Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Pumpkin Holler directors cut

It's taken a few days to collect my thoughts after the fifth running of the Pumpkin Holler Hunnerd. We had a great year with nearly 100 more runners than last years record crowd. Most were in the 50K and 25K, but all distances had an increase in entries. This is TATUR's premier race, and we've had runners from over 30 states run with us.

Picture by Brian Lamb
We were also blessed with volunteers from the pre-race activities to the post race pack-it-up detail. One newest volunteer and promoter was Meego. When he was not sabotaging embroidering machines and timing equipment, he was haunting and taunting people to sign up for things people never dreamed they'd be doing. He hangs around Mike Rives a lot--I'm not sure who is the bad influence on who.
Picture by Brian Lamb
Foe the second year, we had a group of runners both brave and strange enough to run 135.6 miles--starting out at 10:00 pm Friday night. To get their grand total of 135 miles plus one kilometer, they had to do an 8 mile out-and-back, then 4 loops for the course which is a wee bit long of 50K.

Picture by Russell Bennett
Tradition insists that we begin each start with smashing a pumpkin, so with a might heave at 10:00 pm sharp, this gourd was hurled to the ground.

Not sure who took this picture
Four miles out, Jason Bement was waiting at the Waffle Stop aid station with bacon, waffles, and waffles with bacon cooked in! He set up shop a couple hours beforehand and then worked this aid station well into the afternoon Saturday serving 100 milers, and 25Kers. I never made it up the hill to feast with him. My loss.

Picture by Brian Lamb
The bad and good news about Comb's Bridge. This landmark has been replaced by a boring concrete bridge a quarter mile downstream, and we were keeping our fingers crossed that we would be able to use it as the signature finish for our race this one last year. Wednesday before the race, I dropped my camping trailer at the campground, and crossed the bridge to drive part of the course. I did not discover this until very late Thursday night--actually about 2:00 am Friday morning that the Comb's Bridge had been barricaded. After a long day Thursday of loading race station stuff, I was late getting out big box truck delivered to the campground. After dropping my helper back at his house, I came back to the campground and decided to drive across the new bridge to check it out. I was pouting about the "progress" and the extra half mile of pavement we'd have to endure next year, and where the new paved road tied into the old gravel road, I turned around and saw the barriers. Panic immediately set in as I was thinking for sure we'd have to do a last minute major reroute  and recalculate all of our mileages to aid stations and rework part of the course somewhere to keep from having an even longer 50K loop.

But by morning, with the help of the Eagle Bluff folks, and the Tahlequah Daily News, we got permission from ODOT and the Cherokee County Sheriff to weed-whack a path around the barriers and use the bridge. Problem solved, but it still robbed me of a nights sleep.

Picture by Jessi Wiley
A huge crowd ambled out of their tents and campers around 7:00 while Stormy, Russell, and I were driving the course dropping off aid station supplies. We have to do this at the last minute because we have had tents, ice chests, and water jugs escape into the wild.  It was right around 40° at the start of the race, but some people did not know it was cold.

Picture by Brian Lamb
While the speedsters zipped through the campground and turned toward Comb's Bridge, a seasoned group of back-of-the-packers locked in on a steady pace--armed with stories to tell, stories to unfold, and Fireball.

Picture by Deanna Thornton
At 10:00 am, the 10K and 25K had their start. These starting times are staggered to eliminate congestion, which was a bit of a problem at the bridge this year. The different start times also help the aid stations have a steady flow of runners instead of being slammed with 100 runners at a time.

Picture by Brian Lamb
And our aid stations--the competition to be the best was high this year. Mad Dog was in top form, with a good selection of goodies including ginger dog biscuits. Kevin Lemaster does double duty during the race. He is the man behind all of the finishers shirts, and was heat pressing shirts during the day and night to accommodate those who dropped to a shorter distance during the race.

Picture by Joel Everett
Out-and_back had double duty too--but only because the runners hit them twice per loop. Joel Everett and company manned this for the 5th year. Joel had help from his buddy Gordon, and also Lynna Gilstrap after she finished her 50K

Not sure who took this picture
John Nobles, Justin Walker, and Justin Franklin held down the fort at Savannah Corner. This was the first crew station, and they had company all day and night. The whole corner was lit up with Christmas lights, and they had a strobe light in the porta-pot--a nice touch.

Picture by Kate Ellisor
Kate Ellisor and Eddie Carden ran things at East of Eden again. This is the most remote aid station on the course and no cell phones work here. This is also the corner where runners can choose to do the Great Gourd Challenge--a mere half mile out and half mile back. The challenge is after .2 of a mile out, the road makes a sharp upward turn, and I mean UP. You climb 325 feet in about a quarter mile. That's three times the climb of Lipbuster in about the same distance. This hill taints the "relatively flat" description of the course. The payoff for adding a mile and 325 feet of climb to your race?? A custom made visor from Susan Westmoreland's Mile Junkie that documents your conquest. Lisa McManus below models this unique visor. Around 90 runners took on the hill. None died, although I did have a few death threats.

