Saturday, February 28, 2009

28 on the 28th defines "euphoric" as "an exaggerated feeling of well-being or elation." Yea, I think that pretty much sums up how I felt in the later miles of today's 28 miles among the trails of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. About 48 hours ago, I shot Greg an e-mail to see if he might want to join me at 5:15am for a pre-dawn night run before the scheduled 7am group run on the roads. Surprisingly, he jumped right in...but then thought that perhaps a whole day, minus any asphalt, might be nice. I came up with a route which I estimated to be around 28 miles and that was it. We met up and hit the trails at 5:23am under the guidance of headlamps and headed out from Lock 29 on the Valley Bridle Trail towards the Wetmore Trail. Once at Wetmore, the mud started and we were no longer dry. We learned real quick that if we see white, it's the dusting of flurries we got last night on top of extremely thin ice. That was followed by a water crossing where I made a most feeble standing long jump attempt and landed right in the water. Definitely soaked now! Once out of Wetmore, we continued on the Burning River course until the 4.5 mile point where we turned and traced our steps back to Lock 29 where we picked up Dave K. who wanted to jump in for the remaining 19 miles.

Before we took off, I loaded up with 1.5 liters of water on my back and a baggie full of boiled/salted red-skin potatoes that I made last night. I found out at the Mountain Masochist 50 Miler last November that these potatoes are the ultra-running "wonder food." Kept in a bag, they retain their moisture and absolutely hit the spot and taste so good. They don't upset the stomach nor do they stick to the roof of the mouth like dry foods do. In the later miles of an ultra, the mouth gets extremely dry so moisture-rich foods are best. The best part? I don't know what it is, but potatoes are the only food that I've found that maintains my energy levels up. Electrolytes, gels, other foods...nothing works like these potatoes. Today was the test to see if my experience at Masochist was just a fluke. It wasn't. I brought an extra bag of taters for Greg and in his first experience with them, he loved them and agreed with their ability to maintain energy up. For me, it's not that my legs don't have any "umph" left in them, it's just my energy being sapped. Today was confirmation that this is the real deal. I'll be boiling lots more in the future.

We left Lock 29 and hit the Buckeye Trail at Pine Lane and took it out to the Boston Store, had a few taters, then picked up the Valley Bridle Trail and took it all the way to Snowville Road, just south of Jaite...for about 2.7 miles. We ran about 100 yards up Snowville and picked up the Buckeye Trail again. After another refueling of potatoes, we hit the Snowville Steps. A trail run in the CVNP wouldn't be a trail run without lots of ups and downs and lots of them man-made or logs. Eventually, we got to the Piano Keys which is about 1/2 mile from Boston. You can see from the opening picture in the video below why they're called the Piano Keys. After cresting the top and another short rise, I told the guys to just "Go!" because I finally had a chance to film the "Rollercoaster Hill." This is about a 0.4 mile stretch that is blistering fast. You know how a roller coaster screams down a hill, has a gentle rise, then drops off again? That's exactly what this downhill is like. It's an absolute blast. Luckily, it's not technical and rooty and has pretty good footing so there's not too much risk in tripping, but you still need to keep your eyes on the ground in front of you. Just remember to hit the brakes at the end. There's a sharp turn at the bottom that you may just miss and end up in the branches if you don't know it's coming. Enjoy the ride!

Afterwards, we refueled, had the orange I'd been carrying all day, and headed on back to Pine Lane. Oh yea, remember the 1.5 liters of water? I still had 1.5 liters of water. The drinking tube froze was in the low 20s for the whole run. The plus side is that I carried a good deal of weight all day and still ran strong beginning to end. Once back on the trail, I kept on leading the pack and eventually got to the water crossing about 1 mile from the Pine Lane Trailhead. To prove how loopy I get in the later miles, I said: "Well, we only have 2.7 miles to go so instead of leaping across the water, why don't we just walk on through?" That turned into standing in the water for some super-frigid "cold-water-therapy!" After running for over 4 1/2 hours, the freezing water actually felt good. After a few pics, we took off again, completely soaked of course!

After back at Pine Lane, we needed another 1.2 miles so we hit up the Valley Bridle Trail again (same as where we ran in the 5 o'clock hour) and crossed over the 26.2 marathon distance right at about 5 hours. Not too shabby given we stopped to eat from time to time, goofed around in the water, and we were running on hilly, muddy trails. After a high-five with Greg, we continued on and wrapped up the run back at Lock 29. Like good social trail runners, we gathered up for a final pic post-run and then headed on over to the Winking Lizard for some quality re-fueling. A phone call came in saying that my girls wanted to stay at Grandma's a little longer so no pressure to sprint home...perfect!

I know the question is coming or being thought so I'll just state it and answer it: "Why on earth did you run 28 miles?" Honestly? Just because I could. You might say I love to run...just a bit. More specifically, I love to run on the trails and mentally and physically escape from speeding cars, the roads I see on every morning run I do during the work-week, and to absorb everything that the trails can throw at me. Thankful is barely a good enough word to describe how I feel when out there. It's thankful times a hundred...a thousand. I don't take a step for granted or the National Park for granted...never. I really just wanted to run for a very long time today and it's really just as simple as that. Now having another 50K (31.2 miles) only 7 days away...well, that's another story and I'm sure, another blog post. Oh yea, I had to snap this final pic of my trail shoes after I took them off. Chocolate-covered pretzels is what comes to mind. Layer after layer of frozen mud...and that rushing water didn't pull it off, either. Kinda cool, eh?! Here's the whole 17pic photo album from today.

Most definitely, more so today than usual, Happy Trails, everyone!


Clara said...

That's awesome- good job! These great runs are always encouraging.

HeidiFinn said...

Great run recap. You guys had a blast. It was wicked cold running that morning for me too. I only went 2 1/2 hours though. I haven't tried the potatoes yet. But I am going to now!