Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Armadillo 2018

As part of my ongoing "training", I traversed the Armadillo Ultra (for me it was a half ultra.) This ace at Osage Hills State Park is such a diverse combination of trails and terrain, that any trail runner should experience it. I have been a part of this race for the past 4 years, and the past two I have been able to RUN it.

I left out of Tulsa plenty early to chat with friends, get signed up, and ready myself mentally. AAs you can see from the above picture, I had not gathered myself mentally just yet. More coffee was needed.

My friends Gwen and Johnna are poised and ready to go. Gwen a 6'6" gazelle, graciously squatted down so I could get both her and Johnna in the same frame.

Thee long photo-arm of James captures the transformation of a zombie coffeed up. It's almost go-time.

Well, the usual crawling out from the start line was with me again. I should try actually running the 1st quarter mile in a race for a change. But here, I knew there would be a log-jam when we reached Sand Creek Falls. I also knew I would take some pictures, so I let the race go. I buried myself so far behind in tme that I was guaranteed a lonely solo run. Funny thing is, I kind of like that.

I have always wanted to rappel, and Roman was here to photograph my change of mind the moment my feet started dangling off the edge of an 80' drop.

Next was a run down to the old ball field. It was really just a field--should have been called a deer field. Today I saw four, but they were much too elusive to be caught on camera.

After the ball field loop, we made a loopy out and back and ran by another Danger Cliffs area. These were about a 30' drop to the water. I have seen people jumping off here but you couldn't pay me enough to do that. (Oh I probably DO have a price.)

A mile or so of flat double track with zero elevation gain. It was also a tunnel with thick tree cover. A tunnel, but not a wind tunnel. I had to hold my glasses through here because they were fogging up so bad.

To make the distances right, a series of out and backs had to be added, I have no problem with that, although those doing the whole loop twice for the 50K, these get to be a drag. I just love someone's sence of humor with this turnaround sign.

This access road is usually unfindable. Whoever mowed or weed-eated it is a hero in my books, The worst chiggers I have ever had (and maybe the worst case of chiggers in the history of the Earth) happened at this park to ME a few years ago.

Another out and back led to Lookout Lake. This road took us up a nice little hill and made for a brief bit of non-technical running. If you absolutely must run on roads, they should be like this one.

This lake is a postcard. If I fished, I'd fish here. They also have kayaks to rent, but I have kayaks, and I am positive I'll bring them here. And maybe fish.

I always take pictures of the aid stations and volunteers, and God knows I had time for that. I hit the first one twice since I left my phone in a campground bathroom and a camper brought it back to the aid station and I made a 2K detour to get it. and remembered to get a picture of Krystal and Lisa. The second aid station you hit three times, and I was so intent on eating that I took no pictures there. But thank you Philip and Sara!!

The reason I hit this station three times was because it was the beginning and ending of the two loops on the mountain bike trailz. These trailz winded around and had several switchbacks, It was like they had 10 acres to cut 5 miles of trailz, and they actually did a great job of it--whoever planned the construction of this playground.

Most of the way was shaded, but there were a few places where you could catch some rays. I actually ran these stretches faster to get through to the next shady area.

James Canfield caught me poking along through the woods. He had finished his 25K and was back out on the course taking pictures.

When James is not taking pictures, he kills zombies with the jawbone of an ass.

I finished in 6:32 and change. If I had only been just an hour faster, I might have been next to last place. But remember, I did add 2K running back to get my phone. But other than that, I just had a slow day. And took some pictures. And just about fell off a cliff. And had a poop stop (TMI !!!) All in all, I felt great, and kept my electrolytes balanced, and stayed hydrated enough to pee a couple of times. 

OH! And I beat a few 50Kers.

Justin Walker aka Jwalk did a super great job RD-ing this race. He marked the course better than I ever did. And, he never seemed stressed out although I am sure he was at some point--it comes with the territory.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Mowdy Report

I am a little late in getting my race report out for the melody Mustang Ranch Trail run. This is my third year to run this race, and it is a very well put together race, great trails, and beautiful scenery. It’s also cool to see wild Mustangs running around in the woods while you’re also running around in the woods.
This year, I signed up for the 50 K knowing that if it got hot I would drop down to the marathon distance. I have no problem doing that, as I don’t like absolutely baking my brain out in the open spaces. The marathon and 50K started at 5 AM. Most everybody wore their headlamps, but I opted to go without one since in 15 or 20 minutes it was light enough to see. The race starts out across a small field and turns into a small wooded area and then gets back out into some open prairie. The first mile or so, it was too dark to take any pictures; but when I got into the words, the sun was starting to pick up over the horizon.

The Mowdy Ranch Trail Run has a 5K, 10K a half marathon, full marathon, 50K. The course has 7 miles on the north side of the ranch and then you come back to the start finish. Then you go out for about 6.5 miles on the south end of the property. Once you do both of these loops, you have a half marathon under your belt. The marathon does the same thing twice, and the 50K does an additional shorter loop to make their distance. I’d say close to half of the runners at this event do the half marathon.

