Sunday, September 29, 2013

My 11th FlatRock 50K, by Sir Cargo

As I mentioned in my previous post, this was my 11th running of the FlatRock 50K. I did 10 50Ks, and 1 100K all in dry weather, and most were uncomfortably warm by the time I finished. Never had I ran one in rain or mud until the FlatRock 101K last April. Mud. Lots of it.
This is the front that moved in on the race just as it started, and instead of it moving through in a west-to-east pattern, it drifted northeast, and stayed right on top of us for about 5 hours. I thought a brief shower would make the jagged rocks slick, and not much more, but 5+ hours of light but steady ran brought mudpits identical to those from last April.

Eric, wearing signature Sir Cargo shorts, gives out pre-race instructions. Basically, if you remember BLUE, you're good. It'd be tough to get lost at FlatRock. If you stray on one of the very few spur trailz, they are rarely traveled and fizzle out within 20-30 yards. The main trail, while rugged, it easily recognizable, well traveled, and well marked in BLUE blazes.

After a 1/4 mile of pavement, we were on the trail and climbing the longest ascent of the day. The above pic is one from three years ago, when I was having camera problems. I edited the pic to make it more to my liking, and recycle it almost every year.

Part of my strategy this year, since I was questioning my ability to finish in the time limit--was to leave my camera. I probably burn a good 30 minutes each year taking pictures. So, the majority of the pictures here are borrowed from the FlatRock Collection. A link to this compilation is at the bottom of this post.

I was in last place to start--my usual placement. After the first aid station, I was feeling good, and slipped into a slightly quicker pace. I caught up with a few people, and eventually Melissa Bruce. She has an awesome blog, and I can't wait to read her report. We ran together for a few miles, and caught up with some people. My competitive juices started flowing, and just before reaching thew second aid station, I picked upo the pace and started passing runners.

The mud was bad on the way out, but I tried to run through it and ignore it. I would look for foot placement on top of any rocks I could find, and just to the side of the trail. Keeping a steady pace was my goal, and it worked well for 10 miles.

Usually people cuss the rocks, but on a muddy day, MORE rocks would be a good thing. I hit Dana's Aid Station (formerly Oak Ridge Aid Station, but the good King renamed it this year) and was on a high. Making the time cutoff at the turnaround was a sure thing, and I was even thinking about a PR for the course--foolish thoughts I know as it would have been necessary to run a negative split. I caught up with Paul Rejda and Tammy Winn, and ran with them to the turnaround. I knew I was way out of my league by catching them.

I got in and out of there quick, and headed back for home. I'm not gonna say the wheels fell off, but I did slow down considerably. The first 3 miles on the way back are tough. The mud seemed like it had been whipped up into a froth, and was slick and nasty.

Since I basically run like a duck, each step slides sideways as much as I move forward.
Add in all my slippage to the mileage, and I ran an 80K. So I kept on waddling. I reached Dana's again, ate a few bites, refilled with Gatorade, and headed out. 10 more miles! I was about a quarter mile away when I realized I meant to take a 5 Hour Energy. I gave thought to going back, but decided to go on. I did have my Rum shot, and some Sports Beans. So on I went, albeit slow.

I was passed by a few people, but tried to shuffle. Jason Dinkel and Adam Monaghan passed me, and I filed in behind them until the last aid station. There, I got my usual beer, and drank about half of it on the go. The last four miles are TOUGH. They seem so easy on the way out when you have fresh legs, but the rocks are jagged, there are several ups and downs only to go back up, and back down--then up again. What you can jump over earlier in the day isd a hands and knees scramble. The Devil's Butt Crack is a definite milestone. It's tough to get through after 29 miles, but once there, you are so close to home. I had mentioned to Jason that I thought we could make the original 10 hour cutoff. (Eric had given an extra hour to the time limit due to the adverse trail conditions.) I made a break for it, and ran/shuffled as quick as I could. I should have eaten a few calories at the last aid stop and felt like I was running on fumes. I caught up with another group, and walked along behind them for about a mile until we got off of the trail and onto the road. I should have politely asked to pass--but didn't. Once on the road, I ran but finished just barely over the 10 hour mark.

An exuberant crowd was at the finish line to greet the weary ultra finishers. They even showed their enthusiasm by doing the "wave".

I thought it'd be sexy to take of my shirt and do a victory lap, but after crossing the finish line,. I decided the lap was more than I wanted to do.

Feet and legs like this were the norm. It took me 15 minutes with a water hose to cut through the mud to even find my shoes. I threw my socks away, and by the water hose, there were several pair of discarded sicks. Epic mud.

Dana and I waited around for the last finishers. It was very near the end of the 11 hours, and still no Melissa. In the last 2 minutes of the race, 5 runners made it in under the wire. Melissa had met up with a three other runners, and kept pace with them (actually, they probably kept pace with her.) She knows the trailz better than probably anyone, since she , until just recently, lived in Elk City very near the west trail head. and ran here every week.

I was so proud of here. I had no doubt she'd finish, and I bet she knew she had it even though she was so close to the cutoff.

Melissa is in there somewhere being congratulated. If you look closely, you can see my pink flip flops. I forgot my bag of clean clothes, dry socks, and MY flips.

