Friday, August 21, 2015

Keep Turkey Wild report

About three years ago, a group of mountain bikers put on a race on Turkey Mountain and wanted to include a trail run as part of the event. Who better to contact than TATUR, and I got the privilege of designing the course. What was wanted was a  loop course that could be run once for a 5K, twice for a 10K, and 4 times for a Half Marathon. The math did not work out quite right, and the 5K and 10K got a little bit of extra mileage, which is usually just fine with trail runners. I included lots of hills--I like that.
The race was called Turkey Mountain--Keep It Wild. The draw to the race was helped by the joker who wanted to build an amusement park where our parking lot was, and it would have wiped out the Red Trail, and would have stretched upward and would have also wiped out part of the yellow Trail. The race was successful, and a donation was made to RiverParks. 

I somehow was made an admin to the Facebook page for this race, and the page had seen a huge increase in hits in the months following the Simon Mall debacle. I decided to see if we could bring this race back, and make it a fund raiser to Keep Turkey Wild, and raise funds for the Tulsa Urban Wilderness Coalition who fought the mall development non stop, and in a professional and diligent manner. Accounts have been established to collect donations to purchase the adjoining land and save our wilderness area from ever being developed commercially.

 We had over 200 registered runners between the three distances. All races started at 7:00 am.

 Some came to race it hard, while others were in for a hike. We had a great day for it, with temperatures hovering in the low 80s for most of the race.

 A trip up Lipbuster was the first task at hand. The 10K got a double dose, and the 13.1-ers got a quad helping of this gem of a trail.

 I'm not gonna use the "relatively flat" words in describing this course for fear of having my house egged, but there were a few smooth run-able sections.

 This short rocky climb led to the M&M Aid Station, which did indeed serve M&Ms, and lots of other aid station treats including Mimosas and Margaritas.

 Mike Rives, William Barnes, and Michelle Bates manned this oasis, and later had help from Jeremy Wiley and Lisa McManus after they finished the 5K.

 Jeremy and his daughter Gracie are cruising through a downhill stretch about half way through the race.

 Nobody really complained much about this hell, but it has about an 80 foot climb. 

 This section--the Pipeline Trail is very close to the parcel of land that was slated for the outlet mall. And even though Simon Malls has decided to build elsewhere, the land is STILL very much for sale and is not safe from future commercial development. That's why it is so important to raise the funds to take it off the real estate market.

 Jenny Bailey took the lead in the ladies Half Marathon, and held on through four laps for the win.

 Bryan Carpenter was running with the fast guys early on.

 We like having cheerleaders at our aid stations. John Nobles sports his new TATUR sports bra while providing encouragement to the runners.

 Don't know if they're going up or coming down, but these ladies are in good spirits.

Mopping up on age group awards. Full RESULTS can be found HERE.

I swiped Shelly Buhlinger's picture from her Facebook wall. Congrats for the nice haul of bling.

Thanks goes to my aid station workers, which includes Shannon Jennings, my sweetheart Dana Childress, and a host of Tulsa Urban Wilderness Coalition members Laurie Biby, Tyler Hanes, Eric Doswell, Ryan Howell, and Cleo Berninger.

Keep Turkey Wild raised just over $1500.00 which will go towards the land purchase. It is good to dream big--and I would like to see not only the 60 acres saved, but also other properties adjoining Turkey Mountain acquired and saved for park land. This is a shared vision with a lot of fellow mountain bikers and trail runners. It just makes Tulsa a better place to live.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Warrior Princess Angel Run

Last Saturday was the final running of the Warrior Princess Angel Run. This race is ran in memory of Michael and Chrissy Whitten's daughter, who was diagnosed with T18 chromosomal disease and lived 103 days before getting her angel wings. Proceeds from the race went to families with children with T18 and T13 chromosomal disease to provide assistance, support, and resources needed.

This race was ran at Chandler Park and was a 1.03 mile out-and-back with a couple of loops thrown in through the labyrinth of boulders and bluffs at Chandler Park--a mecca for rock climbing enthusiasts.

A good crowd of 70-80 runners tackled the endeavor on this warm muggy morning. There was also a 1.03 mile fun run.

Chrissy and I designed the course which had a little of everything: some grassy fields, some flat sections, some steep inclines, and lots of rocks.

Chandler Park is a real gem in Tulsa, with about a mile of rugged trailz through the boulder area, and many more miles of single track and double track trailz to the south and west of the park.

I started near the back of the pack, expecting no more than 5.15 miles in these 103 minutes.

