Dawg gone that was a long run!
Early on Saturday morning, just after 3:30am, I started my trip south…first to meet one of two companion runners for the day, then on to Caesar’s Creek State Park, located about a 90 minute drive southwest of Columbus, OH. He was driving, and thank goodness! I’d managed a 3 solid hours of sleep the night before. Pretty normal for me prior to a big race. And this was big. My first 50 miler!
I’ll admit the Dawg Gone Long Run (DGLR), hosted by ORRRC, wasn’t in my original race plan for the year. I HAD planned on pacing during the Mohican Trail 100 two weeks prior. When my runner decided to drop to the 50mi distance, thereby eliminating the need for a pacer, I was out of a job. And yes, I likely could have picked up another runner to pace, but my lack of experience made me more nervous. Add in the hand injury from a few weeks prior, and I didn’t know how much help I could really be to a stranger. In the end, I chose to volunteer all day (and night…and the next morning) at the Covered Bridge Aid Station, and learned some invaluable lessons from that experience. I was also able to see many folks I know press on, dig deep, and finish a great race…one I’ll be adding to my schedule for the future.
So here I was, fully prepared to run 50 miles (or so I thought), without a race in sight. My next big event occurs in September, and is a completely different monster. A friend suggested DGLR, and it seemed perfect: timing, terrain, and distance all fit the bill. I stalled as long as possible to register, but I finally I pulled the trigger. 50 miles. I couldn’t get my head around the distance.
Caesar’s Creek is a great place to run. The course was just shy of 17mi of single track, the self-proclaimed “best single track in Ohio.” The trail was normally very runnable, save a few hills and the nauseating stairs (running down stairs at varying depths throws off your equilibrium). There were a few road sections, mainly to cross over the Lake, and a couple boat launch access roads. The last 6 miles of the loop were the most technical with roots and a few short but steep climbs, but the rest was mainly smooth, rolling hills. There was one true creek around mile 1.5 of the loop, which we crossed three times. On the first loop you barely got your feet wet as there are flat rocks you could use to cross. By loop 2, it was ankle deep. On loop three, I was wet to mid calf. But by then I didn’t care. I contemplated sitting in the creek for a minute, but feared I wouldn’t stand up. A valid concern after nearly 35 miles.
There were two manned Aid Stations: the first was located at approximately mile 9, and the start/finish area served as the second. They were stocked with typical trail/ultra foods including PB&J, cookies, pretzels, pickles, watermelon, oranges, plus water and gatorade. Sadly, not a banana nor a potato in sight (good thing i brought my own). Three unmanned water stations filled in the gaps: mile 3, 6, and 14.5. The race crew was wonderful at keeping these jugs full of water and ICE! What a lift you can get from a few sips of ice-cold water.
I need a plan? Remember this was my first 50 mile run. The longest single run I had completed recently was a 50k (~31mi). The longest ever was last September, and that wasn’t much further (60k or ~37mi). I didn’t know what would happen after that!
I had two friends agree to run along with me which was a life saver. First off, they did all the driving. Don agreed to drive down and run the first loop before heading back to Columbus. Doug would meet us there, run the 2nd and 3rd, then drive us home. What a blessing! Pre-race I was a bundle of nerves. Post-race my legs were twitching and my brain was fuzzy. They didn’t so much keep me to a pace, but rather provided companionship for what would otherwise be a long, lonely day. In fact, I carried my iPod the entire 50 miles, but never turned it on. A true testament to great friends. I was in charge of the pace, and carried my own fuel and water always…save twice asking Doug to “hold my banana” so I could get situated. Thanks buddy! 🙂
The second part of the plan involved the miles themselves. There was no way I could comprehend running 50 miles. Now 10 miles? That I could handle. So I ran five 10milers. And celebrated each one at completion.
We also celebrated a few other milestones along the way:
Don’s trail Half Mary.
My longest single run time-on-feet at 8:30
My longest single run distance at 38mi
Doug’s longest single run distance at 32mi
And the plan mostly worked. Sure…I had a few dark miles…mostly in the 40s, but I expected that. Doug listened, or was just ignoring my grumbling. Either way, he didn’t acknowledge or address it, and let me have the time to work through it. The rain that started during loop 2 only added to the already soaked trail from the deluge they had the night before. On loop 3, we choose to “embrace the mud” as trying to avoid it was even more treacherous. It slowed the pace, but we moved onward. We said goodbye to a few tough hills and the nauseating stairs. I was excited to not run them again…that day anyway. I saved enough energy to run the last grassy area towards the finish. Doug ran ahead to get my picture. And I cried. All the way to the finish line.
The race director this year was fantastic. I had emailed Julie Blair prior to the race to let her know this was my first 50miler, and that I’d likely be close to the recommended pace and finish last. She was more than encouraging. After each loop, she was there cheering for me. She was excited when I made the loose cutoff to start loop 3. Her voice was the one I heard cheering “You did it!” And “Smile!” as I ran to the finish. Thank you Julie! You made me feel so special!
A note on nutrition.
After feeling like I couldn’t eat during my last 50k, I needed a better plan. And it was going to include forcing myself to eat. I ate my ENERGYbits after each 10 mile segment which worked out perfectly. I was just starting to feel my energy wane at that point. Amrita bars, PB&J, pretzels, and a banana rounded out my food for the day. I couldn’t touch the watermelon…I may never again after a few (possibly unrelated) horror stories I heard about food poisoning. I also drank 4L water just from my pack, and a cup of water at each Aid Station. By mile 30, the hunger feeling was gone. I felt only nausea. And it seems, for me anyway, that’s what hunger feels like after running that far. So I ate and drank through it. And it passed.
Just one negative comment…
I was slightly disappointed at the amount of trash discarded on the trail (outside of the Aid Station areas) that was obviously from the race: gel packets, paper cups, and a potato chip bag. I felt bad enough leaving my cup at the first unmanned water stop since the crew hadn’t left a trash bag (a task remedied by the second loop). But not to worry. Race or not, my team picked them up and threw them out for you. I’d like to assume it accidentally fell out of your pocket. We’ll go with that.
All in all, a wonderfully trying day. I’m relieved it’s over, and I’m excited looking forward to my next event. It’s now Day 3 post-race, and I can say with confidence that I was ready. I have little-to-no muscle soreness. No walking down stairs backwards for this girl! No ravenous hunger. No energy drain. I’m feeling refreshed and happy.