Sunday, March 25, 2018

Land Run 50K 2018

I have toed the line and ran all three LandRun 50Ks, and this year it was DRY!!! The bikers just blazed by on roads that are actually BETTER than most streets in Tulsa. GONE was the endless miles of shoe sucking mud, the clay pancakes on the feet, and the 50 lbs of gunk on all the poor bikers spokes and gears.
OK, I'm a thief. I prefer to call myself a borrower though. This pic was borrowed from the LR100 FB page
This year Johnna, Lynna and I were chauffeured by BfkaM (Bryan formerly known as Mitch) over to Stillwater and back to do this race. Carpooling is the best. Especially with friends.

Picture by Lyda McWilliams
Lyda met us at the starting line all geared up and decked out for her first 50K. I believe she picked an easy one for her debut, although some people would disagree since there are (heaven forbid) HILLS. But none are ridiculously steep, and only a few are long. I am sure that the front runners run every step of them. And I think I could do the same, although I have yet to prove that theory.

Picture by JC Runner
Running her 2nd 50K was none other that Tiffany Fielder--the current leader of the Oklahoma Dirt Trail Series (which I have yet to update since I am still waiting for official results from AOK a few weeks back.)

Picture by JC Runner
After a reported 1200 bikers were sent off at 8:00 am, us runners took off at 8:10. I had my Salomon S-LAB 15 full of snacks, gels, a filled bladder, and other necessities one might need in a long run with minimal aid.

The course was the same as last year, and I pretty much knew every turn and what to expect. The first aid station was right at 10.5 miles, the second was 20.5 miles. The crew at aid station one also set up at mile 22.5. This came in handy for Lyda, and I'll elaborate later on that.

Picture by Lyda McWilliams
Look at that stinker go!!
This motley crew stayed together for about the first half of the race. Johnna and I have a light hearted grudge match in races. Sometimes I whup her butt. Sometimes, however, she makes me eat her dust. Occasionally we act like civilized runners and run together. Shortly after leaving this aid station, either I slowed down or she sped up. Twice I pushed the pace and caught her, but after the second run-down, she took off and put a sizable distance between us. When I could no longer see her in the distance, the "reel it in" affect was gone.  I'd accuse her of cutting the course, but there is no way possible to do that. In fact, she did miss a turn and added a little over a mile to her race and still beat me by over an hour.

We had received an email about drop bags for the race. I rarely use one, and with my stuffed pack and aid stations with the basics every 10 miles, I was good. Lyda was doing her first ultra, and being vegan, she was concerned that there would not be anything she could eat at the stops. She paid the $20 to have a drop bag delivered, and it was unclear to her where it would be. Someone told her it was halfway on the course. At mile 15-16--no drop bag. She made a phone call to someone with the race and was told it would be at the next aid station, but the aid station folks knew nothing about it. Then someone told her it was only for the 100 mile bikers. Funny, they had no problem taking her $20 for transport. She did get a small bag of pretzels and some fruit at the second aid station, and probably had more stuff she could eat at the impromptu station two miles later. Despite this issue, Lyda kept up a good pace and finished around 45 minutes ahead of me. Not sure if they ever found her drop bag or refunded her $20.

BfkaM was also told upon picking up his packet that he had paid for drop bag service when signing up online, but he did not remember doing that. Like me, he had no intention of using one anyway.

Picture by JC Runner
Last year the mud through this stretch was so bad, Johnna stepped in a hole and sunk up to her chin! After a drought year, the roads were dry and dusty, but this spot STILL had mud a year later. With a little tiptoeing, bush-whacking, and scrambling, we were able to get around it with our pretty trail shoes still dusty. It was also around here that Lynna found her rocket fuel and left BfkaM and I behind.

BfkaM and I were content to be the two middle-aged fat guys in last place. We even had a Jeep escort tailing us. If they would have had a cattle prod handy, I am sure they would have used it on us. About 1.5 miles from the finish line, we both ran out of water--within a few steps of each other. But being the resourceful trail runner that I am, I remembered a quickie store a mile ahead, and decided we should stop there and get a beer to get us to the finish line. For whatever reason, the only singles they had were the 25 oz Ultras and Bud Lights. I went with the Ultra, and a mile later, I had downed almost all of it and raised it high as we crossed the amazing finish line.

