Buckeye Trail 50K Race Report (Gotta love a 1hr 45m PR!)

Friday after work Helen picked me up and we headed up to Brecksville for the Buckeye Trail 50K. We’d made an attempt at the Winter version of the race back in 2006, but a loop course had made it easy for us to cut our attempts short. This course is an out-and-back, so we knew we were in it for the long haul!

We headed out to the Vertical Runners store in Hudson to pick up our race packets, and were really impressed with the store and the town! The RD himself is the one who gave us our race packets, along with some advice tailored to us as relatively newbie city slickers. “Wear bug spray – lots of it. And you’re going to walk up the hills, right?” The store had a fantastic selection: I’d been telling Helen I was a bit concerned that with my camelbak I’d only be able to drink water, but I came across Camelbak elixir, tablets you can place in your resevoir with no mess or residue to worry about. I bought some, and then made sure to try some Friday night to be sure it agreed with me. We ate at a great little restaurant called the Tomato Grill, then made our way to the hotel for a good night’s rest.

Before we knew it, it was 5am and time to get up! I anticipated a warm day, so I made a big decision to just go with a sports bra and my camelbak. I lathered up with sunscreen and bugspray, and put body glide on my lower back where I’d chafed from my camelbak in previous events. I wasn’t sure if it was an ominous sign that my black toenail fell off this morning, even before running! The marathon toaster came through again (and is now decorated with a “BT50K” sticker!) and we headed off for our next great running adventure.

Waiting for the race to start we chatted with a few other participants, and soon enough we were off! I had finished the Crown King Scramble in 8:02 so I told myself I’d be happy coming in sub-7 hours (~13.5mm). I knew we were going at a good clip, but I was definitely concerned when we hit three miles and the people behind me said we were on a sub-10mm pace. However, I was following Helen and in general I felt like we going pretty steady. I was struggling a bit with some heartburn, and couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps that elixir had not been the best idea.

The first water stop was “a long six miles in” according to the RD. Five miles after that we hit Boston Store, which was where the Winter run starts. After that we were to run the 8 mile loop that is also part of the winter run, with the turn around of the loop also being the turn around of the race. I didn’t actually realize we would be running on familiar territory; it was a very pleasant surprise!

The first six miles weren’t overly challenging, but there were several stream crossings (thankfully the water was low and we could jump over) and quite a few hills-with-stairs. It was funny how the group would be running along, and then hit a hill and go completely silent as we trudged up. Before we knew it, we were at the first water stop! I grabbed a salt tablet, a cookie and some water, and we were off again!

Generally in a road race, Helen and I don’t run together-she takes off right away 🙂 In this race, however, we stayed close by each other for quite awhile. At times she would move on ahead, but then I’d tend to catch her on the downhills (she was more prudent, I wanted to save my knees and just let gravity pull me down). Around mile 7, however, I started feeling pretty rough. We were running on a flat section, and I felt pretty sluggish. As well, my left knee had started to hurt on a couple of the hills. I actually thought about turning around, and then I realized that walking in an ultra isn’t quitting, so I may as well just keep going forward rather than back. 🙂 I popped an extra-strength tylenol and negotiated with myself to see how that worked.

It was not long at all until I realized how much better I felt. I think it was a combination of the salt tablet and the tylenol. My heartburn had gone away, and the 1300ft ascent we’d been through on miles 4-6 was over with 🙂 I also noticed that in addition to the official manned water stops, there were plenty of places en route that had unmanned gallons of water for the race. I was very impressed by the support. I was also relieved that the hot sun I’d been dreading never appeared. It was humid, certainly, but in the shade of the trees, my sunglasses stayed on top of my head for most of the day.

As I mentioned, I was pleasantly surprised when we arrived at Boston Store for our second stop. I grabbed another salt tablet, some M&Ms and a quarter PB&J. My skin was salty, so I tried to be very careful to be sure I was replenishing my electrolytes. We also headed over to REAL bathrooms, having not been impressed with those at the starting line. (permanent outhouses are the worst!)

Then we were off to a familiar part of the course, as it was a loop I’d run twice during the Winter Buckeye Trail run. As we ran, we’d chat with other runners—I don’t know if it’s the distance or what, but trail runners tend to just seem more friendly! Groups of runners would bunch together to climb over logs or cross streams, and then spread out, only to regroup again. About 2:25 into the race, the leader came barreling by us on his way back. It was believed he was going to come in at about 4 hours. Wow!

