A FEW LINES ABOUT A FEW MILES
Ken’s race reports MR100, OK Marathon, Route 66 Marathon
My string of races has past. I wanted to post some sort of a report soon thereafter, but life and work has gotten in the way. I have had a bout of shin pain (maybe shin splints?), and have not felt like running or writing about running until this snow has hit. So today, on a day good for doing nothing, I am here typing as my slow mind rambles.
I first found out about the Mother Road 100 by browsing www.run100s.com. There was a 100 miler I had not heard of, and in Oklahoma no less! The website at that time had very little details, and was not updated much in the first several months. I had emailed the RD, and was notified when they were first taking applications. I immediately sent in my registration, and ended up being the 3rd person to sign up, just behind the RD and co-RD. I was assigned #3 for my bib number, which in my silly mind made me feel studly. It was not long after that, that I heard about a new marathon in Tulsa: the Route 66 Marathon. Of course I had to run that one as well….after all, it was a real, and big marathon right in our home town! But OMG! It was the next week after the Mother Road!! I figured I would just shuffle through to the finish line, walking as much as I need to, and to heck with my finishing time. The Route 66 was supposed to take over the Oklahoma Marathon which I had ran the past 3 years. The Oklahoma Marathon was a small race, usually attracting 200-300 runners and many of them were “50-staters”. But for some reason, the RD from the Oklahoma Marathon decided to have his race anyway. So here’s where I went from crazy to stupid: I decided to do all three races. I spent many nights worrying about how I would hold up doing this much running on roads, since I do most of my running on trails. At times I was confident to the point of being overly so, and at other times I thought I would surely DNF in one or both of the marathons.
TATUR was and is so supportive to me in my endeavors. They are my best friends, and a source of incredible encouragement. It wasn’t long after stating my intentions that 2 others (Steve and Johnnie) also singed up for all three races, and another (Kathy) signed up for the back-to-back marathons. See what a bad influence I am!! We all talked each other through it, and in general lied to ourselves and said it would be fun.
The Mother Road began in Arcadia on old Route 66 right in front of the Round Barn, a major HW 66 landmark. The course took us west 4 miles and change, and then turned us back for 96 miles towards Tulsa. But let me back up to the night before. The pre-race dinner/check-in/weigh-in was at John Hargrove’s house. I should say, it was in John’s workshop which was really a Route 66 museum. He had room for all 200 runners and their friends and families, but it was crowded. It is so cool to be around so many ultra runners. There were people who are superstars in the ultra running world (Catra Corbett, Lazarus Lake aka Garry Cantrell, Barefoot Ted McDonald, the Zombie Runners Don Charles Lundell and Gillian Robinson to name a few). John Hargrove is a good friend I met in Flat Rock in Independence Kansas 4 years ago. He is now 62 years old, and has run over 100 ultras, and over 50 hundred milers. But the funny thing is, he is not a computer person. I talked to him last December 31 at the Arcadia 50K and asked him if he was doing the Mother Road, and he said he had never even heard of it. I am sure he would have eventually heard of it, but I took his info and got him and another friend of ours signed up. During the evening, Dan Threlkeld did two live weather forecasts from right in the middle of the evening festivities. He also interviewed Laz Lake and Catra. Lazarus was quiet and way more laid back. Catra was charming and fascinating, and seemed to take to the camera quite well. This was her 4th 100 miler in the past 4 weeks. I figured if she could do that, then surely I could do the sting of races I had on my plate.
A couple side notes: after the dinner, Dana and I made our way back to Stroud where we were staying for the night. It was then that I realized I had not brought my Zombie Runner vest. I have wore this in nearly every ultra I have run, and call it superstitious, but I HAD to have it. So, at 10:30 we drove back to Catoosa to get my vest. Upon arriving back in Stroud and checking into our room, Dana began to feel light headed. She lay down on the bed, and I think she may have passed out, or maybe had a seizure. I was afraid, and called her name, shook her gently, waved my hand in front of her open eyes all with no response. After a minute, she snapped out of it. She said she was ok, but still felt weird. We set the alarm clock, ordered a wake-up call, and went to sleep. I slept fairly well, although because of our extra trip back home, only got around 5 hours sleep.
