The first thing that happened to me in Erick Oklahoma was that a giant grasshopper hopped through the open window of the car and landed on my shirt. I was too surprised to be freaked out. I opened the car door a little and encouraged him (her?) back out.
All Oklahoma photographs should be sepia-toned, in my opinion.
So the morning of the race. I was already aware of the following:
1) I left my Garmin at home.
2) I left my hat at home
3) I left my cool-off bandana at home
4) It is effing hot in late September in Erick, Oklahoma. And HUMID.
Meanwhile, here's some mood music.
Sweet Baboo and I had decided he would run his race, and I mine, to practice caring for myself. When I do Javalena and--hey, did I mention that I want to get a red leather belt to match my new boots? I've decided that my first 100 mile buckle should go on a wide, red leather belt. And there you have it, my short attention span--SQUIRREL!!
so, back to the race--when I do Javalena I'll be doing the first three laps alone, and it will be hot. Not as miserable hot as it was here. I always think of the inner craton--[nerdy geological term alert![--as being so hot that the clouds melt, which is why you can't see the edges of them like you can in the southwest.
I got up about 5:30, and had my power breakfast of poptarts and coffee mixed into cocoa. I found out that if you over cook a pop tart, it becomes a candy tart. But it was still good.
I lubed up my feet generously, including the toes, balls of my feet and sides
Put on my cheap-assed compression leg sleeves
WHen Baboo opened the hotel room door, he said, WHHHOOOOOEEEY, because we were in TexOma and that's what you do there, and then said, hey, you can see the air.
The morning of the race, the humidity was 100%. I'm not kidding. 100% is when there are micron-sized water droplets suspended in the air. Not quite fog. You wave your hand through it and it gets wet.
All the locals were saying," gosh, it never gets this humid here!" Yeah. Right. They said that to me in Kentucky, too. Liars. You should know that any race during growing season in an area dedicated to agricultural is, essentially, going to be run in a giant hothouse.
Just for fun when I started writing this, at 9:15 am Erick time, I looked at their weather. 72% humidity. I hate humidity. I grew up in Alabama and Dallas, and then spent considerable time in the upper midwest, so I just do not get saunas. Don't get them. Why would you pay for that, when southwest will fly you to Phoenix for $50?
Anyway. Before the race, we chatted with a couple of guys from eastern Oklahoma that were here to do this race. One was 35, and the other 25, and I never got their names. They will be mentioned later.
Anyway, on the morning of the race, there was a 5 mile and 25 k, in addition to the 50k, which was actually a 51k, but we'll get to that later. Alltold, 60-something were running, with 16 of those being in the 50K I asked how many of these were women, and was told about four or five. So the questions for me became
- Where are these women?
- Where are they from?
- Which ones can I trip to get third place?
I located one of the women right away, a tiny, long-legged bird person in a cropped singlet, and dismissed her. She'll be too far ahead of me to trip. Or pass. Or see.
Five of these on the course.
The leader boards.
Baboo thinks I'm not competitive. But I am. It's just that my competitiveness is more of a Darwin thing; I identify weak members of the herd and shuffle right past them. Except this one guy who does a lot of southwestern runs. I think he's 70. He hobbles. He hobbles quickly. I cannot beat him. I've tried, too. He kicks my ass every time. So what does that say about me, that I pick out obvious sufferers to pass and then feel good about it?
Oh, never mind.
Remember, Friday night I'd said that this race was*Adorable* ?
Well, the race was much harder than they advertised. Very technical, with nearly vertical climbs and technical downhills, not just the rollers that you see on this profile, provided via the race web site, for one loop:
Nice, huh? You're all, oh, rollers! What a lovely run!
But this profile, taken from Baboo's Garmin, tells a different story:
Slightly less pretty.
Yes, I think it's safe to say that somewhere on the second lap, when the temps approached 90, with very high humidity, the race has stopped being
The first loop was misery. Wet mud clung to our shoes adding weight to our footsteps. My skirt was wet from the humidity. All my clothes were wet. I was soaked. But thankfully, the sun was behind the clouds, and there was a bit of breeze, so I got a lot of running in.
