The Weekly Stoke: Sherpas killed on Everest, Ueli Steck’s ascent questioned, marathon tips and the country’s least outdoorsy cities

Mount Everest. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

Mount Everest. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

So sorry for missing last week, but sometimes life happens and you have to step away. But we’re back with the Weekly Stoke, and trust me, there’s plenty to talk about! So let’s get to it.

First off, the biggest news in the outdoors world, and it’s not good. An avalanche killed at least 12 Sherpas near Camp 1 on Mount Everest, and the search is on for more guides who are still missing. The tragedy makes it the deadliest single day in the history of climbing that mountain.

Staying in the Himalayas, there is some controversy concerning Ueli Steck’s solo ascent of Annapurna.

Thinking about relocating to a new city? If you are into outdoorsy activities in your city, there are some places that don’t cut it, according to this list.

Here is a list of tips for people running their first marathon.

And speaking of that, this blogger has some tips on how to properly carb load pre-race.

Do you have a list of excuses keeping you from getting out there, or how well you “perform?” This writer wants to have a word with you.

And finally, here’s a Q&A from a guy who is walking across the country.

The skull, the trash and the challenges of maintaining urban wild areas

A sunset view of Turkey Mountain. (Tulsa River Parks Authority photo)

A sunset view of Turkey Mountain. (Tulsa River Parks Authority photo)

It was a somewhat eventful weekend at my local trail running haunt. Much more than I let on with Sunday’s post about my long run.

The big news, which came down Friday, was that some hikers on the far north end of the Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness found a human skull. Yep. That happened.

The reports I’ve seen have said that so far, the skull is all that has been found. They’re narrowing in on an identity, and they haven’t yet seen any signs of foul play. They also say that the remains have probably been there for a couple of years, which might explain why no other bones have been found yet. There are a lot of critters in those woods, so there’s a pretty good chance that the rest of the deceased is scattered all over the place.

A screen shot of human remains found at the north end of Turkey Mountain. (KJRH photo)

A screen shot of human remains found at the north end of Turkey Mountain. (KJRH photo)

I’ve written enough crime stories to know that what probably happened is that the person involved here was a homeless person who likely died from pre-existing health problems, maybe a drug overdose, or from exposure. There is a good possibility that it could be a combination of all three.

Last year, during a cleanup day at Turkey Mountain, a group of us cleared out a one-tent homeless camp. Folks aren’t allowed to camp there, but people do, and there is new evidence of more camps on the north end of the park. That north end is pretty close to Interstate 44 and is easily accessed on foot from a nearby Pepsi bottling plant parking lot.

So that’s one of the potential hazards of having an open wild space inside a city. Not everyone there is hanging out just to get a run, hike of bike ride in.

Needless to say, that was the biggest news out of Turkey Mountain in quite some time. But later that weekend, a more mundane subject came front-and-center: Litter.

A group of us got together to do a trash cleanup day. As the weather has warmed, the volume of garbage has increased, much to my dismay. Plenty of people walk in with water bottles, sports drinks, soft drinks and beer. And apparently, a good portion of them feel OK with leaving their empties in the woods, not far from the trails.

That's about a dozen trash bags full of garbage we hauled out on Sunday. (Tulsa River Parks Authority photo)

That’s about a dozen trash bags full of garbage we hauled out on Sunday. (Tulsa River Parks Authority photo)

This bothers me, mostly because the bulk of us go to Turkey Mountain to be in a natural setting. Other people’s trash degrades that experience and pollutes the woods.

But there were a couple of finds that disturbed me even more.

First, a discarded Gu packet. Most of you know that Gu is a nutrition product used by endurance athletes to pop in some quick calories and energy while on a run or ride. It’s not something your average person eats as a snack.

I can somewhat understand a lapse of judgment from a newbie dayhiker who carelessly discards some trash. But a regular trail runner or mountain biker, who I assume would appreciate Turkey Mountain’s wild nature, leaving behind an empty Gu packet? Someone needs a good smack upside the head.

Then later on, we found a Whataburger cup thrown into the weeds within 100 yards of the trailhead parking lot, and in plain sight of a garbage can. As much as the Gu packet earned my ire, this particular find got to me.

