Monday, March 31, 2014

Prairie Spirit groupie report

The second running of the Prairie Spirit 100 (and 50) took place over the weekend. Epic Ultras served up god weather, great volunteers, and an awesome event--and this year even without epic weather was epic in the minds of most of the participants. This might be the easiest 100 miler in the USA with soft chat to run in for 98% of the way, and barely more than a thin dime's worth of elevation change. I was on the sidelines just being a fan. Ultrarunning IS a spectator sport and I had a great time just hanging out seeing my friends.

We drove up from Tulsa and got to the halfway point just before 5:00 pm--just in time to see my buddy Bill Ford. Dude hardly looked like he had ran 50 miles.

Dana and I were not the only fans out. Shelley and Lori were doing the groupie thing, while both crewing and pacing friends.

Bill and Michele refueled, and headed back north for 50 miles. We planned on following them--jumping from aid station to aid station.

More groupies--Cindy and Teresa were following and crewing Kathy and Roman.

Picture by Lindsy Wenz
My list of people I wanted to follow included several Oklahomans, a couple of Arkansans, a few from Kansas, and a herd of GOATz (Greater Omaha Area Trailrunnerz.)

My Kansas buddy and fellow Flat Rock Fool Zach Adams was doing well. He, Bill, sand Michelle were toe fastest ones I saw, although Earl Blewett and Brian Smith had hit the turnaround before I got there and were both enroute to good finishing times.

Jono looks tired, but he never seemed slow once he was running. He kept a steady pace throughout the race.

The Goatz had two groupies for each runner, or so it seemed.

Goat superstar Bobbie Ruhs rolled into the turnaround looking good.

A beautiful day was drawing to an end, giving way to colder temps. We left the turnaround at Iola,
got a bite to eat, and drove northward to Welda--some 19 miles down the trail.

We were ahead of most of the runners on my list, and we stayed here for around 3 hours.

The Trail Nerds ran this aid station. They were very well organized, and had two soup choices, and all kinds of aid station goodies. It was cold, but they had a propane space heater, and the warmth from the gas fired soup kettles made it pretty cozy.

Jason Dinkel waited for his runner. Jason and I will be running an aid station at FlatRock 101K later this month/

My buddy Tony Clak shows true grit and determination in finishing the race.

And while Tony was impersonation the incredible Hulk, Arnold impersonates an Eskimo.

69 miles, and Bill looks like he is merely out for an easy 6 on a Saturday morning.

Roman and Kathy roll into Welda looking good. Ok, Roman looks pretty sleepy.

We waited until all of my listees came in. Charlotte, Dennis, Ron, Bill C, Amanda, Bobbie, and Caroline. I had a few friends drop along the way, and Welda claimed a couple more. :-( From there, we leapfrogged two aid stations to get ahead of enough runners so we could catch a few winks. This plan worked, but I slept through seeing most of the faster runners. Kurt Egli, Jeff and Amelia Elbert, David Newman, Zach Adams, Earl Blewett, and Brian Smith buzzed through while I slept. I woke up just in time to seer Ken Saveth aka K2, and he had really came back to life. I bet he had close to a negative split, running a huge PR. HGis pacers Michelle Hancock and Travis Owen lit a fire under him and dug him out of cut-off-danger.

Next, Roman and Kathy strolled in and started grazing.

Roman had picked u a huge rock in his calf. Cindy and Dana teamed up on his poor legs, and rubbed out some of the knots in his lower legs.

With a mere 7.5 miles to go, Roman ran on in for a huge PR himself.

Again, we stayed until the last runners came through. I actually ran a couple miles waiting for the last runners. I really miss not getting to run this race.

Picture by Russell Bennett
The GOATz crew made in to the finish 30 minutes under final cutoff. Amanda nabbed her first 100 mile finish, as did Bill Colbert.; This was Ron's third, I think. Dana and I did not go on to the finish line though. We had to get home, and we were worried about falling asleep on the road.

It was tough for me to be on the sidelines--I wanted to run so bad! I think even despite a hampered knee (it is better every day) I could have ran. But I still loved being a groupie and I will go back next year to run this race--and run it well.

Monday, March 24, 2014


This was a Snake Run like no other. Well, that might be an overstatement, but we did not have snow, or rain, or mud. We had perfect running weather, great trail conditions, good fast competition in both races, and pretty good swag if I do say so myself.

Picture borrowed from Danielle Huddleston
Five minutes before 9:00, I made a few announcements explaining the course changes and other misc info to a antsy group of six hour runners.

The men's field was stacked. Aaron Ochoa, Nick Seymour, Shannon McFarland, and Justin Franklin knew there was a battle in store, and they pushed each other all day, with a few lead changes during the race. Those paying attention to their placement during the race had a good show. Trail racing can and should be a spectator sport. There was an all day battle in the ladies six hour event as well. Jeanne Bennett, Sharon James, and Madaleine Vargas paced off each other all day, and after a couple of hours, there was little doubt they would all make the podium.