The small town was abuzz before the race. We all lined up on the concrete 2 lane road, and after a booming shotgun, we were off! As always, everyone ran off and left me. I have learned to start out slow, and was near the back of the pack. Because the first of the race had a turn-around, I got to see all the runners ahead of me. The leader was running like he was in a 5K. I do not know who he was, but it looked like he just wanted to hoof it just to say he led the race for while. The 1st aid station was back at Arcadia. It was a festive atmosphere. There was the usual aid station food, and cinnamon rolls. I grabbed a cinnie to eat on the move. The aid stations in this run were 8-10 miles apart….quite a long ways apart in my books. I need to eat/drink to take in calories every hour. It takes a lot of calories to keep this fat old man moving! My ace-in-the-hole was Dana, who would drive ahead 33 miles and wait for me. She had PBJs, ham sandwiches, Ensure, Coke, Doubleshot espressos, Red Bulls, chicken broth, boiled salted potatoes, and lotsa other stuff that I can’t remember right now. This allowed me to stay fueled, and breeze right through the aid stations. I actually leapfrogged a lot of runners by getting in and out of the aid stops quickly.
After about the marathon mark, Dana got to feeling bad, and eventually had to go back to the motel to rest and recooperate. We had checked out of our motel room, but Dan and JoAnn Threlkled graciously let her sleep in their room. Dana put my ice chests in the Threlkeld truck, and JoAnn crewed for me, which was l race saving move for me. I ran well, and felt well for many more miles. I will say that I was feeling the pounding of the concrete on my feet. But I was in good spirits. I had ran several miles with Kirk Muckey, a man whom my friend Trani Matthews from the Tulsa Runner had introduced to me. This was Kirk’s first hundred. He picked my brain along the way, and I imparted what I have learned by trial and error, emphasis on the Error. At one point along the way, I was a little hungrier than usual and opted for another sandwich. I walk briskly while I eat instead of running, and told Kirk to go on and I would catch him. He was off and must have picked up the pace, as I never was able to catch him. Along the way, Brian and Alex came driving by hurling insults and words of discouragement. I passed them again at a Sonic in Luther where they hollered, “Want sum Tater tots!!?!!” What a HOOT! Then they pulled out and THREW tater tots at me! Such hoodlums! Brian and Alex drove on ahead, and Alex rode his bike along side for a while. Other than trashing those valuable carbs (the tots), he is a great friend. Later, Brian ran with me for about 10 miles. We entered the town of Warwick, and had small handwritten signs encouraging us. According to those signs, we were awesome, superstars, studs. I’ll accept that. This station was manned by some people who understood what we were doing. Not to slight the aid station workers in the other towns, but I think 90% of the aid station volunteers did not realize what running a distance like this entails.
Around 4:30, by this time, Brian had left me and was off to man the TATUR station. Dan and I were getting far enough apart that is was getting a little harder for JoAnn to crew us both. The sun was starting to sink in the western sky, and gradually the temperature was dropping. I knew that when darkness fell, I would need more clothes. I called Dana a couple of times, and eventually got in touch with her. She was still feeling woozy, but picked herself up by her bootstraps and got back in the game. She is one tough competitor. With a change of warmer clothes, I was back in good shape, and staggered into the Stroud weigh-in station. I was up 2 pounds. Funny how running 50 miles I can GAIN weight! It was also in Stroud that I picked up Kathy as a pacer. That was a HUGE boost. She pulled me up from a slow shuffle to actually running 10-12 minute miles. We passed quite a few people in the next 20 miles. Right away, she insisted that she carry my water bottle. I guess her reasoning was that I burned a few calories carrying it that could be better used running. Also, she could make sure I was drinking. Thanks, Mom. She told a few jokes along the way, we solved a few of life’s problems, and came up with a formula for world peace. (Now, if I can just remember what that formula was!) She sang maybe the worst song ever that you can have stuck in your ear (Oh, I wish I was an Oscar Meyer wiener…). At the Depew station, I had to address my chaffing problem. There was just no way to be discreet. Kathy suggested that I just grab a handful of Vaseline and duck into the bushes and take care of biz. Always the planned, she brought a paper towel to clean my hands. That would have been a little embarrassing to me even if she were a guy, but I just doctored myself and tried to put modesty aside. This was made even more awkward when a lady from Kentucky came running by on that dark road and practically came right up to me. I was uncomfortable, but she was the chatty sort and I guess everyone has to do maintenance like that from time to time. This Kentucky gal was funny. She ran ahead of us, and then stopped a couple of times to throw up. She then ran a few strides with us and told us she “was real good at DNFing”. That struck me as funny. I am not sure if she actually finished or not. I hope she did. Kathy and I slowed down a little. I was tired. I had run 70 miles, and would run the flats, and actually looked forward to the up-hills so I could walk guilt-free. We had caught up with Dan due to Kathy’s helping me run faster. We played tag with him at Depew, and then again at Bristow. Dan had several different pacers running with him. He was always picking up fresh legs. Although we had done great in catching him, he left us behind shortly after Bristow. I was trying to stay up with him, but Kathy urged me to let him go and run my own pace. That’s where her experience comes in.
