Wednesday, March 30, 2011



Sunday, March 27, 2011


The TOTs trail trips have turned into the highlight of my month--running-wise anyway. We have picked out some awesome trails within 100 miles of Tulsa to run. This time around, we went to Greenleaf State Park near Braggs Ok.It was a smaller group this time around. It was in the low 40s, after we have had a week of nice warmish spring temps. It was misty with gray skies, and there was a bit of a north wind. But we had guests--a group of runners from the Muskogee Running Club, and a Tahlequah group--the RiverHawks joined us. On the left, Joel Everett--RD of Do-Wacka-Do, and the new Muskogee 15K-- guided us to the best parking area nearest to the trailhead. In the orange, Rebel listens to Joel's instructions while K-State fan Cherry and shivering Teresa ponder what they have gotten themselves into. Russell knows. Miles and miles of great trail running.

From our parking area, we had to run around a quarter mile down an old paved road to the single-track trail. Michelle, in the Post Oak shirt, led the way--at least for the Hello Kitty Runners.

Greenleaf Lake--one of Oklahoma's most beautiful. This small lake has great fishing, cabins, deer and turkey hunting (which closes the trails for running :-( ) and has a reputation for being the tick capitol of Oklahoma. With the cold temps though, I was sure we would not have problems with he 8-legged critters this day.

One of the landmarks for this trail is the swinging bridge. There will be a day that this bridge needs repair, and I hope they restore it instead of building a boring concrete structure. This is part of the charm of this trail, and runners, hikers, and bikers alike look forward to seeing it for the second time late in their journey. This series of trails-- a 6-7 mile loop, with another loop beyond that is rugged with lots of hills, and the bridge on the way out is a welcome sight.

There may be a weight limit, but lucky for me, it held up a bulging zombie. Running the bridge is tricky, and when two people are running on the bridge at once, it is a trip!

After the fast group and the Hello Kitty group went through, the "walks into a bar" group came through. Diane, Annie, and Cherry proceed cautiously, while ringleader and photographer Catherine takes the picture.

We took the trail nearest to the shores of the lake first, and the plan was to go out 3 miles or so, and then make a decision as to whether to return on the same trail, or go on, and possibly returning on the upper ridge. Michelle tries to get out of the frame, but a quick TZ snaps the pic.

The trails for the most part near the shores were flat and smooth. I was having a super good time, running as if I were fully rested. I was not, but it was a good day. The smell of the pines and the soft carpet of the fallen pine needles were like candy to me.

We'd stop every now and then so we could regroup. There was no need for hurrying. That's the philosophy of the group I lead. Russell ventures close to the edge. Slick rocks, Russ.

Meanwhile, the fast group relentlessly forged on. Im not sure how far they were ahead, but they tipped off hikers along the way that our group was behind them We came across several groups of hikers who thought maybe we were speedsters ourselves, even chanting GO TATURs GO TATURs. Our Hello Kitty group shuffled along and still probably did not impress them. At one point, a hiker asked who TZ was, and that someone named Stormy said to trip him. HMPH!!! Pictured above the fasties pose with three hikers they met along the way.

The fasties do occasionally take a break, as witnessed by these pix. Here, Rob, Brynna, and Travis rest, looking as if they have not even broken a sweat. Showoffs!

The pix of Stormy and Company aka Fast Group, are courtesy of Travis, who posted 30 some-odd photos on Facebook. You might remember Travis from my Rocky Raccoon report. You'll see him again in future Pumpkin Holler reports. Meanwhile, the Hello Kitties kept picking off the miles. The vote was unanimous to not do an out-and-back, and around 4.5 miles out, we began the climb to the upper trail. At first, the climb was not a big deal at all. But after a mile, we began scaling hill after hill, coming way down through drainages each time.

It seemed like each descent was followed by a worse ascent. While this was not Athens/Big Fork caliber hills, they were steep.