No one got lost really bad, but a few people did miss a turn here and there. Gotta read the signs.

My first two laps were ran at a lazy jog/shuffle pace, and the third loop, I slowed it down even more and took a few pictures.

Arnold Begay was the man behind the horn. It sounded like a wounded moose.

Little Wade Bement shifts into 4-wheel drive over one of the rocky sections. This was Wade's official race, and he belted out three laps before calling it a day.

I had just under 30 minutes left after three lapps--too much to get in two more based on how I was feeling and running. I teamed up with Jason Bement, and we basically walked the last loop. My friend Jeremy Wiley, who was pacing his daughter Gracie joined us since Gracie had decided three laps was enough. Jeremy, upon my dare, decided to hit it hard and try for two more laps in the 29 remaining minutes. He took off like a shot, and knocked out two more and finished with seconds to spare.

Near the end of the loop, the Leap of Faith had to be crossed. It was a 2' wide crevice that had a 15-20 foot drop should you lose your footing and fall. It was a good photo op, and Rafael Santiago was perched with a camera shooting leaps. It has been said that with a green shirt, I'd be a dead ringer for a leprechaun.

Krystal Brown won the women's race with 7 laps in 1:40. Jana Graham was second with 6 laps in 1:30. Kretis Bliss was third with 5 laps in 1:28.

Ryan Jennings won the men's race with 9 laps in 1:37. Travis Jennings was second also with 9 laps in 1:41. Cameron Plate was third with 9 laps in 1:42.

Chrissy did a great job with the trophies. I did a not-so good job photographing them.

I ended up with 4 laps 4 laps in 1:35, which in the initial results put me in 10th place. But I noticed a missing runner who finished 5th, so with the corrected results, I finished 11th. It's all good.

What's next for Chrissy--she's c omitted to running 103 miles, and is shooting for Pumpkin Holler in 2016.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Saying goodbye to Jake

We said goodbye to our Jake today. Jake had developed  Spondylosis which is a degenerative, non-inflammatory condition of the spinal column characterized by the production of bone spurs along the bottom, sides, and upper aspects of the vertebrae of the spine. These bone spurs are simply projected growths of bone, usually grown in response to aging, and are most common in larger dog breeds.

Fifteen years ago, we brought two chocolate lab puppies into our lives: Rocky and Chloe, and let them have puppies. They were AKC and we sold the litters they had to families who we thought would make them good homes. I was happy with nearly all of the homes that the puppy placements, and we decided to get another female since Rocky enjoyed his job so much. Ginger came into our lives two years later. She came from a litter of 16, and grew into a tall beautiful chocolate. She had 3 litters, and Jake was the run of her last litter. He was bashful and had an outie belly button. No one wanted him, looking only for the perfect puppy, and they considered him “defective.” We decided to keep him. We named him Outie, but had his belly button fixed at the urging of our vet, and decided to change his name to Jake.

We lost Chloe to complications from her spaying surgery while we lived in Catoosa. We, and our remaining three chocolate labs moved to Turkey Mountain in 2007. They were always outside dogs, with occasional short visits in the house. We had a fenced back yard, but our house on 67th Street near Turkey Mountain was like wilderness in a way. There were LOTS of trees, and portions of it were like a tropical jungle. The fence behind these thickets had openings, and I worked diligently blocking all the escape routes off. Rocky and Ginger were insistent on escaping and exploring the world. But Jake would stop at the opening where they escaped and wait for them to come back. Sometimes they did, and sometimes people would see their tags and call us to come rescue our dogs. Jake as a one year old was so well behaved.

We loved our dogs, and spent time with them every evening, feeding them, scratching ears and butts, and teaching them dog tricks. But still, all they got was that short time each night, and occasionally we’d take them running with us. A trail run on Turkey necessitated two of the three on the leash. If two were off leash, they would leave to explore the world. We could not find them, but fortunately because of their tags, we’d get a call to come pick them up. One day I came home and found the gate open. Our landlords had come by to cut tree limbs after a winter ice storm and carelessly let our dogs out. The next day we got a call and our dogs were found by some folks a couple miles west. They had two of them—Rocky and Jake. Ginger was never found—we put out posters, and I did some blog posts pleading for anyone to keep an eye out for her. (This was before I was on Facebook.) Both Rocky and Jake howled and cried missing her. It was so sad.

