Saturday, February 20, 2016

Robber's Cave State Park

Fifteen TATURs and friends of TATURs made a 2 hour drive to Robber's Cave State Park to run trailz Saturday. This is a great area to hike, camp, run, and explore.
I wanted to run the mega-loop--having tried to cover it a few years ago. The trailz here are smooth and runnable in places, and ruthlessly rocky and rooty in other places. Probably the biggest cause for a slower overall pace are the ooooh and awe stops, and the first few miles are unbelievable scenic.

We grouped up on a newly built bridge for a group picture. Everyone looks fresh and full of anticipation. I had made no promises of the course being flat, and was not roasted too bad for the severe climbs in the first few miles. I am sure there were a few swear words uttered though!

 Like running on a carpeted forest floor and beneath towering pines? This is your place.

We stopped for pictures and breathers every mile or so. We ran along the shores of Lake Carlton which was trail heaven.

 A small group from OKC net us--Alicia joined her twin sister Mishelle, and brought a friend who hiked on her own, eventually meeting us at the caves.

 This was one of the runnable sections. Our group[ would get spread out and speedsters Jbob and Clint would run back from their trail blazing position back to the caboose position, and then would speed back to the front. Doing this got Jbob four extra miles by the end of the day, and Clint 100 additional feet of elevation.

 Mitch looks back to where we were--along the shore line in the far left. 

And then we began climbing. I'd say we climbed 130 feet in a tenth of a mile. I love this. Clint and I are in a climbing competition, and both of us do crazy hills for the fun of it. And yes--we think it's fun. 
 Alecia, Lindsey, Susan, and Theresa take a break. 

Travis, always the gentleman, helps our girls up a 5' two-step. Going back down this way would no doubt be a bit rough.

Finally, we reached the top of the4 bluffs overlooking Lake Carlton. This was worth all the effort getting here. 

Many pictures were snapped. No one really wanted to get very close to the edge. 

 Travis is just speechless!!

 I took a lot of pictures and swiped a few from Facebook. Since Clint is missing, he must have taken this one. 

 So I had to go sit on the edge with my feet dangling. I gotta admit is was all kinds of freaky. The urge to fall--more than a fear--I actually felt like I might just jump. Do I need help??? It was weird. I think Alecia took this one.

Clint's picture. It's easy to seem like a good photographer in a place like this. Just point and shoot--the view makes it easy.

More ups, more downs. Everyone was having fun. That's my story and I'm standing by it.

Jbob with his giant chopsticks. Travis and I have named him Captain Badass.

We came to a point where our group split up. The girls took a shorter route to the caves while us guys went a longer route there. The girls made a remark to Jbob to not beat them to the caves, and that was just gasoline on his fire. He, Travis, and Clint took off like a shot, while Mitch and I plodded along.

From here on there were no scenic overlooks, and no super steep hills, but it was peaceful and a lot of runnable single track. I liked this Heart rock. I also got a picture of an Oklahoma rock, but it's backwards. I didn't have time to photo shop it--plus it needed a slight bit of resizing, so I just left in on the editing room floor.

Two small lakes (or ponds). Cattail pond was shallow looking but pretty. There were two new and very nice primitive campsites on the other side, including charcoal grilles which had yet to be used.

Lost Lake was another. Deep in the woods and for what reason I don't know, was this beautiful man made lake. That's a HUGE covered wagon on the other side.

Mitch and I eventually made our way around to the caves. The girls were already there, and the fast guys had just blown in having got lost and running an extra loop ending right back where they started, and then ran backwards for a bit, and then bushwhacked back to a trail that took them to the caves.

Mitch and I did a quick tour of the area, and climbed from almost the bottom to the top in a brisk fashion, and then painfully made our way down. I snuck in some elevation on Clint.

At this point, we had anywhere from 7.5 to 10 miles on our Garmins or phone GPS's. The trail that returned to our starting spot on the east side of the highway was an unknown distance--I thought it would be 5-6 miles, but it could have been further. A quicker way back to the car was to take a paved road that ran through the park. It was a solid 5K and was mostly downhill. I was outvoted, and was ok with that especially after FOOD was mentioned.

I ran those 3 miles fairly fast--for me anyway. I was clicking off 10 minute miles wearing my clunky Hardrocks, a half full Camelback, and with 9 miles of rocky hilly trails under my belt. I was happy with my day--slow pace and all.

Pete's Place in Krebs was our refueling spot. They serve Real Italian family style dished. It was way good. I had all the spaghetti and meatballs I could eat, with yummy garlic bread and Muenster cheese. I also had a side of lamb fries.  

This excellent food was gloriously washed down with a couple of Choc Peach Ales. It was a great day with awesome friends.

Well, my pace overall sucked except for the last three miles. Lots of picture taking, and just enjoying the day. A quarter mile of vertical is always good. And I still want to come back and do the remaining part of the mega loop.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Chandler Wilds

A group of us moderate paced runners met up with a couple of faster paced runners, and a speedster named Justin Franklin. Justin has that speed-beard that super fast dudes have. It works. 
Picture by Johnna Ellison
We left and followed the dust kicked up by JFrank, and he graciously waited at intersections, and even doubled back to run back with us. He must have easily doubled our mileage. Nice guy. I'll run with him anytime. 