Pic borrowed from the Land Run 100 FB page

The finish line at Land Run is like no other. Now remember, this is really a gravel bike event. As slow as BfkaM and I were, there were still a lot of 100 mile bikers behind us. (The coolest thing about all the bikers passing us was that they nearly all shouted out and cheered us on. It was uplifting!) When these bikers finish, they all partake of the free beer, and just hang around to party and cheer everyone on. That includes us runners. We are treated like celebrities when we trot across the line.

Picture by Belle Vie
Johnna and Lyda collected their patches and waited around for us. I felt great for having shuffled around the countryside for almost nine hours.

Not sure who took this picture. Probably because of the green beer.
Mike had found some green wheat beer, and that just sounded wonderful to me after drinking 25 ounces of watered down beer. Everyone was in, everyone felt good, and we were hungry!!

Lynna had lost her Patagonia jacket she had bungeed to her hydration pack when she took a diversion into the woods. BfkaM drove us back to the spot, and found it easily. We were the last runners on a seldom driven road. 

I said it last year, and I'll probably kick the idea around some more. I think this would make a good 100 mile ultra. They make a provision for anyone wanting to do a run/bike double to run Friday and bike Saturday. What if maybe me and a friend show up and just run the 100 mile bike course self sufficient. Leaving out Friday at 6:00 am should get us to the finish line by noon or so Saturday. Hmmm....

Friday, March 16, 2018

Greetings from the 1970s

Greetings from the 1970s. I was going through some old pictures and found one that I forgot about!! This was right before the Yes concert in 1978, I think. That would have put me at 18 or 19.
This was the longest my hair ever was. I had died it because I wanted to look like Jackson Browne--I was a huge fan. Shortly after that I got a perm because I wanted to be Roger Daltrey from the Who. The perm flopped, so I got the perm redone two days later. Then a lot of my hair broke off, or fell out. My hair was never the thick mop that it once was. (Can I get a do-over?)

I also found THIS--an old journal that I used to keep.In my move tears ago from Haskell to Tulsa I lost several spiral notebooks from a journal I started in 1975 my junior year in high school. This one I started sometime after I graduated. I had a brief start as a runner, although then, it was jogger.

This journal entry mentions my first run--a grand total of two miles. I would have been 19 here. I'll post another "jogging" entry or two in a future post.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A little run at Spavinaw

We had another trail outing Sunday--this time back at the Spavinaw WMA. I have run here several times, and each time I am intrigued at how many miles one could run if he had all day to do it. We met at RunnersWorld at 7:30 and picked up Lynna on the way through Inola. Our crew this time--Lynna and I, Kathy, Russell, and Caroll.

My intent was to try some different trailz than what we've been on before, but I could not resist starting the same way I always go. Not 1/4 of a mile into the first loop, we took a side-spur that turned out to be a dead end--but as is normal for trail runners, it was gladly accepted as bonus miles. At least now I know where that trail went. Very soon after that, we began what was a 213' ascent in .3 of a mile--basically a double Lipbuster. There had been a recent control-burn, and about half of our run we saw charred leaves and underbrush, and old deadwood smoldering. It was oddly beautiful.

The beauty of Spavinaw is everywhere. There is not a 'blah" spot anywhere. Yes, there are great hills, and nice crazy-fast descents, and enough flat sections to give the hill-haters something to feast on.

What I love about running here is the sound of wind whispering through the towering pine trees. That, and running on a carpet of pine needles.

Lynna and I found our happy pace as the the others were one notch faster than we were. But Russ, Caroll, and Kathy waited for us at each intersection. At the top of one such intersection there was a hollow but still standing tree with smoke drifting out of an open knothole near the top. We were just certain we had found the Keebler Elves tree, and cookies were-a-bakin'.

