Sunday, October 30, 2016

Pumpkin Holler 2016 Recap

I'm pretty late in getting my race recap wrote. Sorry. This year brought another record crowd out to Eagle Bluff Resort to our SIXTH RUNNING of the Pumpkin Holler Hunnerd. our numbers increased in the 25K, 50K, and 135-mile events. The 100K and 100-Mile attendees were off a little, but a lot of 135ers stopped at 100 miles or 100K. The 10K was set aside in lieu of a 10 Mile, which is a better fit for the course.

10:00 p was the start for the 135ers, 29 runners toed the line, for a 16-mile jaunt across the Nature Preserve under the light of a full moon, and then had four 29.7-mile loops to get their hard earned 135-mile buckle and trophy. 

Mike Rives (pictured above) and Ken Saveth drove mobile aid stations, one keeping u with the faster runners and one staying back for the slower starters. This worked fairly well, and by daybreak, the aid stations were up and running on the loop. Mad Dog and Dem Idiots even stayed up for the super ultra runners. This adds up to close to 40 hours of aid station duties for these two aid stops. They have my utmost gratitude!!

8:00 am was the start for the 50K, 100K, and 100-Mile races. There was a huge thundering crowd that roared through the campground and out the gate. 

Unlike the past 5 years, we had to run for about a quarter mile down HWY 10 to the new concrete bridge that replaced the old charming steel bridge. Progress just sucks sometimes. 

I swiped pictures from Deanna Thornton, Johnna Ellison, Misty Roland, Brian Lamb, Ken Saveth, and master photographer Laurie Biby. I saved the ones I liked but did not mark down which belonged to whom. I expect to pay royalties.
Dirty Sanchez takes a break after the huge incline up to Mad Dog. Breakfast was being served. Kevin Lemaster has manned this aid stop about mile 5 in the loop, and he also made the finishers bandanas. Kevin also is the brains and owner of Ultra Gator--one of our sponsors. He is a good person to call for personalized individual race shirts, hats, or jackets.

The gravel roads were the best they've ever been. The area had a spattering of rain the past two days, and the dust was minimal, the normally had surfaces were a tad softer, and the dime sized gravel was hardly a problem. I wish the leaves had turned a bit more. We have had a summer that has hung on too long!

Johnny Spriggs and Frank Muller headed up the next aid station on the course. These two crazies are the brains behind the Post Oak Challenge--which has three days of running next year.

Their name was self-imposed, and I appreciate their honesty. They had a huge variety of finger foods. Their possum belly roll-ups were yummy. Beer was their drink of choice, but sodas, H20, and Heed were also in abundant supply.

I drove the course a tie or two and made a couple of emergency trips to pick up overheated runners. I do feel the need to go back and run myself a loop or three.

Savanah Corner was the next aid stop, and John, Jeno, and JFrank held down the fort here.This was the second possible crew stop, and a lot of crews took advantage of this. This wide T intersection was barely passable for much of the race.

Savannah  Corner--home of the holy crop tops, complete with hairy bellies.

Mr. Arnold Begay--100-mile finisher. Arnold finished Pumpkin Holler--but only after finishing Urban Adventure 100, Arkansas Traveller 100, and Heartland 100 in the three preceding weeks. Four 100-milers in four weeks. 

A new aid station on a new route on the course. We did away with the old out and back, and added an out and back by the Nature Center. Since the loop around the Nickel Nature Preserve was 29.7 miles, we added 1.5 miles here for the 50K, 3 miles for the 100K, and 11 miles for the 100 Mile. All distances got their out and back miles on the FIRST LOOP. This was a risky change, but the runners loved it. Susan Melon Westmoreland made big bold yellow signs noting the specific turn around points. No one messed up to my knowledge.

The Waffle Stop--a crowd favorite, for those who like waffles, was manned by none other than Mitch Drummond and his partner in crime Roman Broyles.

They risked being shot by clown-o-phobes, but had fun scaring the crud out of the squeamish.

On to East of Eden. This aid station is famous for RockStar Eddie Carden, and my favorite hippie chick Kate Ellisor. It' also famous for their beans and cornbread, and for camp fires that set bears on fire.

