Sunday, April 15, 2012

Forget The PR 50K: April 15, 2012

This is an exciting race to blog about for so many reasons.  The best reason is that it's the story of my first ultramarathon (any distance greater then 26.2 miles is considered an ultramarathon and 50K is 31.1 miles, although this race may have been closer to 32 miles..really got our money worth!).  Forget The PR 50K and 25K is an amazing event in the Mohican State Forest located near Loudonville, OH and is put on by Rob Powell.  He designed the course to be tough so runners can feel a greater sense of accomplishment when they cross the finish line.  This years event included 5 river crossing, a root climb, and about 4,500 feet of elevation gain.  I picked this race to be my first ultra because it is a such a great atmosphere and a stellar course.  It came full circle for me because I volunteered at this event a year ago and it really inspired me to train and run an ultramarathon so it is fitting that Forget The PR would be my first.  I had an excellent winter of training and was certainly pumped for this race.  Jess said she would come along and volunteer at this year's race which made me happy because she could experience the great vibe that surrounds this event.  Jessica's cousin Joe and his wife Debra also heard me talking about this event and they decided to come all the way from Colorado to run.  Joe did the 50K with me and Debra did the 25K. 

Jess and I rented a small bunk cabin at Mohican Adventures where the race starts and ends.  I am kind of glad we did that instead of tent camping, because when we got there Saturday afternoon it was pouring down rain.  The temps were cooler and the rain kept going all day and into the night.  Tent camping in those conditions would have been a little uncomfortable.  Upon our arrival we went over the main conference center where all the race activity was taking place.  Some of the volunteers had gathered over there about the same time and we were going to help pack supplies for the aid stations.  I got to catch up with some people I had met last year and also met a few new friends in the process.  That is the coolest thing about this event, Rob likes to make it a family atmosphere and everyone is always in great spirits and very easy going.  The excitement was really setting in as I realized I was about 15 hours away from starting my first ultramarathon on the great trails of Mohican.  Here is a pic of me watching new running friend Jay Smithberger engineer the covered bridge aid station supplies to make them all fit:

After We finished packing up the aid station supplies Jess and I went for a drive so she could locate the spot where her aid station was going to be the following morning.  Then we went back to the cabin and just kind of relaxed the rest of the evening.  Joe and Debra showed up to the campground about 8:30 and we hung out with them for an hour or two before calling it a night.  I was really tired so I thought I would be able to get a good night sleep, but who was I kidding?  The night before my first ultra had my mind racing and around 3:00 AM I woke up and was up for the rest of the night.  Some concerns before the race were an upper back pain and some stomach issues.  Finally morning came and after registering I strapped on my Merrell Trail Gloves (my minimalist trail shoe of choice for spring, summer, and fall) and was ready to roll!  The weather was already getting warm and a record high temperature for April 15th was on its way.

Rob gave some final instructions and then Kim provided some race information before yelling "start!" So it was official my first ultra was under way!  The first two miles flew by as we were chatting with some runners from Indiana and then we hit the famous "Big Ass Hill" which was nice that we were able to tackle it early in the race.  After big ass hill we hit the service roads that led us to the the first aid station at the fire tower.  Since this was just 5 miles into the race we didn't really need much aid at that point so we got our water bottles topped off, thanked the volunteers and set out on the southern loop of the course.  This was some really nice scenic trail running with some long gradual ascents and decents.  There some pretty muddy parts as we got down to the lower elevations and two river crossings which were extremely refreshing!  On this part of the course I was thinking about ultrarunner Micah True, nickname: Caballo Blano (White Horse), who had died a week earlier when all of a sudden I seen someone riding a white horse, he was there in his "run free" spirit!  Here is a pic of us coming into the fire tower aid station early in the race:

Joe was getting over a flu that he had for about two weeks and he was having trouble finding a groove in the first half of the race but I felt good and kept pushing us along.  At one point on this section of the race we had just crossed a river and once back on the trail about 3 deer crossed the trail right in front of us.  It was a  really awesome sight as they were hauling ass downhill!  We finally made it the rock point aid station around mile 13 and it was a welcome sight.  We had gone about 7 miles since the last aid station and were almost out of water and needed some fuel.  We got our water bottles filled up and grabbed some munchies.  I seen the energy jelly belly's sitting on the table and grabbed a pack of them.  They were the perfect snack and I think Joe fell in love with them as he never tried them before..they are good!  After thanking the volunteers we headed off into the trail and were on our way to South Park aid station which was where Jess was working.  There was a pretty big uphill section in this part of the course.  There are actually many tough climbs throughout the entire course, which really makes it fun and challenging.  As we got closer to the South Park aid station I noticed my back was really starting to bother me which was my biggest concern going into the race.  Here is a ground hogs view of Big Ass Hill:

