Race report: ‘Experimenting’ at the 10th annual Snake Run

I’m still a trail runner, dangit! (Clint Green photo)

Leave it to me to play the stupid card.

Sometimes I try things just because I can. You know, that whole “I do what I want” attitude that all the kids playfully throw around when they do something they know is kinda dumb but still get away with it.

I’m no kid, so I don’t get away with it, at least not very often.

I spent the winter focusing on strength and dialing back my running. Gaining strength and keeping up a high volume of miles don’t mix well. Most of us must choose one or the other. So for this winter, strength won out, with decent results. It also made it to where I was running nine or 10 miles a week.

Going back a year ago, my running volume was higher, but still not high. On a lark, I decided to enter the six-hour event at the annual Snake Run in Tulsa. No real goal, just get out there and run some trails for awhile to see how many miles I could log before the gun went off. Keep in mind, I hadn’t trained to run that long on my feet or for any significant distance for months. Even when hiking the last big loop, I still logged 25 miles, just short of a marathon. Not that impressive by that race’s standards, but hey, a little extra effort would be a pretty easy way to snag another 26.2 without having to bother with 18-21 weeks of training. My kinda plan!

It got me to thinking about things. I hiked the last loop of that race, chatting it up with another runner who was also done running but wanted to finish one last lap before calling it a day. When we finished, I managed to have plenty of energy to do a few short loops to get my total mileage to 25. Had I not shown up late and maybe ran at least a part of that last loop, a marathon and change was in the bag, right? So that was my plan for this year.

Or more like my experiment. Knowing the course, the event and a few tricks of slow distance racing, I figured it might be possible to get that distance or more with minimal training. Never mind that I am also about 10 pounds heavier than last year (gotta eat to get those gains!) and was running less.

The event

The Snake Run had been going on in Tulsa for 10 years now. It has two events: The 3-hour race and the 6-hour. The race director designed a course on the easiest trails of Turkey Mountain, meaning that the course is built for speed. Runners try to get as many miles as they can by running on a 3.75-mile loop, and if time is almost up, they can switch to a half-mile loop to finish up.

Course map.

The catch: If you don’t finish a loop before the final gun, that lap doesn’t count, even if you were within sight of the finish line. So there’s a lot of strategy in this one, banking miles and knowing when to peel off the big loop and start doing laps on the short course.

I did my first 25K distance on this race a few years ago in the 3-hour event and improved slightly the next year. Last year was my first shot at the 6-hour event, and I enjoyed the heck out of it. What would happen if I pushed it a little harder?

I knew that no matter what, I wouldn’t be anywhere near the leaders. The top male runner logged 40 miles. The top female, 36.

Uh oh

The starting gun sounded and I took my place in the back of the pack. No sense feigning greatness here. I was experimenting, and my weird goals didn’t need to get in everyone else’s way. The first lap went OK, the temps in the mid-50s and plenty of sun.

But there were some early problems. I found myself tripping a bunch, which is stupid, because I know these trails. “Keep your feet!” I yelled at myself more than once.

Normally, that’s not a big deal because trips and falls happen when you run trails. But a couple of weeks ago, I hurt my back twice in one week: Mid-back doing cleans and a few days later, lower back doing deadlifts. It’s been twitchy ever since. Stumbling forward to catch myself before face-planting got my back angry. Not good when you’re less than four miles into something projected to go much longer.

Also around that time, the familiar burn of a blister started making its presence known on the arch of my left foot. And maybe about 10 miles after that, my right knee was barking at me. I think the two may have been related.

The temps began to climb, my body ached and griped and moaned and pitched a world-class fit after the third lap was done. I popped some ibuprofen and decided to break things up between speedier running and power-hiking.

The fourth lap went like a charm, and I finished it with two hours and 45 minutes left on the clock. I told myself that if I could finish Lap 5 by the 4:10 mark, I’d have a marathon in the bag. Score one for the lazy runners!

Sadly, things started falling apart. My body wasn’t used to going this long and this far. Those pleasant temps raced through the 50s, the 60s and the 70s – pretty hot for a long-distance event. Every muscle around my hips was screaming. And by the time Lap 5 was done, the clock read 4:20. The race director, Ken “TZ” Childress, told me jokingly, “I’ve got bad news: You’re probably not going to win today.”