Rocky had turned into a grumpy old man. Jake was still young and wanted to play, and all Rocky would do is snap at him. Rocky would guard the food and not let Jake eat. We had to make sure Jake got a decent amount to eat each evening. We probably should have spent more time with our dogs—no excuses. Rocky was also slowing down. He used to run long with me, having ran 20 miles a few times, and even 26 miles in the Ouachitas all on trailz. But he limped around after a 3-4 milers. One evening, Rocky was laying down and would hardly even look up, and wouldn’t eat. The next morning we took him to the vet who ran some tests and told us the worst news—he had a cancerous tumor, and had virtually no chance of recovering even with surgery. It was devastating, and we had him put down. It just tore me up, but he was so close to dying anyway that it was the best decision.

Jake was now all alone, and we made the good decision to bring him in—to make him a complete member of our family. Jake never spent a night outside when we were home after that. (On trips, we either boarded him, or left the garage door open so he could come and go.) Jake only had two accidents in the 4 years he was a house dog—and both were our fault not his.

Jake was not a real fan of running, but that changed. He began to understand our interests, and he wanted to do anything we did. He ran on leash well, but we also let him off leash and he always stayed close. His excitement would sometimes carry him a little ahead, but he’s always turn around and come back for us. Our 3-4 mile runs were often at least 5 for him. But after 5 miles, he would slow down and we’d shuffle on home. (Remember we live a block from the trails.) I called him the Five Mile Dog.

We bought a travel trailer, and he loved camping. Of course our camping trips included trailz. Jake also loved simply riding in the Prius. The back seat was his, and he took up the whole seat when he wasn’t perched on the center console—the front half of the dog in the front seat. Our car trips often included a McDonald’s ice cream come which was good for 1-2 licks and a big GULP. (Picture a great white shark breaching and snatching a swimming seal.)

Around Father’s Day, we noticed Jake limping and favoring one foot. We looked for a thorn or a cut in the foot but found nothing. A couple of weeks later, he was getting shaky on his feet, and occasionally falling down. We feared hip dysplasia and we took him to our vet who gave him a thorough examination and diagnosed him with Spondylosis. He prescribed laser treatments and Jake seemed to respond well to these. He seemed in good spirits, and more alert—but it did very little to help with the weakness in his hips. Our tiled kitchen floor was problematic for Jake. He’d walk across and his legs would do the splits, or just slide out sideways. He had a lot of trouble getting back up. We bought 4 large bathroom mats which stuck to the floor and gave him traction. We were leaving him inside even when we went to work so he stayed cool. He’d be excited to see us when we got home and would run (walk fast) only to stagger and wipe out. I tried to keep him in the grass for softer landings. He was losing the feeling in his legs, and the ability to land with the pads of his back feet down and had scraped what I’d call the tops of his toes. Also, the next joint in his leg was beginning to turn inward and I was afraid it was a matter of time that they would twist too far. He never seemed to be in any pain at all—other than the frustration of falling and the inability at times to get up. I could encourage him and he could usually still get up and going, but even that was getting tougher with him dragging his back legs until he managed to get his feet underneath him.

Hiking his leg to pee was gone. His squatting to pee meant bending his back legs into a very uncomfortable stance, but we has able to step out of it. But pooping was a problem. He just could not get unto that hunched over position, and when he tried, he fell—usually in his poop. He is not really a fan of baths but he was getting one after most poo poos. His appetite was going too. He was hardly eating, although he would eat what we fed him by hand, and would eat anything out of the cat food dish.

The several laser sessions were making no difference. I tried acupuncture by a specialist that has highly recommended. They seemed pretty confident they could help and told me I should see a significant difference after one treatment, and recommended three more treatments. When we took him back for his second session, they saw his declining condition and refused to give him another treatment. I respected their honesty as they really believed he was in too bad of condition for their help.

Jake was such a good dog. He almost never misbehaved. He always did what we told him to do. He’d do a few dog tricks on command (sit, shake, down, were his most consistent ones.) He’d always come when we called him. When we ran, I’d say Go Slow, and he’d slow it down. I’d say Go Swimming, and he’d dive into his Turkey Mountain ponds. If he was a bit ahead in the trail, or in the back part of the yard, a faint hissing whistle would send him running back. Any word spoken to him got his tail wagging. He was always a happy dog.

Dana and I fought hard with the decision to let him go. The near panic look in his eyes when he couldn’t get back up and his declining appetite and him the past day or so plopping down and not moving were the deciding factors. I wondered if we were wrong to hold on—were we wrong for letting go.