Picture borrowed from Danielle Huddleston
And away they go.

The six hour runners get a 15 minute head start on the three hour runners--and this helps a little in keeping the trail from being so congested. Also new for this year, we bypassed a narrow section of the trail on the return trip to keep things from getting snarled with runners passing in both directions. It seemed like most runners liked the change. Besides the course running faster with this section being one-way, it also took out some of the modest elevation change on the return trip. Overall distances seemed like they were up a bit.

At 9:15, the three hour event was called to order. Same announcements, and a bigger crowd. There were 44 six hour contestants, and 144 in the three hour race.

The gun fired, and the crowd hustled to get out of what seemed like a wind tunnel at the top of Turkey Mountain.

Hi Julie!!

Tom thinks he's flashing gang signs.

Picture borrowed from Danielle Huddleston
And the moi]b invades the west side of the Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness.

We were treated to a canine supermodel wearing this years Snake Run Shirt.

Luv me some aid station volunteers. Dana, my DW, is awesome all by herself, and she was joined by Arena, Johnna, and Charlotte, and Melon working the start/finish aid stop. Later, Ken aka K2, Phillip, Sarah, and Jen-O joined the force, and chef Wes cooked burgers and dogs off and on all day.

Picture borrowed from Danielle Huddleston
With the loop shortened from 4.2 miles to 3.75 miles, the runners came through the start/finish more often. It was non-stop action.

Picture borrowed from Beyond Ordinary Life Photography
Meanwhile, at the other aid station (Noble's Oasis) John, Jordan, and Matt served runners at mile 1, 2.1 , and 3.3. Pros--you could run without a water bottle. Cons--it was easy to spend a few minutes each time you came by, which could easily rob you from the distance you might run

Near the end of the three hours when it seemed unlikely that you could finish another 3.75 mile loop, runners could opt to run a marked 1/2 mile loop to tack on more mileage to their total. There is quite a bit of strategy to this--making the choice to hit another 3.75 and come in even 5 seconds late and the lap would not count. Hustling around the small loop as many times as possible might make a difference--and sometimes a BIG difference in your overall placing.

Arena and I counted mini-loops for the three hour race. It was tough, but we did a good job and I think we got em all.

Picture borrowed from Beyond Ordinary Life Photography
A few more pics from the three hour race. Mishelle prepares to douse the photographer.

Picture borrowed from Beyond Ordinary Life Photography
More Gatorade please.

Picture borrowed from Danielle Huddleston

Once the three hour race was over, we gave awards to the top three men and women. Katie Kramer won the event with 21.75 miles, a course record. Rachel Eraker was second with 19.25 miles. Joni Pinkley was third with 18 miles.

First place in the men's three our event went to Reed Echohawk with 22.5 miles. Brandon Alba was second with 21.25 miles. Garrett Wallace was third with 20.25 miles.

Most all of the three hour runners sat around and ate burgers and dogs, and had a beer or two. It was a good day.

The line to collect the Medusa medal was longer than the burger line. K2 was busy passing them out.

Meanwhile, the 6 hour drama was unfolding. Justin and Nick had separated themselves from their pursuers and were duking it out for the lead. Justin would pull ahead by a hundred yards or so, then Nick would narrow the gap. It seemed like the 6 hour course record was going to fall.

Edward and gave away another round of snake trophies to some very deserving runners.

Nick Seymour put the move on Justin in the last hour, and then continued to extend his lead. The old course record was narrowly edged with Nick's 43.75 miles. Justin held on for second place with 41.75 miles. Shannon McFarland also joined the 40 mile club with an even 40, adding to his collection of Snake Trophies.

The ladies race was just as tight. Jeanne Bennett finally pulled away from the crowd and won with 36.75 miles--another course record. Madaleine Vargas ran her furthest distance ever with 33.75 miles--good enough for second. Sharon James was right on her heels for most of the race and finished third with 32 miles.

Thanks to Mitch Drummond for timing the race. This is one super tough race to time--especially when the last runners are finishing the big loop while large numbers are belting out the mini-loops. Then, compiling these laps for totals all in a matter of minutes is one trick task. Mitch is patient and tedious and very much appreciated. Thanks as always to Brian too, who does a huge amount of the setup, and helped with just about everything.

Picture borrowed from Danielle Huddleston
Snake runners come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. There were 10 runners ten years old or younger in the race. Justin Huddleston ran 7.5 miles and seems pretty happy about it.

Picture borrowed from Nick Seymour
Here's a future Snake runner in the making. Nick Seymour's son gives the snake trophy some dental work. What'dya bet he wins one of these someday?

For a good report from a good friend, read Bob Doucette's blog Proactive Outside.

My friend Laurie Biby spent all day on the course taking some spectacular pictures. They can be viewed HERE. She is a top notch photographer and I am sure she has multiple pictures of every runner that was on the course. Her business is Beyond Ordinary Life Photography. Spend a half hour cruising through her shots. I bet you'll be impressed.