Saturday, June 27, 2015

Relatively is the word

Last Sunday--June 21, was the first running of TATUR's Osage Hills Relatively Flat Trail Marathon / Half Marathon / Five Kilometer Race. I have ran Osage Hills for years, and a few months ago, Brian Hoover began kicking around the idea of having a trail race there. I jumped on board excited about the idea, and we put our heads together and launched what I hope evolves into one of the state's best trail runs.

Susan Melon Westmoreland designed the shirts and local screen printer Caveman Screen Printing produced what has become my current favorite tee.

This map is a fairly accurate detail of the trailz and the course we took.  We started near the swimming pool, went by the waterfalls, over to the Creek Loop and bluffs, then north on the Tower/Lake trail. We added an out and back across the dam of Lookout Lake, and then headed to the Mountain Bike Trailz. The original plan was to take the Red Trail clockwise,and then take the Blue Trail counter clockwise, and finally returning to the finish for one 13.1 mile loop.

I saw Friday that doing that had three problems. One: the course was almost a mile short. Two: It would require hauling an aid station or water drop a good half mile up hill on a trail that was technical in places. Three: The Blue trail had waist high grass and places and needed almost two miles of serious weed eating.

Brain and I spent most of Friday whacking weeds on the Red Trail, and late Friday afternoon, I saw first hand how bad the Blue Trail was. The solution was to run the Red Trail and we'd place an aid station near the end on an alternate trail head, and then run the Red Trail in reverse. We could get a table and tent with all the aid station stuff easily to this spot, it added the right amount of mileage to our course, and it eliminated the need to whack two miles of tall grass. Plus, it added a water crossing!

The course was marked with signs with arrows. I thought it was bombproof. But somehow a sign got turned pointing people down the blue trail. Adding confirmation that this "wrong way" was the right way--was two signs 100 yards up the blue trail that were part of the pre-marking. They were out of sight from the proper route, but once the wrong turn was made, it seemed to confirm that the Blue was the correct way. YIKES! 

So now, most of the half and full marathoners went 5.5 miles with no aid, came up short on their mileage, and waded through a couple miles of weeds.  There is no way after the fact to fix this. I placed every sign--I know exactly where every sign was placed-- and I am sick that the course markings were tampered with. So the way it will stand--the results will stay as they are. Anyone who truly feels they were shortchanged on mileage, or their placement in the race standings can contact me and I will grant them entry to one of our remaining trail races this year.

Now on to better things.

The half and full started at 7:30, and a rowdy crows took off thundering down a short strip of asphalt before spilling onto some soft dirt en-route to Sand Creek Falls.  

The 5K started at 8:00 and did the same loop--skipping the Creek Loop Trail, the northern half of the Tower/Lake Trail, and all of the mountain bike trailz.
Picture by Michelle Bates
It's easy to take a beautiful picture at Osage Hills. All you have to do is point and shoot. Sand Creek Falls is great for Kodak moments, feet soaking, picnicking, and swimming. 

Picture by Michelle Bates
We added a loop around the old ball fields. I've never seen signs of any baseball/softball/football here, but I always see deer. This time was no exception. Mike River, Travis Jennings, and I did triple weed eater duty and created a nice perimeter trail right at the edge/ I saw LOTS of non-race park visitors take out newly created trail.

Next up, the Sand Creek Bluffs, and then the Creek Trail. 

Picture by Michelle Bates
The bluffs are a popular place for dare-devil diving. This water here is always muddy. It seems much clearer downstream at the falls. You could not pay me enough to even jump off feet first.

The Creel Trail is a mile long loop that is TRULY relatively flat. No rocks, no roots. Horse flies--might have been a few.

Then after running through the campground the course climbed the Tower Trail. Ok ok, if someone insists--this was a hill. My buddy Brain Lamb said, and I quote, "Hey, wait a second. This place has a scenic overlook; what happened to the relatively flat?"

Picture by Arena Mueller
Here the group heads on to Lookout Lake.

You had to look for it, but this arch \bridge which was right before you crossed the road before the Devil's Intersection aid station.

Including an out and back across the Lookout Lake dam helped get the mileage to where we needed it for a two-loop marathon. I heard no complaints on this. I'd love to see trailz cut around the perimeter of the lake.

And a word to the aid station workers--Shorty and Luke Jennings along with Mishelle Hancock  manned Devil's Intersection, working  8 solid hours  Runners hit this aid station three times, and they had the responsibility of making sure everyone went the right way.

This is an old storehouse (looks more like a jail) by the mountain bike trail head. This was a welcome sight for those nearing the end of their loop.

