Running the Tulsa Run, and learning to trust the process

Me and a coworker, Corey Jones, after the Tulsa Run 15K. He’s a lot faster than me.

I’m eight weeks into the fall training season, and the thing I need to keep telling myself is this: Trust the process.

I say this a little less than a week after running the annual Tulsa Run 15K. There’s a lot to like about this race — its long history, its penchant for attracting costumed runners, and the fact that some really fast runners come out every year (it’s the host race for the USATF Masters 15K championships).

The race goes through cool neighborhoods, into scenic parks and finishes on a long, uphill stretch that goes right into the heart of downtown. Tulsa firefighters park ladder trucks on either side of Boston Avenue, the race’s final stretch, and hang a huge American flag that you run under just a few blocks from the finish. The city embraces this run as it has for more than four decades, Tulsa’s first “long” distance endurance event, the race that all other local races are built on.

While the Tulsa Run doesn’t hold the place it once did in terms of distance (there are numerous half marathon, marathon and ultramarathon-length races in town now), thousands still come out for it. For those of us running the half and full races at the Route 66 Marathon, it’s the last tune-up before November’s big show.

I came into this one with high hopes. I’ve been training hard, not only with the distances, but also with speed work. I’m lighter and faster than I was at this time last year.

That doesn’t mean I’m fast, but I really thought I had a shot at breaking my 15K PR, a 1:28 showing in 2013 when I was training for a full marathon.

Long story short, that didn’t happen. Not even close, really. I clocked in at 1:34.33. Just two years ago, I was three minutes better than that.

When it comes to running — or anything, really — unmet goals are a good time to reassess. What went right? What went wrong? What could be different? As far as I can tell, I went out to fast and underestimated the course. It could also be true that on my training days I’m not pushing hard enough. My speed days are plenty hard — more strenuous than any speed workouts I’ve ever done. But those other runs? Maybe I need to pick it up a little.

But as is usually the case, there are silver linings. For starters, this year’s Tulsa Run finish was almost a minute-and-a-half faster than last year’s. That’s a great sign, seeing that last year I snagged my second-fastest half marathon ever. I’m way ahead of the game, by that standard.

And then there are the peripheral things that make it all worth it. There is satisfaction in doing hard things and seeing them through. Weekly bike rides — installed in the training program as cross-training — are a joy. Plus little things — running past parks as some dudes embark on a drum circle jam session, or a Mexican band throwing it down at a block party-style event, or spotting a bald eagle soaring above, searching the waters of the Arkansas River for a meal.

When you take up running, most people don’t quantify these as benefits, but they are.

And running has a way of making you laugh at its minor hardships. On Tuesday, I was set to pound out eight miles before work, but a cold front with scattered rain was in the mix. Fine mist fell on me most of the way, but for about a half hour on the back end of the run I got the indignity of running in the rain. A cold rain, mind you. By the time I got back to the house, I was soaked pretty good. I got a chuckle out of how much all my drenched clothes weighed once I stripped down. Part of the deal, I guess. A hot shower never felt so good.

Anyway, the end of Saturday’s race featured free beer and a massage, along with some conversation with a couple of coworkers who ran that day, too. Both faster than me, by the way.

But I guess we all run our own race, learn from it what we can, and move on to the next thing.

I’m in the heart of my training season, when the miles are piling up and the workouts are getting harder. The next thing, in three weeks, is that half marathon. Until then, it’s time to put in the work, enjoy the ride and see what happens on race day,

Bob Doucette

Training update: Signs of progress at the Tulsa Run 15K

For a short burst, I was actually fast. But really, this race went pretty well.

I set out in late summer to create a new challenge for myself. Knowing that the cooler temperatures of fall were approaching (and fall race season), it seemed like a good time to see what I could if I trained harder for a specific goal race.

For me, that’s the Route 66 Marathon’s half-marathon event. Last year, I surprised myself with my second-fastest half marathon time. I learned a lot from that and wanted to take those lessons into this fall to see what might happen. I snagged a more aggressive training schedule and got to work.

It’s important to follow your training plan. While it’s fine to have a plan, it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t follow it. So I’ve been strict about that. Since late August, I’ve missed one workout (I went hiking in Arkansas instead of competing in a 5K, per the schedule) and modified one other (speed work on a treadmill during a downpour instead of running four miles outside). On everything else, I’ve done the work, even when I didn’t feel like it.

What’s also important is measuring the results. If you’re not making progress, it means you’re either going through the motions to check a box or something else is wrong (illness, injury, etc.). I think I’ve been making progress. But they only way to know for sure is to test myself and see.

I had a good opportunity to do that last weekend. The Tulsa Run is a classic local race, and this was the 40th annual version of it. The main event is a 15K road race through some of the hillier portions in and around downtown Tulsa, a course layout that is a change from the race’s traditional out-and-back, mostly flat aspects. My training schedule called for a 15K race last weekend, so instead of a slow-go long run, it would be a more energetic effort on a race day.

I’ve run the Tulsa Run five times, including three times on the newer, tougher course. So how did it go?

Gratefully, the weather was perfect: 34 degrees at start time, sunny and light winds. There would be no overheating, so I’d be able to push myself.

