Sunday, June 18, 2017

Chasing Armadillos

I ran the inaugural Armadillo Ultra today--well actually did the 25K. This race was the Osage Hills Relatively Flat Trail Run (actually a marathon, half, and a couple shorter distances) and this year, Justin Walker and Victor Brown operating as the JV Collective revamped the course and rebranded the race with promises of live armadillos scampering around on the course.

All of the trailz were used in coming up with a true 25K serpentine loop. Not shown on the map are a few out and backs around the ball field, and north of the upper campground. We also used the blue and red mountain bike trailz. We had super duper hot weather on tap for the weekend, but the trail running gods intervened, and a cool front moved over and early just before the race started, about an inch of rain was dumped in the park making for some slippery mud. The high only got to about 80 degrees though, and most runners were through before the sun finally popped out from behind the heavy cloud cover.

 I had Fathers Day obligations and was not able to get to the race until just after 12:00. I missed the pre-race meeting, the course explanation, and the rabid armadillo warnings.

RDs Justin (aka Jwalk) and Victor pose with Laura for a photo shoot before things got started. Obviously, I borrowed a few pics from Jwalk's FB wall. I also took a few pictures along the way and swiped one or two from my past race reports. 

I started my 25K over 5 hours late, so I did not get to see hardly anyone. Most people surely thought I was not there. I had signed up to run but offered to pull course markings. Jwalk graciously told me he wanted me to run it, and I was glad to do just that. My goal was to finish under 5 hours, which seemed like a tall order since my legs were dead from my half yesterday.

After the Sand Creek Falls, I climbed up to the guest lodge and the cliffs before heading into the woods. There were a few muddy spots, but for the most part, I never got my feet muddy at all.

A quick visit to the edge of the diving bluffs, (you could not pay me enough to dive off these buffs!) and then it was on to the Creek Trail.

This is the flattest section of the course. By now, I was loosened up, and I stretched out my stride hoping to catch up with a slowish 50Ker on their second loop.  From there, I crossed the main campground and headed up a rocky section of trail to the Lookout Tower, and over more rocks and roots to the old amphitheater. Just beyond that was an intersection where we did two different out and backs. The first ran back south along a fence line to the end of the upper campground. I did a slight detour to a water hydrant to top off my bottle and then returned to do a different out and back which led to a jeep road that I did not know about. This road dead-ended but was about a half mile of nice runnable gravel road down a steep hill, and then I got to go back up what I had just descended. 

Because I had started so late, the first aid station I would have had was shut down, but I was still doing good on water. The trail popped out on the road, and then a trip down an old paved road to the lake was next. This small lake is beautiful. I'd love to see a trail cut round the lake, and I'm not the only one. The RDs and Bryan Drummond spoke with the park ranger after the race about just that, and I'd say from eavesdropping that it is likely to happen.

After doing the lake out and back, I headed to the mountain bike trailz. There was an aid station here that the 25K hit three times. Pip and Sarah were holding down the fort, and they had a variety of food and COLD Gatorade. I needed that. And I gorged myself on boiled potatoes and salt. Rocket fuel! Pip dumped my tepid water and filled my Quik Trip-bought Smart Wate bottle with cold water.I was all set! And the best thing--I hit this fully-stocked aid oasis after the red, and the blue loops.

The first tenth of a mile down the trail from here was a mud slalom! There were lots of exposed roots that served as steps but could also send you into a body-slide mud bath. I was careful, but once through it, I RAN! I felt great and actually increased my pace by nearly two minutes per mile on the first loop. (secretly, I was trying to catch BfkaM who was only around 20 minutes ahead from what I heard. The Red loop is 3.1 miles and is quite rocky or most of the way. The blue loop is 2.5 miles and has a long rocky climb,  but then has over a mile of smooth fast single track. This 5 1/2 miles twists and turns with lots of switchbacks, and has very few scenic vistas. The sun was out in full force, and the mid-60s had given way to low 80s. I was no closer to catching BfkaM, and I was ready to be done. 

After each loop, we crossed this creek. I am betting this was a wet-shoe crossing earlier in the morning.

I walked with Pip for a while after leaving their aid station for the final time. He was pulling course markings, and I had my mouth crammed with potatoes. Somewhere along this final 
1.5-ish miles, I checked my Strava and determined that if I pushed the pace, I might be able to wrap things up in under 5 hours. I tried to speed up my foot turnover and tried to stretch my stride--all to very little avail. I also did not realize that the course returned to the far south end of the lodge and descended back to the waterfalls. My five hours slipped by as I was climbing the wooden steps out of the river bed, and I still had around .3 of a mile to go. My final Strava data says I did 15.7 miles in 5:05:44, but has my moving time at 4:35. I don't have auto-pause on, so I am not sure how "moving time" is calculated, but I like that number better.

JV Collective had some great awards for the finishers and winners. These hand-made coffee cups and hat pins were awesome!

 The trophies were outstanding as well,

To my knowledge, no one saw an armadillo, but there are some here. This guy was roaming around on the trailz here a couple of years ago.

I love the shirts. It's a cotton/poly blend and is quite comfortable. It's sublimated, so it should just look better with age.

15.7 miles by my running app. I did have a slight misread and added maybe a tenth by the ball fields. So it that was a tenth, the course is within 250 feet of being spot on--can't get much closer without using a measuring wheel.

Strava says I ascended 1264 feet. I'll take that.

Justin and Victor did a GREAT job from all that I saw and heard. Sorry, my race write-up did not include more info about other people--I ran alone for 100% of the way. 

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