Thursday, October 18, 2012

Course Description and Directions to Start

This is a very tough and arduous course.  Of course we do not wish to scare any one away and want as many people to participate as possible but also want runners and hikers to know what to expect.

The course is very technical single track with substantial elevation gain.  The 25K has 2982 feet of elevation gain.  The 50K has 6,368 feet of elevation gain.  Here is a link to Stuart Johnson's Garmin information which is really great -    Thanks Stuart!  The course record is well over 5 hours for the 50K.  Mid-pack runner can expect to take 6-7 hours.  Back of the pack may take 8 - 10 hours.

The entire course follows the Ouachita Trail which is clearly marked by blue blazes.  A few critical junctions will be marked with flour but otherwise the course should be really easy to follow.  If you do not see blue blazes and thus are not on the Ouachita Trail, you have gone off course.  But there are no trail intersections of any significance and so as long as you stay on the trail and follow the blue blazes.  You should be good to go.

The race begins at Pushubee Trailhead.  To get to Pashubee Trailhead, travel north of Big Cedar, Oklahoma on Hwy 259 for approximately 1 - 2 miles.  You will see a sign that says Pashubee Trailhead and will proceed East for approximately 4 miles on a forest road and that road will take you to the Trailhead.  Signs will be posted to direct you from Hwy 259. 

Coming from the North, you will go approximately 4 miles South of junction 259 and hwy 1 (Talimena Scenic Drive) until you come to the sign that directs you to the Pashubee Trailhead which is approximately 4 miles East on a Forest Road.

The course starts at Pashubee Trailhead and heads west.  The course follows the Ouachita Trail the entire route which is marked by blue blazes.  Runners will go 3.7 miles on the trail over and down one significant climb back to hwy 259 and another trailhead and parking area.  Runners will cross the hwy to the first aid station.

Immediately after the aid station, runners will cross a creek which if there has been rain, there may be ankle deep water. 

Water crossing is ankle to shin deep.

After the water crossing, runners proceed on a steady climb.  You are beginning to climb the Winding Stair Mountain.  At mile 5 is a cool rock glacier which is very scenic and around mile 6 is the Red Cedar Spring.  You could even refill water here if you need to though it is not an aid station.

Continue climbing past a hiker campground at a steady climb and around mile 7, the trail begins to descend to a small saddle.  At this saddle is where the real climbing begins.  The Ouachita Trail has 33 switchbacks (hence the name of the race) to the top of Winding Stair Mountain!  The views will be incredible and unlike anything you would ever expect in Oklahoma.

Aid Station at mile 8.8 (turnaround on top of Winding Stair Mtn)

The climb ends at an old fire tower at the top of the mountain which is mile 8.8.  In 2013, a new hiker shelter was built here and the aid station will be at the shelter.  It is really nice.  There will be a limited aid station here because we will have to hike in supplies but it should be plenty to fit your needs.  All runners will turnaround here and descend the mountain and follow the course back to where they started.

Aid will come again at the Hwy 259 Trailhead which is mile 14 on the course. 

25K runners will then finish there out and back run back at the Pashubee Trailhead which will actually give then a total distance of 17.7 miles.

50K runners will continue past where they started at Pashubee Trailhead which of course will be another aid station.  Now they will head East on the Ouachita Trail.  Fuel up here because it is 5 to 6 miles to the next aid station.  There is simply no place for another aid station after this point and so runners should plan to be self sufficient. 

One of the rockier sections but it doesn't last long.

The next 5 miles will take runners over one smaller climb and then one significant climb before descending to the Kiamichi River Trailhead.  Look for the race signs and arrows because you will get off the Ouachita Trail here and follow the forest road for about a half a mile to a gate.  You will go through the gate and then go left on a forest road for about another half mile and the road crosses the Kiamichi River.  You are likely to get a little wet here (about thigh high) and the aid stations is located on the other side of the river.  (This is a change from the first year because it just seemed too inaccessible to bring the aid stations to the Kiamichi River Trailhead and much easier to move it back to this location.)  Fill up here and proceed the six plus miles back to the original start and the finish line!

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