Sunday, January 22, 2017

The State Games of Oklahoma

I ran in the State Games of Oklahoma Saturday. This year, it was included in the Oklahoma Dirt Trail Series, and that attracted a few of us TATURs to make the trip to Stanley Draper Lake. My friend Peggy Woods RDs this annual event, and the race operated like a well-oiled machine from my perspective. Runners had a choice of a 4-mile, an 8-mile and a 12-mile--all on a well-groomed flattish non-technical mountain bike trail. 

Pictured above Mike Rives ran the 8-mile, Chrissy Whitten in the middle ran the 12-mile, and Jana Graham ran the 8-mile. Michelle Bates and Sue Marolf ran the 4-mile.

I woke up in plenty of time, and my  GPS said I'd arrive at
8:48--12 minutes before the start. I always play Beat The Clock and whittled 15 minutes off, but as I was almost there, stupidly drove straight when Siri told me to turn left. She immediately re-routed and so I carried on only to find a Road Closed sign. So I flipped around and went back to the turn I missed. That only cost me 3 minutes. Then I had to park what turned out to be .33  of a mile from the starting line. A brisk walk there, saying hi to a few friends, and a jog back to the truck to drop off my packet left me 5 minutes to get to the starting line. No problem--except suddenly my morning job announced itself, and the lines to do that said job were long. Oh well--not the first time I've started a race late. then iI heard some runners ahead of me mentioning a staggered start for the shorter distances--makes sense to spread out the runners on the narrow single track trailz. I questioned that and mentioned that I was in the 12-mile, when the 5 people ahead of me ushered me to the front of the line. YAY!! I took the express approach and completed my task in what was probably record time (for me.) 

I then jogged to the back of the starting line just as the gun fired, and all was well. But 1/4 mile into the run, I was wishing I had left my wind shirt, so I walked while holding my water bottle in my teeth and tied my jacket around my waist--and a course photographer caught me in action--I hope to get to see that pic!!

The trailz were awesome! Very few rocks, a few roots here and here, and only a few trenched down channels made me have to concentrate where to put my feet. (The zombie shuffle is characterized by flying flopping feet.) A friend of mine pointed ou to me that these were "Relatively Flat" trailz.

I like a course with landmarks along the way--especially when the loops are repeated. I do not know the story behind this bike, but I bet it is an eerie sight on a night run.

The group maintaining this trail system must be a group of engineers. Several low spots on the trail had these concrete cylinders installed which prevented further erosion and acted as a bridge on wet days.

I was 30 minutes into the race when I started being passed by 8-milers and then 4-milers. When I heard footsteps or voices behind me, I'd step to the left to let them by. Usually, there was plenty of room to do that. The above pic is one of those trenched in channels, and pretty good step up to get out of the way.

This was Bubba's Homestead. It really looked like someone camps out here occasionally. The site was pretty much litter-free--unlike squatters who show up at Turkey Mountain.

I would like to know the origin of this name. A long gradual downhill followed, and one could pick up the pace nicely. It seemed like it would be a mountain bikers dream trail.

The trailz were well marked. I seriously doubt that anyone could have gotten lost here. I did have my head down at one place and briefly turned early where there were two possible left turns--like a three-pronged Y. Umm....I needed a pee-break and maybe this was a sub-conscious move?

Loop one was done in 1:58. Loop two, I took a few more pictures and finished it exactly 2 hours into the race. Heading out on loop three I decided I'd be happy with a sub-three hour, and began to push the pace a little. There were no more runners coming from behind to pass me, and I thought maybe I could catch someone and not finish DFL. At mile 9.34, I kicked a root or something and fell hard in one of those trenches. I lay there for a few seconds, and rolled myself upward and began a brief recovery trot. No harm done. At 9.6ish, I reached an aid station where I had ate a few pretzels on my previous stops and grabbed a few more and shuffled while I munched. Feeling like I had lost grasp of a sub-three, I looked at my Suunto to calculate my plan, and the watch was stopped at 9.34miles!! Now I am not one who is paralyzed be malfunctions like this, but it was aggravating. I wasn't sure how far I had to go, and what I'd need to do to get me home in 2:59ish, so I just jog/shuffled. I'd be there when I got there. GRRR.

