and there’s the damn light. I take off, I’m going probably 6:30 mile pace. We round an uphill curve and again I look back, no light. I think to myself, wait a minute. I focus the headlamp and what do you know. Wesley had cut the light off. I let out a yell and he lets one out also letting me know the race was mine. From there, I lost it. I started yelling and do some sprinting on the downhill through the finish. We had the closest finish in the history of the Arkansas Traveller… 68 seconds! The same people that were at the 85 aid station, were at the finish. Hugs, high fives, pictures… I loved it all. Then things got serious… IV. I didn’t want to but Mrs. Wall thought it was the smartest thing I could do for myself for the recovery process so I obeyed and went to the medics and got a needle put in me. -_- I’m happy that I did!
So, I set a goal and I reached it. I hope more than anything this race gives people motivation, inspiration, and that it shows that the human body is limitless if, and only if, you can control your mind. I put my complete trust in Christ through out the entire race and I knew he would take care of me. I came out of the race with little to no issues as far as injury. I’m now addicted to ultra running thanks to Jimmy Sweatt. I have so much support from friends and family but I think this shows that you can impact someone greatly. He motivated me to win the race. He believed in me. I hope to do the same for someone whether it’s running, challenging someone to grow closer to Christ, do better in the classroom etc. Just know that anything is possible. That’s so cliche, but true. In April I wasn’t running anymore, I hated the sport… On October 5th I won a 100 mile race in 18 hours 5 minutes and 34 seconds.
It all started with "That’s cute"
Thanks Jimmy… You allowed me to do something great.
It’s been a while since I last post on here so I thought 2 weeks out was appropriate. If this is your first read and you’re wondering what’s in 2 weeks, well I can tell you! For some time now I’ve been training for one race. I can remember back in about mid April when I decided that I was finished with running. I felt like I couldn’t hardly do it anymore because of one thing, which was my back. I’ve had so many issues with my back it seems but really it’s just one issue, healing.
I’ve rushed my come-back ever since I could walk. I walked as much as I could the day after surgery and that reflects what I did the rest of the “healing period” which was in May of this year. I pushed the recommended mileage, pace, and workouts. Finally in about mid-April I decided to walk away from the sport and I took a few weeks off from running. I’ve always ran for multiple reasons, which were to make my family proud, many people knew me as the runner back home, shatter brick walls, push the limits, and I could go on. All of that pressure was placed on my shoulders by one person, me. I felt like the air was getting thinner and thinner every single day because I just couldn’t perform the way I wanted to anymore on a consistent basis. Some days my back was fine and then others it was terrible.
In late May I decided to come back to running and approach the sport completely different. I’m running for two reasons now, the first reason being to use the gift God gave me and use it in a healthy fashion. The second reason is for myself. I want to push the limits of the human mind. So when I started running again and I decided immediately, and I mean within a week of coming back to running, to run the Arkansas Traveller 100 mile. That’s the race that I’ve been training for since May and it start October 5th @ 6:00 am. I’m really excited for the race and most importantly my back is much better. I think the month or so that I took off back in April-May helped my back and also just about the only surface I run now is dirt trail. The dirt is a lot less impact on my body and that has REALLY helped. I noticed how much better my back was last week at the Bartlett Park 50K. I pushed the pace harder and harder and never had one issue with numbness/tingling in my leg! I ran 3:45:40 and won.
I’m finishing this blog up now because I’m getting ready to head out to Lake Sylvia and meet of few my friends for a long-run. That’s another simple and yet great blessing that I’ve gotten out of all this ultra running training, new awesome friends! I’ve met the coolest people through all of this training for this race. I’ve been blessed to have met some of the best ultra runners in Arkansas and even be able to train with them and they are all doing the Traveller as well. Stan Ferguson, Robert ‘PoDog ’ Vogler, Paul ‘PT’ Turner, and Tyler Wilkerson.
I know God has the right plan for everyone and sometimes you won’t see it coming at ALL what he has planned for you. I thought running was a past time for me and look, I’m about to race 100 miles in 2 weeks. Always keep your head up, think positive, and trust in the Lord with all of your heart because I PROMISE it will work out the way it’s supposed to. That being said, I’m headed to run for 4-5 hours with some friends in the woods. You guys have a great day!
PS- I hope to see people out at the Traveller cheering the runners on because every single one of us out there are going to need some encouragement around mile 99 ;-)
If there are some typos I’m sorry, I didn’t have time to edit this because I’m now running late to get out to the lake ha
Yesterday was my first time out at Mt. Nebo here in Arkansas. Tyler and I both got off work Friday evening and drove out there to camp before the early Saturday morning long-run. Upon arriving out there we set up the tent and went out for an easy run through some trails. It was about 63 degrees which was great but we couldn’t see more than about 10 feet in front of us due to the fog that had rolled in. Following the run we took some showers at the bath house and then hit the pillows. (Shoutout to Creepy Craig for keeping us up throughout the night). We woke up at 3:15 and headed out for the run around 4:15.