The Red Trail had several water crossings like this. It started and finished with creek crossings that were shoe fillers. These rocky crossings were passable, but were also a great place to wet your face, hat, t-shirt. feet, or to just sit down in.

This crossing at the end of the Red Trail (a lot of people missed this one) had impressive bluffs downstream, and a small waterfall upstream.

Picture by Jessi Wiley
I didn't get many finish line photos. There was not an official race photographer. Jeremy, with great determination, finished his 26.2. This is just two weeks after having to drop from his first 100 miler due to a torn Achilles. It was a risky decision to run this race, but he took it easy and did fine.

Many thanks to all who helped. Mike Rives and Travis Jennings helped me assassinate weeds Saturday before the race. Travis killed his marathon, and then stayed to help load stuff up after the race. Brian Hoover, besides timing the race, helped me chop weeds Friday, and made the finishers medals.  Susan Melon Westmoreland handled the shirt production. Krystal Brown and Dalton Messenger manned the first aid station. Melissa Messenger distributed finishers medals after her stellar 5K finish. Michelle Bates jumped in and helped with prerace registration and packet pickup before her 5K. Jason and Sue Ann manned the unmanned aid station after their half finish, and stayed around and helped pack things up after the race. And last, but best, Dana aka TaturCaskes rounded up all the aid station food and supplies the few days before the race, cooked and served food and helped with the start/finish aid station, helped everywhere around the start/finish, then unpacked and cleaned up and put away everything at home after the race while I took a nap. 

I reserve the right to add people who helped that I am not remembering right now.

Finally--it has been brought to my attention that this course was ANYTHING but flat. Having a flat course is boring. Hills are good for your heart. Look at the above elevation profile. It LOOKS healthy. It looks like a pulse line, does it not? If it were flat--well flat lining is very bad. Relatively flat is your friend.

Now the course elevation below has a vague resemblance to the one above. However, it IS hilly. You might say it's a Monster of a course. I would not call it flat.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

RunnersWorld Urban Adventure 100

Buckle envy, buckle-itis, this should be one of the seven deadly sins--maybe at least in the top ten. It's what makes people like me dream of things they can't do, shouldn't do, but cant stop from trying.

When my friends Kathy Hoover and Roman Broyles start brainstorming about races, bad things happen. Oh, in a way they are wonderful things--it's just they are SO tempting. I have ran three 100 milers all on pavement (Mother Road I, II, III) and SWORE I would NEVER run another 100 miler on anything but dirt. But the group of RunnersWorld Friday Night Long Runners (for want of a better name) frequently run an urban route through Tulsa going from Quik Trip to Quik Trip for rehydrating and bathroom purposes, and they devised a 25 miler loop which included Brookside, Maple Ridge, Downtown Brady and Blue Dome districts, Driller Stadium, OSU campus, Rt 66, TU campus, the fairgrounds and Golden Driller, Lafortune Park, and a LONG straight run back down 51st Street including a terrifying half mile along an I44 service road, before returning down Peoria to RunnersWorld. Four of these all paved loops would equal the 100 mile distance, and they also offered a 25 mile and 50 mile race.

With my recurring knee problems and my extremely hectic work schedule, I hardly even consider myself a runner anymore.  I was in no way trained to run a race this distance. I looked on Daily Mile and I had to go clear back to March 1st and add up all the miles ran to date to get a total of 100 miles,  But a few weeks ago, I entered a 50K--part of the 3-Days to 100K that was shortened to a one day 50K--all on paved trailz. I ran this in a monsoon rain, and had a slow but respectable time, and this led me to believe I COULD possibly finish 100 miles on a non-hilly course like the Urban Adventure course. I just needed a strategy.

Facebook is a mighty tool, so I posted my intentions and dreams in an attempt to psyche myself into believing I could actually pull this off with no training and a gimpy knee.  I do not know how many DNFs I have in a row--Two I think, and truly, I had almost given up on even trying one again, and posting a statement that I was seeking to shed a nasty beast from my back seemed appropriate. What I did not count on was the overwhelming flood of encouragement.

A friend Mary Desch from Wichita had mailed me a few inspirational messages, and this was from her desk calendar--her encouragement for the day. I put it in the baggie that I carry my Salt Sticks and organic Sea Salt, and read this several times on race days.

So--race day morning--lining up for a 100--not something I had done for a while. There were 89 folks signed up, and 79 showed up, and the field was fairly equally divided between the three distances.

