20th Sylamore Trail 25k/50k – Up The Creek

My first article for Arkansas Outside was about the 19th Sylamore Trail 25k/50k.  I made a comment in that article that I’d run the race this year.  I made good on my declaration by first making sure I got into the race.  It sold out last year for the first time, but no one could’ve predicted it would sell out on the day registration opened.  Next, I survived and earned the coveted Sylamore hoodie.

I received one last year for volunteering, but I have yet to wear it.  I know that volunteering for a race permits you to wear race paraphernalia, excluding finisher shirts, of course.  However, I wouldn’t feel right doing that for this event.  When people see others with the hoodie, words don’t have to be spoken, but there is an understanding amongst them.  I can wear both of them now with pride.

Ready to head up the creek.

Ready to head up the creek.

Weather reports showed snow being a possibility for the race.  I think I encountered some sleet on my drive up Saturday morning.  A few flurries came down prior to the start.  The conditions were right for a snowy run, but we were spared.  It wouldn’t have matter, since this race goes on regardless of the weather.

Bib number nine was retired in memory of past Sylamore runner, Sam Crain.  He passed away a week before the race (February 9) after battling cancer for almost nine years.    After a moment of silence in honor of him and brief instructions, the air horn was blown signaling the start of the race.

Runners taking a hill.

Runners taking a hill.

About a mile into the run was the notorious Sylamore Creek crossing.  Upon approaching the creek, spectators where gathered to cheer or tease runners as they made their way across. Not falling is all I could think of.  It may end up on YouTube.  If you weren’t awake before, crossing the creek did the trick.

Sylamore Trail is buried in the Ozark National Forest.  It provides some picturesque views with beautiful overlooks.  Scenic limestone bluffs are scattered along the trail and the calming sound of water can be heard often. There was a section were ice had accumulated on the rocks, which required runners to pay extra attention to foot placement.  Icicles had formed at this spot as well.  Sand, trees, mud, roots, and rocks were also spread throughout the single-track course.

Tricky footing and watch your head...

Tricky footing and watch your head…

Like many trail races it’s not uncommon to go off course or take a few falls.  I’m not saying this because I did both.  I took a detour went the wrong way around mile 10 with a group of people.  Ironically, I met up with Randy Davidson once I got back on the path.  He said, “Even I go the wrong way sometimes and I have been the race director of this race.”  That did make me feel better.

The trail rolls along for much of the run.

The trail rolls along for much of the run.

The aid stations (Blanchard Springs, Gunner Pool, and Barkshed) were roughly five miles apart.  Each one was stocked with the usual spread.  The soup was like ambrosia on this day.  The volunteers were ready and willing to help in any way they could. One very pleasant surprise was at Gunner Pool.  I thought I was getting a grilled cheese sandwich.  They ran out of cheese, so they improvised by making grilled peanut butter & jelly sandwiches.  It was beyond good and I’m not a huge fan of peanut butter.  The warm potatoes at Blanchard Springs were also decadent.  I must be hungry as I’m writing this.

Running along the creek on a beautiful day.

Running along the creek on a beautiful day.

The course is out-and-back for the 25k and 50k.  The 50kers start an hour early.  I’m sure this is to alleviate congestion since it is single-track.  It can be challenging to make room for someone coming back.  There are a few tight spots like the crevice in that huge rock formation.

Only one at a time shall pass.

Only one at a time shall pass.

There were 382 total finishers of both the 25k (212) and 50k (170).  Registrants came from ten states (AR, FL, MD, MO, MN, MS, NY, OK, TN, TX)

Matt Pruitt (Breakaway Running) won the 25k last year, but he wouldn’t defend his title because he was busy winning the 50k.  Arkansas has been good to Matt as he came in second at the Full mOOn Midnight 50k and set a course record at the Ouachita Trail 50k last year.  Fellow Tennessean Bryan Roberson and Oklahoman Tom Brennan chased him for second and third.

The view from the ridge.

The view from the ridge.

Angie Zinkus (Breakaway Running) took the top female spot.  After finishing second in 2011, she was not to be denied this year.  Mary-Ellen Kelly, last year’s winner, was second and Angela Quadrani was third.

Tony Kocanda (TC Running Company) won the 25k.  A group of them packed up the RV and drove from Minnesota.  Their group did well in both events with five top 25 finishes in the 50k and 2 top 10 finishes in the 25k.  Missourian Andrew Karandjeff, 2007 25k winner, and Tennessean Mark Temme finished second and third respectively.

In the female division, Arkansans Barbara Mariani, 3rd in 2012, Kelly Newberg, and Jennifer Dorris took the top 3 spots.

Big views this time of year.

Big views this time of year.

If you love the Sylamore Trail or you missed the race this year, I suggest you take a look at Three Days of Syllamo.  It’s about a month away and registration is still open.  You can run the stage race or pick your poison with options for 50k, 50-miler, or 20k.  If you’re itching for more trail races, Highrock High Top, Hoof it for Heifer 20k, and Ouachita Trail 50 are up next in Arkansas.

The race brings the people together, but it’s the pre and post race festivities that make the event not one to be missed.  With all the things to think about going into the race, I can almost guarantee that many are thinking Stone County is a dry county?  Uh-oh, I need to come prepared.  If you find the right person, you may get your hands on some moonshine.  You never know when you may run out of gas.

Cindy Clark, Chris Hall, Jon Honeywell, and James “Maniac” McManners finished their first 50k.  I wonder if they’ll do it again.  James had a 60-minutes moment the day after when he said, “I have no desire to go beyond 50k.”  That doesn’t mean he won’t do a 50k again.  He’ll be back next year, as will Molly Pickering and David Edwards, who completed their first trail races.   Lastly, Chris Ho celebrated his birthday on the trail.  I had a cupcake for him, but I ate it before I saw him.  Sorry, Chris.  I got you next time.

Timing & Results by Agee Race Timing

When I’m not running, volunteering, or writing, you can usually find me lurking on Twitter @absolut_zer0 or blogging at ICEdot Athletes.


  1. Great stuff as usual. Thanks for the recap!

  2. Melissa Joyce says:

    Great recap Nicholas. Congrats on your finish! WooHoo! Oh yeah, eating Chris’s birthday cupcake was pretty messed up. Lol… But, cupcake lover that I am, I can’t say a word! I’ll have to check out this race 🙂
    Well done my Friend!

  3. Melanie Baden says:

    That was an awesome story! I’ve done it twice and your story made me laugh out loud, particularly the ‘getting lost/taking a detour’! Loved it! Thanks for sharing!

  4. You nailed it Nicholas. Can’t wait to go back next year with two good “wheels” and get my revenge on this course! Treacherous beauty. . .

  5. Erin Taylor says:

    Thanks Nicholas. Was great to c u out there and I appreciate you story if the day, people and the run. Was pretty chilly for us spectators, but I enjoyed every minute! Gary says one if his favorite moments as just after Blanchard Springs, they climbed quite a ways and as they reached the top , the rain was crystalizing and the sky began to glissen.

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