Lake Stanley Draper Trail

Lake Stanley Draper lies in SE Oklahoma City, not too far from Tinker Air Force base and accessible from I-240.  For many years it had a bit of a rough reputation, you might imagine some of the nicknames it had with a last name like Draper but I won’t go into that.  In the past few years it has really turned around and it has become a great area to enjoy the outdoors.  At any rate recently I decided to film a little bit around multi-use trails there and provide you a little look.  What’s that? You have been anxiously awaiting another addition of Clint’s crappy videos?? Well then my friend please read the next line in your best ringside announcer voice: “Let’s get rrrrrrrready for a crappy viiiideeoooooooooooooo!!!” Just click here.

Now that your primal urges for bad camera work from cheap action cameras is satiated I can tell you a little bit about the trail.  The trails are where several of the State games of Oklahoma are held and they are maintain by the Trail Care Crew.  I went out on one of those perfect summer days.  You know the ones that smell like hot cedar and pine but are not so stifling with heat and humidity that you have to constantly douse yourself with water to survive.  Perhaps the weather contributed to my positive feelings about the trail this day but I think it was more so due to the Trail Care Crew that maintains these trails.  The trail had almost no litter to be found and was in really good shape considering all the rain we have had in the spring and early summer.  Some areas remained washed out and rough but they had roped off affected areas and helpfully provided a reasonable and well marked detour.  I was impressed.  I found myself watching for ways I could make this trail better and picked up a couple of stray pieces of plastic and and a small bottle cap.  I took time to fix a small wash on the trail and when I was finished with my run I noted the changing areas, recycling bins, and signs informing trail users what to expect and how to have a decent experience out there.  It all felt really well done.  Mountain bikers, trail runners, hikers, and outdoor enthusiasts all use and help maintain the trail and you can tell that the people that use it actually care about it.

The trails themselves are primarily wooded trails with lots of twists and turns and small up and downs.  There are a couple of open areas (power line cuts), but for the most part you can expect woods, roots, sand, and a few rocky sections.  It is accessible for beginners but does have enough intermediate and technical stuff for even the most seasoned quad thrasher.  Don’t expect to set any speed records though, the tight turns, sand, and land sharks (roots) tend to effectively curb those looking to chase those Strava trophies.  This is a good set of trails to grab your water and a snack, set the cruise control, and enjoy a couple of hours out in nature.  You are close to all the trappings of the city here but it doesn’t really feel like it.  I saw deer, lizards, lots of squirrels, several different bird species (a really cool broad winged hawk made an appearance), and an armadillo (which was little concerning since it was the middle of the day and those guys or more of a night and evening creature unless they are sick).

So get out there and give them a go – plenty of miles of trail are available, they get a little crowded on the weekend but not overly so.  It is worth a trip and I don’t think you will be disappointed.

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Why do dogs seem to hate me?

I live very near my alma mater which conveniently has a nice crushed gravel trail all the way around it’s perimeter.  I get to run from my house and do a couple of loops which makes for a nice training area and good start to most of my mornings.

Except dogs seem to hate me.  The suburban neighborhood I live is is filled with nice folks and a nearby dog park makes for lots of people who keep their fur babies in good shape.  Maybe too good.  What is crazy is I always had dogs growing up (out in the “country”) and I consider myself a dog-friendly guy but if it is true that dogs can sense a person’s soul then mine must be black because my luck lately has been trending toward rabies.

My wife has pet allergies so even though my kids would love a furry addition to our home we have stayed the course with fish, lizards, and the occasional visit to the pet store.

Just a few weeks ago a smallish dog crossed four lanes of traffic, barking like mad the whole time, to catch up with me on the sidewalk and bite my ankle before I grumpily called out to its geriatric owner to literally call off his dog.

My neighbor’s dog is a German shepherd and beautiful.  She seems to love my kids who call out to her from our side of the fence when they play in the back.  My morning run seems to be a threat to her though because she climbs the fence like I am a criminal in need of apprehending and barks and snarls and…well you get the picture.

Recently while running to the loop I faced a rather uncertain situation as a shirtless and nearly pantless man was holding down his very large dog in his front yard.  I have no idea what he might of been doing out there at 5:45 in the morning but this dog was not happy to see me.  It struggled and struggled with this guy and I sort of sped up (I was on the other side of the road) when much to my chagrin he let go.  Yup. He just let go and this big dog tore after me.  It snapped at my legs and I stopped to dodge, it jumped and tried to knock me over and then snapped twice at my neck.  I am not proud of this but I have my limits and when a dog literally goes for my jugular that is the limit.  It came for my neck again and I punched it. I punched a dog.  It was crazy, the dog started circling and snarling and the man ran up and made the inane comment “I thought it was going to kill you.” Thanks pal.  I started slowing backing away as the man tried to corral the dog.  It sprinted back in the direction of my home and I made what I thought was a wise decision to cut my run short, call my wife for a ride, and notify the police that my normally serene neighborhood was apparently the next film set for “Cujo 2, Trail runners are Parasites.”  So I walked in the opposite direction hoping to circle back to my house and I called my wife.  As I was giving her the story and directions I saw the dog coming back down the road that I was attempting to circle back on.  Hoping it wouldn’t notice me I ducked behind a car but to no avail…the chase was on.