Picture by Johnna Ellison
Most of the track is ATV trails--like a single-track, but a little wider, although there is a little honest narrow mountain bike trailz here and there. We followed this faint trail to a secret location called UFO Abduction. I was wondering the whole way what we would see.

Picture by Clint Green
Finally we got there. It really appeared a SUV had been dropped from the sky to this ravine. There are no trailz or roads leading here. Aliens also stripped a lot off of the vehicle, including the tires and wheels. 

There IS a certain amount of credence to the idea that an alien ship might actually find some salvage value in stripping cars.
Picture by Leaha Kopp
No other explanation makes sense to me.

Picture by Clint Green
We continued on to an area called the Gauntlet. Huge bluffs and narrow hallways--a basic playground for climbers, repellers, and boulder-hoppers.  

Picture by Clint Green
JFrank took off like a monkey on a banana hunt, and scaled the wall in seconds flat.

Picture by Clint Green
Once at the top, he shimmied down and climbed another rock face.
We wasted a  little time here, took pictures, and sort of regrouped. 
Picture by Johnna Ellison
I was having a good run. I have one of those every once in a while. Today was my day.

Picture by Johnna Ellison
We descended down a steep almost butt-slide sort of hill, and visited the rock house. 
Selfie by Johnna Ellison
Clint Green is always saying he wants to downsize, and live in a cheaper apartment so he could take more trips and run more trail races. I think he has found his new crib.

Here's where all we went. I know these trailz fairly well, but Justin knows every nook and cranny out there. Most notable are the hills--they are there if you really want to punish yourself, but you can also get in a relatively flat run. Mud is the other feature of this area. Don't go after a rain--unless you like pancake mud slabs on the soles of your shoes.

And of course I'm a STRAVA nerd. Check out this grizzly elevation. Quite snaggle-toothed!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A slight improvement

My puppies have been helping my running. Zeke is 8 months old, and Roxie is a couple weeks older. They are old enough for their walks to evolve into runs, although slightly longer distances only mean more things to smell and time to smell them. 
My leash arm actually gets more workout than my legs. They need to sniff EVERYTHING along the way--especially any spot or tree that some animal from the beginning of time has peed on. I put up with a lot of this because this is obviously a thrill for them.
 Our night runs have been mostly the paved trailz at Turkey Mountain, We sometimes run the gravel roads south of 71st Street, Right now it is not too muddy there, and we do not go over by the sludge ponds. Running the paved trail and the road that pops out on 71st Street means a couple of good hills. We usually end up with 3 miles and 140 feet of ascent per run.

I worked near Lake Tenkiller this past week, and managed to get in a short run two of the three days there. Day one was simply around the lakeside neighborhood, and was on gravel roads. :-)
This road with the curving descent just begged to be explored--and I did just that. I was treated to more hills than I expected.
 After the first descent, I had am solid mile of climbing, and I ran every step--not fast, but is was a brisk shuffle.

Down one hill, up the next. I ended up with 2.5 miles finishing after dark. My last .5 of a mile was at a 11:29 pace but was a gentle decline. It was nothing to brag about, but I did have a slightly quicker shuffle. I'm really starting to concern myself with increasing my pace.

Day two there, the clouds were putting on a show. South winds whipped up clouds, and I wish I had the whole day to run and explore. 
I was not far from Tenkiller State Park, where I had read there were some trailz. 

I drove around a little, and all I saw were paved trailz--just like we have at the Arkansas River. (zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz) But I followed thinking they might lead me to a dirt trail head. Although it looks like I must have went swimming, I was on dry ground the whole way.
The trailz did lead me to an extremely scenic sunset. I also found a trail called Whispering Pines--an old dirt road-turned-trail. It was maybe a half mile long and ran parallel and about 40 feet above the shoreline. I took several pictures, and slowed my already slow pace--and did not really care.  
 I might mention I am using Strava, an iPhone app. It gives me maps of where I run, and the elevation profile. Since using it, I am almost obsessed with getting in at least 300 feet of climb on each run.
Of course when running places like this, I'll always be slower with all the picture taking. :-)

I'm currently on a 4-day running streak. Tonight I ran with the RunnersWorld gang. Yes--that means running on pavement, but It got me out the door and on the run. It's good to see old friends, and make new ones. The group was running their hill route, and the neighborhoods east of Peoria had gently rising roads. We basically ran a mile east, and gained 144'.  Running at the river is pancake flat. I finished 3 miles, and then ran a loop to the river then north, and then back through the neighborhood. Mostly flat.
I'm always looking for any kind of progress, and with Strava, I can see it. Tonight each mile was a little quicker. It felt fast to me at the end, but I won't tear up my age group with this. But it is an improvement, and that's what I'm looking for. I am actually enjoying running again.