Sunday, June 12, 2016

Mowdy Ranch Mustang Run

Run wild with the mustangs--who wouldn't want to do that? I jumped in on the bandwagon heading to the Mowdy Ranch, and signed up for the max--50K of wooded trails and dirt roads. Quite a few of my friends went along for the trip too. Johnna, Lynna, Michelle, Misty, Chrissy, Jana, Christine, Lisa, Camden, Anthony, Jorge, Nancy, Tyler, Nikki, Tessa, Jess, Vickie, Pam, Shelley, Jillian, Ellen, Brian "Head-TATUR" Hoover, and probably a dozen more I am not remembering. This was a great place to get Oklahoma Dirt Trail Series points. It woulds be pretty easy to slip into the top 10 in some of the smaller attended races. 
I had planned on camping out the night before, and did--except I opted to try sleeping on the back floor of my Ford. I have always said I could through a blow-up mattress back there and be set. Academy, however, had a large assortment that were all a foot too long, or better stated, my truck was a bit too narrow. Still, I bought a camping mattress, that resembled a pool floaty, but was cloth covered. It was still a foot too long, but was close on thew width. Being the window-screen genius that I am, I devised screens on either side of my truck for some flow-through ventilation. This, with the help of a clip-on battery powered fan kept me semi-comfortable during the night and I managed maybe 5 hours of sleep.

The race people lit a huge bonfire after dark at the camping area, and a few from my group came equipped with stuff to make s'mores. Getting close enough to the flame to toast a marshmallow was impossible. At best, you could set the marshmallow on fire, and enjoy a charred gooey piece of heaven. I laid down on my belly and reached my roasting stick right up to the edge of the coals, and managed to get an almost perfect lightly brown toasted prize, and only seared a little hair off of my hand and wrist.

After a round of s'mores we retired to sleep. I never go to bed that early, and I tossed and turned until around midnight--but finally dozed off.

I had set my alarm for 56:00 am and figured I could get dressed and all the foot goo and chafing stuff put on in time to walk 200 yards to the starting line, but getting dressed and slathered up while laying down takes more than 30 minutes. I ran to the start with maybe a minute to spare, and realized I had forgot to put on my bug spray. So I sprinted back to spray down and then met Johnna near the star t line just after the runners were sent off. Then, I remembered I had forgot my race bib. Johnna needed the porta-potty, so we both took care of business, and ended up starting 3-4 minutes late.

I had hoped to meet up with Chrissy, and maybe run a few miles with her if our paces matched, but I ended up never seeing her. It was still fairly dark, but we could see just well enough to follow what was a dirt road. About a quarter mile into the course, there was a water crossing with a real small wooden bridge--if we had been in the crowd, there might have been a bit of a log-jam there. 

Within 2 miles, we hit our first aid station, and they sprayed me down with sun screen--something else I forgot. Most of our first few miles were shaded, but believe me--it got hot later in the day.

After the first aid station, we entered a trail named Copper Head Road. It was a nice dirt road that turned into a mowed path, and then switched back and sent us up the steeped hill on the course. This single track wound around through limestone rock formations that reminded me a lot of the Chandler Wilds. 

I really liked this section. We plodded our way almost a mile of technical trail that just begged to be photographed. I really took very few pictures coming through the first time, mostly because of lack of good lighting, but got many more on the second loop.

Anything resembling a good pace was wiped away through here, but I crave trailz like these. 

We were in good spirits, and decided to think of this race as an adventure and training run. Picture taking would be a priority.

Another Chandler-Park-looking picture.

The second aid station--the Sizzling Sasquatch--was manned by RJ Chiles. RJ is having a three-day event over Labor Day Weekend in Coalgate, where there is every distance imaginable up to 50K. And you can run all three days!! I will be at Do Wacka Do that Saturday but plan on running the Squatch on Sunday and maybe Monday.

More single track. As it got hotter during the day, I gave thought to taking a dip in one of these creeks. But on the south loop on one of the crossings, I was what I am pretty sure was a water moccasin just laying in the water at the edge of one of those wooden bridges. I decided pouring my water bottle on my head was better than dipping my head in the creek. 

The south loop had a bit more roads across meadows. But there was still quite a bit of narrow single track.

One of several watering holes for the horses. We were actually running on the same land where they were--no fences keeping us separate. AT times, you'd hear thew rumbling of hoofs, and a herd would run right past you from one field to a grove of trees. They never got really close, but to me, it seemed they were quite curious about what we were doing.

