Sunday, May 14, 2017

Killed Cavanal

Crazy ideas come to fruition when you hang around crazy people. My friend Tammy Cryer posted on Facebook looking for a 50K in the area in the month of May. There aren't many due mostly to temperatures rising as late spring rolls into summer. I mentioned out a couple of races in a 5-state area, and then threw a crazy idea of doing the Cavanal Killer--an 8K up Cavanal Hill in Poteau. This hefty hill has the distinction of being the World's Highest Hill, rising out of the plains 1999 feet which is one foot short of being a mountain. Last year I did the race, which includes close to 1900 feet of climb. The race has buses waiting to shuttle everyone back down to their cars, but I ran back. Yes, it's steep, and in places, I had to slow to a deliberate jog on the steep sections to keep from overstriding and keep my body upright. A fall on this old asphalt could easily leave a smear of human hamburger and just ruin your day. Still last year I had great fun running fast downhill for five miles. So simple math indicates that three ups and downs would be 30ish miles, and if we went back to the car each time for water refills and snacks, 31 miles would be no problem.
My GPS watch seems to slightly disagree with the altitude--no surprise here. It shows the hill to be actually 2359 feet. So maybe the hill rises 1999 feet from the plains below. That puts it short of 1999 feet, but maybe the actual point that the hill actually starts is somewhere other than the starting line on the race.

Tammy took the bait and was all in to run three ups and downs (repeats) and we recruited Bryan Carpenter to go and then Jana Graham and Christine Fisher--my teammates on the Cloudsplitter team. This race was to be our first official-ish training run for our super-tough 100-miler this October. Cavanal Hil can be seen several miles before getting to Poteau and is an impressive sight to see. (A bit of honesty here: I did a wee bit of finger-editing to the picture.)

We were shooting for a 6:30 start, completing an out and back, then running lap two with the race, and then doing another out and back to finish the day. We had a couple of runner fuel and potty stops on the way down and started a more like 6:40.

As usual, I could not pass up taking pictures on the way up. Bryan, Jana, Christine, and Katie got ahead early on.

I caught up with Bryan at the porta-pot and waited for him to emerge. My subsequent brief time there gave him another head start, and from there I didn't catch up with them until the second descent.

Two-ish miles in, the views of the wide open plains and distant mountains was magnificent. A heavy blanket of fog that set in looked more like an ocean.

In three places on the upward trek, the road descended across a saddle adding to the overall ascent. I remember griping about this last year, but I embraced it this time around.

I met Jana and Bryan as they were heading down when I was about a quarter mile from the top--not too far behind at all. That gave me a bit of kick in my step, and I powered all the way to the finish line whee the race timers were setting things up.

A quick selfie to prove I was there.

A view from the top--the clouds were beginning to burn off. At this point, I had 36 minutes to go a little over 5 miles back to the parking lot where packet pickup was. Christine agreed to get my race number and shirt--actually, I didn't really want the shirt but wanted to have my number so I could have an official time, but he folks at the packet pickup packed things away at the crack of 9:00 am and neither Christine or Tammy was allowed to get my packet. I also heard they would not let anyone pick up anyone's packet if they did not have the runners date of birth. :-/ So, although I paid an entry fee, I received no bib, no shirt, and no official time--but hey-- it's my fault for not making sure I was back in time. Again, I really didn't want the shirt or need the medal.

The downhill was great! I relaxed, stretched out my stride and ran the descent in 52 minutes. It felt so amazing loosen it up and run like the wind. I gave high fives and kudos to all the runners starting their race, telling them they look great (mostly true), they were almost there (a big lie), and that there was just one more hill (technically true.) I fully expected my quads to be screaming after the foolishness of running the steep downhills, but as of 11:30 this evening, I seem fine. 

Instead of running back to Tammy's car and taking a chance of being locked out anyway, I turned around at the starting line and worked hard to catch up with the last walkers and runners. This is a walker-friendly race and many folks come out and walk the whole way. Tammy spoke to several walkers who were doing their first race ever. What a rude awakening to have 1900 feet of ascent for your first race!!

Last year, I started also started the race late and had a fun time blowing by the back of the pack.  

Pretty soon I started seeing the quite a few finishers who opted to run back down to the starting line instead of taking the bus. Brandon and Cameron finished 8th and 14th and were just goofing around coming back down the hill. Upon looking at these pictures at home, I noticed Brandon has what looks like a growth on his left shoulder.

A growth? The Devil?     No--it's just Tammy. 

After my second ascent, I ran back a quarter mile or so and met Tammy so I could pace her to the top. Tammy had befriended a couple of ladies who were doing this event as their first ever race. She was coaching them along, was in very good spirits, so I decided to run back up to meet Bryan and Jana and join forces with them for the downhill portion. 

Bryan, Jana, and I ran most of the way back downhill for the second descent. It seemed kind of like a mutually agreed thing to stop after two out and backs. It was getting hot, and while the race was going on, we had aid stations every couple hundred yards, but there were none on our final descent, nor would there have been for the third up and down.

So I ended up with 21.5 miles, and 3967 feet of ascent. This was kick-ass training for our upcoming 100, and I can see doing this again before our October 100.

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