My first 50K sure was a good one. I headed out to Brecksville, OH for the Buckeye Trail 50K on July 12, 2014. I was traveling with my best bud, who at the time, was living in Columbus - otherwise, it would have been a totally random trip!
The course is an out and back on the Buckeye Trail that consists of rolling (sometimes steep) hills, and fairly technical single track portions. I made the mistake of not looking at the elevation profile until about a month before the event, so I was a little surprised by the fact that it was so hilly.
The start was located on a street where folks lined up before climbing about a quarter of a mile up a road, just before hitting some single track. It was hard to stay back and not go over the planned pace, but luckily, I had a running partner to keep me in check. Although it was a little rough starting with the climb, it sure was a nice was to think the pack before hitting the trails.
The first section was smooth, packed single track, but there was a lot of mud. The kind of mud that makes you slip around and feel like you are barely walking (like the first time I went ice skating). We were amazed at how much this slowed us down, but were ultimately grateful when we learned from other runners that it was a ‘dry’ year. I guess the prior year was MUCH worse.
There were also a lot of hills that ranged in size and difficulty. We used caution on both the up and downs to not use too much energy, and also to avoid potential injuries and muscle issues on the downs. It was definitely not the easiest course for a first 50K, but I’m glad we faced a solid challenge.
After the first sections of singletrack and some fields and open trails (not much, really), we hit a rough section filled with all kinds of roots and ankle-breakers. It majorly slowed us down, but as we were hitting miles 15-17, it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
The aid stations were solid. I was using my own nutrition (Tailwind Nutrition), but I did use the aid stations for water refills, some crackers, a bit of candy, and small bits of PP&J. The volunteers were awesome, and each one provided me with the little boost I needed to keep going.
The race was fairly smooth, but I did have a couple of issues. The first was when I stupidly tried from a bank down to a dry section of a stream. I rolled my ankle, and was worried I was going to have to drop after just three miles. Fortunately, after walking a bit, the pain was gone and I was on my way…for a bit at least.
When I got to mile 27 or so, we reached a very steep hill with wooden steps. As I went down the hill, I started feeling this sharp pain in my foot, that eventually hurt so much I had to stop and sit down. Fortunately, my friend is not only a good running pal, but a doctor as well. He encouraged me to keep marching toward the aid station, where I could grab a chair, nutrition, and have him check it out. He quickly determined there was no fracture, and figured the plantar had just been stretched out. I was able to wiggle it around, stretch it, and eventually, run on it. The pain went away for the rest of the race, and only came back first thing in the morning when I stepped out of bed. I had Plantar Fasciitis, and it was a bitch.
I ended up crossing the finish line by myself, just a couple of minutes ahead of my buddy. He insisted that I go ahead around mile 29.5 because he was dealing with some major cramping. If it were further back in the race, I would have waited, but knowing I would have wanted him to continue strong if I were in his shoes, I decided to march forward.
As I got closer to the finish line, I held off until about a tenth of a mile, and then gave a nice little sprint at the end. I was proud of my strong finish, and surprised I was able to give it that much effort. I crossed the finish line, grabbed my medal, some water, and headed for the shaded grassy area where I could stretch out my legs, and deal with the pain.