I looked at the results from last year with the trailz in dry conditions, and compared them to this year. I took 12 random runners who ran the 50K both years. A couple (like Candi and Zach) ran faster times in this years mud. Freaks. But averaging out the times of all 12 runners, the average finishing time was over 20% slower, and that was sue entirely to the wet and muddy conditions of the trailz. I am somehow pleased that I was 15% slower. I had to dig deep to find some sort of stat to hang my hat on.

Eric and Epic Ultras are famous for great aid stations and awesome volunteers. I'm proud to say that my wife Dana is one of the best. She has worked aid stations here almost ever since I have been running this race. She has learned a lot about crewing and aid stations here, and she has taught them a little too.

Tony Clark runs the turnaround aid station, and helps out in so many ways with this race, I'll be joining him in two weeks at the Heartland 100 where Dana and I will be working an aid station for 30 hours.

Warren Bushey is Eric's right hand man, and cooks all the pre-race grub (which I missed this year.) There are several other awesome peeps who work so hard to put this race on, and I should remember names better.

Hundreds more spectacular photos can be found here.

50K results

25K results

Thursday, September 26, 2013

FlatRock Plans

Saturday, I'll be running the 19th running of the FlatRock 50K. This will be my 11th 50K, but I also have two 100K finishes here. On one hand, I feel like I own this course, but on the other hand, it is a HARD course, and can rain hell fire and brimstone on you at will. My best time was back in 2003, when I ran a 7:53, and finished in the bottom third of the standings. Since then, I have finished in just over 8 hours, and as slow as 10+ hours.

My training fir this race has been lacking. I have this thing called work that has been destroying my running life. My 37 miler last week was encouraging, but I ended up with a sore knee. It's been about 10% better each day since, and I feel pretty iffy, but would not miss running FlatRock for anything. Sir Cargo is brave, and a worthy knight.

The race is an out-and-back, which works well for me psychologically. There are no places to bail out--except for the turnaround. Make the cut-off at 15.5 miles, and then whittle the remaining miles off.

The course is beautiful. I burn 30-60 minutes each year taking pictures. This year though, I'll leave my camera  behind and focus on keeping my pace up to make the cutoffs.

Ascents and descents like this will test my knee. 

I usually run alone--being a back of the pack runner. Should I get in a line of runners, it may make the time pass. But if not, I will probably break out my iPod and rock it out.

I have a secret weapon this year. Mile 25-30 are super tough. Going out, you have fresh legs and the loose craggy rocks are hardly noticeable. But on the return trip, they are hell. So at mile 25, I'll have a shot of this new "GU".

It might just erase some of the pain. We shall see! :-)

And the real draw--the bait that lures me to the finish line---> In keeping with my fruitarian diet, I will re-hydrate with a variety of fruit juices after my race.  

Monday, September 23, 2013

Last Long Run, and a unwanted souvenir

Nothing epic this past weekend--just a last long run before starting a series of races. This next Saturday is FlatRock 50K--my 11th 50K there, with a couple of other 100Ks tossed in. I needed something long--30+ and I knew just the right crazy people to run it with me!

Kathy and Danielle, along with Russell met a few other runners at QT in Jenks, and headed east to NSU. This out-and-back yields 30 miles, and we had a couple of detours in mind to boost the totals up.

A nearly full moon lit the way, and while I did not wear my headlamp, I did not need it at all. OI had a moon shadow following me all night long.

The big detour was the trail that runs along 169 northward to 71st St. The payday at the end of the trail? A Braum's. I had a chocolate chip cookie dough single dip cone. Kathy and Russell shared their fries. We were there long enough to get our hydration packs filled and our bodies chilled. I was looking forward to getting back OUTSIDE to warmer temps, but it was maybe 64 with a good breeze. We ran and in a 1/4 mile out body core was warmed.

Something you don't see every day--a scrappy little crawdad that would pinched me good. We also scared up a skunk later in the run. I'd choose a good pinching over a spray any day.

A moonlit sky illuminated the vapor trailz in the sky. Several Xs, and even a Z were on display. Not very many of the photos turned out. Took a little photo-shopping to make the artwork visible.

Stop #2 was at the Sonic in Broken Arrow. We had piucked up K2 along the way, and he ended up wityh 20 miles meeting us near TCC, and running to NSU before running home.

Danielle is sporting a Pretzel Bacon Hot Dog. Might be the perfect ultra food.

At NSU, it is usually our halfway point. But tonight, with the added 6 miles out and back from Braum's, this was mile 21 in what turned out to be a 37 miler. But we still had 15 hilly miles ahead of us.

My pace slowed on the way back. It's not that we were going that fast anyway, but my ability to walk briskly went down the drain. I could shuffle, but even the rock steady zombie shuffle was about a minute per mile slower than it normally is. I was sop ready to be done. It should be pointed out that I have not exactly got all of my long runs in this session, but I have been quite active.

With about 4 miles to go, I felt a little tweak-action in ,my right knee. I tried to land lightly and shuffle smooth, and thought nothing of it. But when I got home, it was barking loudly. Now, a couple days later, and a handfuls of Vitamin I's downed, it is slightly better. I need it 99% by FlatRock--a race that will take a tiny injury and wreak havoc. Arkansas Traveller awaits the next week!!

