Many...MOST Saturdays you'll find me somewhere within the Cuyahoga Valley National Park running the trails or roads. You'll find me nearly always with friends that I've met on the trails or at local races. Thanks to support from home, Saturday mornings are a guarded time and I do my best to get home before lunch each week. Today was my 2nd edition of a run I came up with last year. My idea was to have a fun run on the last Saturday of the year to celebrate friends, the trails, and some of the most gorgeous parts of the trails that we run on each weekend. What came of that idea last year was a small group who left Lock 29 on the last Saturday in December 2007 and visited the Blue Hen, Buttermilk, and Brandywine Falls. It was a great time with temps below freezing but not too cold.
In my 2nd edition, we got the word out simply through word-of-mouth and on Vertical Runner's website and wow, we had the biggest turnout ever on a Saturday morning outside of organized races. At least 50 runners showed up...but I have no idea how many in all were there. A few other groups that have their own group runs joined in as well. We started a few minutes late simply because of us filling and overflowing the Lock 29 parking lot. After a brief talk and disclaimer about how everyone should expect to get muddy and expect to get wet, we were off. With nearing-record temps around 60F and lots of rain in the hours and days preceding, the water crossings would surely be water crossings and not the typical tip-toe across the rocks we're used to. Full immersion today!
Alright, I'm going to try and not get too deep here, but today truly answered the question of "Why?" I'm sure you can relate...that question that sedentary friends/co-workers/family ask you from time to time. "Why would you run in this weather?" "You ran today? In 2 degrees with the windchill below zero?!" "You ran HOW far?" Every time we left a waterfall today, everyone applauded. Ahhh....a nice warm fuzzy among the hanging icicles. Witnessing the gorgeous waterfalls which were more like rapids today and surrounded by LONG icicles from the ledges surrounding them...all while laughing and running through ice cold water really made today's run THE best group run I've ever been on...ever. 11 years of running and this tops them all. I hear the question already: "You had FUN running through ice cold water, sloshing through mud, AND running HOW far???!!" Yea...I did...a lot of it. So much that I was a chatter box through mid-afternoon at home...my poor wife. She endures so much!
Instead of re-hashing the route, I'll let the pictures tell the story. My camera got quite the workout today and I've posted 60 photos here. You do NOT need a Facebook account to view them or save them. (By the way, the local running Facebook nation is growing! Join in!)
Here are some of my favorites out of the bunch:
Mel making mud-running look graceful
Only this picture describes just how COLD the water was
Unlike typical runs, we took the time to stop and take a group photo at each waterfall...I made sure to disclose this long beforehand so no one would be surprised by the common stopping. It's tradition, right? Here's my favorite photo of the day in front of my favorite waterfall, Buttermilk Falls. It's a hidden treasure that most haven't seen or even heard of. It's hidden right behind Boston Mills Ski Resort and off the beaten path of the Buckeye Trail. If the falls haven't been raging like they were today, you'd see layers upon layers of rock on a gentle slope showing thousands of years of age...and multiple colors due to the different stone. Plus, it was our best group photo of the day, too. Oh yea, I almost forgot. Note to self: "next time, be sure to zip the zipper on your Nathan handheld bottle pocket...especially if your car key is in there." When we first arrived at the Boston Store, I looked down and that pocket was wide open and no key....GONE! I borrowed a cell phone and called home to ask Marjie to leave home after 10am and meet me at Lock 29 with another key. (Thanks, Greg for the use of your phone!) At the end of the run, Kevin M. comes up to me and he asks if I lost a key. "Yes!" He replies: "Well, I saw it on the trail near Pine Lane and it looked like someone placed it there so I left it." "You did WHAT?!?!" I honestly thought with all the runners and the muck we were running through that I was soon to be buying another $100 key from Honda. At about this time, Marjie showed up with my key and off to Pine Lane I drove. I take ONE flippin' step onto the trail and WHAM! My feet leave the muddy ground and go horizontal along with the rest of my body as I go crashing down in the mud...camera, too. I made it 18 miles in this muck today without falling and NOW I fall? I get up, grab what clean shirt is left on me to wipe off the camera, and get scootin' down the trail. I get to the broken log where we used to cross but now dip down and back up the muddy slope and sure enough, it is nestled in between two logs...like someone purposely put it there...just like Kevin said. Thanks again, Kevin! I trudged on back to Pine Lane and washed up...emptying my whole gallon of water, and felt really good for wrapping up a total of 19.4 miles for the day. Gombu and Brian M. were both down at Winking Lizard so I headed on down for some lunch and some 'ultra-talk' and then headed on home. Bob is the race director of the YUT-C 50K and an accomplished 100 mile runner. I really appreciated the time I had to talk about his races and my goals regarding the 100 mile distance. I got some great advice, too. Brian is running his first 100 at MMT next year, too.
To the many of you who made this run a success...and fun, THANK YOU! Happy Trails, everyone and have a Happy New Year!