Race InfoLocation: Alum Creek State Park, Lewis Center, Ohio
Date: Sunday, February 12th, 2017
Distances: 10k, 20k, 30k, 40k, 50k, 50 mile
Last year I finished the February race as my first 50 miler (and third ultra!). I had some nutrition issues which I now chalk up to inexperience that lead me to be very spacey and mentally cloudy the last few loops. I was still in my marathon mindset of occasionally taking a gel every several miles and ignoring most of the food at the aid stations. BIG mistake. But I survived it.
This year I was planning to race the 50 miler as a training run as part of my schedule for Georgia Death Race. I was feeling confident with my training but knew that the weather would be the determining factor. As the date came closer the weather brought good and bad news. Warmer weather but rain and thunderstorms Saturday through the night and ßinto the morning on Sunday. For a course that is historically muddy, I knew this would mean thick mud and high stream crossings.
This was the second race of the Rocks and Roots Trail Series for 2017. Part one can be found here.
Knowing I might be chasing cut offs, I calculated the time I needed per loop. I assumed if I could maintain a 2:20 time per 10k loop I would be in good shape. It was raining for the first loop and it was pitch dark. The rain made it difficult to see through the dim light of my headlight. Fortunately, there were enough people in front of me to follow along. I finished the first loop around 2:16, much closer to my worst case time per loop than I was hoping for.
I had just finished the south loop and next up was the north loop. In the past the north loop has been a little lighter on the mud so I was hoping to make up some time on this loop. The north loop also has the best aid station with HOT food options. I planned to fill up extra at this aid station each loop to consume some food besides candy. Despite all my extra effort on this loop, I didn’t come in significantly faster.
I finished my second loop and tried to cut time where I could at my aid station stop. Not much food was ready at the start/finish at this point because all of the other runners (10k-50k) had just started. The volunteers opened a bag of pretzels for me at my request and I was off. I was still feeling ok at this point. I started the south loop and quickly found that the mud was getting worse with all of the runners that had gone through by this time. I kept up a run as much as I could. The mud tried to pull me back with every step. This mud was worse than the mud I had nightmares about over the past year from Rocks and Roots 2016. Anytime I found myself running in sloppy mud in 2016 I thought back to the 50 mile the prior year where I was completely drained, hallucinating, and running in the dark without my glasses. Good times…
During the third loop my right knee started to hurt. I fell on it 2 weeks prior at Run for Regis and had been having issues with it on and off since. This race was not my goal race for 2016 and my knee was making me nervous. I hoped it would go away in a short time but the mud had other plans. I slowed down significantly on this loop trying to keep my knee happy. This was the point where I started doubting the outcome of the day.
I considered dropping after this loop. If I injured my knee I would set back all of my progress I had made through the winter season and put a potential GDR finish at risk. Negative thoughts took over. I convinced myself to start the 40k loop and see if it improved. I knew if I finished 40k that I could pull myself through 50k.
On the next loop I toyed with the idea of just going until I got cut off. I knew it was likely I would miss the 70k cut off at this point. Now the internal debate was between seeing what I could do or picking the conservative route and giving my knee time to rest up. I decided to make my decision on the 5th loop.
The wheels were coming off during the 5th loop. While my knee was once a minor irritant it was now a sharp consistent pain. I was slowing down much more than I had hoped for and the pain was getting worse.
My mind wandered to memories of my prior knee injury. Two years after I started running I had the idea of racing two half marathons a month apart. During the first half marathon, sharp knee pain appeared 5 miles in but pushed myself to finish the slowest road half ever. Through the next month lingering knee soreness and pain plagued training. The second half was completed in a decent time with no major knee issues until the next morning. My knee was stiff, swollen, and in serious pain. Stairs became a major issue.
After was all said and done, I had to take 8 months off of running and go to PT. My body was trying to warn me and I didn’t listen. Those 8 months were not fun: I sat around depressed as all of my friends ran in the beautiful Tucson weather. Now I don’t joke around with aches and pains. Back at the race, I tried to look at the bigger picture and realize that a hit to my pride today would put my knee in a better place tomorrow. I called it and took my 50k finish.
Final Time: 8:01:59
In the several days following the race I didn’t regret my decision as I was still dealing with lingering knee issues. I took the week easy with no impact planned until the weekend. I spent time elevating and icing my knee hoping for the best.
While I still believe I made the right decision, I am a bit frustrated with the Rocks and Roots course. In 2016, I finished 20k in January and 50 miles (or 80k) in February for a total of 100k. This year I completed both 50ks for a total of 100k. That being said, this year I also completed back to back 50ks in January. So while I have improved as a runner over the past year, I can’t help but feeling like I still have unfinished business with this course.
Read: Rocks and Roots January Race Report
Some Race Photos from Cap City Sports Media