To add insult to injury, it began to sprinkle, and then we had hail. Small hail, or huge sleet--you make the call. Fortunately, this form of precip did not last long.

I was worried about a mutiny, as the trio of Tahlequah ladies were running a distance that was a little long for them, but every time I asked, they were good natured. There was a bail-out point where we could have cut off a couple of miles, but they wanted to complete the whole loop. I should admit, I thought the whole loop was only another mile at the bail-out, but it ended up being 2.5 more miles. This last section wound northward (away from the swinging bridge) up a holler to this waterfall. Pretty dry looking, huh? I have been here when the water was flowing, and it is postcard pretty.

But we kept going. The last climb was mile in comparison to what we had previously dealt with and the last descent was runnable and fast. We had talked about how hungry we were getting. I like breakfast after a good morning trail run, but without driving way into Muskogee, there was only Charlie's Chicken in Fort Gibson. Chicken sounded wonderful to me though. I reckoned I could tear a chicken up.

Seating was sparse, as it was 12:00ish when we rolled in, and the Baptists had taken over. Fried chicken is holy food in these parts. But we did get seated, and I had my fill.

Yum. All the food was good, and even my vegetarian/vegan friends found something good to eat.

The plan for a few of us to go to Pumpkin Holler to run another 10 miles fell through. It seems everyone was a bit on the tired side, or had other engagements, so we scrapped that idea and headed home after refueling. Rob and I carpooled, and we almost solved all the remaining problems in the world by the time we made it home. I ended up going to Turkey Mountain for another 3ish miles and some geocaching. But that's another post.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Lake McMurtry Preview

This Saturday marks the 13th running of the Lake McMurtry Trail Run. This is the race that started it all for me. In 2003 I signed up and ventured over to Stillwater to run a 25K, which at that time was my longest race to date. I remember seeing a handful of 50Kers head off, and I was dumbfounded at how it was even possible for one to run 31 miles. These guys (and gals) amazed me!!
I lined up and raced the 25K, finishing in the middle of the pack, and was disgusted with my slow time (2:33), but now I can't even DREAM of being that fast. Nor do I want to be! It hurts too bad!
The next year, I ran the 50K, and finished in 7:05, I think. I have never missed this race since, and have progressively gotten slower.
In 2006, a contingent of trail runners from Tulsa invaded Stillwater. At that time, TATUR was merely an idea tossed around by Brian Hoover and Dan Threlkeld, and a good idea it was. Many of these Tulsa Area Trail/Ultra Runners have since became closer than family.

I DNFd at McMurtry that year. It was a year that the temps were in the 90s for those still running in the afternoon. I had prided myself in having never getting lost, and that streak came to an end. I dropped at the half was point, but I had ran about 4 extra miles due to my own stupidity. But, I had dibs on the burgers, Chuck's jambalaya, and a few cold beers. Life was very good!

I met Mike Snyder, a guy from Tulsa who ran with the RunnersWorld gang. (Believe it or not, I was not a RunnersWorld runner at that time.)Mike seemed like a friendly guy, and he thought it might be fun to go out to the Leap O' Doom to take a few pictures. I was not a camera person at that time, but I did have a disposable camera and grabbed it....and a bottle of ketchup. Mike later wrote a report of our adventure that I call The Legend of the Leap O' Doom! (Please click on this link to read Mike's account!) Mike and Diana became some of our best friends, and despite their moving away, we still think of them as family.

Mike's artwork was last years shirt....with a few changes. Mike's creative touch with the scriggly lines and the determined look on Mr. Stickman would mot show up on a tech shirt, so it was revised.I liked the finished shirt design, but I may make another stab at the original artwork on the 2012 shirt.

This year's shirt is a more sedated design. (I was sedated when I came up with it :-P) It's a gray tech shirt, and I like it a lot!! You'll get tired of seeing me wear it over and over.
This year, we'll also have some honkin big medals for all finishers. Don't miss out, as there are only 250 medals and shirts. Sign up quick!!

