Monday, May 28, 2012

Blazing a Trail For Others to Follow - Up Mother Weep!

8 AM Saturday.  Temp - 78 degrees  Humidity 75% Winds from the south strong and steady with gusts.  Time to hit the trails and help the Trail Zombie mark the course for the Barkley Book Fair trail run.  I volunteered for the section on the Lo Chi trail on Turkey Mountain.  I wanted another shot at that hill.  I'd named the hill the Mother Weep.  I took the path in nice and slow.  I wanted to save my legs for what I considered my real challenge.  Instead of my regular 12 oz bottles, I carried one of my quart canteens.  I was in a hurry and a bit low on funds, so I chose not to eat breakfast, although I did have a power bar in my pocket as I drove up to the start point.  

 I met Ken just a little after 8 AM and he outlined the area and how he wanted it marked.  We had a brief discussion on the path and the hill, since I had let him know I really wanted to tackle it.  He advised caution so that I wouldn't get in trouble on the hill.  I told him that I was running on fresh legs today and that I was going to take it nice and slow. Since I had been down to it, I had a much better idea what to expect and so I took off.  I figured it was going to take me a while and thought I'd be done by 11:30 or so, giving me plenty of time to take the rest stops I needed and blaze the course.  

Just like this little fella

Starting off on the paved trail heading down to the LoChi, I felt particularly good.  As the paved trail started downhill, I let my legs move a little faster and actually jogged down the first hill.  Just as it flattened out, I noticed something green moving across the blacktop and I pulled up and watched a green snake gliding across in front of me.  Fascinated, I reached for my phone to take a picture, but the little fellow was just moving too fast for me to get it set before he was off in the grass where the contrasts wouldn't have made for a good picture.  I watched him for a minute longer as he disappeared  into taller grass further from the trail and got on my way again.

While there aren't any real markers for the Lo Chi Trail, having been down it before I found it with ease and tied my first trail marker off so that the runners later would be able to follow.  Ten or fifteen feet further, I tied a second marker just to make sure they would see it.  And then I disappeared down the trail.  On the Lo Chi part of my circuit, I tied pink marker ribbon about every tenth of a mile to help that evening'r runners along, so I got frequent breaks.  That was a good thing because with the humidity, I was in a fully soaked sweat before I had gone a half mile in.  As I stopped by some small creature's den, I noticed that even my shorts were soaked with sweat in spots.  Continuing down the trail, I became fascinated with the wildlife I was seeing.  I was out a little earlier than the last time and I was by myself, so I took the time to enjoy what I saw.  At one point, I cam across a young skink.  I can't ever remember seeing one in the wild, but the colors were striking, yellow stripes running down a black body to the bright blue tail.  A beautiful creature of God, to be sure.  

One of the more interesting things I saw on the lower trail was a leaf that appeared to be sewn together.  Granted, it was a bad job of it, but still, it caught my attention, so I snapped a pic of it.  It was just short of my final rest stop before the hill - Mother Weep.  And in short order, I was there.  I took a good rest on the concrete construct, drank some water and ate about half of my power bar.  I wanted to have the best chance of making the hill and so I made sure I was all set.  While I was there, a couple of mountain bikers came up.  I chatted for a few minutes with these trail riders, telling them that I had every intention of climbing the hill.  I think they were impressed, but one of them tried to convince me to take a cautious approach, letting me know that there were some slick spots on the climb and advising me that I should only do what I feel comfortable with and that I could turn back any time.  I smiled and thanked him for his suggestions.  As they rode away, back down the trail the way they had come, I turned my attention to the task at hand.  Getting up off my kiester, I moved out with a purpose.


It was just a minute or so before I reached the foot of the hill and started my climb.  I spotted a good place to stop and take stock.  As it turned out, it would be the first pictures taken of the hill.  I Thoroughly enjoyed the climb, remembering what it was like the last time I had a climb like that.  I was younger and thinner, but I still handled it well.  I stopped a total of 3 times on the climb, mainly to just look at the scenery from the hill, not needing the rest too much, but also remembering that I still had to hike out.  It was this thought that really put me in conservation mode.  The hill really wasn't technical at all, but more of a scramble.  One place I was actually on all fours.  Wish I had been able to get some pics of me in action and I thought about doing the Survivorman* thing to get a couple of time delays or maybe some video of me climbing.  Ahhh... Maybe next time.


