Monday, October 29, 2012

2012 Tulsa Run

Over nine thousand braved the cold for the 35th annual Tulsa Run on Saturday. Megan signed up for the 5k race, her first since Sophie entered the picture over a year ago.

One of us managed to stay warm while waiting at the finishing chute.


Her goal was to finish, and she goes and sets a PR! Way to go Megan!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Pumpkin Holler 50k (10/20/12)

The surrounding hills came into relief against the pale glow of dawn. Wisps of mist hung over the river. Eddie Vedder was on the radio and the adrenaline was flowing. There's nothing like that pre- race feeling, especially when you have no idea what to expect.

I pulled off the highway into the bustling campground. It was a cold, frosty morning. I quickly packed my hydration belt with a few bags of Gu Chomps and the camera. After catching a few photos of the river, I joined a crowd gathering around a campfire. Hundred- milers organized and labeled their gear for the drop bags. Small talk commences:  how far are you running, is this your first time, what an unusual pre- race music selection, what in the world are we doing here, etc. I try to be social but my mind is somewhere on the miles of road that lay ahead.

The starting line was packed with 100- milers, 100- kers and 50kers, all leaving at 8. We ran out of the campground and crossed the old metal bridge. If you've ever been on a float trip on the Illinois East of Tahlequah, chances are you've passed under this one.

Once over the river we began the thirty mile loop of the beautiful Pumpkin Holler course. The roads were not quite what I expected. I had envisioned dirt or fine gravel; these roads were covered with loose nuggets and rocks. Not that I'm complaing; give me rocks over pavement anyday. There were plenty of visual distractions in these early miles: an old wooden clapboard Church and other abandoned structures; views of the river and surrounding bluffs; climbs up into thickly wooded hills. I felt great and kept a steady ten minute pace.

At mile twelve or so I ran and chatted with Marlin from Norman for a bit. He was doing the 50k after completing the Wichita Marathon last weekend! Marlin told me about the Marathon Maniacs, of which he is a member. I might of said something about how the hills weren't so bad, words I would be eating soon enough.

At around thirteen miles the course follows the Pumpkin Holler Road, easily my favorite part of the day. The road follows a long and narrow valley in the hills for miles. The valley floor is hayfield and horse pasture with hills of oak and pine rising like walls on either side. An echanted refuge from modern civilization if there ever was one. Who lives out here, I wondered: well- off hobby farmers from the city, multi- generational families, hobbits?

After snapping a few photos that failed to do the landscape justice, I decided to put the camera away for good. I found it hard to get the shots that I strive for and remained focused on the task at hand. To get a better idea of how beautiful the course is, go here.

Somewhere on the one stretch of paved road (mile 18 or so) I began to experience fatigue in the legs and my left knee flared up. By the time I reached the bathtub rocks crossing it was moving from uncomfortable to painful. I suspect that my knee took a beating when my exhausted quads could no longer absorb the pounding. One of the trade offs for cutting back on training mileage, I guess.

If my legs began to protest around the bathtub rocks, my mind began check out after the last aid station. Those were the longest, toughest three miles I've ever run. The climbs were fine, but anything with at least one degree of downgrade hurt like hell. I walked quite a bit on this stretch and swore every-time I rounded a bend and didn't see that damn bridge.

"That's crazy, I could never do that," is a common response if you share with someone that you ran a 50k. After they ask you how many miles it is, of course. With the metal bridge finally in view, I was passed by a couple of guys who looked like they were out for an easy training run. I greeted them and said "almost there". They looked at me kind of funny and mumbled a vague acknowledgement. Found out later that they were 100- milers. Two more loops for them. "Damn, I thought, that's crazy." I could never do that, or could I?

Not that I'll find out anytime soon. I felt proud of my 5:38 finish,  but I like how there's plenty of room for improvement at this distance. Small things that I can tweak in my training and execution that will probably make a big difference.