Best quote of the day, and great humor to take the edge off the facts.

I was trashed and getting slower by the minute. My left foot was barking loudly. So was my right knee. The temps had crossed 80 degrees, and the trees were still too bare to provide any meaningful shade to blunt the sun’s rays. Seven laps weren’t happening. No 26.2 that day.

Yes, even back-of-the-pack, untrained runners get a little bling when it’s over.

I finished my sixth lap, ate some barbecue, and with some time still left on the clock did one last half-mile loop to finish things off at 22.5 miles. Squarely back of the pack. They gave me a medal anyway and didn’t make fun of me, which was awful sporting of them.

Silver linings

That’s not to say the day was a bust. After all, this was an experiment. And the results showed me that no, you can’t run marathon-length races without a passing attempt at training. Your body needs the pounding of miles and time on your feet to perform, something no amount of squats, deadlifts and cleans will give you.

Additionally, I got to see a bunch of running buds. My friends Tyler and Miranda were there, with Tyler cheering on his bride as she gutted out her first-ever half-marathon in the 3-hour event.

Another running couple, Steve and Brooke, were slaying miles together, also on the 3-hour race. Both did well, fighting off the heat and running strong. Runners I don’t know, whether they were fast or slow, would say “good job!” or “great work, keep it up!” when we passed. Lots of high-fives were shared.

Clint took photos of all of us while helping Ken and the gang with the logistics of the race. Bryan and a bunch of local trail runners kept track of people’s loops and times.

And those aid stations. One of the best things about this race is they don’t mess around with the aid stations. They do them right, stocking them with plenty of drinks and food.

I met some new faces, and even got a lift to the parking lot when it was over so I didn’t have to stumble down the hill to my car. Good souls, these trail runner types.

Oh, and I got a sweet dirt tan line.

The dirt tan line. And if you look close, you’ll see the mondo blister I ran with for about 19 miles.

Lessons learned

So what do I make of this?

Well, if you’re going to run long distances, you should prepare accordingly.

Running in the heat sucks.

And as I write this, I’m a hurtin’ unit.

But it’s tough to beat a day running around in the woods. The fact that I can do that is more than a lot of people can say, given health problems, time constraints or something else.

And you can’t top the crowd at a trail race, or a group run, or even just a couple of friends who decide to go pound out some miles in the dirt. I’m gimpy today, but I’m good.

Next year, though, I should actually train.

Bob Doucette

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A great weekend of running for Tulsa: Great Plains 10K, Snake Run

It’s been a funny year so far for me in terms of running. Yes, I’m still out there pounding the pavement and hitting the trails. But I haven’t been in a race since November, and frankly, haven’t been pushing that hard.

And that’s OK. As much as I enjoy being light and fast, sometimes it’s good to dial it back. Strength training has improved as the miles have decreased. Unfortunately, I’ve put on some weight, and not the good kind.

But if there was a weekend to get back into the whole race thing, last weekend was it.

First off, there was the Great Plains 10K, the first time for this race to be held in Tulsa. I didn’t run it, but I did work an aid station with a pretty cool group of volunteers.

The volunteers at the Great Plains 10K aid station where I worked. They were awesome.

The volunteers at the Great Plains 10K aid station where I worked. They were awesome.

The organizers of the race were kind enough to donate a portion of their proceeds to the Tulsa Urban Wilderness Coalition if we supplied some volunteers, which we did. Twenty-one of us helped work the race, which saw 300 runners compete. For a first-time 10K, that’s pretty good. Race conditions were perfect – upper 40s to low 50s, no wind and overcast. Folks ran hard.

Great Plains wasn’t the only race that day, however. A trail race, the annual Snake Run at Turkey Mountain, was also going on.

I’ve run the Snake Run two times previously. The race has two events: the three-hour race and a six-hour race. The goal is simple, you just run as many miles as you can in the time given. I’ve done the three-hour event twice, topping out at just over 15 miles each time.

The races started at 9 a.m., so I was quite late getting there. But the race director, Ken “TZ” Childress, said those of us who worked the 10K could do a late-start walk-up entry if we wished.

I got there about 10:45, and by the time I ate a little food and got signed up, it was almost 11. The three-hour race would end in a little more than an hour. I wanted to get a good, slow double-digit run that day, but entering the three-hour race wasn’t going to do. So I signed up for the six-hour race.