The race starts out with about a mile leading out of downtown downhill. From there, it’s a roller-coaster of hills, some big, some small. I feel bad for the runners who didn’t train on hills. They suffered.

This lasted from Mile 2 through Mile 6. After that, there is a flat section that goes on for two more miles before the course winds its way back up the hill to downtown and the finish. In my opinion, that last mile is the toughest part, a series of rolling hills that goes ever up until you cross the finish line.

My expectations weren’t that high, seeing that I’m still weighing at or near 190 pounds (I do love me some barbecue and tacos). But during training, I’ve made sure to include hill climbs. Weekly mileage volume is in the 30s now.

All of that paid off. All my 5K splits were nearly identical. Yes, the hills were hard. But on the downhills, I could lengthen my stride, control my breathing and regain my wind while making up time lost on the inclines; running on hills is good practice for the real thing, and experience counts.

Oddly similar splits. Not bad.

I finished at 1:31:23, my second-fastest 15K and the fastest since the course change a few years ago. The 9:48 pace is not far from my goal pace for Route 66. Much closer than I thought it would be. These aren’t barnburner times by any stretch, but for a guy who has been slow for several years, it’s not too bad. And a sign of progress.

The Tulsa Run is a good test for people running Route 66, as the characteristics of the courses are very similar. I always fail that final hill climb on Route 66’s half, just like I used to do on the Tulsa Run’s last mile. This time was different, so I’m hoping I can make more progress these next few weeks, smash the remaining workouts and maybe hit that goal. And PR, of course. Either way, I’ll let you know.

Bob Doucette

Choosing not to suck, Part 2: Running the 2015 Tulsa Run

Tulsa Run bling. Evidence that I am still choosing not to suck.

Tulsa Run bling. Evidence that I am still choosing not to suck.

This won’t be your typical race report.

I’m not going to blather on about how well my training went, or how badly. There won’t be those moments of triumph or points where I wanted to give up. No PR, no awards, no DNFs.

My fourth year in the Tulsa Run was never going to be any of those things, mostly because I’m not the noob I was four years ago, nor am I in the peak condition that I hit two years ago. Life cut into my training time over the past two fall race seasons, but after more than nine months of not doing much of anything, I decided (and wrote about) my decision not to suck this fall. Just lace ’em up and run as best as I could.

That is what this is about.

The course for the 15K race changed last year. The Tulsa Run was, for a long time, a mostly flat out-and-back guaranteed to give you a fast time if you’re up for it. My PR in this distance came on the old course. But it’s now a very hilly loop, and if last year’s times were any indication, people weren’t going to be as fast battling the inclines as they were chewing up the road on a course that, with the exception of the downhill at the beginning and the climb at the end, was as flat as a board.

I came into this one overweight and undertrained. But I also had no expectations. I did the right thing by tapering. I did the wrong thing by staying up until 3 a.m. at a friend’s birthday party the night before. Many tasty things, both of the solid and liquid variety, were consumed.

Oops.

I woke up with my head feeling a little swimmy. Might this be a good day to DNS? The thought crossed my mind. And I dismissed it. Nope, you said you were going to do this. You said you were not going to suck. Toe the line and go. Even if it takes you two hours, you run that thing and finish.

And then a strange thing happened. I found a pace, held it, and discovered a rhythm I could sustain over the hills and across the flats for almost the entire race. And that’s exactly what I did.

This is a minor miracle, as I’m not just a crappy runner, but a terribly undisciplined one as well. I always start too fast, then crash and burn at the end. That’s particularly easy to do in these Tulsa races, most of which start downtown (on top of a hill), go down, then finish going back up that hill to somewhere close to the start.

But on that first mile, one blessedly of the downhill variety, I held back. I let everyone else fly by, and kept an even gait before chewing up that first big hill, a half-mile climb to a trendy part of town called Cherry Street, which gave way to yet more hills, though most not as long or as steep. But this is the part of the course that usually separates the wheat from the chaff, if you get my drift.

For me, it was steady as she goes. I ran into a buddy named Ken Childress — normally a trail runner who has a few 100-milers under his belt — chugging along on that first big stretch. I’d recognize that Trail Zombie pace from a mile away. I told him I’d see him later on as I attempted a fist bump passing by. Typical white guys, we didn’t connect. Whiff!

From there on out, it was pretty much me and the road. Me and the hills. Me wondering just when my cardio was going to leave me. But it didn’t, at least not for awhile.

Somewhere on a flat portion of the course, maybe around Mile 7, I ran up on a guy who looked like the second coming of Eddie George, the Ohio State and Tennessee Titans star running back from a few years back. The dude was stacked, but keeping a good clip, running alongside a gazelle-like woman who was making this whole thing look a little too easy.

This was a great time to create an awkward conversation.

“Dude,” I said as I came up to his side, “you really should lift some weights.” Hilarious, because he was hulk-like compared to me. He laughed and went along with the joke.

“I mean, do you even lift, bro?”

Yes, I do this to strangers who look as if they could lift twice as much as me. I don’t know why. Just seems like the right thing to do.