I pulled into the driveway last night and was just aching knowing it would be the last time to have him greet me as I came in the door. He was laying down in the living room and looked up and thumped his tail. I laid down and curled up to him, loving my best friend. Our friend Susan came by to say good bye. She loved Jake--called hin the Chocolate Chunk--and he was glad to have all the attention. When she left, he managed to get on his feet and followed them to the door, but collapsed on the rug, deciding he was good with just knowing they were on the front porch.

Our friends next door Gary and Kori wanted to see him. We put him on the leash and helped him to his feet. I wrapped a belt around his lower section just ahead of his legs to keep him from falling. He seemed proud that he was walking without staggering. Gary sometimes fed jakes leftover pancakes and waffles, and had a couple of homemade biscuits for him, and hand fed him a bite at a time. They were grieving with us, agreeing that things were not going to be the same.

We took him to McDonald’s for an ice cream cone. He did not disappoint—one gulp. But I cried as I realized it would be the last time for that. That evening, we did the usual—fixed his bone with dog snacks and peanut butter—he usually demolished his rubber bone licking it clean—but lately he was less interested. He takes his medicine well—as long as it’s rolled up inside a wadded up lump of bread. While I suppose the medication was not really necessary, the lumps of bread dough was. Jake liked to catch them as I tossed them, but his catching skills were waning, and I placed them within reach one at a time.

This morning I got up and it felt like I had the weight of the universe bearing down on my. My head was as thick as concrete. My nose was plugged up solid, and my eyes felt swollen. Tears found their way through my congested head, and the sinuses joined in the flow. I was a weeping mess. We loaded Jake in the car and he was excited to go, but we had to help him all the way—his leash steadied his front legs and a belt under his belly just in front of his back legs. We just kept him steady and he walked much easier. Waves of guilt swept over me—were we giving up too soon?? I had to stop at the light just before we crossed 71st Street and turned into our vet. I was thankful for the delay and wanted to wait there for several lights. I thought about one more McDonald’s cone, but went on to the vet.

Jake’s doctor was in tears too. He agreed that it was best but it’s just so hard. The first shot was just a sedative. We stroked his fur and scratched his ears while waves intense sobbing bowled me over. In a few minutes, Jake was asleep. The second injection worked quickly and he was gone. I have never hurt so bad.  I managed to get out the front door and sat in the car for a while and we drove home. The house is not the same. But I have to believe we did the best thing.

We miss him. 

We miss you Jake.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Cozumel trip

Our birthdays are 2 days apart--mine on the 27th and Dana's on the 29th of July, so this year we decided to go on a vacation on our birthdays in lieu of buying gift. From a guys standpoint, that's a win win. Of course, the wife had to be in agreement as to the location of said vacation, and I knew that anything with a beach would more than suffice. 

I tend to favor all-inclusives since meals are included, as are drinks and tips. We have been to Cancun, and to Playa del Carmen twice, and thought we'd try Cozumel. We had actually visited the island via a ferry from Playa del Carmen, and once as part of a cruise. While I was not overly impressed with the old town of San Miguel, the island was beautiful and the people were nice. We were booking late, and found a deal that seemed good, and I started the booking process, and stopped to discuss it with Dana over dinner. When I went back to push the GO button, evidently the last vacancy was filled, and I went back to the drawing board.

Iberostar looked good, and I read the reviews and they were mostly good--the only bad ones were people complaining that their air conditioning was not cold enough. Duh--it's Mexico. Tourists are the only ones who even use air conditioning or heating on the island. Other than that, the place got glowing reviews.

 So Monday morning we were up at 3:00 am, and got to the airport at 4:30 for a 6:30 flight. We parked at Fine Airport Parking and used the valet service. It was fast and efficient as advertised. No, we did not "do the Fine-dango." Our flight was uneventful. We got through the plane change and customs in Cozumel, and our transport to the resort worked out fine, although I was mislead by a person impersonating the transport company whose only interest was to show me good deals on excursions, cheap car or jeep rentals, and I found out later--time shares.  Very sneaky of them.

The lobby at Iberostar was a huge grass hut, and branched out to a gift shop, two restaurants, and a open theater. A friendly parrot was perched on his favorite chair. He didn't say much other than an occasional squawk, but enjoyed having his head rubbed.

A pond of nice green water was home and feeding grounds to a family of flamingos. They stood in this same pond the whole time we were there, slurping water through their upside down bills, filtering nutrients from the water. It seemed like they were gargling. 

 Most of the accommodations were four-plexes--stucco on the exterior, and all with grass roofs. It never rained while we were there, but I'm betting they did not leak.

The room was just right for a couple--I'm sure they had bigger units for families. We were impressed. The air conditioning was fine IF you took a shower, turned the ceiling fan on high, and slept with a sheet and a light blanket.

