Saturday, July 14, 2012. The 223rd anniversary of the storming of the Bastille. My niece’s fourteenth birthday. AND the day I rocked ultra numéro deux…in purple and green glory.
If you’ve been reading my blog for more than twenty minutes or – better yet – if you’re lucky enough to know me IRL, you may have noticed that I enjoy festive occasions that allow one to dress up for a theme or in costume. (If you missed the fun, check out my posts on Dirty Love, CLE 26.2, St. Malachi, or last year’s Pirate Tri for a sampling!) That being said, it should come as no shock to learn that I spent the entire week before the Buckeye Trail 50K planning my race ensemble. My original plan of bleu, blanc, and rouge in honor of the French national holiday went out the window when Vertical Runner blinded me with the newest (and brightest) calf sleeves on the market. Add to that Brooks Epiphany shorts, a polka dotted Lululemon Cool Racerback (worth the $42, I swear!), and a pair of purple SmartWool socks already in my arsenal, and I was one coordinated runner number 127. Oh, and despite the Twitter criticism I received Friday night from my Running BFF (“Gosh…I thought you were an ultra runner”), I also painted my nails to match.
Okay, enough about clothes. Let’s talk racing.
The BT50K was a huge deal for me because I felt like it was the first race I ran truly solo from start to finish – from picking a training plan and deciding on race day strategy to seeking out long run buddies and planning my fuel…for every other big race I’ve run I’ve had a training partner to lean on, learn from, and run with. This training cycle I did run with a sweat-load of new people, asked a lot of questions, and even made it out for a sponsored training run, but overall I felt that this time, sink or swim, it was all me.
Seeing that it was “all me,” I actually drove myself to the race. AND got there early. [Pigs fly every May in Cincinnati, remember?]
The Buckeye Trial 50K started at 7:00 at the Oak Grove picnic area in the Brecksville Reservation, part of the CLE Metroparks. The BT50K course is an out-and-back that follows part of the Buckeye Trail, a 1,400+ mile trail that winds around our great state and is marked with blue blazes. The portion that the 50K runs on – Oak Grove to Snowville to Boston Store to Pine Lane and back – is mostly single track with eight stream crossings, eight road crossings, 2,500+ feet of elevation change, and enough rocks and roots to make a girl stumble at least a dozen times (but only fall once).
No one negative splits the BT50K. Everyone goes out too fast and dies on the second half. (Well, maybe not everyone, but a LOT of people.) I was determined to take it easy on the first 25K, then amp up the effort on the way back if I had any steam left (ha!). I started the race with one of my Outrun buddies, now forever known to me as Shirtless Mike, who said he was also taking it easy. However when my GarGar beeped way too early for mile one, I realized that our definitions of “taking it easy” were not quite the same. I backed off, letting Mike shuffle off ahead of me at his “easy pace,” not to be seen again until we were both in double digit mileage and he passed me on his way back from Pine Line, jumping in the air and offering me a familiar smile and a welcome hug.
I ran alone for a lot of the race, joining up with small groups here and there for a mile or two, chatting about training plans, fuel choices, and Boston dreams, learning names and shoe preferences, and even debating the pros and cons of the casino downtown (which caused me to lose focus, trip, and hit the ground in a face-foward slide at mile 9.48). I’d forge ahead or fall behind, left only with my thoughts and the pounding of my feet. The winning runner passed me at mile 12.4, and an unexpected familiar face turned up along the path around mile 13.5. I walked the hills and ate a banana, grabbed some Swedish Fish, and filled my water bottle at every aid station. I heard the sound of a cow bell once and my name six times. I ate 5 peanut butter Gus, fizzed away 5 Nuun tablets, smiled for five cameras, and mourned the absence of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches exactly five times. I also whined about photographer Pat Dooley’s location for the photo op below, which was right at the top of a hill. In the pic on the left, I am walking. I then noticed the camera and immediately started fake running, producing the oh-so-realistic picture on the right. In his own words, “I busted everyone. Nobody ran up that hill.”
Here are some more goodies from Snowville Road, also taken by Pat Dooley.
Some of you will think I’m insane, but I felt amazing for most of the race. The only low points I remember are a heaviness at mile 18.8 and feeling mentally fried for a half mile or so right before the Snowville aid station (around mile 25). The last two miles – of course – felt like twenty. I stubbed the second toe of my right foot so many times I lost count (lazy feet), and my poor little right pinky toe was squished and unhappy, even in the generous toe box of my Saucony Xodus 2s. I probably felt the absolute worst from mile 30-31, which was the final climb of the day. I found my smile soon after, as spectators lined a quick trip down the pavement towards the finish line, along with the sweetest medal ever, my sister and nephew, and rest for my weary toes.
Everything felt good when I crossed the finish line EXCEPT for my right pinky toe and both of my hamstrings. After devouring every last piece of watermelon left on the caterer’s table, I wobbled over to the massage area and sat on the grass with sad puppy dog eyes until it was my turn. Ed from Suburban Physical Therapy and I chatted about compression sleeves, myofascial release, cycling, and my not stretching problem as he erased about three hours of hills from my hammies…after which I returned to the caterer’s table for veggie pasta and a giant piece of Tiramisu.
Looking back, I am ecstatic about my showing at the BT50K. I met my goals of running a smart race, finishing strong, and smiling the whole way, and I ended up with a time to be proud of. I realize how ridiculously awesome it is that my body allows me to pound it into the trail for six and a half hours straight. I am continuously surprised at how quickly it recovers – today I biked 13 miles and rocked through an hour of combos and sparring at boxing – and am thankful every day for the strength that I have. I am amazed at what my body and mind can do.
Running is a gift, even when it hurts.
PROS: weather that was a gift from God, great parking, no line at the women’s bathroom before the race (suckaaz), familiar faces (planned and otherwise) along the course, no deer flies or ticks, Swedish Fish at every aid station, an out and back course, fingernail polish that coordinates with your new calf sleeves, only falling once, smiles, playful banter, shirtless Shaughnessy, super sweet race swag (shirt and medal <;3), and hamstring rubdowns by Suburban Physical Therapy followed by tiramisu at the finish.
CONS: no PB&J as promised and having to drive myself home.
STATS: 6:21:07 (splits of 2:57 and 3:24); 70/144 overall, 8/16 in my age group
OH! Now is also the perfect time to showcase my new(ish) medal rack, hand-crafted and engraved by one of the coolest dudes around, Eric, and painted by yours truly!