On the final half mile, I popped out on a wide open powerline easement, and I saw someone jogging toward me--it was John Hargrove! John is the first person I had actually met (13 years ago) who had run 100 miles. We became good friends, and sometimes ran together when we showed up at the same race. He had finished thinking he was last, and found out another runner was still out, and that it was me--so he came back to run me in. A nice surprise. Also, Jana, Michelle, and Mike were at the end of the powerling cheering me in. Happiness.

I finished in 3:04 and I could have got that sub-three if I had stayed focused. But get this--I got an elegant silver medal for being 2nd in my age group. I had a good time on the trailz, ate a good lunch with friends, and went ghost towning after that. Don't feel bad for me that I was DFL. I've been there many times, and it's not that bad. I'll do this race next year, and I am sure I can shave a few minutes off.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Ghost Towning

After running the State Games of Oklahoma Trail Run, I made a little side trip on the way home. I was googling old dilapidated barns and stumbled onto a list of ghost towns in Oklahoma--listed by counties. So I found a county map and picked out a couple in counties that were more or less on my way home. Turns out I only had time to explore one town--the forgotten town of Fallis.

Fallis is north and west of Wellston, home of an exit/entrance gate to the Turner Turnpike. From there, my GPS led me directly to the heart of the ghost town. The streets are gravel but are in good shape. There are still a few residents in and around the several decaying buildings--old metal mobile homes with parts of the walls missing or tarped over is a common site. Because I had a strong feeling they would not like their haciendas photographed, I stuck to the century-old abandoned buildings.

According to the Abandoned OK website, 
Fallis was an unusual little town. Located in a wooded area and “on a long red hill,” it became an agricultural center, a railroad town, and an oil community. More importantly, however, it was the home of five nationally recognized authors plus two well-known state poets. The original natural setting was beautiful, and, as one author noted, it was a source of inspiration. Founded in 1892 at the western edge of the Iowa Reservation, Fallis developed as an agricultural trade center. Cotton was the principal crop, and two cotton gins were in operation. In 1902 the Katy railroad built through Fallis when completing its line from Bartlesville to Oklahoma City. In 1903 the Katy built a line from Fallis to Guthrie. Also in 1903, the tracks of the Fort Smith and Western Railroad from Fort Smith to Guthrie crossed the Katy line at Fallis, making the community a trans-shipment center.

This house apparently had been occupied in recent years due to the window air conditioner set over the front door. Tall weeds covered any walkway or driveway to the house.

This two-story house was a gem in its day. An old clawfoot tub lay broken in the side yard, and a kids bicycle leaned against the remains of the fence and had a tree growing through it. Just down the street was remnants of a block stone building--possibly a store. Most of the walls had long ago fallen, but a metal lean-to and bracing had been put in place, and the resulting space was used as an auto salvage, or junkyard. I had stopped to get a picture when a green dodge pickup drove slowly by, and I felt like I was being glared at and I wisely moved on.

This is the Fallis Community Center, a few hundred yards east of the main part of town. From the outside, this brick building still stands tall and proud. The old wood windows are gone, boarded over, and in a place or two, chain linked over. The side double doors were unlocked and slightly opened, and I had not seen any NO TRESPASSING signs--so of course I went inside. 

The wood floors were soft. Layers of decaying plywood were covering what was surely completely rotted out flooring and joists, so I didn't tour the place. I found it odd that a circle of chairs was arranged as if here had been a recent city council meeting, or a gathering of a haven of witches, or maybe a grass roots political rally. Next door to this building was a 30-year-old metal replacement community center. Boring.

My guess is this was an old school house. A prominent NO TRESPASSING sign was nailed to the door, and...I debated snooping anyway but refrained and headed for home.

I have my eye on another ghost town to explore, and a cemetery that has a gravestone describing a death by "human wolves" to check out. Another weekend trip.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Ouch-it-ta Switchbacks 2017

I remember now what I said last year. Doing what will certainly be a long and grueling race, and then staying up all night before the race is stupidity. I did it again, though. The Ouachita Switchbacks s a trail race on one of the toughest trailz in Oklahoma. Tommy Brennan, a native to the local mountainous hellacious hills and wondrous single track has put on this 25K and 50K for the past few years. The Ouachita Trail runs from the one horse town of Talahina, OK to almost Little Rock AR. It is wild, rugged, and enchanting. I would actually feel wrong in calling it relatively flat.