So here’s the deal: Even though I ran in the six-hour race, I would not run for six hours. In fact, I’m not in shape to run for three right now. The longest run I’d done since November was a mere 7 miles. Even though I wore a bib for the six-hour event, I had no illusions about really being one of the six-hour runners. I figured if I could do three loops on the course and call it a day.

It’s amazing how free you feel without any pressure to perform, to climb the leader board, or to set a PR. Instead, I had time to stop at the aid stations and chat up friends who were working there. I paused to take some pictures. I got lazy and ran-hiked quite a bit. No pressure, just fun.

One aid station, as it turns out, was all booze. A guy named Jason Bement had several types of bourbon, including a home brew which was mighty tasty. I stopped there every time and ended up with a few shots throughout the race.

Jason Bement mans his bandit "hydration" aid station. I made a few stops here to sample the goods.

Jason Bement mans his bandit “hydration” aid station. I made a few stops here to sample the goods.

A friend of mine and a fellow TUWC member named Laurie also made sure I had a few swigs of beer at every stop where she was taking photos. We’ll just call that liquid carb loading or something like that.

I saw a bunch of friends on the course, too. Steve and Brooke, for example, both tagged 15+ miles in the three-hour event. That’s a distance PR for Steve, who just started running with Brooke on the trails last fall. Amazing progress.

Another friend of mine, an athlete named Trace, took third place in the men’s three-hour event, logging north of 23 miles. This dude has turned into one heck of an endurance competitor. His wife and three kids were there as well, cheering him on.

Another gal I know, Katie Kramer-Ochoa, defended her women’s three-hour title with 20+ miles as well. Katie is a regular on the podiums at a variety of road and trail races in Oklahoma, and is also last summer’s overall champ in the Midnight Madness 50-mile race. If you want to beat Katie, you’re going to have to dig deep. Really, really deep.

And another friend who has taken his running to new levels, a dude named Danny, busted off more than 16 miles in the three-hour race. This was his first Snake Run, but he’s already got a marathon and a 25K under his belt as of late.

It was awesome seeing all familiar faces hitting the trail that day.

Of course, more TUWC volunteers were there to help work the Snake Run as well. Colin and Erin, cyclists who have come to love Turkey Mountain, helped serve grub to runners at the start/finish aid station.

Erin Tawney, Colin Tawney and Laurie Biby near that start-finish line. The Tawneys manned one of  the aid stations and Laurie shot photos. All three are hard-working volunteers with the Tulsa Urban Wilderness Coalition.

Erin Tawney, Colin Tawney and Laurie Biby near that start-finish line. The Tawneys manned one of the aid stations and Laurie shot photos. All three are hard-working volunteers with the Tulsa Urban Wilderness Coalition.

I love the hard-charging spirit of the three-hour competitors, the mellow resolve of the six-hour elites and the grit of the rest of the field in doing their best. I’m always in that last bunch, competing against myself, though not this year. Either way, the Snake Run is a fun race.

A three-hour runner gets ready to finish off one last lap.

A three-hour runner gets ready to finish off one last lap.

Here, a six-hour runner throws down in the middle of that race.

Here, a six-hour runner throws down in the middle of that race.

It’s probably time for me to get a little more serious about my running again. I’d love to get back to the point where I was marching up the standings, reaching new goals and getting ready for hitting the peaks later this spring and summer. I’ve had my fun. It’s time to get serious.

But more importantly, what a great weekend of running for Tulsa. It sure seemed like the Great Plains 10K was a success, and TZ put on another great Snake Run. People got to enjoy the trails at Turkey Mountain, and thanks to all the runners, their efforts will help future endeavors to preserve and promote one of the city’s greatest assets.

It’s a little reminder of how great our running community is and can be.

Bob Doucette

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

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

Tulsa trail running: TATUR’s Snake Run

snake1

My spring race season went into its second event this past weekend, and like the first, it was all trails. Just the way I like it.

Better than that, this was one of the more interesting concepts for a running event that I’ve seen. And seeing who the organizers are behind it, I’m not surprised.

Tulsa Area Trail and Ultra Runners (TATUR) is known in Oklahoma for timing and organizing races, particularly big trail and ultra races. But you’ll see these cats working what seems like scores of local 5Ks all over the state.