Just after Bristow, we got onto some of the OLD sections of HW66. These were harder that rock concrete (does that make sense?), and the road had potholes and cracks just perfect for tripping an old shuffling tired runner. I stubbed my foot a couple of times, but never came close to falling. The old road crossed over the newer HW66 2 or 3 times. In the pitch dark, I seemed to be lost. There were clear markings on all the turns, and we did not miss any of the turns. But it still seemed like maybe we were not on the correct route. The thing that really seemed weird was that we turned Right off of the new highway, did not cross the highway again, and then when we came to the newer highway again, it seemed that we would need to turn right again. But the course turned us left. Now I am reading what I just typed, and it in no way conveys the confusion I had in my mind at the time. I think Kathy was just as puzzled. Another thing that made me wonder if we had entered the twilight zone was that Dan reached the TATUR station almost an hour before we did. Strange things happen during the night. It was also during this stretch that a big tricked out pick up truck pulled along side and asked us what we were doing out here. Kathy told them that we were in a 100 mile race from OKC to Tulsa. They gave us a dumb look, and then asked what it benefited. Then they wanted to know if we like to clean fish!! I think they were more interested in Kathy that me. She does look like a fish cleaning babe.
About ¾ of a mile away from TATUR, we saw the lights. Evidently, Wal-Mart had a sale on Christmas lights. The whole side of that hill was lit up. I suspect that aid station was visible from SPACE! There were people cheering for a dragging TATUR like I was Lance Armstrong. Talk about being treated like a celebrity! I was weighed, ushered to a chair, and then out of that chair and into a more comfortable chair. Alex tended to my every need. I had warm potato soup, coke, vitamin I, and could have had a full body massage if I wanted. A good nap would have been nice. Standing in the wings was an eager Mr. Johnnie Spriggs, waiting to pace me and go blazing to a sub 24 hour finish. I wish, Oh I wish I had that in me, but I just did not. While there was no thought of not finishing, I knew the next several miles were going to be tough. It was COLD. At one point, Dana said the temps had dipped to 25 degrees. When I stood up to leave the midnight oasis (actually, it was 2:00ish), I just did not have any run left in me. It was not the quicker pace that Kathy and I had ran. It was just ma aching feet, and my chaffing. I had only shuffled a quarter mile out of TATUR, when I realized I needed to re-lube. Mike Snyder had ran out with us, and he sprinted back to the camp to get some more Vaseline. Always the joker, he announced that he needed the Vaseline for Ken’s butt, and to ask no questions!!!!! THANKS MIKE!!!! I applied the grease, cleaned my hands (YECK!) And then it was time to run. The time that I was still, doctoring myself, I had gotten chilled, and needed to add a layer of clothes. I had to take off my hat, my glasses, my headlamp, my reflective vest, my Zombie Runner vest, add a fleece pull-over, and then redress. This took time. I was grumpy. Johnnie wanted to run. Finally, I was re-equipped and ready to go, and we ran slowly. But after a mile, my body had generated enough heat that had to SHED a layer. So, the same old change routine ensued again. I think Johnnie must have thought I was a mess, so anal, so gripy, and so slow. The next 10 miles just crawled by. My run was such that Johnnie could keep up with me by walking. MY walk was such that Johnnie could sit and rest a few minutes and catch me in 30 seconds. I had Dana shorten her intervals to 2 ½ miles instead of 3 miles just so that I could climb in the front seat and warm up a little. She was sick, and she was still there doing her best to help me. She could make a career of crewing; she has it to a science! While in the front seat warming up, I tilted my head back and shut my eyes. Just a short catnap sounded so good. But all the time not running was time ticking off the clock. It was during this stretch that hopes for a sub 24 hour finish vanished. Any finish would be good. A lot of people passed me during 2:00 and 6:00. There was nothing I could do, nor did I care. And, to make matters worse, I did not feel like eating or drinking anything! Finally, just after 6:00, the sky began to lighten up in the east. I knew we were getting close to the