Sunday, September 14, 2014

Race Report: 2014 YUT-C 50K

There are a few "old school" ultra marathons left in the area and this is assuredly one of them. Dubbed the YUT-C 50K, it stands for the Youngstown Ultra Trail Classic 50K (and 25K, too). YUT-C is the main event for NEO Trail Club and often serves as a gathering of the club members and lots of newbies this time every September. This year was no different but was also the 10th anniversary of the event. Three runners finished YUT-C yesterday for 10th time and all wore the #10. "Well done, Dave Peterman, Ron Ross, and TJ Hawk! LEGACY runners!"

In my own personal opinion, the course at YUT-C is one of the most technical, rocky, rooty AND beautiful in all of northeast Ohio. Pick your season and it never disappoints. From the fall colors coming up to the twice-the-size-of-humans icicles near the Mill in the winter, it's always beautiful. The YUT-C course circumnavigates 3 different lakes in their entirety multiple times and within those or dividing them are manmade waterfalls from the dams. In between, the stream twists and turns, is full of light rapids and wildlife, and is simply always beautiful to look at. The best way to understand the course and trails at Mill Creek Park is to imagine a figure 8. Starting from the bottom of the 8, runners begin at the Old Log Cabin. Following the 8 clockwise as if writing the 8, runners pass the Covered Bridge at the center of the 8 and the first aid station. They continue on the 8 around the top right which takes them around Lake Newport. They do this loop (top of the 8) twice before finishing up the 8 by heading back to the Old Log Cabin. At this point, the 25K runners are finished. The 50K runners continue on and do the lower/fat part of the 8 twice more before finishing at the Cabin. Smooth trail under pines, running atop pointy rocks, climbing the infamous Monkey Hills (since our knuckles nearly drag in the dirt due to the angle of the climbs), running along a boardwalk path en route to the Covered Bridge and even a little bit of asphalt on the east side of Lake Newport, this course has it all.
Lake Newport during the road section
I hadn't raced since the Highlands Sky 40 Miler back on Father's Day weekend and on purpose. I had one or two others to do but never registered. Instead, I just laid low and enjoyed daily running. Totally needed that refresher! I've been streaking since June 19th and this was Day 87 of no days off. My monthly average, as well, for 2014 is also way ahead of any other year...but I feel as strong as ever. Entering the race yesterday, I had no real plan but nutrition. I mimicked everything I've done the past few races by drinking nothing but Hammer Nutrition's Heed (when available), an Endurolyte Extreme once per hour and a Hammer Gel once per hour. I did have a few Pringles during the race and a few potatoes but that's about it. This not only fuels me with only what I truly need but makes my aid station stops 30sec to 1min...always affording me the chance to pass several runners and be efficient about my stop. As for the pace, I decided simply to go with it. I know I should start slow and maintain to the end. I sorta kinda DEFINITELY DID NOT do that yesterday! BUT, I had a blast for every step and regret none of it.

Unlike many races, I didn't chat much and spent most of the race by myself and in silence. That was totally ok but I did take any opportunity presented to meet new runners or catch up with ones I hadn't seen in far too long. Back to that pace: I knew I was in over my head when I passed a few people I shouldn't. I knew that I'd eventually see them again but that was ok. I was running strong, breathing very easily (often with mouth closed...that's a good gut check for me), and nothing was difficult. I finished up the 25K back at the Old Log Cabin and there it was...confirmation: "2hrs, 32min" read the race clock. NO WAY I'm a 5hr 50K runner...especially on this course and with two more lower laps to run. Still, I was doing well and hadn't slowed...yet. I refilled my bottle, grabbed some baby mandarin oranges (chock full of potassium to ward off future cramping) and got started on the next 25K. About halfway to the Covered Bridge, I got passed by those mentioned expected. I shouted some one-way encouragement and was pleased to see them doing well. So if I was able to maintain the pace, another loop would yield me 3:48 or so back at the Old Log Cabin. As expected, I rolled into a nice comfy pace and got back there at I slowed by 16min on that lap. Should I be able to maintain that pace, I'd have myself a 5:36 finish and a course PR.

The last loop was pretty uneventful and I just cruised along and chatted with a few friends and even made a few friends, too. Spurts came and went and I took them as they presented themselves. Within the last mile, a fellow 50K'er, Roger Walker, passed me. I was right with him in the early miles but hadn't seen him in quite awhile.  I stayed with him and learned today was going to be a new 50K PR for him and he was feeling great. (inset photo here is us in the early courtesy of Jeff Musick.) We ran to the finish together and finished 15th and 16th overall in 5:40:52. So yea...if you look at the paragraph above, I "almost" ran an even split that last loop but lost 4 minutes. Too much chatting at the Covered Bridge Aid Station, I'd say! :)

Overall, I am very happy with my result. The 5:40 finish was a 15min PR on the YUT-C course and easily one of my faster 22 50K finishes. Most YUT-C finishes have me about an hour slower. For the whole field of finishers, the results show that 76 of 89 starters finished the 50K. That's an 85.4% finishing rate. I am listed as the 16th finisher. Not too shabby! :)

Post race, some veggie lasagna, pizza, a birthday cake for the race director "Slim" and plenty of friends to catch up with. At YUT-C, some folks just pack up and get on with their day yet others will just linger to watch other ultra runners finish and/or chat it up with fellow runners and NEO Trail Club members. I really appreciated the time I got to just chill out and hang out. As swag for the race, we got one of the best tech tees I've ever had and designed by none other than Slim's wife, Beth. Excellent design! (the print is the first image at the top of this post) At the finish, all finishers received the YUT-C oval sticker as well as a one-of-a-kind unique finisher's award...a green, aluminum bottle open with YUT-C printed on it. Sweet! There's no NEO Trail folk love great craft brew!

Jim "Slim" Harris (race director), me, and Kim "Kimba" Love-Ottobre at the finish.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Musick
Overall takeaway: I continue to love YUT-C and hold it high in my arsenal of must-do races and one that holds true to what ultra running and trail running is all about: camaraderie, giving back to the parks we run in, and taking care of the runners. The volunteers were top notch (and provided the necessary kick down the trail as needed), aid station food was perfect, the course was marked better than any other year I've run it, and the trail...well, it's everything plus some. Is it easy? Not at all. No one ever said it was! It is rewarding, though. There is not a section that really challenges you where you don't get rewarded soon thereafter. It's just how the trail takes a little from you then gives you more back in spades. Just you/me, the trail, and the journey towards the finish line.

A few random photos from the trail below:

Lanterman's Mill

Monkey Hills!

Yinzer Covered Bridge

Closing in on the Covered Bridge after finishing the Monkey Hills


HeatherD said...

Great race report and nice time! You passed me at least once (maybe twice) yesterday. I remember because you nicely offered encouragement. This was my second YUTC, and I agree that the course marking was a lot better than last year (not that it was all that bad before).

CourtneyS said...

Sir, this is very cool. This is certainly something to be proud of. Good Job, or as we say in Navy speak, Bravo Zulu!