My friend Mitch told me at the TATUR Christmas party he was debating making a push to meet his yearly running mileage goal of 1,200 miles. He was a little short--"How short is short?" I asked. "Um, around 100 miles." (It was December 13) This sounded doable to me, but I asked for a little clarification--"How close to 100?" thinking it might be 90-something. "Well--115 miles." And so the challenge began. "We better start early then," I said.
Mitch has been whittling away at his total, stretching the weekday and weeknight runs by a few miles here and there, and we have tacked on a few extras on out Saturday runs. Last Tuesday with the Night Crawlers, he was in the upper 40s to go, and our plan was to get a few miles in Friday (yesterday) as we were both off work. SO Yesterday around noon, we took off from the Bixby YMCA with plans to run to Lake Bixhoma and back. We started with a little jaunt around Washington Irvington Park--a half mile loop on some nice soft chat trailz. We saw some running friends Amelia and Rachel, who were squeezing in a 4 mile lunch hour run. We were about a mile into our run, and I realized I had forgot my hat and/or bandanna back at the car, so we made a quick diversion back to the car and began our run again, but at least I would not sunburn the top on my head.Just after crossing the Arkansas River on the old iron bridge, we followed as newish paved bike path that runs for about a mile eastward and dead-ends by some baseball fields. From there, we followed rural roads south and east to hook up with a short section of HW 64 which runs from Bixby to Haskell. That stretch of highway has wide shoulders to run on, but the cars and trucks whizzed by at 70 mph, and was not the most run part of the run. I had plotted the route on MapMyRun.com for the best way with shortest amount of busy roads, and the route was semi-scenic--enjoyable to run, but not a course to plan a trip around. Lake Bixhoma, on the other hand, is an awesome place to visit. The fishing is good, there are a few picnic areas, a lot of geocaches, and a few miles of gravel and dirt roads for trail-running sorts like me. We had climbed a mile long hill from the Leonard community, and the decent to the lake was steep--enough-so that I really took it easy going down so-as to not make my knee any grumpier than it had to be. Mitch let gravity take over, and easily beat me to the bottom. We were in no hurry this day though, as our distance was 25 miles, and Mitch needed to have some gas in the tank for his remaining miles the next day--and I was testing my achy knee. It's easy to take good pictures at Bixhoma. Just aim the camera and push the button. The scenery does the rest. We ran the perimeter clockwise first, which is about a half mile out and then back. This picture looked like a loser when I viewed it on my camera screen, but after loading it on my PC, I like it. Through here, we are about 50 feet above the lake shore. Years ago I climbed down the rocks and fished with some cut shad for catfish. This lake is super deep--maybe 80' or so, and I hooked onto a HUGE cat--took me 10 minutes to bring him up. I don't know what he weighed, but was as long as my leg. I am not usually a catch and release guy--I love to EAT fish--but I let this big guy go. We hit the turn-around and headed back the other way. I mentioned to Mitch that it would be so awesome if the road/trail went completely around the lake. I had bushwhacked my way around the lake a few years ago, over hills and rocks, fallen trees, and briers, and cutting a trail would be a huge task, but worth it--if we could get permission. And to my surprise, when we reached the turn-around on the other side of the lake, we saw where someone was starting a trail!! It looked like they took a box blade and plowed through the scrub trees and rocks. What was left was a very rough jeep road, if you could even call it that. It went about 1/4 mile upward and dead-ended in a rock field on the side of a steep slope, and I don't know how they could plow from there. Looks like WORK, but at least I know that I'm not the only one who wants to see a trail around the lake. On the way back, I told Mitch of another time when I had followed a faint trail up a hill and into the woods and found a camp site with some furniture constructed of huge rocks, and how someone had commented that it looked more like an altar. I suggested we try to find it. I'm not sure if Mitch really wanted to climb and hunt for it, but he agreed. I suspect he thinks a lot of my stories are tall tails (and a lot of them are) but proving that this one was true adds (temporarily) to my credibility. As we were leaving the lake, we got to talking about the time, the distance, and our pace. Simple mathematics suggested that we were not going to get back to the car before dark--not even close. And neither of us had a light. I was not really worried about it though. As long as we got off the busy highway while the sun was still up, I felt safe. We had stashed an ice chest at the base of the Bixhoma Lake hill, which re reached at mile 9 and again at mile 14. Peanut butter pretzels--YUM!! We picked it up a little, and easily made it off HW 64 before dark. The remaining miles were unlit--no street lights, but we still could see well enough. Hey, it was roads. We have had some awesome sunsets in NE Okla lately. No exception last night. We made it back around 7:00, and still had the task of driving back to Leonard to get the cooler. The drive seemed long, but we had ran a lot further. Mitch now stands at 8 miles, and seeing that it is now noon on Saturday, I am sure he has got his job done and is kicking back with a cold one. Congrats, my friend.