Sunday, September 24, 2006

YUT-C 50K Trail Report

I knew I was going to have a nice race when we turned onto a flat dirt path, with pine trees on one side, and water on the other. I was running a 50K in nature, in beautiful weather, and all was irie with me.
This was the YUT-C 50K, the Youngstown Ultra Trail Classic. Run entirely in Mill Creek Park, a gem of a park in the middle of Youngstown, Ohio. It’s a beautiful park. The trail follows around a river and several lakes; there are man made waterfalls on the river and several natural waterfalls in the woods.
I got to the race start a bit early, and Bob Combs, the race director asked me if I wanted to start early, another couple was taking the early 7am start. I had about fifteen minutes to decide, and since my gear was ready to go, I decided to. Instead of waiting around for another hour, I was there to run so why not?
Jim Harris graciously paced us out the first mile or so, through the little urban area to where the trail began beside some football fields and tennis courts. It was fun being out there at 705am, because it really was not very light out yet, and the tree cover was heavy. So Lisa, Dennis and I were pretty cautious and concerned about staying on the trail.
I got ahead of my running partners when we hit the “Monkey Hills”. These were some up and down trails on some pretty steep hills, about five in all, all one after another. But the footing was nice dirt and pine needles and no rocks, so that helped. At the top of one of the last hills was “ The Tree” that I had been warned about. It’s a tree blocking the path. On a 5’2” female, the tree comes up to my waist. My only way over it was to lie down on it, and roll over!
The trail continues to follow a river and lakes. It’s an old path; on one side are the woods, usually at a steep grade uphill. There are many retaining blocks of sandstone that probably were built by the WPA back in the 30’s. It’s all grown over and covered in moss at this time. I marvel at the hours of work it took to put all these stones in place. I am also impressed by the lack of graffiti in the park.
I come to a section of wooden boardwalk,
which leads to the old Gristmill, where the covered bridge and aid station is located.
I am the first runner through!!! (Remember, I started one hour early.) Everyone congratulates me and I laugh—it’s a good feeling to be first! I might as well enjoy it while I can!!!
I decide to keep with that theme, and try to gauge when the first men are going to catch me on the course. I believe I conceded the lead at mile 10. That was pretty funny. There were about 10 guys in the first fast group; about half of them knew me, and figured it out that I started early. The ones who didn’t know me gave me this “what the heck is SHE doing out here?” Oh well, I enjoyed it; they had a long time to figure out who I was and what I was doing.
It was fun running with the “Big Dogs” as I tend to call the front-runners. We get back to the race start, and then we run the same loop again, backwards. So now I was passing all the other runners coming toward me, and that was fun, I think I knew about 1/3 of the runners, and it’s great to hear a personal “way to go!”
I saw a bunch of roadrunners out on the road, and just kept shaking my head. They had a beautiful trail just feet away and yet they ran asphalt!! Freaks!! (I’m sure that they said the same about me when they saw my wet, dirt covered body.) I was crossing a road when I ran into two roadrunners, and tried to cajole them on the trails. They rather haughtily told me “they were training for a marathon”. Dudes! Excuse me! I’m just running a piddly 50K on rocks and roots!! Freaks!!!
I ran the first loop in just under three hours, and the second just under 3 hours also, which was very good for me. I conceded my lead as first female at mile 19. The last loop is shorter, 7.94 miles. As I got into the 3rd loop, I started to feel a little light-headed, a new trail feeling for me. I stopped and assessed my situation. It was a cool day, in the 60’s but high humidity because it was trying to rain. I had been hot on most of the course and doing most of my usual sweating. I had taken my last Succeed capsules on the last loop because I was starting to get a cramp in my calf muscle, and didn’t grab any at the last aid station. I also had not eaten much salty food in the last 3 hours. I also realized I had not peed but once on the run, very unusual for me. So I grabbed a gel from my waist pack, feeling that would have to help. The light-headedness would come and go a bit, but I knew the aid station was only about 4 miles away. I kept running and wondering when I was going to get to the hills. Did I miss them somehow? Ran them already and forgotten?
I hit the last time through the “Monkey Hills” and the third time was actually easier than the 2nd (probably because I was lightheaded!!!!) but my running kept getting slower on this third section. This course was very runnable also, no big chances to walk! The only time I get cranky is when I think I am hitting the last, final section, and it turns out that I forgot a piece that I still have to go through. I finally turn onto the park road for the last little finish and get cheered in by the other runners.
Bob shakes my hand and hands me a pint bottle of beer, from the Buckeye Brewing Company. I get cleaned up and spend another hour eating soup and pizza and cheering in more runners. We get a nice short-sleeved technical T-shirt and I find a pair of Dirty Girl Gaiters in my goody bag!!! Very cool!! I change clothes and when I take my socks off, I am puzzled to see a slug attached to my toe. Hmm, it's a rather large blood blister. I make sure I show it to all the other runners. Everyone is in awe of my blister and say it's a good one. I do remember reading that being dehyrdated can lead to more blisters. I think it's also time for me to try the Injini socks and see if that helps me out.

I enjoyed the course. It’s very runnable, a bit rocky, but not vicious hidden rocks. You just have to watch. Some parts had some roots. I thought the course was marked rather well. There were a few places, where, as a first runner of the course, I had to apply some common sense and keep a watchful eye for trail markings. I hope Bob and Team PR get the word out about this race; Mill Creek is a very nice and scenic place to run. Thanks Bob and the volunteers, the food was plentiful and the volunteers were friendly and helpful, I had a great time!

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!!