Tuesday, March 11, 2014

2014 Atoka A-OK 25K Race Report

I needed some trail miles, my frequent race partner Lesley had childcare, and we found ourselves at 5 am on a Sunday morning on March 2, 2014 driving 2 hours north to Oklahoma for a last minute race day registration for the Atoka A-OK 25K trail race. Bad weather was predicted for the morning - potential ice and snow in Oklahoma and Texas. We thought it could be miserable race conditions but we'd be able to travel, which we thankfully were.

We arrived at Mary Ann Miller's big piece of country property, the site for the race. You know it's a small race when you park an hour before and can still park 30 feet from the start/finish line.

We went into the small steel building where Mary Ann took our entry forms and money, and our friend Teresa was there helping out and handed us our bibs. I was able to chat with my friend Edgar for a minute, and he snapped a picture of me too:

It was 26 degrees outside and small snow/ice flurries were coming down. We went back to the car to stay warm until 5 minutes before the start. While I didn't have to use it, the outhouse right between the car and start/finish line was a nice decorative touch.


Lesley and I connected with Mitchel as we waited at the start line. There were only 20 of us, and many we knew who were pre-registered weren't there. The race was limited to only 75 and had sold out (Mary Ann expected some to not show up race day so we had arranged ahead of time that it was okay to sign up race day morning). We thought maybe a lot of the 50K people had taken the early start an hour before. We then found out only 2 people had. Where was everybody?

The race starts and immediately the 10 people in front try to go off the wrong direction and we all get turned back on course a second later. Lesley, Mitchell, and I hang out in what we think is the back. The first 1.6 miles is the single track portion. It's strewn with rocks, and a few roots, and winds through the woods in a rolling fashion. But the leaf fall was so great that there were inches of it in places hiding more rocks and roots. Lesley was coming off a broken foot and I wasn't keen on a bad fall so we took it easy.

After the first aid station, we move to jeep/ATV road for an out and back segment. At the turnaround point, with two layers of gloves on, you had to sign your initials and put your bib number and time. Coming back we saw there were actually some people behind us.

Back to the first aid station, then rutted road to the second aid station a few miles later. I double checked which way to go. The second aid station gets visited 3 times total, so you don't want to miss a dog-leg on this course.

The couple miles to the next turnaround-and-sign-the-log point was rolling fields with a little section of single track woods. The wind would gust through the field.

Heading back to the second aid station, we noticed that all the wisps of hair coming out from under my hat were frosted, covered in ice. Small flurries came down the whole race. The road we were on was washboarded and rutted, and the frozen ground felt really hard on my feet. The 3rd aid station was a turnaround and unmanned station. We signed the log and head back toward the 2nd aid station. During this section was when we started to notice our water bottles were starting to freeze. It wasn't just freezing the pulltop; the underside of the lid was frozen. And of course, half the water was ice too.

We had to pass around water bottles to get the lids unscrewed since they were frozen closed. I kept my lid closed more loosely after that and I think some water sloshed out little by little the rest of the race because the zipper on my jacket on that side where I hold my bottle had a huge ice block around it after we finished.

Back at the second aid station we refilled our water bottles and drank right there since the lid on-and-off thing was annoying. We knew that we were close enough to the finish that it was more practical to drink right there and again at the next aid station. I grabbed more chocolate covered peanuts, which, since we hit that aid station 3 times, was my primary fuel for the race.

Arriving back at the first aid station, we had only 1.6 miles to the finish. I had wondered before this race if I would get a new PR (my old 25K PR from April 2012 at Hells Hills was 3:46). Lesley decided to have us pick up the pace a little to widen that PR and then she wanted to catch up and pass the people in front of us at some point.

Basically, on the rocky, leaf-strewn, single track part, we went from a 13:30 average pace to an 11:20 pace for the last 2 miles. Ow. I might have hated Lesley for about 10 minutes.

We crossed the finish, and I was so happy with the 3:24 finish - a 22 minute PR improvement! Big group hug and picture.

This was my first time running with Mitchel. The three of us were a great racing trio in pacing and conversation. Mitchel and Lesley are a little faster than me on the flat jeep road stretches, but they were cool with holding back a little when I would ask since my legs just haven't been 100% since the 80 miles I ran on February 1st.

Mary Ann let us pick out any of the very individual finisher plaques and then told us to grab a honey bear of Oklahoma honey! Nice!


Then, some time in front of the furnace with chili made by the race director herself before we hit the road to come home. I checked my weather app and it said it was 19 degrees with a wind chill of 3. 3!

There was some ice on the ground in Sherman, TX, coming back through, but otherwise, the route was in good shape.

So was it miserably cold out? YES! Was I glad I went? YES!! What an enjoyable small race that I can recommend!

Jacket Recommendation

I absolutely love the jacket I wore for this race. I'd only had it for a month, and it passed its first big test! Lesley and Mitchel each had on 4 layers on their core. I had on one long sleeve standard tech shirt and my amazing GoLite jacket. My core was incredibly warm the whole time I was out there. And it's super lightweight at only 12 ozs. It's the purple jacket in all the pictures. GoLite jackets are very affordable compared to other similar brands. Check it out - the GoLite Women's Demaree 800 Fill Down Jacket! And thanks to Jeremy for passing me this recommendation when I was looking for a jacket.

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