The three of us chatted a bit before I pulled away, or maybe they pulled away. I honestly don’t remember. But the distraction helped kill a mile or two, and before I knew it, there was only a mile to go.

But that last one is, without a doubt, the hardest. Crossing the river, you go uphill to the crest of downtown before turning north on Boston Avenue and the Tulsa Run’s infamous, final uphill climb to the finish. Everyone dreads Boston Avenue, but that first hill climb before you get there is worse. Much worse.

About then, my cardio left me. I tanked. Yes, I moved forward, but at a crawl, giving in to the hill and tossing aside any fantasy of besting my previous year’s time. But just when it was looking a little bleak, one last bit of friendly encouragement.

The running and cycling community is pretty strong in Tulsa, with mountain bikers, road cyclists and trail runners often converging either on the trails or at a downtown bar called The Soundpony. The Soundpony crew is a raucous and fun crowd, single-handedly giving the city the wildest scene of the Tulsa Tough cycling races (Google Cry Baby Hill and you’ll see what I mean) while also coming out in force to support, in a fun way, endurance athletes doing their thing. Many times that means costumes, loud music and bandit beer aid stations.

True to form, there they were, costumed, loudly cheering and passing out cups of PBR to passing runners who cared for it. Someone was waving a huge Soundpony flag, one I’ve seen before not just at Tulsa Tough, but smaller races as well. Seeing that a PR was nowhere in sight, I pulled off to greet my buds. A fist bump here, a chest bump there. And then a cheap brew down the hatch before running those last six blocks to the finish.

I poured it on here, having enough gas in the tank to pick up the pace to some sort of neo-sprint-like-thing that was threatening to eject the beer I just downed.

Would I finish in a decent time? Would I barf at the finish? Both? Neither?

Fortunately, I kept it all down and managed to cross the finish looking like I was somewhat athletic (or maybe not, but let me believe, dangit!). I collected my medal, then headed down to meet The Soundpony crowd, and saw my friend Ken motor on by. Ken is one of those “big oak” figures in the local running scene, and so are a lot of the people at that bandit beer station. Among them I counted many ultra runners (and a few big-race winners). In real life, as in those outside of running and cycling, most of these folks lead pretty involved professional lives. But here, everyone is unified by these little sufferfests.

I live pretty close to the finish, so walking home was no big deal. Upon arrival, there was a protein smoothie and a nap, followed by a double cheeseburger and another nap. One of the best things about the longer races is the license to eat, and the excuse to sleep when it’s over.

Curiosity got the best of me later on. Just how did this race go for me? I knew the time — a pedestrian 1:37:25. Not my slowest, but not even close to my fastest. But when I broke it down into splits, something happened that hadn’t occurred before. Even after gassing out on that last mile, each 5K split was roughly the same, from start to finish.

I had to grin at that one. Too heavy? Yes. Too much pre-race partying? Uh-huh. Too slow? Yup. But I was consistent, and for the second time this fall race season, I made a conscious decision not to suck. Seeing that I had a good time doing it and managed to cross a finish, I’d say “mission accomplished.”

On to this month’s half marathon…

Bob Doucette

Previewing the 2015 Tulsa Run

In northeastern Oklahoma, fall racing season really kicks off with the Tulsa Run, a 15K event that’s been happening here since 1978. For many years, this was the premier endurance road race in Oklahoma until the local running scene began putting together big-race marathons.

Still, an estimated 9,000 people will end up running on Saturday. I’ve run it for the past three years, and it’s always been a challenge and a pleasure.

Last year, there was a change in the course route. The city is going through a major park development project on Riverside Drive between 21st Street and 35th Place. Much of the road is being rebuilt, which means a significant portion of the race’s traditional course is torn up. So the flatter out-and-back format of years past is history this time.

Here’s a map of the 15K course:

Tulsa Run 15K coure map (Tulsa Run image)

Tulsa Run 15K coure map. Click for a larger image. (Tulsa Run image)

The course is a loop. I’ll make this short and sweet: As much as people groan about the uphill stretch up Boston Avenue at the end of the race, they can expect more of that in this year’s event. Utica Avenue, 21st Street and 15th Street — prominent stretches in this year’s run — are pretty hilly.

Also, the return trip to downtown also has a beefy uphill stretch from Riverside, and then the last piece north on Boston Avenue.

The good news: From an aesthetic point of view, this course is a gem. Running on the River Parks trails alongside Riverside Drive is scenic. Running on Riverside Drive, however, is not. But crossing the Arkansas River (twice) and going through Cherry Street and Brookside makes for a more interesting run, and possibly better in terms of spectator support.

I like the course, and aside from the added difficulty the course presents, I think most runners will, too. An added bonus: If you’re also training for November’s Route 66 Marathon or half marathon, the Tulsa Run course will give you a nice sneak peek of what to expect.

There is also a 5K race, and like the 15K, it does not avoid the hills. It embraces them, particularly along 15th Street.

Last year, most people’s times were slower than previous years, and I think the increased hilliness of the course had a lot to do with it.

That said, the challenge is part of the fun. The forecast calls for good temperatures (likely in the mid- to upper 50s at race time), but there is a chance of rain.