As I am on the phone with my wife the dog takes off after me and I pulled off some non-wind assisted numbers that I have not seen since high school.  Yelling into the phone for my wife to meet me at such and such intersection I kept looking back and by some miracle I seemed to be pulling away from Cujo.  My wife was obviously freaking out and my rapid breathing probably wasn’t reassuring her but I finally wore the fellow down and made it to a parking area in a school where my ride luckily awaited.

So yeah dogs hate me…but I got a new mile PR on Strava so that is something right?

Whew.

Well that was fun.  The night run started at 7:00 p.m. and the temp was about 87 degrees still with humidity that was pegging out at 81%.  That was a rough start to the race in and of itself but I realized very quickly that those hill repeats should have made a more frequent appearance in my training (which is to say I should have done more than the two hill workouts that I halfheartedly put in more as a token offering than real deal effort). Once the runners loped through the start gate and made the first turn onto the dirt a monster hill was the first thing you could see.  What you couldn’t see was the top of the hill.  Before the race I had made the call to drop down to a lower distance with my training schedule getting torpedoed by weather, popup obligations, and time restraints.  That meant I would face this hill in total 6 times (would have been 5 but I somehow completed a “bonus” loop before realizing what distance I had covered…maybe I should have gone ahead and done the full boat).  The night went like this: up the hill; rocks, roller rocks, more rocks; short, flat, run-able section; slight down hill; slight uphill; same short, flat, run-able section; monster, quad-killer downhill; repeat.

All that said I felt pretty good.  I was keeping nutrition in and was making good time all night.  I should have just kept my original plan to do that big run but those little nagging doubts that creep into your brain at the exact wrong time are terrible.  Don’t do that to yourself.  If you run at all just enjoy it and be proud of what you do and go for it.  I knew that I had to be back home by a certain time – we had a church event that morning and I was three hours from the comfort of my own bed hence the decision to run the shorter distance.

Critter report: deer, hawks, one owl that scared the hoot out of me, some four-legged animal with a long tail that was not very bushy…maybe a weasel?  Are weasels nocturnal? Do they live in this part of Oklahoma? …quick google…Yes and Yes! I think we have a weasel folks!  (Incidentally I challenge you to utter that last sentence out  loud this week.)

It was hot, humid but I had fun.  It was a good race put on by good people in a really fun state park in the great state of Oklahoma.

Coming soon…humidity and humility

So here’s the thing about trail running and ultras.  They tend to boil you down to the purest essence of yourself and then allow that essence to lift you up or maybe in some cases take you down a notch or two.

This weekend I have a big summer race that I am really hoping to finish.  It’s tough to say I don’t care about place or time but there is just so much unknown with this one that I really just want the challenge and to conquer what should be a pretty great challenge.  I will be running some techy trails in SE Oklahoma starting at 7:00 in the evening and continuing on through Sunday morning for what I hope will be a glorious 50k finish.  Why the night run?  Well July in Oklahoma is pretty toasty with a healthy dose of brutal humidity.  The race directors wanted to provide a challenging run but at a time that might be doable so hence the run at a sort of unconventional time of day/night/early morning.  I haven’t run through the whole night before although I have done some training miles at this time and I haven’t had the purest of training blocks because of weather challenges and trail closures on some of my favorite technical training grounds but once again when do you ever really get a perfect build up anyway?  Sometimes imperfect build ups lead to perfect races…right?  No that is a serious question, please tell me that is the truth…

I will be updating the and posting a report on this hopefully soon after the run so if you are interested check back here to see how it went.

Failure + apathy =__________

I attempted a 50 mile trail run this past weekend.  It was pretty awful, which is to say amazing.  This is one of the only sports I know of when you can make yourself utterly miserable and know that you will probably do the same thing again in a month or two.  Golfers always look and sound miserable on the golf course.  You hit one shot that looks kind of good and you spend the rest of your life trying to recreate that moment while your golf ball seems to secretly be attempting to ruin your marriage and friendships and is always laughing at you in public.  Running invites you to join in that laughter at yourself.