After passing this tree with the face, you get into some really technical trails. Most trail runners would actually call this their favorite section as there are some cool rock formations. 

My first time around, I ran the section fairly well although I did stop and take a few pictures. My second lap it was starting to get hot and I basically walked through it and endured the technical areas.

I really didn’t have any time goals for this race. I just wanted to get a marathon or 50K, and feel good on my feet. I had hoped to get through the race with no serious knee issues—even after the race.

 I always take a picture from this spot, but a photo never captures how amazing the view really is. After being in dense woods for a couple of miles, the break here in the tree cover shows a valley and a distant hill maybe 4-5 miles away. It's not Colorado, but it's still scenic.

 This mile stretch is like running FlatRock. Not easy to run with tired legs.

If I had built this trail, I would have plotted it just as it is. I reserve the right to cuss at it, but meandering between rocks is trail running at its best.

 Fortunately, my body tends to lean this direction later in a race.

It can really get hot at this race, but this year was a few degrees cooler than in years past. It was partly cloudy but when you got out in these fields and the sun was beating down on you It was a grind. 

The race photographers took this photo. I was focusing on sucking it in but did not remember to disguise my duck stride.

I'm not sure if this was on the north or south side trailz. Let's say south.

After my first loop, I picked up my new spiffy hat. It’s a straw hat with lots of ventilation, and a 50 UPF rating. It breathes well enough that my head didn’t get too hot and sweaty, although I still needed the bandanna to mop my brow.

These sunny sections were a good place to run. No roots or rocks to trip on, and the sooner you got through them the better. The warm weather eventually did take its toll on me. I hit an aid station on the north side where they filled my water bottle--and I promptly spilled it all over there M&Ms and potato chips. I felt kind of bad about that but they said oh don’t worry don’t worry. But I had used the last of their water in their water jug. They said they could get me a refill but I opted to go on since my bottle was about half full. That was a mistake. I got to the long Rocky technical section for the second time  and my legs were tired enough that I really couldn’t shuffle through there. I just walked. I was sort of rationing my water were not wanting to run out before I got to the next stage station, but I still drained it and had about a mile and a half to go mostly in an open sunny field. I found myself getting really short of breath and actually had a slight bit of tightness in my chest. That spooked me, and I really wondered what I should do. Then, it occurred to me I had my cell phone and I could call my friends RJ and Michelle at the next state station. They could probably run out to meet me with a bottle of water. Three minutes later RJ came riding up on a four wheeler with a cold bottle of Gatorade and a cold bottled water. He stayed with me while I guzzled all that down and offered me a ride on in--but I wanted to stay in the race. When I got to their aid station I sit down drink another big cup of ice water and another big cup of ice Gatorade and felt like I was 100%. Or 90%--somewhere in there. 

I went on and I knew at this point that I was not going to make the 50 K. I expected that, but I was worried that I was not going to get to the Finishline before their cut off. I did not want to hold all the aid stations out there waiting for me. So I called my buddy Chris who was timing the rice and he assured me that I had plenty of time to finish the marathon and that there were actually quite a few 50 K years behind me. I really questioned that as I think I had been lapped by all of them and in fact I had.

I was starting to think I wasn’t going to see any horses out on the range, but as I made the turn heading back towards the start finish I saw several and took a picture and walked a little further and took another picture trying to get close and as it turns out I probably could’ve  scratched them on the butt. They were quite tame.

I made the aid station on the south side of the course and apologized for being so slow but they said not to worry that they’d be there even if it was until dark. I thought that was very kind but I didn’t want to keep them out there that long so I picked up the pace a little bit. Not a lot— just a little. 

 The south side of the course has a little more exposed sections, but this year, they had cut a few more trailz and eliminated some fields and added single track through the woods. This race gets better every year.

I probably had about 4 miles left in my race and another four wheeler came riding out to meet me. It was Clay Melody, the owner of the Mustang Ranch, and I guess the word got around that I had had a little bit of trouble with the heat and they were concerned that I was OK. Actually I was doing great but I was very thankful that they came out to check on me.

There were lots of armadillos out this day. This guy was so busy rutting around for grub worms that he was totally unaware that I was taking his picture. I could have scratched his ears. Earlier, I saw 4 babies rooting around in the leaves. They looked up at me like puppies. I could have brought one home.

When I reach the south aid station again for the final time, there were about 20 people there standing in applauding for me coming in. I was just blown away by that. I know the last place runner usually gets a lot of hoopla. That’s the cool thing about our sport, but I sure didn’t expect so many people. They told me that it was only about a mile to the finish and that was pretty close to true it’s actually about a mile and a quarter and I managed to jog that in. 