We’ll see you out there!

Bob Doucette

Race recap: the 2014 Tulsa Run

A little hardware, a little football and probably other indulgences laying around somewhere after last week's Tulsa Run.

A little hardware, a little football and probably other indulgences lying around somewhere after last week’s Tulsa Run.

A year ago, this plodding distance runner scored a sweet little 15K PR in the midst of marathon training. Not overly fast, but 12 minutes faster than the previous year.

Three-hundred and sixty-five days later, 10 pounds heavier, 20 degrees warmer and facing a course that was a whole lot hillier, you might think this year’s Tulsa Run was going to be one big, fat fail-fest.

And if you went solely by the numbers, you might be right. But numbers do not always a race make.

No doubt, this course changes in this year’s Tulsa Run made it tougher on everyone. Gone were the long, flat straightaways of years past, replaced by big, long hills through the heart of the city. Temperatures by the race’s end were in the low 70s, which is pretty warm for a race this length.

But while there was more than a bit of groaning about the temps and the hills, most of the people I talked to and ran with loved the changes.

So here’s a recap…

THE WINNERS

Most of the time, the winner of this race is often a professional athlete and usually from out-of-state.

Not this time.

In the men’s open division, Johnny Crain – a grad assistant on the University of Oklahoma’s cross-country team – threw down a 45:32 time. For the women, Jane Murage of Kenya clocked in at 53:38.

The Tulsa Run is in its second year as host of the USATF Masters Championship. Daniel Mutai, a frequent competitor in the Tulsa Run, took the men’s title at 53:39 while Pauline Allen just missed cracking the one-hour mark with a 1:02:27, easily winning the women’s championship.

Let’s go back to that overall winner. Basically what we’re talking about is a dude who is pretty much a college kid winning Oklahoma’s oldest long-distance race. It’s almost like he got up one day, turned to his bros, and said, “Yeah, I can win that.” And then he signs up, shows up, and stuns the field. Followed, of course, by a nonchalant “Halo” tournament with his bros later that day.

I’m sure it didn’t go down quite like that. I’ll bet he takes his racing much more seriously than that. But I kind of like my version. That would be awesome.

THE COURSE

Like I said, it was hilly. The race used to be an out-an-back from downtown Tulsa south alongside the Arkansas River, then back into downtown. So downhill a mile south, flat for seven miles, then uphill for that last mile to the finish.

Not this time. The city is embarking on a huge park project right on the route the race usually runs, that necessitated a change. If last year’s Tulsa run was flat, fast and a little dull, this year’s race was the opposite.

The downhill start is still there, but as the race coursed through Midtown neighborhoods and entertainment districts, there was a constant flow of long, big hills. I’d say the first 9K of the race was just that, and I can tell you from looking at the times that many runners were not ready for it. If anything, the race taught competitors a valuable lesson about incorporating hill training in their workouts. People who ran flat courses during their training runs, well, the Tulsa Run probably ate their lunch.

Thankfully, the course relented once it crossed the river before the final uphill trudge to the finish. On the bad side, that is also the time when the temperatures started to spike. Seventy-two degrees might not seem like a big deal to most people but it’s downright hot for a race of this distance.

HOW IT WENT

Last year, my expectations were to PR. Plain and simple. I was in great shape, light and the conditions at gun-time – right around 40 degrees – were perfect. And PR I did, clocking in at 1:28:06. That’s not really all that fast, but it was a vast improvement from the previous Tulsa Run I entered.

I’ve been doing a lot more hills lately, but that weight gain – when you’re running 25 miles a week instead of 40, you’re going to be heavier – was bound to make a difference. As would all the other factors that made this race different from the last.

I did well through the hills, and if the race ended at 10K, that would have been one thing. But there were another 3 miles to go. I have to say, I was spent. Those last few miles were a bit of a grind, but when the finish line came near I had enough gas in the tank for a final push. The result: 1:32:35, a bit over 4 minutes off last year’s pace. Man, I’ll take it.

A couple of reasons why: First, the course was awesome. I’m all for speed and PRs, but a real challenge like this one is pretty sweet, too. It’s a great prep for the Route 66 Marathon, which has some hills of its own. And frankly, it’s just more interesting. I like loops better than out-and-backs.

Second, I really felt I’d be a lot slower. Somewhere in the 1:40 range. That’s what my training pointed toward, and I figured all the other factors from this year’s race would slow me down significantly. It was nice to know that while I was slowed, it wasn’t by much.

And last, the Tulsa Run is just a special event. It’s been around for almost four decades, and it has become one of those local bucket list items for a lot of people. Running the Tulsa Run is often a gateway for people to take their fitness to another level, and seeing this people on the course and crossing the finish line is pretty awesome.

My hope is that organizers of the race keep this course for a while. It’s harder, but it’s better. I’m not sure if all 9,000 people who ran it agree, but I’ll bet a lot of them will.

So another Tulsa Run is in the books, and a half marathon looms in less than three weeks. So far, so good. Fall race season is off to a pretty fun start.

