Sunday, April 10, 2016

Prairie Spirit

 It's been a week since I finished my 12th 100 miler out of 22 tries. I ran This one--the Prairie Spirit 100 in 2013 (it's inaugural year) in a blinding freak snowstorm that many call the blizzard of the century. It started snow in  about 15 miles in, and by the halfway point there was 3 inches of snow on the ground. I focused on pushing the pace to put as much time in the bank as possible. As darkness fell, the snow really started piling up and the north winds whipped up and pelted our faces with sleet and snow. There were 3-4 foot drifts and a consistent blanket of 8 inches of snow. My pacer and I kept a good pace, and were holding on to the hope of making the finish in 30 hours. The race was halted at 5:00 am on Sunday morning for the safety of the runners, crews, and aid station workers. I was relieved in a way, but still a little mad because I was having a super good race for the first 60 miles before the snow got so deep. That DNF at mile 85 has stuck in my craw for the past four years.

After that, I have had a knee injury, surgery, a complete recovery, and setback that basically stopped my running altogether. Then in  June of last year, I decided to do the RunnersWorld-Tulsa Urban Adventure--a 4-lap 100 miler on roads and sidewalks around midtown Tulsa. It was freakishly hot (97 degrees for the high) and very humid, and my buddy Mitch and I both refused to quit and after 40 hours, we crossed the finish line. I really walked 85% of it, but the encouraging thing was my knee was no worse after being on my feet for nearly two days straight. I started running a little more here and there, and began to feel like I was a runner again.

I decided I wanted to do another 100, and Prairie Spirit and I had unfinished business. On November 1st, I weighed and tipped the scales at 202. I dusted off my Lowe It iPhone app, and started counting calories. Every morning I had  Thrive shake with almond milk, every lunch was a grilled chicken sandwich no cheese no mayo, and I ate a sensible dinner. In 5 months I lost 30 pounds, and running has gotten easier. My training has been less in miles, but more in elevation. I mostly don't run unless there are hills to climb.  I ran the Ouachita Switchbacks 25K which had crazy long climbs, and got a couple other 29 milers in. March 12, I ran the LandRun 50K, which also had a few hills. I wanted to see how well I was moving after 25 miles, and wanted to run with my pacer Travis Jennings. Five of my fastest six miles were my last five miles. Although I did feel quite depleted after the run, I felt good about my overall energy levels.

 I rode u[ to Ottawa Kansas with my friends Bryan Carpenter and Jana Graham. They were running the 100 together and had hopes of breaking 24 hours. I let them go. Running with them would have put time in my bank, but I think they would have been about a minuter per mile faster than I could maintain.

Another buddy Brandon was looking for his first 100 mile finish. He and his brother Cameron have ran well over 100 miles in multi-day events in Silverton Colorado, but 100 all in one run was still his wish list. Brandon ended up breaking 23 hours, and I feel this is just the beginning of a stellar 100 mile career for him.

 My pacer Travis and 100 mile legend Arnold hang out at the prerace briefing. Arnold notched another finish. He probably has as many finishes as anyone in Oklahoma.

 Jeremy was looking to get the DNF monkey off his back. Jeremy and I ran the first couple of miles together, and then I looked behind me and he was not there. I just kept on trucking, feeling kind of bad for not hanging out with him. 

 It was really cold at the start, but running kept my core warm and things were just perfect. I was not really catching up with anyone, nor was I being passed. I settled in to running 500 steps and walking 200. Yes--that's a lot of counting. but it kept me focused on a rapid foot turnover.

25 miles in, at Garnett--this was far and above the best aid station. I was happy with my pace, and loaded up with food on the way out. 
 A warm flour tortilla and a big wad of salty crispy bacon. Heaven

Travis and his lovely wifey Shorty was crewing me. They had a little bit of everything. These pineapples were a must at the next few stops. They seemed like rocket fuel. From Welda to the turnaround, I was on a high. I was passing quite a few people on the run, and then they'd catch up a little on the walk. Then the run I'd leave them behind. These run sections were actually kind of fast for being 40-45 miles into the race. I had quite a few 14 minute miles and even a couple of 11s in this stretch.
Travis and crew were waiting for me at Iola. From here, it was 48 miles to the finish. Travis had been taking notes on who was just ahead, and what my pace should be. I came in slightly ahead of a 15 minute/mile pace.

Shorty had me a Sonic hamburger waiting for me. Lots of mustard and pickles.

 Wash it down with a cold Gatorade. Anything is better than Heed. I spent longer here than I should have, but I also checked my feet and reapplied my Happy Feet Goo.                   
And then we were off. Travis and I covered the next 10 miles at a decent pace, but it was slowing down. We met Jeremy, who was not going to make the cutoff at the turn around. Kinda bummed for him. 

It got dark, and cold. My pace slowed to a 16 minute/mile and then slowed some more. that should have been no problem, except that I seemed to be spending too much time at the crew stops. It seemed like we'd NEVER get to Garnett, and I had slowed to a walk. a sleepy walk. When we got there, I went into the train depot building to get whatever hot food they had. They were encouraging, and told me I had plenty of time. I sat down and ate a warm cup of potato soup. I must have been there a long time because that mile split was almost 43 minutes.