I did have a couple of people meet me about a quarter-mile out and run in with me. Again I was just really blown away by that. This guy and I don't remember his name--and Cat, and I didn't get our picture.

They gave me my finishers medal and told me not to go away, as they had a Nother special award for me. It seems the last horse in the barn gets a special award. Again that’s something kind of unique to trail run. They gave me this little gnome which I thought was just quite fitting as it was riding a turtle. It now resides in my flower garden, and it does move around a little bit but not very fast.

So what can I take from this run? Only that trail runners are some of the greatest people in the world. I love this race, and will probably do this one every year until I’m too old to get around.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

War Eagle--25K for me

My training--such as it is--has consisted of weeknight dog walks and races on the weekends. My goal race (or at least the first tier goal race) is Honey Badger--a 100+ miler in the flatlands of Kansas--that wide spot in the middle that has no trees. It has a 36-hour time limit which is only there to make it seem badass. The only thing hard about it is the potential for hot weather--July 7 on rural paved roads with zero shade--yep, it could be hot. So, to train for that, I need long slow runs in the heat, and War Eagle fit the bill.

 I remember this race when it was just a fat ass run--way back when the fatass description brought raised eyebrows and pissed off looks from anyone who's butt was bigger than medium. Probably less than 100 runners showed up to run on these winding twisting single track trail system. The race then was actually called the Tail Twister. Today there were 567 finishers, and probably a few who just threw in the towel mid-race, and a few who stayed at home under the covers. 

Due to the RD sending the crowd backward across the War Eagle bridge to an imaginary starting line, I started the race near the front of the pack--a freakishly strange spot for me to find myself. My plan was to run with Lynna, and did for about a quarter mile. I had the everything-malfunction going on. My pack was strapped on one notch wrong, one shoe was too tight and one was too loose. No wait, they were on the wrong feet. One Injinji toe did not feel right. I needed my bandana on. Bitch bitch bitch. I walked and fixed my pack, tied my bandana on, and decided to just suck it up on the shoe thing. Since by then, I was at the back of the pack, I ventured off on a gravel road to pee, and now was in my comfy place--way back in last place.

So, most all of my pictures were just of the trailz. And what beautiful trailz they are--very well groomed without many unnecessary switchbacks.  The tree cover was thick, and the skies were mostly cloudy for the first part of the race, and I lost my sense of which way was north or any direction. I knew up and down, but it seemed like for the most part, but had no clue of how the course would take me. Fortunately, it was very well marked.

At one point somewhere, there was a splinter tail that seemed to lead to an overlook. I took the turn and saw a group of cattle enjoying a float trip. I got passed here by some people who either got lost, found a porta pot and let the old guy pass them.

This is what running is supposed to be. Just dirt, trees, and a breeze here and there if you're lucky. The 25K ran one big loop. The 50K ran two of these loops. It gets confusing here though. They also had another small loop that they had to do. The starting line and the finish line were at different places. The 50K did not return to the starting line, but their second loop was short so they added on X amount of mileage to make it 31.1 miles. If that makes sense, then I have done a good job of splainin' it. It was my goal to not be lapped by a 50Ker. If they lapped me, then they were going more than twice my pace. (Ok, I am really slow.)

Because the 50Kers had this longer 5K-ish loop to do, I got ahead of a lot of them. I started getting passed by a LOT of runners, and they were actually not all that much faster than what I was able to do. It took me a while to figure out who these people were. Once I did, I felt relieved and started tucking in behind them and matching their pace. I reeled off a few faster miles in the latter part of my loop. Eventually, I did get passed by the 50K leaders though. It was easy to tell who they were because they about blew me over when they zoomed by.

We had a short section of gravel road that seemed a lot like Pumpkin Holler.

I went through quite a few Salt Sticks (my electrolyte capsule of choice.) I never ran out of water and made myself drink warm water the whole day. I stayed well hydrated and peed 2-3 times.

This sign struck me funny. Only now while writing this race report did I realize that this must have been a horse camp.

The best part of the race was seeing Dave Renfro out at one of the aid stations. He just came out to cheer the runners on. I was so glad to chat with him even though it was a quick exchange. Dave has battled cancer for a few years and has such a brave outlook on his situation. The picture below is a screen capture from his Facebook page.

Five days later, cancer took him from us. I was so sad and deeply grieved our loss, and his family's loss. 

My friend Kathy Bratton said it better than me:

"Rest In Peace Dave Renfro! I have never seen anyone go through a sickness with such grace and dignity as you did! I will truly miss your macabre sense of humor and your warrior spirit!!!"

I finished 294th out of 304 25kers. Hey--it's a top 300. I would bet money that those behind me were 50Kers who stopped after their first (longer) loop.

So what in this race is an improvement? I had to scrape to find anything. I held up good in the heat, drank and peed, I found a wee bit of speed late in the race--just a smidgen. I'm just gonna call it a decent LSD run. Plus, the shirt was nice.