Sunday, March 27, 2016

An impromptu trip to Lake Bixhoma

On a cold Sunday morning, with thunder waking me at 7:00 am, I thought I would be cooped up in the house all day watching March Madness, or a golf tournament (read that NAP), but by 11:30 when I looked outside again and my drive way was dry, I decided I needed a last-minute run. I tossed the idea out on social network, and a few friends were eager to join  in!! Since Turkey and especially Chandler Wilds would be most likely muddy, I thought Lake Bixhoma would be a good plan.
Lisa, Johnna, Jenni, and Ella joined me, and I can't forget Jerico--Lisa's schnauzer.  We basically did out-and-backs on either side of the lake, and mixed in hill repeats up the steep road leading from the entrance gate to the lake. Lisa, Jerico, Johnna, and I dot a 169' climb under our belts first, and then headed west and then south on gravel roads around the lake.

This lake is a great fishing spot, and several anglers and bass boats were wetting their lines. I used to fish here years ago in another life. Caught a 25 lb channel cat back in the 80s--the biggest fish I ever landed.

Lisa, Jenni, Ella, and Jerico approach the turnaround. 

 Thanks Johnna for the pic. I planned on an easy 6-7 miles, and this cloudy cool day was perfect.

I set my phone up on a picnic table and the timer on 10 seconds to get a group pic. Either my phone was not working, or it just won't photograph zombies. After 4 tries, I gave up.

 When we got back to our cars, Lisa stopped because this was Jerico's first run in quite a while and she didn't want him to overdo it. Ella had 2.4 miles, and they took off with Johnna and I up the hill for another hellish hill repeat. They reached the top and called it good--getting probably 3 miles for the day.

Johnna and I climbed the 169 feet and decided to head down the long road towards Leonard. I thought it was only a mile to the bottom, but it turned out to be a little further. 219 down, then 219 back up.

We chatted with Lisa and Jenni back at our cars. Jenni's hubby Ryan had came out and brought a drone to try out. Cool stuff. Johnna and I then headed around the other side of the lake.

We ran to the end of the dirt road and onto a trail that I thought went maybe 200 yards into the woods. Someone, however, had tied yellow ribbon marking a future trail, and for a half mile, the trail was trodden enough to follow. But eventually, their trail clearing had screeched to a halt. We were in a dense old growth wood and no further ribbons were in sight.

There have been plans bantered about for cutting a trail completely around the lake--and it seems they are about halfway there. I'd love to get a group together to help finish this.
On the way back we took a trail that went along the top of a bluff. I knew of an old campsite from the stone age. 

 I found this a few years ago, and someone told me this "chair" looked like an altar. But I am pretty sure it's just a chair. The rocks were natural brown--no signs of past fires.

 We took a couple of other side trails on the way back. One trail just below the spillway of the lake led to a cascading waterfall. I had never seen water flowing here, but after our rain, it was amazing.

A bit of graffiti here and there.  So did they or didn't they?

 We tromped around on the shale-like falls. It looked to be super slick, but in fact was not at all. We ended up with clean shoes.

I think we need a Sunday run here. There's hill repeats to do, trailz to explore, it's very scenic, and we could cook out afterward.

Johnna and I ended up with 9.3 miles, and 919' of climb. A good day.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Natural Falls State Park

 A dozen trail runners met at Natural Falls State Park in far east Oklahoma (very near Siloam Springs, AR) to explore, hike, run, take pictures, do hill repeats, and explore caves. This park has two names--Natural Falls, which I believe is the official name, and Dripping Springs. There is also a Dripping Springs west of Okmulgee, which is confusing. It was a nippy 40 degrees at the start, but there was very little wind, and it was a perfect morning for a trail trip.

Pictured above--from left to right--Brian, Jason, Blake in the front, SueAnn, Leaha, Johnna, Jessi, Gracie in the front, a bearded Jeremy, and Caleb.

 There are not a lot of miles of trails here, but if you plan it right, you can get a good 4 miles in, and then throw in another loop, or a few hill repeats, and it makes for a good run. We had a moderate climb right away, and then we had a little downhill action. Gracie was bubbling over with boundless energy.

 There's a lot of scenic Kodak moments here. A deep canyon runs through the park below the water falls. We were at the top, but would descend to the river, climb back out, back down, back up. Sounds like I planned the route.