6:45 am, and no one had broke a sweat. From left to right--Bryan Carpenter, Krystal Brown, Melissa Bruce, Sue Ann Bement, Jason Bement, and me. I had acquired a super-power hat (as described by Tammy Cryer) to replace my black straw hat lost at Lake McMurtry a few years ago. It kept the top of my head from being sunburned, if nothing else.

My friend Mitch Drummond was running his first 100 miler. In fact, it was rumored thus race was designed for him to get a 100 mile finish under his belt. Mitch had a bag of motivating tricks up his sleeve. He had gathered per/mile pledges for this race with the collected funds going to the Westside YMCA. A finish would net over 1000 dollars--a good incentive to tough it out.

RD and contestant Kathy Hoover gives some pre-race announcements. Look both ways before crossing the streets, be nice to each other and Quik Trip people, don't cheat, stay cool, drink and eat, etc.

If you look closely, there is a loop downtown that could easily be bypassed, and a 4-mile square which could be lopped off in the at the bottom of the map. In fact, a full blown cheater could chop 28 miles off of the 100 miler. But he would be hanged.

Everyone was issued this map and turn-by-turn directions. The course was not marked in any way. Streets were not closed. The directions and map worked quite well. To my knowledge, no one got lost.

Arena was gunning for her first 50 miler.

So here we are just seconds before the start. Despite a warm weather forecast, I felt ready to go. That's Dana aka TaturCakes aka Crew Babe Extraordinaire in the pink to the left. She crewed us all day all night and all day. She did hand off the reins to Shannon (Shorty) Jennings sometime during the night so she could get a couple hours of sleep. More on Dana and the others who helped with crewing later.

Near downtown John and Sarah are running well.
Most of my running happened in the first loop. It was already warming up fast, but excitement was in the air and running felt good. In my opinion, most of the field went out to fast. Those doing 100 miles on a day that would be in the mid 90s and with high humidity, and this being the first day(s) of the year with temperatures anywhere near this warm, a super-cautious pace would be advised. My approach was to take it super easy. Truly--start slow and then taper down.

My buddy Jeremy Wiley was running his first 100 miler. His strategy was shadowing me. That added perhaps a little pressure to me, but I took it as added incentive to run smart and keep on keeping on.

Jay walking was discouraged, but when the streets were clear, we avoided the long cross walking lights. We were told we could be ticketed for jaywalking, but hey-I'm a rebel.

Our back-of-the-pack group at the Center of the Universe. Roman took this picture, and he has a knack for finding cool camera angles.

Halfway through the first loop. It's getting hot. All the big smiles have turned to little ones.

As I approached RunnersWorld, the urge to stop and call it a hot 25 mile training run was tremendous. I used Facebook as a tool to keep me going. Ok, this sounds a little sappy, but by the end of the day, this post had racked up 140 likes and 21 encouraging comments. I used this for FUEL. 140 likes were 140 reasons to keep going.

I did not get any pictures of lap two. And most of the pictures on this post are ones borrowed/swiped from Facebook. Thank you Roman Broyles, Thomas Gibson, Bryan Hoover, and Betsy Gerber.

Mitch and I thought we would be able to run a little more on the second lap especially after dark when it cooled off--but it was very slow to cool down. The concrete and asphalt really holds the heat (that foot charring kind of heat) and with fatigue and a mental fog setting in, we walked most of this loop. 17 hours for loops one and two. No 50 mile PR for me.

But for loop three, we had reinforcements--the speedy duo of Brandon and Cameron Plate. These brothers are front runners in most every ultra they run. Cameron (purple-head-boy) either wins or is in the top 3 of everything he enters. They were so funny! Kept us laughing the whole way. Not even a mile out, one of them said "Well here we are--running all night with some old guy--and Mitch."

Halfway through the third loop--the sun had rose for our second day. Both boys were prancing around like spring chickens. "Come on, Ken--lets see that Zombie Shuffle that's so famous," But I had very little energy in the tank. Still--without the Plate Boys, I doubt I would have made it through lap three.

Brandon and Cameron could have easily ran the 25 mile loop in 4:30 or less, but they were awesome pacers and good sports, and stayed with us for the whole 9 hours it took us to negotiate the lap.

I quietly worried about Mitch, and myself as we finished the third loop. If I stopped, would Mitch go on. If Mitch stopped, would I go on. The temptation was strong, but Mitch was all GO. We were off for the last loop.

Lap four was even uglier. But our pacers with fresh legs and chipper attitudes were in top form. In the neon yellow--Michelle Bates. She ran the final lap with me. In the blue is Thomas Gibson--one of Mitch's friends who met us on Harvard in the third loop--parked his car, and ran the rest of lap three and most of lap four. In the TATUR singlet--Travis Jennings. Travis ran the course backwards on lap three for 6 miles until he found us, and then finished the lap with us. Then, he stayed with us for the final lap.

