On a personal note--this was to be my comeback run. My first race of any length since my knee surgery.
The excitement was high before go-time. We all met at the finish line in Jenks, and after a pre-race meeting boarded a bus to the starting line.
A school bus can seat 74 kids--with three sitting in each 39" seat. But adults typically have butts that are wider so two to a seat was the max. Suffice to say--there was standing room only.
Still--the party atmosphere was high. One of the members of ZZ Top joined us for the run!! Actually, this was Jason Bement--who was running the whole 3-Day event with his bride as they celebrated their wedding anniversary!
After we unloaded at NSU, and without a whole lot of fanfare, we lit out on the word GO.
My job for the race was to run sweep. A sweeper keeps an eye on the back runners, gives the race officials an idea of where the final runners are, and I relished this responsibility as it made sure I did not go too fast or too hard on my semi-untested knee. Plus--I could goof around and take pictures and stuff. Mark Plate was teaming up with me as course sweep. Both of us accompanied Jim and Tammy for the 15.5 mile journey.
|Pic courtesy of Meg Jennings|
Our pace did slow a little. Tammy was beginning to have some blister issues, and I was not enjoying the pavement. I did walk and shuffle in the grass as much as I could. That, with the help of my Hokas, kept my feet, legs, and knees happy.
We finished Day One in 4:25 just as it started to rain. The timing could not have been better--except that the RDs and volunteers had to break down the tents and stuff, and ended up getting soaked.
Day Two was on private land on a huge acreage where there were miles and miles of ATV trailz. I had been on the course, and knew the going would be easy at times and insanely tough in sections.
C-RDs Kathy Hoover, and Derk and Barbara Pinkerton seem relaxed knowing that all the prep work is done. Maybe though--it was merely an expression of delirium?
It seemed like a good crowd for a 50K. Around 65 runners toed the line. We would do an out and back to start, and then the two loops would be ran in opposite directions meaning we would see a lot of runners coming and going.
It was actually a bit on the chilly side, so I started out on the first leg in a long sleeve shirt.
I spent a but of time socializing and taking pictures, and did not get my morning ritual/porta-pot stop taken care of. So--I gave the whole field a 7 minute head start. Running course sweep allows for such privileges.
The out and back included a short section of pavement, and then a beautiful stretch of gravel across rolling hills.
I caught up with Tammy after a couple of miles. She was moving well which was good news since she had blistered the night before.
Tammy is a strong walker. My zombie shuffle was almost the same pace as her power walk. We hit the turnaround averaging right at 16 minute miles.
The unmanned aid station was atop a decent hill with a brilliant panoramic view. We could actually see downtown Tulsa from here.
With the first section nearly done--things were looking good--but I knew there were huge hills ahead.
Ladies and gentlemen--I present to you the most awesome ultra food EVER!! Step one--take an Oreo cookie and hold it in a horizontal position. Step two--place a dill pickle slice atop the cookie. Step Three--insert creation into your mouth and chomp down. Enjoy the burst of flavor and feel the Superman powers flow through your veins. This has everything you need in an ultra. Quick carbs via the super sugary creme filling of the Oreo. A good dose of sodium from the pickle. People have been taking hits of pickle juice in ultras for years. A decent amount of calories to get you to the next aid station. For better results, eat two or three of said creations.
The first few miles in the trail section was relatively flat. There were LOTS of creek crossings with short ups and downs. A cool breeze found its way through the trees, and all in all, it was a perfect day for running.
The course was a series of switchbacks--run along a creek, drop down into the creek and then go the other way, pop out of the creek and reverse direction again, cross a filed, and hit the creek further on up. It did seem like I had no idea where I was--but by following the pink ribbons and avoiding the caution tape, we navigated the course with zero problems. As always is the case in trail runs--super fast runners can miss marked turns, and a few did just that. I never did find a place that confused me--but I was not trying to run 7 minute miles either.
Cindy and Kate worked the aid station on the course, which we hit twice per loop. (more pickles and Oreos please.)
An example of the stellar course marking.
An example of on-the-course crowd support.
Yeah--maybe we were going slow. These two fans had waited a long time to cheer for us. :-)
All of the creek crossings were dry, but if it had rained--it would have been a wade-fest.
Tammy wanted so bad to get this race under her belt. This was her first back-to-back long run. She had a 50K under her belt, but not one with hills such as these.
|An actual profile of an actual course|
As I said, part of the course was not super bad--just a lot of creek crossings. But there was a four-ish mile section that was up up up and down down down. The descents were so steep that I did not dare try to run them. Some of the climbs almost required using your hands and feet--including finger and toenails.
Tammy decided to drop after 20 miles. I knew she could have made it--but I also knew her feet had to be killing her. I do not think we would have finished before dark. I do know this--she is determined and will come back next year and kick this courses butt.
I was in a bit of a hole as well. I felt I could pick up the pace--but could I beat nightfall? My strategy: run--and forget the headlamp--that forced me to run as much as possible.
Hitting the aid stop the first time in the reverse direction meant almost all of the cad hills were out of the way!!! I told Cindy she could pack things up and go--and to not wait for me. I was running with two 24 ounce water bottles and was feeling great. But--she waited for me to hit the aid station the second time anyway. We have the BEST aid station workers EVER.
I was eyeing my garmin and saw that I could shave my overall pace to under 20 minutes per mile on this last lap if I hurried. A little quicker would insure a last lap time under three hours. So--I pounded it (a slow pounding compared to most) and finished the last loop in 2:54. It was way before dark, and I felt great.
Day Three was a walk in the park compared to Day Two. I relinquished my course sweep duties, and wanted to test the knee this day.
I took a few pics of the race start, and settled in near the back of the line.
The plan was to not get caught up in the group, and find my own pace. If that meant I hooked up with a friend along the way--then BONUS!
These are equestrian trailz. Wider than single track for most of the way, soft dirt, not too hilly at all, and very runnable.
It took less than a mile, and I caught up with Mitch. I have not ran with him in a while, and it was cool to hook up. We ran the rest of the race together, and caught up on everything, solved the world's problems, and even talked about YOU!
All of the course was marked so well, that it would have been impossible to get lost.
This is definitely someplace I will come back to. I ran here 10 years ago, and either these trailz were not here, or at least I never found them. There ARE a few ticks here. Ten years ago, I picker up a few--hundred. But today, everybody sprayed down with bug spray, and it was not all that bad.
Mitch was trying to get out of the frame. One of many lake view sections of the trail.
Mini-Mitch descends into a creek.
Good course markings. I would have tripped on that root.
Follow the pink
Who else but Cindy and Kate. These girls worked all three days!!!
A swim seemed like a good idea. But the trail turned just before the water.
Mitch Drummond--faster than a horse on a sign.
I finished in 3:27:40. No PR, but I ran strong and had a negative split. The usual soreness the days after have not been all that bad. The knee was pain and symptom free. I got to where I could run even technical sections with confidence. I now feel ready to move on to bigger things. :-)
The first place man for the three day total was Chris Corbin.
The ladies winner and also OVERALL winner was Gia Dawn Madole. All the guys got CHICKED BIGTIME!!!
Congratulations to all who ran. Finishing three days of racing like this is an amazing accomplishment. Thanks so much to Kathy Hoover, and Derk and Barbara Pinkerton. Putting on a race is a lot of work. Doing THREE in one weekend is just crazy! You guys are amazing!!!