 We descended right to the edge of the canyon a couple of times for better pictures. I think Johnna might have been coming back from a bathroom break. HAHA.

 One wrong step, and it was a 100 foot drop.

There were several park benches--great for a brief rest, or nap.

 This was Natural Falls version of the Powerline Trail. We took the other one.

 Good running. Some of the route was jeep roads like this. This was one of the few flatish sections.

 And then a long steep descent to the green water of the river. We dropped 150 feet in a 10th of a mile. (Of course I had to come back to go back UP,

 I bet this is a good fishing spot. Or a foot soaking spot.

 Here's the hill we just came down. I tried to run the whole thing when we came back, but only made it 3/4 of the way back up before I had to walk.

Following the river, we came to an old dam and waterfall. Of course we had to get a closer look. 

 Nice. There was no one brave enough to test the water.

 We went as far south as the trail led us, and decided against bush whacking, Turning back took us to a bridge to the other side.

This place is postcard pretty. Easy to take good pictures here--just point and shoot.

 From here, we headed to the falls. This is the focal point of the park, but all of it is awesome in my opinion.

A series of steep paved sidewalks and steps led to the base of the natural falls. During a rainy season, this is a noisy falls. I think during the drought, the falls is dry. Today, it was s stedy flow, but maybe not as impressive as it can be.

Water cascades from the top of the bluff as well at times. The water is off limits to waders and fisherman. They make a decent effort in protecting the natural habitat here.

 Looking back up--way up--to the bridge we had not yet crossed.

 Everyone was enjoying the day.

 Climbing back out, I took a picture from the observation deck.

 We headed back alongside the river the way we came and then took the Bear Trail, which went straight up to the campground in the park. I knew of another trail head which led to a cave and of course we had to check that out.

 It wasn't a huge cave--no way to get lost in it, but you could defiantly get out of the weather here.

 Then we went further south and took a trail alongside the other sidle of the river, crossed the river on a fallen tree, and then climbed an insane hill to another cave. It was a scramble--on all fours, and youy needed spikes in your shoes and long fingernails for traction.

None of the pictures I took here conveyed how steep the climb was. Going down was actually scarier than going up. I did get a picture of this petrified buffalo here.

I ended up with around 6 miles--I got in a few deliberate hill repeats. This elevation profile looks more fierce than it really was--but it was hilly.

We try to take these trips once a month. I'll put the word out when the next one is--might be the weekend of the 16th/17th--gotta check the calendar.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Landrun 50K Recap

Saturday March 12 was the first of what I am sure will be an annual gravel 50K--the LandRun 50K. This event runs alongside the LandRun 100 mile / 50 mail gravel bike ride. My friend Arthur Elias helped organize this event, and it was a perfect run.

We really dodged the bullet on the rain. It was supposed to be a nasty wet muddy day, and all we had was clouds, and cool temps. I'm no fan of races in the mud, and this 50K was kind of a springboard to my 100 miler coming up on April 2nd. I am under trained, and I wanted to see how I felt and what pace I could maintain after 25 miles. Travis Jennings, who will be my pacer for 50 miles at Prairie Spirit, was running the whole 31 miles with me this day. It was good for us to get used to each others company on a day of monotonous running--not that there's anything wrong with monotonous running.

Quite a few friends from Tulsa made the trip over. K2 and Mitch are around my pace, so I knew we'd have good company for the most of the day.

And one of my fave running buds Johnna was here too. We hung out for most of the day until I tried to kick up the pace a half notch at mile 25.

They advertised red dirt, and they made good on that claim. Lots of nice long declines and a soft surface to run on. Almost as good as trailz.

I thought at first I'd hit the mother lode--a beer drop on the course--just for us !~!~! Turns out it was empty. So I went from thanking them to cussing them for littering.

Doing downhills and long inclines too. Most all of these were runnable--but they're also a good place to walk. We hit an aid station at mile 10. The course was an out-and-back, so we hit it again at mile 20ish. Perfect placement.

The sun came out at about mile 25. I was focusing on running smooth and relaxed, and increased my foot turnover by what felt like 10%. We crept away from the peeps behind us and reeled in three runners in the final miles. We caught Arthur, and K2. A lot of bikes passed us in the last 10 miles. Their course merged with ours, and I was thrilled with all the encouragement and awe they gave us. It seemed like they were shocked that anyone would RUN that far. I guess a lot of them were unfamiliar with the ultra craze.

