Monday, September 10, 2007
Groundhog 50K Race Report
It was back to Punxsutawney Pa, "The Weather Capital of the World" for another fine 50K race put on by John Goss and the Punxy Runners--just such a first class event.
This year, though, I picked up my co-host Andrew, at the Pittsburgh airport and we ran the race together. Andrew believed me of course when I said the course was runnable and there were only 6 hills. Well, I guess I meant "major hills" aka named major hills. The fun thing in Punxy is they have banners out announcing the hill you are going to run.
This year we weren't as lucky as last year. It was a bit muggy at the 7 am start. We were off and running, about two miles through town, then out past the schools and the first down hill. This is a bit long gradual downhill named "ESPN Hill" and why, the name escapes me for now. We climb up a bit and then I note we are going down the notorious "Two Beer Hill" which apparently it takes two beers of courage for the mountain bikers to go down this hill! (see "T" on the map.) After this huge downhill (all I remember is the fact we have to go back up it at the end of the race) it's just some undulating mix of some roads and jeep roads for a few miles. Andrew and I have a differing opinion on this. If it isn't an asphalt road, it's trail to him.
Note to Andrew: I will publish your race report here if you will write one!
We finally hit the loop that we will run twice. The first hill is "Yellow Bus Hill". It is a really really steep uphill incline. Looking at the elevation profile, I would still say it's tougher than "Two Beer". Andrew hit a bad spot near the top of this hill and we both stopped for a break. As we rested, we got to see Mark Godale running his second loop, running up the freaking hill. Not tromping along. Not trudging. Running!!! And having enough breath left over to talk to us. Unreal!!! It was very cool to see the front runner come through at a race!
Andrew and I continue on. "Cry Baby Hill" seems like nothing after Yellow Bus, and Andrew recovers a bit and gets his sense of humor back. We start on the second loop and take "Yellow Bus" a bit slower the second time. The day continued to be hot and muggy, although cloud covered. I was glad for the sun but we kept hoping for the rain!
The funniest part of the day, (well at least to me) was when we started back through the strip mine area. This did not follow the same route that we took on the way out; we detoured in order to take in yet another hill. Even named. Water Tower Hill. This was the last straw for Andrew and he went off into a very long diatribe about detouring race courses in order to pick up as many hills as possible. I was laughing so hard I couldn't even trudge uphill and he was getting away from me!
As I recovered from my laughing fit, Art Moore, age 69, ultra runner extraordinaire, caught up to us, and chatted with us as we ran through the strip mine (or Death Valley as it is also called, especially when the sun is out). Art kicked our young butts as he broke away from us and we watched him run into the distance....
But we were almost on the homestretch..except we still had Two Beer Hill and ESPN Hill to go up. I used my same strategy as last year to get up Two Beer...walk ten steps, rest for a ten count, then repeat.. We made it up the hill!! Crossed a road and I turned to tell Andrew it was the last year as he jumped across a downed tree and really put his back out. His back had been bothering him for practically the whole run, but this was about the last straw. He went on, though, since we only had 3 miles or less to get through. He's much tougher than me, to run with a bad back!!
We finally get through the last hill, and get back on the road. It's all downhill (really) at this point, except Andrew is telling me it's uphill. I don't know whether he's teasing me or delusional at this point. The run down the dirt road (we compromised and called it a troad) seems really long. The ambulance is behind us again and we think we are the DFL runners. We are hoping we aren't, because the couple behind us was running their first ultra, and we're hoping they didn't drop out.
We turned the corner to finish, and all my local ultra runner peeps are still there, waiting for us-Gabe, Rich, Wendy, Reg, Di! How nice of them!! They knew we were still out there somewhere!!!
We get a nice finishers hat and Andrew gets a glass groundhog for coming all the way from Alabama to be tortured...I went off to retrieve my vehicle and towels for a nice shower. Andrew recovered quite nicely from the run and was already chipper as we headed back to Pittsburgh...stay tuned for a podcast coming soon of our race recollections, I am sure you will get both sides of a race after this one!
I think I now owe Andrew a road marathon race together after this one!
To me,it still was fun. It is a nice challenging course. I still think it's runnable (except for the hills and if your name is Godale) and John puts on one excellent race-thanks John and the great volunteers!