We headed out, and I was freezing. I put on my wind shell, and zipped it up over my mouth. Once I started shuffling, I got too hot, and took it off. Then a bit of wind came up so I put it back on. We got passed by a lot of people through here. Sometime around 5:00 am, Travis spoke up and said we might be getting into trouble with the cut offs. He said we had 4 miles to get to Richmond, and 45 minutes to get there. We had to be there by 6:00. And then we had 2 hours to get to Princeton and that was another 8 miles away. I couldn't believe it--but I was not processing my thought very well anyway. I was falling asleep on my feet.

Then it hit me--I was about to run 80 miles and come home with nothing but a DNF. I woke up. I suggested we do intervals--run 500 steps walk 200. So we did that, and I don't know if it was the fear of not making it, or what--but the run segments were pretty darned fast. Travis looked on his Garmin and said we were clicking out 10 minute miles during the run segments, and 14 minute miles overall. This was working!! We kept doing 500/200 all the way into Richmond. When we got there, Travis said he looked at it wrong and actually had until 7:00 to get there.--but we still had to go 8 miles in 2 1/2 hours. I felt we had a little breathing room, but we still needed to hurry.

 The sun came up before we hit Princeton, and that always brings new life. I needed to have a porta-pot break, and we  at least had the cutoff threat in check. Shorty was waiting for us, and fed us well and sent us on down the trail. 
 I was needing some warm soup, but neither Princeton or Richmond had any. A small complaint, but I was at the back of the pack.

I suggested to Travis that we switch to running 200 walking 100. That seemed to work well. We started passing a few people. Maybe 4-5 on the last few miles. I'd see someone down the trail, and I'd pound the 200 running steps, and power-walk the walking 100. We seemed like we had fresh legs. It was actually amazing.

I wanted to run in hard from a half mile out. Turns out the steepest incline on the trail was the last half mile. SO, I waited until I was less than a quarter mile out, and I hotdogged it in from there. A lot of our friends had came back out to cheer us in. I high-fived everyone as I passed, and sprinted in the last 200 yards
 Trevor and Eric were at the finish to congratulate us, and my buddy Paul Schoenlaub who WON thew race was there as well.

 I finished in 28:22. Not my best time by any means, but on a modified training regime, and on a knee that was gimpy at times, I am thrilled with my results. Finding the ability to run fast in spurts late in a race is a good weapon. Looking back at my mile splits--the biggest thing I could do is shorten my aid station time. The stops were 8-10 miles apart for most of the race, but I know I could cut those times in half. That alone could shave off 50 minutes. 

This is a good race for a first timer, and for someone wanting a flat fast course for a PR. For me, it was about redemption.

I am in awe of Travis and Shorty. They gave their whole weekend--Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to help a friend. They are so giving., and I doubt I would have finished without their help. Travis memorized probable paces and splits in several scenarios. He was a wealth of knowledge, and told me inspirational stories throughout the night. He never sang though, but he did play quite a few songs from his play list.

And what is next for me? Well, another 100 for sure.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Lake McMurtry & the LEAP O'DOOM (coming up this Saturday April 9)

CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP TODAY!!There is still time! Time to sign up for what is one of Oklahoma's most scenic trail races. Lake McMurtry has it all--miles of super sweet single track, enough gentle ups and downs to keep it interesting, yet enough gradual downhills to increase your chances of a PR. There are a few rocky areas (but not too many), miles of soft dirt and pine needle covered shady trails that will have you slowing down just to take it all in. And Lake McMurtry has one thing no other trail race has--the Leap O' Doom!

Sign up for this race, and get a super-nice tech shirt, and  finishers medal.

And if you are in the top 3 male or female in either of the three distances, you'll score trophies.

But back to the Leap O' Doom--we will have plenty of warning signs and caution tape in place so no one runs up on it too quickly.
Great preparation and concentration is required to make it across.
Long-time TATUR Mike Snyder put hours of study and research calculating the best trajectory and velocity needed for a safe launch and landing.


Make a wrong step, and it's a long way down to the floor of the crevice. At times, when the lake is up, this channel is flooded and is a habitat to fresh water piranhas.

But usually the canyon is dry, and some runners have taken the time to make the trek down to the canyon floor. It's a good hike, and a great place for pictures. Be sure to pack a lunch and carry plenty of water.

Bill Ford, a Stillwater local, has perfected the leap. Flapping the arms in a bird-like fashion seems to increase the air time and adds 3.5 to 4 inches to the overall distance traversed.
Even a Zombie can get enough hang time to make the leap. These were actually jet-propelled flip flops--and I barely made it! Sometimes the peril in the pit is worse than others!!

If you are just not prepared for the leap, you can opt to take the bail-out trail that has been cut in the past year or so, which heads to the west for a fair distance and then descends into a less steep portion of the canyon before climbing back up the other side to the north. This will add time to your race, but for the faint of heart, it may be a more comfortable option. Better safe than sorry.

You don't want to end up at the bottom of the abyss and still have 24K or 49K to go.


 My advise--just do it!!