We made the start/finish and headed back out on the north loop. Here is the wood bridge--much like some of the ones at Rocky Raccoon. 

The first bit of single track on the first bit of single track on the north loop.

Sorry for all the pix of dirt and rocks. It's like candy for me.

I shed my shirt during the race and went shirtless until I started worrying about burning to a crisp. For the record, I didn't burn. For the record, my pasty white skin is now slightly darker than my whitey tighties.

Lynna had motored ahead--intent on getting her 50K in. Johnna and I had almost accepted that a marathon would be a fine fitting ending to a good day. It was a little too warm in the fields in the direct sun, but you could at least get a little breeze. In the woods, it was maybe 10 degrees cooler, but there was no breeze. The humidity was a little on the high side.

But Johnna was not getting along in the heat as well as I was. He started getting a bit of a headache, and her hands were swelling. I advised her to take in some more salt, and she said she had. I was worried about her headache, and she talked about dropping at the end of the loop. She had run out of water--maybe didn't refill at the last aid station? I shared my water bottle with her--I was carrying two--one with water one with Gatorade.

She ended up dropping at the Squatch aid station, and they got her a ride back. Once she got cooled down and rehydrated, she was fine.

This was the best shot I got of the roaming horses. There are hundreds of awesome photos of these majestic ponies floating around, but I wanted to post one of my own.

I caught up with Lynna at the start of the last loop. (Actually, she was waiting on me.) We ran the last loop together, and it seemed like we picked up the pace a little. I thought there might be a shot that we could go out on the short final loop for our 50K, but it would be close. The way it turned out--it really wasn't close. I got really hot on the last mile. It was a gradual uphill--not much of a climb at all, but certainly not downhill. It was also 100% in the sun, and the temps were in the low to mid 90s. And any win there might have been was at our backs so we could not feel it. So we ran a little, walked a little, and I did the shuffle thing for the most part.

We kicked it up a step the last few hundred yards and managed to finish with a smile on our faces.

So for the weekend, I came home with a nice tech shirt, a bandana with a map of the course (which I love), a cool medal, and we were fed a great spaghetti dinner, bbq after the race, and had the best wild horse encounters ever.  This race is on my schedule for next year for sure!!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Collinsville Lake

Dana and I ran at the new Collinsville Lake trailz. These trailz were only established a few months ago, and are scenic, and fun.
We clocked 2.8 miles by running the out and back around the lake to thew single track, and then the 2.2-ish mile loop with lots of twists and turns. There was 61 feet of climb on the 2.8 miles we ran, although it seemed like there might have been more than that.

From where we parked, we had a narrow gravel road that took us around the biggest body of water in this cluster of small lakes.

This was pancake flat (as opposed to Relatively Flat). We went about a half mile before entering the single track section.

After crossing the levee to the east side we began a short climb. I snapped a couple of shots of a large bluffs, and noticed a faint trail leading up the side, but did not follow it.

A right turn onto a nice newly cut dirt trail took to a trail flanked by a steep rock wall on the left and the shore of the lake down to our right.

Didn't check out this crevice. Figured snakes and ticks were there laying in wait for me.

Being a new trail, it was narrow in spots. I stopped to pee just right ahead in the trees, but still on the trail. I noticed a tick crawling up my leg, picked it off, them saw another. And another. Then a dozen more seed ticks scurrying up my shoes and socks. I kept picking them off, and didn't stop till I had what I thought was all of them. 42 ticks disposed of and dropped into a puddle. Hope those bastards drown.

Here's a random sight--a crapper just 10' off the trail. Poison ivy, ticks, and chiggers are ready for an ambush.

The remains of a well house, a rock outhouse, a tornado shelter?

More sweet single track.

We really liked the trailz here, and will be back. I may wait until we have colder temps to keep the ticks in hibernation. For sure, I'll load up with Deet if I go sooner.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

My least favorite arachnid

On the side bar of this blog, I have installed a tickometer--a gauge of how many ticks I pick off of my body during the year. It's kind of done in fun, but still I am amazed at how many ticks find my hairy legs. I'm just a tick magnet!!

Most of them are removed before they get some meat, but a few sink their pinchers in and begin their feeding. While tick bites have some potential dangerous consequences, most of the time, an annoying itch and a small sore stays with you for a couple of weeks.