In short order, I crested the hill onto the next trail and there was a good rock for sitting.  I had been there for maybe a minute or two and there I saw the Trail Zombie coming up the hill.  "King of the hill!" I shouted.  It felt good to be up on top.  We talked for a few about how good it was.  Told him I really enjoyed the climb, which I did.  If it weren't for having to hike in and then back out... if I could have just driven up to the base, I think I would have climbed it 3 or 4 times.  Anyway, I was now on a trail that I didn't know and I asked whether I should stay up here or go back down.  TZ strongly suggested I stay up and told me pretty much what to expect, so after he and his companion departed, I rested a minute longer and then took off, myself.  I knew that I would see them again later, as they were going to work around behind me and mark some other parts of the race course, which circled back around behind my path.

 I was now on the Yellow Trail and following it back toward the parking lot.  This trail was a lot more level of a course and I worked my way around, but I noticed that I was slowing significantly.  The hill had taken a lot out of me, even though I had taken it easy.  Still, I kept plugging away.  Had some beautiful scenery, including some rock falls and some cut-outs.  At one point, I stopped to rest and just as I was looking up through the trees and into the sky... contemplating getting going again... I saw the huge winged sillouette of an eagle!  Man, I was truly blessed.  Alas, like the snake before, I couldn't bring my camera to bear in time.  The upper trail, known as both the Yellow Trail and the HoChi, was wider and more travelled than the LoChi, which I had now gone down twice.  It was nice to see groups of mountain bikers sharing the trails with runners and hikers and everyone was nice, asking how I was doing or wishing me a good morning.  Families walked down the trails and all in all, it was a very pleasant experience.  places to stop and rest were plentiful enough that I didn't even stop and use them all.  

 The hardest part of being on this new (to me) trail was not knowing how far I had come or how far I had left to go.  Indeed, there is a certain mental and morale difficulty in not knowing these things.  But at least I knew how to get out, so my confidence never really wavered.  And soon, TZ and company came up behind me again.  I was beginning to run out of steam and had eaten the last of my power bar.  TZ offered me a little extra water, and even though I had not run out, his advice on how much further I had to go made me think it would not be a bad idea.  He also offered me a quick energy snack in the form of a small packet of breadsticks and some nutella.  My first experience with this chocolate-like substance was very positive and while it certainly isn't something I would crave, I won't be turning it down when I'm out on the trails or what-not.  They went on ahead of me, marking the rest of the trail with the pink marker tape and dropping books for the Berkley in just a few, short hours.  "Just follow the pink ribbons" was TZ's message as he trucked on ahead.  And so I trudged onward.

Getting near the end, as I was stopped at one rest stop, a couple with a young child and a dog came down from the way I was headed.  I recognized them as a couple who had passed me after I had first come up Mother Weep Hill.  They looked a little puzzled and I asked where they were headed.  When they said they were just trying to get out, that they had tried something a little different, I knew they were turned around.  One thing about me is that I am rarely turned around in the woods.  I seem to always know my main directions.  I may not have known how much further it was, but I knew the parking lot was back the way they had come.  I helped them out with directions and offered that they could follwo the pink ribbons which were tied up about every tenth of a mile til they got out.  It was a good feeling to be able to give them some assurance, even if I, myself, hadn't had much experience on the Turkey Trails.  


Legs just about toast, I got up and kept moving.  I wasn't so tired I was just going to stop, but I was absolutely glad I didn't have anything else planned for the day.  I was rewarded in finding an excellent place to stop and rest, some sort of concrete construct where there was clearly a cable tensioner coming up out of the ground.  It looked ancient.  Oh the fun senarios I could put together.  About 15 meters away was a big coil of heavy cable.  The questions that such things bring to mind.  As I was resting here, TZ and his companion, Nedra, swung back by to check on me.  I was very slow and plodding, so it was getting late and I am sure they were concerned.  But after resting for a time, I got up and continued down.  I asked if they had run into the young family I had guided and they said that they did.  I was releived as I continued to the parking lot.  Nearing the end, I stopped again, this time just before a clearing, maybe 2 tenths of a mile before the parking lot.  As I sat there, I heard a grasshopper "singing" his song.  The little guy did it just long enough that I was able to look around and find him.  As my eyes fixated on him, he "sang" again.  Now, I have known since late grade school the "how" of crickets and grasshoppers making their sounds, but it wasn't until now, at the fine age of 45, that I had an opportunity to actually SEE the act in action with my own two eyes!  It was the kind of finally that I was really glad to get!  Finally, I downed the last of my water and dragged myself off the rock I had been sitting on and started the last shuffle down to the parking lot.  That's right, I said down.  While my initial trail had taken me downhill, between the Mother Weep Hill and the HoChi trail, I had actually climbed above the parking lot.  By this point, we had descended quite a bit, but even at that, the rest of the going was still on a gentle downslope.  Finally out, I thanked Ken and Nedra for a wonderful outing, rested for a moment longer and then headed to my truck and home.  I had but 3 things on my mind... Sustinence, rest and getting the mountain washed off of me -- not necessarily in that order. 

