Arkansas Traveller 100 Race Report – Ashley Nordell

In this race report, coach Ashley Nordell reviews the Arkansas Traveler 100 ultra race. Check it out for tips on training for the course!

Race: Arkansas Traveller 100

Runner: Ashley Nordell

Race Date: 10/05/2019

Location: Ouchita National Forest, Arkansas. Close to Little Rock.


arkansas traveler 100 mile race report
Photo Credit: Steve Kirk

3 Bests – What aspects of the Arkansas Traveler 100 Ultra race did you like the most?

1) It is a classic. This is one of the original eight 100s in the United States, so with the longevity comes traditions and a well dialed race. You can tell the same people come out year after year, either to volunteer, pace, or run the race, and because of that, it feels like a family reunion, even if it is your first time coming.

2) The location. I have a love affair with Arkansas, and though this is the first time I have run Traveller, I have come to Arkansas for years to run another race. To me, Arkansas is a well kept secret as far as amazing trails, scenic views, and a wonderful trail running community. Because this race is close to Little Rock, it is easy access to an airport, lodging, and amenities, which makes it simple for those coming out of state.

3) The people- this sort of goes along with the other two aspects I love- the runners in Arkansas are fabulous people. The race director and volunteers are veterans to putting on a fantastic event, and many of the aid stations are like running into a huge party. Many of the people I look forward to seeing every year at the other Arkansas race I love are also at this race, so I come to see them as much as to run 100 miles.

Not so much – What aspects of the Arkansas Traveler 100 didn’t do it for you?

The weather- hot and humid!

Also, to note, the race is primarily different forms of gravel or jeep roads minus 8 miles of the Ouchita Trail. It is also composed of a 16 mile figure eight loop and then a long out and back, so it won’t be the most exciting race course you encounter.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about the Arkansas Traveler 100?

This is backwoods Arkansas, so I saw quite a few weird things, and most of them involved trucks, beer, and camo, occasionally at aid stations! There were also some random guys laying in the middle of a not so drivable road at 11pm with coolers, bed rolls, and huge packs.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

I would say I managed the heat pretty well. It was my major stressor going in. It is cold in Oregon now, and we have no humidity, and I know how my stomach does in the heat. I stayed iced down and soaking wet for the whole 18 hours, and though I did have some heat issues for a section where I started to overheat and get cold despite the 86 degrees, I was able to turn it around before things got too bad.

Though my stomach did turn (that is pretty much a given), I was able to keep pushing despite about 40 miles of not many calories. I think pacing the race and not getting caught into an early fast pace helped me as well.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the Arkansas Traveler 100 to help the next runner

1) Lube up and ice up- keep the core cool.
2) Train to run- it is a fairly runnable course, so do training runs that force you to run the whole distance
3) Run the early miles smart to be able to run the later miles well. I think many people start out 100s too fast, and this one was not an exception. Don’t get caught up in pushing too hard early or you won’t be able to take advantage of the runnable portions later.
4) Train for heat and humidity- I live in a cold climate in the Fall, so I tried to help train for the Arkansas temps by sitting in a steam room and running in layers. I have no idea if it helped or not, but if anything, it trains in suffering.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

For me, my stomach is my nemesis in 100s, so if I can nail that sometime, I would love to see how much better I can run the second half of a hundred. The race RD said they are going to try to bump the race back a week or two (this Saturday, one week post Traveler, the temps were over 20 degrees cooler). Apparently temperatures out there have been trending higher in recent years than the averages of past years, so instead of 70s, runners are having to run in mid 80s-90s. With added humidity, it is a challenge for sure.

Just knowing the course and the parts of the course that I found most challenging will be beneficial for if I ever run it again.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the Arkansas Traveler 100?

The Arkansas Traveler 100 course is runnable, fairly technical (rocks), but it also had more hills than I expected. It gains 12,000 over 100 miles, so not a mountain 100, but I was surprised by some of the longer grinders out on the course. I think I imagined more flat, but most of the course you are either climbing or descending in some capacity. I wore road shoes with good cushion (Hoka Rincon) and they were great. Many people have feet issues due to the rocks, but my feet were happy the whole time.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

It is pretty, but not because of big mountain views. I think if they do move the race date, it will hit more of the color change, and that will be beautiful out in the forest. The majority of the race is in the woods, but every once in a while you get a glimpse of the lakes or ridge lines through the trees.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

Traveler is a runnable course- it’s not Rocky Raccoon flat, but you can run most of the whole 100 miles, and that is a challenge in itself. I think the temperatures also add to the challenge.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

Absolutely well run! This race is dialed in, and many of the volunteers are either runners themselves or are well versed in what runners might need and how to help them, so it is a race you could easily do crew-less.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

It varies year to year. Ann Trason has the record, so it has a history of having fast runners attend.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the Arkansas Traveler 100 happen.

Nope! It fills, but not as fast as many 100s.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

Plenty of ice and other things you will need at a hot race, like pickle juice, potatoes with salt, and ginger ale.  The only issue I had at aid stations was that I often get by in the night on coke and broth when my stomach goes, and almost every aid station I hit did not have the soup cooked yet. But the volunteers are all amazing.

Weather and typical race conditions

Hot and humid- I have heard they can get rain, but that hasn’t happened in years, though it did rain a bit the day before. I am sure thunderstorms can be a factor some years as well.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?

Ice bandana, cushioned shoes, a pack without a bladder so you can stuff ice all down the back to keep cool.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Main crew aid stations- mile 16, 30, 48, 68, 85- these are the big ones most go to, and it seemed like a party at them.

How’s the Swag?

Long sleeve shirt and finishers buckle.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

Organization- 10/10
Course- 6/10 (because of the out and back and amount of roads, but it is still a super pretty area)
Overall impression of the race- friendliness, volunteers, quality, etc- 10/10
Weather- 2/10, haha

Ashley Nordell is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about her or to work with Coach Ashley, check out her coaching page.