Lake McMurtry is a beautiful course. fibbing here--there are very few rocks, no bad hills, and miles and miles of scenic single track. This course is far easier than Turkey and Taturs. It's a little harder than the Snake Run.Lake McMurtry is a trail runner's paradise.Bright blue skies, crunchy leaves, wind rustling through the boughs of budding trees, while the waves lap at the lake shores.Not all is single track....there are a few short sections on primitive dirt roads. But the view is more often than not, breath-taking.I'll be over there this Saturday marking the course. I would love to make it idiot-proof. I believe there might be a year when no one gets off course. We'll mark all the intersections so if you're paying attention, you'll be just fine.There's a few short little uphills here and there. A few downhills too!

And of course, the....
It is not too late to sign up for this race. We will probably run out of shirts, so sign up soon! Wanna just come hang out? We could sure use a few volunteers at the aid stations and start/finish area. You will have the gratitude of TZ, which is a very good thing! :-) Or, do both! Run the 12K, and then grab a cup of jambalaya or a some awesome BBQ, and give the crazy 25 and 50Kers a cup of Gatorade and some some psychiatric advice!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A new great trail???

This afternoon, I got through just a little after 5:00, and decided I had time for a good run. Rather than run on Turkey, I headed west towards Keystone Lake with the thoughts of running the mountain bike trails there. But before I got there, I remembered a place where I had found an ATV trail heading straight up a super steep incline and it headed into the deep woods. I had to check this out.I had explored this trail in dress slacks and street shoes a month or so ago, and turned around due to slipping in the loose scree. Who knows--this might be a gem of a trail.

Staright up and I mean up. I climbed 180 feet in just a little over a tenth of a mile.

Stopping halfway up for a picture, I saw that the sun would be with me for an hour, maybe a little more. I had forgot my headlamp, so any long expeditions would have to wait for another day.

From the top, there was a grand view of the Arkansas River valley.

You can see HW 412 below. The river is pretty low. Keystone Lake is low. We need more rain. Just not on my race days.

The trail came right back down after a 1/4 mile along the top ridge. I did notice a barb wire fence, and the trail never crossed it.

From this clearing, I saw where I wanted to go. Down this hill and right back up the next one. You can even see a hint of a trail over there.

But a quarter mile later, I popped out on a road. This road ran up through a valley, or a "holler" as Oklahoma backwoods people call it. These bridges are HW 412 spanning over the creek, the valley, hopping from one hill to the next.

There was also a muddy creek to cross.

And tall bridges they were. Due to the creek looking deep, I decided to run up the holler with an eye for any dirt roads heading east up the next hill, or maybe back west deeper into the woods.

HAHA. These folks don't know me very well, do they?

The narrow paved road wound through the valley, passing many nice homesites delapidated mobile homes. This was redneck USA. I had my sights set on this hill. Once on the slope, it looked like pure climbing with not much in the way of underbrush and briers.

As I neared the base of the hill, I spied a gate with the remnants of a road leading upwards. But the No Tresspassing signs, and this sign made me rethink ry intentions. I could just see myself stepping into a bear trap, or worse yet, upsetting up Billy Bob who was trying to catch supper.

The sun was thinking about retiring for the day, and I decided to make my run a nice out-and-back instead of a loop.

Rather than take the ATV trail up the steep 180' climb, I crossed under 412 and ran a nice flat road ~a mile back to my car. I ended up with 5.4 miles, and a couple of decent hills. I ran a 14 minute/mile pace even with stopping for pictures. Now I know that the mystery trail is not all that great.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Snake Run report

A lot of prep work goes into the Six/Three Hour Snake Run. There is course marking, gathering aid station food stuff, ordering porta-potties, getting permits and insurance, ordering shirts, trophies, medals, and designing them as well, setting up the start/finish, setting up aid stations, rustling up volunteers, coordinating the timing, and of course, snake removal. But despite a race like this being a lot of work, it is still a great deal of fun when everything goes well--and this year it was nearly flawless--but there is a reason for that. This year, I have had more help than ever before. Friends went way beyond what I had even hoped for in running the aid stations and helping set up and tear down. I actually had a nearly stress-free day Saturday, and even ran a few miles with some of my friends.

