Saturday, December 22, 2012

Brian Hoover Race Report

[This is a race report written by Brian Hoover found in the Runners's World Magazine forums from way back in the day when TATUR was not even yet founded. Published without permission--that's how I roll. I'll work on forgiveness later.]

On February 4th, Kathy, Alex, Dan and I completed a 50 mile race in Madill Oklahoma called the Dan Man 50. Mandy, Steve , Ken (Mazerunner)& Dana also ran in that race. What a great group of Tulsa Trail runners barnstormed the small town of Madill on that quiet Saturday morning!! But I digress.

Kathy and I had our sights set on another race on Saturday February 25th called the Cross Timbers Trail Runs. They had four different distances you could choose from. A fifty miler, a marathon, half-marathon, or a five mile fun run. Being the wimps that we are, Kathy and I passed on the 50 miler and wanted to do one of the shorter distances. Kathy was in the process of remodeling and moving that week. She had been doing a lot of hard physical labor and she kept wavering back and forth whether she wanted to do the half or full marathon. If you know Kathy, you can probably already guess which distance she opted for. That's right we both ended up checking the little box that said "Marathon".

After spending nine hours loading and unloading trucks and trailers full of boxes and furniture on Friday, the last thing on our minds was getting in the truck and driving four hours to a trail marathon. But 6pm came and we had finished emptying one house and filling another. It was Friday night and it was time to go.

We left Tulsa a bit past 6pm and we hopped on 75 South. Lake Texoma here we come! Kathy drove to Henryetta where we stopped at a convenience store and I loaded up on my traditional pre-trail meal of ice cream and candy bars. I took over the driving and our thought process was slowly turning away from boxes and furniture toward running. We had heard that the coarse was difficult with lots of rocks, roots, boulders, hills and cliffs. We were also told that the scenery was breathtaking.

The coarse description states, "Cross Timbers is a North Texas thicket that in the 1830's formed a natural barrier between the Plains Indian Tribes to the west and the Indian Territory to the East. In 1834 it was considered impenetrable and uninhabitable by man or beast." Nowadays it is still a thick oak forest with with beautiful views of Lake Texoma, which straddles the Oklahoma/Texas border. This year will mark the races' 25th anniversary.

About 8:30pm I saw a small, miniature drop of water hit the windshield. We had not heard of any rain being forecast for the Tulsa area so we did not think too much about it. Split.....split.....splat....rat-a-tat-tat. What started as a few well spaced out drops , were now hitting the windshield with an ever increasing repetitiveness. We both thought that we were driving through an isolated rain storm that would soon pass. Boy were we wrong! It was raining fairly steadily as we pulled our tired carcasses into the sleepy town of Whitesboro about 10:30pm. We found our motel fairly easily and hustled our gear into the clean and comfy motel room. We prepped all of our race stuff and tried to figure out if it would be wet, dry, muddy, hot or cold tomorrow morning. We showered and tried to sleep to the sound of rain pelting the single story motel roof.

I slept hard till about 2am when I awoke to the sound of thunder...hey isn't that a country song? Anyways, I poked my head out of the curtains and saw flashes of lightning and a hard steady rain that made ripples in the large puddles that had formed in the parking lot. Right then I knew that we were in for some excitement. I did not sleep for the rest of the night and decided to get out of bed at 4:45am. The wake-up call had been set for 5am. Kathy and I dressed for rain and hoped that it would not rain during the race. After a quick breakfast we were in the car and headed 13 miles north to Cedar Bayou where the race would be contested.

We checked in, used the bathroom and the 50 milers took off at 6:30am. The marathoners and half marathoners would start at 7am and the 5 mile race would start at 7:30am. Kathy and I finalized what we would wear. It was still raining and the area around the start-line was very slick and muddy so we knew the trail must be a nightmare. I wore shorts, a singlet, a throwaway long sleeve shirt, and my Montrail Hardrock trail shoes. I decided not to wear my Camelback and instead carry a handheld water bottle. This was a decision I would come to regret.
The coarse was what they call a "double out and back". We would go 10 miles to the west, back to the start line, then basically we would go 3.1 miles in the opposite direction (to the east), then back to the start line. We had been warned that the last 6.2 miles contained the toughest hills and most technical part of the coarse.


We were off. The condition of the trail was ten times worse than I had expected. I had hoped for some dry sections. Ha!! The only dry sections were the steep uphills and they were so slick that sometimes it took two or three attempts before I could get to the top. The first mile or so of single-track trail runs are really like follow the leader, single file we run. For the first half-hour it seems that everyone is trying to pick a path that allows them to keep their feet dry. I see people running off the coarse to avoid puddles and getting their legs tore up by the thorny vines that grew everywhere but on the trail itself, others are running along the sloped edge of the trail and sliding back into the middle.
Needless to say I think we all quickly learned that the easiest way was to just slop right down the middle of the trail. The rain started up again but thankfully the lightning had stopped.

Two and a half miles into the coarse I was right in front of Kathy when I rolled my ankle. I cursed and yelled and blurted out some words that would have gotten me kicked out of school. However, I was still able to run and it had not swollen much. I hoped that if I did not roll it again that I would have a good shot at finishing.

We were going at a pretty good pace near the five mile mark and Kathy was charging down a hill when I heard "POP" Kathy had done the same thing to her ankle but hers' was much worse. She did a PG version of cursing and I told a runner to let the next aid station know that #63 might need medical assistance. Kathy refused to walk or even go slow. Her ankle was starting to swell but she stayed behind me and made me promise to go on if she could not keep up. That is a tough scenario, do you go on or do you stay with your "partner"? Kathy and I have agreed beforehand that we would run races together only if it works out that way. If one of us is having a bad day or gets hurt then we would split and each of us would run our own race. At a previous race I had twisted my ankle and I told her to go on.