How lazy is this? Whether this person was 100 yards into their walk, or 100 yards from finishing it, would it really have been such a bad thing to hang on to that empty 44-ouncer for just a few seconds longer and deposit its Styrofoam goodness in the trash? I’m not kidding when I say I’d like to punch that person. Hard.

Looking at the topics at hand – the human remains, the homeless camps, the litter – you’d be hard-pressed to link them all together. Urban homelessness and littering are not related.

But what these things point toward are the burdens that come with maintaining urban wild spaces.

The discovery of the skull sheds light on Tulsa’s homeless, which in turn would, I hope, gets people thinking about how to better help the displaced. Some people will want to stay outside, sleep under bridges or camp in the woods rather than seek help. But I’m sure the person who died at Turkey Mountain did not envision her life ending that way (investigators think this was a woman). Most homeless people would rather not be homeless.

An urban wilderness is no place for people to live. But I can see, given the lack of other decent options, where someone might just want to pitch a tent in a quiet part of the woods and be left alone. Perhaps this might get a few people thinking about who the homeless actually are (long-term jobless, mentally ill, recent war veterans, just to name a few) instead of treating them as out-of-sight, out-of-mind, or worse, as some weird, lazy 1930s-era hobo caricature.

As for the litter, it again goes back to what it means to keeping a slice of the wild within a city. It’s hard work. Just the sheer number of people living around Turkey Mountain, as well as the numbers of people who visit it, mean that there is going to be a few maladies that come when human beings interact with nature. In this respect, people need to be taught – and the earlier in life, the better – that trashing natural places is morally wrong.

In summary, the two lessons from the weekend’s events are 1) it looks like we need to find ways to treat people better, and 2) we need to find ways to treat the land better. Maybe then I won’t find empty Bud Light cans in the grass, and hopefully, no one’s bones in the weeds.

Bob Doucette

Seen on the run: Springtime weekend long run

So far this winter and spring, I’ve been less than faithful to my training goals. It’s amazing how those planned long run days can get cut short at 6 miles because, well, just because. I’ve run a couple of 25Ks the last two months, but aside from those I haven’t done much in terms of “long run” training days.

I was determined to change that this weekend. The plan: Run 13 miles to top off a bigger week of training, three weeks away from doing the Oklahoma City Memorial half marathon at the end of this month.

I could not have picked a better day, and I’ve got the pics to prove it.

The following are a couple of shots from the halfway point, looking across the Arkansas River to its west bank and the wooded ridge known locally as Turkey Mountain.

long1

long2

It was a cooler winter, but the signs of new life that come with spring are bursting through.

long3

long4

One thing about warming temperatures is that people get out more. It always warms my heart to see people outside, doing whatever it is they like to do — walking, running, cycling or whatnot. The parks were filled with people.

long5

Here’s another view I enjoy when I run alongside the Arkansas River: The pedestrian bridge at 29th Street. At this point, I’m almost 11 miles into the run.

long6

This was a big weekend for outdoor events. In south Tulsa and Jenks, there was the Aquarium Run (half marathon, 10K and 5K) as well as the Luchador Run 5K. I’ve run the Luchador Run twice, and it’s a blast. They create a whole series of obstacles, and you try to chase people dressed as Mexican wrestlers (the luchadores). Many runners dress up as luchadores as well.

At the finish line, runners can get into a ring with a pair of luchadores, and there is a block party where luchador fights are staged. I didn’t run it this year because I really needed a run a lot longer than a 5K. But that race was just getting underway as I finished up. So I caught this scene from the Luchador Run after I’d finished up.

long7

Those sights and sounds make the long runs worthwhile, even beyond the training benefit. Saturday was no different. Hopefully your weekend long run was as good as mine.

Bob Doucette

The Weekly Stoke: Trail runner gets very lost, the best running dogs, Boston Marathon tips, and the half marathon selfie gal tells her story

The Grand Canyon. (wikipedia commons photo)

The Grand Canyon. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

April means different things to different people: Late-season turns on the slopes, breaking out the backyard grill, ramping up for all those spring races. And so much more. So in honor of all those possibilities is this rather extensive collection of links. Time for the Weekly Stoke!