The pools here are awesome. They advertised 4 pools, but two of them were wading pools. The other two were huge and 4 1/2 feet deep and separated by a swim-up bar. <3 We changed into our swim suits and took a bar stool. 

Then we strolled to the beach and drug a couple of recliners under a coconut tree and just vegged out.

Dana--the girl who never wears hats, fell in love with this pink straw cowgirl hat.

I had my trusty 100 mile hat. We had paid for a data plan and wifi, so I'm sure it seems like we were on our phones a lot, but we really weren't.

Each night we'd watch the sun set. Catching the sunrise was not really an option because 1. we slept in. 2. We'd have to go to the other side of the island. 

 And so it goes. This was the life we lived while there. We didn't go deep sea fishing, no zip lines, no shopping in old San Miguel, no visiting the ruins--we just relaxed.

We also went to the evening shows. The first night they did the Horror Show--including a Thriller rendition, and then several tunes from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Then the next night they did a show that was sort of like the Newlywed Game, but with stunts and challenges. If was goofy but funny. We missed the show the next night--it was merely a disco party on the beach. Thursday night they did dance routines to movies. It started out bad and got worse. America's Got Talent would have buzzed them out.

The food was good--I'd give it a 7 out of 10. But don't expect good desserts there. They forget to put the sugar in their after-dinner treats. Soft serve ice cream was great however.

Bacon--it was what's for breakfast. They'd cook custom omelets, and there was also about anything under the sun you would want for your morning meal.

A visitor to our table would have pulled up a chair and joined us were it not for the netting. We treated him to some bacon, and bits of bread. A peacock will nip pretty hard on your fingers if there's food involved. 

The ritual--eat, swim, lay on the beach, repeat. 

Usually this place was packed. The bartenders there make mixed drinks non-stop from 9:00 or earlier until 7:00 pm. And they are not weak drinks either. They'd pour a glass 2/3 full of coconut rum, and top it off with coke. They'd add a shot or two to their pre-made frozen margaritas and daiquiris. And then there's the Miami Vice--a mixture of a pina coloda and strawberry daiquiri--Dana usually added a shot of coconut rum. My favorites besides the rum and coke, were the mojito--a mixture of mashed mint leaves and real lime mixed with a little sugar, white rum, and club soda served over ice. Also, the Michelada--a mixture of beer, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, black pepper, lime, served cold in a glass with a salted rim.

Swimming pool rules--every public pool has them. #3 is a good rule--keeps us married guys out of trouble. #4 is a joke. Everyone in the pool visited the swim up bars. And notice there is no rule against peeing in the pool. I am confident those hanging around the swim-up bar all day, some of which brought their own insulated bubba cups and had them filled and refilled--they NEVER got out to pee. It did always seem like the water was warmer around the bar.

Dana was in picture taking mode. She was one happy camper.

And quite the selfie queen too. :-)

Each day it was 87° for the high and 71° for the low. laying in the shade with an ocean breeze was good.

Taking a nap was awesome.

Each night pool boys worked on making these pools perfect. They treated the water, swept the pools, and by the next day everything was like brand new.

Thursday we went snorkeling. We rented snorkeling gear for 2 USD apiece which was good for all day. We were told there was lots of fish along the pier, and they were right. We saw thousands. Most were big flat gray fish (maybe grouper), but there were also lots of yellow and white striped ones, and a few with some blue and orange (looked like exotic perch.) a mask and snorkel does not work well with a mustache, so we only stayed out there an hour.

 Stuffing my face wit good food, ice cream, and wine. This is as tan as I get.

And a couple more sunset pics. There was never a bad one.

About half of these pictures are Dana's. She took some awesome shots. 

 A night walk out on the pier. Out of 15 tries, this was the best one.

Finally, Friday came and it was time to pack it up and come home. I took a few more pictures of the wildlife on the resort. The flamingo feels right at home with turtles in it's face.

We saw a small wild pig run across the walkway right in front of us but I couldn't get it's picture.

If you were looking, you could always find an iguana. 

This bearded dragon strolled around like he owned the place. We never saw any alligators, but there are gators on the island. No snake spottings either, but there are a few species of snakes there.

Probably one of the most pesky snakes is this one: the dreaded time-share snake.

According to the weather charts, it is a few degrees cooler there in January. Still low 80s for the high and upper 60s for the low. That might feel good that time of year. If Jon Snow were walking down the street in Cozumel and said, "Winter is coming," ---he would be wrong.