We couldn’t have asked for a better morning for a long run with it being 60 degrees and clear! Tyler’s foot has been giving him some trouble so he cut it off at 2 hours and I continued with some great runners at 6. Some of Arkansas’ best Ultra runners started their run at 6 which we had planned out. I continued with them until about 8am. It was one of the most fun runs I’ve had in a long time. I got some advice and also caught some shit from them… good times! I look forward to running with Thomas, PoDog, and PT again next weekend! Arkansas Traveler here we come! =)
Hey guys if anyone wants to have some pacing duties at this years Traveler let me know. I have one pacer that will be my main pacer for the majority, but I’m going to need at least one more pacer possibly 2. There will be some incentives. You’ll need to be able to go at least 10 miles comfortably at 9 minutes a mile. You’ll probably start around 75 miles into the race or so… firstname.lastname@example.org. email me
So today was my second day in a row to do a night trail run with my new Petzl NAO headlamp! I must say, I give it a 10/10… it is AWESOME! Thanks to my great friend, Oakley’s God-Father & running buddy, Rodney, for recommending it to me. So tonight was a 90 minute run out at Burns Park. I started around 8:30 and Rodney, who is coming back from injury, hopped in with me at 9:15. So for my first bit by myself I had my iPod on and was jamming out hard with no worries in the world just looking ahead at the trail and the close scenery I could see with the headlamp faced straight ahead. I was noticing the trees, plants, rocks, leaves, bugs, birds, and these sparkles EVERYWHERE. I thought it was awesome because it really made the wooded trails look great.
So as I’m running along I pass some deer bedded down for the night and I continue and see 3 raccoons huddled together on the trail. As I approach them I say real gently, “hey guys I’ll go around”, but of course they jump up the closest tree like I was out to kill them. So I continue on and again, I notice all the sparkles literally everywhere in the woods. On the trails, on the trunks of trees, up high in trees, on the rocks, and just scattered over the trail in various spots.
Once Rodney hops in I take the iPod off and we start talking about different things, the usual. We roll our ankle a few times and he REALLY rolls it with about 5 minutes left in the run. Just before he rolls it I mention the sparkles to him and he says his casual, “yeah”. Well, I was really wondering what they were so we had slowed down and I direct my light RIGHT on a “big” sparkle and guess what… THE LIGHT WAS REFLECTING SPIDER EYES. So I say, “Rodney!!! Those sparkles (Rodney basically breaks his ankle here) are eyes!!! Hey are you alright?” He clarifies he will be ok so we are still running at this point and he is in some serious pain and alls I can talk about are the eyes that are looking at us. Yes, these eyes are tiny but it is creepy as crap. One spider I saw was probably the size of a half-dollar coin.
We got back to car and Rodney was finished and I had 10 minutes left so I continue down a trail and then passed a quite large spider passing the trail. Then, with about 4 minutes left, I pass my first snake of my summer running. That being said, it’s best to have your runs finished just before 10 on trails because the man eaters begin to come out.
At night… the woods are awesome… they sparkle.
Just wanted to say thanks to the people that have liked or reblogged my blogs so far! Thank you! More to come…
So yesterday I was wanting to run a solid 3 hour run out at Burns Park trails. I went into the the run feeling refreshed and ready to go so I thought I’d make it a solid effort. Most of the trail is pretty easy but there are some technical parts every now and then. I started just a tick before 6PM and was hitting a pretty solid pace for the distance (6:50’s). My buddy Tyler got off work at 7 or so and joined me just around the halfway mark, 90 minutes. We slowed the pace up just a little but quickly gained speeds and soon we were hitting a solid pace. We had been running for about 35 minutes when Tyler began picking the pace up more and more and more and soon we were hitting about 6:20 a mile. Me being me, I was thinking to myself…. “Alright, I’ve been running for just over 2 hours and you’ve been running for 30 something minutes and you’re pushing the pace on me pretty hard!?!” We come out of one the trails and are about to enter another set of trails and I decide to take the lead for a bit. I didn’t slightly begin picking it up, I bolted. We were flying through the trails, whipping around trees (Tyler hit one), tip-toed around corners. We were going around 5:30 a mile just killing the downhills and working hard on the ups. After a bit I slowed it back down and asked Tyler, “how was it?”He let me know it was solid haha. So we finished up the run and I went 2hours 55 minutes. Not the full 3 hours but it was dark and I was tired. haha
Now today I’m having some pretty hardcore achilles pain so hopefully that goes away!
1) Trust Yourself
2) Break the Rules (not the law)
3) Don’t Be Afraid to Fail
4) Don’t Listen to the Nay-Sayers
5) Work Your Ass Off
6) Give Something Back
7) Be Different— Everything has been done besides you, be yourself because you’re new, you’ve never been done before.
Today I ran an easy 90 minutes out at Burns Park Trails with my buddy Tyler. It was around 90 degrees maybe just a touch more, but what made it so bad was that just before the start it poured down for a good 10 minutes. It was so humid which made it a decent amount harder but overall it was an awesome run! I really enjoyed it, the trails are awesome! Tomorrow is going to be a very short run to get recovered for my long-run this weekend which will be about 5 hours! =)
Until Next Time…