This trail runner took a wrong turn and spent a few days lost on the Sierras. The story has a happy ending.

Remember the gal who took a bunch of funny selfies during a half marathon in New York? She elaborates on her story here.

And for those of you getting ready to run the Boston Marathon, this blogger has some helpful race day tips.

If you’re a runner and you like dogs, here’s a list of the 10 best running dogs.

Another good top 10 list: Things you need to have on a river trip.

And finally, a list of some of the best negative Yelp reviews of America’s national parks.

Books: ‘The New American Road Trip Mixtape,’ by Brendan Leonard

roadtripcover

“What is a life?”

That’s the central question driving Brendan Leonard’s first book, “The New American Road Trip Mixtape,” an honest and sometimes raw look at the forces that propelled him out of what he thought would be a comfortable urban existence into something much more untraditional – that of full-time life on the road, working, travelling and bunking down in his car as he piled on the miles across the American West.

You may know Leonard from his semi-rad.com website, posts on the Adventure Journal or articles written for a number of outdoor magazines. In his book, he explains how the latest chapter of his life was born and where it’s taking him.

Like I said, Leonard is quite frank about his past: A failed marriage, followed by what he’d hoped was a better relationship with a woman whose interests matched his. But when that ended, he found a need to clear his head on the road.

Leonard works through the pain of the breakup as well as the observations and lessons he learns visiting friends scattered across the West while also taking us back to his younger years, the time when he became what he is now – a writer, traveler and climber.

The book is loaded with anecdotes of climbing adventures in the grand peaks of the Rockies, but is also takes us to lonelier moments where it’s just him, alone with his thoughts as he tries to get some sleep in the cramped back-end of a Subaru.

The highs and lows of his journeys are pretty well summed up when he writes, “But a true pilgrimage has to have some struggle, right? If there was no pain or suffering on the way there, was there meaning at the end?”

That resonates deeply with anyone connected to the outdoor community – the relishing of the sufferfest, working out your demons on hard treks, spicy routes or long journeys. Interestingly, Leonard surprises himself that the answer to his central question – “What is a life” – is simultaneously found in his observations of his closest friends as well as the realization that he doesn’t necessarily need to emulate them to find what he’s looking for.

Leonard’s storytelling is solid, and the indictments against many of the trappings of modern living are sharp and, honestly, very revealing.

The book is fast read, and with the weather warming up in time for all those dreamed-about road trips, it just might be the type of thing to get you going. You can get it in print for $9.62 on Amazon or on e-reader for $7.99 on Kindle and Nook.

Bob Doucette

A Sunday view: A few of the trails of Turkey Mountain

This will be more of a photographic post, just because sometimes visual elements say a lot more than words. Tulsa has the good fortune of having a nice-sized parcel set aside for wild land, with only trails and a few markers at hand to disrupt an otherwise natural setting typical to what you’d see in northeastern Oklahoma: hills and woods. I’m not sure Turkey Mountain can accurately be called a “mountain,” but the name has stuck and is permanently part of the Tulsa landscape: the Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Area.

There are loads of trails here, so the photographs here are just a sampling. Spring is here, and the forest is reawakening just now. Little splashes of green, budding flowers and, of course, the accompanying aroma of those blooms. So let’s take a tour…

trail1

This is looking north on the Powerline Trail, the most unnatural of the trails here. But the views are still cool, especially as the downtown skyline comes into view.

trail2

This is another look at the Powerline, this time peering south at the low spot between two pretty big hills. If you do an out-and-back on this trail, it’s equivalent to a 5K, but with somewhere between 500 and 600 feet of elevation gain. Stick that 3 miles in the middle of your run and you’ll be in for quite a workout.

trail3

This is from a mellower stretch overlooking the Arkansas River and Tulsa’s east bank. Part of the appeal of trail running and hiking is the potential for great views, and there are more than a few of those in this trail system.

trail4

Safety first! There aren’t a lot of signs of “civilization” in this place, but the city’s parks authority has placed this and other signs at specific spots to serve as reference points for people who get, hurt, sick or lost and need help. If you know where these markers are before you hit the trails, you can help lead authorities to where you are if you get into trouble. This isn’t a huge park, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to get lost out there. Add something like a bad sprain or heat sickness, and any aids to help rescuers are pretty useful.