Now I know my way around at Spavinaw fairly well, and to me it looked like we needed to go right. But there was a sign (recently placed?) that said the right turn led to a private group camp which was  down a long dead end road. So, we went left.

The road we took was a long glorious descent and we thundered down it. I was looking for the road to round a hill past a deep ravine to the right where I had previously spotted what looked like caves. But instead, our sweet downhill spilled out into a valley on what I was pretty sure was Ground Hog Hollow Road. It became clear to me that we should have went right at the Keebler Elf intersection.

My legs were agreeing with the running and I caught up with Russ and crew. He was looking at the map he had on his phone and had figured out the same thing I had. No matter, because I wanted to see different stuff anyway.

Lynna decided to take Ground Hog back to where we parked, and the rest of us decided to go south, or west, or somewhere. That's when I looked up and saw what looked like a leprechaun beckoning us to try a mysterious route into the woods. We thought for a second and then--well--why not?

This nice lesser-travelled dirt road led in a southeast direction past a couple of fields that were no doubt planted to fatten up deer for the hunters who like to shoot them in the fall. This IS a Wildlife Management area anyway.

During our whole run, I never saw ANY wildlife. I'm sure they are there, but well hidden.

Our road fizzled to almost nothing resembling a route, but we followed what looked like a rarely used 4-wheeler trail. It eventually turned back into a maintained gravel road, and to a T-intersection where we had the choice of going west and tackling another huge loop, or go right and run into the paved highway where we could pop right back into the woods on another lesser-used road. Since my stomach was growling, I voted for the shorter route back. It was inching past lunchtime.

The next couple of miles were mostly downhill, and we finally spilled onto Ground Hog Hollow, and took what I thought was the final ascent and descent to where we parked. I was wrong, as to took us to the Keebler Elf tree. That's still puzzling. We went left, and it was mostly downhill from there including a super steep loosely-graveled final stretch. 

I ended up with 12 miles. Lynna had got back to the car and did hill repeats while she was waiting on us. Russell being the overachiever that he is, put his Iron Horse signature on the run by repeating the last hill.

We hit the Country Cottage in Locust Grove on the way home, and replaced every calorie we burned on our run. It was a satisfying day to say the least.

Next trip--in a few weeks--maybe McGee Creek.

Monday, March 5, 2018

The Final A-OK

Yesterday, I ran the last A-OK Trail Run. Due to an odd request by a neighbor, there will be no race here in the coming years. (I hope minds will be changed...)

Picture by Scott Bailey
 A formidable crew of Bryan Formerly Known As Mitch (BfkaM), Kathy, and JFrank left out from RunnersWorld at 4:30-ish and made it there in time for me to take the early start, and in a spineless state of mind, I opted to take the regular start which I knew basically assured me of missing the 4 hour cutoff, where I'd settle for 25K. My thoughts--I didn't want to have everyone waiting for me, I don't need a run where I feel like I failed to meet my objective (I know that sounds wishy-washy), and I do have a 50K coming up in two weeks that I WILL finish since there is no place to drop (unless you got an Uber pick-up on a rural dirt road that could be impassable due to mud.) Oh heck--AOK is an awesome 25K, and now I could take pictures and yak it up at the aid stations--my specialty.

Picture borrowed from Tiffany Fiedler, who ran and crushed her first 50K
There was a good contingent of Tulsa runners and Dirt Series types so all day I saw friendly faces out on the trailz.

This race is held on Mary Ann Miller's property near Atoka, OK. I think the name comes from the location as opposed to the race being described as A-Okay. It's far better than that. Mary Ann describes it like this.

"Scenic out-and-back course on well-defined private roads and trails through pine and hardwood forest.  Enough hills and rocks to prevent boredom."

There was a brief ceremony before the race recognizing Mary Ann for her kindness and racing accomplishments. I ran the Dallas White Rock Marathon in 2007, and on a bitterly cold day at mile 4 had her pass me and left me to wallow in my own slow pace. I did pass her a little later in the race but she finished well ahead of many runners finishing right around six hours.

