Sunday, October 15, 2017

Hanging out at Lapland--Heartland 100 mile aid station

I worked the Heartland 100 Lapland aid station this past weekend. Twice in the past few years, Dana and I have manned this stop set at mile 16 and mile 84 on the out and back jaunt in the Flint Hills in Kansas. This year, however, Dana could not make the trip due to work, and I had recruited trusty volunteers Lynna Gilstrap, David West, and Johna Ellison to help me manage the madness. 

Heartland RD Eldon Galano volunteers at Pumpkin Holler Hunnerd so we trade out volunteering at each other's race

It seemed like the entire week I was running behind in preparing for this assignment. Friday morning, I had nothing packed. Most of the basic aid station supplies are furnished by the race, but we ring the special stuff--bacon and mini pancakes, potato soup, and I had also brought taquitos, a pecan pie, and a cheesecake. I like our runners well-fed. Dana had filled my shopping list and there were only a few minor things for me to snag Friday morning until I discovered a bad leak in a water line in my camping trailer. DISASTER--since we really need our trailer fully functional next weekend at Pumpkin Holler. Dana found a dealer who could get right to work on the repair, and I had the hour task of dropping the trailer across town and packing up my tent-camping stuff. So instead of arriving at my weekend post at 5;00 or earlier, it was well after dark.

Even so, there was no rush of things to be done at this point, and after dropping my friend Stormy off at El Dorado at his hotel, I went to Wal Mart for some last reinforcements for the weekend ahead. From the race start in Cassoday, it was 12.5 miles due east of a well-maintained gravel road that just seemed to go on forever and ever--but I instead traveled east of El Dorado for 24 miles and then straight north on Road 31 to our lonely intersection--and this route seemed to be a little quicker.

I played with my new iPhone, looking for spooky settings where things dissolve into the deep black moonless backdrop of night. 

Our intersection. Theoretically, I should have been able to have pizza delivered here. But I had no cell signal.

Using two chairs in the middle of the road, and my camera propped up and set on a 10-second timer, I managed a selfie close enough to the look I wanted and photo edited the rest. I sat in the chair under a billion stars and played video games on my phone--something I rarely do.

I somehow forgot my tentpoles, so I blew up my air mattress and camped inside the aid station tent--a pretty good solution.

Lynna drove up and was parked and car camping before I managed to get some sleep. David came a little later and car camped as well.

Our morning started with us setting up the food table, getting the water jugs situate and cooking 200 mini pancakes and 5 pounds of bacon. Most of the hotcakes and bacon were consumed. I did my share of tasting.

The arrow marks out home for the weekend. By 11:00--5 hours into the race---we began our downtime. I figured we'd see our first return runner around dark. I made another trip to Wal Mart for stuff to tie the tents down. The race had staked them to the hard rocky ground, but we were getting 40 mph gusts and it was only a matter of time until they took flight.
 We decorated both tents with strands of LED lights, which made our aid station visible from space.
 Our porta potty had a disco ball inside for lighting. We called this our porta-party.

Our tents never blew away but two other aid stations were as lucky. a strong north wind coupled with sideways sheets of rain sent the tents into orbit. It got into the upper 80s Saturday for a high, and down to the upper 30s Saturday night--maybe colder. Rain with high winds froze many a runner and the drop-out rate was high.

 By 4:00 am, most of the clouds had moved on and clear skies let the temperature drop. Our last runner came through at 5;30-ish and race officials came by and picked up the aid station provisions and drop bags It was still over an hour from daylight so we crashed and caught an hour or so of sleep, and then packed up all the stuff I had brought.

 I headed east thinking I'd come out in Eureka, where I'd get gas, coffee, and make my way home.

A quick stop for another selfie at Cake Batter Batter could have been better with a cupcake, but you cannot expect friend Deana Thornton to stay open 24/7.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Blue Whale run

Each year--usually in the fall, a group of RunnersWorld friends assemble on 11th Street aka Route 66 and make a trek eastward toward Catoosa to see the Blue Whale. It's a 31-mile round trip and is a good training run for an ultra that someone may or may not have in their near future.
Thanks, Isabel, for the pic
This time around, 12 runners met at the Quik Trip at 11th/Utica Ave and headed out around 6:20. 
Me--I had dead legs, and it took a couple of miles to get loosened up and out of the suck zone.