Anyway, that’s just a quick tour from the last few days I’ve been out there. I’ve enjoyed the winter — cold weather makes for great running, and the trails are pretty fun when there’s snow. But I’m looking forward to more sunny, windy spring days. Have a great Sunday!

Bob Doucette

The Weekly Stoke: Marathon tips, Utah BASE jumping deaths, interviewing Chris Davenport and why a Grand Canyon theme park is a bad idea

Zion National Park, Utah. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

Zion National Park, Utah. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

Man, it hit 81 degree here yesterday. So I guess winter really is over. Time to get out there! But first, a collection of links for the Weekly Stoke!

Got a spring marathon or half coming up? Here is a good list of common mistakes to avoid, as well as solutions.

Speaking of things to be careful about, this post has links from bloggers who describe some of their more notable errors they made in the outdoors, and what they learned from it.

There has been a spate of BASE jumping deaths in the desert towers of Utah.

The Adventure Journal posted this op-ed about plans to build a theme park at the Grand Canyon, and I have to agree.

And finally, there is this piece about a conversation with big mountain skier Chris Davenport.

Race recap: The 2014 Snake Run

Me and my race bling. (Matt Carver/Tulsa River Parks photo)

Me and my race bling. (Matt Carver/Tulsa River Parks photo)

Before I get too far into this one, it’s time to ‘fess up.

I could blame my conditioning on a case of the flu I got earlier in the winter. But the truth is, despite how nasty that got, it happened in January and it’s late March now. I got over it, signed up for races, and got to training again.

But then I got a little lazy. So I struggled my way through the Post Oak Challenge 25K, backed off marathon training and just sort of meandered. I’ve been lifting pretty hard, but running? Eh, not so much. I’ve run, but not seriously.

So I’ve put on some weight (now at 180 pounds) and lost a little stamina. And this is where I was at the start of the 2014 Snake Run, a Tulsa trail race event that has you logging as many miles as you can in either 3 hours or 6 hours.

Naturally, I chose the 3. I did the same race last year and had a blast. So how would this year go? Well, hang on a minute while I get some preliminaries out of the way.

First off, the race course is one where organizers deliberately picked the easiest loop possible so folks could go fast and far. It’s still on trails, and there is still some up and down involved. But nothing like the rest of the trails at Turkey Mountain. So it’s a fast track. The main loop was a 3.75-mile out-and-back. There was also a half-mile loop where you could eke out some final mileage before your time is up, if by chance you didn’t think you had enough time to finish a big loop before the clock read zero. That’s important, because an unfinished loop — even if you’re within yards of the finish — counts for nothing.

Women's 3-hour division winner Katie Kramer and men's 3-hour second-place winner Brandon Abla chillin' post-race with their trophies.

Women’s 3-hour division winner Katie Kramer and men’s 3-hour second-place winner Brandon Abla chillin’ post-race with their trophies.

The winners: There were some impressive showings in this one. If you were going to earn that coiled-snake trophy, you’d have to burn rubber.

In the 6-hour race, Jeanne Bennett threw down an impressive 36.75 miles to win the women’s field.

For the men’s 6-hour event, Nick Seymour blasted out an amazing 43.75 miles. I can’t imagine running 6 hours, but even if I did, I probably wouldn’t have logged much more than 30, if that. And only if I were actually in marathon shape.

First, second and third-place winners got these bad boys. (Matt Carver/Tulsa River Parks photo)

First, second and third-place winners got these bad boys. (Matt Carver/Tulsa River Parks photo)

The 3-hour race also saw some significant accomplishments.

Reed Echohawk snagged 22.5 miles to win the men’s event. Right on his heels, and second place overall, was women’s division winner Katie Kramer with a stout 21.25 miles. Just so you know, Katie did a 20-mile training run the next day.

That’s the kind of person who wins these things. The rest of us mere mortals settle for finisher’s medals, though these were pretty sweet.