outskirts of Sapulpa. Per Johnnie’s request, Dana showed up with 2 cups of coffee from a quickie store. That seemed to just pour life into me. I did have to make a call to nature which involved defiling someone’s newly built barn (there was still some earth and rocks to be bulldozed, so it was ok), and then I actually felt like running. And that, I did. From that point on, I would say I ran 90-95% of the way. We passed a lot of people. I would see someone ahead and tell Johnnie, Let’s go get ‘em. ON through downtown Sapulpa, and then north onto Frankoma Pottery road. The last 5-6 miles went pretty slow. I did run most of it, but I could have swore that that distance was only 3-4 miles, and instead it was more like 6-7 miles. I had Dana drive ahead to tell our friends how far we were out, and then come back to tell us how far it was. I fully expected her to say 2 miles, maybe 2 ½, but she said it was 4.9!!!!! But anyway, we still made it. I was running, feeling good that I had it in the bag, but feeling oh so tired. I told Johnnie, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it. One by one, we picked off runners. Finally, with the Carl’s Jr. sign in sight, I sighted one more runner. Johnnie groaned when I suggested we try to reel them in. But then, the runner started coming back OUR way. Johnnie said that worked for him. Then I saw that runner was Kathy. She had come out to meet us and we three ran into the finish together. Dana was there snapping pictures. I finished in 27:20:44. There is no doubt, I could not have finished the race without Dana crewing, JoAnn helping to crew me, and Kathy and Johnnie pacing me in. I got the really cool belt buckle, and shuffled over to Carl’s Jr. to eat. I visited with a few of the other runners and tried in vain to eat a few bites.
TATUR was well represented in this race. Randy and Dan had great races, as did Bret Sholar. Steve Huhn finished his 1st 100, and from the sound of it, got stronger as the race progresses. I am sure he has many more hundred mile finishes ahead of him. Also, Dennis Crosby got the DNF monkey off his back getting his 1st 100 mile finish. MY good buddy John Hargrove at age 62 finished in 26 hours! While this was a fun race, and quite scenic at times, the aid stations were to far apart especially for those running without a crew. I will never run another 100 miler that is all on concrete/asphalt roads. Trails are great, roads are bad.
A note about the Oklahoma Marathon. This year, the race was a lot smaller than in years past. I had intended to run on the chat along the bike trail, but indeed up staying on the pavement all of the way after getting rocks in my shoes twice. Johnnie and I ran together half of the way. I felt good, and ran almost even splits. I had hoped for a 5 hour finish, just trotting along, and walking only if I absolutely had to. But, I ran the whole distance, and felt good after finishing. It was my 4th finish.
My plans for the Route 66 Marathon was to pace Diana Snyder and be her cheer leader. I thought I could run her pace if she did not go out too fast. I thought I could help her to the finish line, but more important to my devious plans, I thought she could help ME to the finish line. I made up 3 signs to hold high in the air: Clap for Diana, 1st time Marathoner, and Doesn’t she look GREAT! I wanted to make all the spectators along the way cheer for her. In turn, I thought this would help me forget about how much I was aching, if in fact that was a problem. It was. I had a little shin pain….not bad, just a little nagging letting me know it was there. Johnnie ran along with us and manned one of the signs. Johnnie, after finishing pacing me, ran back to back marathons and has done great coming back from his foot injury. What I had not counted on was in the sections where the faster runners were on the return trip back, all of these people also cheered for Diana. She seemed to just eat it up. I was happy that I was able to help her. I was also glad that I was able to finish the 3rd race. Kathy had said Diana could run a 5:45 marathon. In fact, Diana and I crossed the finish line in 5:43. We were 2 minutes faster than the coach gave us credit! It was awesome fun.
I have rested for 2 weeks. One 5 mile run on Turkey Mountain is all I have done, although I am itching to get back out there. I love running on crunchy snow, so this weekend I will be racking up a few miles. Thanks for reading. If you can wade through a long winded report, I have no doubt you can run an ultra.
Aka trail zombie