Old Route 66 is packed with landmarks. The old Rose Bowl is one and sadly is in a state of disrepair. I am afraid one day, I'll run by and see it leveled.

Quik Trips are our aid stations, and we pass five on the way out--every three miles +/-. There is one stretch between Garnett and the Catoosa QT where there are no quickie stores--about a six-mile dry run.
This year, Tammy Cryer set up an aid station about half way between. She had taken requests and had a well-stocked table of goodies. My favorite-pickles and Oreos stackables were on hand and I partook liberally. She also has pickle Popsicles which really hit the spot. 

We reached the Blue Whale in around 4 hours--not really a land-speed record, although stopping at each QT and hanging around the aid station adds up. Our moving time was actually not that bad. We averaged 13-14 minute miles for most of the way out.

Thanks, Lynna, for the pic
Any banked time was spent at the Whale, taking pictures and such.

The blue whale is a cool place, and especially so at night.

My new phone seems to do a great job with night pictures-compared to what my 6S that recently died could do.
We spent around 15 minutes here goofing around.

Funny-I have never been to the blue Whale during the day.

Back at the Catoosa QT, I decided to catch a ride back. Thank you, Roman. I had K-taped my knee, and that was an experiment with satisfactory results. I also wore my stretchy knee wrap, and it was getting uncomfortable. I rationalized that stopping at 19 miles would leave me energy for some hill repeats today--but right now it's raining, so we'll see how that goes. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Take the long way home

After Do Wacka Do, I headed out purposing to always turn south or east. 
 Yes, I like black and white pics.

This was my only ghost town-ish sighting--I took several pics and this was the best f the bunch.

 Long country roads that go right over the end of the earth--I likes dis.

 And another. I swear there were Mountains on the horizon.

There they are!! You could actually see these from Do Wacka Do. These were near the quaint town of Granite.

 I wanted to just drive u to these mountains--they actually were not near as big as they seemed to be from a distance. I guess it's because everything is so painfully flat.

 I think it's dead now.

 Getting there. Would I get to climb? Would I Want to climb?

 Umm----no.Looks like a good rattlesnake habitat.

Let's go this way. And yes--more of the same.  I ended up in Granite, and did a boring jaunt down the east side of Lake Altus. From there, I violated my always south or east rule and headed west and noticed Quartz Mountain State Park. It showed they had hiking trailz, so of course, I had to go.

I found one short dirt trail, and it was way overgrown. Besides the ticks and chiggers who were perched and ready to bite, a sign also warned of biting rattlesnakes. This seems like a really good winter-time trail.

I followed the road on around and found what must have been a lodge.A nice place. The trailz here were well-groomed concrete and asphalt.

Well, I got out and checked them out. I was wearing flip flops, and decided to do a little bit barefoot. 1.8 miles later, my feet felt revived.

I drove around just a little more, and headed on to find my next adventure, and what an adventure it turned out to be. I was driving north, and noticed an old gray headed man with a back pack hunched over walking very slowly downhill on the narrow shoulder of the road.The road north did not appear to be leading to anything of interest, so I turned around and pulled up alongside this old man. Rolling the window down, I asked if he was okay or needed any water. He said he was fine and just lived about 100 feet away, pointing back over his shoulder. He said something about his spark pugs being all messed up in his truck and needed to get parts. He was wearing denim overalls, a flannel shirt, a  windbreaker jacket, a quilted ball cap, and a cheap backpack that looked like it had nothing in it. I offered him a ride, and at first, he said no, and then maybe--if I could just give him a lift down to the highway (about a mile away.) "Where do you need to go," I asked. "Hobart," the reply, "but just get me to the highway and he'd hitchhike from there."