Finally, the elevation profile of the NSU out-and-back course. Yes, there are a lot of ups and downs-- but there are no hills with more than a 100 feet of climbing, and the way I add it up, there is barely over 100 feet of climb both ways. It's a good hill workout, but it's actually pretty tame. For me, it's much easier to run than it is to bike it.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Roaring River State Park

Finally--we got to go CAMPING!! This weekend was just the third time we've had our camper out, and we hit the road for Roaring River State Park in Missouri. I used to go there a lot as a kid--and it seems like we camped there. I have also made several day-trips there over the years, and even hikes maybe a half mile on some of the trailz--before I was a runner.

Our intent of getting there before dark fell short, and a mere 10 miles from the campground, I had a blowout in the front passenger tire on an unmarked but paved narrow farm road. Siri told me to take the road, cuz she knows I like the shortest way. I didn't know where my jack was, but a couple of older men stopped and offered advice which was greatly appreciated.  They told me how to unlock my spare--I didn't know it was locked in--and stayed and held flashlights while I changed the flat.  They also told me where I could get it fixed, the next day, and I ended up buying a whole set of tires at a good price. These men were a Godsend.

So we stumbled around at the campground trying to find a good spot, and set up camp with no problems. The picture above is actually where we stayed the second night as the place we landed was right by the main road into the park, and the non-stop cars during the day was too much noise.

With our camper, we always wake up at daybreak.
There's no blackout shades and I really like to get up as soon as it's light so we have more time to play!
I especially liked that my phone had no signal.
No Facebook, no phone ringing, no texts.
But playtime could not happen until I got the tire thing fixed, and this left Dana and Jake by themselves until I got back.
Ball and Prier Tire was awesome, but really busy and a little slow. SO, leaving at 8:30, I did not get back until a little after noon.

Jake seemed a little bored and annoyed, but he got his share of running in.

We hit the Pibern Trail first. This was a short loop, but what it lacked in length, it made up for in elevation and rocks.

It started out nice and wide, with just a few river rocks....

....but soon turned into the river--a dry stream-bed. But then the climbing began.

Dana walked. I walked. It was a power-hike at best.

Jake was huffing and puffing too.

Most of the hiking trailz here seem to be a "connect-the-dots" route between interesting rock formations and small caves. Jake and I checked therm all out.

The only group picture with Dana and I turned out really yellow with the green in the foliage and the mustard yellow in my shirt, so I made a b/w pic.

The decent on the Pibern was rocky, rooty, and technical. A good place to twist an ankle, but I waited until the next day to roll mine, and on a nice dirt trail. No real damage though.

What a poser. Jake hams it up for the camera while waiting for Mom to catch up.

Next was the Devil's Kitchen. With a name like this, we thought we were in for a tough one, but it was easier and more scenic than the Pibern.

Parts of this trail reminded me of the FlatRock trailz. This one led up to a cave--actually a room formed by a huge rock sliding over two others making a ceiling. It would be a good hideout for outlaws, and I believe there are local tales of just that.

This big loop took us by several amazing rock formations, and winded it's way very near the trout hatchery, but we opted to skip the fish farm and head back to camp for dinner.

Sunday, the plan was to do the Eagle Rock Trail, which included climbing the highest hill in the park, and then doing the Fore Tower Trail, which was the longest trail ion the park. I had checked the trail map and had the whole trip etched in my mind--not always the best idea. The start of the trip consisted of a mile trek on paved roads to the trail head, but we dropped down and ran through a long park area to keep Jakers away from the cars. (Yes, he was leashed while near the road.)

The Eagle Rock trail led us alongside Roaring River downstream from the hatchery. This trail climbed gradually for about a half mile. and then switched back to the north (I think--I was turned around on directions the whole time.)

We climbed a little over 400 feet in the first mile of the trail. Not runable going up at all. How's this for a couple of posers?

The descent was brutal--almost straight down on loose rocks. It would have been a very tough ascent going the other way! But it leveled out and we had a mile of gradual downhill with a few flats to end the loop. Nice.

I had looked at the map wrong though. I thought we could get to the Fire Tower trail not far from the Eagle Rock trail head, but the place we needed to be was a mile and a half down a narrow and heavily used highway. We could have got on at another place, but o could have only done a small part of the loop without doing a long out-and-back, so we just decided to head back to camp for lunch and to pack things up.

We could have taken the bridge across, but stream crossings are so much more fun.

No frowny face on Dana. The super cold water felt good on our feet.

Jake had zero complaints about the cold water though. He got in several swims.

We had a great time here--wish we could have had another day or two though. Did not visit the hatchery--been there done that. I'm sure people will think it crazy that we did not fish. Oh well. Next time, we'll tackle the trailz we missed, and with good planning, we could probably get them all ran in one day. This was good training for FlatRock--lots of loose rocks. It was also good Arkansas Traveller training with long seemingly unending climbs.

My favorite pic of the day--Dana running an uphill on the Eagle Rock Trail. Good times!