 We finally reached South Park aid station which was the half way point of the race.  Mohican trails are a lot tougher then the trails here in Michigan where I train so I was definitely feeling the challenge of this course at this point.  It was nice to see Jess and she was having a good time volunteering which was great to see.  I told her my upper back was starting to hurt and she gave me a quick massage..what a great wife!!  We grabbed some cookies, pb and j sandwiches, and refilled our water bottles.  After thanking the volunteers we were headed back to fire tower to complete the southern loop of the course.  This section was when the heat really started hitting us.  It was getting into the upper 70s / low 80s.  Joe had a long sleeve cold gear shirt on and he was struggling with the heat.  After he shed the shirt he instantly started feeling better and I was inspired to do the same.  So we charged on to fire tower.  When we got up there it was nice to see Kim (Another ultra running friend I met last year at this event) and the rest of the crew.  I really wanted to try her famous vegan soup but it was way to hot for soup.  I was getting sick of energy drink at this point so I dumped it all out and just asked for regular water.  A volunteer asked me if I wanted ice and that was perfect!  I also thought about climbing the fire tower but also decided against that.  Joe and I figured that just finishing our first ultra would be accomplishment enough for the day.  I want to take time to congratulate Debra for doing really well in the 25K race.  Here is a pic of her on the trail:

We set off to run a couple more miles to the covered bridge aid station.  Along this part of the course we ran by some boy scouts who were out hiking and they were giving us high fives and cheering us on..that was really cool!  We reached covered bridge and got some more ice water along with a few munchies, thanked the volunteers and were off to run the famous purple loop.  This is a four mile section that goes back to lyons falls.  This is where the famous root climb is and we had fun getting back there.  At one point I climbed over a log and ended up throwing my left shoulder out which added to my back pain, but it didn't matter I was just gonna fight through the pain and complete this thing.  This is a really cool part of the course and we were really enjoying the scenery and keeping good conversation.  I think Joe actually started feeling good at this point and his new found energy and rhythm was carrying me!  On our way back to covered bridge aid station we noticed some runners were setting out on the purple loop and that was a good sign for me and Joe..we were not in last place!!  Although, I don't feel that trail ultra running is about competition against others..more so against one's self and everyone who finishes is truly a winner.  Also, around this time I noticed that I still had my circle band aids on my nipples (to prevent chaffing) and I had been running shirtless like that for quite some time.  I wondered why I was getting weird looks from hikers not associated with the

So we got back to covered bridge and Joe joined me in getting our water bottles filled with ice water.  We also ate a bunch of snacks including salted potatoes and a bunch of fruit.  Joe loved the oranges and I was digging the grapes.  We had the debate for the next few miles over which fruit was better and were laughing about it for awhile.  I loved running with Joe because he kept me laughing the whole day.  So we left covered bridge and crossed the Mohican river which was about knee deep and really refreshing!  The next few miles was a flat section along the Mohican river which is a really nice and scenic part of the course.  We were doing a lot of walking and a little running at this point as I was hurtin!  I couldn't believe how fast of a pace we had in the first half of the race but in the second half reality had really smacked me in the face.  Pretty wiped out and back pain was at an all time high.  Joe was actually feeling good late in the race but he held back and stayed with me as I hobbled along.  One foot in front of the other, relentless forward progress is a great way to put it.  I didn't think we had any more steep ascents for the rest of the race but I forgot about the North Rim Trail.  This was the last couple miles of the race and it has a really steep long incline and also some steep decents.  This late in the race the downhills were just as hard as the uphills and we were judging the downhills as either "not to bad" or "it's a quad burner!."  We finally made it back to the campground and ran the last half mile to the finish line. My legs and back were so shot that this was a long half mile!!  As we seen Jess and Debra cheering us on it all became so real.  Then Rob was in sight and we ran to the finish line with him greeting us and handing us our first ultra buckles!!!  Wooohoooo!!!!!  Here is a pick of us hobbling into the finish line:

I can honestly say this was one of the greatest accomplishments of my life and could not of had a better race to do it at!  The other runners were awesome as we met so many cool people out there.  For a complete profile of our 50K run you can check out the stats from my Garmin

My First Ultra Buckle!!
The volunteers were amazing and were just as excited about the race as we were.  They were quick to fill our water bottles and get us whatever we needed.  There was also some great food and drink at the finish line.  The family atmosphere that Rob has mentioned is truly a real thing at Forget The PR.  Here is a parting shot of Joe, Debra, and myself at the finish line area.

For more links to pics and information about Forget The PR you can visit the facebook page.

1 comment:

  1. Congratu-farley-lations brother!! Wish I could have been here to see you finish this one. Great write up!! I love the nipple band-aid incident! :) Wear that buckle with pride! You earned it!