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Rock/Creek racer Owen Bradley tests out some duck tape at the Ouachita 50k

Here is Owen Bradley’s take on the Ouachita 50k in Arkansas. Hope the ankle heals up fast, O!

Well, a picture is worth a thousand words, so here is a picture of my ankle with fashionable polka-dotted duck tape.

I had to use the tape at the North Shore turnaround to allow myself to run the last 14 miles without twisting my left ankle any more. Before this point I had endured five smaller ankle twists and the two massive rolls that occurred from the one hour point to the 2:36 time when I reached the turn around. I considered dropping out of the race several times, due to the rocky trail surface, which wreaked havoc with my ankle. It should be noted that I taped my ankle with athletic tape before the race started to try and avoid any issues, to no avail.

The only other time I have experienced this intense of an ankle problem was the first year I ran Stump Jump 50k in 2009, and resorted to the same battlefield triage with duck tape.

The Ouachita course starts and finishes with 2.7 miles of paved road, which was a big relief at the end. This smooth surface allowed me to lengthen my stride and improve my finishing placement from 5th to 4th place. The weather conditions were ideal for the race, with temperatures in the upper 40’s to start and mid 60’s for a high. After a very rushed pre-race process of getting my GU and water bottle ready, I lost my black magic marker and got a race volunteer to write Rock/Creek on my chest in what turned out to be dark pink color (see photo)!

Right after the race started, I briefly chatted with Nick Lewis, my teammate, from Memphis as we picked up speed running along the state park road. Nick dominated the 50 mile race and set a new course record (7:06). I proceeded to pull ahead of the other runners and enjoyed some solitude on the road.

I was feeling inspired until I crossed into a clearing and caught sight of Pinnacle Mountain. I let out some choice words knowing I had to climb the rocky east side of the mountain in a matter of minutes.

Nick Lewis (a Rock/Creek teammate) and Matt Pruitt caught up with me on the assent of the mountain. Matt would also have a great day, setting a new course record for the 50k in his debut race (4:10). Nick climbed up the large boulders on Pinnacle like a circus monkey, while Matt and I tried unsuccessfully to keep up. Once we started down the back side of the mountain, Matt and Nick blazed off and I gingerly descended, trying to protect my ankle, which had not yet been twisted. I ran alone for about 30 minutes until I had my bad ankle twisting incident at about 90 minutes into the race (two extreme twists almost back to back).

I got passed by two guys, which was somewhat expected since I was mainly walking with some intermittent jogging. I lethargically arrived at the Northshore turnaround, where I doctored my ankle and Kyle McWilliams got ahead of me. My goal at this point became just to jog/run the remainder of the course and finish. Fortunately, I received some encouragement from all the runners I passed who were still progressing to the turnaround. The Tylenol I took at the two hour mark was starting to help and I got into a groove. I begin asking everyone I came upon, how far ahead was the next runner? I obtained varied answers from two minutes to five minutes. Nonetheless it gave me a glimmer of hope.

I longed to finish the lake trail and get back to brief road section before returning to the base of Pinnacle Mountain and the trail which leads to the home stretch on pavement. I reached the last aid station at 4:21, meaning I had 39 minutes to run 4 miles to slide in under 5 hours.

Hooray, I finally got back on the road! I figured it was safer to run facing traffic on the road to the finish at Pavilion #8. This proved to be entertaining due to the packs of cyclists who were moving fast and acted almost surprised to see runners.

In the distance I caught sight of Kyle, who was dressed in long sleeves and long tights. I thought he was a tri-athlete doing a brick workout (bike and then run immediately afterwards)! My goal was to catch him, regardless. I caught up to him with less than a mile from the finish. Kyle told me he was cramping, and I then realized he was racing. I pushed on to the finish, scared he was catching back up to me. I ended up 4th overall in a time of 4:52:58.

In conclusion, it was a tough day for me, but I am glad I had the resolve not to drop out and to buckle down and finish. The event was very well organized and well supported with volunteers. If you like technical rocky trails, this is a must-do race. As for me, it is time to head out West to try my hand at a little 100k called Miwok.