Stuart, Me and Jerry arriving at the Middle Aid Station (Photo by Travis Liles)
Yesterday, a group of us ran a Green Rock Trail "Double" fully supported by Lee Hess and a crew of volunteers. This trail is 10 miles one way and begins about 2 miles west of the Allenton exit near Six Flags and ends at Rockwoods Reservation. Green Rock is very rocky (hence the name) and hilly; it is known as the toughest trail in the St. Louis area and one of the most strenuous in the entire state. To our knowledge no one had ever accomplished a Green Rock Double in a single day so we were heading into uncharted territory.
Lee (pictured at right giving me a pep talk at the AT 100) is a fellow SLUG and had been planning this event for some time as a practice run for a race he would like to direct on the GR Trail sometime in the near future. There were aid stations set up at the start/finish, the middle and the turnaround just like there would be in an actual race with full ultra-aid station fare including Turkey Soup, Breakfast Burritos, M&M's, Coke, cookies, pretzels and PB&J sandwiches. About 15 runners were participating but not all were planning on doing the double. At 6:00 am we stood around the trailhead listening to some last minute instructions from Lee and around 6:07 am we headed off into the darkness with flashlights in hand. The temperature at the start was around 30 degrees with partly cloudy skies and the forecast called for sleet in the morning turning into rain around mid-day as the temperature increased; we were all mentally prepared for a long, wet day. After the first few miles the group split up and I was running with Stuart Johnson, Jerry Frost, David Stores and future SLUG member, Steve McKee. This was to be the longest run for both David and Steve so they were excited about the challenge; David commented that he only slept about 3 hours mostly due to nervousness about the gloomy weather forecast. There was a lot of chatter throughout the day (mostly from yours truly) which helped pass the time as we talked about running and life. Jerry was the first SLUG I ever met back at the Berryman training run in 2005 and is someone who has inspired me and taught me a lot about the sport of ultra-running; we don't get to run together very often so it was nice to spend the day with him.
When we arrived at the turn they were cooking up some yummy looking breakfast burritos but I stuck with my usual Coke, M&M's and cookies. In fact Jerry and Stuart were teasing me that I should do a Coke commercial; "Want to be a front-middle of the pack ultra-runner and finish in the top 10-30% but never win? Then drink COKE, that's what I do. Strive to be just a bit better than average!" Whatever works, right? We cruised back to the start/finish where David and I both changed into shorts; besides a few sprinkles early on it was dry, partly cloudy and in the mid-40's which is ideal running weather. I had been joking about how tempting it would be to quit at the turn and head to Starbuck's to enjoy a hot latte and a book but really always intended to go back out for a second loop. I told Jerry and Stuart this so they would stick around and not head off without me but when I returned from the truck they were gone. Lee and Andrew said, "Jerry and Stuart told us not to let you go to Starbucks!" Thanks guys, way to pass the buck. I stuffed my face with cookies and M&M's, downed some Coke and quickly caught up to them. I ribbed them a bit about there not being an "I" in Team; I'd have to remind Stuart of this again later.
David and Steve caught up to us and as we entered the middle aid station Steve told us he was planning on turning around. This was his furthest run beyond a marathon and he was happy to accomplish his first trail 50K; we all congratulated him and headed on to the turnaround. Around 1:40 pm we reached the turn and ate some of the best Turkey and Rice Soup I've ever had. We thanked everyone for their hard work volunteering and then started our way back for the last 10 miles of the day. Stuart (the "Old Punk" is pictured above with me at the Rock Creek 50K) wasn't wasting any time and quickly took off ahead of us as I heckled him about not being a team player; "No 'I' in Team, remember Stuart!?!" I think this made him go even faster because he was out of sight within the first few miles heading back. As we passed the 1 mile marker Jerry told David and I to savor every step since we were on the home stretch; he seemed a bit disappointed that the day would soon be ending. This kind of attitude is what makes him such a great ultra-runner; he embraces every minute of a run and truly enjoys the process.
We soon came up on Ted Gruener (pictured at left with me, photo by Travis Liles) and Jon Whiting who said Stuart had passed them like a man possessed flying right by. This was to be Jon's longest run ever and Ted had been running with him most of the day helping to support him in this challenge. We met up with Carol Izadi and Deb Johnson who were heading out to the turn as Carol said she just had to have another burrito; I run for Coke and M&M's and she runs for burritos. Once again, whatever works! We reached the middle aid station around 3:15 pm and both David and John were fading a bit. We all fueled up and made sure they would be OK to continue on together as Jerry, Ted and I picked up the pace; as we headed off Jerry exclaimed "Let's Get'er Done!" We reached the 9 mile marker and could hear the sound of cars speeding along I-44; Ted remarked what a sweet sound it was as it signaled the end of a long and grueling day. At 4:16 pm, 10 hours and 9 minutes after we had started, we reached Fox Creek road and were welcomed and congratulated by Lee and Stuart. About 20 minutes later we heard David (pictured right at Flatlanders) and Jon coming down the trail on the way to finishing their longest run yet on the most difficult trail in St. Louis. What an accomplishment, congrats to you both! At the end of the day 6 people completed the Double: Stuart Johnson, Jerry Frost, Ted Gruener, David Stores, Jon Whiting and myself. Carol and Deb ended up completing 34 miles and finished around 6:10 pm; job well done! Once everyone had arrived we all stood around reminiscing about the day and mowing down on the birthday cake Stuart, Deb and Carol had brought for Lee; I also run for cake :-)
Once again thanks to all who helped out and made this day possible including David, Travis, Randy, Andrew, Michelle, Dan, Jeff, Mike, Charlie and the rest of their Hasher Family; we couldn't have done it without you. Most of all thanks to Lee for coordinating such a great event; it was organized better than many "official" races! To view all of the pictures taken by Travis Liles click HERE.
Any of you have recent running adventures to share? If so, please do. How about some stories from the Tecumseh Trail Marathon yesterday?
Hope all is well and Happy Running,