Friday, March 13, 2009

Pre-Fools 50K Course Report

Stress really got it's greasy hands all over me this week at work. So much so, that I opted to get up at 3am yesterday (Thursday) so that I could fit in a 10 miler before work. I've been taking it easy this week while recovering from last weekend's 50K but dang, I just needed to RUN!!!! I figured that if I had a good long run in before work, the "runner's high" would carry me longer through the day. It started out good but quickly fell out of the sky like Sully's US Airway's jet in the Hudson River a few months back. By the end of the day, I requested today off to just get away from it all and de-stress, decompress, or whatever. The forecast was for full sun and temps in the low 40s so after getting the kids off to school in the morning and lounging around the house for a bit, I called up Lloyd, the Fools 50K race director, to get the low-down on the course change due to construction on Lake Trail. Since I'm leading the familiarization run next Saturday on the course, I thought it might be smart to actually KNOW the course. I headed on down to Pine Hollow, the race start, which is located on Quick Road, not too far past the Humane Society and Woodridge High School. Being the constant-picture-taker that I am, I thought I'd do some public service and shoot away with the goal of a picture tour of the course for those who haven't run out there before. With a sold out field of 200 runners, there are surely many who haven't been out there...ever. I ended up snapping over 130 pictures and put them all into a rolling video set to music. Before I give you the link, let me give you a few words of advice:

1. Let it load. It's big and if you don't wait, it'll keep starting and stopping...downright annoying!

2. On the top right of video, click on "View HQ Video"

3. On the bottom right where the "Google Video" button is, click on "Original Size" and "Smooth Video"

4. Lastly, keep your trigger finger on the pause button. With that many pictures, each one only stays up for 2 seconds and on some pictures, there's a good amount of text to read that gives direction on the course. You'll never read it all if you don't pause it. If I hadn't done that, this video would have run for 20 minutes! Right now, I think it's just over 4 minutes.

View it here.

In true fashion of putting the cart before the horse, I thought I'd take today to give a pre-Fools Report...mostly about the course. I've run all parts of this course many times and it is hands down, my favorite trail system to run in the area. I like it because over the length of this course, you will get a little bit of everything: roots, rocks, smooth-n-groomed trail, muddy, dry, grass, and gorgeous scenery. The 50K is just two loops of the 25K course. With that being said, the 25K course is essentially broken down into 5 main sections:

1. The course begins at Pine Hollow and heads east in the grass to Little Meadow and at about 1 mile in, you're on the Cross Country Trail (1st main section). This is a nice, rolling, challenging, muddy area that has a few lung-burner hills in it. My advice: do not burst off the starting line running full tilt towards Little Meadow. This course deserves respect and if you do that, it'll make you pay starting on the Cross Country Trail.

2. Just before Mile 3, you'll enter a row of pines on the Lake Trail. You'll be here only briefly because at Mile 3.3, you'll leave the Kendall Lake area and head on over to the Pine Grove Trail in order to be connected to the Ledges Trail (2nd main section). On the way out, you cover the west side of the Ledges. Be careful here: the tendency is to gaze at the awesome rock formations. However, this is one section to never remove your eyeballs from the trail, otherwise you'll be face-first on the rocks and a bloody mess.

3. Once you've finished 1/2 of the Ledges and you're at the northern point of this trail, you jump on the Haskell Run Trail that takes you to Happy Days and the Aid Station at Happy Days. Once re-fueled, you cross the grass and hop on the Boston Run Trail (3rd main section). Boston Run trail is a 3.25 mile loop and you'll end right back at the aid station. This trail got really beat up over the winter and it's a mess. It is by far, the muddiest section of the course. With the warmer temps coming, it should be interesting out there! Get dirty!!!

4. Once refueled again at the Happy Days Aid Station, retrace your steps on the Haskell Run Trail to the Ledges Trail and complete the east side. (You're at 9 miles when you get back to the Ledges) The east side has a whole different look and feel to it with lots of pines and moss. If it's a really warm day on April 5th, you'll feel the cold air rushing out of the Ice Box cave, too. Again, keep your eyes on the trail.

5. Once you complete the Ledges, you'll come to the stairs that originally brought you up to the Ledges. Trace your steps back and when you reach the right-handed entrance to Pine Grove, take it and run the Pine Grove Trail counter-clockwise (4th main section). This is a fast, non-technical 1.5 mile trail. Enjoy the easy terrain because the 5th section is going to eat you up! You'll eventually see a sign-post for Kendall Lake. That sign is at the top of the stairs that you came up earlier to get to Pine Grove. Again, re-trace your steps and return to Truxell Road. This intersection of Truxell/Kendall Lake entrance is also an aid station.

6. Hop back on the Lake Trail and go back the way you came but instead of turning up the Cross Country Trail, stay straight on the Lake Trail and proceed through the tunnel. Stay on the Lake Trail until you see the orange barricade then follow the detour signs which will lead you to Salt Run Trail (5th main section). Salt Run....a great leg-burnin', lung-burnin' trail to run. At just over 3 miles, you may swear it is much longer. It is very rooty and technical so watch your step. You'll hear traffic throughout as well. At first, that's Truxell Rd on your right, then it's Riverview Rd. on your right, then it's Quick Rd. on your right. When you get to Quick Rd., you'll come up on a metal guardrail. You are 1/2 mile from the finish now. Finish up Salt Run, crest the grassy hill, and there's the Finish Line!

Overall, I'd recommend you pace yourself and don't ever get over-excited and think the hills are going to stop...because they don't. Ever. You're almost always climbing or going down. It's definitely a challenging course and a very well-designed one at that. Respect it and run smart!

On the final stretch just before I got back to Truxell, I came up on a young but very brave deer. Luckily, my camera was ready so I shot a little over a minute of video of him/her. Quiet and peaceful and not much else. Enjoy!

Happy Trails, everyone!


fluxmonk said...

Great trail descriptions, but thats exactly the opposite order as is posted to the Fools Run blog ( which is correct?

Nick Billock said...

You are correct. The course was recently changed because a portion of the Lake Trail that connects the Salt Run Trail to the Kendall Lake entrance is closed due to construction. The site has not been updated yet. I ran the course and measured it to make sure the new configuration was good to go. Lloyd, the race director, will be making changes soon on the site and will also be leading the group run this morning on this route to re-measure again.

Lloyd said...

Nicely done, Nick.

Bob- the event website is up-to-date. Yes, trail order and direction reversed: Race starts out on Cross Country and finishes on Salt Run.

Lloyd said...

Wonderful report, Nick. A couple clarifications:

4. Don't forget to mention the Ledges overlook and the view of the valley -- At the very end before departing the Ledges Trail.

6. Instead of Riverview Rd at the bottom of the Salt Run, rather its Akron-Peninsula Rd nearby.

In the final 1/2 mile to the finish, I'll also mention to avoid Quick Road. Stay left on the trail.

All rich details, Nick. One other point is that this course is all on dirt or trail, save about 200-300 meters. Very little pavement!