Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Greenleaf 20K, and some other ramblings

Last year I had signed up for the inaugural Greenleaf 30K at Greenleaf Lake east of Braggs Oklahoma. I also was supposed to board a cruise ship early the next morning in Galveston--so I skipped the run. Now I have run these trailz three times prior and I was well aware that the upper route was quite hilly and technical in places, and was eager this year to plow right through the course. 

I had Brandon and Cameron Plate riding with me and they were both signed up for the 30K. They are both 40 years younger than me and 40 times faster than me, so my questionable math skills directed me to do the 20K so I could beat them to the finish line. Haha. I even took a 30-minute early start, leaving out with the 30Kers.

It was a coldish start, but with bright blue skies and no wind, it was a perfect day for a nice long run.

Most of the route was on single track with a little bit of jeep road every now and then. We also had to run a highway bridge across the lake, running on an asphalt shoulder and a narrow concrete shoulder on the actual bridge. The state park people had coned off the road funneling both directions into one lane taking turns to pass through.   I bet we got a lot of dirty snarling looks from non-runners who had to wait.

This short stretch of trail was the old abandoned highway. This section of hit and miss decaying overlays led us from one single track to another.

A mile or so in, this trail sloped precariously close to the edge where one slip of the shoe might send you rolling down the embankment into the lake. Trekking poles--I'm glad I brought them today.

After 2.7 miles we came to Lynna's aid station. Travis Owen was also there peddling Fireball--and I graciously accepted a half a shot.

For me, the highlight of the trip is the swinging bridge. It's hard to run across it. The bridge bounces unpredictably and you can't get a rhythm going. It's fun. I ran once here with my lab, and he would have NO PART of this bridge. I had to carry his 100 lb ass across.

The outbound trail stays close to the shore and has a few little ups and owns, but is way flat compared to what comes later. This cove was beautiful, but I could not get a good snap that captured the beauty and serenity. Bushwhacking to the shore a little further back might have been the ticket, but hey--I ws in a race. 

 Travis Owen must have been hiding in the woods to sneak this picture. See--I'm all business.

The aid station at Mary's Cove was the turning point for the 20 and 30Kers. From here, we headed eastward up a steep hill and then turned back south, but the 30Kers went north onto some of the more remote areas. I heard multiple moanings about the hills on the north loop being terrible.

It was at this aid station where Brandon dropped. He took a fall and bruised up his shin, and decided to be smart and call it a day. The only way they could get the aid station supplies here was by boat, and a boat ride was the only way for Brandon to get back to the start/finish. He finished 1st in the Greenleaf Du--10K trail run and a 1K boat ride.

For the 20K  things got rough for the next few miles--even more so for the 30Kers. You had rocks. All sizes. Some loose, some slick, some sharp and sticking up to trip you. Best of all--they were heavily leaf covered. It was trail by braille. I put the trekking poles to non-stop use for the next 5 miles. Not surprising, climbing was easier than descending.

Instead of having mud cake up on my shoes, I had wads of leaves stuck to my poles. Not really a problem, but a minor annoyance.

The always expected--sun-peaking-through-the-trees shot. Yep--I know there was already one posted earlier.

Cameron caught up with me during this section. He was running with a broken toe, or so he said. Yes, he was moving a little slower than normal. But where he passed me with 5 miles to go, he had run 13 miles while I managed only 8. 

 AHA!! A clearing. This was after 6 bad climbs, and behold--it was nearly flat 

A couple of old friends caught up with me. Susan and Caroline have run 100s with me--as well as a few 50Ks and road marathons. This day, they were 30 minutes faster than me. But did they stop to take pictures (other than this one?) Did they lollygag around at the aid stations?

Back at Lynna's aid station--the Fireball was gone. I hear newer trail runners say they would NEVER drink on a run, but Fireball has become a staple at trail run aid stations. Notice the large empty bottle. My buddy Travis had saved one shot just for me!!!

The route back from Lynna's bypassed the treacherous trail sloping to an icy drowning death, and instead took us up a long gradual uphill jeep road. Good call.

2280 feet of gain--about half of what Switchbacks had, but mile for mile, it's actually close.

What did I learn from this run? Hmmm. Umm....if you keep going, you will eventually finish.? I guess I can claim that. Most encouraging was what happened later that evening. I met with acquaintances from a sacred secret society and spent 4 more hours on treacherous trails in the deep of night to find things that needed to be found. Somehow my worn-out body rose to the occasion and 7.8 miles and 1280 vertical feet later, I accomplished my mission. Both endeavors equaled a good double.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Happy Birthday to our friend Diana!!!!

Some awesome friends of ours, Mike and Diana Snyder were some of the first running friends we made when Dana and I started hanging out with RunnersWorld. The group was small then--maybe 20-25 regulars, and we became best buds. 

We ran with them every Tuesday and Thursday and most Saturdays, and afterward frequently feasted.

