Race InfoLocation: Alum Creek State Park, Lewis Center, Ohio
Date: Sunday, January 8th, 2017
Distances: 10k, 20k, 30k, 40k, 50k
Last year I attempted the 50k in January. I made it two loops (20k) and was starting my third loop. I am not a winter runner. I began running when I moved to Arizona so I had little experience with winter running. I moved back in the summer of 2015, so the 2016 Rocks and Roots race weather was pretty foreign to me. I had read to run in wool socks in winter and was still trying to master layering. There was high water and many stream crossing in 2016, and my feet were just plain cold. Less than a mile into my third loop I decided I was too cold to go on and turned back to drop. I had only ran 2 ultras at that point in time and both were in temperatures of 60-70 degrees. I felt defeated. It took me several months to truly get over as my first ever DNF.
This year I almost didn’t sign up for the series. I was thinking of trying new races instead and the price for the series had gone up by $10 over the year. I thought I would just volunteer instead. Eventually I decided that I needed to conquer the series for good and signed up for redemption.
After DNFing the prior year I dropped $60 on breathable, waterproof socks from SealSkinz. There are numerous cheaper alternatives but I wasn’t able to find good enough reviews at the time to buy a cheaper equivalent. I trained in them by jumping in a stream before I logged miles in 2016 and determined they were indeed waterproof and breathable. They ran a little small though, so I should have sized up for when I layer socks. They go up to about my mid-calf, so my legs still would have gotten soaked the prior year, where some of the water crossings were above my knee.
This year I came with better clothing, better layering, and nutritional knowledge. I also got a waterproof drop box after bringing a fabric bag to too many rainy races and everything getting soaked. I was ready!
The weather was in the teens with the wind chill below 0. I knew from prior years that the wind was rough on this course running right next to the lake. I dressed for sub 0 temps in light ski pants, wool socks with the waterproof socks on top, a thermal nike top with a built in neck covering and thumb holes, my MIT rain/windproof jacket, the warmest running gloves I owned, and a balaclava and hat. My drop box contained several extra layers that I did not end up using but included an additional neck covering, my Earn Your Mittens gloves for an additional layer, another tech shirt, and a thick pullover running jacket. I also brought lots of Gatorade diluted in insulated coffee mugs and some extra food.
With the low temperatures, I decided to ditch my pack for this race. I knew how far apart the aid stations were and made it through the February race only carrying a water belt last year, so I knew I would be fine as long as I focused on drinking at every aid station.
I arrived a little early and spent most of my time huddled around the fire with other runners. My toes were already feeling cold, and I was worried because my toes were the main reason I dropped out last year. There were a decent amount of runners at the start of the 30k, 40k, and 50k. I started around mid-pack. The 20k and 10k runners started a bit later in the morning to space out the start.
The first loop went fine, but it took my toes several miles to warm up. Luckily, once they warmed up I didn’t have any issues with them for the rest of the race. We started with the south loop and then ran the north loop. Each loop is 10k. For the 50k I ran the south loop 3 times and the north twice, alternating which loop I ran.
The race started to space out once I started the second loop. 20k runners began to pass me at this point. I was happy to make it to the aid station on this loop. It was pretty far into the loop, about 4 miles or so. The aid station on the north loop was very well stocked with warm soups and multiple other options. Leaving this aid station I was feeling sad I would only pass through twice. The aid station on the south loop did not have any warm food options. Coming into the start/finish following my second loop I was feeling rubbing on my legs from the ski pants I was wearing. I had not ran in them prior to this race (I know, I know) and was now regretting it. I considered changing and putting a pair of leggings underneath to minimize the rubbing, but worried I would overheat. I came into the aid station to put some petroleum jelly on but it was frozen. I tried to use chapstick but that was frozen as well. My nose was running from the cold and was starting to get sore from wiping it on my gloves.
I pushed on to start the third loop. Just one more loop and then I only had to run each loop one more time. The seams of my pants were starting to hurt but I tried to focus on other things. It was so cold I found myself seldomly walking because if I slowed down I started to get cold fast. Now at aid stations I wasn’t seeing peanut butter and jelly anymore. (I later found out it had all frozen.) I ran the last three loops surviving only on frozen gummy bears and sports drink. I found myself hoping that these weren’t those sugar free gummy bears that I’ve heard about.
Finishing up the third loop I was trying to pick up the pace. I was ready to be done. The aid stations were no longer exciting, with barely any food out and water or sports drink due to everything freezing. I noticed that chicken broth and jelly were sitting under the fire. The aid station on the fourth loop was a life saver. I got warm ramen and regrouped. "Only 8 miles!, I thought. Coming in from the fourth loop I felt like all eyes were on me as I entered the start/finish aid station. I’m not sure if they were wondering how I was doing or feeling bad that there wasn’t much they could offer me in terms of food. I drank some half frozen water and grabbed a bunch of gummy bears before running off again.
I admittedly trained pretty poorly for this race, with my longest run in the past month being the Islamorada Half Marathon that I paced in Florida. I told myself I would pick it up on the last loop after passing through the aid station which was about 2-2.5 miles away from the finish. I caught up with a couple of people in this stretch.
I came into the finish and got warm vegetable soup. I stuck around a bit to stretch before jumping back into the car. I put multiple extra layers on. I could finally enjoy the fire!
Final Time: 6:23:36
I finished right about the middle of the pack at 22nd out of 47. This was one of my better 50k times so I was extremely happy with my performance at this one.
Read: Rocks and Roots February Race Report
Race Photos from Cap City Sports Media