These may be the wildest finisher medals I've ever seen. Very cool. (Matt Carver/Tulsa River Parks photo)

These may be the wildest finisher medals I’ve ever seen. Very cool. (Matt Carver/Tulsa River Parks photo)

The race: Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve been dogging it a bit this spring, using the flu excuse a little too long, eating a little too much, and running far too little. My goal was to improve on the 15.1 miles I logged last year, and hopefully much more.

But about midway through the first lap, I knew I was in trouble. I’d been shadowing a couple of reasonably paced people, but found I was sucking wind at the turnaround point. On the first. Freakin’. Lap.

It didn’t get any better on the way back as I struggled into the check-in point for Lap No. 2.

At this point, I had to rethink everything about this race. No way you quit before you get 15, I thought. Or a half marathon. I was hedging my bets.

So it was about here that I actually had to think about what I was doing mid-race. Really think. Coast those downhills. Use your glutes going uphill. Catch your breath on the flat. Run your pace.

Then Lap 2 was done, and I felt OK. My body had settled into a more acceptable rhythm. Or let’s just say, something more sustainable as Lap No. 3 loomed.

Runners start banking laps. (Matt Carver/Tulsa River Parks photo)

Runners start banking laps. (Matt Carver/Tulsa River Parks photo)

Each lap slowed me down some, but not too much. But given my conditioning, the last thing I wanted to do was bonk mid-lap and then either limp to the finish line out of gas and almost no time left (and well short of beating last season’s result) or, worse yet, crash and burn and run out of time before that third lap was completed. With about an hour left, I decided to head to the short track.

This is the place where you finish off your mileage toward the end of the race, but most people don’t starting circling this route until there’s about 30 minutes left. So for a few turns, I was pretty much alone, pounding out half-mile loops on a slightly tougher set of trails.

The goal was to set a pace where each loop would be at least as fast as the previous, and it worked. I was winded and quite sore, but for some reason I was able to block it out and keep my level of effort constant. I pulled into the finish line with 3 minutes to spare, having lost count of how many turns I did around that loop.

The format of the Snake Run is all about beating the clock and knowing how much you've got left in the tank. (Matt Carver/Tulsa River Parks photo)

The format of the Snake Run is all about beating the clock and knowing how much you’ve got left in the tank. (Matt Carver/Tulsa River Parks photo)

As it turns out, the strategy worked. Preliminary results had me at 15.75 miles, good enough for 13th place (out of 55) for the men and 21st out of 144 overall. There’s a huge gap between me and the leaders, but I was just happy to do even just a little better than I did a year ago.

Fun stuff: Other cool things happened. Somewhere on the second loop, a woman’s voice called out from behind me.

“Are you that guy with the blog?” she asked. I turned around and saw a gal I didn’t know, but conversation was welcome at that point.

“Proactiveoutside?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

Meet Kris Rider, a Proactiveoutside reader, runner, 14er peak bagger and a new friend!

Meet Kris Rider, a Proactiveoutside reader, runner, 14er peak bagger and a new friend!

Turns out that Kris Rider is a regular reader. We chatted it up for a bit, but she was clearly faster, so I had to let her go do her thing (she finished with 17 miles even, 14th overall and 5th for all women). I caught up with her post-race and we talked more, where she told me that she and her husband like to hike and climb the 14ers in Colorado. I pronounce Kris and her hubby (who is also a trail runner) as “officially rad.”

There were familiar faces there — TZ Childress, the race director who also walks the walk (multiple 100-mile finisher), Matt Carver (who can run me into the ground and was out cycling the trails that day) and a gal named Ellen I’d met on a Turkey Mountain cleanup day a couple of months back.

She’d run the race, and we walked back to the lot and shot the breeze. This time of year, she normally does a Bataan Memorial March, and she told me about a guy who survived it who still shows up to those events. Ellen is a WWII history buff, as am I, so even though walking down the hill was slow and a little painful, it was awesome to swap stories about the little historical nuggets we’d uncovered over the years about that war.

Me and race director TZ Chilcress post-race. He puts on a good show.

Me and race director TZ Childress post-race. He puts on a good show.

Closing thoughts: One thing about the Snake Run: It’s a game within a race. For the serious competitors, there is a lot of gamesmanship. Even for those of us just competing against buddies or ourselves, strategy is a part of it. How well you pace yourself, and when you pull off the main course to the short track is the difference between a PR or, among the top runners, a trophy.

