I woke up around 5am this morning, got my stuff ready, and then headed over to the Oak Grove Picnic Pavillion, which is the start/finish for the Buckeye Trail 50K. This was the 15th running of this race which has continued to grow each year since its creation. This year there were a record number 185 starters. There were already a decent amount of people parked at Oak Grove when I arrived a little after 6, but not as many early birds as last year. This race is sort of like one big N.E. Ohio trail running party and is always a lot of fun each year since most runners know each other.
Jim Chaney, Me, Jerry Brandt, & Dave Peterman
I pulled in next to my buddy Bruce McMurray who was getting ready outside of his van and talked to him for awhile. This guy named Mark, who I ran the last part of YUT-C with last year, was also parked next to me. Meanwhile, more and more runners continued to arrive, including my pacer from last month's Laurel Highlands 70 Miler, Joe Novicky. He asked me if I had seen Slim (aka Jim Harris) yet and I said no. Jim is another one of our trail friends who began running by himself around 10:30 last night with the plan of running to the start of the BT50K and then finishing the race with everyone to complete a "double Buckeye" - 100K (62 miles). With today's predicted heat, I was very curious to see how his attempt would pan out.
It's been hot and dry all week, making the Buckeye Trail bone dry and the river crossings low. Today's high temp was supposed to be around 85, with a starting temperature around 70. Knowing this, I made sure to wear my Nalgene Radius hydration pack so that I would have ample water whenever I needed it. My plan for the day was to try to beat my summer BT50K PR of 5 hours, 41 minutes, but still be realistic if the heat and humidity got to me during the day. I told my friend Greg Murray yesterday that we'd try to run together since he wanted to finish around the same time as me.
Once I had all my gear ready and my bandana on I headed over to the start line and waited with everyone while Vince (owner of Vertical Runner) gave final race instructions. I saw Jim arrive just before the start and wished him luck in his 100K attempt. Soon we were off and I told Greg that we should run fast to the trailhead so that we don't get stuck in the bottleneck that occurs when 185 runners try to squeeze onto one single track trail. We did get off to a quick start but we ran the first few miles a lot faster than I wanted to. However, I figured the day would only get hotter and we might as well get through some early miles quick to avoid being in the heat longer than we needed to be. I talked to Mike George and Nick Billock along the way, and soon I settled myself into a more reasonable pace. Greg continued to push the pace though and it wasn't long before I realized that I might have to let him go ahead of me.
My plan was to reach the turnaround point (Pine Lane) in about 2 hours and 54 minutes which would put me on pace for a 5:44 finish (3 minutes slower than my PR). I was able to do this and arrived almost right on 2:54. I was happy about this, but my stomach was beginning to get quesy from the heat and my legs/body were beginning to feel the fast pace that I maintained for the first half of the race. At Pine Lane I took about 3 or 4 salt pills and tried to eat some food for energy but just wasn't in the mood too much for solids. My main energy source for today was Clif Shot Bloks which I use at just about every ultra. They're really good in the summer since they almost melt in your mouth and you can eat a bunch of them without feeling like you're going to puke. I have to say that the aid stations were very well manned this year and there were a lot of knowledgable people helping you out with what you needed. Thanks again to Vertical Runner for the great tech shirts that they provided this year and to the many volunteers that helped out, including Brian and Lloyd.
Once I left Pine Lane I began to change my goal for the race from getting a new PR to just finishing. I could tell that a lot of other runners were beginning to struggle though too so I knew that if I just kept pushing on I would finish with a respectable time and place. After leaving Pine Lane there is a big downhill about 3/4ths of a mile down the trail. This is where I saw Jim as he was heading uphill towards the aid station. I was really surprised to see that he was almost at the turnaround point already even with more than 31 miles already completed. This gave me some extra motivation to continue running as much as I could to stay ahead of him. This lasted until I got close to Columbia Rd. where eventually Jim passed me. He looked pretty strong at this point and I told him to make sure to save a beer for me at the finish. After Columbia Rd. my only thought was to get to the Snowville Rd. aid station so that I could dump cold water over my head and body to cool down my core temperature. I was beginning to feel pretty hot and it felt like the world was closing in on me. I knew that I had to keep drinking water and re-fueling to stay out of danger.At the Snowville Rd. aid station I drank a little bit of Coke to try to settle my stomach some and it seemed to help. While I was there I saw another one of my friends, Valerie Watson from Cortland, who was running her first ultra marathon today. She seemed like she was running a smart race and she pulled slightly ahead of me. She would eventually finish with a time of 6:30. From this point on I exchanged places with a lot of runners and carried on many different conversations. We all tried to help motivate each other and keep a positive vibe as the miles seemed to get longer and longer in the heat. At least the sky was mostly overcast today or else everyone might of been in even more trouble.
Eventually I ran into this guy, Doug Delahanty, who is a professor at Kent State, and we ran/walked the majority of the last 5-7 miles together. When we first met I could tell that his spirits were down and I told him that we'd work together to get up these last big hills. This gave him a boost, but it was funny, because later on I was the one feeling sorry for myself and he was the one trying to motivate me. That's the beauty of ultra running... the highs and the lows that every runner goes through.
The last few miles of the summer BT50K always seem to drag on and today was no different. We managed to save up enough gas though to put on a good quarter mile sprint to the finish and I was able to finish 77th out of 156 finishers with a time of 6 hours and 38 minutes. Click Here for the final results and splits.
After the race I enjoyed some delicious food that was prepared by chef and local ultra runner, Bill Bailey, who has a catering business called "Playing with Knives and Fire". I decided to go with the Grilled Chicken Wrap (whole wheat wrap stuffed with cilantro-lime rice, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and grilled chicken) and Barley & Quinoa Salad (barley, quinoa, tomatoes, onion, red peppers, olives, fresh herbs).Overall it was another great day on the trail and I am happy to say that today marks my 18th ultra marathon without any DNF's. This paired up with my 12 marathons gives me a total of 30 completed races of 26 miles or more each. It doesn't seem that long ago when I was considering running my first ultra marathon. Time sure does fly by... Just not when you want it to!