Bob Doucette

Looking toward the 2014 Tulsa Run: It’s going to be a tougher course

I’m a little late on this one, but I figured it would be a good time to preview what the 2014 Tulsa Run course will look like.

There are changes, and they are significant. Some background…

The city is going through a major park development project on Riverside Drive between 21st Street and 35th Place. Much of the road is going to be rebuilt, which means a significant portion of the race’s traditional course is going to be torn up. So the flatter out-and-back format of years past is history this time.

Here’s a map of the new 15K course:

The 15K course for the 2014 Tulsa Run. (Tulsa Run image)

The 15K course for the 2014 Tulsa Run. (Tulsa Run image)

Now it’s a loop. I’ll make this short and sweet: As much as people groaned about the uphill stretch up Boston Avenue at the end of the race, they can expect more of that in this year’s event. Both 21st Street and 15th Street — prominent stretches in this year’s run — are pretty hilly. Much more so than in last year’s course.

Also, the return trip to downtown also has an uphill stretch from Riverside, and then the last piece north on Boston Avenue.

My advice: Train on hills, especially if you’re hunting a PR.

Now the good news: From an aesthetic point of view, this course has the looks of a gem. Running on the River Parks trails alongside Riverside Drive is scenic. Running on Riverside Drive, however, is not. But crossing the Arkansas River (twice) and going through Cherry Street and Brookside will make for a more interesting run, and possibly better in terms of spectator support.

I like the change, and aside from the added difficulty the course presents, I think most runners will, too. An added bonus: If you’re also training for November’s Route 66 Marathon or half marathon, the new Tulsa Run course will give you a nice sneak preview of what to expect on the marathon and half marathon.

The Tulsa Run is on Oct. 25 and registration is open.

Bob Doucette

Year in review: I must say, 2013 pretty much rocked

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I guess it’s that time of year when those of us in the blogosphere look back on the previous year and share our thoughts. Far be it from me to buck the trend! But seriously, 2013 was a pretty great year overall, one marked by some great experiences. Here’s a quick recap:

Running

I’d say this is where I made the most progress. I’d been back into running for a couple of years by the time 2013 started, with a few races under my belt. I definitely had plenty of room for improvement, so early on I set some goals, then reset those goals as time passed on.

In February, I laid up a bit and raced in the Post Oak Challenge 10K trail race. A month later, I ran the Snake Run trail race in Tulsa, settling in on the three-hour event. In that one, I placed decently and threw down 15.1 miles. To that point, that was the longest distance I’d ever run.

Boston Strong at the OKC Memorial Marathon, where I did the half.

Boston Strong at the OKC Memorial Marathon, where I did the half.

When April rolled around, it was time for the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. I’d never run a half marathon, though I’d already exceeded that distance. This was by far the largest run I’d ever done, with somewhere around 25,000 runners taking part.

I ran it in 2:20, which isn’t all that fast. But some really cool things happened.

For starters, the race starts at the Oklahoma City National Memorial, one of the most beautiful and moving monuments in the nation. If you don’t believe me, then go there and see for yourself. I can remember the horror of the April 19, 1995, bombing (I covered it for a small newspaper back then), the construction of the memorial and now this race. Having it happen two weeks after the Boston Marathon bombing made this event even more significant to me, and doing it with such a huge crowd, well, it’s just something you have to experience. I’ll be back there again.

Secondly, I got to run the last five miles with a friend of mine who was also running her first half marathon. Carrie was battling some knee pain, but we kept each other motivated to finish, and finish we did. A lot of grit in that gal!

I steered clear of most races over the summer, taking a break in late spring before ramping up marathon training in July. What a process that turned out to be!

As the weekly mileage piled up, I got stronger. Lost some weight. Got faster. The first real test would come in October with the Tulsa Run 15K.

In 2012, I ran it in a plodding 1:44. At the time, I was just glad to have finished it. A year later I was a different athlete with much higher expectations. The 2013 race was the same course as 2012, and when it was over, I knocked it down in 1:28. I felt pretty good about that, then set my sights on the year’s big prize: the Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa.

I’d never run a marathon, and my longest run to that point was 21 miles. It was 25 degrees at gun time, and I was heading into uncharted territory for me.

I knocked off the first half in 2:10, but really slowed down the last six miles. I wrapped it up in 4:50, right in the middle of the pack, but at a better pace than all my long training runs. A great experience, and one in which I am pleased. But I’m looking forward to improving that time.

There were a few 5Ks and a 10K mixed in there. One of my goals for 2013 was to get a 5K done in 24 minutes. I missed that goal, running the Turkey Trot in 26 minutes. But that’s three minutes faster than my best 5K of 2012. So that’s progress.

For me, this was the prize for a year's worth of hard work.

For me, this was the prize for a year’s worth of hard work.

I’d say 2013 was pretty productive in terms of running, and it’s another layer of a foundation that I hope to build on going forward. Maybe a 4:30 marathon? Sub-24 5K? An ultra? We’ll see. I never started 2013 thinking I’d do a full marathon. So stay tuned.

In the mountains

Like previous years, I was limited to heading into the high country to the summer and fall months. But the times I got away provided some memorable trips.