Then, I forgot to drink, and eat, and when I tried to play catch up, I got a bad side cramp and my stomach started rebelling. I didn't throw up - I haven't yet - but I sure wanted to. The last 5 miles of the first loop I considered dropping. I came into the end of the first 15.8 mile loop at a walk, nearly crying with frustration because of that cramp because if I try to run, it gets worse. I've tried everything. At least now I realize, that it show up in two scenarios; first, if I suddenly eat a bunch and then try to run, and second, if I just go out and run like crazy without enough electrolytes in me. I don't cramp anywhere else.
My trail shoes were doing their predictable painful shit because of the arch supports my flat feet don't need. My time on the first loop (15.89 miles, I think) was about 3:45, and I spent 10 minutes at the turnaround, sitting in the shade, drinking ice cold water, deciding whether to drop.
Don't think that I'm brave. The only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that if I didn't finish this, I wouldn't have my Oklahoma race, and I'd someday have to come back here. GEH. Have I talked about how much I hate humidity? Also, at the turn around, I was sitting because I was changing my shoes. Ahhh.
And then, as always, my laziness paid off in an unexpected way: Without me knowing it, it gave my angry stomach a chance to process the huge load of coke and sandwich and powerbar that had been sitting in it for the past 5 miles. A guy handed me a handful of E-caps, which I swallowed about 3-4 at a time at each aid station on the second loop.
They say once you've lost it, you can't get back on top of your humidity and calories, but you can. It just involves sitting, apparently, which few are willing to do.
Except for me.
I. Am. Lazy.
I stumbled back out onto the second loop, where the clouds had largely disappeared, but it was still humid, and the sun was unrelenting. The wind disappeared, and the temperature rose to the upper 80s. At the turnaround, I had loaded ice into a plain bandanna, folded it diagonally, then rolled it up and tied it around my neck. I reloaded the ice at each aid station. In between, when the ice melted, I wiped my arms and legs down with the wet bandana. I also established a habit of taking four long drinks from my water bladder at the beginning of every song on my ipod. I got back on top of my game, and unbelievably...
I was running.
I ran continuously. And it felt good. I wasn't fast, it was a little hopping kind of shuffling ultra running run that I've learned by watching others. It's faster than walking.I've never run that much that late in the race, and I can see now that I have not taken care of my hydration and calories in the past the way I should.
At the mile 21 aid station I told them I was pretty sure I was last. They informed me that, no, there were 8 or 9 people were behind me. Trust me, I was stunned. They told me that a woman ahead of me had been considering dropping. Really? Not last? I was laughing with the aid station volunteers and telling about the statistical probabilities of me not beings last.
This being their first experience with trail running, and encountering a runner who wasn't in a particular hurry, they had many questions. What are those things that cover the tops of your shoes? They're not just for decoration? What's with the salt tablets? How come nobody wants any m&ms? Why do so many of the trail runners look like they're about to throw up?
At each aid station I completed filled up my hydration bladder with gatorade, my bandana with ice, and drank at least one cup of iced coca-cola. I power-hiked the ups and shuffle-hopped the downs and flats.
Then, here's what happened next:
- I passed the guy in red who had ambled past me earlier while I was having my side cramp.
- I passed the older of the two guys that we had talked to earlier.
- I passed a woman who has previously been about 30 minutes ahead of me. She had come out on this run, bless her heart, with a single hand-held bottle. One. Bottle. Are you kidding me? When I passed her, she was standing, motionless, hands resting on her knees, bent over, resting from one of those relentless vertical climbs. Another runner was with her.
Eventually, I shuffle-hopped up to the 25-year-old of the pair we were talking to earlier. I chatted with him a bit, and then ran past him, since he was walking - not a fast purposeful walk, but a Jebus, it's hot kind of walk. Suddenly he ran past me, ran another 50 yards, and then walked.
This happened several times. The third or fourth time I caught him looking back to see where I was, and that's when it hit me. I thought, really? You're that concerned that you might get 'chicked?' by a woman who has a kid that's older than you are?
Chicked you shall be.