 I had accomplished what I had set out to do and I felt good about that!   I definitely enjoyed my time on the trailz of Turkey Mountain!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Trailz Fever

Well, it's been a while since I posted because I took some time off to let my injuries heal. But a certain Zombie whose name shall be left out of this (Ken) posted a very tantalizing piece about a race he is putting on next weekend and I decided that the time was here for me to start getting back out and about.

Let me tell you, I was ready to get back to it, too. So Saturday morning started out nice and easy on the River Trails running north from the Blue Rose. I figured that I'd do a short couple of miles and maybe just a lottle more for starters because I was going to meet the INFAMAOUS Trail Zombie on Turkey Mountain for a little preview of his race a little later. So I got up early and headed out.

Well, getting to the Blue Rose, I wasn't nearly as early as I wanted to be, but I still had plenty of time to do what I had planned so I headed north. But first, I did something I almost never do -- I left the house without making sure I had an empty bladder... and so there was a brief bout of panic as I was trying to find an open restroom, not wanting to throw my timing off by leaving and coming back. I went ahead and started north, hoping I would run across some open restrooms and just a couple of hundred feet later, I was rewarded. Whew!

So, well relieved, I got into the running in earnest and worked on my miles. I took it easy but still kept a good clip (for me). Just as I was ending up the first part of my day's running activities, TZ called me and verified our trail time. He said he might run a little late but that I could get started. I grabbed a small breakfast and headed to Turkey Mountain.

So, the race course started on the Red Trail and so without TZ in sight, I headed for the arch and the trailhead of the Red Trail. I don't know if it is named for the color of the dirt or not, but I noticed right away that it was typical Oklahoma dirt -- red and dusty. Having only been on the trails once before, on the Snake Run a couple of months ago, I didn't want to get myself into trouble - it's a lot harder to get a ride back when your stuck in a wilderness area -- even an "Urban" Wilderness Area. So I took it slow and really, this was more of a hike than a run. But man, it sure works the muscles.

One of the first things I noticed (after the red dirt) was that the vast majority of this trail (going the direction I was) was downhill. In some places, it was dramatically so. First time runners who actually run the trail should beware. You can come around a corner and be in for a good 4 foot drop. Real easy to roll an ankle -- or worse. But the trail was wide and well marked. It was quite a workout getting down to where TZ and I met. And true to the great State of Oklahoma, the weather changed at least 3 times on the way. The canopy of trees above me shielded me from the rain that fell, all 5 and a half minutes of it. It was never real heavy anyway, and the few drops that managed to make their way through evaporated in minutes, leaving the trail just as dry as it was before.

I came out of the Red Trail where it met the paved bike trail and TZ was running down the hill to meet me. We trekked on to the next part. A dense and Jurrasic-like area that went both up and down quite a bit known, apparently as the Lo-Chi or Lower Trail. I made note that just below us was the railroad tracks and above us were various other trails. Our objective was to get a good view of what TZ felt would be the largest challenge for me in the race, a 120 ft hill between the Lo-Chi and the next trail up, the Ho Chi. Originally, I was going to tackle the hill and see just what it was made of. That wasn't to be, although TZ did and got some great video of it. It was about half way down this part of our trek that I realized that the early morning run, while a good run in and of itself, didn't do me any favors. If I wanted to tackle this hill, I'd need fresh legs. And mine were far from fresh. In fact, my legs were so tired that the ticks out on the trail that plagued TZ didn't even bother with me. Finally, we made it to the hill. I looked up and shook my fist at it. Live while you can, Mr. Hill. Today is not the day I conquor you. But your days are numbered and I will be back.

Trail running, or even walking, is so different from street running. It works you in such a different way that even though I only did somewhere in the neighborhood of 2.5 miles on the trails, it felt like I'd done 2-3 times that. I got home sore and exhausted. My feet hurt, my legs hurt. But I got such an awesome workout and got a chance to really enjoy some truly wonderful sights. I am sure that as I spend more time out on the trails, my endurance will build and who knows, this might just be the breakthrough I need to push myself to the next level in my street running. I think I am going to make it a point to include at least some of the trails on a monthly basis in my training. Next month, I'm going to reverse the Red Trail and see how that feels. I suspect I'll like it. A lot!