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.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Ghost Towns, Old Bridges, and Unexplored Trailz

I'm still carrying around extra Thanksgiving gluttonous fat (but the pecan pie was SO GOOD, and it WAS reduced at whipped cream) and I ran Thursday, Friday, and Saturday--not long, but my legs said enough was enough. So I decided to find a ghost town or two, maybe find some old barns, old steel bridges, and if that led to a little walking/shuffling/slow jogging, that might be ok too. 

My plans were to go to Neloganey, Osage County between Barnsdall and Pawhuska, but passing over Bird Creek on the way made me want to stop to take a pic of the muddy stream not far from where I was raised. Funny, I have never been there exploring, and have only fished there as aid. (I have given thought to taking up fishing again--sometime-like I have time for another hobby!!!) I parked on the shoulder of the road I was on and checked out this gravel rod to see if it might lead to a fishing spot where I could snap a picture or two. There were no "POSTED" signs, no "NO TRESPASSING", No "KEEP OUT" signs. and the left side of the gate was wide open--you could ride a bike through. Sounded like an invite to me.


It was a great day for a little hike, and I must have planned it because I had brought my Suunto and pushed the button to record my trip. Almost no breeze, temps in the low 60s, and enough clouds to paint the sky. 
I had gone no more than a quarter mile when I saw the first of several abandoned earth-moving machines. And by abandoned--it was clear they had been there for years. They were rusted, the decks rusted through, the seats deteriorated--they had died and were left to rot.

I didn't count, but I bet there were over 10 excavators, bulldozers, backhoes and crawler loaders in the 2.6 miles I covered. I guess when they stopped working, they just left them and bought another to replace it?? The more I thought about it, I wonder if they were ruined in a flood since Bird Creek is notorious for getting way out of its banks during heavy rains.

Surveying this gate, there were no signs, and it was not locked--just a chain hooked. Now please do not think I am encouraging everyone to plow right through any gated off areas. I do not necessarily endorse my behavior. I had a watchful eye for any truckload of gun-toting self-proclaimed patrol-lords. 


And as is my occasional practice, I do try to pick up any litter I see in nature, and I did pick up this bud light can.


I ran down this road for about 3/4 of a mile and turned around. It appeared to lead to a house which was another half mile or so away. I figured their dogs would hear me if I got much closer.


I made a short detour down a steep embankment to see Bird Creek. There's nothing stunning about this muddy creek. It does not make me wanna come camp and fish here. But it is pretty in its own way.

 Same spot--looking up the other way.


The steep embankment had to go back up. Suunto said it was 25 feet. I say 50.


The same road heading back. I'm not sure what all the whitebark trees were. It reminded me of aspens but I'm sure they were not.


 Different excavator. There were 4-5 of these.


Somehow this picture turned out black and white. I also had a colored one that was ok, but I liked this one better.


I eventually came to a gate that had pretty specific signage. The beware of dog one carried weight with me. But if the dog was as old as the sign, maybe I didn't have anything to worry about.


Just to be safe, I left blotted out the street names, but anyone who tries hard enough could figure out where I was. I may or may not have laced a wee bit of incorrect information in the above post so as to throw off any resourceful bounty hunters.


Well, on to the bridges. There are many in the area north and east of Sperry, which is about as far north as I made it this fine Sunday afternoon. While I prefer rusty steel truss bridges, ones that have had preventative maintenance done are acceptable, especially since when they flunk a periodical inspection, they get torn down and replaced.


I like seeing wood decks, but concrete or asphalt decks probably require less repair, or at least is cheaper on the front end.

This one had a unique railing. The diamond cross hatch design served as a pedestrian railing, and in my case, gave a bit of flair to the photograph.

On second thought, maybe the railing was not as safe as I thought. I bet someone crapped their pants when the nose of their car broke through. Or maybe they were drunk and didn't remember it.

 Skies were clearing to the north.


I visited three of the 4 bridges in the area. The 4th was in the process of being replaced. :-( The bridge above had neither a wood or paved deck. It had a steel grate--virtually indestructible. And hey--you could drop your iPhone right through it. I held on tight. The steel had teeth as well, which probably made for good traction during the winter icy season, but also probably would shred bicycle tires. And running barefoot on this bridge--no.


Bird Creek was wide here. I was disappointed that the skies cleared. Taking pictures of old dilapidated buildings works better on a cloudy dismal day. But I have my tricks.


This house in Sperry looked abandoned. Maybe it wasn't--I'm not sure. I am thinking it was converted into a duplex.


 An old gas station? 


 Now, this was a gas station at one time.


 An old house that looks like it was flooded one time too many.


 I remember seeing water right up to this house as a kid.


Downtown Sperry. There were a drug store and a cafe in this block of buildings, but they have been mostly empty for 40 years or more.

Well, next time I do the ghost town hunt, I will make it further north. I'll start earlier, and who knows--I probably will find some good trailz to run too.