Anyway, TATUR Racing is an innovative bunch. Innovative is how I’d describe Sunday’s event, the Snake Run.

The race took place at Tulsa’s Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness, with the course mostly winding its way along the Snake Trail and the Kopperhead Trail on the west side of the park. One “loop” was a meandering 4.2-mile out-and-back.

This race is different than most. Whereas most races have a set distance in which you try to complete it as fast as you can, the Snake Run has a set time where you run as many miles as you can in that set timeframe. For this one, there were three-hour and six-hour events.

To make sure you wouldn’t get stranded in the middle of a loop when the gun sounded (an incomplete loop is not counted in your final tally, even if you almost finish at the gun), they also set up a half-mile loop where you could grind out some last-minute mileage toward the end of the event.

Fun, huh?

There was a lot to like about this one. Some 250 runners participated, and some of these cats were speedy endurance machines well beyond my meager abilities. It took place in a beautiful wooded area where I like to run anyway. And the organizers made sure to build a “fast” track, keeping the route high on the ridge so you could really pound out a lot of miles without the normal scrambles and hill climbs you see in most trail races.

First, a note about TATUR: They know how to do it right. The course was well-laid out, marked and efficient. Aid stations were well-placed and well-stocked. The volunteers were awesome and encouraging. And they had the timing down to a science. These guys/gals were absolute rock stars.

The weather kinda sucked if you were standing still. It was in the low-40s, humid and misting at race time, which is a real drag if you’re not moving. Ergo, the volunteers are saints. For runners, I can’t imagine better conditions. You never get hot, and the light mist made the trails good and soft, but not muddy.

Post race, with my clothes soaked through from sweat, standing around waiting for results made me re-enter freezing suckitude once again. I found my car and cranked up the heat. Hey, it’s not like I magically won some trophy with the miles I put up.

Like I said, the winners were fast. In the three-hour event, the top finisher hit 25 miles. That’s incredibly fast on trails, a figure that dwarfed the totals the rest of us mere mortals posted. Winners in the six-hour event pushed close to 40.

There’s a lot of strategy in a race like this, knowing when to ease back, when to turn it on, how to use the aid stations and when to pull the plug on the big loop in favor of snagging the last few miles on the short loop. Veteran trail runners (and past Snake Run competitors) had it down.

As much as I’d like to talk up the feats of these people, I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that race organizers made this an accessible event for anyone, including novice trail runners. While the format requires some pretty cagey strategy for elite competitors, it is also conducive to beginners.

The main course, as captured on my phone. Not the best image, but this gives you a good idea how the course was laid out.

The main course, as captured on my phone. Not the best image, but this gives you a good idea how the course was laid out.

The same could be said of the course design. Stout runners will tackle hills or flats — they don’t care. But everyone can appreciate a course built for speed. For the novice/recreational runners, taking the nasty parts of Turkey Mountain’s trails out of the race made it that much more inviting.

(It’s not that the folks at TATUR mind a good, sadistic competition. They’ve got one in June that can only be described as hill repeat hell. I’ll write about that another time.)

On a personal level, I was happy with how it went. I ran the three-hour event. Knowing my speed on trails, I set modest goals — get two loops and change for starters, and if I’m feeling good, hit half-marathon mileage. I saw the Snake Run as a good way to build up to the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon half next month.

I ended up hitting three loops, ending the last one with about 45 minutes left. By that time, I was starting to tire (the clock at the starting line clued me in) so I knew trying for another 4.2 on the main loop could mean grabbing a bunch of miles that would not be counted if I didn’t finish it before the gun (remember, partial loops count for zero miles). So I ground out five half-mile loops to give me 15.1 miles.

Those numbers were good enough to finish 32nd out of 85 males, and 40th out of 173 runners overall. I’m used to languishing in the middle-back of the herd, so I was pretty stoked, yet not overly so given how much more the fellas ahead of me tallied at the end.

I have mad respect for the six-hour competitors. Not only were they out there that whole time, but among the top finishers, all of them had splits faster than any of mine. I honestly can’t envision myself doing what they did, but then again, I didn’t think I’d blow past half-marathon mileage in my allotted time, either. So never say never.

I’m pretty sure I’ll be back for this one. A well-run, well-planned trail event like the Snake Run has to be one of those must-go races, especially for those of us in T-town.

