All aboard the Pain Train: 2014 Lipbuster Challenge race recap

Me, my massive medal and a (free) cheap beer after the 2014 Lipbuster Challenge. Pucker up!

Me, my massive medal and a (free) cheap beer after the 2014 Lipbuster Challenge. Pucker up!

I’m about two months removed from my last race, so I think I was about due for another. But some time in the future, common sense would tell me to pick something easy.

I just never seem to do that.

Last year, the good folks at TATUR Racing came up with a truly sadistic race called the Lipbuster Challenge. Lipbuster is a hill at Tulsa’s Turkey Mountain that is steep, rocky and sometimes a little unstable underfoot. If there is any trail where you might literally fall head over heels and bust your face, Lipbuster is it. Hence the name.

From the trailhead to the top of the hill is just a quarter-mile. The hill itself is just over 130 feet. No big deal, right?

Well, in this one, you run up and down that hill. For an hour. As many times as you can.

I did this race last year. I got eight laps in, and this year was no different. The overall winner, by comparison, got 14. But even some pretty elite runners (many are podium finishers at some of Oklahoma’s bigger races) scratched out no more than 11. That’s really good, by the way.

Rains dumped on us that morning, and that made the footing particularly difficult for the first two heats. I was in the third heat, and by then the rain had stopped. Our footing was better than it was for the poor suckers in the first two heats.

This is a pic from last year's race. Here, runners complete a loop, turn around and go right back up the hill. For an hour.

This is a pic from last year’s race. Here, runners complete a loop, turn around and go right back up the hill. For an hour.

I’m not in great shape right now, but I’m a smarter runner than I was a year ago. So I knew how to pace myself and conserve enough energy to stay strong as the hour wore on. Most people were reduced to hiking the uphill after two laps. I wasn’t a whole lot better, but I started in the back of the pack and picked off others for the duration.

Like I said, all I got were eight laps, which was my total last year when I was in better condition. But I did those laps faster, and had a bad side cramp not occurred on my way down the 8th lap, I might have gone for a 9th. I’m still kicking myself for not trying anyway. It would have been a push with just over 6 minutes on the clock, but I suppose I’ll never know.

My finish was good enough for 7th in my heat out of 30 runners. Not too bad. Overall, however, just 29th out of 80 total competitors. That 9th lap might have moved me up a couple of places, but not much. The people in the money heat (1st-3rd places in the second heat could win cash) were all pretty stout.

It was a fun time, though. Seeing people gut out what would ordinarily be a very unpleasant workout in sticky, sloppy conditions was pretty awesome and inspiring. Pre-teen kids were out there blasting out hill repeats.

This was also good training. My quads and calves are feeling it, three days removed from the race. Four miles, 1,100 feet of vertical gain and an hour of work will do that.

In the days before the event, I was asking myself why I signed up for this ride on the pain train, and now that it’s done, I can say I’ll probably do it again. We trail runners are a mildly loony lot.

So now it’s on to other pursuits. More vertical gain, more cardio blasting, more legs burning. But in a different way. Stay tuned after this weekend for that.

Bob Doucette

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