Dana made a few extended shopping trips gathering food stuff, and stayed up late the night before the race making 25 lbs of potatoes. (good ultra food) Kathy also did her share of goodie shopping.Janine made this artistic cake, and it was good! I have heard of people eating snake, and I had no problem eating some of this one.

Big thanks to Marcy Ellis, who ran the kitchen so to speak--keeping all the BBQ heated, and serving sandwiches from 11:00 to 3:30. She was a life saver.

My wonderful friend and part time crew babe Candice was the gopher for the day. Candice made trip after trip to the store for more ice, beer, bread, chips, and other snacks. We would have been in trouble without her. Thank you Candice. (Can't wait to have you back running with us!!)

My nepher Jeff also showed up and filled and refilled water jugs, and toted a bunch of heavy stuff back and forth to the aid stations. Many thanks!!

This post could be a super duper long post since I have over 60 pictures that I WANNA post, but I think I'll try to condense it, and then I'll post another batch of pictures with a little less of my rambling. The reward for running the furthest in six or three hours, again, was one of these vicious looking rattlers.
But new this year--we also had finisher's medals!!Brian designed these big honkin medals, as well as the cool shirts. Brian also spent some time every day promoting this race with Facebook posts and emails. For a race that we were concerned with having enough runners to break even, we exceeded that number and ran out of shirt and almost ran out of medals.
Brian makes some announcements. We did not have the megaphone, but Brian's loud mouth was more than sufficient.
The crowd lines up a few minutes before 9:00 am.One of my favorite things to do--firing the starting gun.

With nearly 250 runners, it was a little crowded at the start. The first .2 of a mile was on a wider trail, and people got spaced out somewhat before hitting the single track.

After the start and a quick porta-potty check, I sprinted to the first aid station. I took a short cut, as I wanted to get there before the front runners so I could take pictures. I came up short though, and only got butt shots of the first group.
I still got there in time to take pix of some amazing runners. This rocky section is right before the first aid station, and most of the runners blew right by it. Some actually seemed to fly.
After several fast trains of runners sped by, eventually some of the runners more in tune with the trail stopped for refreshments.
This aid stop is at approximately mile one, and runners hit the turnaround at mile two--the same aid stop, but from the other side. It's an out-and-back course, and they retrace their steps, which means all day long, you see runners coming the other way. The competitive sorts can keep track on their competition, and runners can keep tabs on their friends who are also running. Thanks to all the runners who put 17,332 little cups in the trash bags instead of throwing them on the ground.
It was like Grand Central Station when wave after wave of runners hit the turn-around, but the super-crew of Amelia, Susan, Laurie and Hayden handled it in stride. They had rock-n-roll blaring and several inspirational signs. WWCSD commanded the most attention. What Would Charlie Sheen Do?

Later, Sandra (awesome super aid station goddess extraordinaire) along with the ambitious and witty Pat and his better half Paula took over and serviced the remaining 6 hour runners. Sandra and company kept track of the last runners, and when they were through, they took down the tent, table, and packed up all the misc aid station stuff. Tatur-of-the-Month Amelia and hew three hour runner hubby Jeff loaded up all the stuff in their truck and packed it out of the woods. I am extremely thankful for all the great help, as getting this aid station picked up, as by the end of race day, Brian and I are beat. Several of the out of state folks commented on how great this aid stop was. It was an all day party.

