Thursday, May 1, 2014

Run For Regis 50K: February 16th, 2014

The Run For Regis 50K and Half Marathon Trail Race takes me to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park for my first ultra of 2014.  The proceeds of the event go toward the Regis Shivers Scholarship which is awarded to a graduating high school runner in honor of Regis Shivers.  The start and finish of this run are at the Ledges Shelter, which is the same place where mile 65 aid station was during the Burning River 100.  It was cool to see this area in the day light because it has awesome scenery and last summer during Burning River it was dark when I came through the trails.  The cool thing about this event is that it takes place in the dead of winter so it adds an extra challenge because you never know what the weather will be like.  They also make it clear that during bad weather you can consider yourself finished at whatever distance you are comfortable with and then you can collect your race jacket and dive into some vegan chili.  The race director, Tanya Cady, does a fantastic job of organizing this race and the aid stations were top notch.  I have been training since November for the Indiana Trail 100 which is April 26th and my training plan called for a 50K on this weekend so it worked out perfectly to sign up for this race.

Pre-race speech..everyone is straight frozen!
This winter has been the worse winter I can ever remember.  Arctic air streams moved down to the mid-west and brought many days of below zero temperatures and tons of snow.  Upwards of seven feet of snow dropped throughout the winter.  All the trails in Michigan have been completely overtaken with snow and uneven ice since December.  Most of my training miles this winter have been on neighborhood streets and *gulp* the treadmill at my local fitness 19.  I was concerned about the weather and trail conditions for the Run For Regis because I knew the Cleveland area has been hit with the same extreme winter as Southeast Michigan.  I was also wondering how I would perform because I have hardly had any hill or trail training for most of the winter.  I figured I would just take my time and enjoy whatever was thrown my way.  Jessica decided to run the half marathon and I was glad she was going to participate in this awesome event. We drove to Hudson, Ohio the night before the race and stayed with her sister Natalie who conveniently lives 15 minutes from Ledges Shelter.  I had been watching the forecast and was prepared for one thing..COLD!

A good view of the start / finish area wave #1.  Snow snow snow!
I woke up very early so I could get all my gear on and make sure I found the Ledges Shelter in time to check in.  Jess's race was not starting until later then mine so Natalie was going to drop her off.  I scraped some frost off my car and even though I had gloves on my hands were freezing.  The temperature gauge in my car read 13 degrees.  I arrived to the shelter early and there was already a decent amount of people there.  I went into the shelter house and got checked in.  I ran into some good friends, Chad, Mark, and Tammy, that I have met through the Ohio trail running community.  We were all huddled around the fireplace in the shelter house where they had a roaring fire going.  It was so cold out that everyone wanted to get moving to get warmed up.  Tanya gave her pre-race speech and announced that we were going to start in waves of 15 to 20 runners.  Chad and I were in the fourth wave and we had to wait an additional 20 minutes to start.  Oh well, that's the rules of the permit for the race so there is nothing we could do about it.  I strapped on my icetrekkers for additional traction in the ice and snow and was ready for whatever the course was going to throw at me.  We started the race in snow that was about mid shin deep and it was so hard running through it that we were all laughing.  We had to go about a quarter mile through this tough footing to get to the trails and I was thinking the whole 50K was going to be like that.  

Camelbak is under the coat to keep water from freezing
Once we got to the trail we discovered the snow was nicely packed and even!  Chad had put screws in the bottom of his shoes and I had my traction chains on and we cruised through the first 5 miles.  Then we had to check in at the start finish area and had to run through that tough shin deep snow again..whew!  Then we set out on the 8 mile loop which entailed going back out through the deep uneven snow but once again when we arrived at the trail it was all good.  We had some good conversation and the miles went by quickly.  It was cold out and snowing as well.  Temps only reached the low 20s that day.  When we arrived at the aid station on the 8 mile loop I discovered they had hot grilled cheese and I cannot express how much that hit the spot.  After leaving the aid station we caught up to Mark Carroll and Scott Wolf.  If there was any guys who put the word fun in trail running it is them.  We were laughing about so many things for the next few miles.  I was the only one doing the 50K out of the group so I decided I had to get moving.  Chad stuck with me and before we knew it we were back at start finish.  We did the 5 mile loop again and then the 8 mile loop a second time as well.  This time on the 8 mile loop there was a bunch of people sledding at Pine Hollow which was awesome to see.  The last time I was at Pine Hollow was during Burning River 100 when I was at mile 71, my foot was destroyed, my motivation was low, and it was pitch dark out.  This was a much happier setting.

Almost to the finish line!
Chad and I were both getting tired heading back to start finish on that second 8 mile loop.  I had not had much trail training / hill training due to the brutal winter and this course has a lot of great hills!  We fought the deep snow again getting back to the start finish area and Chad was calling it a day at 26.2 miles.  He wanted to finish the 50K but had family obligations.  It was great to get to know him better and our awesome conversation made the first 26.2 miles fly by.  I headed back out to finish the last five miles and my body temp started to fall.  It was freezing out and I just wanted to be done and back at the start finish eating vegan chili and sitting by the roaring fire in the shelter house.  The five miles went by slowly but eventually the finish line came into sight.  I fought the really deep snow back to the finish one last time.  The chili and the roaring fire were everything I thought they would be.  It was so nice to be done.  Jess rocked out 8 miles of the course earlier that day without traction!  She was sliding down the most of the steep hills but she had a lot of fun, ran with a group, and did a great job.  I had a lot of fun at this race.  I was happy to get some trail running in and it was a nice training run for Indiana Trail 100 in late April. 

Check out this video, taken by participant Michael Semick, that captures how awesome the course was on that cold February day.  He did the half marathon so the video follows the 8 mile loop first and then the 5 mile loop: