Sunday, January 14, 2018

Ouachita Switchbacks 2018

It's Sunday night, and I'm on the mend from my third Ouachita Switchbacks race I ran yesterday. Dubbed as Oklahoma's toughest 50K, I completely concur with the label. I have run 25K here for the past three years, admitting my lack of ability to go for the full monty. The 25K (actually a generous 18 miles in distance) is more than enough to wear my leg bones down to a nub. 

Johnna and I made the red-eye drive from Tulsa and arrived in time to get her to her aid station for the early starters. I then headed on to the start/finish and had the need for a short run into the woods to visit the outhouse--actually a grove of trees decently out of sight from the road. Five minutes later, I was parked .3 miles from the packet pickup table. 


Hoodie and race number in hand, I jogged back to the car and ditched my coat, pinned on my number, and began the return trip to the starting line. Halfway back, I realized my gloves were too much so I scurried BACK to the car, swapped the arctic grade ones for a light pair of running gloves, and headed back AGAIN. I'm notorious for starting races late, and in this race, I gave the fields a 10-minute head start. Apparently, I had started my Suunto when I turned on the GPS, and I had racked up 1.2 miles bathrooming and running back and forth to the car. SO as bad as trail runners are at doing math in their head, I had a 1.2milemileage difference and  10 minute time difference to deal with. I guess I should have cleared my watch.


Here's my always-expected sun-shining-through-the-trees picture. It was 21 degrees to start the race, with no wind--at east for a while. I wore Injinji socks with a thin wool sock over them. Fleece lined tights, a merino wool shirt, my lucky Pumpkin Holler fleece vest, and an oversized fleece beanie. I was barely warm enough and it turned out to be nearly perfect.

Starting late, I had the trail all to myself for a few miles. I did manage to pass a few people, some of which passed me later.

At mile 4, the trail crossed HWY 259 where the first aid station was.


My friends Lynna, Johnna, and David were cooking cheese quesadillas and hot chocolate. I did partake. sadly, the Fireball had been drunk.

I had no problem crossing the creek. There were more than enough boulders to hop across.


During this stretch, my fingers about FROZE. I now see why--a bank of clouds moved in. Also, looking at my Strava data, I slowed down a minute or so through here. It was a long gradual uphill, and the north breeze had picked up a little. Did I mention I was using my trekking pole? That kept at least one hand out of my vest pocket. I know--I'm whining.


Plus, I took a few pictures through here.


It's always cool doing a race that's an out and back--you get a chance to see a lot of old friends you haven't seen in a while. Michelle stopped so we could get a selfie together.



After that, I began the mile-long upward trek up the Winding Stair Mountain Switchbacks. There are 33 zig-zags to traverse, and you climb 600 feet in a mile. Many (like myself) are a little wore out at that point in the race anyway. The climb is worth it though, as Kate Ellisor and a host of other volunteers had a variety of snacks and more cheese quesadillas.


This was my turn-around. he 50Kers however, continued on to Horsethief Springs. I have been on that stretch of trail, and know it to be super-technical. God used that stretch of land to unload all the surplus rocks when He was creating the world. And that being said--one 50Ker ran the race in sandals.

Finally, the sun came out again. I had a lot of downhill trail from here, but the long section of switchbacks was too steep for me to let it rip. After that, I had almost a mile of uphill, and then four miles of gradual decline. I actually gritted out what felt like 13-minute miles but Strava disagrees. The last half mile before I reached the last aid station--the wheels fell off.

The last half mile before I reached the last aid station--the wheels fell off. It was a beautiful stretch of the trail, the sky was blue, the sun was peaking down between the trees, and I took a few pictures. And then I just could not make myself run from there. My bad knee hurt. The hip above also hurt. The two inflamed areas joined forces so the whole right side of my body was screaming for me to stop. When I stopped, it just hurt more. I decided right there that I'd drop at mile 14. Lynna would let me sleep in her car until they were through with their aid station. I had nothing to prove and no reason to go on.

Well, they wouldn't have it. They assured me I could do it. It was only 3.7 miles--just a little over three miles, and I had more than enough time. (It was a solid four miles, and I would be flirting with darkness.) My Suunto had me at 15.95 miles, so I walked to the end of the parking area so my watch would read an even 16 miles. (Remember, I started with 1.2 miles on my watch.)

Then I thought--oh what the hell. I'll go for it. David supplied me with some Aleve, and Lynna loaned me her headlamp, and I trudged out. 

A half mile later--I was glad I didn't quit. This last section of trail had a lot of flat sections, the uphills were gradual. Any steep section was brief. The only rocky spots were short dry creek crossings. I had mental notes as to how far it was from each of the small ponds. I knew this section well.

Ahh--the old toilet tree. This is one mile from the finish line. Rumor has it--my friend William Dirty Sanchez Barnes and his girlfriend Carrie USED this as a toilet. I didn't peak in to see if it was true.

I did a steady jog for most of the final miles. David West met me .25 miles from the finish with a bowl of potato soup. It was wonderful. I ate most of it, and then trotted on into the finish. RD Tommy Brennan met me there with congratulations, a nifty commemorative hat, and a handshake.

Three years of finishes in the long 25K. My hats off and I heartily applaud all those who finished--especially the 50K finishers. 

Another friend, Justin Franklin, won the 50K handily. This is after smashing the field the week before at the Athens/Big Fork Trail Marathon. Back to back wins on the hardest 50K in Oklahoma and the hardest marathon in the world. Wow. I am so privileged to have such amazing runners for friends.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

TATUR Christmas party

We had our annual TATUR Christmas party last Tuesday at the Westside YMCA. As usual, the dinner was a potluck, which never disappoints. There were several different types of meat, salads, Bryan Carpenter rolls, vegan dishes, and desserts.

Picture by Clint Green
I didn't count heads, but I'd say we had at least 60-70 friends in attendance.


Picture by Clint Green
I piled a plate high with turkey, ham, potato casserole, some sort of vegan macaroni salad, and topped it off with a hard-shell chocolate and pecan covered cheesecake, which was delicious.


Picture by Clint Green
Kathy, dressed in leather, tempts the crowd with cupcakes.


Picture by Bryan Carpenter
Meego, oddly enough, was well behaved. No one signed up for any races--at least during the party. But he has powers to drive people to their computer and sign up for races of insane distances in the blink of an eye.


Picture by Gina Day

We presented the top three male and female winners in the Oklahoma Dirt Trail Series. Top three women were 1st place Cheryl Kastl (on the left), 2nd place Chrissy Whitten, and Christine Fisher (not pictured). Top three men we 1st place Jeremy Harrison (on the right), 2nd place Kyle Knapp (in the center) and me (I managed third by virtue of volunteering a lot and chugging out several slow finishes.) 

Picture by Clint Green
Then it was on to the Silver Spuds. The categories were Male and Female TATUR of the Year, TATUR Rookie of the Year, Most Improved TATUR, Most Inspirational TATUR, Best Performance in  Race, TATUR Volunteer of the Year, TATUR Comeback Kid, and Most Beat Up Feet.

We took nominations for each of the categories, and then a panel of nine voted. No one knew how anyone voted, and most of the presenters did not know who won until they read the nominations and opened the sealed envelope.


Picture by Bryan Carpenter
TATUR Rookie of the Year went to Gina Day. Gin ran in excess of a marathon per month in 2017, along with all the training that goes with it. She always has the biggest grin on her face--running will do that to you. He brother, Brian, presenter the award, and was as surprised as she was.


Picture by Gina Day
Lisa Butler was the TATUR Comeback Kid (my favorite category). Lisa is a strong marathoner and triathlete. She had an injury setback, and this past year, dived into ultras. She won Midnight Madness 50 miler, then won her first 100 at Urban Adventure, and won her second hundo at Pumpkin Holler.

Most Improved TATUR was Bryan Williams. I stalked his STRAVA stats as he trained for the Mark Twain 59 miler. He was relentless, especially with his ascent numbers.

Most Inspirational TATUR was Justin Walker. Justin helps so many runners with their fitness and form, teaches yoga, works at RunnersWorld and besides getting the runners the perfect running or trail shoes, he talks up local trail races. 

TATUR Volunteer of the Year was a tie between Misty Rowland and Michelle Bates. Both of these ladies are like elves on steroids at our aid stations. When they volunteer for a race, they're in it for the long haul-staying and helping for hours, and in the case of Pumpkin Holler--days. 

Best Performance in a Race went to Jbob Jones. First off, he ran a series of races in Tennesee including Vol State--a trek across Tennessee in the dead heat of summer and finished 11th. Then he ran the Spartathlon. Jbob finished 167th out of 369, and was 11th for the USA out of 25 entered.  Jbob finished 167th out of 369 and was 11th for the USA out of 25 entered.

Most Beat Up Feet went to the duo of Jememy Harrison and Cheryl Kastl. This mom and son team ran every single race in the Oklahoma Dirt Trail Series--something that I said would not be done. We've made some great friends running this year, and these two are some of the best.


Picture by Bryan Carpenter
Jwalk presented the Female TATUR of the Year to Rachel Coulter. Rachel dominated in the 50K at Turkey and TATURs. SHe has been a contender for this award for the past three years and this year the honor was well deserved.

Mitch Drummond won Male TATUR of the year honors. Mitch could have been at the top of many f the categories. He's an inspiration his army of running friends, he's a selfless volunteer, he's stepped his game up and is getting stronger and faster. He built the new Pumpkin Holler website, as well as the new Landshark.com race calendar. He's gotten into the race directing side of things, RDing Turkey and TATURs, and Snake Run. He's a huge supporter of the Westside YMCA and was responsible in largely in part for the $3000 donation to the YMCA this year.

Pictured left to right--Misty Rowland, Brian Williams, Justin Walker, Gina Day, Rachel Coulter, Mitch Drummond, Jeremy Harrison, Cheryl Kastl, and Lisa Butler.

Thanks to Kathy Bratton, Jwalk, Victor Brown, and Brian Hoover for helping present the coveted Silver Spuds.

Thanks to the Westside YMCA for letting us have our party here. It was another fun year, and if you missed it, please join us here in 2018.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The dirt Half of Half and Half

I tan the 6th annual RunnersWorld Half and Half Marathon today, wisely opting for the trail half. I have done the double half (trail first then road) twice in the past, and 13.1 miles of pavement mostly flat after frolicking through the woods over hill and dale is a letdown to me. I'm just wired that way. Kathy Bratton, Derk and Barbara Pinkrton havedone awesome thngs with thisrace which is one of if not the best race heeld on Trukey Mountain. (Oh ok, T&T is awesome too. And Snake Run.)

I got there a little early but not early enough to visit with everyone I wanted to see. Here, I am getting in the line for the start of the trail half. They head west and then north for miles of nice dirt. (I designed the course--it's one I am most proud of as it strings together all of the easier trailz in the wilderness area, and conveniently has a few moderate hills laced in.)


I did catch up with Gina and candy--2/3 of the Vinita triplets. These ladies run a marathon or more every month, and always make it look so fun. Secretly, they enjoy beating me to the finish line. (More on that later.)

I was near the front of the crowd and foolishly decided to crowd in with the fast people and try to lead the race for a few yards. I got off to the side so as not to hold anyone up, and to reduce my risk of being trampled. I was 2nd or third for about 20 steps, and my blazing flash of speed made my hat fly off. Veering off to the side to retrieve it cost me my spot, and 50 runners or so flew past me. 



But I had the friskies and hammered down for about 200 yards and actually passed a few of them. I was starting to crater when I decided to take a photo opportunity and snapped about 20 pictures of the thundering crowd of trail runners as they overtook me.


As soon as the course leaves the wide trail under the power line easement and heads into the woods, we're on single track and a nice climb awaits. Things log-jam trough here, and it's best to just march up the hill to where the trailz widen. 

Mark and Lynna caught up and passed me. Mark went on to have a race 20 minutes faster than mine. I tried to catch him but never did.

Picture by Alan Bates
My goal for the day was to actually try to race--instead of treating the event like a leisurely hike with aid stations every 2-3 miles. I settled in with a group of runners who were running a pace that I could maintain. 


The race start had temps in the 30s, but with no wind and bright blue skies it warmed up and I took a short break to shed my long sleeves. At the end of the Ridge trail, the course crosses over the Powerline Trail to the west side.  I was enjoying a nice downhill when I almost ran over a friend--Randy Brinkley, who had taken a fall. I asked if he was OK, and he popped back up and was fine. We ran together for a half mile or so, then I passed him and tried to catch up with the Vinita girls. But then I caught up with Lynna, and we ran together for the next several miles.

The Pepsi Lake Aid Station had freshly made french toast which I did partake, and Fireball, which made a good french toast chaser.




Jelly Legs--a zig-zaggy trail that climbs up up a hill to Rock City is a runnable uphill. For me, I can shuffle up about as quick as I can pick my way down. This trail gets rockier every year due to erosion. Still, it's one of my favorite trailz and is a necessary evil to connect one easy trail to the next.



We blazed into the Upper Parking Lot Aid Station and I took a cup of Coke and got on my way. My race was going well. I was running--not shuffling. I kept seeing 13-ish minute/miles on my Suunto. This was a good thing for me.

We kinda got into another short-lived log jam as we headed west toward the YMCA. It thinned out rather quickly though, and I tried to keep up my slightly brisker pace. I started trying to size u how we were doing based on who we saw coming back. (The course is an out and back.) The front-runners were five miles ahead of us long before we were even to 5 miles. Victor and Clay were going three times faster than we were. But I saw people who I thought I could run with who were 2-3 miles ahead of me. Pondering this was discouraging, so I just decided to blank my mind out and just run.


Picture by Clint Green
We rolled into the figure-eight intersection and Clint Green took hundreds of pictures. He told me the gap between Clay and Victor was 37 seconds, and it appeared to be turning into a real showdown. I wished I could be a groupie and watch them duke it out.

At the Turnaround, Stormy and crew had what was probably the best aid stop on the course. As good as the french toast was, they had some kind of birthday cake which tasted like it was drenched with Eagle Brand condensed milk. I could drink that by the quarts, and if I did, I could probably not get out of the recliner to run. I'd be that 500-pound dude that they put on the cover of freak magazines. I took a Dixie cup crammed full of the cake (a cupcake?) and ate it on the way u the hill out of the Y. Lynna ran ahead, and by the top of the hill, I had eaten my cake, licked the cup clean, stashed it in my pocket, pocketed the plastic fork, and picked up the pace. I had just caught Lynna when she kicked a stump, and then like a slow-motion super-hero, she flew horizontally for a good 2 feet and hit the ground with a thud.


Her clothes were dusty, her face had a smudge of sweaty dirt, she had blood running down her hand, but she saved what was left of her cake. The three-second rule did not claim her treat, and no worse for wear, we motored on.

At the next aid station, I caught back up with the Vinita girls. Gina and Candy were just enjoying the race and looked far less stressed than I was. I took out of the aid station just behind them, and I told Gina I was breathing down her neck--teasing of course. Right then, she kicked a root and took a pretty good fall. I began to see a trend here. I catch up with someone, and they fall. 

With about 2.5 miles to go, my wheels began to falter, and I hit a brief bad spot. Misty at the Pepsi Lake Aid Station recommended Fireball or Piehole, and with a shot of alcohol in me, I took off with a power-walk until I reached the top on the gradual climb past Pepsi Lake. I started to believe I could run it in with my foot on the gas. Lynna got a second wind as well, and she put about 200 yards between us. The race was on. About halfway back on the Ridge Trail, we turned right and wound around to the north end of the Bunny Trail. I saw her make the turn, but I did not see her then make a wrong turn. So here I was trying to catch her when she caught up and passed me again. We were picking off a runner every now and then, and when we reached the place where we begin the descent down an extremely rocky potentially dangerous stretch of partially washed out trail, I stretched out my stride, increased my foot turnover, and watched my foot placement like a hawk. I felt like I made good time coming down, and I actually caught up with Scott Smaligo. We ran the final half mile in together and finished about a second apart.

I visited with Victor and his fiance Maddie for a bit. Victor finished second to Clay Mayes, who rarely fails to win any race he enters. Maddie crushed the field for her win.


I hung out, drank a beer, ate some great BBQ fro Rub BBQ. I got to visit with Belle Vie, and we got the selfy pic we forgot to get at T&T. Then I made my way home for a nice nap. 

The Vinita girls came through and headed out on the road for their FULL Marathon. They weren't even racing me. Had they been, they would have humbled me.

The course was marked well, and as always, the aid stationss were superb.

I finished in 3:37. Both my Suunto and Strava said I had a 15:34 m/m average, but my math says it was more like a 16:19 m/m. Either way, it was way faster than my last few runs have been. It's encouraging though.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

POOP Trail Run

REALLY?? How can anyone NOT want to run a race with a name like that?? I shared the link with friends and there was a lot of interest, but Johnna, Betsy, and I were the only ones (I think) who made the trip from Tulsa to poop in the woods with friends.

Johnna and I left Tulsa around 5:30, and I am not gonna disclose how many poop stops we made on the way--in the spirit of the run, of course. Let's just say--I had my Metamucil the night before. There was a LONG line at the two porta-potties, and since we actually got to the race slightly ahead of schedule, we Googled "gas stations near me" and found one 2.6 miles away, so while others were waiting in the cold for an outhouse, we had a semi-clean warm bathroom with which to do our business. We made it back with one minute to spare and walked up to the starting line as they said GO!


I'd say there were 80-100 runners in the half marathon, and smaller amounts of 5.5 milers and 5Kers that started later--and all passed us. The above pic, borrowed from the POOP Trail Run FB page, is like a Where's Waldo pic. I am in the picture--can you find me?

We had not gone a mile when we found the poop. A man and his son came up behind us as I squatted to take the picture, shook they're heads, and ran on by. (HAHA--I said SQUATTED!!!)


Cool to see someone is already in the Christmas spirit. This was one of several views of Lake Thunderbird.


I came prepared. Plenty of snacks, 5-hour Energys, and FIREBALL. This was at mile 4--roughly 1/3 of the way into the race and the bottle is 1/3 of the way empty. Sounds about right.


The David Hale aid station--we hit it three times. The second time through we got to talking about trailz, aces, and ultra stuff. Ended up FB friends, and I bet we race together sometime.


Johnna led the way most of the day--all except for the last 50 yards. I did the asshole geezer thing and told her I only had one word--LATER! It was a mad dash from there with me whipping her by .5 of a second. Of course, she has punked me in the final steps of a trail race before.


Even though we were the last finishers, there was a big party of people waiting for us. They had this awesome tent set up just past the finish arch and had some cold kraft beers, and some good stuff to eat. Plus, the had the  OU/TCU Big 12 Championship showing on a large flatscreen. Classy.


This giant of a dog stood nearly 4 feet at the shoulders. While I was sitting in the tent in a lawn chair, he sat in my lap. I was pinned down, and he got a good back scratching.


Elevation profiles can lie a little. This one makes the race look like Athens/Big Fork. Yes, there were a lot of long uphill grinds that were so gradual that you could run every step. This course does fall into the Relatively Flat category. 


These trailz are a mountain biker's dream. I could ride here, and I am a wussy mt biker. There were almost no rocks, a few roots, and mini stumps. I never fell, and only kicked a root once. I wore Arma-Skin socks for the first time. These socks guaranty NO BLISTERS, and I love them. No hot spots, no hints of blistering. But of course, it was just a half. 

Picture borrowed from Modeling by Zeke
There was nice swag for the race. Instead of t-shirts, we got a poop-colored beanie and a cowbell for our medals. Super cool.

Next year, let's bring an army to run this race.