Buckeye Trail 50K Race Report
I went into this with no expectations--I had no idea how I'd do, but I was going to approach it as the Christmas-in-July social event it has come to represent over these last 4-5 years that I've run it. I pooped, lubed and head out the door at 5:30 a.m. to make my way to Station Road Bridge of the Breckville Reservation. The sky was amazing; pale blue backdrop overlaid with grey-tinged clouds arranged like the gauzy cotton batting of a quilt, which didn't at all, appear to portend the ominous forecast I just looked up on Weather.com of 80 degrees by 10 a.m. and 88 by noon. I bargained with God--"Now, you know how I suffer all winter with my big awful wool mittens and frozen feet! Spare me the heat!"
Driving down Riverview Rd, I saw a grand blue heron standing to the left, a deer pranced to my right with mist all around in the low areas. Gosh, I felt good today. I was having a good hair today and when you have big red hair like mine, you have to go with it long as possible. I'd put it up, last minute, at the starting line. Bob was already in the lot when I pulled in. I love that about him--he's never late for anything. Mike K. and I exchanged a few jovial ass slaps when I saw Hope's car pull in. She was dressed to kill that course in a digital camouflage print running skirt complete with matching Bondi band and those dirty girl gaiter things, which for the life of my minimalist frugal brain, can not understand the need for, but if it makes her feel good.
Hope was hoping to run her first trail ultra in under 6 hours. I had no doubt, at all, that she'd pull it off. While most trail runners discover that there is a long learning curve to this sport, Hope blows the curve every time, probably like she's done since she was in preschool. Kirstie F. and her husband, Kevin, were ready to tackle their first 50K. I spend some time trying to calm down Kirstie, temporarily driven to Xanax, at our club picnic, with some standard ultra tips...remember...it's just five more miles than a marathon....stay in the moment...ice down the bra.
Vertical runner gave out orange tech shirts and blister care first aid packs which I thought were pretty cool. The coveted blue blaze medals and BT50K stickers would be handed out at the finish. The start of the race was a little ways out from the parking lot, so we ambled down, when Bob gave me the news that he gave away his adorable cat, Mia, to another runner in the community. Mia was more of a dog than a cat really, but she retained the cat-like habit of meowing outside his bedroom door all night. Bob can't stand cat hair in the bedroom, so she was off-limits. He had one too many nights of broken sleep, so he gave her away. He asked me if I wanted her, but I had no good place to put a litter box and worried this would bring me one step closer to my non-existent love life status of "two cats and a book club," so I sadly declined. I kept putting myself in Mia's place--If I was Mia, I'd want to get in his bed too. He'd throw me out for my tumbleweeds of long red hair and I'd be meowing, pathetically outside his door for acceptance. The result of Mia saga was that I had a little angst to start my race for which I had 31.65 miles to work out.
I started the race running with Bob and Debi, who showed up, last minute, all pumped up and excited to be running the Buckeye for the first time in two years! Debi has had a marvelous injury free training season and it shows because I was running right behind her admiring her skinny legs and butt, to anyone that didn't know her, would think belonged to a woman decades younger! The early miles up to Snowville were spent talking about anything and everything. Bob thought I was running too fast, so I slowed it down a notch. I didn't even start my watch, I was going to run this completely on feel. The Snowville station was run by several Towpath Trotters, a running group within my running club, the SARC. Mark C from Delaware was there who just successfully finished the Mohican 100 miler! He cleans up pretty good. He filled up my bottle with strawberry Heed, which has been demonized far and wide throughout the running kingdom, as a vile tasting fluid, but heck--it works for me, so I drink Heed on the trails and gravitate to Coke at the aid stations to choke down a few peanut butter & jelly squares and pretzels. I've learned to eat at all the aid stations even if I don't feel like it.
Coming down the hill to Boston Store, the front runners were already coming back with Sean Pope in the lead and Kam Lee following shortly behind, literally, hunting down Sean in front of him. I'm amazed every time that these incredible athletes have already done 8 miles of Pine Lane which they accomplish with a blistering pace and running up every hill. It's a sight to behold.
The Boston Store aid station was just as festive as Snowville--Melissa C gave Bob and I a hug, Sheila A was there taking pictures, hooting and hollering like we were rock stars. I trained one girl, cute as can be, but can't recall her name, to fill up all the ladies bras with ice. I can't say enough for what these volunteers do. I have to resist every time pulling up a chair and joining them because, honestly--there is nothing more fun than working at an aid station. Brett S. was working and commented on my skin saying, "Red, you're not even sweating!" Well, that's my secret weapon. I do sweat but not in sheets down my arms or legs, but with a concentrated crotch/butt/boob focus, which I feel is more efficient, conserves fluid and makes me a very good hot weather runner. As Bob, Debi and I pulled out of Boston Store making our way up the first big hill to Pine Lane, I was lulled by the gentle clacking of ice packed in my bra cooling down my too passionate heart.
