Saturday, May 18, 2013

Playin Possum 50K: May 18th, 2013

This race takes me down to the Delaware State Park in central Ohio.  This was the inaugural outing of the Playin Possum 50K but as I will describe later, you would never have known it was the first time they have ever put this race on.  Through some good friends, Nick and Lucas, and the awesome trail running community of Ohio I met Mark Carroll and Chad Heald.  These two guys had the vision for this race and decided that all proceeds will go to a great cause, the local Special Olympics group.  Another cool thing about this race is that it was the first ultra marathon in the central Ohio / Columbus area.  So, a primary goal of both race directors' vision was to get as many first time trail ultra marathoners as possible.  They succeeded in both of these goals raising over $4,000 for the Special Olympics and had 56 first time ultra runners toe the starting line out of 119 total runners!

Jess and I left on Friday after work to head down to the Columbus area.  The Delaware State Park was right off Route 23 so we were able to stop on the way and pick up my race packet.  I was excited about all the awesome schwag included with the packet.  We stayed at our friends place in Westerville which was about a half hour from the race.  I got up extra early to get ready and make sure I had plenty of time to get there before the start.  I met a few people before the race and also talked to Nick who was the captain of the start / finish aid station, which was one of the busiest aid stations.  I also said hello to Jay Smithberger who was the favorite to win the race and got to say hi to Rob Powell who puts on the famous Forget the PR 50K, and Rob was there to hang out and watch the race.

Coming in to the start/finish line aid station at mile 6 and feeling strong
Since mid January I have been training for the Burning River 100 mile race which is at the end of July.  This training has me putting in a ton of miles and back to back weekend long runs every weekend.  I have felt myself getting stronger mentally and physically throughout this training.  I wanted to take this 50K easy and use it as another training run but I also wanted to really see how good I could do with my current level of training so I just decided to "go with it."  Chad and Mark gave an introductory speech and a Special Olympics athlete gave a blessing and some motivational words, then we were off and running!  I settled into a nice pace at the beginning, maybe a little to fast but I felt good so oh well.  I was following a group of about 12 runners who were mid-pack runners which is what I am aspiring to be so I decided to just keep up with them.  Two of the runners in this group jumped off to the side so one could take a rock out of his shoe and they rejoined the pack behind me.  These guys were really funny and I don't think they meant to be.  One was talking about how he hopes he does not get lost, as he got lost in a 5K before and the other guy was saying he felt so good and they should be back up there leading this pack.  We were only 2 or 3 miles in and feeling good at that point is a lot different then feeling good at 29 or 30 miles in.

We got to the first aid station which was only 3.5 miles in and I didn't need anything so I was turning around to leave and noticed Rob was there helping.  The next few miles went by pretty quick.  I had lost the big pack I was running with and was going on my own.  I was feeling pretty good and kept a 10 minute and 30 second per mile pace to the next aid station at mile 6 which was Nick's aid station at the start finish line.  As I was grabbing a few chips and a cup of Gatorade I noticed that Rob was at this aid station as well!  After leaving this aid station I heard the humorous banter of the guys guys from before.  They were behind me for the next mile or two and keeping me cracking up the whole time.  I wish I had a recorded script of every conversation these guys had during the race because they were so funny.  We had to run a small road section here and then turned into the woods.  We got to the water crossing on this course which was some very murky and stagnate water that was not flowing, but it was fun to jump in and wade across.  It is always interesting to hear comments from first time trail runners who are worrying about getting their feet wet, but then after they take the plunge they realize it's not a big deal and is actually fun!

Grabbing a cup of gatorade before leaving the start/finish aid station at mile 18
About 9.5 miles in I still had a pretty good pace going and I got to the next aid station which had these awesome no bakes.  Usually I avoid desert type foods at aid stations, but I couldn't resist this time and it was well worth it.  The lady that made them said she is going to be at Mohican running an aid station and I told her I am running the 50 miler there next month and will be looking forward to eating some no bakes there as well!  When I was standing there eating I seen Rob again (3 aid stations in a row) and this is where he gained the nickname "aid station creeper"!  After leaving this aid station the course took us over the dam and down a straight and long high grass berm.  Then down a gravel road to the next aid station where I ran into our friend Cheryl.  It was good to see her as she is always in a cheerful mood and she is the captain of the aid station that Jess and I volunteer at during the Forget the PR race every April.  After departing this aid station I had a long chat with another runner about many different topics including the different trail running events in Ohio and also different approaches to training for ultra marathons.  After leaving the dam area we started back toward the start finish aid station which would put us at mile 18.  On the way back I was running behind a French couple who were speaking in French.  They were having a long conversation and I had no idea what they were talking about!  They looked at me at one point and I just nodded like I understood.

Cord and I approaching the finish line
Approaching the start finish aid station Nick came running out and asked how I was doing and what I needed.  I was good on water so just grabbed a gatorade and a few snacks before continuing on.  When I left this aid station I felt pretty good and realized I had an excellent pace going for myself.  I originally was going to take my time on this course since it was to just be a training run but I was on pace to break six hours which would crush my previous 50K personal record (PR) of seven hours and four minutes.  So I kept up with my awesome pace for the next 5 miles and was still feeling pretty good into the next aid station at mile 23.  Then I met a guy named Cord who was running his first 50K and he was in major pain but was still running.  I ran with him the next 3 miles and he was explaining how he has never felt pain this bad in his life!  He was not even sure how his legs were still moving.  That is the amazing thing about distance running, the human body can withstand a lot more then the mind wants it to.  We got to the mile 26 aid station and Cord was cramping up.  I gave him two salt pills to help him with the cramps and I left the station before him.  About a mile later he came running up behind me.  He was still hurting but I told
him we were on pace to have an awesome finishing time and we both pushed each other for the next 4 miles to the end.

Wounded warriors at the Playin Possum 50K
About a quarter mile from the finish we noticed there was a different congratulations sign for every first time ultra runner and they were spaced out all the way to the finish.  That is just another example of the top notch job Chad and Mark did putting this race together.  As we were approaching the finish line I realized I had reached my goal of finishing in under six hours.  Five hours and fifty-one minutes was my official time.  I was really happy about that.  It seems all the training I have been doing for the Burning River 100 is really paying off.  After crossing the finish line Chad handed us the most unique finishing award I have ever seen.  They were real horse shoes which I thought was an awesome idea.  They also had a post race cookout with a bunch of good food.  I had a chance to visit with Nick for awhile, thank Mark and Chad for putting on the race, and eat a veggie hot dog with the works!.  I left this race feeling pretty good.  Not only did I PR a 50K but I had a really fun time.  I later learned that all 119 runners finished the race!!  That is completely unheard of for an ultra marathon or any running race.  That is a true testament to the sport and it can be attributed to the great spirit of the trail running community and great volunteers who donated time out of their schedules to come and help out.  In about a month I will have my toughest training run at the Mohican 50 mile race.  Looking forward to it!!