This past weekend was grueling. I ran the Post Oak Trail Runs, doing a marathon on Saturday, and a 50K on Sunday. Doing doubles is not a new thing for me, although I always wonder sometime during the running WHY do I do this?? I was excited to give this one a go, for a number of reasons. One, it was new trails, to me anyway. Oh I had poked around on them a couple of times earlier in the year, but on both those days, it had been so soggy that running was nearly impossible. For this race, fortunately the weather had allowed things to dry up a little, although there was still a good supply of standing water and mud....but trail runners like that sort of thing, right? I would love to see an elevation profile, and I probably can produce one from my garmin. There were a few good climbs, but nothing near as bad as what I have encountered in my past 3 trail marathons. But the main reason I was running was because of peer pressure. I don't know how many times friends had asked assuming that OF COURSE I was doing this race. After all, it was in Tulsa, and it was on trails. DOH!! Why would I NOT do it? Saturday morning, we are lined up and ready to go. I was taking the early start for a couple of reasons. I did not want to have to hurry, and in taking my time, I MIGHT have a little gas left in the tank for the next day. I also wanted to finish in time to still get something to eat and have a beer, as the last stragglers often miss out on the food. And I hoped to finish in time to see a few more of my faster friends before they left. After a short jaunt on the road, we tucked into the woods. A lot of these were brand new trails. Others were old trails that had very little use over the years. A few weeks ago, they were so water laden, that I was dreading sloshing through them, but most were actually quite runnable. This trail took us to the top of the hill near the lodge, and over to Hamburger Hill. While this hill seemed like the highest in the race, it actually was not as high as Holme's Peak, which we had to scale later in the marathon, and twice on Sunday! Both hills offered a panoramic view of the Tulsa Area. The wind was brisk at the top, and there was no desire to linger while there. After circling the crown of Hamburger Hill, we sped back down towards the lodge parking lot and headed north on a gravel road. Shortly thereafter, the course cut across a field and onto a trail head, but the 30 or so people way in front of me missed the turn. I and a few other runners around me had a quick conference and since we saw no orange ribbons on the gravel road, we followed the orange signs and on to the trail. For a half mile of so, I was actually in 1st place!!! Of course, that was short lived. By the time I went by this pond, I had runners speeding by me. The starters who went at the regular time all caught me, and then the 25K and 10K people mowed me down as well. I passed nobody....well almost nobody. The course also had a fair share of gravel roads....not my favorite surface to run on, but it did allow for a faster pace which offset some of the swampy areas. Lots of ups and downs. And lots of rocks. None of the stream crossings were bad. No wet feet from these, but the feet were wet nonetheless from some of the soggy areas in the fields. And then there was Holmes Peak. This is supposed to be the highest point in 3 counties. (Higher than Turkey Mountain? I wonder about that.) It was a nasty incline to the top, and a quick turn around with nobody checking to see if anyone cheated. The view was awesome. It truly seemed like you were way up towering over the Tulsa horizon. A great place to visit, and a good place to get down from since it was frickin cold. I am thinking everyone with a camera took this picture. Kristy, Curtis, and Charlie stop for a group pic. Then, they poured it on and I saw them no more. There's no missing K2....the man with the pants! The marathon Saturday had a out-and-back on a gravel road. This section reminded me a lot of Heartland. This section probably helped my finish time, but I did get a couple of rocks in my shoes. It also made it possible to see a lot of friends who were behind me since I took the early start. Vicky is all smiles....she always is. She did the marathon/50K double, and made it look easy. Jason was right on her heals, and they did their out-and-back and passed me about an hour later. After the aid station at the Botanical Gardens, we got onto an older well established trail that headed westward. This was one of the more scenic passes. Speaking of passes, fellow Tatur and friend Mike Adams blows by me, and went on to win the marathon. Not far behind him was Randy Ellis. Randy ran well both days, finishing in the top 10 for both events. And if these photos were not good looking enough, here's a very good looking picture. Tom was one of those that missed the turn early in the race, and he caught me somewhere around mile 12. We ran together for a while, and eventually when Jason passed us, Tom took off with him. Tom ended up beating me by 15 minutes. I will pay him back this Tuesday or Thursday. We saw Lisa while heading back up hamburger Hill. She was around 3-4 miles behind me at the time. But she caught up with me at mile 25 and left me sucking wind in her dust. She beat me by over an hour, since she did not take the early start. Many miles of the trails were just swatches mowed across a field. Whoever created these sections liked going by ponds. I agree with their trail selection. I had ran with Susan on the gravel road out-and-back and lost her when she kept running right up a steep incline where I walked. When I saw her again, she was a good 4 miles ahead of me. No, I did not stop for a rest, although it sounded like a good idea. I am thinking once the Botanical gardens finishes what they envision, this will be one amazing place. More of the tall grass area. By the second day, I had seen enough tall grass for a lifetime. My finish time for the marathon was 7:50 and change. But, I still felt like running another day. And this day was tomorrow. We received very nice finishers awards. I suppose you could attach a ribbon and hang this around your neck. But it will work just as well on my shelf of fame. Finally, if anyone ever needs some salt, my friend K2 will be glad to donate.
