The Bills' Bad Ass 50k is a derivative of a Fat Ass 50k which denotes any loosely organized 50k with no entry fees, official timing, or prizes. Aid is usually self furnished, however, the race organizers may provide limited goodies and optional post race prizes. The irony of the Fat Ass is that the people that tend toward such events, usually sport skinny asses along with stalwart pioneering souls, not motivated by money, bling, or crowds, but the desire to be immersed in nature challenged by a tough course--and this course--is indeed tough. Think Louis and Clark of running discovering new depths of self induced pain and you have a good description of a fat ass participant.
Wild Bill and Chef Bill, the creators of this event, chose the date and course, to make anyone that participates, not a Fat Ass, but a Bad Ass. The five mile Perkins Trail loop and Riding Run Trails in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park that comprise the Bad Ass 5 mile course loop are notoriously hilly, rooty bridle trails (meant that they are made for horses and not weddings) with mud so deep, one wrong step in a wet horse rut will make you think you're being pulled down into hell. November 13th in Northeastern Ohio is typically gray, cold and rainy, so another reason the Bills' chose this date to add to the bad assness of the event. After running six loops of the five mile bad ass loop, runners finish the last 1.07 miles to complete the 50K distance by running up a stair studded mountain and then down another trail to retrieve a Dum-Dum lollipop in a basket, turn around, and then down to the finish area, where your finish time is self reported and written, simply and unceremoniously, with pencil and paper by a volunteer, which was once again, the infamous "Hot Maria". This year, instead of the Dum-Dum, we were to find the basket full of smarties and this would be our Bad Ass treat of race completion.
Assness is often a matter of perspective; many non-running spouses and friends of Fat Ass participants consider us dumbasses and cheap asses for running 31.07 miles of horse trail for kicks. We, on the other hand, consider ourselves badasses and definitely not half-assed lazy asses. We can think of no better way to spend 6-8 hours on a Saturday.
Fortunately, for the last two years, those that have chosen to take the Bad Ass challenge, have been met with glorious weather. We've had a glorious October and November, so far--has been just as nice. Driving out to the race location, the sky was pastel pink and blue with benign wisps of gauzy white. It was barely 30 degrees when I scraped the frost off my car, freezing my butt off in shorts, but it was going to warm up quickly to near 70. Rain has been sparse, so the trails should be dry, and our socks and shoes, as well, since stream crossings should be completely navigable by graceful rock hopping.
I parked at the church, met Bob, Debi and Mike K. and walked down to the race start--the Everett Covered Bridge. Most people brought their own aid, as you're supposed to do in a Fat Ass, but clearly it wasn't necessary. The Bills had tons of food out--homemade cookies, brownies, fruit, candy, Gatorade, and water were all plentiful, as well as donated packages of Poptarts and Special K cereal, although I didn't see how we'd eat the cereal without spoons and milk. Even the Muscle Milk people came out and set up a table to hand out their product during and after the race. The near 80 bad ass participants milled about, hopping up and down to keep warm, greeting one another like family at a family reunion. Chit-chatting with people, it appeared that many didn't put in too much training. Bob, Debi, and I had only done one 18 mile long run, 3 weeks ago, but several were in the same boat. Chef Bill stood on top of his car, and with bull-horn in hand, announced the rules of the race. Last year, we recorded our time after each loop, but this year it would be simpler, yet--just run, have fun, and record your final finish time after getting your Smarties in the mountain top basket.
To change things up, we were going to run the Bad Ass loop in the reverse direction of what we did last year, which was very heavy on the downhills, so now it was heavy on the uphills. I ran the first loop with Debi and Bob and tried thawing out my frozen ass and hands. I was nearly done with the first loop by the time my hands thawed out. After the first loop, it had already warmed up enough to ditch my outer jacket and finish my November run wearing what I'd wear in the summer--shorts and short-sleeves.
How could I describe this glorious day in words? Impossible. It was perfect in all ways. The weather, the trail conditions, my company--the various runners that I ran on and off with and caught up with while we trudged up hills or ran like the wind down hills through the dried leaf litter--it was all perfect. Every once in awhile, I liked to stop on a hill, look around at the leaves drifting down, the trees cutting through an impossibly blue sky and think, "Wow--how can you not love this?" By the fourth and fifth loop, I was feeling pain and stiffness in my legs and hip flexors, but the glory of the day helped me put my pain on a shelf, and be utterly thankful for my ability to run ultra-distances. It's truly a blessing.
Each loop, I met back with Debi and Bob at the aid station before heading out for another one. Our dependable and loyal 5 AM running partner, Joan C., was working the station saying over and over, her line for the day, "Can I give you a fill?" which my dirty mind always interpreted as "Can I give you a feel?" Well, sure Joan. You can give my ass a feel, because I was now a sore-assed Bad Ass trudging up all these trails, clearly meant for horses and not humans. One hill in particular, near the end of the loop, was so preposterously steep, the only way to climb it was to propel each step issued by a different curse word. This hill even got Debi cussing. Of course, while cussing and trudging, there's always some battery-packed non-human extraordinary trail runner, like Patrick F., that actually "runs" up the hill. Amazing.
I am not a fast trail runner, by any means, as I'm nearly always near the back of the pack when it comes to trail running, but I don't know many people that love trail running more than me--I love every minute out there, even when it gets ugly. I have never regretted a run or a race. I hate to DNF races, so it's important for me to finish, no matter how I'm going to place. I walked much of the fifth loop, but something came over me the 6th loop and I ended up finishing in 7:29, an average respectable time for me, and earned my right to be a BAD ASS for the second year in a row. The Bills did an amazing job of putting this race together. They are to be commended for putting on a fabulous race and supporting our running family habit for another year.