A group of runners crowded in for a pre-race picture, and I ducked out of the picture to snap one of my own. We were sent off at 8:00, and I was fiddling with my watch and just walked the first 50 yards and let the pack get ahead.

The race course crosses the dam before tucking into the woods for about a mile of winding twisting single track with pine needles and lichen-covered boulders.

The trail found it's way back to the other side of the pond no more than 20 yards from the starting line, and then headed up a gradual climb. 

I had the usual issues with overdressing. I wore a tech t-shirt and a long sleeve tri-blend over that. it was cold and threatening drizzle at the start, so I had a light-weight rain shell. The rain shell came off pretty quick, and the long sleeve shirt was dropped on a pine sapling at the one-mile mark.

The first aid station was at a T-intersection where we went left for 3/4-mile. This was a great downhill, and I picked up the pace and clumsily passed a few runners. It was fun. might have been frightening for those who dived out of the way. Nerding out on my Movescount app shows I hit a 7:40 pace for a brief time. I managed to catch up with Lynna and BfkaM. My shuffle equals their power-walk, and we played cat and mouse for about a mile and then I stopped to pee and never caught back up.

Scenic out-and-back course on well-defined private roads and trails through pine and hardwood forest.  Enough hills and rocks to prevent boredom.

There are lots of out-and-backs on the course. In fact, the whole course is a big out and back, This lets you see all the runners--those who are lighting the place up, and those who are within passing distance if you run a little more. Kathy was doing the 50K and doing so at a quicker pace than I was. Each time I saw her, she had gained some ground. Her passing me from behind (lapping me) meant she'd finish twice my distance in far less time. She did pull off that feat, but several of the 50K runners did.

The second aid station was a busy place. Runners hit this stop three times per lap. Dora had the table well stocked. Homemade cookies, PBJs, Reeces Cups, mini-Snickers, huge pretzels, and a ton of other stuff. I just grazed here each time through. Russell and Arnold were miles ahead of me and were having a good race. They both probably PR'd.

Twice we had to go through a gate. One had to be opened and then shut, and the other was easy to slip through with minimal limbo skills. I knew the way the course went, and ducked through and headed to the right. I had a long gradual downhill that just went on forever. I stretched out my stride and focused on staying smooth and relaxed. Running just felt good, and I just KNEW I could catch BfkaM and Lynna. Upon rounding each curve in the road, I was just amazed that they were nowhere in sight. Finally, after running more than a mile, I rounded a corner and saw the driveway into the area where the race STARTS!?!?! My immediate thoughts were that I had passed the turnaround--but where were the other runners I should have seen. THEN, it hit me--I had turned the wrong way at the gate.

I wasn't mad even though I took a grouchy-looking selfy. I just made a mistake. The course went the same way last year. We drove past the turnaround on the way in.I just made a wrong turn and added 2.8 miles to my run. Truth is, although I do have a wee bit of a competitive nature, I do not mind being last in a race, and I often am. I socialize too much and stop to take too many pictures. I'm just me. That's what I do. I added 2.8 miles and 207' of elevation gain to my race. Some people accused me of doing this on purpose. No one filed a missing person report, but a few friends wondered what the heck happened to me.

Heading out on the out and back going the CORRECT way from the gate, I was passed by JFrank, who lapped me en route to his 50K win. He finished hours ahead of 2nd place. (I may be exaggerating about the margin of victory, but in the words of Uncle Donald, "It was HUGE.") 4:12 was his time. I'm not sure if that was a course record, but it could be.

So from here, I just jogged it in. No bombing the downhills. No fast and furious finish line antics. I just trotted across the finish line and called it good.

Picture by JC Runner
I had a bowl of delicious chili and a couple of Miller Highlifes and hung around to wait for Kathy. Kathy finished her 50K in 7:34--a 2:30 first half and a 2:34 second half for a virtually even split.

We can keep our fingers crossed that something changes and this race is held next year. I'm glad I got to do it one last time.