Last night I stayed at my parent's house in Warren so I'd have a shorter drive to Youngstown this morning. My brother Jeff and I still had to wake up around 5:45 though so we could get ready and be in Mill Creek Park at 7:00 to meet my friend Dan Kuzma. When we arrived at Fellows Riverside Gardens we noticed the parking lot was locked (it opens at 8:00 I guess) but we saw that Jim Harris and Kurt Osadchuk had parked their cars on the street outside of the gate. Shortly after we arrived Dan showed up and suggested that we park our cars down by the Old Log Cabin so we don't get ticketed. I figured it was a good idea to be on the safe side and since this area is part of the course anyways we headed downhill, parked, and got ready.
We decided not to bring any food, water, etc. with us for the first loop since it's possible to stop back at your car after each 8 mile loop. When we started running shortly after 7:00 it was still somewhat dark, but light enough to see what we were doing on the trails.
The temperature was around the freezing mark when we began and gradually warmed up into the upper 30's with mostly cloudy skies. Click Here for today's weather. With the combination of snow melt from the last winter storm and freezing temperatures in the evening we weren't too sure what to expect but figured that the trails would be pretty tricky, so of course I wore my screwed shoes for added traction.
We began running the trails on the west side of Lake Glacier and could immediately tell that we'd have to pay special attention to our footing. The trails had less solid ice and were definitely more runable than last year's Covered Bridge FA 50K, but today we had to deal with every possible trail factor - snow, ice, slush, mud, and standing water.
Snow on the ground near the Lily Pond
The river was gushing with water today due to all the rain and snow melt we've had recently and the waterfalls were definitely a sight to see...
The first loop was very conversational and I enjoyed talking with Dan since I hadn't seen him for quite awhile. We thought we'd run into "Slim" Jim and Kurt "O-Pod" shortly after we began but then realized that we should've started off running the loop on the east side of Lake Glacier since they parked their cars close to the trail on the west side. We knew we'd run into them though once they turned around at the Rose Garden and began their 2nd loop. Sure enough we ran into Jim around Pioneer Pavillion, just after talking to Kim. He informed us that Bob, who was in town this weekend from San Diego, would not be able to make it due to some family issues. After the run I called Bob and found out that he was visiting his grandpa who is in pretty bad shape. I was sorry to hear this since another one of my friends, Mike Keller, had lost his mother to lung cancer during the week and was also unable to attend our run today.
In honor of Mike's mom, Dan, Jeff, and I ran a mile in silence today which started at mile 14 and continued until we reached our car again at the halfway point. During this time it was very silent and I reflected on all the important people in my life and those that are closest to me. Later on in the run when I was getting really tired I thought about what Mike and his family must be going through during this difficult time and it made all of my pain seem very minuscule in the scheme of things.
Once we passed Jim, we ran into Kurt on the trail. We talked to him some and then met up with Frank Dwyer. So, in total we had 7 local ultra runners participating in today's free event. After the 2nd loop I made sure to load up on fuel since I knew the 3rd loop would be a battle. My stash of goodies in my car consisted of Clif Bars, Clif Shot Bloks, Pure Fuel Energy bars, a couple apple cinnamon Powerbar Harvest bars, a few E-Caps, and some chocolate chunk Giant Eagle cookies.. my favorite! I also had a large bottle of water and "Glacier Freeze" Gatorade.
The third loop was more of a struggle for us as we became increasingly tired. The uphills and downhills (especially the infamous "monkey trail hills") were getting more slick as everyone traveled over the same areas multiple times.
There were also a lot of tricky spots that required a lot of attention, where we had to run right next to where the trail dropped off into the water. This was caused by sloped snow banks that were frozen solid next to us.
As we got close to the Covered Bridge at Lanterman's Mill (turnaround point) Jeff had some extra energy and decided to run ahead of Dan and I and then wait for us back at our car. On the second half of the 3rd loop Dan and I started power walking a lot more and made it a point to just get back to my car to refuel for the 4th and final loop. Thanks for sticking with me Dan and giving me someone to chat with!Once we got back to the car Jeff had been sitting for around 20 minutes, so we hurried up, got what we needed, and hit the trail again. We were all dreading the fourth loop though, as our bodies began to ache more and more. In fact, we walked almost the entire 8 mile loop... but there was no backing down now. The trail was becoming really sloppy as the temperatures warmed up and we were really looking forward to finishing. After rounding Lanterman's Mill for the last time we knew we were on our way home. We ran into Kim again near Pioneer Pavillion as she was starting her last loop. Great job on sticking it out and finishing Kim! We talked with her for awhile and she told us about this energy gel that she tried for the first time today called Lava Bar. I guess it's basically melted down chocolate inside of a normal gel packet. She seemed to really enjoy it so now I might have to try one too! Click Here to read her report on this product.
We arrived back at our car in a finishing time of 8 hours and 55 minutes. A lot longer than I thought we'd be out on the trail for, but I'm glad that we toughed it out and finished all 31 miles.