Sunday, March 12, 2017

#unlearnpavement (Land Run 100)

The Land Run 100 is a gravel bike event in Stillwater. I have only dabbled in gravel grinding, and I'm sure I'm ripe to swept headlong int the craze. This event, in particular, offers a choice of 100 or 50 miles, and a year ago, Arthur Elias--a trail running buddy who also bikes, introduced a 50K gravel/dirt road foot race to be held in conjunction with the bike festival. I, along with a group of Tulsa friends ran the race last year and had a blast. This year, the 50K run sold out pretty quick, and the bike races were full almost the first day of registration.

We have crazy weather in Oklahoma. In February, we had four days of temps over 80--one as high as 87 degrees! Then along comes March, and things change. I had this little dirt road 50K lined up to do, and the weekend forecast looked like the weatherman was playing a joke. The forecast called for 100% chances of rain, with daytime temps in the low 50s falling into the low 40s with strong north winds by mid-afternoon. Last year, the red dirt was sticky clay in a few places due to some rain earlier in the week. But this year, we had scattered showers during the night and on into the day. And so, the stage was set for a grueling trek on the country roads south and west of greater Stillwater.

I added this race to the Oklahoma Dirt Trail Series, and our Tulsa contingent was large. Counting a few non-Tulsans who are in the Dirt Series, we accounted for 30-35 of the 100 runners signed up.

Bobby Wintle, owner of District Bicycles, was the emcee and after sending off 1000 bikers, he addressed 100 shivering runners. We were ready to run--body heat was fleeting. 

At the sound of a civil war cannon, we took off at varying speeds. Mitch, Johnna, Lynna, and I were content to take the back row and ambled down 7th Street to Main. Funny that "unlearnpavement" starts and finishes a gravel run on paved streets. But the venue is perfect. There were multiple places to grab a bite or a coffee or beer. This has to be one of the coolest city blocks in America.

Soon enough the running crowd was spread thin. I had to make a rest stop under a bridge. Ironic that I dispensed of vitamin-laden gold pee on empty cans of gold spray paint. Somewhere someone is walking around with a gold esophagus. 

Johnna and I were running and shuffling along solving all of the world's problems. We passed Michelle, Alicia, and Jessy who were on a funny picture taking campaign. We missed the crazy llama that so many people saw. I have heard that they like to spit on people so I would have kept a fair distance away had I saw him. We eventually caught up with a guy who was running his first 50K. In fact, the furthest he had ever run was a 5K. at mile 6 he was mostly walking, and we found out later that he dropped at 10.6 miles. Once the course turned north into the wind, it was hard to keep your core warm if you were not pushing the pace enough to keep your heart rate up.

The course was well marked, although due to our over-thinking things, we had two intersections where we scratched our heads making sure we were going the right way. Note to self: Make sure you have a PHOTO of the map in your phone or in your pocket on runs like this.

At about mile 9, the road turned north--right into a 30 mph wind. This nice red dirt road had been freshly graded. It also had a splattering of brief heavy rain and was a slight but steady uphill grind. Now it's no secret that I love hills. I really do. I am not likely to even do a flat race. But this road was two steps forward 1/2 steps back. Slip and slide. 

And this gorgeous red clay caked up on your feet very quickly. Call it cross-training: walking with 10-pound weights on each foot. Mitch mentioned after the race that each goodie bag we received when we checked in had little paint stirring sticks that doubled as mud scraping sticks. How I wish I had known that, as they would have been handy all day long.

We rolled into the first aid station, drank some hot chocolate, sampled some Tailwind, and took a nip of Fireball. We were told that the muddy roads were past us, and the next section was much better. It was a little better, but we still had to do our best to dodge the sticky spots.

I should mention that I was again using my trekking poles, and these helped greatly with the slip and slide in the mud. they also were a huge boost on the uphills. All I had to do was give what felt like 10% more force in planting the stick and I went right up the hills like they were nothing. These poles will be a huge tool for me in a couple of difficult ultras I have coming up this year.

Finally, at around mile 13.6 we turned south. The biting north wind was at our backs, and while we were not setting any land speed records, we did increase our pace by two minutes per mile. We had a cheering section. A herd of cows took an interest in us and followed us for almost a mile along a fence line. We'd stop, they'd stop. They followed us until they came to a fence and then mooed as us as we went on.

A couple of city folks in the country taking pictures of cows. (Like they've never seen a cow before?)

At mile 21, a course marshal in a jeep came by and told us that there was a really bad stretch or road ahead, and he could give us a ride through it. We kind of laughed and said we'd be fine. He said he was gonna check back with us, and we turned a corner and got into some dark brown slick mud. It was not sticking to our feet quite as bad but is was just like walking in grease. Then we descended down into a low spot where the lay of the land channeled water across the road. Now this was not a creek--just a big mud hole.

No problem here--or so we thought. I loaned Johnna one of my poles, and we waded across. Johnna wisely stayed int the ruts. I took the slightly higher road and tried to stay out of the standing water. Bad idea.Th ridge of mud on either side of the puddles was soft mud 10-12 inched deep. This was shoe sucking mud,, and I almost lost one. Laughing ll the way, we made it across. The marshal in the Jeep had been watching. We waved him off,  and he waited until we were across, and then did what any dude in a Jeep that was already mudded out--he plowed right on through the mud. We chatted with him a bit. He told us that every runner behind us had dropped, and we were the last ones. HAHA. I am a frequent DNF-er anyway.

We hit the next aid station at mile 22.6. I grazed on pretzels and frozen Snickers. (Yes it was that cold.) They even had a porta-potty--the first we had seen on the course (not counting all the trees.) With nine miles to go, without even thinking about it, we sped up by about another minute per mile. When we reached the pavement, we shaved another 30 seconds per mile off, and our last mile was actually our fastest of the race. Johnna ran every step of the last five miles and said that was the first time she'd ever just ran it in from that point in an ultra. 

Bobby was waiting for us, as he was for every runner and biker, and gave us a big hug--like a long lost friend. He's just super.

I'm really kinda proud of this elevation profile. Oh sure, I called it relatively flat--and compared to a lot of races, it is. But the yellow spikes do look formidable.

I will be back to do this race again. I truly think if I  could get my training in gear, maybe become more proficient with the trekking poles, lose a few pounds, do some core work--maybe I could think about a PR in the 50K. OR--here's a thought. I mentioned Arthur Elias earlier--he actually started early and ran the 100-mile bike course a few years back.  Wouldn't it be cool to have a 100-mile ultra here??

Big time congrats and thanks to Bobby Wintle, Trey Nixon, and everyone else who spent so much time working to make this event the success that it was.

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