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088

I’m ‘laying up’ and not liking it

I’m not really a golfer. I play on rare occasions, and I have a good time. A few hours outside with friends who don’t mind me hacking up the course is fine by me. But I’m no golfer.

I do understand the term “lay up.” In golf, it means to purposely hit short of the green because taking a long shot at that target presents too much risk: things like sand traps, water hazards or other obstacles that make otherwise sane people lose their minds. (It’s a lot easier for me to accept the fact that I suck; the fact that I don’t get mad on the course is a testament to that humble act of acceptance.)

Back in the real world, I laid up this week. And I’m not happy about it. Fine with the reasoning behind the decision, mind you, but not happy about it.

A view across the Arkansas River, looking into south Tulsa, from Turkey Mountain's Ho Chi trail.

A view across the Arkansas River, looking into south Tulsa, from Turkey Mountain’s Ho Chi trail.

I was out on the trails last weekend, plowing through the usual suspects of rocks, roots, hills and woods. My goal was to pound out about 10 miles. The weather was good, and the trails were in fine shape. I had time to spare. It didn’t really matter to me if it was 8 or 10 or whatever. I was just going to run for awhile, challenge myself and continue preparations for what was turning out to be an aggressive (for me) race schedule.

The one race that was giving me trouble was the upcoming Post Oak Challenge on March 2. There are a ton of races in this one of varying lengths, but the one I was eyeing was the 25K trail race. That’s about 15 miles, and would be a good-sized step up from what I’ve been doing as of late. I’ve got a nice-sized schedule of races after this one, too, including another trail event two weeks later. I was registered for that one, but not yet for Post Oak. I just wasn’t quite settled on the 25K. It’s not that I can’t do it. But with what style? If I had to hike half the thing, what would be the point?

Somewhere around Mile 6, I started to bomb. I did a winding, hilly 5-mile loop, then hit my personal fave, the Powerline Trail, for another mile or so, which ended with a quarter-mile hill climb. That always leaves me beat, but I can normally take a quick breather and soldier on.

This is about the place where the running gave way to bouts of hiking.

This is about the place where the running gave way to bouts of hiking.

And that’s what I did. But heading back on that last 2-mile stretch, my body felt heavy. My legs were lead. Joints were creaky. Man, I was just tired. I bagged it at 8.5 miles, went home and thought about how I felt. I realize that taper weeks always help with this, but I couldn’t help but to think that had this been the 25K, I’d still have about 7 miles left to go. I have no interest in limping across the finish line in last place just so I can get a medal that says I finished the race. Style over substance? Maybe.

So I logged on to the Post Oak’s website and registered for the 10K.

I laid up.

And I don’t feel good about it.

There are plenty of reasons I should. For starters, it fits in well with my training and race schedule. Two weeks after Post Oak, I do the Snake Run, a three-hour trail running event in which you try to go as far as you can in the allotted time (there’s also a six-hour event, but that’s not for me yet). A month after that is the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. I’ll be doing the half in that one.

The goal for the Memorial is to finish with a respectable time. So every race and every run between now and then is aimed at getting me stronger to achieve that goal, which hopefully will springboard into something bigger later in the year.

So the 10K at Post Oak makes sense training-wise. It also makes sense given my performance right now.

But still…

I know my body will thank me as I ramp up the intensity gradually over the next couple of months. However, laying up just seems kinda like weak sauce.

I’m reminded of a scene from the movie “Tin Cup” in which a supremely talented head case of a golfer played by Kevin Costner is presented with the opportunity to either lay up on a tough hole or try to make a ridiculously difficult shot to the green. He refuses to lay up and hits the green. But only after wasting a ton of shots where his ball repeatedly falls short, lands in a water hazard and costs him a tournament win.

Pride got him to the green, eventually. Pride also cost him the victory.

So I keep telling myself not to be prideful. Not to compare myself to some of my runner friends who can bust off 50K-, 50-mile and even 100-mile ultras. Sorry, but I’m just not in that league.

We’ll see if this strategy is correct. Or if I’ll be kicking myself when the 10K is over because only then will I realize that the 25K was well within reach (Route 66 reprise!). Or perhaps the shorter race will prove sufficient.

All I know is I’ll be running that one hard. I’ll have a bit of a chip on my shoulder. My cautious side often crops up in stuff like this, be it a race or a climb or whatever. But my pride hates laying up.

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088