Before you read on, turn up your speakers and watch/listen to my compilation from yesterday's YUT-C 50K Trail Run in Mill Creek Park (Youngstown, OH). Enjoy! (FYI: pics are in order from race start to end)
I've also uploaded the photos to Facebook and they should be viewable with or without a Facebook account here.
Yesterday marked Ultra #5 since my first one in 2007 at the Summer Buckeye Trail 50K. Back then, I was new to trail running but quickly got hooked. That HAD been my slowest time at the distance...6hrs, 37min. However, with trail ultra-marathons, it's hard to compare apples to apples because the race conditions/terrain/weather can play such a major role. The YUT-C (Youngstown Ultra Trail Classic) 50K (aka: 31.2 miles) is in it's 4th year of existence and is a fine example and representation of what the Northeast Ohio Ultra-Running community has to offer. Bob Combs (Race Director and veteran ultra-runner) and his excellent team at NEO Trail Club have really put together an excellent event. Superb support, aid stations, and volunteers were present as well.
If you look at the map, the race circumnavigates 3 lakes and connecting streams: Lake Glacier, Lake Cohasset, and Lake Newport. Simply put, the course begins at the Old Log Cabin (just below the well-known Gardens at Mill Creek Park) and heads east around Lake Cohasset (figure 8 style). After a climb up the steel staircase, we go through some ball-fields (which grew in number of kids each time we passed) and then on to some fresh trails. Here's where the first loop got interesting. Someone, perhaps myself, must have really ticked off some yellow-jackets, because I got stung 3 times within 10 seconds! Then, I heard other runners screaming behind me after I passed! These bites hurt and I've got the irritating itching and holes in the skin today to prove it. One got me on my right thigh (as you saw in the video above), another at the bottom of my rib cage on the right side of my back, and the last on my right bicep. The back one and the leg really hurt and swelled. The swelling eventually went down about an hour later. This section also brought with it the Monkey Hills. Very steep, slow-movin' areas to carefully navigate along with some logs, notably the "Love Log" that we had to cross. (see Kim's blog to see all about the Love Log...I think she snapped 3 pics of her crossing it...on each loop) At 4 miles, we reached the first, and main aid station: the Covered Bridge. We would pass by here 5 times. Typical "ultra" fare was offered like Heed, water, Coke, salt tabs, gels, peanuts, PB&J, M&Ms, pretzels, bananas, oranges, etc. GREAT volunteers and a very well done aid station. These encouraging volunteers would come in very "handy" later on when their prodding would be needed most. We leave there and keeping the "figure 8" pattern in mind from the map, we head to the west side of Lake Newport, but first passing the waterfall/dam that it spills over. We circle around Lake Newport and on the east side, hit some asphalt for about a mile. See that smiley face? That would be the volunteer course-markers with a sense of humor...that helps in an ultra! The loop around Lake Newport, in my opinion, was a breeze compared to the other loop, especially that first 4 miles. We returned back to the Covered Bridge where we again circled Lake Newport. OK, if you're following the "figure 8" analogy, we only have the left/upper part of the "8" to cover. Once we finished loop #2 of Lake Newport and visit #3 to the aid station, we headed to the western side of Lake Glacier and Lake Cohasset. This side was very rocky, a bit challenging, but still nothing like the Monkey Hills. This is where I finally met up with Kim (who you saw in the video). Kim and I are fellow-bloggers, see each other posting to the ultra-listserv but have never actually met. Kim had just finished "removing" the V-8/Ensure/Coca-Cola combination from her stomach when I saw her...thanks for the intro, Kim! We walked/ran for a bit and then I took off again. The "figure 8" completes at the Old Log Cabin which marked 25K or the halfway point. Now it's 2 more loops around the "top" part of the "8" which is Lake Cohasset and Lake Glacier. At this point for me personally, I was not feeling too good. The hairs on my arms and legs were standing at attention indicating I was pretty fully dehyrated...not a good sign. I have zero explanation for this since I started well-hydrated, the weather was favorable, and I was drinking well so far. Usually, I can narrow it down to something, but not today. Anyway, I continued on, slowing as I went, and completed another loop and arriving back at the Old Log Cabin at Mile 23. Here's where Mr. Vince Rucci came screaming through the finish at just over 4 1/2 hours...an awesome 4th place finish...and a small 7.8 miles in "front" of me! I was lingering a bit here and eventually Bob Combs looked at me and said: "Hey, we really like ya and we'd love you to hang out some more, but you need to get the heck out of here and get going!" Enough said. Out I went. For this last loop, my entire abdomen hurt, I wasn't really sweating much, and it was a pure mental battle. I kept telling myself: "Remember what you feel like right now. You feel like crap! Remember this tomorrow (ie: TODAY!) when you get all siked up about that next hovering ultra. Remember how bad this stuff makes you feel!" OK, I remember all that self-talk...but dang, this "craziness" is addicting. Can't you relate? I got through the Monkey Hills for the last time, crossed the Love Log, and arrived at the Covered Bridge at just under 28 miles. The aid station captain (I don't know his name) told me an inspiring story he heard the infamous Dr. David Horton tell once. That was enough motivation to get me moving again. I ended up back at the Old Log Cabin in 6hrs, 50min. All my VR buds were there, basking in the sunlight, rooting me in. A very tough day. My most difficult 50K to date and the slowest, but still another finish line crossed. For that, I am thankful. Again, many thanks to Bob Combs, Jim Harris, Brian Musick and the many more whom I don't even know. You did a great job!