Sparta, Missouri
elevation range 1195'-1572'          elevation gain:  8200'
2016 February 27

This event turned out to be a bust; fortunately I didn't go into it with any great expectation.
Conveniently located half way on my return trip from Arizona, I thought it would be a nice
conclusion to a great vacation.  Two loops of twenty miles in the Ozark hills.  Then I would
pace Dan Paige over the last loop of his one hundred mile attempt.  Sounded straightforward
enough.  The course was quite technical with sharp limestone rubble on the trail right from
the outset.  And hills, more than one might expect in Missouri, often exceeding 45 degrees
in slope, one after the other in succession.  I was enjoying the grind, on my own, running
in fourth position throughout.

The climbs were only a few hundred feet at a time, but were daunting in their impact.  I was
able to delay walking during the first loop and gain avantage on the field by continuing to run
uphill while others walked, but would slow to maintain control and protect against a fall or
worse on the downhills - injuring a knee on the loose gravel and slippery mud as the
morning warmed.

The first lap seemed to go quickly, but the directional arrows were often confusing.  When I
passed a slogger who started a half hour after I did for a relay I knew something wasn't right.
Then when the second and third position runners finished their first lap five minutes after me,
I suspected that I had shorted the course.  I finished the twenty-mile loop in a shade under
4 hours, which was my target, but nonetheless seemed quicker than it felt.

Heading out for the second loop I discovered that I unintentionally cut the course by most of
two miles.  Apparently I was not the only one.  Continuing on I was purposefully watching
the arrows to get the course correct the second time through.  After mile marker 5 there 
seemed to be too long a time until mile 6, even though I believed I was on course.  When
the next mile marker was 9, I mentally lost my patience with the directional conundrum I
was facing, ran another mile or so and decided to end my day at the aid station near mile
marker 11.  If much of the rest of the field was having the same difficulty, as was
reported, then any finish and time was meaningless.  I caught an immediate ride back to
the start/finish with a roving quad, withdrew from the race, grabbed something to eat, and
headed out only to learn that my buddy Dan had stopped after 20 miles.

Aiming to run 60 miles, or three loops, I settled for a short day of 26 miles and an early 
start for Tennessee.  I liked the course alright, but continuing held no value other than 
amassing more miles.  So, I'll save it for the next one.  Lesson learned:  Quit being a 
pioneer, taking arrows on these first-time events.  Let the race organizers solve their course
problems before I toe the line next time.

                                                       with Dan Paige on the course