We're at Sonic eating some "more substantial food." I was tired of aid station food. In fact, other that watermelon and pineapple, I had ate nothing. A sonic hamburger, no cheese, extra mustard and pickles really hit the spot.

A lot of people told Dana they were really concerned about me--that I looked like crap. I was hot, my feet felt like burned shredded meat, but for the most part, I was still in good spirits.

Carol Hughes, who ran with us a lot in the second loop, dropped at 50 miles, but put on her crewing hat and met me on out of the blue 11th Street, handed me a Gatorade, and told me to have that drank by the next QT. Then, not a half a mile later, showed up again with a Coney Islander hot dog. Some good protein and carbs. Thanks, I needed that.  You get to as place in a 100 when no food sounds good. But with no caloric intake, your body will just stop. Sometimes some off-the-wall food thrown at you somehow works.

I guess I posted this sometime during the second loop, but I kept getting push notifications every time someone commented or liked the posts. Again, this was great help in keeping me going.

I look at these pictures, and don't really remember where we were. Days later, driving around through Tulsa, I travel bits and pieces of the course and have both fond and frightening memories, Mitch and his crew would get ahead every bow and then, but Michelle and Travis stayed by my side, At one point, we were crossing a side street and they were on either side making sure I did not trip on a curb. I laughed, thinking that people driving by probably thought I was a nursing home resident being taken for a walk by my grand kids.

Mitch and his entourage Betsy and Thomas.

Yep--this is me during a brief zombie shuffle. Slightly faster that the speed of stationary. 

Several times during the race a car would stop by to ask what was going on. 
Us: We're running a race.
Them: Where'd you start?
Us: At RunnersWorld, or 41st/Peoria.
Them: How long is the race?
Us: 100 miles. 
At this point they'd roll up the windows and drive off, probably thinking we were giving them some smart-ass answer.

Gatorade and pop-sickle time. Using Quik Trips for aid stations had its pros and cons. Pros: They were fairly evenly spaced apart, although here was a couple sections where you went 5-6 miles between. They had a huge selection of junk food and drinks. I had cola slushies, frozen cappuccino, a corn dog, and an ice cream cone. There were clean restrooms, although I usually had to wait. Cons: Waiting for the restrooms, waiting in line for people who were buying lottery tickets. Take away all the delays at QTs, and we might have finished an hour sooner.

The QT cashiers were nice, curious, and encouraging. Many asked how we were doing, how far we had come, how far we had to go, why we would even want to do something like this. One even asked me if she could get me anything--just like a good aid station volunteer should. Nearly always they wished us luck as we left. One cashier in particular said she was inspired, and wanted to run 100 miles next year.

A big group of our running friends met at the Golden Driller to cheer us on. I got a little emotional here. I was just so happy and grateful for all the help and friends. I rarely get emotional like that--I was nearly blubbering like a baby.

Somewhere going down Harvard between 21st and 41st, the train derailed. At the 21st street QT, the cola slushy machine was out. SO I got an orange cream slushy. The first drink was good, but each drink after was worse and worse. AT Braum's at 28th St, I got a root beer. Again, the first drink was good, but each drink tasted yuckier. I opened the lid and added some sea salt and stirred it in. That helped, but even then, it was just not hitting the spot. Then, south of 31st street, I started seeing things. A black shiny snake slithered out of a crack in the sidewalk. I ran right over it, sort of jumped, and stopped to watch it--but it was apparently part of a broken pair of black sunglasses. After that, I kept seeing a small clear circle with a black X in it. It was clear and very much in focus. It just would not go away.

As I approached 41st Street, Dana was there waiting for us. I really hit a low. This was mile 89, and I just didn't think I could go 11 more miles. I was going so slow. It was so hot (it was 98°.) I definitely did not want to quit but seriously doubted I could go on.

Shorty was also there, and she fired up her car and I sat under the air conditioner for a few minutes. Dana started firing questions at me.
Dana: Are you eating?
Me: Nothing but watermelon.
Dana: What are you drinking?
Me: Gatorade, but it's not tasting good.
Dana" What's it your cup?
Me: Root beer with sea salt.
Dana: (taking away cup) You don't need that. When's the last time you had any water?
Me: I dunno I've drank some somewhere. (I didn't remember--I just wanted her to shut the door so I could cool down.
Dana: (back from getting a cup of water.) Here--drink this.
Me: I really--
I did as I was told, and water had never tasted so good. She followed up with cold watermelon, which had been working for me all day/night/day.
Dana: Are you nauseated?
Me: Yeah, a little--
Dana: Here, drink this, It has ginger in it.
Me:I don't like gin--
I took a few sips of the mango/ginger concoction and it was actually pretty good.
Dana: Now here's what's gonna happen. You are gonna get out of this car and get moving, or you're gonna drop and ride around with me. Is that what you want?
Me: (waking up from a stupor) No, I'm not quitting.