But get a bite by tick carrying Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever, you're in for a longer recovery time. Symptoms crop up several days to a few weeks after the bite--a red, circular-shaped rash may develop around the bite and flu-like signs including lethargy, fatigue, nausea, fever, headache, stiff neck, body aches, and fatigue, along with arthritis, stiff necks, severe headaches, temporary paralysis, memory loss, mood changes, and sleep disorders.

Now this is not to say that one tick bite will cause Lyme Disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever--those are rare occurrences, but one should pay attention to their hairy legs, and nether-regions when trail running or hiking in the woods.

Are ticks bad this year? Some people think that a hard winter kills off the tick population, but after the winter we had a couple of years ago with 3 feet of snow and low temps of -31° in places in NE Oklahoma did very little in killing off the tick population. My tickometer registered over 100 ticks the following spring and summer--the second highest total since I had the tickometer installed. I have a friend who performed an experiment on this, taking two ticks and putting them in a paper cup, filling it with water, and then freezing them. After two weeks, he took the cups out of the freezer and let them thaw. After an hour or so, both ticks were walking around like nothing happened.

Ticks are hardy creatures. Pick one off and try to kill it and you'll find--they are hard to smash. I will toss them into a creek, or into the toilet if I get one home. Smashing them with a hammer works. Putting them in the microwave is also effective--I once put a full engorged tick in the microwave, and 15 seconds later, it exploded. The microwave went in the trash and I bought another one.

I have found that ticks are less active in the super hot months (like last summer and the summer before.) I THINK they are like us--they find a shady spot and chill, waiting for cooler weather. I also think a fire like we had on Turkey Mountain a few years ago killed off a lot of ticks. To the best of my knowledge, I have not picked up a tick running across burnt brass.

But there are places where ticks are very much alive and well, in mass quantities, and ready to feed on any moving creature with blood. Earl Blewett and I ran at Greenleaf a few years ago in mid-March. He had told me ticks were sometimes bad, but we believed we were going early enough in the spring that ticks would not be a problem. We were wrong. About 4 miles into our run, I notices an army of freckles moving up my legs. We had ran through an area where there was a heavy infestation of seed ticks, and we were their food. We would run a 1/2 mile, and stop to pick off ticks, brushing them off by the dozens. After our 18 mile run, we visited the showers in the park and scrubbed thoroughly, and escaped with only a few bites.

I had a similar experience a few years ago at Walnut Creek on the north side of Keystone Lake. I was trying to find some trailz, which turned out to be not so great. But it was great for a throng of eager ticks. I cut my run short, and my dog and I loaded up in the truck and bought a can of bug spray at a convenience store and I sprayed my legs, clothes, and truck down,. and bathed and gave my dog a bath. I probably had hundreds of ticks both of these times--but this was before I began logging them. When a tick latches on, there are many ideas as to the best way to remove them. Old school methods included burning them with the tip of a match, covering them with Vaseline to suffocate them, tying a string around them, tweezers, and even going to the doctor. I think it's good advice be careful especially when they're firmly attached or borrowed in to NOT pinch or traumatize the tick so it does not regurgitate into the bite. Squeeze them as little as possible. Tweezers may or may not be the best solution. My best advice is to keep a watchful eye, and remove them quickly--with your fingers. Get them off your legs before they have a chance to bite--before they climb up under your shorts--before they get to a hard to find/reach spot. The longer they are latched on, the worse the itch, and the greater probability of disease.

When an engorged pregnant mother tick lays her eggs, she deposits THOUSANDS of eggs.

This mama tick is well fed and ready to lay her blog of eggs.

Disgusting as this is, here are about 1000 baby ticks waiting to hatch. And they will be hungry.

Obviously, we as humans are not a ticks primary food. The deer tick gets it's name for the fact that the deer population keeps them fed. We are able to pull ticks off as soon as we feel them, but I suppose a tick on a deer is there until it dies, of an engorged mama gets knocked off when a deer rubs against a branch.

I do not know the story of the following pictures. Given that the deer is laying on a towel, it is fortunately in the care of humans. Hundreds of blood sucking ticks have completely covered it's eye, biting even it's eyeball. Sad.

Those who HATE SNAKES probably have mixed feeling about this picture. I was surprised that ticks could even bit a snake with their dry scaly skin, but that shows what I know. Ticks will bite anything with blood.

This next picture is disturbing to me--so much so that I probably should have not included it.

