Sunday, April 1, 2012

Fools 50K Race Report

Before I started writing tonight, I scrolled down on the right on this blog to update my race-finish roster. Hard to believe that I hadn't finished an ultra-marathon in almost 2 years. July 2010 was my last finish...barely...at the Buckeye Trail 50K. I hope to do MUCH better this year at that event. I just registered on March 22nd and watched in sell out in well under 24 hours. Anyway, today was a PERFECT day:

It started early at 4am so I could brew my stovetop Italian espresso and heat up a homemade pumpkin/chocolate chip muffin. I need a good hour to let that espresso fire up the engines before a race. Once Marjie got up, she made our traditional fried eggs and toast for breakfast and we enjoyed some early morning conversation, eggs, and java. Perfect as we were both hitting the trails today. Today was the day where she was set to run her first 25K (15.6 miles) trail run. It's but one more step towards her first 50K this fall at Oil Creek State Park. Final preps made and we were out the door, en route to Pine Hollow within the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the start/finish of the race. This was the Fools 50K/25K's fourth anniversary. I had a good streak going until last year when I missed it. It was 6 days prior to deploying to Afghanistan and time was precious so I passed. I was very thankful to return to Pine Hollow this year.

Lloyd Thomas, race director, runs a top notch event. As an accomplished ultra-runner, he knows exactly what the runners need and want: a well-marked course, excellent aid, and keep the frills to a minimum except for a great finishing award. "LT" does it all. He even dried out the trails for us this year...well, at least he thinks he did. About a month ago, we were out there and our feet disappeared under water/mud it was so bad. Luckily, we've had minimal rain and lots of unseasonable sun and warm temperatures. The result was a super-fast course with very little mud at all. Prior to the race start, I made my rounds through the crowd of runners, giving out lots of handshakes and hugs. For many, this was the first time I've seen them again since pre-Afghanistan. It was great to see so many familiar faces again. Lloyd is also a veteran, a past Army officer, so he planted a beautiful American flag at the start and we all sung the National Anthem just seconds prior to the start. It's planted perfectly atop the "Sound of Music Hills" so during the race, it can be seen from afar, blowing in the wind. "Lloyd, thank you for that. It means so very, very much to me." Here it is just prior to sunrise and the start.
(click for high resolution version)
At 7:30am, the race was off and my bride was at my side. We had taken the entire last week off from running due to some physical issues. After last Sunday's impromptu 20 miler, my right ankle really acted up. I had no idea why but every fiber told me "NO RUNNING" this week. None. I listened and am glad I did. For Marjie, her IT band has been acting up so with today's race looming, she joined me in our weeklong break. As we hit the trail, we both felt great. The early miles were uneventful and hardly muddy at all. We stuck to our plan of coasting the flats, cruising down the downhills, and moving up the hills with a purpose. As we began passing through aid stations, they were plentiful with typical ultra fare (pretzels, M&Ms, PB&J squares, Coke, water, and Hammer Nutrition's "Heed"...my personal favorite.) They even had pitchers of Heed to easily fill my handheld carrier I just bought last week that I reviewed on a previous post. Super convenient and fast.

Temperatures started in the upper 30s and slowly climbed into the 40s along with the sun clearing out the clouds. Marjie's IT band, however, really started being pesky. Downhills really became a problem and only got worse with under 5 miles to go. Flats..no problem. Hills...no problem. Downhills, which are supposed to be "gifts" as I call them, they caused a lot of pain. With absolutely no intention of leaving her side, we made our way through the hilly Salt Run Trail and we finished the 25K together in 3hrs, 48min, 8sec. HER FIRST 25K!!! I was very proud of her. True to the plan, I re-filled my bottle and ran on down to my car that I positioned so I could pop the trunk, apply some lubricant to the chafing areas on my body, change my shirt, and hit the trail. By that time, she had joined me at the car and we shared a hug, congratulations, and goodbye kiss and off I want, SCREAMING down the trail. The way I felt (I felt like I really hadn't run much at all), I wanted to tear the trail up and pass people for the next 15.6 miles, never get passed, and that's precisely what happened.

I couldn't believe how good I felt and I also wondered how long it would last. After all, I hadn't run over 20 miles lately and haven't run more than 4 hours on the trails for well over a year. "Oh well, let's give it a shot," I thought. I just went with it and started picking people off left and right while flying down the trail. Before I knew it, I was nearing the 3/4 done point, around mile 23, and felt GREAT. 8.2 miles to go. I shot off a few texts home to let her know I was cruising well and she had already been to Starbucks, showered and probably cuddled up reading a good book on the couch...or napping. Either was fine! She earned it. As I cruised along, passed the 26.2 mile marathon point, I really wasn't getting weak which amazed me. The fire was still churning out power in my legs so I went with it. All I was consuming was liquid electrolyte, the occasional salt tab, and occasional PB&J square and M&Ms here and there. That's really it. As I crested the last hill prior to entering the final trail, Salt Run Trail, I gave a point to Old Glory...blowing in the breeze. She looked so brilliant and I thought how much it stands for. That same flag is flying where our countrymen and women are at war and I thought for a few moments of them. "Come home soon, brothers and sisters. Your country wants you back." Back to the trail. I will admit, I was getting weary but like I was preaching to Marjie earlier, it's mind over body. Our bodies are capable of incredibly much but our minds get in the way. We simply need to tell our body to get moving and get it done, and so I did. I continued to pass folks throughout Salt Run and eventually, hit the 1/2 mile to go point. Game on and time to put this race into history! As I emerged from the final hill in Salt Run onto the grassy plain at Pine Hollow, I saw the finish line and made it mine. A handshake from Lloyd and the handmade finisher's mug were mine. I did it and I just didn't finish, I destroyed it. I finished in 6hrs, 41min, 22sec which is nothing too amazing to brag about, but I ran that second 25K 54 minutes, 54 seconds faster than the first 25K. AND, I felt great, like I had more to give but why do that? Chef Bill had homemade soup ready for me. I helped myself to veggie soup and potato soup...both amazing, especially the veggie one. Freshly cut veggies make a killer soup. I enjoyed them while laying in the grass, just a few steps from Old Glory.
Me holding my finisher's mug (Photo Credit: Celeste W.)
After some soup and more conversation, I made my way to my car, made up a recovery drink, and hit the road for home. Tonight, I enjoyed a baked potato with homemade red sauce and some leftover pork chops. Perfect. Oh yea, a Reese's Peanut Butter Egg for good measure. I also feel quite good but I will be crashing hard very soon. I feel the pull to the bed sucking me in. I do have something to look forward to tomorrow...we have a couples massage tomorrow night after work. This won't be for pleasure, though. This guy will shred us big time but we need it. Once he finds a problem area, stand by! Here's a pic of my Pure Grit trail shoes, the race sticker, the mug, and my race bib from today. It really was a great day and I'm already looking forward to the 5th installment next year.
(click for high resolution version)
Have a great week, everyone, and Happy Trails! Run Happy!

3 comments:

Lloyd said...

I'm pretty sure you're the first and only person to ever negative split the Fools 50k. I'll have to check for sure. Welcome home, Nick. Congrats to your and Marjie.

Anonymous said...

looks like 4 individuals had a neg split yesterday

Tammy said...

And you know your massage therapist is looking forward to shredding you up! That ornery smile of his when he says, "C'mon back, let's see what you've done to yourself lately!" awaits you today!

So excited for the two of you! The accomplishment Marjie has done so quickly in her running is inspiring! So cool the running partnership you've built together! Run with the wind you two!