After getting my bib number I went back to my car to put on my shoes and grab my Ultimate Direction waist pack and then headed back over to the garage. Before heading into the garage though I realized I needed to take a pit stop. The heated Boston Store restrooms had a long line even for the guys so I noticed there were a couple port-o-johns outside and took the opportunity. Thankfully there was enough light to not have to sit in complete darkness. As I left I saw a line was now starting to form for the port-o-johns as well and told them the seat was all warmed up now. This girl said, eww gross! Obviously she must have been a half marathoner!
I then went back inside the garage and stood next to Bruce McMurray, one of my running buddies from Youngstown and fellow N.E. Ohio Trail Club member, as Tanya and Roy Heger gave some more race instructions. Soon after Jim Harris and his son Heath entered and came over to talk with us. There were so many people I knew running today. These ultra events are almost like a family reunion of sorts since everyone knows each other. Eventually I looked down at my watch and realized that it was just after 7:00 and instructions were still being given. At this point we were all getting anxious and ready to start. Soon everyone went outside to gather for the race start which began on the road and then turned left onto the towpath. As with most ultras you never know when the race will actually being until you see everyone take off running and then you know that you are on your way.
Me, Heath, and Jim before the race start
The beginning of the course is on the Towpath for a half mile or so and then you make a right turn near the Stanford Hostel.
At this point you are now on the Brandywine trail and things become more fun as you encounter more uphills and downhills. Through this area I met Wendy Babcock and Gabe Rainwater. They were both very friendly and talkative which always makes the time go by quicker.
Wendy and Gabe heading uphill
This was the first time that I had run the Brandywine loop and I definitely enjoyed the scenery. Lots of neat steps, bridges, and valleys. This was also the first time I had run the Winter Buckeye Trail 50K on the new multi-loop course. Just like the summer BT50K it used to be point-to-point, starting in Brecksville and doing an out and back to Pine Lane. Now the winter version starts and finishes at the Boston Store with 3 Brandywine loops (5 miles each) and 2 Pine Lane loops (8 miles each). I have to say I was a bit skeptical going into this race today with all the loops. I thought it would become monotonous and possibly boring late in the race. However, I was pleasantly surprised. I really enjoyed being able to see all the runners as they either came towards you or as you ran past them after reaching the turnaround point. Everyone was very friendly on the course and it was very rare for someone to not acknowledge you or offer words of encouragement. That's one of the best things I enjoy about ultra running - being able to share time with such great company. We are very lucky to have such a great running community here in N.E. Ohio. Another thing I liked about the course was the fact that you only had to wait 4 miles at most to reach an aid station. This allowed you to refuel more efficiently and also allowed you to not have to carry as much stuff along the way.
During the first Brandywine loop the partial full moon was still up and the sun was beginning to rise. I wish I would've taken a picture of the moon because it looked pretty cool through the trees with all the snow. I did take this photo over by the Stanford Hostel on my return trip back to the Boston Store though. At this point the sky had a very nice yellow & purple glow to it...As I returned to the Boston Store I talked to my friend Bob for awhile who ran the summer BT50K course throughout the night and finished in the early morning. He ended up volunteering at the Boston Store aid station throughout the day. Now I was really looking forward to getting onto the Pine Lane loop. This is a great section of trail that I always enjoy. Of course I do enjoy heading from Pine Lane back to the Boston Store more, since you can go all out on the downhills that you just went up.
The weather and trail conditions were close to pefect today. At the start of the race the temperature was about 18 degrees, rising to the mid/upper 20s late in the day. It was a little chilly in the beginning but once you got going you were fine. All it takes is a nice long Buckeye Trail uphill to get the blood flowing and the muscles relaxed. There was one guy though believe it or not wearing shorts and a t-shirt. I can understand maybe the shorts, but wearing a t-shirt seemed a little ridiculous. Towards the end of the race I saw him coming towards me and he had an icicle hanging from his beard. I guess it kept him running though as he finished slightly ahead of me. The trail was in pretty good shape today, with just enough snow to provide some traction, and the downhills stayed runable even late in the race. The only bad thing that most people talked about was the uneven footing where mud had frozen solid, leaving ruts in the ground. You really had to watch your footing in a few areas so you didn't sprain an ankle. Other than that though there wasn't too much to complain about.
On my first Pine Lane loop I ran into a couple nice guys, Jerry Williamson from Brecksville and his friend Chris Miller, who traveled from Indianapolis. We carried on a long conversation and ended up sticking together all the way until the last loop of the race. At one point we even started singing songs out loud to make the time pass by. Hey, whatever works right? Along the way we made it a point to just get done with the Pine Lane loop so that we could then focus our attention on doing the Brandywine loop for a second time. Once this was completed we knew that we only had to do one more loop of each section to finish. Like with most races, it's much easier to break down a course into smaller goals then to think of everything as a whole. Later on during the 3rd loop we met up with Elizabeth, Janet (who completed her first 50K today - congrats!), and a few others.
We kept each other motivated and pushed through the pain, eventually reaching the Boston Store for the last time before the finish. I was very happy that the only section I had to walk a decent amount on today was the last 5 mile Brandywine loop. In a lot of cases the "ultra shuffle" starts a lot sooner and makes for a long day. However, I think a combination of rest leading up today's race and a good solid mileage base helped me succeed. During the run I thought to myself... geez, I've run a marathon or more each month since last September. In Sept. I ran the YUT-C 50K, October I ran the Columbus Marathon, November I did the Slim Pickins FA 70 Miler, December was a 50K in Mill Creek, and this month I did the Summer BT50K course 2 weeks prior to today's race. No wonder I am starting to see results. I guess to run well it helps to run huh?
On the last Brandywine loop I ran into Brian from Twinsburg, who I originally met on a trail run with my friend Derek. This was the first time I'd seen him for months so we had some catching up to do, but we were so tired at this point that our conversation was mostly whining. As I got closer to the Stanford Hostel I could feel myself really picking up the pace now, probably moving at an 8:00 pace or faster. I could smell the finish line from here. On this final stretch of the Towpath I passed by Mike and Maria who were both looking good. I then put on a nice finishing kick at the end and stopped my watch in 6 hours, 10 minutes, and 23 seconds, giving me 49th place out of 86 finishers. My best time so far on the Summer BT50K course is 5:41 so I was pretty pumped about my time today with the snow and everything.
Once I got changed into some warmer clothes I went inside the M.D. Garage where others had gathered and enjoyed some delicious veggie soup that Tanya had made. I also picked up my race packet which is distributed after you finish, unlike most races. The race shirt was a very nice Brooks stylish knit hunter green warm up jacket with a full front zip and 2 front pockets that zip. This top would probably retail for at least $50 in a store which made the entry fee well worth it! A bunch of us then headed over to the Winking Lizard to share our stories and enjoy some carbs, both in solid and liquid format. I also made sure to signup for the 2008 World Tour of Beers. Overall, what a great day... life doesn't get much better than this!
Other N.E. Ohio Trail Club finishes
David Peterman (3rd overall) - 4:47:24
Jim Harris (6th overall) - 4:57:58
Ron Ross (7th overall) - 5:01:04
Lloyd Thomas (11th overall) - 5:10:37
Michael Kazar (64th overall) - 6:45:01
Michael Keller (70th overall) - 6:53:51
Bruce McMurray (72nd overall) - 7:00:12