The party was big at the finish line. A huge crowd was cheering in the bikers as they finished their races, but they seemed to go crazy when us runners came in. It was a good day, and I feel like I passed my own self imposed test. Now, another couple of semi-long runs, and then come on Prairie Spirit!!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Post Oak at the TATUR Cantina

I suppose I'm a little late in posting about our time at the Post Oak Challenge a few weeks ago, but I have quite a few pictures, and will post them and throw in a few captions. I ran this race the first year--did the 50K/Marathon double. Since then, I have either volunteered, or ran an aid station. It's a run race to be on the other side of the table. It seems there's a lot of first-time trail runners, and I enjoy helping making their introduction to trailz as good as it can be. It also gives me a chance to talk up some of the races that I direct.

I did not take as many pictures as usual this year. I was busy slinging drinks, transporting food, and visiting with friends as they passed through. Johnna hung out at our aid station for some of the time, but also had course marshall duties, and she got a few pictures which I'm borrowing. This is the tail end of the 50K start. These runners had 4 loops to do, and a couple of nice hills per loop top deal with on an otherwise relatively flat course.

We were the last oasis on the loop, and were just before the Hill From Hell--a menacing climb, but in my opinion, only tough because you had to do it four times in the longer races. It's all relative.

Senmor Mike Rives had the TATUR Cantina up and running. We had breakfast drinks--a Meego-Mosa--a mimosa with a twist, and other drinks concocted to enhance a runners performance. Mike and Meego are famous in Oklahoma trail running circles.

The TATUR Cantina was a hit. It was lauded as the best aid station, although Stormy and the Snowman took it to an international level with a German/Swiss themed crew. 

They graciously sent some grilled brats to us, and those were well received!~!~!

We had a western theme going. Mike was a Scotsman from the West Highlands, who won a sombrero from a drunk Mexican in a card game.

As I said, we were super busy all day, with the mid distances hitting us twice, and the long distances 4 times. Only late in the day did did we ever have time to sit and catch our breath.

We decided a mechanical bull might get a runner injured so Lynna brought a saddle. Meego immediately claimed it as his, but he did let a few runners pose with him for pictures.

Leaha and Jenni stop for a drink and a kodak moment.

Jamie was determined to rid it to the top of the hill. She eventually climbed down and conquered the hill on foot.

Clint stops for a refill. He's sporting the new TATUR shirts--a Sugoi sublimated design, which was brought back by rabid demand. I counted over 20 of them at the race. 

Taylor was an aid station dog. She kinda kept to herself. Not sure how much aid station food she got.

Suki was running with her person William. They did the 25K and half marathon. She's a doggie doubler.

The next series of pictures are a display of art.
Jbob cooked on the griddle on Saturday, and Travis was the chef on Sunday. Bacon is an absolute staple food in ultras anymore. Throw in an egg, and avocado, and it's heaven. He cooked for hours, barely staying up with the demand. I have tom admit, I did random taste testing, and there was no drop off in quality.
Pickles and pickle juice were also in high demand. Chocolate covered bacon wrapped fried pickles--coming to a race soon!!

Victor blazes through. It seemed like every time we turned around, he was there again. He won the 50K, and was 3rd in the marathon. 

Carrie and Jamie celebrate the moment--someone wants to take a picture!~!~!

Must be late in the race. I don't think I had a stand-still moment up til now.

Not sure who brought the hammock, but it was put to good use. Several peeps napped in it.

OK OK--I had a couple of shots.

Jeremy fought the cutoffs, and yet got his finishes in both days. Rumor has it he's thinking about jumping back into the 100 mile quest.

The future of Oklahoma trail running all on a tailgate. Brandon and Cameron Plate, who are just a few years away from probably winning every race they enter. Right on their tails are Wade and Blake Bement.

Another picture borrowed from Johnna. Post oak has dense woods, and open grasslands. The combination of both are what makes this a good course.

Finally, I got in a little run after the race Sunday was over. This is from the top of Holmes Peak.

Thanks to my awesome generous volunteers. Mike Rives, Jbob Jones, Travis and Shorty Jennings, Johnna Ellison, Carrie Rives, Mitch Drummond, Lynna Gilstrap, Michelle Bates, Kate Ellisor, Elizabeth Gray, RJ Chiles, Carmine Capparello, and I hope I didn't forget anyone.

Put this race on your calendar for next year. It's a winner.