We ran together for another couple of miles and I could tell that Kathy was struggling to keep up. After the aid second, at about mile eight, I looked back and Kathy was no longer behind me. Kathy has been running a long time and has done many races, but I still worried. Despite the brutal conditions I felt great! I had tossed my long sleeve shirt and was in tank top and shorts. I was really getting into a rhythm. The rain was really coming down now. It was now just short of what I would call a torrential downpour!! My shirt was plastered to my body and this is when I noticed that not only was I running uphill, but I was also running up current! There was about three inches of water on top of 6-8 inches of mud and it was flowing down the trail that was being carved out by all the runners that were ahead of me. Each footfall for the rest of the race would sink almost to mid-calf in the muck.

I reached the turn-around point/aid station at the ten mile mark and grabbed one small boiled potato wedge, dipped it in salt and I was on my way back toward the start/finish.

I was concerned about Kathy and knew that I should see her pretty soon heading the opposite way that I was now going.

By the time I got to the 7/13 mile aid station I still had not seen her so I knew that she must have dropped out (DNF)

I was started running with a girl named Ellen. She was a strong runner and we talked about trail races we had done and races we wanted to try. We would laugh as the other slipped and fell. So, in other words, we laughed a lot! The good thing is that when you fell it was padded with a six inch layer of mud. We didn't stop at the next aid station, my handheld bottle was still 3/4 of the way full and I still felt incredibly strong. The time passed quickly and before I knew it we were back at the start/finish (20 mile mark) Ellen wanted to stop and get some food. I expected to see Kathy in her Jeep or under the tent at the start line. She wasn't. Where could she be? I was starting to get a little worried. Physically I was still feeling great, so I passed up yet another aid station and told Ellen thanks for the company.

6.2 miles left. Since I was now running by myself I used this time to try and pass as many people as possible. Right off the bat I came across two guys in their mid-twenties. I chatted with them for a couple of minutes before I took off ahead of them. This is where the coarse turned form difficult to nearly impossible. There were three back-to-back-to-back hills that were so steep and so slippery that I literally had to use my fingers in the mud to help me get up. Many times I would get half way up then slide all the way back down. I tried grabbing trees. I would grab one tree, pull myself up, then lunge for another. Just as I would close my fingers around the next tree, I would slip back down and have to repeat the process again. The water bottle I was carrying made it even more difficult and I had to switch hands many times. The amazing thing was that as slow as I was going, I was still passing people.
I think this is where the coarse just mentally and physically defeated many people. You have gone over twenty miles in conditions that happen once, or never in a lifetime. You are cold, sore, crampy and soaked to the bone. It is still raining and the coarse just keeps getting harder. I heard one guy say that he was going to quit after 22 miles and start walking back because he simply could not get up the hill. I really did not blame him. I knew that getting down those three hills would be just as tough and a lot more dangerous on the way back. At the 22.5 mile mark there was another aid station that I did not stop at except to put my Garmin in my back pocket. (It was so caked with mud that I could not read it.)

This is the point that in the past you would turn around and head back to the start in years past. However, this year, they changed the length from 25 miles to 26.2 miles. So to get in the extra 1.2 miles we had to go on a paved road for .6 miles in one direction, then .6 miles back to the aid station. This section was nice since the paved road was a reprieve from the mud. But this was also the point that my legs started getting stiff and sore.

I only had 2.5 more miles to go and I knew I could crawl that distance. I just about had to crawl. All of a sudden I look up and I see Kathy running in the opposite direction. I hadn't seen her in hours and at first I thought she had quit and just decided to run this last loop for fun. I asked her if she was still in the race and she looked at me funny and replied, "Of coarse!!" My mind was reeling at how she could still be in the race when I had not seen her on the previous loop.

Those three hills going the other way was a huge challenge. After falling about six more times, I tried a technique that actually worked rather well. I thought, instead of fighting the downhills sections, I would try skiing down them. I put my feet about shoulder width apart and held my arms perpendicular to my body and pointed my toes in the direction I wanted to slide. It was a bit scary and fun at the same time. I would slide for about ten feet then hang on to a tree, then repeat till I got to the bottom.

I think the finish line was a one foot line of flour on the ground. I asked if I could stop running and someone said I could. So I stopped. I staggered over to the tent and ate three of the freshest most tasty, hot off the grill hamburgers I ever tasted. Plus I ate a big ole bowl of beans. I finished in 5:29 minutes. They told me I came in 5th overall male. I was very happy with this time and loved the fact that I still felt strong up to the 22.5 mile mark.

Kathy came in about 45 minutes later. Swollen ankle and all. She was running strong but her ankle was hurting enough that she could not really push off of it very hard. We were caked in mud up to our butts, our socks were all pushed up around our toes and we all had about two ounces of mud in our shoes. Kathy threw her shoes away they were so muddy.

I asked her how we passed each other without knowing. She told me that she saw me at the 10 mile turn-around point. She said I looked right at her and took off running. She said she really thought I was being a jerk for taking off without even saying hi. The fact of the matter is that I never saw her. We are still laughing about that little incident.

Although we all were worn out, tired, and cold, about thirty of us had a wonderful time under the big tent. We tried to warm up, ate more food, drank a few beers, and laughed at everyone's stories of slipping and falling. We laughed even harder at all the funny places people wore their mud. We met some amazing folks and feel lucky that we were able to experience this adventure. I will feel privileged to tell people in the years to come, that we were at Cross Timbers the year that it was a MUDFEST!!

Brian 3/1/06

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