I have been running much better ever since I started working with a coach in September of 2015. I have been getting PRs and just feeling more confident and better, overall. I really had high expectations for Forget the PR, this year. It’s a long (about 18 mile) 25K, on a rugged course in Mohican State Forest, in Loudonville, Ohio on April 16, 2016. The course changes nearly every year, but RD, Rob Powell, finally put together his “dream” course for us, last year. A week before the race, I came down with bronchitis. Not cool, as a few years back, I ran it with a nasty, undiagnosed (til after the race) case of bronchitis. Believe me, when you are climbing those hills, you realize what healthy lungs are for!! Now, if this isn’t bad enough, three days before the race, I start having chest pains at work and am sent to the ER!! It turns out that I did not have a heart attack or have blood clots in the lungs, but something was off on my EKG. The day before the race, I saw my doctor. She gave me the OK to run but said that I should have a stress test done before my 100 miler. LOL!!
The morning of the race, I’m feeling good but a little worried due to all of the physical problems I’ve had over the last week. I decide, for the first time doing this race, that I’m not wearing my pack and going with only a hand held water bottle. I never use the stuff in the pack and it’s just dead weight that eventually slows me down. After a brief speech by the RD, off we go at 7:30am. I started near the back of the pack since I wasn’t sure how I was going to be running. After the road section, I got to the conga line going up the hill. We started up North Rim Trail. I must have placed myself perfectly in line because only a few people passed me and I passed a number of people. After we descended on the other side, we hit a road section. It was only maybe a quarter or a mile or so long. It skirted the campgrounds and took us to Big Ass Hill. I started trotting on the road section and was shocked at all of the people who were walking. I was only going at maybe a 12 minute pace, but I passed dozens of people (who never passed me later on).
Big Ass Hill. The great equalizer. No one runs BAH. Not even course record holders. Yeah, it’s that bad and it owns it’s name like a boss!! It’s wickedly steep with a false top, so when you think you are finally getting to the top, you are sorely mistaken! I climbed with purpose and I must have done well as only one guy passed me! I finally get to the summit, go down the other side, climb and descend the second hill and now I will be on fire roads most of the rest of the way to the Fire Tower Aid Station.
I am making good time at this point and not hacking too much. I am also passing people again! As I pass, I say a few words, but keep my socializing to a minimum since I am doing well and feeling good. Soon I am rolling into the aid station! Yippee!! I had promised myself that I would drink a full bottle of water by the time I reached each aid station and take two electrolyte pills. That worked out perfectly. I said hi to my friends and made some small talk, used the restroom, thanked the volunteers, and got the hell out of Dodge, quickly.
The next section is my favorite and probably the prettiest section of the park; Hog’s Hollow. I just learned how it got it’s name, last year. Apparently there was a flood, like 100 years ago or something. A farmer’s pig was found, stuck up in a tree after the flood waters went down. It was Hog’s Hollow after that. Anyway, it’s beautiful down there. Lots of little bridges, single track, lots of lush greenery. Just lovely!! I’m moving along and once again, passing people! Soon, I’m at the Covered Bridge Aid Station! I didn’t quite drink all of my water as this was a short section, but I did pretty well on it. Once again, I did what I needed to do, quickly, and got back to the task at hand.
The next section was new, last year. For the first part, it’s flat and runs along the Mohican River. I’m starting to get a little tired, so I’m not running as well as I would like to, but again, I pass some people!! I now get to the dam. They just, last year, renovated the stairs, but it’s a tough climb. I try to climb as fast as possible but I am coughing some and I see people slowly catching up! Hell no!! I work hard and manage to keep anyone from catching or passing me. Now we start going downhill and soon we get to the Enchanted Valley; more riverbed than trail. It’s not my favorite part as there is a lot of navigating over lots of obstacles, walking through the stream, plenty of mud. It’s tougher when you are short. At this point, Wendi catches up to me. Wendi and I used to be about the same pace, then I got faster. Something lit a fire under that girl’s butt today! I hated the thought of getting caught by her, but I was secretly happy because we were going to have to climb out of the valley on the Root Climb. It’s a big tangle of roots that you use as almost ladder rungs to climb. I’ve done it dozens of times, but for whatever reason, every time I get to that thing, it scares me to death. I guess I’m secretly afraid of falling. We climbed it and, as usual, I didn’t fall. Once I get past that thing, I’m always so relieved!
The rest of this section is nothing special and we just move along. I’m staying ahead of Wendi, but not far. We get back to the Covered Bridge. I need to use the restroom again! Dang!! I must be drinking plenty because I rarely use the restroom during a shorter race and now it’s been twice!! I do what I need to do and get out quickly and so does Wendi. Sweet…. less than 6 miles to go. Usually this next section is a mud pit, but it was the driest I’ve ever seen it; therefore, it was quite runnable. Now, I’m officially getting tired and Wendi is still on my butt. Dang!! This became the time when she and I really helped each other. She was tired, too, we kind of yo-yoed back and forth and, once again, we are passing some people!! This is the section where Lee usually loops me. She is usually the first woman in the 50K, but so far, no Lee. I know that if I’m not seeing her, one of two things are going on. 1) She is running slower or 2) I’m running faster. Lee is good, so it must be number 2.
Now we get to North Rim Trail. This is a double-edged sword as it’s a wicked climb, late in the race, but it signals that we are nearly done. Oh, and still, no Lee!! Once we make the relentless climb, it’s all basically downhill and flat to the finish. I think there is like one small hill and some slight uphill right at the finish. Suddenly, I realize that it’s gotten dang hot!! We hit the road and, while this is my forte, between the distance, the heat, and the hacking, I’m toast. Try as I might, I can’t catch Wendi. That’s ok, it was a valiant effort. I am walking up this slight uphill, probably less than a quarter of a mile to the finish, and I hear “I’m going to catch you”! It’s Lee!! Holy cow!! I start running! I get within a few feet of the finish line and there are two guys, walking. I’m like, “hell, no”!! I pass them as I hit the chute. I literally passed people all the way to the finish line, Lee never caught me, Wendi beat me by less than a minute, and there were 31 people behind me! But, that’s not even the best part; I’ve done this race for years and have never been able to break five hours. My finish time was 4:57:05!!! That was a course PR by almost 30 minutes!!
In the week preceding the race, things looked grim. It looked like this was either going to be a training run or wasn’t going to happen at all. I had so many good things happen to me at this race. I’m sad that it was announced that they will no longer be having the 25K distance, but it was a heck of a final race!! I made my coach proud and I made myself proud.
- INKnBURN Wish Camisole
- INKnBURN Ryu Skirt
- SmartWool Socks
- Altra Lone Peak Shoes
- Black Diamond Carbon Z Poles
- Nathan Handheld
- Hell Hath No Hurry Visor
- Garmin 230
- FitBit Charge HR
- Damian Stoy – WholisticRunning.com