We had the most fantastic weekend in Oklahoma. I’ve been trying to think about how to blog about it because this post is both a race recap and travel post so I’ll just try to keep it simple. It’ll be long though, grab a cup of tea.
Friday dawned very early with a 6.30am flight to Phoenix! Grim. But once there, I found Kate and Jen in the Starbucks queue and the adventure was on! We debated buying THIS as a hostess present for Jess but for $30 we just couldn’t justify it. Gutted.
We landed in Tulsa just after lunch and there was the lovely Jess. It was so flipping good to see her. She handed us our goodie bags! They contained our unbelievably splendid trucker hats and some quite breathtaking cat leggings. You need to see them both.
We spent the afternoon in Tulsa. Oklahoma was quite intriguing. So very brown! Apparently the grass there ‘dies’ over the winter so the state was completely brown, we’d all expected it to be green. And it was so flat. And it was so empty! Coming from the densely populated UK and then the densely populated Bay Area, we were blown away by the wide swathes of empty space. We visited Tulsa Runner, the local running shop and then drove to the Post Oak Lodge where packet pick-up was for the race. Packet pick-up was very easy and straight-forward and there was a nice little shop there where I clearly spent some money! On the way into Tulsa, we stopped to check out the ‘Hill from Hell’ that the race hypes up. We were kind of dubious that it would be that hellish, got to be honest. We walked a little way up it – yeah, it climbed a little but nothing dreadful.
We spent the night in downtown Tulsa, which was almost entirely empty apart from us and a crowd of Iron Maiden fans as the band were playing there that night. Our hotel seemed basically to be runners or rockers. From the smell in the lifts, it was mainly rockers!
A little info about the Post Oak Lodge Challenge. It’s basically two days of racing. There’s a 50k, a 25k and a 10k on the Saturday and then a Marathon, half-marathon and a quarter-marathon on the Sunday. You can sign up to do a race on both days, which qualifies you as a ‘doubler’ and gets you an extra medal. We considered it but then considered brunch a better option. The race takes place in the grounds of a nice hotel – the trails are not usually open to the public so this was a treat! The 25k is two loops of a course, the 50k is 4 loops.
I dithered about what to wear. It would start cold (about 4 deg C) and get warm (about 18 deg C) so I decided to opt for capris, a vest/tank top and arm-warmers. In retrospect I should have chosen shorts or a skirt but I wasn’t dreadfully uncomfortable. I also wore throw-away gloves and decided to run with my hydration pack. I didn’t technically need this, there were plentiful aid stations where I could have refilled a handheld but I don’t think it slowed me down particularly and it was a bit of a safety blanket for me. I was running a new distance and I liked knowing I had everything in my pack to survive in the hills, in case the hill people got me! So I probably wore too much but it wasn’t a fatal mistake.
We watched the 50k go off at 8am, including Jess’s lovely friend Ruthie, and then waited inside until the 25k went off at 8.30. Hugs all round, a gun shot and we were off.
I was determined to pace it well and not go off too fast so it felt like I was jogging VERY slowly as we made our way onto the trails. Kate ran off faster, she was hoping to RACE this rather than just RUN it but Jess, Jen and I stayed together for a long time. It’s a long time since I ran behind Jess’s bottom, it was like old times.
The trails wound in and out of woodland – bare naked trees. The trails were not clearly defined as they’re not regularly run, but the sign-posting was excellent throughout and we never got lost. What was more significant was that they were VERY rocky – you literally had to watch every footfall so as to not twist your ankle. So we took it gently and ran on carefully through the woods. There were several river/stream/creek crossings – if there had been more rain recently, that would have been a significant factor in what to wear and how to run, but they were all dry for us.
After a few miles, we came out of the woods into the open to an Oktoberfest themed aid station. Very surreal. I ate half a doughnut and ran on and we got to the first climb, Holmes Hill. It was short but steep. We climbed up to the most wonderful views of Oklahoma and Tulsa in the distance. Ok, Oklahoma, this was a proper hill! You are not flat. There was a lovely descent afterwards and I decided this was the time to sing ‘Oklahoma’ very loudly for the delight of my fellow runners. I heard Jen ‘Yaw’ing a few runners ahead. Perfect!
