It's Monday night, and my legs and especially my knee are conferring as to whether or not to have a strike for cruel and unsafe work practices inflicted on them this past weekend. I ran a 24-Hour race, although for me it was apparent it was not going to be a race but instead a shuffle/hike, and maybe some jogging tossed in here and there. The venue? RJ Chiles ranch acreage NW of Coalgate OK. RJ, Summer, and Abby worked hard to put on this 24-Hour event on trailz that they crafted through the woods, and across hill and dale. They also had a 6-Hour and 12-Hour race, but being the glutton for punishment that I am, I had to do the full Monte.
I drove down from Tulsa Friday afternoon and arrived barely before dark. I found a place to back my truck semi-close to the trail where I could use my tailgate for my own personal aid station, and after a little visiting, and getting my nifty Sasquatch shirt, I crawled into the back seat of my truck, put new batteries in the clip-on fan I uses in a race here last year, and stretched out to try to get a little sleep. By 9:30 pm, I was out, and I slept well--only having to get up once to pee. (Old man issues, I know!)
At 7:00 am sharp, after a brief bit of last minute instructions, and a donut, we were sent off for a romp through the woods. I bolted out to an early lead, mainly trying to wake up my sleepy legs and get my heart rate going. I usually warm up slow on morning runs, and I had no coffee--so this seemed like a good plan. I was WINNING for a solid 1/4 miles but was passed by Jeremy Harrison, and then Lance West--the other two men in the 24-Hour race. Then Chrissy Whitten and Christine Fischer passed as well as nearly every runner in the race. No worries there, though. I was just doing this as a proving run. (That's like a training run, but in this case, I was proving to myself that I could run 50K+ comfortably.) The race started out and ran alongside some woods and a slow flowing creek--one where you could go fishing for crawdads I bet.
Then we popped into the woods and ran on slightly wide soft flowing twisty-turny dirt trails with occasional rocks, roots, and tree stubs to watch out for. Some people call these trail sharks 'cuz they just reach up and bite you throwing you to the ground and maiming you for life if they could trip you just right.
Every now and then you'd cross through what I like to think of as a rock gate--sort of a turnstile. You can traverse this with a flying leap--but I was fresh out of those. I'd carefully thread my size 11s between them and carefully step through. No speed records set through these gates for me. They worked better than speed bumps.
Then it was back into a clearing and up a nice grade with a narrow single track. I did my best to stay on the trodden grass since pre-race directions spoke of ticks and particularly seed ticks. I was ready for them, though. I had heavily treated my shoes and socks with Premithin and my legs with Deet and did not get any bites on my legs or feet. A couple of ticks or maybe chiggers found their way under the elastic of my stretchy shorts but were not too itchy.
Here's another of the rock gates I mentioned. I ran the first two laps with my water bottle only. One 22 ounce bottle lasted me two laps of 6.24 miles. After that, I ran with my Salomon pack with 1.5 liters bladder of ice water. While wearing my pack, I used my trekking poles, and these seemed to keep my gimpy knee happy. The poles are now second nature, and I'll probably always use them on any run of length.
The few stretches of trail across fields were runnable, and I could have and should have pushed the pace a bit here, but I focused on staying steady.
This little ravine and wooded bridge slowed me down on every loop. It was steep enough going down that I relied heavily on my poles to keep me from coming down too hard on my knee, and from slipping on loose rocks. Being overcautious--maybe.
The awesome thing about this course is that it is never boring. You're in the woods on single track, then single track across a field, then a short bit of dirt road, then some trailz, beside a pond, across a bridge, through a gate, and then you're back at the start. Eat, drink, then repeat the loop.
This was my favorite section. This winding trail had charm and was soft and a very gradual uphill. For some reason, I always sped up a little here. There were several small tree stumps that said hi as I
passed over them kicked the crap out of them.
There were three places where you had to give a sprinkling of thought as to where to put your feet and keep them dry. One bad step in the first crossing would get your shoe thoroughly muddy but not wet. The second would get your shoe moderately muddy and mildly wet. This crossing would get your foot quite wet but might clean some of the mud off of your shoe. (Actually, this was sort of trick-picture-snapping. I set my camera right on the edge of the water.)
This tree was scary at night. There was just enough moon to illuminate the midnight cloud cover so this menacing black troll of a tree let you know he was waiting for you to pass.
Here's the pond I spoke of. This was about 1/4 mile of gradual downhill. Just around the corner was a sign telling that you were 2.5 miles int the loop and 1.14 miles from the finish (or for more food.)
Someone made signs for every runner and they were posted throughout the course. I was not killing anything--except maybe any doubt I had in running long distances given enough time.
The last 1/2 mile. Cross a bridge, through a gate, up a hill that grew a little on each loop, down a hill to where the trail veered left, past a speed limit sign, and through anther green gate. Loop done.
Back home--time to eat, drink, rest--I usually did all three. If I were more serious about racing, I would have breezed through and stopped only every other lap.
Besides the normal aid station stuff, RJ, Summer, Abby, along with volunteers Michelle and Alicia kept nice fresh PBJs made, they brought in pecan pie, cooked hot dogs and hot links, big juicy hamburgers, and after the race cooked pancakes, scrambled eggs, and BACON!! Some good RD-ing and great hosts they are.
I don't remember who took this pic but I swiped it. Chrissy maybe? RJ and Summer catching a few ZZZs.
I felt like I stepped up my pace during the night, but maybe it just seemed that way. I thought going in I might be able to do 22 laps or 80 miles. I realized had the desire but not the ability or agility to do that. So 100K was a secondary goal, and with shorter stops at the aid stops, I might have had a chance. Then just right at dark, I began to doubt that I could even get in 50 miles. So I felt I needed to do my loops with a little more purpose. I also had friends jumping in to pace me. There were several eager volunteers helping three of the last four out on the trail. Jessy, Jenni, Abby, and Misty all went one or more laps with me. The chat along the way was helpful. Abby is an especially fast walker and is quite the chatster, and our loops seemed maybe 10 minutes faster. Thanks to all who helped pace us tired runners.
My last lap--about 1/4 mile from the end, my gripy knee said enough was enough. Every step hurt--lifting the leg and putting the leg down was excruciating. At the time, I was thinking I could get two more laps done but I decided to listen to my body. I ate a bite and took some ibuprofen and went to sleep. Smart, huh? The next morning I was dreading putting my foot on the ground, but when Mike Rives cracked open my truck door and put a piece of bacon in my mouth, I was up and at 'em. Surprisingly, I had no pain. I even jogged over to the breakfast area.
I was proud to accept this finisher award. I had fun earning it and I highly recommend this event. This labor Day, they put on a three-day running festival with various distances Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. You know I'll be there!