At East of Eden, runners have a choice of adding an extra mile to their race--a mile that involves a 236' climb. That doesn't seem all that bad on paper, but considering the 236' is crammed into 1/4 mile of road, it's a real doozy of a climb--and the descent is a real quad killer. WHY would anyone WANT to do this extra mile--one that easily adds 20 minutes to their race time?? Well, for bragging rights, and for the goodies that await the at the top. Susan Melon Westmoreland greeted the runners and presented them with their commemorative Pumpkin Holler Melon Wrap--sort of like a Buff--but we can't call them a Buff. I managed to snag an extra for myself, and they look good on my melon. Susan, owner of Mile Junkie (one of our sponsors) has consistently pulled off real works of genius for these awards at the top of the hill.

This is Pumpkin Holler Road. It's scenic, but at this stage of the race, runners are scenicked out. This section is about 4.3 miles, but it seems to just drag on and on. Hard Up Ahead i--well--just up ahead.

Here, Chuck Streit and Earl Blewett greet their runners with potato soup, barley and mushroom soup, and a wealth of ultra knowledge. They have been a staple at this aid and crew stop for all six years.

Three miles of old asphalt later, and you have reached Bathtub Rocks. This is later in  the loop,and many runners especially n the longer distances feel like the walking dead--and the course decorations pointed to this.

this natural water crossing brings tourists in from all over the world. This stream that runs across the road cascades down a rock formation and has several  holes deep enough bathe in, and one big enough to swallow a Volkswagen. I have always said I needed to jump in the deep hole, but I've yet to do it.

These guys decorated my office. Fortunately I made it out after catching a nap.

Shorty ran the show at last Gasp again. She is famous for fierce pep talks, hard massages, and not taking crap.

This sign made by her buddy Melon is more than fitting

It was a hot year--maybe the hottest, but the heat with the humidity and the allergens in the air made for tough conditions for many of our runners. We had one drop--like pass out--just .2 mile from the finish line. Dana, Ken Saveth,  Edward Lebowski, and I worked on him for 30 minutes and finally got him up into a chair, got dome fluids in him, and got him a ride on to the finish. Sherry Meador, a friend who runs Lots and Lots of 100s stopped her race and selflessly helped with this runner. I was impressed with her. 

Another guy--a pacer--had to stop due to heat exhaustion on the far side of the course. His runner had to leave him and let him walk back to the aid station they had just left. Savannah Corner took good care of him, and by the time we picked him up, he was in much better shape.

What do we have here?? A BANDIT aid station cropped up 1.5 miles from the finish line! Meego, Mike Rives, and a huge group of cronies server various beverages from mid afternoon until the next day. Nothing like a shot of Fireball to make you forget the pain for a few minutes.

The start/finish had a steady stream of runners all through the night. Stormy Philips, Shannon McFarland, and Jody Lingbeck stayed awake for them and handed them their hard earned medals, trophies, finishers bandanas, and served the hot food. 

My sweet wife Dana worked her tail off--first going almost four days with no sleep shopping for aid station supplies, organizing them, helping me pack the big truck, setting up all the  food for the pre-race dinner, setting up the aid station food at the start/finish, setting up the post race food, then heading up the loading of all the race stuff late in the day Sunday. Oh--and throw in filling water jugs and ice off and on during the day. But it's not over then either. The big truck has to be unloaded, all the stuff re-organized, keep what can be saved, throwing away what won't keep--she's the MVP. Plus she puts up with all my crap.

And thanks to Ken Saveth who did the roving aid station thing and then did gopher work for most of the rest of the race. And then there's Eldon Galeno who fresh off a busy week RDing the Heartland 100 miler the previous weekend came down and drove stuff out to the aid stations all day and all night and mot of the next day. Valuable stuff.

I spent most of the report talking about aid stations and volunteers, but these people are the lifeblood of the race. Without great help like we have, it would not be possible to have an event such as this. 

I mentioned Arnold running four 100s in four weeks. Kathy Bratton also ran four in four--and seemed to run each one a bit faster. I need to see a list of who all has done streaks like this. Kathy said she thinks the record is six in six weeks. I bet that Kathy is in the top 20 for most 100-mile finishes for women, Some research will bear that out. Russell Bennett also has a lot to be proud of, Russell WON the 100-miler, And this was after doing two 100-milers in the previous two weeks. They call him the Iron Horse. Rightly so.

Chris Dial paced Johnna on her last loop of the 100K--her first. She is poised and ready for the next step--the hundo.