In June, I joined a few friends for a trip into the San Juans near Ouray, Colo., to tackle the southwest ridge of Mount Sneffels.

Clockwise, from top left, are Chuck, David, me and Noel on Mount Sneffels' summit.

Clockwise, from top left, are Chuck, David, me and Noel on Mount Sneffels’ summit.

The route is a fun, extended Class 3 trip that bypasses the scree hell of this gorgeous peak’s standard route. I highly recommend it. The ridge going up was intriguing in terms of climbing, and incredibly scenic. We went down the standard route, which gave us a chance at practicing a snow climb descent. I’m always down for a little snow.

What I wasn’t down for was the dozen or so other climbers going up and down Sneffels’ snow-filled upper gully without proper gear. And then there was the guy (who we never saw) who left two scared, tired and inexperienced/ill-equipped partners in the gully while he tagged the summit. Not cool, but glad we could help them.

That was overshadowed by the ridiculously picturesque summit views looking down on the Dallas Divide and Yankee Boy Basin. And let’s not forget the company I had on this trip. Noel, Chuck and David are rock stars, and I hope to hike and climb with them again very soon.

Earlier that week, I had a chance to take another friend up his first 14er. Brent, aka, Animal, is a fitness coach, jiu jitsu brown belt, bouncer and online entrepreneur who has a love of mountains and recently moved to the Denver area. I figured a perfect starter peak was Mount Evans, close to Denver and a good place to cut your teeth on high country adventure.

Animal starts blasting his way up the lower slopes of Mount Spalding on our way to Mount Evans' summit.

Animal starts blasting his way up the lower slopes of Mount Spalding on our way to Mount Evans’ summit.

We chose the Mount Spalding to Mount Evans traverse, which I highly recommend. It’s a little less traveled than some of the other routes, and the views of nearby Mount Bierstadt and the Sawtooth Ridge are spectacular.

Animal killed it. He was way stronger on his 14er than I was on mine. We shot the breeze afterward at a sweet brewpub in Idaho Springs and pretty much tried to solve the world’s problems in one night over hot food and cold beers. Always a great way to end a day trip into the mountains.

In the fall, some of my other Colorado buddies invited me on a climb of Capitol Peak, a tough, exposed and beautiful mountain in the Elk Range. This would have been my toughest climb to date, and I looked forward to the challenge.

But the weather conspired against us. The trip was planned the same weekend that Colorado was pounded by 100-year flood events that devastated Boulder, Estes Park and other mountain towns in the northern Front Range and foothills. The Capitol Peak climb was washed out.

Since I was already in Colorado, I decided to salvage the trip. So I ended up going further south into the Sawatch Range and car camped at Missouri Gulch.

Others had expressed interest in joining me on a trip up Missouri Mountain, but one by one they all had to bail. So this turned into my first solo 14er ascent.

The trail disappears into the mist near the top of Missouri Mountain. Doing this solo was amazing.

The trail disappears into the mist near the top of Missouri Mountain. Doing this solo was amazing.

I wasn’t at my best that day, and the weather was dodgy throughout. But the rains held off. The ethereal and spooky atmospherics of the cloud cover, the near solitude going up the mountain and the wildlife made this one of the most spectacular days in the mountains I’ve ever had. I can see myself doing another solo ascent in the future.

So 2013 ended with three 14er summits, and a bonus 13er summit to boot. Not bad for this ole flatlander. For 2014, my hope is for more summits, with tougher routes. Class 4 peaks in the San Juans and the Elk range come to mind, and some time in the Sangres would be good as well.

The blog

When 2012 ended, Proactiveoutside had just over 20,000 page views and some growth. In 2013, interesting and at times explosive things happened.

Traffic steadily went up, but it was a post I wrote a day after the Boston Marathon bombing that blew my mind. Or, more accurately, the reader response to it.

The theme, in short, was that despite the tragedy and evil of the attack, good people doing great things would win the day. People read the piece, shared it, retweeted it, and linked to it. A day after it published, more than 30,000 people read it. It blew up on Facebook and, to a lesser extent, on Twitter. CNN quoted it online and linked to it. To date, about 42,000 people have clicked to read it. It hit a nerve, and I’m grateful for everyone’s comments, shares and the time they took to read. It’s humbling.

Another post made WordPress’ Freshly Pressed roster, which was also pretty cool. I got a lot of comments from fellow WordPress bloggers on that piece, in which I wrote about running trails just for the fun of it.

To date, Proactiveoutside had been viewed more than 101,000 times. More than 1,600 people follow the site, and over 1,300 comments on 361 posts have been made. Included in all of that are fitness tips, gear reviews, trip reports, outdoor news, essays and other stuff I hope people have enjoyed.

One nice subplot to all of this: Salomon was kind enough to send me a pair of Sense Mantra trail running shoes to test and review, and EnergyBits sent me a sample to try as well. I’m always grateful to companies who seek my opinions on their products, though most of the gear I review is purchased or otherwise obtained on my own.

I decided to branch out a little, creating a Facebook page and an Instagram account for Proactiveoutside. Check ‘em out!

This site is not a money-maker for me, though I wouldn’t mind it. I do it for fun.

