Sunday, February 17, 2013

White Rock

At the risk of evoking eyerolls from my more seasoned bretheren, I'm sometimes reminded that I'm getting older.  When doing an event for the 3rd, 5th, or nth time, I realize that a year has flown by even though it felt as if I were just there.  The annual events are ticking off, like miles in an effortless marathon.  I swear, I just ran White Rock 2012.  And yet there we were again a couple of weeks ago, at the Brannon Mountain Church about 40 miles east of Fayetteville, on a cool but sunny first Saturday in February.  Whenever someone asks me what I'm doing this weekend and I reply, "running White Rock", the initial glimmer of  recognition involves the massive marathon held in Dallas every December.  This run is the delightful opposite.  It's motto has always been "no fees, no frills, no wimps", which has ironically been printed on event t-shirts in past years (frill alert). 

White Rock is close to home, which is a refreshing change from the runs requiring a 3:45am departure ahead of a 3 hour drive.  This year I had some friends from Memphis who came all the way over just for the event.  Not used to herding an entire household out of the door in the morning, we came screeching up to the start in my subcompact Honda just as RD PoDog was yelling "Go!".  As we joined the jolly but small starting line, I saw that I knew about 2/3 of the field, and was instantly bombarded by friends congratulating me for making it.  I ran to the first aid station in full conversation with several folks that reinforced the feeling of "home" that I often get in this situation.  Running countless miles with others over the years has a way of turning the whole into far greater than the sum of the parts, and I am often touched at the sense of family that I feel in the presence of the running peers that I have gotten to know.  Back to that first aid station... I stopped for what felt like a full 10 minutes to re-organize myself since I didn't have a chance to do it pre-race.  A little embarrassing, but overall added to the relaxed tone of the day.  I have a couple of events in March that have a little more pressure on them, so I enjoyed a true fun run. 

I wish that I had a good picture of the scene at the top.  I am not good at remembering the mile-by-mile details of runs, but I do recall thinking that the course (still a temporary course due to closures on the original) doesn't seem to be "up" on the way out and "down" on the way back at all.  In fact, I swear that I walked more uphills on the way in.  Don't you like my non-scientific course profile?  Anyway, upon getting to the "top", I was beckoned in by friends from Fayetteville who were working the turnaround aid station.  I had seen these guys no less than 12 hours earlier at happy hour, then the after happy hour, and... you get the idea.  I saw my Athens-Big Fork running companion already plopped into a camp chair, beer in hand. After exchanging a knowing look that his race was done (me), and a look-who's-smarter thumbs-up (him), I wrote my name on the list at the overlook, said goodbye to my friends, and turned around. 
The run on in was fairly solitary, and I was ready to call it a day by the time I hit the last aid station.  Charile and Lou were making human arches for runners exiting their station, and again, I found myself regretting not having my camera.  I gave them both a big hug.  Arkansas ultras are what they are because of those two special people.  I was happy to be done.  The last mile is a flat open stretch of dirt road... doesn't it always seem to be that way?  I finished 12-15 minutes slower than last year, but that was ok.  I was trying to be slower and not thrash myself ahead of the LR marathon and 3 Days of Syllamo, which are starting to loom large in my near horizon. 

No fees and no frills, but good times and better friends.  See you next year.