We had a sketchy forecast in NE Oklahoma with a line of precipitation coming diagonally across the state and advisories of rain, freezing rain, and ice storms. But from every weather chart I looked at, it seemed it I got 50 miles out of Tulsa, it would warm up all the way to the race in SE Oklahoma. I left out in the wee hours of the morning and true t reports, it got above freezing near Wagoner, and warmed up a degree at a time until it was 52 degrees as I drove the final few miles to the campground. I found the place on a despite a starless sky, obscured moon, and thick fog, and found a place to park and shut off the motor and lights and tried to get a 45-minute nap. My obnoxious iPhone alarm stopped my trying, and I stumbled out of the truck and headed to the sign-up table. Tom greeted me and gave me my race bib and nifty hoodie (well worth the price of entry.) I was signed u for the 50K, but I knew I would most likely stop at the halfway point. (Not really halfway--the first out and back is close to 19 miles. With the 2nd out and back added, the 50K falls just a wee bit short of 30 miles.) More on that decision to stop or go on later. 

Tom offered an early start for those who felt they might need a little more time to finish 50K I was in that boat. Last year I took 7:57 to do the 25K, so going another 11ish was a concern. Still, with little to no training, stopping after 19 miles was ok by me. The trail is marked with blue swatches on the trees. Some blazes were faded, some were chewed off by bucks in rut. Some trees with blazes had fallen, so besides keeping an eye u for blue paint, and a nose to the trail, I got off course twice, and corrected it before I got much in the way of bonus miles. My first diversion led me down a ravine and I found myself abutted by large boulders. Perfect, or so I  thought, as I had failed to use the porta-pots before heading out. No wait--there were no porta pots, but there was lots of trees and rocks to hide behind and this was the perfect spot. It was still a little dark, and quite foggy. I had purposely hung back and let all the dozen or so runners get ahead of me the plan was sound until I heard a runner coming. And lo and behold, they took the same wrong turn I had taken. I quickly made myself decent, although there is an outside chance they might have seen a shiny white butt.

This would have been a better location, but you always find the good bathroom spots when you don't need them.
Picture taken by the speedy finger of one Clint Green
Since I started at 7:00, and the main start was at 8:00, and I had a bathroom stop, and a wardrobe change (not related to the bathroom stop--it was warmer than I thought and I tied my windbreaker around my waist), I thought the fastest runner (ok everyone knows it's Victor) would pass me by 8:30. I was wrong, though. I did not get passed until 8:45. But with a 60-minute head start, he caught me 
3 1/2 miles into the race.

Thank you for the picture Mark Plate
Doing my best sasquatch strut, I crossed the highway and my only steps on pavement for the race. It was a necessary evil. 

The first aid station was a little over 4 miles out. They were waiting and cheering us on. I had a handful of chips--the salt was what I needed. 

Picture by Clint Green
Last year this water crossing was knee deep. No dry feet possible. I was disappointed that you could hop skotch across on dry rocks, but of course, I did.

Clint was covered up with leaves with only a camera lens poking out trying t capture the true essence of trail running. Here is the zombie shagger, That's a shuffle with swagger.

I had to look it up--this is big Cedar Creek. Any trail runner with any kind of camera takes pictures of this. I have never seen water this color. Tommy Brennan says he drinks freely from it. I'd drink it if I had to. My Salamon pack had 2 liters and I never drained it--but I would have refilled here.

Here's a rare non-technical stretch of trail. I increased my pace to a solid 12-minute mile, but I lost it staring at my watch and gave back any time I had in the bank by taking pictures.

Another runner catches up and passes me. At this point, I was ahead of two runners, that had also taken the early start--although we played leap frog all day.

I don't know the story of these rocks. To me, it does not seem like a natural occurrence. Someone called it a glacier rock slide. If there were power lines overhead, I would think the rocks were placed to discourage tree growth. Personally, I think the race should go right up the rocks to the top, and then back down--just for shits and giggles.

Amanda blew right by me here en route to her third-place overall female finish.

We had 5 miles that were mostly up--well except for a 200-foot drop which added to the 650' climb to the mountain-top aid station.  650' in a little over a mile. Doable. 
Last year, on a cloudy windy sleety frigid day, this was a great panorama shot, but was still beautiful in a misty foggy way today.

Ok--some Oklahoma obscure history trivia nerd wanna tell me the story of this monument? I'll buy you a beer.

Kate and Taylor were at the top. I had heard about the quesadillas from every runner on the way back down. And they weren't lying. Well, they WERE lying about the You're-Almost-There BS. But those melty gooey cheese stick-to-your-ribs snacks were the best!