Going forward

I hope 2014 can see as much progress, growth and fun that 2013 provided. I’m thankful for all your input and sharing these experiences with me, and I’m especially grateful to the folks who ran with me, hiked with me and climbed with me.

Here’s to another year of getting out there and getting it done.

Bob Doucette

Here's to a great 2014!

Here’s to a great 2014!

Race recap: The 2013 Tulsa Run

Near the finish at the Tulsa Run. I love watching people gut it out at the end.

Near the finish at the Tulsa Run. I love watching people gut it out at the end.

I find myself in a much different place this year compared to last.

When I ran the 2012 Tulsa Run, I was just getting into shape. I typified the slower, plodding shuffler. The event was my big race of the year.

A year later, things have changed. I’ve got a bunch of other races under my belt, some longer than the Tulsa Run. And I’m just four weeks away from running in the 2013 Route 66 Marathon. This weekend was a step-back week on the training schedule, which made competing in the Tulsa Run a nice fit.

But I’d be lying if I told you that this was just another training run. I had new goals in mind for this one and wanted to do well. Besides, this is one of the biggest running events in the city and state.

As a 15K, it doesn’t have the weight of half and full marathons. But it’s a prestigious event just the same. Cash prizes go to the top three winners, and for some extra juice, the Tulsa Run was also the race for the 2013 USATF Masters Championships. So in addition to the everyman runners, the costumed runners and everyone in between, there were also elite athletes lining up at the start line. Between the 15K and the 5K, nearly 10,000 people took part.

The elite

Can’t recap the race without giving proper respect to the serious competitors. Last year, Julius Kogo won a close race with a time of 44:36. This year, it was no contest. The Kenyan ran a blistering 43:42, smoking the competition by 17 seconds.

Winning the women’s division was Aliphine Tuliamuk-Bolton, who set a scorching 49:24 pace.

Among the Masters, Daniel Mutai took first with a time of 51:41 for the men while Julie Donelson clocked in at 1:04 to lead the women.

When the leaders passed by me going back north, it looked like a tight race. Five runners side-by-side, clipping along at a mid-4 minute per mile pace. It’s an amazing thing to see that sort of athleticism on display.

Hats off to Kogo who defended his crown with style.

The event

What’s great about this race (and many others like it) is that among these elite runners there is room for the rest of us.

Little kids and the senior set. People dressed like superheroes and bacon. Yeah, bacon. And more than a few ladies in those puffy tutu things.

Seventeen people raced Saturday who have been in every Tulsa Run since it started in 1978. I don’t know of any race in the state that has that kind of participant loyalty. There are bigger, more challenging races out there, but like I wrote last year, the Tulsa Run is a community event. It’s something we Tulsans do.

The weather proved ideal. It was overcast and about 50 degrees at the start, and the stiff south breeze at the beginning backed off pretty quickly. Couldn’t have asked for better conditions.

How it went

Like I said earlier, I’m a different runner now than I was a year ago. I’m 10 pounds lighter, My weekly mileage totals are about three times as much as they were back then (although I’ll back off once the marathon is done). I’m faster and stronger. So I really wanted to test myself.

And that’s pretty much what all of us are doing. Maybe we’ll have some friends we’ll try to beat, but few of us are anywhere close to cracking to top 100 finishers. Very few. So we test ourselves, compete against our past. For the better runners, it’s shooting for the mug — competitors who finish under an hour get a commemorative coffee cup along with their finisher’s medal. For the rest of us, it’s a competition against the clock.

Last year, I finished in 1:43. Not very fast at all, but I was pleased to have run the whole thing through and overcome a brief illness to get back into shape to finish the race.

Me after the finish. Once fall race season ends, I need to see about putting some bulk back on me. Getting a little thin.

Me after the finish. Once fall race season ends, I need to see about putting some bulk back on me. Getting a little thin.

But that was last year. This year, I wanted to push much, much harder and crack 90 minutes. By no means is that speedy, but for me it is. I’m just not very fast.

The course starts on a downhill out of downtown. I figured I’d let gravity do the work for me and bomb down that section. When I found room in the midst of the crowd, I did just that.

Trouble is, I couldn’t help myself. I liked that speed and tried to maintain it. And for the first 5-6K, it worked out OK. But I started too fast and began to fade in the second half of the race. It usually showed up at aid stations, where I’d linger a bit longer than normal to drink and catch my breath.

And let me step back a bit. I made some mistakes the day before. On that day, I decided to run some pretty hilly trails. Again, I was feeling pretty good, so I blasted that loop hard. Running hills the day before a race? Not a good idea. And having a couple of beers and a cocktail that night certainly didn’t help either. So when I woke up the morning of the race I was tight, a little sore and dehydrated.

Oh well. I had fun on those trails, and I had a good time that night. The cumulative effect of all that fun was no excuse to not push myself on race day.

The downhill part of the race gave way to a long flat section, which has you go back north into downtown before the final 3K, which is all uphill. That stretch on Boston Avenue is a source of much groaning among most Tulsa Run competitors.

The final “aid station” was actually a group of running friends offering free beer to runners. What the heck. I got me some of that before the final 10 blocks.