Back at race central, the three hour race finished in a swarm. Most all of the runners took full advantage of the half mile finishing loop to tack on as much mileage as possible.
Mitch had a great timing program that kept track of the laps, and also the finishing laps--even though there were 6-hour runners still doing their 4 mile laps while 170 3-hour runners were hammering out half mile laps. Makes my head swim.Then, like clockwork (a small pun), he produced the results along with age groups. I suppose that is maybe not such a feat, except that most races results are simply a listing of the correct order and time that someone crosses the finish line. In this format, actual distances ran in addition to the time taken, and how many big laps and small laps are ran, and which race were you in?? My head is still swimming. Thank you, Mitch. You're a genius.

After each race was complete, we gave away the snakes. Maggie Nelson from Tulsa won the ladies 3-hour competition and set a new course record with 21 miles. She got away without getting her trophy, and I also missed getting her picture. Maggie, you can pick up your rattler at RunnersWorld if you have not done so already. Second place went to Marilyn Caulfield from Rogers AR for running 20.4 miles.
Third place in the 3-hour event went to Olivia Eves from Arkansas KS for running 19.9 miles.
In the men's division, Steve Shepherd from Roy UT came close to running a marathon--running 24.6 miles on trails in a little under 3 hours. This is the new course record for the 3-hour race. WOW!
Jack Morris from Tulsa ran 21.5 miles, and took second place.
John Noble from Tulsa ran 20.5 miles, and took third place.Sorry for the fuzzy picture. :-(

In the 6-hour event, no course records were set, but a lot of miles were ran! Stephen O'Neal from Bentonville AR ran 39.4 relentless miles and took first prize.
Tulsan Shannon McFarland ran 37.9 miles for second place.
Christian Moore from Bentonville AR took third place running 37.4 miles.
For the women, a girl from West Sacremento, CA took home first prize. Crystal Whitlow was visiting her grandmother in McAlister OK and decided to drive up and run our race. 32.2 miles later, she won the 6 hour event.
A Tulsan and T-TOT regular Shannon Ijams ran 30.7 miles--good enough for second place.
Another Arkansas runner, Jody Lingbeck from Rogers took third by running 28.1 miles.

I am impressed by the out-of-start runners--Utah, California, and even Arkansas running our race. That Arkansas bunch has been giving us a clinic for the past couple of years.

A cool thing happened during the awards ceremony. Stephen O'Neal was so impressed with a duo of runners--none other than Brandon and Cameron Plate aka Thing 2 and TrailGoat, and Stephen gave them his first place trophy. The Plate brothers ran a whopping 30.2 miles at the ages of 9 and 10. (Now hear me out on this--we need to encourage these boys and help them train, feed them right, and then maybe we can send them to Arkansas to WIN some of THEIR races--ya think??) Seriously, thank you, Stephen, for your kindness.

Results have been posted on the

So, as promised, here are several pictures I took with my Canon (and a couple I swiped from blogs and Facebook.)

This group is a bunch of SnakeRun regulars. Cindy, Carmie, and Teresa are no strangers to the Snake Run. Mary, Linda, and Meg are a bit newer to the field, but they looked primed and ready to go.

Arena is looking to better her performance last year when she outlasted all but two of the women in the six hour event, and took home the third place trophy. This year, she ran more miles, and finished with more miles than either of her competitors last year. But this year, we did not have snow, and the field never dwindled. Still, she has improved and increased her endurance and will tackle the Lake McMurtry 50K in two weeks.

Here's a couple of characters. K2 is goofing around with his watch. Tom is just goofy.

Fellow geocacher and joke writing genius Catherine is looking to do her longest race ever!! Rumor has it that she is not only tossing her hat in the ring for LMTR 25K, but is also considering a 50K at Pumpkin Holler.

Another geocacher, and blogger, my friend Alan. He has slowly been pulled into the cult of trail running. So much so that he will most likely find his way to Stillwater to run in maybe the 25K at LMTR. It's a sickness.

