Race InfoLocation: Yellow Springs, Ohio
Date: May 14th, 2016
The Tie Dye 50k is held by the Ohio River Road Runners Club (ironic because this is a trail race) and is capped at 150 runners. The course for 2016 was redesigned by a local Badwater finisher. It consisted of two loops through John Bryan State Park and Glen Helen Nature Preserve. The course map can be seen here. The elevation map can be seen below:
I woke up early as I had an hour drive from Columbus. Rain was predicted to be on and off all day but had downgraded from thunderstorms previously in the week which was a plus. My drive was in pouring rain and I wondered multiple times why the hell I even left my house in the first place. Did I really want to run all day in this?
By the time I got there it was still raining. I picked up my shirt and bib and sat in my car to avoid the rain. I headed over to the start at 7:25, five minutes before the race start. The rain had stopped just in time. There were some brief pre race announcements about being careful and not breaking your legs and then we were off.
The first few miles were a mix of road, grass, trail, and gravel roads. With the exception of a few mud patches, this was a fast section. Next the course went down a steep set of stairs near the water, where there was plenty of rocks and wet wooden bridges on the way to the river crossing around mile 5. The first wooden bridge I almost slipped on, and the next bridge I completely slipped off the edge onto the trail where all the sharp, pointy rocks were hanging out. That hurt for almost a week following the event. From there, I made a point to walk every single wooden bridge if there was not any sort of traction pad on it. Before making it to mile 5, I saw three other nasty falls with one guy rolling down the hill after he tripped. I was worried he would hit his head on one of the rocks on his way down. Everyone was fine and kept running, but it does prove how rough this section was with the trail being wet from the rain that morning.
The river crossing at mile 5 was probably up to my mid- to high-calf in the deepest spots. From here you followed the river for a while. I was following 2 runners ahead of me with a long line behind me. Eventually we made it to a fork in the trail and were unsure of what direction to go. Neither path was marked because we missed our turn awhile back, adding at most probably 0.5 - 0.75 miles. There were between 10-15 of us who missed the turn. We backtracked and found the turn, which lead up a steep climb to a statue seemingly in the middle of nowhere, wearing Crocs.
From here you ran to the road where the first manned aid station was located. At the aid station there was drop bag access for those who wanted to change socks/shoes after the stream. I wore wool socks and didn't use a drop bag as it wastes a lot of time changing for me and frankly I don't care about my comfort to that extent during a race where temperatures aren't a concern. In the next section you completed a mini loop through the forest to bring you back to the same aid station around mile 10. Compared to the first 5 miles, this section was pretty much a breeze with minor hills and significantly less technical terrain.
After leaving the aid station, you head back into an opening where you can see the start/finish line, which can be tough if you're having a rough day. Luckily, you get to pass the start/finish 3 times during the loop for an added mental challenge to the race.
The worst of the hills were during the last 6 miles of the race with some major switchbacks between miles 10-13. With about a quarter of a mile to go the trail opens up to the start/finish area next to a playground. I ran past the playground and hit MUD. Not just sloppy mud, but shoe-eating, quicksand type mud. I did my best to run through this section while not losing my shoes, which probably looked like a hobble at best.
My first loop took me 3:19:06, putting my in very good shape with the 9 hour cut off. I knew I'd slow down on the hills on the second loop and figured I'd add 30-45 minutes to my lap time for the second loop.
I came into the aid station at the start/finish with 3 other runners. I stuffed my face with some food and grabbed 2 PB&J slices to go and took off. I figured that group would catch up with me at some point. About 3.5 miles into the second loop I was passed by one guy and another runner came up behind me. She stuck around until near the stream crossing where I pulled away and that was the last time I saw another runner for 11 miles.
This last loop was lonely. The previous night I struggled to fall asleep so I was running on a couple hours of sleep and a bad attitude. Maybe it was for the best that I didn't see any other runners… The muddy spots had gotten worse after the foot traffic from the first loop and all the other much faster runners in front of me. Once I got to mile 26 I knew I just had to struggle through the remaining switchbacks and I'd be essentially done.
The switchbacks drove me crazy for the typical reasons of seeming never ending, feeling like you weren't making any forward progress, etc. Then there was a guy in front of me who seemed so close when I looked up the hills but when I turned a corner to a new straightaway he was nowhere in sight. For the rest of the race I was trying to chase down someone who was actually pretty far away from me. I heard many other runners chatting but could never actually see them. I did my best to push on and try to keep my speed through the last loop.
Around mile 29 I thought I was getting close to the finish and was trying to recall landmarks from the first loop. I'd see something and think "Oh, I remember that stump! I must be getting near the playground! It's probably around the next bend." At one point I even thought I heard the sound of swings but after I ran for a while longer I realized I still wasn't close to the playground. I passed hikers who might have thought there was something wrong with me as I was mumbling to myself. Eventually though, I did find the playground and pushed onwards through the shoe-eating, quicksand mud to pass one last runner on the final stretch before the finish. DONE!
The second lap took me 3:47:06 for a final time of 7:06:13
I hung around for a little bit but by the time I got there the pizza was all gone and I needed to get going before the donuts suddenly all disappeared as well.
The previous night, I had set my wallet on the kitchen table to bring with me because I was going to stop for gas on the drive back. (Something I should have done the night before.) I brought everything to my car - shoes, pack, layers, slippers - except for my wallet. Operating on little sleep, I got about 10 minutes from my house before realizing I forgot my wallet and thought, "I don't REALLY need to bring money to a race anyways," and continued driving completely forgetting that the whole reason I set it out the night before was to get gas. Ensue post-race panic when I remembered I needed gas. I paced back and forth considering asking random runners at the finish for cash before calling friends from Columbus to see if they'd bring me gas if I got close to Columbus and ran out. I could have called my insurance company worst case, but I knew what a hassle that would have been. The range on my car was about 20 miles less than the distance Google Maps said it was to my house. I drove ultra-conservatively back to Columbus watching the range on my car fluctuate up and down. By pure luck, I made it back to my house with 46 miles left according to my car's range. That was enough stress for one day.
Course images courtesy of ORRRC Facebook page