We vacationed with them in 2007--a week in Cali during Western States week. Mike and Diana for years wanted us to join them in Lake Okoboji in Iowa, but our hectic schedules never allowed it. 

I signed up and paced Diana to her first marathon finish in 2008. Johnny Spriggs and I carried signs to incite the crowds to hysteria cheering and applauding.

Mike joined the army not long after that and Diana stayed in Broken Arrow for a year or so. 

One night after a run, Mike made a surprise back home and shocked Diana showing up at the front door. We were in on the caper, and after a brief visit with Mike, we let them catch up.

They came back to Tulsa a couple times a year though, and our group would get together at Arizona Restaurant and stuff our faces and talk about old times and new. 

Mike recently brought it to our attention that SOMEONE is moving up an age group this week--the big 50!! We would love to be sitting on the beach drinking margaritas with them helping her celebrate. Maybe we'll crash their place soon.

YIKES, Diana--get the fire extinguisher after that cake!! Happy birthday from Dana and I. We'll show up at your doorstep when you least expect it. Love ya!!!!!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Lessons from State Games

Saturday, Johnna, Lynna, and I made the drive to OKC to trails at Lake Stanley Draper to run the Oklahoma State Games Trail Run. 
Johnna was volunteering at an aid station, and Lynna and I were doing the short run (a 4-miler.) I had signed up for the 12-mile race, but my dad and his lady-friend decided to tie the knot at 2:00 that afternoon so even the 8-miler might be hard to complete in time to drive back home, shower, and get to the church on time. Doing 4 gave us enough time, and we could even grab a bite to eat on the way home.

Last year, we had a pretty good crew from Tulsa here for the race, but this year, it was us three, Mike Clark, Mathew Stroupe, Tiffany Fielder, James Canfield, and Sue Marolf from the NE part of the state. ODTS dominators Jeremy Harrison and Cheryl Kastl also were representing. Ok--that's 10 friends from our group. :-) And it's always good to catch up with friends I haven't seen in a while. I have a lot of OKC ultra-running friends. 

The 12-milers started at 9:00 am, the 8-milers three minutes later, and the short runners three minutes after that. I had the usual "first-mile-sucks" thing going on, and once that subsided, I was too warm so I shed a shirt, head sweating so I altered my buff/hat contraption, and then my shoes were too loose. Whine whine whine. But then, I picked up the pace ever so slightly. At about 2 miles in, I finally caught a walker and I climbed out of last place. YAY!

The zany duo of Beth McCombs and Johnna were at the lone aid station on the course. They posed for a face-stuffing photo, and then I headed out to see if I could finish strong. I had 1.7 miles to the finish line and I made myself increase my cadence and tried to find a quicker pace I could hang on to.

Eventually, I caught another runner. Then a walker with hiking poles who may have been in the 8-mile race. Then I saw a line of runners through the trees, although the serpentine design of these trailz made for runner sightings where the said runners were actually 3/4 of a mile ahead. 

I stopped for a quick picture of the white bike (I wish I knew the story behind this bike.) The final mile by my watch was a much faster pace. I popped out into a clearing and saw that train of runners I had spotted earlier. I may have turned my shuffle into something that more resembled a run. For sure, I had the huffing and puffing noises that are sometimes associated with a hard run. I did manage to pass all of them, and a couple more single runners ahead. The results verify I passed 11 runners in the 4-mile race. 102:33, which leaves a lot of room for improvement. I'm proud of my last mile. I think there's some logic to squeezing out a warm-up run before the race starts. That'll happen in my next short race.

My mile splits
1. 18:20
2. 16:50 (included clothing adjustments)
3. 14:40 (included aid station stop)
4. 13:10  

I'm at a place in my running where I have to look for SOMETHING to hang my hat on. I'm never gonna run at the intensity that I once did. The only PRs I am gonna get are ones where I have not run that distance before. (In this case, my 4-mile PR is 1:02:33.) I did prove one thing to myself--I can suck it up and make my body do what it doesn't want to do. It was a small improvement, and next time out, I want another small improvement in some aspect of my running. Sprinkling in an honest effort in training will help. Last week, I finished a race that I fully intended to quit. Next week, I hope to dig deep and find another piece of inner strength (or stubbornness) within myself. It's a process. I'm making it a process.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Ouachita Switchbacks 2018

It's Sunday night, and I'm on the mend from my third Ouachita Switchbacks race I ran yesterday. Dubbed as Oklahoma's toughest 50K, I completely concur with the label. I have run 25K here for the past three years, admitting my lack of ability to go for the full monty. The 25K (actually a generous 18 miles in distance) is more than enough to wear my leg bones down to a nub. 

Johnna and I made the red-eye drive from Tulsa and arrived in time to get her to her aid station for the early starters. I then headed on to the start/finish and had the need for a short run into the woods to visit the outhouse--actually a grove of trees decently out of sight from the road. Five minutes later, I was parked .3 miles from the packet pickup table. 