Another couple of 100kers. Jodee and Candy have accomplished everything they have set out to do. I'm impressed with them, although they do seem to think I stretch the truth a little--or maybe I flatten out the truth a little. They should make up a bunch of these head wraps. i could use them on a long trail run--might keep me from losing a sock. ;-)

Chrissy whitten had a great story. Her first daughter had a chromosome disorder and lived 103 days before getting her angel wings. Chrissy had talked to me for a few years about running 103 miles to honor the memory of her daughter I was thrilled she chose to complete that goal at Pumpkin Holler. She wisely chose to sign up for the 135-miler which in effect gave her 40 hours to reach her desired total. She ran the 16 miles out and back--then 4 29.7 mile loops, and also ran the Great Gourd Challenge for a total of 106 miles. She was always upbeat, and after the race, she said she was one and done--but as is usually the case--she has her sights set on Prairie Spirit for her next 100 on April 2017.

Full race results can be found here.

There will be a few changes for next year. First off--a possible change of venue for the pre-race dinner. More details to come. Second--a change of location for the start/finish. We have found at Eagle Bluff a more scenic place where you can see the runners as they cross the bridge and the runners can see the finish line about a quarter mile before the get there. We will add one more manned aid station at the 100 mile turn around. There may be a couple of other changes in the works as well.

Registration will be open for 2017 by December 1. Look for it!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

2016 Pumpkin Holler Hunnerd--the sixth running

The race is upon us--TATUR's signature race, and Oklahoma's only 100 miler, and one of only a few 135 milers in the world. Pumpkin Holler Hunnerd. This race means a lot to me. It means lots of work packing and unpacking then packing and unpacking again after the race. It means up to 48 hours of no sleep. It means a fair amount of stress and grouchiness. But it also means pure joy in seeing people go far beyond their wildest dreams finishing 50K, 100K, and distances that most people don't even want to DRIVE! It's vacation tie for me, and I love it even with the few hours sleep for three days.

The course this year has changed due to the old Combs bridge being demolished and replaced by a boring new concrete bridge.This new bridge added 1.5  miles to the loop, so we went with that and eliminated the out and back that was repeated on the old course. To make the distance correct for each distance, a one-time out and back will be ran from the nature center on the far side of the course. It seems confusing, and maybe it will be. But it seemed the best solution for our dilemma. 

My sister in law Sharon Childress created the art work for the shirt. I liked the idea of a vulture picking the flesh from a smashed pumpkin, and she took the idea and made a masterpiece out of it.

The belt buckles and medals were another collaboration of creative minds. Stormy--fresh off a Western States finish, wanted to see a more traditional look for the buckles. I liked the idea of having the old Combs Bridge on the buckle. Stormy liked having an elk on the buckle because of the nickel preserve introducing elk back into the area. I still had the vulture thing going on in my head. Hasty Awards took my crude sketch and tossed it in the trash. stormy made a sketch with a layout much like what the buckles and medals look like, and hasty polished our ideas up and we ended up with the nicest buckle i have ever seen. I expected an antique brass, and it ended up more of a copper color. I was WOWed.

OK--this is a sneak peak of what awaits the conquerors of the Great Gourd Challenge. These are "like" Buffs, but they are not Buffs so we won't call them Buffs. Melon designed the fabric and sewed them into works of genius. They can be worn as a headband, a do-rag, ear warmers, neck gaiter, mouth guard, mask for holding up convenience stores, a nose hanky, a tourniquet, and in a pinch, TP. (I'll never use mine for that.)

It looks like we will have a record crowd again this year. The number of 100 milers is a little low, but the 135 mile is wy up. Other distances are at or above last year's level. The weather looks good--well maybe a little warm Saturday afternoon. Again, I am blown away and grateful for all the volunteers who seem to just love hanging out all weekend at this race. We are all blessed.

