Roads and rocky trails near Atoka, OK
When a locked gate necessitated a last minute course change, I wondered how finish times would be affected. As it turned out, the revised route apparently had about the same amount of technical and non-technical trail, and several runners with gps watches reported the distance as an accurate 25/50K.
While runners are encouraged to come early, this weekend was not camping weather (nighttime temperatures in the 20's) ; a drought-induced fire ban ($500 fine for a campfire) prevented our having the usual pre-race bonfire. Several runners did sleep in the building, which stayed warm as long as the wood-burning, cast-iron fireplace was "fed" with logs periodically. At least the sun came out on Sunday, and Saturday's high winds had subsided somewhat by race time. However, pens with the two turnaround logs did not work in the subfreezing temperatures.
Because of course changes over the race's fifteen year history, it would not be appropriate to list course records, but finish times on the latest revised route by returning runners were similar to those in years past. Several runners' finish times may have been adversely affected by their participation in various Cowtown (Ft. Worth) races (half marathon, marathon, even a 50K) the day before!
Since this is a relatively easy course overall, the 50K winning time can be expected to be under four hours. Newcomer Michael Adams did just that (3:57). Veteran Danny Ponder was second overall (4:29) and first 50+ male finisher for the two loops. Newcomer Tammy Winn finished first among the women(5:41)--no 50+ female 50K finishers.
In the 25K, college senior and youngest entrant John Sutrick, blitzed the course (1:35) for the fourth year in a row, finishing faster each year. Newcomer Darryl Stillson was not only second overall but first male 50+ finisher (1:56).Natalie Miller was again first female finisher 2:06), while Dianna Sulser repeated as first 50+ female (2:41).At age 70, our oldest finisher was Al Hamm (4:13).
Overall winners of both races received free subscriptions to TrailRunner Magazine. Male and female winners of both the 25K and 50K were awarded bottles of local wine and free entry into next year's race, if held, as well as the first finishers in the 50+ age group. All finishers again received beautiful cedar plaques made by Ben Bray and jars of Oklahoma honey. Runners and their families were treated to homemade chili, pasta, and cookies.
Judging by comments from some of the runners, they seemed to appreciate the ambience of this little event, the beauty of the pine-hardwood forest, and adapted to the limited aid (a bargain for the $25 entry fee). Mike Bender said the "A-OK" was "A-OK" and that he enjoyed his tour of my "big back yard" of several hundred acres. Debra Bentley sent a lovely card to say thanks for the warm hospitality and that this will remain one of her favorite running memories.
Many thanks to Ben Bray and my son Barry, who marked the course and set out the aid stations on Saturday, then removed everything on Sunday afternoon; also to Dora Bray who sacrificed participating in order to be at Aid Station 2. Ben even dug the hole for the outhouse potty poop while Dora sorted out paper, plastic, and glass recyclables after the race. Since I was hospitalized with pneumonia two weeks before the race, their help in loading and unloading my van was vital. Last, but not least, a special thanks to the several Oklahoma neighbors who allowed us to cross their properties for this event. With their permission, next year's race will take place on the first Sunday in March, 2010.