Saturday, April 23, 2011

Forget the PR Race Report

by Gail Connor:

Forget the PR 25K and 50K in Loudonville, OH at Mohican State Park was quite an adventure! I've now been running trails for a year (after running roads for eight), so I wasn't really expecting what I got. First off, the 25K was actually 17.4 miles, long by almost two miles. But, hey, I'm an ultra marathoner now so what's a couple extra miles? Second, I did the eleven mile Xterra race down there, last year. I surely knew what to expect. I've conquered "Big Ass Hill", after all!

A few of the Grunt Girls and Guys rented a cabin that wound up being right around the corner from the start and finish line. How cool is that? Some of them got down there on Friday night and some came Saturday. Heidi (who I was carpooling with) had to work Friday night so we came down Saturday. It was pouring rain when we got there. It seemed ominous to me. Last year, when I was on "Big Ass Hill" with a few other people, I said "I can't imagine going up this thing in the rain when it would be slick". I was hoping these words were not going to come back to haunt me. We wanted to go hike some of the course, but the rain was relentless. Five of us went into Wooster (the next large town) and did some grocery shopping, waiting for the rain to stop. When we got back, it was drizzling so we went out. We hiked to "Big Ass Hill". It was exactly as I had remembered it, except it was wet! Oh boy!

At 5:30AM I heard Lee starting the coffee and I knew it was time to get up. We all went about our routines and soon it was time for the 50K to start (8:00AM). Lee and Gabe were the only ones doing the 50K. Me, Stacy, Andrea, Heidi, Kim, Tonya, and Will were doing the 25K, which started at 8:30AM. It was Will's first race, ever! He's a "derby guy" so I figured he was already "badass". I saw Tom Jennings (my favorite RD) at the start of the 50K as well and gave him a hug for good luck.

After Rob Powell (RD) gave the final instructions, we were off. The temps were mild and it was overcast but not raining, and they weren't calling for any. I knew the course would be muddy, though. As usual, I started falling further and further behind even though we were running on flat asphalt. There weren't too many people behind me by the time we hit the trail. As I made my way more people passed me. Soon, I was convinced that there was only one walker behind me.

As I got to a somewhat confusing intersection, there were three people that weren't sure which way to go. Well, thanks to our hike I knew which way we needed to turn as "Big Ass Hill" was less than a mile away. I may be slow, but I saved the day for them. When we got there, it was wet and a bit slick, but not nearly as bad as I had feared. As I ascended, I tried a new strategy. I started counting my steps. It kept my mind active on something other than the hard climb and it served me well a number of times throughout the day.

By the time I hit the Covered Bridge Aid Station, I was almost half done. I saw the river that they were expecting me to cross the next time I came through the station. I informed them that I was NOT going to be doing it! They sent me off to do a four mile spur. I had no idea how hard this little four mile section was going to wind up being. For the first mile or so, I was passing people that were coming back and I saw people that I knew. It was so nice and a real pick-me-up, as I was running alone. Soon I got to a real rough section. I was running in a creek bed, navigating over boulders and downed trees. I kept stopping to see if I could see the little yellow flags as this section didn't even look like a trail. I remember thinking "I bet kids would LOVE playing down here". Suddenly I was coming out of the riverbed and hit a bunch of tangled roots. Now I was at the infamous "Root Climb". Heidi had seen me on section where I was passing people and had told me it wasn't that bad and that our friend, Glenn was volunteering at the top. I started my ascent up the roots. She was right, it wasn't that bad and as I got almost to the top I heard Glenn yell "GALE"!!. When I got to the top, there was a steep drop-off and I couldn't figure out how to get off the roots. A woman told me how to navigate around this tree and I was finally on solid ground. Glenn started snapping pictures and talking (Glenn's a real talker). He wound up running/walking with me up to the Covered Bridge Aid Station.

As I cruised into the aid station I yell, "Oh my God, that was CRAZY". The volunteers all laughed. Then I look to my left and say "I'm NOT going in that water". The volunteer says "You HAVE to". I said, "I'm a 52 year old woman, I don't HAVE do that". I'm thinking "All I HAVE to do is die and pay taxes". Then, God must have been looking out for me because Gabe comes cruising into the station doing his second loop (damn he was FAST). I say "Gabe, can you get me across that river"? Without a second thought, he says "Yes", and off we go. He held my hand and dragged me across. As I got to the bank, a volunteer grabbed my hand and helped me up. I had tears in my eyes and gratefully hugged my "knight in shining armour"then sent him on his way to his first 50K finish.

I only have about six miles left and I just cruised it in. I'm walking a lot at this point and my injured butt is bothering me but I know I've "got it" now. I hit the North Rim Trail and I know there are a few more hills. I struggle with the last few and by this time the wind is really strong. I could hear it blow through the trees before it hit me on the ground. It sounded like a freight train and seemed quite ominous. A few times I heard tree limbs groan and I prayed that none would come crashing down on me. I finally saw the hill that we started on and I knew that all I had was a little pavement and I would be done. When I came across the finish line in a sprint, with tears in my eyes, I had an asthma attack. With a time of 5:46, I was pleased as it was 17 miles and a tough course. I walked around the corner to our cabin, threw open the door, and screamed "I AM A BADASS"!!

Lee was in the icebath and Gabe was waiting his turn for his first one ever. It was comical to watch. I think I'll try it next time and I think I will do the 50K next year, after all, I AM a badass!!

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