Some friends cheered for me as I neared the final couple of blocks. Really, the finish line crowd was pretty great, and it’s always pretty special to finish the run in the shadows of Tulsa’s tallest skyscrapers. The clock at the finish line came into view, and it was then that I knew I would reach my goal.

My finish time: 1:28:06, a full 15 minutes faster than last year.

Boo-yah!

After collecting my medal, I searched for my buds and watched others cross the finish. Soon after, a post-race victory lunch and a nap.

I was surprised how sore I was for the rest of the day. All that from 9.3 miles? Yep. That and a bloody toenail. Guess I was working pretty hard.

So now that’s done, and it’s on to Route 66. Four more weeks. And this week is going to be the toughest one on my training schedule, with a 20-miler on tap for Saturday. I’m sure that race will have a whole different feel.

Come next fall, however, I’m pretty sure I’ll be back for the Tulsa Run. Maybe I’ll be able to crack 1:20…

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088

A primer to the 2013 Tulsa Run: What you need to know

Tulsa-Run-2012

We’re about a month away from Tulsa’s — and Oklahoma’s — oldest running road race, the Tulsa Run.

There was a day when marathons weren’t run in Oklahoma. That was awhile ago, but before there was the Route 66 Marathon or the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon (and a bevy of smaller 26.2 milers), the Tulsa Run was the granddaddy of running events in the Sooner state.

In many ways, it still is. Anywhere from 9,000 to 10,000 people will run this one, making it one of the biggest. But there are a few new wrinkles to this year’s Oct. 26 event.

Competitive juice: This race has always drawn big-time competitors in the distance running game. Faster runners have been able to nail its 15K distance in 45 minutes or so, which absolutely floors me.

But they’ll be joined by other serious competitors. This year, and for four more years after that, the Tulsa Run is going to be the event to decide the USA Track and Field 15K Masters Championships. Those over-40 runners can fly, and the best of them will be competing in this race. So expect to see more elite-level runners than normal in this year’s event.

Change of venue: The course will stay the same, but the expo and packet pickup will be different. Last year it was at the downtown Hyatt, which is a fine hotel with good exhibit space. But that space was far too small for the crush of people who showed up from in town and out of town to pick up their packets and shop for race gear.

This time, it’s going to be at downtown Tulsa’s Cox Business Center, formerly called the Tulsa Convention Center, at 6th and Houston. This venue was also home to the Route 66 Marathon’s expo and was more than roomy enough for the job. Expect quicker lines and less cramped conditions than last year.

About the course: OK, it’s the same course as last year, an out-and-back, which means it’s a pretty fast track. I’ve attached a map so you can see it.

TulsaRunMap2012_full

Having run it last year, here’s what I can tell you:

You’ll be off to a fast start. It starts downhill at Boulder Avenue downtown, where it will eventually find its way to a flat straightaway down Riverside Drive. The turnaround is just south of the Interstate 44 bridge at 54th Street.

The part that gives some people trouble is the climb back into downtown starting at 21st Street and Riverside Drive. Thankfully, the route goes uphill to Boston Avenue, then continues a relatively mild incline all the way to the finish line. Trust me, you’d rather take Boston north to finish than the other north-south streets leading back into downtown. Still, you’re going to face about two miles of steady uphill running as you finish. So be ready for that.

Other races: For folks not wanting to commit to the 15K, there is also a good 5K race and a 2K fun run. Both of these races will be mostly contained to downtown, though the 5K will make a quick visit to Riverside Drive and turn around at the halfway point on the 23rd Street bridge across the Arkansas River. Like the 15K, 5K runners will face that same steady climb back into downtown to finish.

Additionally, there are 5K and 15K wheelchair races and a 15K racewalking event. They will follow the 5K and 15K courses.

After party: Stick around for the Finish Line Fest north of the finish line downtown. There will be live music, a tailgating party and other bits of fun going on.

Speaking of live music, expect to see bands and singers performing at various spots along the entire course, which I think is a pretty cool aspect of this event.

Registration deadline change: Unlike past races, they’re closing registration two weeks before the event. The deadline is Oct. 12.

Want to learn more? Check out the Tulsa Run’s website here.

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088

Tulsa Run to host USATF Masters 15K Championships

tulsarun

Some interesting news from my home city of Tulsa. Apparently, our local running scene — and its granddaddy event, the Tulsa Run — is prominent enough to be host to a national competition.

Starting with this year’s Oct. 26 Tulsa Run, the annual race will also be host to the USATF Masters 15K Championships for the next five years, according to a report in the Tulsa World newspaper.

The championships are for runners age 40 and up.

The Tulsa run attracted more than 8,000 runners last year and has been held for 35 years. It was Oklahoma’s big road race until marathons finally took hold here. Despite that competition, the Tulsa Run is still a hugely popular race each fall, and with the addition of the Masters 15K event, it’s likely to attract even more numbers and from a much wider section of the country.

I ran my first Tulsa Run this past fall, and I plan to run it again Oct. 26. It appears that I’ll be joined by a bigger — and maybe faster — crowd the next time around.

Bob Doucette
On Twitter @RMHigh7088