By Jaret Seiberg
Big trucks speeding past at high rates of speed. Desolate towns that time forgot. And a big guy with a shot gun.
That’s right. I returned to the Mother Road on Nov. 8 for the second in what may become a three part race to cover all of Route 66 in Oklahoma.
Why did I return? I asked myself that question as we gathered at 9 a.m. in Elk City, which is the first city past the Texas border in Oklahoma with enough motel rooms to serve as the start city for the race.
I never think of myself as a road runner. It has been at least five years since I’ve run a road marathon and probably longer since I’ve run a shorter race on roads. And nearly all of my training covers trails.
Yet once again I found myself about to cover 100 miles on Route 66. I’d say it was all paved – most in that old concrete/gravel mix from the 1950s – except we got six miles of dirt road.
Mother Road 100 Miler covered the section from the Texas border to Oklahoma City. Like version one, we often departed from the Mother Road to either pass through towns or because the original road no longer exists. We also didn’t quite start in Texas nor end in Oklahoma City. Rather, we went from Elk City to Fort Reno. Still, it effectively covered much of Route 66 in the state east of Oklahoma City.
The VHTRC contingent this time was far smaller than in 2006. Besides myself, John Shepard returned as did Carl Camp and Keith Dunn.
This race confirmed my worry from version one, which is that the armadillo population is on its way to extinction. Two years ago the course was littered with dead armadillos. This year I saw my first dead armadillo at mile one. I saw maybe three others the whole way and did not detect any that were alive.
In general, the small towns we crossed through this time were less interesting. I attribute this mostly to the fact that the course was much more rural. We also often were on frontage road along Interstate 40 for the first half of the race.
My two favorite small towns were Bridgeport and Calumet. To get to Bridgeport, we had to run about a mile off the Mother Road. But it was worth it as the unmanned aid station was actually staffed by a local high school. They were at lot of fun. The other high point was Calumet, which was a relatively bigger town. The aid station was run by a local resident named Joe and by the police chief. Both could not have been more friendly and they had hot soup and hot chocolate, which was great at mile 89.
Before I ran my first 100 mile, Michele Harmon told me that the race is so long that you have time to recover from a problem. That theory has pretty much always held true for me and this race proved it again. I pulled some muscle in my thigh around mile 25. It hurt so bad that it was difficult to walk.
I took three Advil and began walking. After two miles, two women caught up to me. They were doing a combination of running and walking. That seemed to work for my leg so I pretty much joined them for the next 15 miles. Robin Saenz was from Tulsa and her granddaughter was helping crew for her. She was a cheering every few miles as crew could provide aid at any point on the course.
Just beyond mile 42, I left Robin and Kathy Youngren as my leg was feeling normal. I got into mile 50 and used the rest stop at the local hospital as a chance to change my clothing for the final 50 miles.
As the sun dropped, it got very cold. This time – unlike two years ago – I came prepared for the cold. I added more layers at mile 50 as well as my lights. Then I grabbed running pants from John Shepard’s crew around mile 53.
That kept me going through a stretch that featured little traffic and lots of dark roads. At mile 71, we needed to be escorted across a nearly mile long bridge to an aid station run by Tulsa ultra runners. It was an oasis in the middle of nowhere. Bright lights, soup and a drop back that featured my new winter hat.
I left the aid station for six miles of dirt road. In about two miles, a group of drunk teenagers wearing monster masks popped out of the woods and tried to scare the runners. I was with a group of four and we were about to deck them. It was just weird.
My worry was that the teenagers vandalized the course markings. Fortunately, that did not occur and we left the dirt road for a small town and an unmanned aid station. This began for me what was the longest stretch. It was 11 or so miles to the final aid station and it was very cold and the middle of the night.
From this point to mile 1.8 to go, I pretty much ran with Joe Neubauer from outside St. Louis. He is one of the fastest walkers I have ever seen. I’d let him get about 100 feet ahead of me and then would run to about 100 feet ahead of him. It kept me moving and kept me warm.
This led to mile 89, which was just a wonderful aid station. The thermometer at the local bank put the temperature at 28 degrees. Still, Joe and the local police chief were out there offering hot soup and lots of snacks. They could not have been nicer.
The sun came up around mile 95 or so. To get to the finish, we made a hard left turn into Fort Reno. From there it was 1.8 miles to the end. I used what was left in my legs and really pushed to the end.
My final time was about 20 minutes slower than in Mother Road I and I was a bit disappointed. But overall I can’t really complain given the leg injury and the cold weather at night. John Shepard was about three hours ahead of me while Keith Dunn had serious feet issues and unfortunately did not finish.
Will I be back for the final link of the Mother Road in 2010? It seems like the answer is “yes.” Hopefully then my obsession with this insanely paved event will end.