I shuffle-hopped up behind him and stayed there, shuffle-hopping faster than he could walk, forcing him to run DON'T LOOK AT ME IN THAT TONE OF VOICE IT WAS A TEACHABLE MOMENT and he started wearing down. He occasionally looked down and back to see where my shadow was, and when he did, I rewarded him by waving and saying things like, "WHOO! HOT, isn't it? Aren't you hot? It's so, so hot." and "Whoo, look at that hill up ahead. That's a hell of a climb. Aren't your legs just tired?"
For some reason, he wanted to blast up the hill and then walk back down. Whatevs. He continued this strategy until, predictably and like any 25-year-old, he blew himself out.
This is why ultra-running favors the older, wiser, patient runner.
When he finished the race, I yelled and clapped from my chair in the shade, eating brisket and drinking sweet tea, where I'd been for about 15 minutes.
I found that oddly satisfying.
(Above: the feed.)
Me, actually smiling, at the finish.
My time: 7:53, for this 31.8 mile course (it was more like 51K, rather than 50K), a personal best. When I came in, I was smiling big, feeling pretty good, because although I had no idea what my time was, I felt like I had taken good care of myself, and I'd learned some very important stuff on this race that would serve me well at Javalena. I felt like I had done as well as I could.
The volunteers were so accommodating. Everyone who finished got clapping and a finisher's hat, but then I got something else:
I kid you not, this is the trophy for first overall female.
The smaller wood medallion for my age group.
When they told me, I burst out laughing. Really? First overall female? How is that even possible--did a bear eat the other females? No, it turns out, at least one or two of the others dropped, and I was first of the ones that finished. Also, first in my age group. Proving, once again: Stubbornness can trump speed.
Baboo had trouble with the heat, and finished in about 7 hours, and was first in his age group. But I'll let him tell you about that.
I took a cold shower that was a deal mounted on the end of a garden hose inside an area of a cement porch that was walled off by blue tarp with a couple of spiders hanging around, and it was the Best. Shower. Ever.
Then I had more brisket. And orange juice.
On the way back to Albuquerque, I had a moo-latte and hell yes, I want whipped cream on that and then Pasta. In a bread bowl. I woke up this morning with quads that would like a word with me.
IF YOU GO:
- Stay at the Days Inn. The RD does allow camping on the grounds, which is free, but you don't want to camp in 100% humidity. Nobody needs that. There is a Days Inn about 15 miles out or so, in town, go there instead. They have air condioners, weak but working microwaves, and mini-fridges.
- Take a bandana, trust me on this, and load it with ice the way I did. The high humidity means that you're just constantly wet and sweating, but the temperature of the ice around your neck makes it all bearable.
- Be prepared for a possible negative split, due to the muddy roads in the early part of the race. As you approach the muddy areas, look carefully for where others have run around, on the grass, and go there.
- Take a hydration pack, and wear it at least on the second loop. One of the aid stations is about 5 miles after the previous one, and even two hand-helds just won't cut it. I estimate 40 ounces were drunk by me between those two stations on the 2nd loop.
- Take electrolyte tablets, and eat them often. Gatorade is not going to give those electrolytes back to you fast enough.
Suggestions for the RD:
- Start the 50K runners early, like at 6 am, instead of 8 am. Yes, your volunteers will get up earlier, but they'll get home earlier, too, and everyone will finish faster, since the high heat and humidity slows everyone down.
- There are rumors they've decided to make it harder next year. You really don't need to make this harder. It's harder than Palo Duro, with the climbs being much steeper, and then there's that high humidity factor, too.
- Is it possible to have this a couple weeks later during Roger Miller days? Or is that moving into hunting season?
- You didn't run out of ice for me, but think you did for some later runners. Buy too much and keep stocking the aid stations. Ice is cheap. It keeps runners and aid stations happy.
- That first fork wasn't marked. It needs to be marked. The front runner lost his place after running up the wrong side, led by the former first female (who for some reason, quit the race). I know, because I heard about it on the drive home, from the former front runner.
- Everything else was awesome, especially the brisket and the shower. Great race. Fantastic volunteers. Keep it up!