The leader of the TOTs. A group of ladies who really need to remain nameless, wanted to rip the jersey off of Stormy's back. Not that he is sexy or anything--they just wanted the jersey.

My friend Chrissy. I am so glad to have her back running, and she ran the whole 6 hours with my lovely wife. She is expecting again, and Dana made sure she took it easy and ate and drank enough to keep her fueled.

More good friends--Rob and his daughter Katie. Rob brought me an ULTRA sticker, which I like, and several pairs of socks which I love!! Rob is a pleasure to run a few dozen miles with. He keeps a spirited conversation going and is a great encourager. A pep talk personified.

A couple of fast girls--Shannon and Brynna. Shannon took 2nd in the 6 hour race. Might have prevented an out-of-towner sweep.

K2 invited the 5-Hour Energy folks to our race, and they set up a booth and gave out a lot of their product. I use 5-Hour at most of my races. I am now wondering if they'd like to be at ALL of our races. maybe some sponsorship agreements??

Brynna floats across the rocks.

Thing 2 and TrailGoat lead a train of runners. Give it up, guys. You can't keep up with them.

Janine and Karrie set the pace for the next wave of trail runners.

Go Tom go!! Tom has matching bandanas and gaiters.

Jen, on the right, seems to be enjoying this trail-running thing. I hear she is jumping up to the 25K at lake McMurtry. Doing the 25K rather than the 12K means she will have to cross the Leap O' Doom.

K2 does some high stepping. He is leaving on a long out of the country trip again. :-( We'll miss you, Ken.

Rock Star and supermodel Kate come cruising through.

Next is Alan, who is probably thinking this would be a good area for a geocache.

It's early. Arena is smiling. After 5 hours and even six hours she was still smiling. I like that.

Dana and Chrissy come through steady. They maintained a sub 15 minute mile for much of the day.

After the three hour event, and after the medals were distributed, I visited with my friends Mike and Rod. Mike is semi-new to trail running and has it bad. He has this passion--and I understand that.

Talk about minimalist shoes!! He runs in aqua shoes--shoes that make VFFs seem like hiking boots. Then, for his finishing laps, he puts on these home-made looking sandals and ran a few FAST half mile loops. I know--I ran a loop with him and barely kept up!

Here's a couple of boo boo pix. A little dirt, a little blood. It's all good.

A nice blood shot. This is Dirty Guy, who now is aka Bloody Guy.

Brandon and Cameron as they are being recognized for running over 30 miles. Their furthest run before this run was 15.5 miles for Cameron and 13.1 for Brandon.

Not sure what the story behind this picture is. Lyle is on a tear right now, going for 10 stars in Marathon Maniacs. He will achieve this level in the next few months.

Here's a man with a belly full of BBQ and beer. Observe the big grin on his face. He just ran 24 miles. He should be in pain. That just goes to show that good food and beer can fix anything.

Kirk ran his butt off--and today was his birthday. That's exactly what I want for my birthday--to just run.

Ok ok. I have to post it. Here is the Arkansas contingent. They all took home trophies. Congratulations. Do you have any slow runners in Arkansas???


Jeff and Amelia huddle out of the rain. We had a brief shower right as the 6-hour event ended. Amelia, the Rhinestone runner, customized her snake shirt. It has to be the coolkest shirt ever.

I feel bad that I don't have a better picture of Candice. I'll work on that next time. Nothing to worry about here--she is picking up empty cups and helping clean up. Thank you again.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This actually is not Candice, but is Kate. I guess I don't have a picture of Candice :-(
I need to schedule a photo-shoot and get a collection of pics for later blog posts.

My aid station crew-second shift. Sandra, Paula, and Pat ran the show from noon to 3:00.

Not sure what is tickling this bunch. I hope I am not the brunt of the joke. :-)

These are about half of the pics I have. I will probably do a Facebook album in the next week--if I have time. Thanks again to all who helped, and to all who ran. Let's do it again next year, shall we?