The Hill from Hell made up the last mile or so of each loop. There was an aid station just before it and two things happened. The first was that they gave me a shot of something very alcoholic topped with whipped cream and I downed it. At half-way through a race! The second thing was that Jen and Jess stopped for the loo and I decided to keep going. I was feeling decent, I didn’t want to stop. So I started up the Hill from Hell. It was hellier than I’d expected from the day before but not too dreadful, and before long I was dashing (carefully) towards the start/finish line. Loop One was done.
Heading into Loop Two alone was quite exciting. I love running trails alone but rarely do so for safety’s sake so I was excited to be running through woodland by myself. For a mile or so I had the woods entirely to myself and it was delicious, and then I was joined by a lovely local lady who told me all about the snakes in the area! At Oktoberfest for the second time, I had some salted nuts and I think the salt did me good because for the next few miles, I felt like I was flying. I was probably only flying at 4 miles/hour but I charged along like a train, feeling unstoppable. I passed a couple of runners who I’d been leapfrogging for a while, I passed three guys who stood aside as I charged past – got to admit, that felt good. It’s not often you run several miles feeling awesome, it was pretty amazing. Back at the alcoholic aid station, I opted for coke this time. I never drink fat coke, and rarely skinny coke, but I had a cup of fat coke and it was so good I went back for seconds. Bliss.
I wanted to run the Hill from Hell that second time, but my legs were now tired with 15 miles in them and I had to hike more than I wanted but I could smell the end. I’d been mentally prepared to find this race much harder than the reality had proved. I’d expected to be suffering and in a lot of discomfort but I was still feeling really decent and mentally that was such a boost. I topped the hill and charged down the grass to the finish line. I’d done it.
Kate was already there, she’d finished 10 mins beforehand having twisted her ankle several times on the rocks. Jess arrived shortly afterwards and then Jen almost immediately afterwards. Lots of hugs!!
We got changed and went inside for the hot dogs/chili provided for all runners. There was a veggie chili for me although the lady looked a bit horrified I was asking for veggie food :). Kate and I had come 3rd in our age-groups, but because one of the prior runners got an overall prize, we both got bumped up to second in our group. AG winners got a very nice little wooden plaque! We posed for a Winners picture.
Jess and Jen sadly posed for a Losers picture!
Before heading home, we sat in the sun and cheered on finishers, including Ruth who flipping won the 50k for the ladies!
Thoughts on the race
- Really enjoyed it. Excellently organised, frequent aid stations, nice route.
- Very rocky! Practise running on rocky ground if you can.
- NOT flat.
- LOVELY race shirt. Non-technical. We all put them on immediately and barely took them off for the rest of the weekend. I will be living in mine.
- Great medal – on the back it says ‘Hill from Hell survivor’. And the plaque I won was hand-made and a thing of beauty. Awesome loot.
- I was thrilled with my race. I think mentally preparing myself for the worst really made the race a great experience! Those few miles of flying will stay with me for a long time.
After the race we drove the hour back to Jess’s new house. We checked out her little town, met her gorgeous new cats and talked to her husband! That evening, we went downtown and ate shabu shabu. (For those who don’t know – I didn’t know until Saturday – you’re brought pots of boiling broth and wafer thin meat or fish. You then cook them in the broth and eat them. We ate a lot, we were hungry!
Sunday was a bit mixed. Kate had been a bit poorly that night. I woke up with sickness and diarrhea. We put on our race shirts though and drove to Lake McMurtry to meet up with one of Jess’s running friends and we went for a very VERY gentle three-mile hike through the woods there. My legs were REALLY sore after the race and we were all a bit delicate and achy. A gentle hike was just what we needed, although my stomach continued to be ‘dramatic’. We went for brunch. I had been VERY excited about brunch as we’d seen pics of the place , but I couldn’t even handle a piece of dry toast. Gutted.
Just before we headed back to the airport, Jess went down with our mystery illness. So it was a sad, deflated bunch of girls who said goodbye and flew home. Despite that, it had been a really awesome weekend. Thanks for having us, Oklahoma!
Now I really need some sleep!