I stuck around long enough to chat with some of the other finishers and go for a refreshing dip in the cold Illinois. I wish I could have helped out, but family responsibilities brought me back to Tulsa by mid- afternoon. Props to TZ for putting on a truly exceptional race, one that I will be looking forward to next year.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thoughts on Pumpkin Holler

The hay is in the barn; an appropriate cliche for a race in rural farm country. After Saturday I will tune up my neglected Trek, re-focus on cycling, and run only when I feel like it. No Turkey and Taturs this year.

31 miles, with hills. The longest run in preparation for Pumpkin Holler was...wait for it...15.5 miles: Flatrock. At peak I ran 22 miles back to back. But I'm not going to worry about the length. If it gets bad I can slog through it like a turtle. Six hours in the middle of nowhere is a blessing, may I never forget it.

Trail Zombie has been posting fantastic pics on his blog. The Illinois river is running, the leaves are turning and the weather forecast looks great. There is only one question I need to be asking myself now: when I hit a wall, and it is sure to happen, what decisions will I make, in terms of hydration and fuel intake, to climb over it?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Autumn sun (10/8/12)

It is one of those autumn afternoons when the sky is a deep azure, the air is crisp, and the sun turns everything it touches into gold. Shorebirds hunt the rivulets in the shadow of Turkey Mountain, yellowing leaves of the cottonwood flutter along the banks, dark pockets of the forest are pierced by rays of brilliant light. Today I need no reminder of why I run.

It was New Belgium's Red Hoptober for the recovery. This a great Fall seasonal. It has a smooth, almost creamy feel, with piney hops, toasty backbone and a dry finish.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Treasure hunting North of the border

Looking fresh...

not quite so fresh...

kinda pathetic...

Flatrock is in a town just North of the Kansas border, which meant I had a chance at finding brews unavailable in Oklahoma. But would these little small town package stores carry anything besides Bud and Keystone Light? Not to worry, Blue Sky Liquor in Caney had five varieties of New Belgium. Further down the street, Jo's liquor (the size of a closet) had Free State, Odell and New Belgium. Cases of them! Something tells me I'm not the only Okie to come through here.

Odell is one of those consistently solid breweries. I have yet to try anything that wasn't memorable from these guys. St Lupulin is a summer seasonal, a hoppy "extra" pale ale. It goes down nice and easy; grapefruit juice followed with a bite with and just a wee bit of malt underneath. This is basically a lighter version of their IPA.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Not- So- Flatrock 25k 2012

25k races begin to gather. The 50k began one hour earlier.

It was an overcast and cool morning at Elk City Lake; a great day for racing. I started out fast, knowing there was a climb at the beginning of the trail that could have some congestion. The trail weaves in and out of massive limestone rock formations along the lake and the Elk River that feeds it. There are no huge climbs on the course, it's just relentlessly up and down; from one creek bed to the flat volcanic top back down to the next. The views of the Lake from the top are extraordinary.

There's not much to report in terms of the nuts and bolts of getting this race done. Good stories seem to come from races that don't go as well. Two or three runners passed me in the first mile and I passed two runners after the turn around. I was able to keep my pace fairly consistent throughout and avoided hitting any walls. I stayed hydrated and took two shot blocks every ten minutes after the first hour. It definitely helped to have my own fuel rather than relying on the aid stations (although the aid stations were well stocked).

This is one rocky trail! I kept up my target pace for the last three miles, but it took everything to stay focused on the rocks to avoid a face plant. Before I knew it, I was back where we started, finishing in 7th with a time of 2:32.

A big thanks to the German Shepherd who appeared out of nowhere to pace me between miles four and five. Not sure of his real name or who he belonged to, but I dubbed him "Kip" due to his penchant for cutting corners and disappearing into the woods, only to reappear further down the trail.

The race director, Eric Steele, puts on a great event. The trail was well marked (of course it helps that there is only one trail!). He had a team ringing cowbells and cheering all the finishers as they came through. Somebody was very nice to me as I fell the ground in dramatic fashion (having my ever so predictable post- finish line leg cramps), saying all the right things and responding sympathetically to my incoherent babbling about how tough the course was.

One day I will be back for the 50k.

From the Table Mound Overlook. The trail follows the opposite shoreline.