Ever since volunteering at the Ottowa Point aid station around mile 39 of the Burning River 100 Miler, I've been thinking I want to try a 100 mile run myself. Of course my longest run so far had been the 2010 Green Jewel 50k (31 miles). So I had a ways to go.
The next step was to run a 50 miler and the Run With Scissors Double-Marathon seemed to be the right race at the right time. It was scheduled for several weeks after my fall marathon. And after running a disappointing 3:59 at the Towpath, I told more than one person, "If all I can do is run slow, I just need to find a longer race."
Black Diamond Sprinter headlamp and a pair of North Face trail shoes.
The race was in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park starting at the Ledges shelter, where I had never been. So I went on Saturday afternoon to the packet pick-up, and discussed the trail and the drop-bag strategy with the race director.
I had originally planned to have 3 drop bags, one at Pine Hollow (miles 4, 23, 30, & 49), one at the Covered Bridge (miles 11, 16, 27, and 42), and one at the Start/Finish (also mile 26) at Ledges Shelter. But after talking things over with Roy, I decided to skip the Pine Hollow bag. I also packed lighter, not putting extra shoes in either bag (I did leave a few pair in the car).
For hydration, I chose to start without carrying any water. I had my handheld water bottle at the Covered Bridge so I could pick it up when necessary, and also my belt at Ledges so that if I felt I was really struggling I could add it for the second loop.
Well the time came, final announcements were made, and the race was started. Straight across a grassy field and onto the trail. Two packs of 3 started quickly but other than that I was near the front. I seemed to be moving along ok, and right as my Garmin beeped for mile 1 (9:21), I tripped over a root and went straight down. I knew my right knee and my hands took most of the force.
I want to add that I don't trust the accuracy of the Garmin on twisting, turning, climbing and descending wooded trails. It did measure a little short but I'm confident that the couse was not short.
Anyways, I quickly got back up and running again. But amazingly, less than a mile later, I fell again! This time I was a little more prepared and I tried to roll or summer-sault towards my left shoulder. As the guy behind me stepped over or around me, I remarked out loud, "Well by the end of this thing I'll learn how to fall!"
Again I got back up and resumed running, this time taking more care to lift my feet. My slow pace has evolved into a very efficient stride where my feet barely come off the ground. This may not be the best running style for trail runs in the dark. My 3rd mile split showed 8:43, my fastest of the day! Still I was passed by a few runners in this section, including a guy dressed as Robin Hood who I mistook for an elf!
Around 4 miles, after crossing the Sound Of Music hills, we reached the Pine Hollow Aid station, still in the dark. By this time I had realized that the downhills were really hurting my legs, jamming my quads as I tried to control my pace down the hills. Moreso than in any other run.
At Pine Hollow, I drank some gatorade, some coke, and had a cookie or 2. Several runners came and left while I was refueling, and I knew already that if I didn't focus on getting in and out of the aid stations more quickly, it would add time to my day.
As we left I found myself at the back of a group of 7 other runners, including a guy wearing a woman's white Badwater running dress and sleeves. (It was Halloween). I followed them up and down the hills and across the streams of the Wetmore trail to the Covered Bridge aid station. Fastest mile of this section was 9:01, we had covered about 11 miles in about 1:50, or an average of around 10:00 per mile.
At this aid station each runner got a pair of plastic school-scissors and instructions to cut a page out of a book that we would find with a skeleton in the next loop. I took more Gatorade, more Coke, and a Hammer Gel.
On to the Perkins trail. More hills, more trails, and the first bits of walking the uphills. Fastest mile of this section was 10:18 and I was back at about 2:54. The sun was up and I left the headlamp in my drop bag. Still didn't pick up my water bottle. I did eat some Candy Corn!
Best thing about this next section was meeting up with my old friend Terry Hawk. Terry and I trained together a bit in the early 90's, before I moved to Michigan. It was great to see him again and to catch up on each other's lives. He did all of the running catching-up though, and after 3 or 4 miles, I was falling behind. Fastest mile of this section was 10:15.
Shortly after Terry disappeared, I felt like I had some grit in my shoe from the water crossings. I stopped, took off my right shoe and sock, and found a blister the size of my pinkie knuckle on the side (inside) of my heel. What a strange place for a blister.
I decided at that point that I would change shoes, and was sorry that they were back in the car and not in a drop-bag at the finish. That would be an extra couple-hundred yards to travel, each way.
Anyways, on to the Pine Hollow Aid Station around mile 23.5. Dan Horvath, Ladd Clifford, and crew had a great set-up. My aid-station stops were getting slower as I looked for different things to eat. I had some sort of power-bar ball and also a quarter grilled cheese. Still drinking gatorade & coke, a couple cups of each at every aid station.
Ran a couple more slow miles, saw Terry heading back out, and knew I must be close. And indeed, there was the marathon finish. I had travelled 26.2 miles in a leisurely 4:34, a pace of about 10:30 per mile. I changed shoes, changed into a dry shirt, re-pinned my number, and refueled, including drinking a Muscle Milk I had brought from home. 15 minutes later I was up and running again. This transition took WAY too long. But the good thing was that stopping and not re-starting didn't even cross my mind!
On the way back to Pine Hollow I tried to run faster and more free down the hills, and much to my surprise, it felt great! I actually caught a guy named Eric. Before he left, he remarked that "my legs came back to life." I did run a 10:49 in this section. Refuled again, chased Eric down and caught him on the next section.
My 5th mile of the second loop was 11:12, actually faster than the 11:30 I ran for the same mile of the first loop.
At every aid station I had 1 or 2 Endurolyte capsules. These are salt & electrolytes, meant to help me avoid cramping. I never tried them before this race, but I didn't cramp at all, so I guess they work!
About a mile to the Covered Bridge, I hid a bad patch. I walked a bit on the flats, I was really feeling worn out. I had been running for almost 7 hours and had covered about 37 miles. This was already the most miles and the most time I had ever run! And I had another half-marathon plus to go!
When I finally got to the Covered Bridge aid station, the great workers helped me get my handheld bottle out of my drop bag and filled it with Gatorade. I took this along with me on the Perkins trail. They didn't give me any scissors this time, they probably could tell by looking at me that I may not have had the strength to carry them.
This loop was slow, walking on all of the uphills, with my fastest mile being 14:01. I was passed by a guy who told me he had gotten his 2nd wind, and he encouraged me that I would get mine too. Unfortunately that was about 10 miles ago for me.
But once I finished this loop and knew I was on my way back, I did start to feel better. I thanked the aid workers and told them to send my drop bag on the next truck back to Ledges. I wasn't sure how many were behind me but I didn't think I was last.
At this point I did some math and thought, if I could average 12-minute miles I could still finish under 10 hours. I did run a 12:20 but then somehow I hit another bat patch and had my slowest mile, 19:08. Soon I had adjusted my goal, thinking that 12's would get me to 10:15 and I could subtract the 15 minutes I took in transition and claim that the running part was under 10.
But none of my next few miles were even under 14. Still I kept plugging along and caught a guy. I had just been wondering why we even ran the 2nd marathon, since we stayed pretty much in the same order as the first marathon!
At the final Pine Hollow aid station, I tried to take it quicker, as if I was racing. Dan said, "You're looking good, you're almost done." I replied, "Don't lie." and Dan said back, "You're almost done." That made me chuckle!
I have more to say but it is getting late so the observations will have to wait until later.