Saturday, September 9, 2006
Groundhog 50K Race Report
I travelled over to Puxsutawney, PA, the "Weather Capital of the World" home of Puxsutawney Phil, who, every February, tells the world whether we will have an early spring or 6 more weeks of winter.
This is a 50K race, hilly, I am told.
The course is an out and back, and there is a big loop, about ten miles, that you run twice.
We have a great spaghetti dinner the night before. Most of the Northern Ohio contigent is there, which is fun, because I see old friends I met in the past year. My friends wave me over to where they are sitting, and after diving into the food, I notice someone is talking to the man next to me about the Barkley. Huh? I look down and see some DVD's on the table of The Runner . I ask him if he is David Horton.
I introduce myself and tell him I running his Mountain Masochist, and knows my first and last name already! It was very cool to talk to David while we ate. Horton also spoke at the dinner. He was very inspirational. I find I agree with him on many ideas, especially about goal setting and having a positive attitude. He spoke about his Pacific Crest Trail Run. Wow. He talked about running out of food and going on, about how hard it was, and how he cried every morning-and went on. He talked about goading people into going farther than they think they can. It was really great to meet him.
Race morning was cold and foggy. It was typical ultra runner start, we all kind of had to get pushed away from the doughnuts and coffee inside out to run. John says "go" and off we went. The first two miles are through town and out on a hard packed country road, and the crowd (115 runners) thins out.
I stop to rety my shoe and find we've gotten really spread out. We come to the first hill, named "Two Beer Hill". Which is in honor of the local mountain bikers. It apparently takes two beers for the courage to ride down this hill!
It's really steep. I run down it, about taking out Ed in the process. What I also love about ultras is you know about 1/2 of everyone's names already. I have been practicing downhill running, and I take this downhill pretty agressively. Ed's doing a switchback, so I try to get by him while he's out of the way.
We run through some strip mined areas, back to the road for a short distance, then onto the loop. The trail is actually old roads, but they are dirt, some covered in moss, some rocks but all very runnable.
I come to the other two big hills on the course "Yellow Bus Hill". This is a good hill! Straight UP!!! And up!!!! I take a quick look once I reach the top-great view!!
The second big hill "Cry Baby Hill" is not too far past this one. (There are banners at each hill, welcoming you to it-what a great touch!!) At the top of Cry Baby, the rain begins on me. Luckily I did bring my WV Trail Runner Ballcap. The rain keeps pouring down, and I am not that warm out, and a bit concerned about possible hypothermia, but I also know the best way to stay warm is to keep running.
The rain makes the road turn into streams, so I no longer bother to try and keep my feet dry. They are completely wet and it doesn't matter to me. Oh well!!
I hit the last aid station on the loop and almost go the wrong way, but the aid people quickly point me in the right direction. This is also where the first ten males lap me also.
It seems like almost in no time I'm back to the start of the loop again, where the first female runner, Connie Gardner laps me. And I'm off for the second loop. This is even better, because I know landmarks now.
It was a really good run. Very runnable course. The rain stopped and I dried out. I was my usually completely happy self out there. People always comment on how happy I look. I caught up to a woman who said "you must have run this before." And I said, no I hadn't, and she said I looked so fresh. I told her I just love running in the woods and trails. I even know I run with a smile on my face. I look around at nature and the woods and the trees. I ran through a really dark section of pines which made it seem I would see hobbits anytime. The rain was causing fog and steam to come up.
I finish the second loop and it's now just 8 miles back to the chicken dinner I had been thinking about for 4 hours!!
I get to the last aid station, which is about 3.5 miles from the finish. I look at my watch and doubt I can break seven hours, which would have been really cool. I keep running, and then finally realize hey my watch is 12 or 15 minutes fast!!! I've got more time than I thought!!
I still had to get back up Two Beer Hill however!! It was much easier running down it! I would hike up a bit, rest for a count of five, hike more, rest, and that's how I got up it!!
I keep running, and visualizing my sub 7 finish, and have to tell myself you better run faster and keep your mind on the race or you won't hit that!!!!
I get back to town, the most dangerous part of the race, with a 1/4 mile into town and now traffic about. A minivan pulls up to the end of the driveway and the woman is looking left, and I am thinking "You better look right lady I am coming!". I also will the cars to let me dart in front of them because there is NO WAY I am stopping to let me through.
I turn the corner and see the clock: 644!!!!! I run across at 6.45.01!!! So respectable for me!! I am so pleased!!
I love the ultra community. Ron Ross, one of our local elite, is standing there, and I only know him casually, I have talked to his wife way more. He hugs and congratulates me. I believe Ron finished fourth this year. You don't see the fourth finisher of any marathoner hanging out to congratulate back of the packers!!!!
More festivities, the chicken dinner I can't even finish it was so huge follow. It was good to have time to sit down and talk more and rehash some of the race. But after a shower, I got on the road fairly quickly since I had a 4 hour drive ahead.
This was a very nice race. Great trail markings, great dinner the night before, dinner afterward, nice swag-we got a Montrail bottle, a Punxsutawney Phil Beanie Baby, a groundhog pin, a groundhog medallion, and a Bottle of Groundhog Ale! John Goss and his volunteers really put on a great race, and I would recommend this 50K to anyone!!