Sunday, March 8, 2009

Covered Bridge FA 50K Report

In days where so much of the daily talk, if not all of it, is about the economy, the job losses, 401K statements, and in running, the rising race entry fees (like the insane $182 to run the New York City Marathon in 2009), an event like the Covered Bridge FA 50K which is completely free outside of the gas money to drive there (about 45min drive from home) and the food to eat makes the day even sweeter. A FA (defined here) is characterized by the phrase "No Fees, No Awards, No Aid, No Wimps." What's really cool about these is that the people who show up REALLY want to be there. No big crowds, post-race refreshment, medal, bib number, etc. Those who show just want to have a good time with other like-minded folk who they may know or not know yet. It really is the icing on the cake.
6am: we met just below the Fellows Riverside Gardens in Mill Creek Park in Youngstown, OH. MCP is a gem in a city that's been very depressed since the steel industry left decades ago. As a child, my parents took my brothers and I to the Gardens every year. If you're within an hour drive of MCP, you HAVE to visit the Gardens. The picture on their home page is very representative of what you'll find throughout the park. Bring a camera, slip off your shoes, and enjoy the park...you won't be disappointed. Anyway, we had about 6-8 people at 6am and we headed out on the trail to follow the YUT-C 50K course and get back to our cars around 8am, the 2nd meeting time for those late-risers. A FA event can be whatever you want it to be. Anyone can show up and run any distance. My goal was to do it all as this was the launching point for my 100-miler training. For the first 2 hours, we kept the pace extremely casual as not to get back too early plus we were in the woods with only a headlamp lighting the way. At this point, only a few sprinkles of rain were falling. Once back at 8am, the downpour had begun. Not only heavy rain, but chest-rocking thunder and lightning. Who would have thought we'd have a typical summertime storm a week after running in the snow?! This lightning made the all-steel steps a bit un-nerving in the beginning of the 2nd loop. For about an hour, the rain didn't let up and the trail became little rivers of mud and people were slipping and falling all around. Eventually, the rain tapered off and drying could begin, and hopefully warming. The plan at the 8am departure was to head out for 25K (about 15+ miles) so fluids/food had to be carried. I had my Nathan #020 pack on, loaded with Shot Bloks and boiled/salted redskin potatoes and 1.5L of water so I was good to go.

Throughout the day, I was able to run with almost everyone who showed up...at different times. I had a great time and great conversation...about trail running, running 100 miles, my career in the Navy, and lots of side conversations that as the rules say, will forever remain on the trails. For me, I feel like the most junior of them all out there. Take "Gombubu" for example: he'll run his 4th Hardrock 100 miler this year....emphasis on HARD. He'll follow that up with 2 more tough 100s this year. I don't know his total number of 100 milers but it's safe to say, he's a veteran ultra-marathoner and 100 miler. (he's also been a sounding board in my training plan/race selection over this past year) Then take the Covered Bridge's "champion", Slim, who just ran a rough, technical, gnarly 70 miler a week ago. He typically ranks at the top of the field when he shows up to an ultra. Then there's Brian who is tackling his first 100 miler this year at MMT and has, I believe, 28 ultras under his belt...one for each year of his life (or so I learned on the trails yesterday!). He's the one in the black shirt on the left. Even Lloyd showed up, a local running coach and race director of the sold-out Fools 50K in 4 weeks. He's the one down the Monkey Hill in the picture. I spent the most time with Lloyd and Brian overall and had a great time.

Unfortunately, my camera had to stay in the trunk of my car until the last 7.5 miles because of the rain but I did manage to get some pics. I've posted about 21 pics here so stop on by to check them out. I'm not a fan of clogging up my blog with a ton of pictures but these did come out pretty darn good. A few of my favorites are below:

One of the many waterfalls as we ran along the lakes all day

At the top of one of the last major climbs in the Monkey Hills is the "Love Log"...a tree so big you've just got to "love" to get over!

Of course, a picture of the Covered Bridge, the event's namesake has got to be in here. The Covered Bridge is essentially the middle of the course which is generally shaped like a bow-tie. We passed through here 5 times and during races, you'll find the main aid station here just to my right. This was taken just before mile 28 yesterday.

Talk about therapeutic...this felt GOOD! After the finish, we were parked right next to the water and a waterfall. With so much ice melting into the water and some sections of the lakes still covered with ice, this water was super cold, but ohhhhh, it felt so good to soak in. I finished off my boiled potatoes and had a banana while sitting here and just enjoying the view and solitude of the park.

The last picture I really want to post is going to remain free from your sight just momentarily. This picture was taken at the request of my mentor/co-worker, Carol, at work. I promised her I'd take it immediately after removing my trail shoes. Two words: "Pedicure, anyone?" (you've been warned!!!)

Yea, it was a great day...a phenomenal day. A day I started with Casting Crowns on my drive out to Youngstown and ended lathered up in shea butter lotion and cucumber cream on my feet. Today, time change Sunday, I was up like a spring chicken right on schedule at 3:45am (really 2:45am if you don't count the time change) and I can hear the steady rain hitting the rooftop. A soaking, relaxing recovery run is in order, I'd say. If all goes to plan, my family will be waking up about the time I'm back and it's time to get moving for church this morning. Another great Sunday to cap off a great weekend.


I was reading my April edition of Runner's World this past week and shockingly, a story about a 100-miler made it in there. I took the liberty of snatching a few quotes from the article that I really like. I think they're a perfect way to end today's post. Enjoy!


"What matters is that together we push ourselves harder than either of us can manage on our own. It works that way when we run, too. We run to suffer, because to suffer is to feel alive."

"Looking up at the stars, an incredible sense of calm settles over me. Reasonable people are in bed, asleep. It's just me and the coyotes and the Milky Way, and I feel completely at home in the universe. A few minutes later we are walking silently, basking in the wonder of the night. When we reach the aid station by Desolation Lake at mile 67, it's like a dream - a campfire and cauldrons of hot chocolate waiting for us in the middle of the wilderness."

Happy Trails, everyone! Make TODAY count!

4 comments:

Kim said...

Wow, sounds like you all had a GREAT run at MCP!! I thought of you guys while I was out on my runs this weekend.
Slim is running the Barkley, did he mention that?

Sensationally Red said...

Dude...those are some seriously messed up feet. More interesting than the macerated toes, was the interesting toe hair growth patterns...

Don: said...

Nice report and visiting with you out there on the trails. I surely messed up my blog as I thought the rain came at 6 AM. I guess its the age thing.
Did you do the extra loop with Slim?

Nick Billock said...

Come on, Red! You want me to shave my toe hair?? The only hair getting shaved on me is off my face. Plus, my feet were wet so maybe that "enhanced" the effect.

Don: Nope...no extra loop for me. Too early for that kind of mileage in one day. However, I plan on stacking up some extra mileage at Fools on April 5th...that'll be 8 weeks from Kettle Moraine so it'll be time. Happy Birthday, again to you! Great to meet you and run with you!