The trail was extremely dry and hard. Actually, it was dusty in places, almost like powder which is not reminiscent of the Buckeye Trail at all. The severe lack of rain around here shows well. Still in parts, you could see the "frozen" footprints in the dirt from muddy runs of the past. With that sunken ground due to being parched, the roots and rocks were very pronounced which presented a mental and physical challenge later in the race.
|Boston Store at Mile 11.5 (courtesy of Mark Z.)|
Cruising on past towards Pine Lane and the turnaround, things were still going quite well and I continued to find friends to catch up with. Once I got to around Mile 13.5, the pine section, I don't think I've ever seen those roots so pronounced before. "Twinkle Toes Running" is the name of the game to survive through that stretch and do NOT take your eyes off of the trail. Arriving at Pine Lane, family was there again and I even stole a kiss before heading back out. A few more salt tabs, a swig of Coke, and another refill of Heed and I was off. My halfway split was a bit on the fast side, too. I estimated 3 hours or longer to be at the this point but it was 2hrs, 50min. I wasn't wearing a watch on this race so I had no idea but that's where I was. Could I "even split" it back and be well under 6 hours and hit a new personal record? Absolutely not. The return on this course is exponentially harder, especially the last 11.5 miles. Way more climbs than on the way back. For those who negative split this course or even come close, my hat's off to you. So, I headed on back out and kept on moving, still feeling quite well.
Most of the race from this point on was spent alone. I was still very drenched in my own sweat but the temps were staying under control and full cloud cover reigned. My only nutrition intake consisted of 2-3 Hammer Endurolyte salt tabs at each aid station, Clif Shot Bloks every 2-3 miles (that were originally sent to me in Afghanistan!), and perhaps a snack at the aid stations. Oh yea, a constant refill of electrolyte fluid...Hammer's Heed. The one and only disappointment of the race was the absence of an ultra running staple at aid stations....PB&J sandwiches. I don't think I've run an ultra minus PB&Js. Yet, they were absent completely. That's really the only food I wanted so I ended up not eating anything. Everything else was dry or candy. I wanted that cool, moist jelly. It just goes down perfectly during an ultra. As I arrived back at Boston Store around Mile 19.7, my family hadn't yet made it back from Pine Lane as they were waiting for my brother to arrive there. I was totally bummed out but just prayed they'd be there 5.5 miles later at the last aid station at Snowville Rd.
|Courtesy of Pat Dooley|
Back down to Blue Hen Falls and then up, up, and up some more. The remaining parts of the BT50K are 1) 3 miles to the Columbia Rd crossing, then 2) about 2 1/2 miles to Snowville Rd and the last aid station and finally, 3) 6 miles to the finish. That's how I broke it up in my mind to make it tangible and achievable in my head. Things were certainly getting tough at this point and I was simply beat. No pain, no blisters, no cramping like many others...just exhausted. As I passed through these miles, I said out loud many times things like: "You're not hurt, you're just tired so get over it!" or "It's flat...WHY are you not running!?!?" or "Lift your knees...lift your feet" ... that one was very important because as tiredness sets in, it's easy to forget to pick up your feet enough to clear the roots. Many times, I caught a root and one of my calves nearly had a charlie horse but I stopped it each time and didn't fall. I have heard that many fell yesterday but not me. Saying things like this out loud help keep me safe and moving forward and they all worked.
Once at Snowville at the 25.2 mile point and last aid station, my family was there. :-))) I had missed them at Boston so thankful to see my wife and girls. I re-fueled then walked down the trail with them out of the aid station, had a few words that I've been wanting to say to them, gave out a round of kisses then was off. It was here I finally admitted my unstated goal for the day: run it faster than my first 50K five years ago...that being 6hrs, 37min. I was dead on 5 hours at the 25.2 mile point so I could do it...but I had to be intentional: hit the climbs with a purpose, take advantage of the downhills and gravity and "keep shufflin' on the flats". This was the first race I'd ever run without any timing device of any sort so I never knew where I was for time or pace. All I could was give all I had and that would have to be enough. In the end...it was. I crossed the finish line 10min ahead of my goal in 6hrs, 27min, 30sec. Not a personal record (missed that by about 12 or 14min) but 100% happy with the run.
Post-run, a local Bravo! restaurant provided the several pasta options and all finishers got the coveted oval window sticker and one-of-a-kind finisher's medal: a heavy metal medal that looks as if you carved a blue blaze right off of a tree. The blue blazes mark the Buckeye Trail all throughout the State of Ohio. Of course, I took my dose of Recoverite, too. Lesson learned at the Run Between the Suns and not to be repeated.
So today: I feel great! So much so that I woke my wife up 3 times to run. The third time, I was on my way out the door and gave her one last chance and she took me up on the offer. A nice-n-easy 5 miler and all systems go! I continue to be amazed at two things: the absolute success of post-run recovery when I take Hammer's Recoverite and also, how good I feel after an ultra marathon on trails vs. a road marathon. The road is so hard on the body as compared to the trails and today proves it. Post-run this morning, I made up one more batch of Recoverite to put the "cherry on top" of this weekend. Excellent race (my 43rd race in my life of a marathon or longer...26 marathons and 17 ultras), excellent recovery, and I got to spend it with friends I hadn't seen in quite some time and with my family. Absolutely thankful.
Here are a few miscellaneous photos from the race. Have a GREAT week!
|My Pure Grits, my awesome finisher's medal, and bib number.|