This year marked the first ever Dogwood Canyon 25k and 50k Trail runs. These runs are the part of the Bass Pro Outdoor Fitness Festival which is a week long series of events meant to get people of all fitness levels outside. The event took place near Branson, MO in the Ozark Mountains. I was a little unsure about how these events would go given that Bass Pro tends to cater towards things like hunting and fishing, not running. I was somewhat right in my uncertainty. Luckily I have family that lives right by the course so this was an easy event for me to sign up for. There was no cost for a hotel and my wife and daughter had someone to hang out with while I ran around in the woods all day. We arrived on Friday night and stayed with my grandmother. We visited some more family on Saturday then headed out to Dogwood Canyon so I could pick up my race packet. When we arrived I noticed this tall, long, blonde haired, guy in running shorts and a tank top. I took a double take.. “Kyle Skaggs?” I though? Yep it was. What was he doing here? After packet pickup I sat down and talked to Kyle for a minute. Nice guy, that’s it, just a normal guy. It’s funny because I see him and think “this is a great athlete, an elite in the sport I am in and he’s right here and no one even knows that in the ultrarunning world, this guy is a mega star.” He mentioned that “Tony” would be here later and I knew he meant Krupicka. They are both New Balance sponsored athletes and NB was one of the overall sponsors of the event so that is how they ended up here. I imagine with there being money on the line for the winners, they were not that disappointed (Tony won and Kyle was 2nd both just under 4 hours) I said good bye then headed out to get some rest for the night.
Race day, the weather looked great for the day, low of 45 high of 70. I was still unsure of the course so I decided to wear my Nathan HPL #28 fuel vest stuffed with Margarita Clif Shots and some E-Caps and carry 2 handhelds with water. For shoes I went with Vasque Blurs since they are a pretty general trail shoe that does well in various conditions. For socks, I wore Bridgedale X-Hale Multisports. All of this proved to work out just right.
I had to get this one!
yes, that’s a Barney Fief like guy to start the run. I moved back a little to let Kyle and Tony clear the cobwebs for me :)
The first mile of the event was on a paved road inside the park. Then we would start on the trail that, according to some folks I talked to the course, was cut just for this run and was just finished on Thursday. Well, that explains why the map was not up, there was not even a course until 3 days before.
Over the next 2 miles we ran through a minimum of 10 creek crossings. I actually quit counting. Someone said 15, which is possible, it was a lot, but all in that first section of the course, so once my feet dried out I did not have to deal with water again until miles 28-30. The trail abruptly took a long uphill climb. One of many that the course would have in store for the runners today. The footing on the course was a variety a terrain; some spots were easy rolling prairie, others were loose gravel on steep downhills. It was as wide as a car, like jeep trails, but not all gouged up since it was not used for that. There was one spot of single track that was brand new. The ground was not packed at all. Which is fine when its just you, but this section was on an out and back so you got to share this part going both directions with other runners. Luckily this section was short.
I met fellow SLUG Jeremy Bolt around the 6 mile mark. We ran together until mile 18 or so. We mainly just talked about running, travel, work, our kids, and kept each other moving on the big up hill climbs and the fast downhill decents. We had been talking about how bad the the course markings were for the 2nd loop. Signs would point in 2 directions since the course was run clock wise and counter clock wise. There would be spots where there would not be any signs for a long time and never a marker that you might be going the wrong way. We even got lost and took a wrong turn and ended up tacking an extra mile onto our day. We found 2 other runners that made the same mistake as us and yelled at them to turn around to save them a few steps.
Jeremy and I parted ways then I ran pretty much alone for the rest of the race. The RD was out on the course and said “10 miles to go!” as I passed him. “Ok, that’s it” I thought “I will not be passed anymore today. Time to start making a move. If you want to break 6 hours you have to forget about getting lost for a mile and just make it happen.” My legs were feeling heavy. These long slow climbs were sucking the life out of me. I was hitting the wall. Great timing! Right after I decided to kick it in the ass, I started falling apart. Not so fast, aid station to the rescue!! Little bags of peanut M&M’s were spread out on the table, I grabbed a few continued on. I chomped down one bag and before long, I was back and ready to roll. I ran when it was flat, attacked the downhills and just tried to keep moving at a steady pace up the climbs.
I was not exactly sure how much farther I had to go. The guys at the aid station said “8 miles and an out and back then you come back here.” What did that mean? Did that mean I had 8 miles total to go or that after an out and back I will have 8 miles? Whatever, keep moving forward, I’ll get there eventually. It seemed like I was the only person on the course. Finally I realized where I was, I was coming up on that section of single track that was an out and back. Finally I saw someone else on the course. Someone was not that far behind me, got to keep moving!
I found myself back at the aid station and asked what was left. “3 miles” they said. “Really, 3 miles!?!” I replied as I ran off. I was not waiting for a response. I took off still determined to get in sub 6 hours and not be passed. I ran though the 10+ creeks again. No slowing down, just kept driving forward with all I had. I was so excited that I was back in the creeks for some flat ground, but I forgot about the last climb. It was like a wall, super steep and my legs were cached out. They were fine when I was running, but when I had to stop it took a bit to get moving again. I got up the hill, blasted down the back side of it and used that momentum to take over one more runner and carry on through to the finish line.
I finished in 5:46.22, beating my previous 50k PR by 17 minutes (though I question if it was a true 50k). I was super excited by this time given the difficulty of the course and the fact that I added a bonus mile. It gives me something to feed off of in flatter courses and a great hill workout that I can continue to build on. My legs are sore from all the climbs and decents, so I know I have some work to do in that part of my training.
For a first year race, it went well. There are several things these guys could do to make the course a lot easier to navigate. This was a rugged, hilly, and in some places had technical footing. I think may be one of the toughest 50k in the mid-west. If you need some hill work or want to see some really nice views of the changing leaves in the Ozark Mountains, this is an event I think is worth checking out. That and if it keeps pulling the big dogs and paying out, it wont take long for this to be on the map.