I had the flu the week before this run, no matter that I got the flu shot and no I don’t want you to tell me how it might have been worse if I hadn’t gotten the shot.  The weather had also been wonky in my home state and opportunities to get in long runs outside on the trails had been very limited.  The weather forecast showed a high of 54 degrees with cloudy skies and a slight wind for the race.  It turned out to not get above 38 degrees with a windchill somewhere between stupid and (insert favorite expletive) up.  The trail was a muddy mess with quad thrashing downhills and uphills made worse by the fact that smelly creek mud and good traction don’t go together. These are all excuses of course, but at any rate I didn’t finish the 50 miles – I slogged through 26 miles of it and called it.  I honestly not too upset I didn’t finish.  My wife and kids came out to volunteer and cheer me on and so I wanted to do this for them as well as myself.  However, I was really proud of my effort even in failure.  Did I care I didn’t make it? Sure.  Was I apathetic about not making it…also sort of true.  I spent hours slogging around like a fool with my arms going numb and useless and still pounded out well over 20 miles in adverse conditions not feeling anywhere close to my best.  So failing? Yeah I guess if that is failure then I am apathetic about failure and super proud of failing and giving it all that I had.  Make sense?  Yeah it doesn’t make much sense to me either but nothing much does when it comes to running anyway.

So what do you do?  Laugh at yourself, don’t take things that seriously, and high-five somebody else who is slogging through it too (assuming that you can lift your arms).

The center part of the middle of nowhere

When you find yourself in the middle of nowhere I strongly suggest looking for the center and settling down for a while.

I like to find races an runs that are challenging but also in places that I would enjoy seeing or have some scenic grandeur about them.  For instance when we went to Colorado this summer I traveled up a trail that featured a destination called the Pancake rocks.  I was all for this as it seemed to combine two of my favorite things which are nature and of course pancakes.  I was not disappointed, the trail wasn’t too busy, the elevation gain was significant, and the views were fantastic (see below).

pancake

I have also found myself in races like the one I am about to describe.  I recently ran my first true ultramarathon, a 50 kilometer run that was very difficult but a lot of fun.  To be honest I ran in the race because I wanted to find another run that had a Yeti/Skunk Ape/Bigfoot theme – a race I had previously talked about (Greenleaf) featured this as their unofficial mascot so I joking told everyone that 2018 would be the year of  me running in Bigfoot-themed races.  Little did I know how many of these there actually are…you Bigfoot hunters are a dedicated lot.  But hey I saw this race and signed up and off I went to complete a 50K.  While it wasn’t super difficult to find, it was in rural Oklahoma – we looped around 40 acres or so of ponds, forest, farm road, skunks, alpacas, and a few donkeys.  No I am not joking – the alpaca blocked the trail for some folks and they had to wait it out.  It is all part of the experience really.  For me I was running along early in the race cruising well in the very early morning when I came across the powerful smell of a polecat.  It was one of those gag moments and when I turned my head gagging I saw that less and two feet from my right leg was the perpetrator of the odor with its tail up locked and loaded for another round.  Fortunately for me it was either out of gas from the recent stink bomb or it chose to spare my life on this particular day and I picked up the pace slightly and hurried off to tell the donkeys that they should watch out for the fellow in black and white back there. As 10 miles turned into 20 my legs began cramping and when mile 31 mercifully came around I limped/jogged/Quazi Motoed to the finish.  And I won by the way.  It was sort of surreal for me, I was in pain but also so happy.  I tried to explain this to the donkeys but as they had all day they sort of tolerated me with bored indifference.

I suppose on occasional we all experience the feeling of literally or metaphorically being in the middle of nowhere.  It can be painful and sometime people don’t listen to what you have to say (petulant donkeys).  However, embrace the stage you are in, learn to fight through pain and discomfort, and find a happier ending.

Talk to you later.

OKC Memorial Marathon

It seems like the taper week is always kind of awful isn’t it?  Those of you who have experienced this know what I am talking about.  It seems like you build up your fitness for a race and then when it is time to take that time to rest up before the event – the taper – things start going wonky.  You can’t sleep.  Your body feels sluggish or you get the taper week headache.  Generally having come off of some of the longest runs of your training you should relish the respite but you end up feeling weirdly awful.  In my case I think I had a touch of a cold, I ran a fever for a couple of days and while I still had a day or two before the marathon it was enough to shake my confidence and leave me wondering what I would have in the tank for the race.

I still ran.  It was still amazing to see all the supporters out there, and it was amazing to have your family come out to support you.  The weather was a little windy and by the middle to end of the run was getting hot but for the most part you couldn’t ask for much better than the runners had out there.  I finished and even met my sub goal of going under four hours for 26.2 miles and most of all I had some fun.  Painful, sweaty, all around exhausting fun.

If you haven’t had a chance to experience the OKC Memorial Marathon it is run the last Sunday in April every year.  The proceeds benefit the OKC National Memorial Museum which honors the 168 victims of the Murrah building bombing on April 19, 1995.  I believe that some of the great crowds and supporters are out there cheering not just for you to succeed but cheering for those 168 people who can’t run.

I could give you a full on race report but I think I would rather leave you with the thought that not everything may go right for you on your way to a healthier you.  Not everything will be easy or go as planned so be prepared to keep going for something bigger or beyond yourself.  Be prepared to adjust and find contentment not in the result but the process.

NewsOK photo…can you find me?