No one seemed to be in a hurry to leave. Maybe it was the 1600 feet they had climbed in the last 5 miles or so.Maybe it was the food. This shelter is just that--a shelter for hikers on the Ouachita Trail. It's home when you're away from home. It's inviting. Come on in. Rest, have a drink, eat a bite, tell your story.The feel and charm of the place is amazing.

I made it there in just under 4 hours. My watch said 9.27 miles, andI had started it a little late--after I started. I felt like I was staring a 9-hour finish right in the face--and had no chance of even trying the 50K.

Picture shamelessly borrowed from Jamey
So I stepped up the shuffle a notch. I purposely tried to get a more rapid foot turnover going down the 600 feet and 33 switchbacks. (Yes, I counted them.)
I eventually ran into the motley Crew of William (Dirty Sanchez), Carrie, Jamey, and Jeremy WildMan Wiley. We chatted for 25 minutes, and they sent me on my way with a swig of Pie Hole, and a small bottle of Fireball. WOW. This was fuel for my state of being.I seemed to really pick up the pace from this point on. 

As I descended, it seemed to get colder. Strange--the opposite of last year when t was 20 degrees colder at the top of the mountain. Was this some type of temperature inversion? A heavy fog rolled in and seriously, you could not see more than 50 feet or so. I had my long sleeves rolled up, but slid them back down and thought about putting my windbreaker back on. but instead, I tried to stretch it out and run a bit more. In looking at my data from the race, I did average a quicker pace for miles 10-17.  During the run, I fell three times, but the worst was more of an unexpected slide on a slick rock. My bad knee buckled under me and my heel was jammed up my but (bending the knee far more that God intended it to bend. I quickly thought my race was over, but I got back up, tested it to see if I could bear weight. Hmmm. Yep. (Take a couple of steps.) Seems fine. Maybe I need to stretch it like that more often.

You know--when you make yourself, you can run up hills (or at least sections of them), run over rocks, over but over rocks and roots covered by leaves--that takes a special kind of stupid. Toward the end of the race, I resigned to walk sections where the footing was guess work. I guess what I'm trying to say is the wheels were falling off. There would be no hotdog finish--just a trot on into the finish line.

Another frustrating thing--one of my falls had resulted in my Suunto watch changing the screen fields--it was not showing anything but the time of day. I toggled around on it, and accidentally paused it, but turned it back on. So I knew it was still recording my miles, but not showing them on the screen. It turns out--I had somehow gotten it into multi-sport mode. So, Strava shows the run but gave me no credit for the distance or elevation in the Strava challenges. First world problems. :-/

I finished in 7:48. That's 9 minutes faster than last year. My idea of doing 50K here needs a lot of work. I may give it a go next year, but I'm also ok if I never do 50K here. Right now, I'd be happy to just hike more. And a little more training could not hurt.

Congratulations to my friend Victor for winning the 50K and smashing the course record. Hat's off to anyone and everyone who toed the line and got their race done. There's no shame in dropping down to 25K here--I did it and I'm not ashamed!!!

And an attaboy to Tom Brennan for putting on a good race.

Monday, January 2, 2017

January 1

First post of the new year. I slept in, missed the Polar Bear Plunge cuz I slept in, but took the pups to run. I'm thinking of setting a lofty mileage goal for the year--2017 miles maybe?? I ended with 1321 for 2016 which was a little short of my vision for the year. But the one thing that was good is that while I set modest race goals, I finished what I started. 

A secondary goal is to run more with my dogs. They love going but are really more interested in smelling peeing spots and piles of poo. But sometimes they settle in and run like good trail dogs should. Today was one of those days. Let's call it the Barkley Dog Fair. They did not miss any sniff points.

We did a little loop on the blue trail, and then took on some of the Ho-Chi. 

Then we went north on the Millennium to the Spider, and headed across to Pepsi Pond. I planned on 3 miles for them, but we ended up with 4.6. They ran well, had their tails high in the air, and kept the smell stops to a minimum for the last couple of miles.

This shaky iPhone video is proof that a Go-Pro is a better tool for running videos. 

A third goal for the year is losing my holiday pounds. Roxie is lean and trim--able to leap over rocks and up on couches and beds in a graceful bound. Zeke is 108 pounds and needs to drop 15 so he looks slightly less like a grizzly bear. More exercise, more fun.