I don't know what it is but running in the cold (sub-freezing) is so perfect for me. I run better and feel better. Being sick pretty much got trumped by that. Once I got moving, I felt pretty good and we all lined up in single file to run the Towpath. Single file because outside of that file was 10-12" of snow. No one really want to get into that so early. So off we went towards Brandywine Falls. In the Winter BT50K, runners have the option to run the whole 50K, a marathon, 18 miles, a 1/2 marathon, or even 5 miles. That's because the course consists of two segments. One is a 5 mile loop and the other is an 8 mile loop. The 5 mile loop is first and is followed by the 8 mile loop and so on. It finishes with a third trip on the 5 mile Brandywine loop. Anyway, the single file gradually segments off into smaller groups and I do my best to not trip on any heels. My plan was to "run how I felt." Easy controlled breathing was the gauge. If it was labored breathing, slow it down. If my speed felt too slow, speed it up. I only had to deal with that if I was behind someone. In that case, I excused myself and moved on by. By the time I finished 13 miles, I was feeling even better so I went with it...still wondering when the ball was going to drop (remember, I was miserably sick this morning). I head again to Brandywine and start passing people which was a good sign....and it felt good. At the Brandywine aid station, my day was brightened...salty boiled potatoes!!!!! This is my wonder food at ultras and I scooped up a handful, said my thanks, and kept moving. I really enjoyed those on the way out...thank you to whomever made those and made them available. You don't know how appreciative I am (well, now you do). As the race progresses, I essentially keep on passing people and move into 3rd place overall (say what?!?!). Wait a minute...reality check: "aren't you sick?" I got comments all day by fellow trail runners saying that very thing. "YES." Again, I can't explain why the race was going so well but it was. My voice was going, though. Anyway, once I left the Pine Lane aid station (mid-way on the 8 mile loop) for the last time, I noticed two trail wolves (stolen from Red) who were clearly going to hunt me down. I kept my pace and upon arrival at the actual entrance to the pines (where Pine Lane gets its name), they passed. I went from 3rd to 5th. At this point, I'm 2 miles out from Boston Store and 7 miles from the end. Ironically, Pine Lane was one of the smoothest sections all day because of the packed snow between the roots...and normally it is the biggest trip hazard on any trail in northeast Ohio. As the day wore on, the trail kept getting faster and faster because of all the traffic packing it down. HOWEVER, without those handy-dandy sheet metal screws I installed on my Keen trail shoes, I could have never blazed down those downhills like I did. Honestly, I flew down those hills as fast as I do in the spring/summer/fall when it's just dirt. Without the screws, you'd be committing trail suicide at that speed. Switchbacks + rubber soles (no screws) + high rate of speed = FACEPLANT! Once I arrived back at Boston Store, a 20 year old whom I exchanged spots with all day passed me looking very strong. I told him he was doing great and keep it up and out he went. I've now gone from 5th to 6th. Once I was out on the last leg of Brandywine and saw the front-runners coming at me, I realized that one of those two trail wolves must have dropped at the marathon distance because only one was left. (6th to 5th!) I charged on and got back to Brandywine to have some very chilled potatoes and out I went. Brandon R. was entering as I was leaving and he told me: "You better not let me catch you! Hammer it out!" Luckily, the return trip to the Boston Store is much MUCH faster due to some blazing downhills. I did as ordered by Brandon and finished in 5hrs, 56min, 47sec. 5th Overall! Brandon came in 3 minutes later at 5:59. This now stands as my 2nd fastest 50K. The first being last year's winter BT50K. Inside M.D. Garage, I walked into applause and congratulations from race director, Tanya Cady (pictured here) and enjoyed some hot chili. YUM! I also picked up the jacket. A royal blue Brooks Podium jacket embroidered with the race logo. Very nice and a very practical/usable jacket for running. (I've actually been wearing it for the last several hours!)
You know, I don't know why this race is good to me. It really makes no logical sense, especially when sick. What I do know is this:
- I love seeing so many familiar faces of the local trail running community
- I greatly appreciate Tanya and the passion she puts into this race. I also appreciate the fairness of making it open to everyone and not showing favoritism to supposed "elites" who want entry just because of a past performance. This race sold out in record time and many didn't get in because of it. It took Tanya and much of the running community by surprise. The size is limited based on her permit within the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. She's fair...and I appreciate that.
- I love to see so many people challenging themselves to new things. Many today ran their first ultra, their first trail race, or their first time running in these conditions. Everyone stayed happy and joyful all day and said "Hi" while passing even though we passed each other multiple times. That's a community that I'm incredibly thankful to be a part of.
- I'm once again eternally grateful to the many volunteers. Without them, it would be impossible to hold any of these events.
- Today was my 30th marathon/ultra-marathon! (23 marathons and 7 ultras) (note: no, I am not counting my DNF at Burning River nor any FA runs)
- I'm sicker than I was this morning but I wouldn't change a thing! (ugh....)
Happy Trails, everyone!