I headed out with Travis. I think Michelle must have rode around with Dana for a while, but she showed back up a mile or so later.Dana had sent a can of ginger ale with Travis and told him to make me drink it. I just couldn't, but then agreed to try a sip. It burned my esophagus on the way down, but it did actually help. I took another drink but this time swished it around in my mouth until the fizz was gone. WOW. This stuff really works. The sun at our backs on 41st Street was relentless. My calves were sun-burnt and it felt like they were being braised by a blow torch.

Somewhere around 51/Sheridan, a cloud cover rolled in, and the temperature dropped a bit. It was still muggy, but with an occasional Reese, it was a major relief. Hitting the parking lot at LaFortune Park, we had a crew stop and I was chipper and feeling great. Funny how there are such high ups and such low downs in a 100. Clint Green was there, and wanted to run the last 5 miles in with us. Mitch had exchanged Betsy for Jason Bement, and they were moving like horses smelling the barn. When we hit 51st Street and headed for the final 4 miles, I somehow found a good power walking pace that was a bit quicker, and it actually felt good. It seemed like we might have been doing 15-16 minute miles. Yale to Harvard was quick Harvard to Lewis was a long uphill but we kept a pace faster than a crawl.

Lewis to Peoria (2 miles out) was a steep downhill on the service road. There was no sidewalks, and running a steep decent in the grass was not an option with huge blisters on my forefoot and toes. So, I ran on the edge of the road with cars whizzing by so close I could touch them. The power walk was working well, and it evolved into a run and then a semi-fast run. It seemed that way at least,

About a half mile out, without my glasses, I managed to find YouTube, and then this video. It was adding up to a perfect ending. You really need to listen to this. It fits so well.

I love this song.

I finished not too far behind Mitch, This picture was taken by Danielle Martin, and I'm gonna say it was the bad lighting--surely I did not look that bad. I felt GREAT, and hung around at the store for a little while, caressing my hard earned belt buckle. 

I didn't stay around too long though. I knew sleep deprivation would set in and I would rather crawl to the car than be carried. Either way my feet hurt.

These guys took me 100 miles on roads that were over 100 degrees. Fry an egg on a sidewalk--pish posh. I do need to say a little about this. I use a foot treatment concoction that Dana mixes up to prevent blisters. It's not something she invented--it's a recipe passed on to u from another fellow ultrarunner. When used liberally, it prevents blisters, and I usually get through a race with no blisters at all. But at this race, with high humidity and hot temps that NO ONE was used to (except Kathy and Carol who recently finished the Florida Keys 100.), runners had wet feet from sweat running down their legs, and frying your feet in salt water (sweat) is never a good idea.  Plus, in my case, my feet were not toughened up due to virtually no training. Had I not used the product at all, my entire foot would have been a mess of mangled flesh.

At one point, Brian Hoovers noticing that most of the 100 milers were dropping, threw out a challenge on Facebook that he would buy a steak dinner to anyone who managed to finish the 100 miles. I love steak, so this was a huge incentive to keep going!

So true to his word, Wednesday night a huge group of us including 6 of the 10 finishers met at the Spudder Steakhouse to feast.
All of my pacers were there. Sadly, Dana was not able to make it as she was out of town visiting grand kids. 

My steak, the Gusher,was glorious! Thank you Brian. And thank you Kathy and Roman for dreaming up this crazy idea in the first place.

Again, I could not have done this without help from my friends. Mitch and I propelled each other along. His pacers helped me. My pacers helped him. Brandon, Cameron, Michelle, Travis, Clint--I am in your debt. Betsy, Thomas, and Carol, you were also a huge help. Shorty is rapidly evolving into as awesome crew babe. Susan Melon Westmoreland was also a great help in mine and Mitch's journey.

And  Dana saved my bacon more that once along the way. She is the absolute best at what she does, and gives of herself abundantly. Staying awake and alert for 40 hours is amazing and if she managed to catch a few winks, they are more than well deserved. Hey--I'm a lucky man. 

Finally, it seems appropriate to report what happened to than menacing ape who hung across my back for so long.