Hoodie and race number in hand, I jogged back to the car and ditched my coat, pinned on my number, and began the return trip to the starting line. Halfway back, I realized my gloves were too much so I scurried BACK to the car, swapped the arctic grade ones for a light pair of running gloves, and headed back AGAIN. I'm notorious for starting races late, and in this race, I gave the fields a 10-minute head start. Apparently, I had started my Suunto when I turned on the GPS, and I had racked up 1.2 miles bathrooming and running back and forth to the car. SO as bad as trail runners are at doing math in their head, I had a 1.2milemileage difference and  10 minute time difference to deal with. I guess I should have cleared my watch.

Here's my always-expected sun-shining-through-the-trees picture. It was 21 degrees to start the race, with no wind--at east for a while. I wore Injinji socks with a thin wool sock over them. Fleece lined tights, a merino wool shirt, my lucky Pumpkin Holler fleece vest, and an oversized fleece beanie. I was barely warm enough and it turned out to be nearly perfect.

Starting late, I had the trail all to myself for a few miles. I did manage to pass a few people, some of which passed me later.

At mile 4, the trail crossed HWY 259 where the first aid station was.

My friends Lynna, Johnna, and David were cooking cheese quesadillas and hot chocolate. I did partake. sadly, the Fireball had been drunk.

I had no problem crossing the creek. There were more than enough boulders to hop across.

During this stretch, my fingers about FROZE. I now see why--a bank of clouds moved in. Also, looking at my Strava data, I slowed down a minute or so through here. It was a long gradual uphill, and the north breeze had picked up a little. Did I mention I was using my trekking pole? That kept at least one hand out of my vest pocket. I know--I'm whining.

Plus, I took a few pictures through here.

It's always cool doing a race that's an out and back--you get a chance to see a lot of old friends you haven't seen in a while. Michelle stopped so we could get a selfie together.

After that, I began the mile-long upward trek up the Winding Stair Mountain Switchbacks. There are 33 zig-zags to traverse, and you climb 600 feet in a mile. Many (like myself) are a little wore out at that point in the race anyway. The climb is worth it though, as Kate Ellisor and a host of other volunteers had a variety of snacks and more cheese quesadillas.

This was my turn-around. he 50Kers however, continued on to Horsethief Springs. I have been on that stretch of trail, and know it to be super-technical. God used that stretch of land to unload all the surplus rocks when He was creating the world. And that being said--one 50Ker ran the race in sandals.

Finally, the sun came out again. I had a lot of downhill trail from here, but the long section of switchbacks was too steep for me to let it rip. After that, I had almost a mile of uphill, and then four miles of gradual decline. I actually gritted out what felt like 13-minute miles but Strava disagrees. The last half mile before I reached the last aid station--the wheels fell off.

The last half mile before I reached the last aid station--the wheels fell off. It was a beautiful stretch of the trail, the sky was blue, the sun was peaking down between the trees, and I took a few pictures. And then I just could not make myself run from there. My bad knee hurt. The hip above also hurt. The two inflamed areas joined forces so the whole right side of my body was screaming for me to stop. When I stopped, it just hurt more. I decided right there that I'd drop at mile 14. Lynna would let me sleep in her car until they were through with their aid station. I had nothing to prove and no reason to go on.

Well, they wouldn't have it. They assured me I could do it. It was only 3.7 miles--just a little over three miles, and I had more than enough time. (It was a solid four miles, and I would be flirting with darkness.) My Suunto had me at 15.95 miles, so I walked to the end of the parking area so my watch would read an even 16 miles. (Remember, I started with 1.2 miles on my watch.)

Then I thought--oh what the hell. I'll go for it. David supplied me with some Aleve, and Lynna loaned me her headlamp, and I trudged out. 

A half mile later--I was glad I didn't quit. This last section of trail had a lot of flat sections, the uphills were gradual. Any steep section was brief. The only rocky spots were short dry creek crossings. I had mental notes as to how far it was from each of the small ponds. I knew this section well.

Ahh--the old toilet tree. This is one mile from the finish line. Rumor has it--my friend William Dirty Sanchez Barnes and his girlfriend Carrie USED this as a toilet. I didn't peak in to see if it was true.

I did a steady jog for most of the final miles. David West met me .25 miles from the finish with a bowl of potato soup. It was wonderful. I ate most of it, and then trotted on into the finish. RD Tommy Brennan met me there with congratulations, a nifty commemorative hat, and a handshake.

Three years of finishes in the long 25K. My hats off and I heartily applaud all those who finished--especially the 50K finishers. 

Another friend, Justin Franklin, won the 50K handily. This is after smashing the field the week before at the Athens/Big Fork Trail Marathon. Back to back wins on the hardest 50K in Oklahoma and the hardest marathon in the world. Wow. I am so privileged to have such amazing runners for friends.