This morning my friend Dan Kuzma from Ravenna drove over to my apartment and we carpooled to the Oak Grove Picnic Pavillion in Brecksville for the start of the 13th Annual Summer Buckeye Trail 50K. This was my 2nd Summer BT50K I believe. The last time I ran this race in the summer was in 2005 when I ran a 5:41.
When we arrived at the Oak Grove picnic area at 6:30am we were surprised to see that almost all the parking spaces were taken. This was primarily due to the fact that the BT50K set a record attendance this year with 175 registered runners (its race limit). This run has been growing in size ever since its inauguration in 1994, both because of the increased populariy of trail running and because of the good race organization by Vince and his running store in Hudson. Before the race start I went over to the pavillion and talked to Kim, Jim and his son, Heath. Today Heath, now known as "Pinball", (16 yrs. old) was running in his first 50K trail race. He would eventually have an amazing race and would finish in just under 5 hours. After chatting with them for a bit I took a few safety pins for my race number and went back to my car to get all my gear ready. I put on my new waist pack that I bought for the race, my GPS watch, and my bandana... now it was showtime.
Dan and I walked over to the start where runners were now gathering and talked to a few people. Vince, the race director, said a few words and then like every ultra marathon you knew the race was starting because people were beginning to move forward. No megaphones or loud announcements... just friendly conversation and the sound of trail shoes hitting the ground to begin another day of fun in the woods! Dan and I had lined up in the back of the pack which was probably good because we most likely would've been pulled out by the leaders if we were in the front of the pack. We both said that we should try to run conservatively through the first half of the race until the turn around point. As we continued on the trail though we felt good and continued passing people. This led to us running faster and faster until we eventually had to tell each other to slow down a bit. We passed through the first aid station quickly.. only taking a few seconds to fill up our water bottles. We did the same at the Boston Store aid station.
Dan and I (front) heading up another staircase on the Buckeye Trail
Once we headed back on the trail towards the Pine Lane turnaround point, I could tell that Dan was still moving good and in better shape than I was so I told him that if he wanted to leave me then he could. Around that time he picked up the pace and besides seeing him as he headed past me on the way back, that was the last time I saw him until the finish. I could tell I was slowing up some but still moving at a decent pace so I just made it my goal to get to the aid station at Pine Lane and fuel up for the trek back to Brecksville. As we headed into the section of trail where there are pine trees on both sides of you and numerous roots on the ground, Roy Heger came up from behind me and we chatted for a bit. He is an amazing ultra runner and well known in the N.E. Ohio ultra running community. I met him for the first time at an afterparty following the Cleveland FA 50K in December of 2004 and was amazed to hear some of his stories. I continued on and eventually got to the turnaround point where one runner told me as he left the aid station... "They're giving away new legs up there!" That made me laugh... At the aid station I filled up my water bottle, took a handfull of trail mix, some gummy bears, and a couple handfulls of M&M's. Then I headed back onto the trail. Everything was fine until that last handfull of M&M's when I felt my stomach get more and more upset, eventually throwing up for a second on the trail. This could've been caused either by not eating enough early on in the race, the rising heat of the day, dehydration, etc. etc. I tried to start running again but still felt nauseous so I stopped and continued walking. After doing this a few times I realized that the day was suddenly going to become a lot longer than I expected. As runners passed me I started to mentally prepare myself that I may have to run/walk the last 13-14 miles. And that is what I did... I tried to run the flat sections and the downhills but the majority of the 2nd half of the race I walked. The good thing, however, was that it was a perfect day weatherwise - sun/clouds, mid 70s with a strong cool breeze - and the trail was bone dry. So I just tried to make the best of the situation and kept on moving forward.
Still giving a thumbs up while drinking water
When I reached the Boston Store aid station again on my way back I talked to Kim, who was helping to volunteer, and she asked me if I needed anything. I told her jokingly that I needed a ride back to the finish. After some aid and a few laughs, I continued on and headed up the steep hill next to the Boston Mills Ski Resort. At this point I felt like singing this song to myself - Click Here. Each mile seemed to drag on and on... and looking at my GPS watch every tenth of a mile wasn't helping the matter! Finally I got to the last aid station where the volunteers told me that I only had 6 miles until the finish. I looked down at my watch though and saw that I still needed 7 miles until the finish and questioned them, but then realized that the tree cover on the trails must have thrown off the accuracy of my GPS watch slightly. Even though I only had 1 less mile to run than I thought I did, this seemed to lift my spirits and I ended up running a lot more of the trail than I was previously. I was also happy to see that with only 6 miles to go, my watch said I had been running for 5 hours, which wasn't too bad.
The last 5 miles or so of the Buckeye Trail 50K always seems to take forever no matter how you are feeling and today was no exception. Finally, as I came out of the woods and onto the road that leads to the finsh area at Oak Grove I saw my friend Dan Kuzma waiting and he ran in the last stretch of road with me. I thought that was very kind of him, especially since he had finished over an hour before me in a personal best time of 5 hours and 19 minutes. On the final stretch to the finish I actually turned on a pretty good kick and sprinted in with a time of 6 hours and 34 minutes.
That was great! Let's do it again!