But with all things that are trail running, the people are what make it great. Runners, volunteers, the whole bunch — that’s what keeps pulling me back to trail races. You can have fun at huge events or local 5Ks, but there’s nothing quite like the trailrunner tribe.

One of two really well-stocked aid stations. Good eats! (Matt Carver/Tulsa River Parks photo)

One of two really well-stocked aid stations. Good eats! (Matt Carver/Tulsa River Parks photo)

Bob Doucette

The Weekly Stoke: Blackwater rafting, half marathon tragedy, exploring the North Pole and what it (now) means to be a man

Frozen wilderness at the North Pole. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

Frozen wilderness at the North Pole. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

It’s the second day of spring! More daylight, better temps, and fewer excuses to not get outside. It will be an abbreviated list today, but a good one on the Weekly Stoke. Let’s get to it.

You’ve heard of whitewater rafting. But what about blackwater rafting? There is such a thing, and it’s not for the casual outdoorsy-type.

A Virginia teen died after completing her first half marathon recently.

Here is a Q&A with Eric Larsen, who is attempting a North Pole speed record.

And here’s a humorous take on what it (now) means to be a man.

Previewing the 2014 Snake Run

The 2014 Snake Run finisher's medal. Can't say I've seen anything like it. (TZ Childress photo)

The 2014 Snake Run finisher’s medal. Can’t say I’ve seen anything like it. (TZ Childress photo)

We’ve had a few races here in northeast Oklahoma lately, but there ain’t no party quite like the Snake Run. And for many of us, it’s the last biggie before the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon next month.

I ran this one last year, and at that point, it was the longest I’d ever run. That won’t be the case this year, but this race, with its unique format, has a lot to offer trail runners and people training up for bigger races in the future. Here are some things you can look forward to in Saturday’s Snake Run trail race.

Format: Unlike most races, this one is based on time, not a set distance. There are two events: the three-hour and the six-hour races. The rules are simple: Run as far as you can on the course in the given time period. Last year, I did the three-hour race and logged 15.1 miles. I hope to do more this year, but I’m not sure I’m in better shape now than I was then. So we’ll see.

This stretch of singletrack is typical of what runners will see at the Snake Run. Built for speed.

This stretch of singletrack is typical of what runners will see at the Snake Run. Built for speed.

Course: As far as trail races go, this one’s built for speed. It’s basically a 3.75-mile loop (an out-and-back) on the mellowest trails they can find at Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness. By mellow, I mean trails that are the least technical and have the least elevation gain in the park. This means it’s not only built for speed, but also for people who are not as experienced at this whole trail running thing as many others are. It’s not flat, and there are some rocks and roots, but it is a pretty fast track. One caveat: if you are in the middle of a loop and don’t finish it before your time limit ends, the mileage on the unfinished loop doesn’t count. However, there is a built-in short loop that you can take and get extra distance if you don’t think you can finish one last big loop for time is up.

Aid stations: Simply put, they are awesome. Expect the usual fruit/salty snacks/water-type of stuff, but there will also be candy and beer. Last year, you could even get breakfast burritos. Who knows what other tasty treats might be in store.

If you're really fast, you'll get a chance to take home one of these trophies. Boo-yah! (TZ Childress photo)

If you’re really fast, you’ll get a chance to take home one of these trophies. Boo-yah! (TZ Childress photo)

The field: It will be made up of all kinds. Some folks will do a couple of laps and call it good. But the three-hour winner last year racked up 25 miles (almost a full marathon, on trails, in three hours!) while the six-hour victor logged a whopping 39.3. That’s more than a 50K. Most of the rest of us will be somewhere in the middle.

Predicted weather: It will be in the low 40s at gun time, and Saturday’s high is expected to be in the mid- to upper 50s. There is a slight chance of rain Friday and Saturday, so it might get a little sloppy in parts. We’ll see.

I like this race because, while we’re all pretty serious about performance, this one is also about fun. TATUR Racing does a great job putting these events together, and I’m always impressed by the caliber of runners who show up. By the way, you can still sign up. Here’s the event home page.

If you’re going, I’ll see you out there!

Bob Doucette