Not sure who took this picture
Lisa poses for a picture at Hard Up Ahead, manned by Earl Blewett and Chuck Streit. These guys have been here every year, serving up jambalaya and mushroom/barley soup.

Not sure who took this picture
Not to be outdone by Savannah Corner, Bathtub Rocks had a disco ball, and a gourmet chef. Their menu included various ways of showcasing bacon, including a mini-beni, and baked mac-and-bacon. Phillip Berry, Sarah Crowley, and Wes Rupell sent people away with full tummies for around 30 hours straight.

Picture by Laurie Biby
Serving at Last Gasp for the 4th year, Shorty Jennings fixed people up and encouraged them to get on down the road--the final three miles to the finish. Shorty had Karaoke going, but I have yet to see any YouTube videos. This picture is actually from last years race. My picture this year did not turn out. Shorty was joined by Mishelle Hancock and Alecia Listen after they finished their 25K.

Picture by Jessi Wiley
Meanwhile back at the finish line, we had one aid stop for those coming in and going out on their next loop, and another with real food--not just PBJs, chips, and cookies.

Picture by Jessi Wiley
Oh, and we had beer. This dude finished his race and still had a little beer left over.

Picture by Jessi Wiley
Here come some 135 milers. Kathy Hoover, Ron Ruhs, and Mitch Drummond have 40 miles down, and 95 to go.

Picture by Jessi Wiley
One of our sponsors: Energy Tech furnished their smoker and cooked burgers, hot dogs, brats, and pulled pork. Deano and Darrell did a great job.

Picture by Russell Bennett
The cooking only had a brief intermission during the night, but come daybreak Sunday, the breakfast crew fired the grilles up. Brynna fixed bacon and eggs, breakfast burritoes, and home fries.

Picture by Jessi Wiley
My DW and favorite Co-RD Dana assigned job duties at the finish line, and was everywhere at once--cooking, serving, making coffee, and reminding me what to do as I was pretty sleep deprived--we all were.

Picture by Jessi Wiley
Co-RD Stormy Phillips was again the emcee, making a big deal of every finisher as they made their way through the campground on their final approach. If he could be paid what he was worth--he could easily make a career of emceeing races.

Picture by Jessi Wiley
Brian Lamb comes to a lot of our Oklahoma races. He finished the 50K here last year, but this year he came to volunteer. He lives in Bentonville, AR but is right at home with us. Brian helped Brian Hoover with setting up the start/finish line, helped with the timing, helped Dana all day with aid station and food stuff, and stayed until all the race stuff was packed away in the big truck. Plus, he took lots of pictures, many of which I've used in this post.

Picture by Jessi Wiley
Shannon McFarland, and his wife Jody are also Arkansas runners who come over every year to hang out with us. Jody helped Dana serve food to hungry runners, and Shannon was Stormy's right hand. He got pumpkin smashing duties for the 10K/25K start, and took over emcee duties near the end of the race when Stormy had to leave.

Susan Melon Westmoreland, who is another co-RD of the race, does more behind the scenes work than anyone. She designed the race shirts and fleece vests which featured glow-in-the-dark eyes and teeth, did the embroidery work on the vests, made the Great Gourd Challenge visors, and did a LOT of PR work.

Edward Lebowski was also a godsend. Edward did whatever Dana told him to do. (I do that every day! HAHA!) He practically ran the show at the pre-race dinner, and dedicated much of his time on race day(s) making sure each finisher got their medals/buckles, and finishers shirts.

I am sure I've overlooked thanking someone. This race would not happen without all the stellar work from my volunteers and RDs.

I drove the course a few times during the day and night checking on things and restocking aid stations. But I had help with this this year--Elden Galano shared driving duties with me, which allowed me to get a 4 hour nap during the wee hours Sunday morning.

Picture by Jodee Whitworth
The course around the Nickel Nature Preserve is beautiful. This year I did not take very many pictures at all. I hope I have given proper credit to those whose pictures I have borrowed.

Picture by Jodee Whitworth
This is one of the sections of the course that is on the upper end of the "relatively fat" matrix. A 3/4 mile incline leading up to the Mad Dog aid station works up a good appetite. It's mostly downhill after that.

Picture by Jodee Whitworth
The this year roads were in great condition. A couple of years ago road graters had done their deed just days before our race. This year, if you stayed where the tire tracks were, you could almost get by running barefoot. Not sure if anyone actually ran shoe-less this year though.

Bathtub rocks, the 59th Wonder of the World, had a little water flowing. I'd love to have a year when the water was high here. There is one hole in this rock formation that looks over 6 foot deep and I have always wanted to take a plunge in it. Maybe next time.

Picture by Jodee Whitworth
This is at the top of the last major hill on the course. By now, most runners had muttered a few choice words about the inclines traversed.

Picture by Jodee Whitworth
In several places along the way, the runners are flanked by the scenic Illinois River. The river was down a little this year, but was still beautiful.