I had no idea where Hobart was--actually I thought he said Hubert, and that was one heck of a long ways away. 'Which way is Hobart?" pointing east and west. "East, but you don't need to bother," I told him I was wanting to go to the Wichita Mountains, and it just as well have been Wichita Kansas. Then, I told him it was kind of near Lawton, and we were getting dialed in. t turns out that Hobart was kinda/sorta on the way, and I convinced him to get in. (Please note: This story does not have a gruesome ending. Nothing weird happens. I did not rob him for his backpack. He did not pull a knife on me. I didn't get foul smelly stains on my car seats.

Hobart was 17 miles away, and this dude got to talking and it seemed like it was 117 miles away. He was hard of hearing (and well, I am too-but not as bad as he was.) He came from Oregon where he was a laminator and cabinet installer. Oregon inducted a lot of government regulations for construction contractors and being a headstrong old codger, he bucked the system and ended up having no clients and income, and it was just those damn liberals who ruin everything and it's all about greed, and America is losing all its freedom. What I said in two sentences took him 14 miles with me driving 65 mph to say-loudly. thought about asking if he was ready for America to be Great Again, but thought better of it.

Th second part of his life story was how his wife of 28 years divorced him. She was 22 when they got married, and he was 18 years older than her. She just upped and left him when he became jobless in Oregon. Go figure. He moved to Oklahoma because he saw where he could buy a decent trailer house for about 10% of what his trailer house cost in Oregon. And how here, he was hired by two Korean women who owned a lot of motels in the area, and he was their handyman. He was given the assignment of remodeling a building they had recently bought on 10 wooded acres, and they were gonna turn into a resort near the Quartz Mountain State Park. I felt the conversation was going into more depth about his relationship with these two women and was cringing at the thought of opening another chapter in his book.

Finally, we got to Hobart, and he asked for me to drop him off at a quickie sore on the corner. I offered to drive him to wherever he actually needed to go, but the store was good enough. I was glad I helped this man. He did say he was having severe back pain and was gonna have to get him some of those Doan's pills. It was a wee bit on the warm side, and he was overdressed. And he would probably have never gotten a ride hitchhiking, and it would have been a real problem for him to walk from where I picked him up to the highway and especially back uphill to wherever his trailer house was.
On to the Wichitas. I found a route that entered the park from the west side but noticed my low fuel light flashed as I neared the turnoff. Uh oh. So, I got Siri to find me a nearby gas station some 12 miles away--a small detour. This pic is a rocky outcropping of a hill near the trail head for the Elk Mountain Trail. I have been on about a mile on the other end of this trail system, but need to come here when I have time to spend a few hours.

This is Elk Mountain in all its splendor. You can also link u with Charon''s Garden, and see Crab Eyes, and Apple and Pear--unique rock formations which are well worth the hike to see.

This woolly guy looked up to see what the hay I was doing, and then just chilled while I worked to get a camera angle where I could see him through this old tree.

I made a quick stop at the Parallel Forest and made a video. I'm not sure if it will load up in this blog format. Apparently, if you put it on Youtube, all is golden.

I wanted a Meersburger, but there was a quarter mile of cars parked up and down the road to the Meers Corner, n a line of people out the door. so I went to Medicine Park instead. Driving through, I decided to just take my chances in finding something on the way home. Billy Sims BBQ fit the bill, and I even got to watch a little bit of the OU game while waiting.

I want to get a BIG group of friends and camp here 
and run all weekend sometime soon.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Do Wacka Do. I wacked out

Do Wacka Do was this past Saturday. I have missed only one--I think. This is one of my favorite runs, and if I'm counting right, I have only missed one. This year, I had grand plans of running the 50 Mile. I had my mobile aid station right by the path into the start/finish, and took the one-hour early start. I camped and was somewhat restless. But at 5:30, I got dressed, got myself all lubed and fueled, and stumbled over to get my packet, and still managed to start 6 minutes past the official 6:00 early start. I am pretty sure I was the only one to start early--but I felt I needed it. I had a good 45 minutes of running with the headlamp--not so much to see the trail (actually gravel roads) but to see any rattlesnakes that might be slithering out to catch a few early morning rays.