As the race continued, I found that as I’d pass Helen on the downhills, it was taking longer for her to catch me again. I realized that I really liked the more technical parts of the race, where you had to watch your footfalls over roots, than the flat sections. I really felt like I was getting stronger as time went on (as it was, my heart rate was highest for the first two miles 179/180 and never got up there again). I reached the half way point a bit ahead of her, but she arrived as I was getting my camelbak refilled. Yes, at these races you are treated like a star by the volunteers. You arrive and are asked what you want. Someone takes your water bottle or camelbak from you and refills it with what you need. There is a great spread of sandwiches, pretzels, trail mix, gu and chips. I grabbed another salt tablet, and then Helen and I headed out. My watch read 3:00 exactly as we started back on the second half of our adventure. Helen seemed to think this meant 6 hours was attainable. I wasn’t so sure about that, but I did feel good about how we’d been doing.

The first downhill hit and I was off, and I didn’t see Helen again until 16 miles later.

As I’d mentioned, I was feeling strong. Stronger than many, apparently. From miles 16 – 25, I spent much more of my time passing others than being passed. People were now sufficiently spread out that there were no longer the big trains of runners to get by: it was a single runner here or there.

At Boston Store on the way back, Rick came up to me. He had come up from Columbus as well to run, but the day before had given himself permission to drop out if he wasn’t feeling strong. Sure enough, he told me that he had withdrawn from the event. While it was too bad, I was glad that he was being conscious of his limits. At this stop I thought I’d try some coca-cola, which was warm and gross. Then I headed off to get this thing done!

Right past the store I caught up with the group that had mentioned our 10 min pace back at mile 3. I’m not sure how I hadn’t seen them until now; perhaps we had crossed at water stops or something. I caught up with them and ran with them for a bit, until I realized they were really doing much more walking then running. Soon enough I passed them to keep my pace going.

I had a bit of a scare at mile 20.5, when I tripped and stumbled forward onto the ground. My entire right side was covered in dirt, but thankfully I didn’t actually hurt myself at all! I just jumped up and kept going. I’m glad it was nothing more serious, for that last 10 miles would have seemed very, very long!

Whereas in the Crown King Scramble I walked and ate a lot, I was really on a faster clip for this race and probably wasn’t refueling to the extent I could have been. I grabbed a few gus over the race, but not a ton. As the event got longer, I was conscious that I didn’t want to crash. I pulled out my trail mix and ran en route. However, it wasn’t terribly convenient to get to; next time I will ensure I have gu within arms’ reach.

I think it was around mile 25 when I found myself…slowly….slowing. While I was still doing a fair amount of running (I saw plenty of people primarily walking), there were some times when I could have been running, and didn’t. My greatest motivation was just wanting to be done 🙂 At some point I realized that if I pulled in 11mm for the last few miles, I could finish in less than 6 hours. However, I knew I’d be happy with 6:20, so I wasn’t sufficiently motivated to push myself.

I did stop at an unmanned water station (a volunteer was standing by, but it wasn’t full service). As I pulled my camelbak off, he mentioned how red my back was. He actually said it looked like a sunburn, but we both knew it was chafing. Ever since I’d taken my pack off at the half-way point, I’d felt it bouncing around a bit. I suspect that any body glide that had been protecting me (and I hadn’t put it on my whole back) had been sweated off. I was in much better shape that some others, however. At one point a runner in front of me got a leg cramp just as he crawled over a log. Later I came across a runner sitting beneath a tree. I asked if I could help and he asked if I had any salt. I was happy to have a gu to share, and even happier to see him later at the finish; he’d made it in all right.

Finally I saw a sign “1.7 miles to go!” The time on my watch was 5:56 so I did a half-hearted attempt at math, before accepting that I would be happy with my time no matter what. The last half mile or so was out of the woods and there were plenty of folks around, so I wanted to finish strong. As the finish clock came into view, I realized it said 6:15:xx and I realized that 6:15:xx was a WAY better finish time than 6:16 so I really threw every last ounce of energy into it to cruise across the finish. Official results aren’t posted yet, but my garmin says 6:15:46.

The food at the end was plentiful, if not exactly to my liking. I sat and relaxed as I waited for Helen to come in. I had my camera ready and was surprised to see her walking at the end. It turns out she’d fallen as well, but at mile 30. She hadn’t been as fortunate as I was, and had scrapes and bruises. As well, her leg had cramped up after the fall, so she was really struggling.

There was no running water at the finish, so we did our best to clean up with towels and water from bottles. Evidently my back is covered with blisters from my camelbak, and as I pulled off my sock I realized the toenail that had fallen off this morning had a jagged edge. I pulled the edge, and Helen looked over just as two big drops of blood fell from my toe onto the road. Ew.

Eventually we were as cleaned up as we could be, and we headed back to Columbus. We made one much-needed starbucks stop, but I was beat! I’m thankful Helen was driving, because I think I may have even dozed off on the ride home.

Today I’m relaxing a bit. My legs are a bit sore going up and down the stairs, and my back has neosporin slathered on it, but other than that, I feel great! I love this running stuff!

Less than a month til the Edmonton ING Marathon – #20!