This dog's owner should be tossed into a vat of ticks--if the dog actually had owners. This is generations of ticks giving birth, and multiplying exponentially. Friends--please look your dogs over for these blood sucking parasites.

This year, my tick count is at 178 for the year. I picked up 127 Today on a trail run on some new trails. I felt like I was the main course on a buffet line! Spraying with Deet helps, but only a little. Shaving my legs might give the 8 legged critters less to grab onto, but I have not committed to that yet.

Finally, I just HAD to include a movie preview to the 1993 movie Ticks. This classic B-rated flick had Seth Green in a starring role when he looked even more like a kid than he does now, and Clint Howard looking actually uglier than he does in real life. Enjoy.

Chasing hills and not finding them

Thursday I had a sales call southwest of Choteau and was intrigued by a road that apparently headed alongside the Neosho River. I had pulled into am amish store and bought a mini pecan pie and was munching on it while looking at a map app on my phone, and saw that there might be some good hilly running routes to be found, so I decided to check it out.

The first few miles were paved roads with absolutely no shoulder at all--not the best place for running or biking--but eventually as I neared the river and primitive campground/fishing areas, I found some gravel roads that interested me.

I parked and took a few pictures. 

Walking around I saw that there was less than a mile of decent running before you hit the pavement again, so I decided to try to find those hilly roads that looked so good on my map.

 Not that these roads weren't bad--just pancake flat.

My next stop was a little further up Spring Creek. Again, there was a primitive area, and it looked like a good fishing spot. 

The green box was my first stop, and the red was my second. I didn't have a signal and was not able to pull my map app up out here,, so finding my hills was gonna have to be done using my trail sniffing senses.

I stopped at Pokeys on the way out. This is an old time general store, compete with all kinds of bait and tackle, and a wealth of canned goods and grocery essentials. I just wanted to look around, and bought a coke so I wouldn't seem a nuisance.

From there, I was finding nothing but paved roads, and could not seem to find the windy twisty hairpin curvy roads I was looking for. I finally gave up. Another day perhaps.

Here's what I was actually looking for. This was a few more miles south and east. The hairpin turn around mile 16 was what grabbed my attention, and a turn like this is usually an indication of a steep climb. Upon further examination of this road on MapMyRun, it might have been a private dirt road, which wouldn't keep me from running it. (Hoping I don't get shot at!!)

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Scenes from a dark foggy night

I walk the dogs late at night. I guess it's mileage for me--the "time on feet" thing. It also helps burn some of their pent-up energy, and heaven knows Zeke needs to burn off a few calories. We sometimes do the trailz, but usually do one of three paved routes at Turkey Mountain.  My favorite course is the paved road off of 71st Street. It's a steep hill--good for repeats. I also like the old gravel lot that can be accessed from this road, and also from the paved trail that parallels the river. On a night with no moon, it's eerie. Riverparks, or someone has chained the old gate that between the road and the old graveled lot. Roxie can zip right through the gap. It's a squeeze for Zeke and I. 

I usually think about zombies while over here. On a dark night, the quiet ones could be right on you before you realized it. The dogs seem startled when we pass people on the trailz at night--and that may be a good thing. Most of the park visitors late at night are not runners or hikers. Some speak, some don't. In fact, I don't know what they are. 

On a particularly foggy night last week, we were going downward on the unlit paved road. I rarely bring a light. No moon, and only a faint glow of the lights from the city dimly lit the sky. We usually go to the railroad track and turn around and it was at the bottom of the hill where the road turns to the east that the dogs froze. If it were a rabbit or armadillo, they would have been lunging ahead wanting to chase it, but they were standing still and stiff at attention. Then I noticed a movement ahead--or maybe I imagined it. No--it was a movement. As it neared, it was a person, but through the thick grayness of the fog, I could not tell anything about him/her other than it was around my height, and was walking silently towards us and then past us. Light colored clothes? I couldn't say if it were jeans and a t-shirt, a long jacket, bathrobe? It was too dark, too gray, too blurry. I squinted but could not see any more than the picture below.

Just beyond the railroad tracks is another locked gate--so it must have came up on the railroad tracks. I spoke--something like "how's it going", and got no answer. It was weird. My dogs thought it was weird. We turned around at the tracks, and went back up the hill instead of squeezing through the gate. Never saw the person--or whatever it was. Not saying we saw a ghost, but I'm not sure what we saw.