I had a good 30 minutes of running before first light and 45 minutes before the sun peeked over the horizon. Temperatures were forecasted to be in the mid-80s--a good 15 degrees cooler than most years. I have had a rule (excuse) for NOT doing the 50K or 50 miles if it were over 90 degrees. There is absolutely no shade anywhere on the course save an aid station tent or crawling under a cactus--if the rattlesnake would share with you. 

With a 54 minute head start, and my shuffling pace at around 17 m/m average,  I thought I'd be caught by speedy 25k runners by the time I reached mile 5. At mile 4.5, a guy passed me running like a kid with new sneakers. He had a solid 10 minute lead on the next runner, but after that, I was continually passed all day. I do love this course. It has a lot of gradual uphills and downhills--and then it has hills that seem to climb right up to heaven. There are several climbs from 120-180 feet, and the toughest climbs are short but every bit as steep as climbing 12 flights of steps--gravel covered steps.

It's easy to take a good picture here--just hold up your phone and push the button. Every picture is beautiful.

Besides the steep uphills, there are miles and miles of gradual downhills. I planned on pounding these, but bad mojo joined with a sore-ish knee and kept me at an 18 m/m shuffle pace. Still, this pace could, in theory, get me to the finish line.

This was a lonely run. Other than a few people who spoke as they passed,  and a few friends like Scott, Chrissy, and Krystal who stopped to chat, and Lisa and Andi from Arkansas--I was mostly alone. In years past, I have run the entire race with a friend. Three years ago, it was Susan Melon Westmoreland. The next year, I ran with Shorty. Last year, I ran with Misty.

So, I had lots of time to think. I crunched numbers, calculated my pace and how much it would decline on the subsequent laps, how I would stack up against the cut-offs, and how my current pace would serve me in my upcoming 100-miler.

And I took a few pictures. I peed. I stopped at only the last aid station (Since I was an early starter, the first three aid stops were not yet manned.)

It became clear to me that I would be barely within the time limit on finishing my second lap, and with any slowdown at all, or if I stopped to eat or spend any extra time at all at the start/finish, I could kiss my hopes of a 50-mile finish goodbye. I was okay with that. A 50K run as a training run 4 weeks before my big race was fine.

So I plugged along. I  had not really eaten anything, and fortunately, I had brought a Clif Bar and  5-Hour Energy with me.  Nibbling and sipping, and popping a couple of Hammer caps, and I was able to keep the faith.
A mini-grand canyon. Or as Scott put it--a Real Leap O'Doom.

My knee--that sometimes lets me run worry and pain-free--decided that today I was not gonna run inclines like this. Uphills and downhills were manageable but slow. Hills what also sloped to the side were my undoing. It seemed like things were gradually getting a little worse. Each step had a bit of a twinge. If only I had brought my knee wrap. It was back at my camp.

So, my mind kept on processing. One voice in my left ear said to be happy with 50K. Get back to the halfway point, eat, drink, take my super-energy drink, put my knee wrap on, take some Ibuprofen, and just go. Focus on keeping my pace steady. The voice in my right ear said to play it safe and stop at 25K. Eat, drink, shower, and spend some time on the way home ghost-towning and picture taking, get home early, maybe go for a run Sunday.  And then there's the person who lives between the ears thinking both scenarios suck. I needed a 50-mile run. My meager effort of using races for training was going to pot. Someone would say "but 16 miles is amazing," and I'd wanna crawl under a rock. Ugh.

My final 2 miles in the loop were my last official two for the race. I sat in a chair away from everyone, except my buddy Lynna came over to chat with me. I didn't eat, although I did drink an orange juice. A hot shower later, I felt fine and decided to pack up camp and listen to that voice that mentioned the ghost towning and picture taking. Click here for that post. Lots of pictures,and a story that no pictures could convey.

Congrats to my friends who kicked ass in all the distances. Victor cruised to an easy win in the 50-me. Rachel Coulter sped to an easy win in the 25K. Chris Schnell seized the opportunity to win the 5-mile. I earned another DFL sticker. But good things still await me-I believe that.