Race InfoLocation: Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Peninsula, Ohio
Date: Saturday, January 28th, 2017
Distances: 50k, Marathon, 22 Miles, 18 Miles, Half Marathon
This race was not on my radar until I saw some friends on Facebook discussing a “Super Ultra Weekend.” Curious, I asked what this was and quickly got sucked in. There were two races in CVNP that weekend with multiple distance options. Individuals were trying to finish back to back races, many shooting for back to back 50ks. The weekend overlapped with when I was supposed to move for my job from Cincinnati to Columbus. I quickly switched the move to the prior weekend to open up the weekend for both the Run for Regis 50k and the Winter Buckeye Trail 50k.
It should be noted that I have done back to back road marathons before as part of the Earn Your Mittens Challenge (See Part One: Wisconsin Marathon and Part Two: Kalamazoo Marathon. This made me feel semi confident that I could complete it, however my total time on feet for the two road races was approximately 8 hours 17 minutes, whereas for this race I was looking at 16-18 hours total time on feet for both days.
I woke up at 4:30AM to leave Columbus on Saturday. The race started at 7:30AM, and with a 2 hour drive ahead of me, I was cutting it fairly close. I brought my drop box with many extra layers, gels, hand warmers, and Tailwind. When I arrived I found a heated shelter house and heated bathrooms! What a nice surprise!
I ran with a pack. Despite the below freezing temperatures, I didn’t have any issues with my liquid freezing. (Thank you Tailwind!)
The course consisted of 2 loops. One loop was 4.7 miles long that was completed 3 times. The second loop was 8.4 miles and was ran twice. Loops were alternated. The 8.4 mile section seemed to have more hills, while the shorter 4.7 mile loop had a brief technical section and fewer hills. The 8.4 mile loop had one aid station within the loop, and then there was another aid station at the start/finish for each loop.
The course was muddy. Not awful, but there were several spots where I was up to my ankles in mud.
I started with a group of friends, many who planned to run the following day. We started near the back, full knowing that the real race was going to be tomorrow, and today was just going to be moving slowly and enjoying the miles. I am getting very comfortable running looped courses at this point, so I found myself having to mentally focus on slowing down later into the race where my body was used to speeding up. The familiarity of looped course also seems to help since I know what lies ahead after completing each loop once.
The first two loops we had a solid group of 4-8 runners with us which made the miles pass quickly. One runner had just completed the Appalachian Trail and was running the 50k as his first ever race and ultra!
I fell within the first few miles and landed on my knee. I got up and felt fine, but this knee came back to haunt me during Day 2…
Loop three I started to pick up the pace. A few miles in I realized that I was gaining distance between myself and the group I was running with. I had to remind myself that I was not out here to race myself into the ground on Saturday and put my Sunday at risk. I drove 2 hours north and got a hotel. I put the money and drive time in so I was determined to finish on Sunday.
Upon finishing loop three, the other runners I was with skipped out on the aid station. I needed to stop, so I took my time. I had two laps to catch back up so I was not in a hurry. I ate ramen and peanut butter and jelly squares which in my personal opinion must be a superfoods for ultrarunners, because I always feel refreshed with newfound energy after eating it during a race. Oh, and pizza.
Several miles into loop four I caught back up with the group, and eventually pushed ahead with another runner who was having knee pain but was still going. As we crossed the road over to the final stretch of the loop, the miles were going slowly. I didn’t remember this stretch being so long. My mood was draining at this point. I knew I would finish the last loop, but wasn’t feeling thrilled about it.
To my surprise the other runner I was with decided to continue on and finish the 50k. Suddenly I wouldn’t be running my last loop alone. I felt relieved. We alternated walking hills and running the downhills and flats. We had a good system going of picking after which tree or after what mud patch we would start running again. We played mind games to the finish, not talking much at this point. You climb a long hill before reaching a grassy stretch. At this point I knew we had less than 1.5 miles left. Yes. My mood increased over the last mile as I started thinking of the food that was at the finish and the pizza I would order after the race.
Final Time: 6:53:49
I ate multiple bowls of vegetarian chili at the finish. They also had grilled cheese. From here I hung out for a bit before making my way over to my hotel. I barely lasted 2 hours after that. I took a shower, grabbed Wendy’s, washed my shoes off before Day 2, and started looking at my phone. I couldn’t keep my eyes open so I put half of my Wendy’s meal in the fridge. I woke up on and off the rest of the night due to hunger, and I would eat and stretch some before heading back to bed. I easily got over 12 hours of sleep that night.
Race Report for Day 2: Winter Buckeye Trail 50k
Race Photos from Pat Dooley Race Photography