I left the house in a fog, having not drank my coffee yet, and I did manage to get my water bottle, E-caps, 5 Hour Energy, and the right shoes for the day. I forgot my camera though. (Turns out, I actually had brought it but somehow it ended up in the back seat?) I decided to run with my I-Phone, and put it in my pocket. When I stopped for my first picture, it was pretty sweaty and I ended up carrying it while running--a bad idea to say the least. Ten miles later, I passed my car and dropped it off. I had some bathroom issues early in the race. I had to make a very unexpected pit stop at mile 1.5. I was nervous about the seriousness of the operation, and retorted to wearing my pants like the kids do these days....you know, the sagging pants? But upon reaching the 1st aid station which had porta-potties, I was pleased to find that nothing was soiled. About 2 hours later, after I dropped my phone off at my car, I grabbed all the subway napkins I could find....just in case. Sure enough, at the top of Hamburger Hill, it hit me again. Let's just suffice to say that Hamburger Hill now has some special sauce. And 5 Subway napkins would have been a lot better than 4! But sometimes runners just have to be tough, no matter how gross that is. Actually, it again turned out to not be as bad as I feared, but I am sure I still had a smelly backside.
The course was a little bit different from the marathon the day before. I thought the course was marked fairly well, although I did find a place early in the race that I had to call to find out the correct way. Darryl, who had designed and marked the course came right out and showed me the correct route, and he thought maybe someone had moved some course markings. But after that, the 1st 25K went off without a hitch. The 2nd 25K was supposed to be the same loop, but in reverse. However, there for sure was one difference as we went a different route over Hamburger Hill. Also, at the halfway point, there was a bit of confusion as to whether we were to do a small half mile loop that the 25Kers were doing. Since my garmin said 15.55 miles--exactly 25K, it seemed to me that I was exactly half way done. They agreed and sent me back the way I came. Somewhere in the next 1.5 miles, things went awry. The course markings sent everyone out, across a fence, and then in a big loop over the northwest part of the property. Then, it led right back to the start/finish. We saw so many people who were confused, having been out and back, out and back. I know how my mind gets fuzzy in the later miles of an ultra, and I paid special attention to the turns making sure to go the right way, but upon getting back to the start/finish, I knew something was wrong. I had made the same mistake I had saw so many other runners make. I just did not want to get way off with no chance of getting straight and finishing the proper race and proper distance. I was told that I was off course, but no worries, to take another trail and go to the Botanical gardens, and then to Flat Rock aid station, and then back. About 8k? So off I went, hoping to be on the right trails. The folks at the Botanical aid station sent me off on another trail. At this time, I was really in a fog. The distance to the next aid station should have been around 3 miles, but my garmin died 5.89 miles later, and I was still a mile or so away from the Flat Rock station. Bad markings? Tampered markings? Maybe I took a wrong turn?....I was sure confused. But I finally made it there although much later than planned. The remaining route to the finish was pretty simple. I am pretty sure I went over 34 miles, and I finished in 10:06. I am not really happy with my time, but considering all, it was ok. I am saddened by the fact that a lot of runners got lost, and maybe did not get the time they thought they could have. But for me, and for a lot of true trail runners, it's just bonus miles.
Criticisms? Well, running the course in reverse might have been part of the problem. Maybe things were marked very well for running it one way, but not so clear for running it the opposite direction? Maybe someone had toyed with the course markings--I strongly suspect that might be the case. Another thing, and this is not a complaint at all, but the aid station workers were just not able to tell the runners for sure where they needed to go....nor should they be expected to. I am sure a lot of the volunteers took a lot of flack from lost runners. Runners NEED to get off the back of volunteers when they get lost, regardless of who is to blame. Volunteers are like angels, and we should treat them as such. This, being a first time running, was bound to have a few bugs. The weather--snow, rain--cold temps--mud--all made it nearly impossible to do the necessary trail work, mapping, and marking that is so crucial to a successful event. So to all those who wanna still bitch....get over it. TRC will learn from this and put on a great event next year. The trails will mature, they will make course adjustments, and I bet the course will be flooded with appropriate ribbons next year. For those critical intersections, I suggest some chutes and barricades such as these, which have served the cattle industry very well over the years. And to keep runners from being tempted to cut the course when one trail runs close to another section of trail, a high voltage electrical fence should do the trick.