A few miles up to Pine Lane Bob and Debi drifted behind me and I ran alone. My mental strategy was to pretend that every part of the Buckeye course was my favorite part. This was fairly easy to do because most of the sections, all but a few overly rooty and low lying areas which are difficult to run, are truly beautiful. Debi was just coming into Pine Lane aid station as I was leaving, then passed Bob, Niall and the Farley's further down the trail. Bob said he was feeling like crap. I wondered about his feet and how they were holding up. Mohican really did a number on his feet looking, literally, like someone took a blow torch to them, and now the skin newly healed, would it hold up to 31 miles so soon?
Near Boston Store again, I was pumped full adrenaline when a girthy black rat snake decided to move from his trail-side coiled slumber and traverse the trail right in front of me. I screamed and I swear, that snake jumped a little bit. I don't know who was more scared from the encounter. Probably him. I passed a few runners after this and they said they saw him too, sitting there coiled up on the trail side.
On the return trek, I was surprised I was passing so many people. This really hasn't happened to me before as I generally slow down and get passed, but I felt like I was holding a pretty steady pace. I passed a young woman that had obviously taken a bad spill, her shoulder and side covered in trail dirt. I asked if she hurt herself. We ran along for awhile and she said that while she ran the Burning River 100 last year and never fell once, she'd fallen twice today. I had taken several near trips, myself, and blamed it on the filtered light landing on the trails. It has a way of making the forest floor two dimensional, like bad casino carpet, flattening out the roots and rocks and then, bam...trip. If I'm going to pass someone on the trails, I announce it, so I don't scare them, but I scared one of the Grunt Girls pretty bad anyway. She said I run very quietly. We talked for about a half mile. This was her first 50K. She said she wasn't feeling very good. I told her the bad patches come and go...just try to ride it out. She was thinking about Coke at Snowville. Coke at Snowville sounded really good.
Once you get to Snowville, you know you're going to finish...there's nowhere to drop after this so you're stuck. Mark C. fixed me up real good this time by dumping ice water over my head. This was about as exhilarating as seeing the snake on trail, but better because Mark is much better looking. Beth T. was sitting on a chair, her kids and husband doting on her and getting ready to tackle those last 5 miles. I thought it was the sweetest thing and was just, a tad, envious of her close family support. She's a very lucky lady and deserves every bit of it!
These last miles are always the toughest, but this section is awful...many muddy areas and fallen logs and meadow like stretches where no respite from the blazing sun, I had to stop and walk or suffer heat stroke. I was running alone. I knew a guy named Bob was just ahead. We had been leap frogging one another now for miles. Then, I heard what I swore was a sound like a large hissing cat. I was afraid to look in the direction of the sound and kept moving. Could it have been a weird sounding bird, a startled raccoon, a bobcat? Oh Lord, this run needed to be over, then I came upon Nick B. sitting on a log. His adductor was screaming, but he still had his camera poised to get pictures. I said goodbye and headed up the next horrible hill. At this point, running the flats was nothing, but walking the hills took almost everything out of me. I braced my quads, and once at the top, my heart pounding, I had to stop a few seconds to get my heart rate down. This race needed to be over.
With only two miles to go, I felt my right IT band start to stab. I figured it would rile up at some point during the race and I was very glad I made it this far with no trouble. The last mile was on roads...I had fallen in with a fellow named Rob. He was just as spent as I was, but when I stopped, he stopped, which made me feel bad, so with the finish line in sight, I started running again so he'd start running, and we kicked it up and finished strong. My time wasn't as good as last year, but the heat made this an entirely different animal. I finished 7:43. I was darned happy and considered it a fine day in the office. Debi came in around 8, winning an age group award. We heard Bob was struggling horribly with the blisters, after all. I knew he'd keep pushing forward. That man doesn't quit for nothing. He's so awesome. I laid in the grass and waited. I couldn't think of a better way to spend a day. The Farley's did great. Hope met her goal as expected and had to whisk herself away to a much deserved vacation. I can't say enough about this sport and how it draws people together...makes us more forgiving...and loving...and accepting of ourselves and each other. I wish I could I put it in words, but I haven't been able to figure out how to do it, what running means to me. I think I have over 400 post about running and still haven't figured it out. Fabulous day.