Monday, December 17, 2012

Tulsa Turkey Mountain Half Marathon

I guess running a half marathon doesn't exactly make me an endurance junkie, does it? 
Does it count if it took me as long as some people take to run a full marathon? 
OK- so this race qualifies as an endurance race of mental agility- perhaps not physical longevity.  The race was held on Turkey Mountain in Tulsa.  I've heard things about Turkey Mountain- most of them revolving around the crazy difficult ascents and descents up and down the various ridgelines and mountainous bumps (to call this hill a mountain is embarassing to actual mountains, but it's as close as it gets in OK).  I was warned and I was afraid.  Rightfully so.  Although to be honest, much of the course was on flat or slightly undulating terrain.  There were only a handful of really steep, really technical climbs and descents.  The majority of the run was on the top of the mountain and didn't require a lot of effort.  From normal people, that is.  It still required a great deal of effort from yours truly.
We lined up at the starting line.  There were two races that went on simultaneously.  A trail half, a road half, and then those crazy people that did the marathon (trail first, road second). Trail lined up on this side, the road runners lined up on the other side of the finish line here and we went in opposite directions.

the start/finish line

The gun sounded and off we went.  I placed myself near the back of the pack, which is where I rightfully belong.  I know this, so I place myself accordingly.  I knew that we would hit single track soon and that I didn't need to be near the middle or closer to the front.  Well, when we all took off, somehow I ended up in the middle.  I'm not exactly sure how that happened, but it did.  And it was not good for me.  The first steep ascent happened almost immediately and there I was- stuck in a line of people.  Sometimes walking in sections, but mostly running WAY too fast for me.  I didn't really have a choice, so I just stuck it out.  My lungs were burning and I was struggling to catch my breath.  I really couldn't step off the trail or move over.  I was in a conga line and there was no way out.  So I stayed.  And suffered for a good 1.5 miles.  I finally was able to move over and let some people by.  And the people just kept on coming by.  I would move over, but I never totally stepped off the trail.  First of all, that is exactly what ended my Palo Duro (stepping off the trail to let someone by and falling and injuring myself) and there was no way I was going to ruin this race just to let someone pass.  I would move over- sometimes not far enough for someone's liking- then move back when it was clear again.  I walked from about mile 2-3.  I tried to be as courteous as possible, but often I held people up for a bit until I could move over.  I don't think it's fair that I should totally stop, hang off the trail and have to wait for 20 people to pass me everytime a group came by.  The crowded trail REALLY stressed me out. 
In my opinion, if you are passing, you should do your part to get a little off the trail, too.  If I move over a little and you move over a little then there is plenty of room to pass (clearly not everyone felt that way, but I digress).  Whenever I passed someone, I would move off the trail to pass.  On the downhills I came up behind people and I would ask if I could pass.  If they said yes, I did (thankfully nobody said no, but I would have waited if they had).
I made it to the first aid station in  32 minutes.  That was pretty fast for me- almost 5 mph.  WAY too fast for what I'm used to running on the trails.  I walked the next couple miles (up a crazy ascent and then through a flat part) while I caught my breath and tried to settle my heart rate.  It takes me a good 1-1.5 hours to even warm up, so I knew I needed to slow it way down in order to not burn all the fuel up at the beginning.
The race was an out and back, so all those people that passed me would soon be coming back at me.  The race leader passed me when I was at about mile 4.5  He was FLYING (that would make him about 4 miles ahead of me going at an unbelievable pace).  I moved over for all of the fast people in front.  If I was running, I would just move over as much as possible.  If I was walking, I would get off the trail for them as they passed.  Then I met the majority of the people and we would both kinda take sides on either side of the (sometimes) narrow singletrack.  It wasn't nearly as bad with people coming at me as it was with people coming up behind me.  I was much less anxious about the crowds as I neared the turnaround.
I hit the turnaround at 1.5 hours.  Not bad for me on the trails.  Sadly, that's about 4 mph, which is about what I average on normal trails- not to mention steep trails with lots of climbing.  The second half of the race was uneventful.  Just the way I like it.  I was alone for much of the time and had plenty of time to just listen to nature, look around (when not looking down) and tune my thoughts out.  For me, that is the most blissful part of trail running; listening, turning my brain off, and just floating along. 
At mile 10 I got really excited because I knew I was almost done.  I was also a little excited because I had managed to not bust my head open on the rocks so far. You have to celebrate the little things in life.
properly kilted and moustached and happy to be (almost) done
The best part about the last few miles was bombing downhills like a runaway truck.  I'm telling you, my Hokas are THE BEST!!! I have never been good at flying downhill without losing control and almost tripping and killing myself.  Not in the Hokas.  I FLEW!  I was not out of control, but I was not totally in control, either.  The Hokas were so good at absorbing the rocks and ruts that I never almost twisted an ankle, never almost tripped, never felt like the ground was reaching up to yank me down.  I truly felt like I was flying.  I had brief moments of what it must be like to be a fast runner, and it was heaven.  I have to admit that being fast might be fun.  For a little while anyway, but then you'd really miss so much because you don't get the chance to take your eyes off the ground and look around at your surroundings.  I truly appreciate that the most when I'm on a trail.  The looking around and taking in all the eye candy.  If I were fast, I would have to miss all that-and who wants to do that???
From the top of Stink Hill
(not the official name, just the name I gave it in honor of the treatment plant below)
I made it across the finish line in 3:19.  Heck- some of you would be appalled with that time and never tell another soul about that horrid finish.  I'm the running turtle- I'm PERFECTLY happy with that time.  As in all my races- I was proud to not come in DFL.  I was 41 of 50 women and 90 of 103 total finishers.  I'll take it!!!  My nickname isn't the Running Hare.  Or Run Speedy Run. 
Most days I'm just glad to finish without bleeding.  This race was no exception.
My medal was pretty cool.  It was one half of the ying/yang design.  My hubs ran the road half, so he got the other half of the ying/yang.  Together we had one cool medal. 
Tulsa Double Half- the easy way.

Run on, turtles!

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