Dana is working her butt off pacing aid station kits. Wal Mart and Sams noticed a spike in sales due to our visits. We forgot Pringles!! I am practicing sleep deprivation right now--a few days before. And there's more than a days work to be done tomorrow, and it gets busier after that. But it's all worth it. To the runners signed up--get your rest, enjoy your taper, and run your heart out.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Finding the Steel Tree

Last night I dreamed of running a 100 miler in the mountains. I'm not sure what mountains but they seemed familiar like I had been there before--but had forgotten. I look forward to my sleep every night because of the journeys I take, and this dream had me starting line wayafter the gun (just like in real life.) In the dream, I had work stuff that I couldn't get away from and was stressing majorly, but thought I could still  catch up and make the cutoffs. I was stressing over how I would disappoint people who were here to help me, and how I would justify my failure to people who thought I would fail anyway. But as dreams often do, the story drifted to where I was on a through-hike or fastpacking adventure and not in a race at all. I kept climbing and climbing, overlooking valleys, and I prayed my legs and body would hold out because it seemed this was really what heaven would be like.  I was lost on a trail that I was sure I could never remember how to return, yet kept running. I came upon a man who was walking bent over, so much so that his beard nearly drug the ground. I stopped to talk to him. He stopped and sat down on a rock on the edge of a rocky narrow trail with a 1000 foot drop-off. I immediately perceived him to be a supernatural being. His gray hair swept around his face, his eyes shone with a brightness full of life, and his words rang clear with melodic wisdom. I was dumbstruck (no surprise there--I am often at a loss for words.) I asked where we were, and some other empty questions and that part of the dream is fuzzy. But then I asked how to understand the meaning of life--a major cliche of a question when you meet a wizardly guru such as this. But clear as a bell, he said, "To understand the meaning of life, you must find the steel tree."

That's all I remember from the dream because Roxie flopped over and stirred me from my slumber. I rolled out of bed for a bathroom visit and took some Tylenol for a rare headache.

I  took Zeke and Roxie to the groomers today. It was a dog grooming place I have never used, and they were pretty busy but assured me they would have them bathed and groomed in a couple of hours. So, being the running addict I am, I went to the river for a few miles. I parked on the west side at the soccer fields and headed north to the pedestrian bridge and ran across--mainly to see what all is going on with the Gathering Place. I love the old RR/pedestrian bridge and will be sad if they replace it.

The water in the Arkansas is really flowing, and I took several pictures playing with different camera angles and photo settings.

The HDR mode on iPhone allows a photo with a 3-second video. Since the groomers had not called, I was basically killing time.

I bet you don't know where this waterfall is on the river. I wouldn't soak my feet in it though.

I took several panorama shots, and could not get one that had all i wanted in it. Looking at the 5-6 pictures I took, I like this one, and then noticed what looked like writing in the clouds. I blew it up, and to my absolute amazement, the words: Find the steel tree!!!

Well, now I had a directive. What is the Steel Tree, where is it, and what does it mean? Then I remembered a geocache hat was called either the steel tree or the iron tree--and as I recall is was on the west side of the river--somewhere. Was it further north or to the south. I was pretty sure I did not have time to get further away from my car by going north, so south it was--and if I didn't find this tree, I would look tomorrow.

I ran south about a mile or so, and I began to sort of remember what the geocache tree looked like, but I couldn't find it. Finally, I stopped at a grouping of park benches and tables, and sat down and tried to open my geocache app to see if I could find any more information about this tree. I have not geocached since I upgraded my phone, and also I had not paid the premium upgrade for geocaching since I just don't have much spare time anymore--so no help there. But then I looked down and something in the dirt caught my eye.

Well things are getting too strange. I looked up, and right before me was the tree. 

It had grown to twice it's size since I found a hidden geocache there a few years ago. And yes--this IS a steel tree.

This tree is made up of a large rusty steel pipe sticking out of the ground. Winding twisting vines have woven their way around the rusty trunk to the point that no one can easily tell that it's not a normal tree.

One steel offshoot makes a base for more vines to climb skyward. I wonder is that steel offshoot grew, or was it part of the abandoned steel piping left years ago.

So what is to be learned from this? I am sometimes pretty dense.  I am notorious for missing even the most basic of life's lessons. 

Maybe it's telling me to stand tall and proud despite all the things trying to wind and twist their way into my life.

No, maybe it's telling me that even when you are downtrodden and desolate, even viewed as an eyesore, to keep looking up. God can take you where you are, give you purpose, and make you beautiful.

Somehow I feel a little more complete finding this tree again, but I am still pondering the meaning of the dream and the steel tree. Am I missing the significance of the dream and the tree?

If anyone reads this and has any insight on the meaning, please share.