Picture by Jodee Whitworth
Jodee and Shorty do a dual selfie at Last Gasp. This was Jodee's first 50K. She was really concerned about doing it--would she make the cut-offs, what shoes to wear, what socks, etc. HAHA! She was all smiles the whole way. 100K next year?

Taking a nap during the race--allowed but maybe not a good idea. Taking a nap AFTER the race--genius!

Picture by Kate Ellisor
Finally--maybe the best story in the race. This picture is East of Eden. First-time 100 miler Travis Jennings (Shorty's hubby) stopped for a break here at mile 90. As with most 100 milers during the night--he was wiped out and sleep deprived. He sat down for a brief rest in a lawn chair next to the fire, and that turned into a nap. When he got up, someone said he didn't look so good. He agreed that he didn't feel so good, then he fell face-first right into the fire. Kate and Ed, along with runners Bryan Carpenter and Jana Graham drug him out of the fire, and it still took a few moments for him to wake up. He got a burn on his stomach and arm, and scorched a couple of holes in his jacket, but it revved him up enough to motor on in for a finish.

Picture by Shorty
What an awesome souvenir. This could have been SO MUCH worse. Ed mentioned to us that they did refrain from taking picture until they had him drug out of the fire. Thanks, Ed.

Picture by Jodee Whitworth
 Loot from the 50K. Congrats to all who finished and PR'd.

Picture by Bryan Carpenter
Here's the 100 mile and 135.6 mile bling. I'm impressed by any 100 miler who tacks on the Great Gourd Challenge. 

A few people have asked about the elevation profile. This is the 100 mile course. It's funny that the hills that look the worst are not actually the toughest. Some of the shorter climbs are steeper, and bring out more swear words. 

What's up for next year? Well, a reroute over the new bridge is a necessary evil. I'll explore all the options, including a different start/finish area. We'll figure it out. I'll have online registration up and running in the next couple of weeks.

RACE RESULTS  can be found here. 
For results of those who dropped to a shorter distance from the 135.6 and 100 mile, CLICK HERE.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Wichita Mountains Bison Trail

My buddy Clint Green and I traveled to the Wichita Mountains in SW Oklahoma today and planned on running 10-12 miles on the trailz there. I had drove through the area a month ago, and had a fairly good idea of what was there. 

 Clint had been there a time or two, and suggested the Bison Trail, a loop that was around 5 miles, and then hitting the Charon's Garden and Elk Mountain Trailz.
 We parked at the Dog Hollow trail head, and with no grand fanfare other than Clint waving, we took off.
 The first leg of the trail connected us to the big loop, and was a little overgrown in places By the time we hit the first bridge though, the trail was much more defined for the most part.
 We ran on granite rocks, and crushed granite chat.  It looked like a perfect place to find a rattlesnake sunning in the mid 60 degree sunshine, but we never saw one.
 My knee seemed to be cooperating, and while I was not setting any land speed records, I ran some and shuffled some, and walked the technical sections. 
 There were sections worse than this and in places it seemed like walking through a hallway of embedded bowling balls.
 I knew from passing through the preserve last month that there were a few small lakes, but there were far more of them than I thought. This area considered by some to be dry desert landscape, is peppered with canyons and old man-made dams creating deep picturesque channels.
 The trail showcased this canyon. There were hikers who had found there way down to the waters edge, but we stayed on the main trail near the top.
 One wrong step would have been bad!
 This was the highlight of the loop. I was amazed at these canyons.
 About that "one wrong step" theme--falling down would be bloody from prickly pear cacti as well as the rough boulders.
 Here's another of the many dams--this one made of rocks gathered from the area. Most of these dams were built in the 20s and 30s.
 The trail turned back north at around mile 4. Running across the prairie was enchanting. Both Clint and I mused how this most of this area has looked exactly the same for years--maybe centuries. Two or three of the small black dots in the horizon were buffalo. I zoomed in and of the several pictures I took, this was the best.

 We walked across this dam. Clint said he saw trailz on the other side--probably rogue trailz.
 We got in a rhythm through this section and ran it with very few walk breaks. 
 French Lake--the last one on the loop. There were paddleboaters, kayaks, anglers, and hikers abundant. We were the only trail runners.
 A small loop--the Elk loop I think--comprised the northern end of the loop. It was very well maintained and the stay boulders were moved to make a border. This was nice running.
 Eventually we reached the spur that took us from the main loop back to the car. After 6 miles, I started having occasional knee twinges which I cautiously ignored. But when I had three consecutive ouchie footfalls, I told Clint I needed to walk the last half mile in.
No real harm done to knee. I did a rubdown hopefully ridding my legs of any chiggers, and drank an Angry Orchard that Clint brought. We decided to postpone the remaining planned running to a future trip, and headed to Meers for a famous Meers-Burger.
The burger did not disappoint, but the fries were not so great. But Meers is the place to go for lunch after a run in the Wichitas. Another trip coming soon. :-)