A light rain began about half way through my hour drive to Mill Creek State Park in Youngstown, Ohio. The weather report yesterday called for rain, rain, rain. I was surprised how little we got up to that point, but the future was not looking bright. When I arrived, the rain had more or less stopped. Maybe we would get the 50k in without getting drenched. In fact, by the end of the run, only intermittent light rain washed the sweat away. The conditions were far from perfect, but could have been a lot worse. This was a Fat Ass after all, so no whining, right?
When I got to the parking lot, there were already 9 cars there. These guys were serious about starting early. The official start was at 8, with the option of an early 6 AM getaway. Most opted for the early. Not me. Only a few of us were waiting for the others to make their first 8 mile circuit by the time 8 AM rolled around.
By 8, we were about 15 strong, a good showing for a rainy FA. The members of NEO Trail club seemed glad to welcome a new member - me - until the start.
As I removed the Aqua Socks I had on, a look of concern crossed many of their faces. I got the usual questions: Are you going to run barefoot? Aren't your feet cold? I assured them I was, and they weren't. Their assumption that I was crazy was however, would not be as easy to disprove (and probably still is not).
50k would be completed by making 4 circuits of the northern portion of the YUT-C course. We all started together at an easy pace. I worked my way to the back quickly - one of my strengths. The trail was in pretty good condition considering the rain. It was a little muddy, rocky, but firm for the most part. I ran with the back of the pack for the first circuit but was trying to keep up with the guy ahead of me. There were three behind. I was loosing distance at about mile 4 and then the guy ahead just disappeared into the woods. I kept trudging on and came to the monkey hill section. I had no one to follow, but the trail seemed plain enough. As I started up the monkey hills, I started to doubt the path. There were fresh tracks, but the steepness and precarious footing made it seem unreasonable. After all, there was a perfectly good path along the valley floor. Wouldn't it make sense to just run along that? After my third 200' assent at 45 degrees,(or was it 60?) I saw the three behind on the same path, confirming my direction. I decided to slow down to avoid getting lost. It seemed that the sensible rout was never chosen. No, if the path started looking too easy, I could be sure that a turn up a hill was just around the corner.
Near the end of my first circuit, there were just two of us strongly bringing up the rear. Tank and I were passed by a few of the leaders who decided to run their next circuit backwards. Note: Tank is my nickname for the one others call Moose. I don't know why, I just think 'tank' when I see him lumbering along. We finished the first in just under 2 hours. Not quick. But I was having a good time. We refueled at the parking lot and started our second circuit in reverse. After the first mile or so I realized the sharp pain in my big right toe was going to be an issue. After crossing a stream, washing off some of the mud, the hanging skin of a nice big blister greeted me with a smile. Well, that would pain me the rest of the way. And it did. I could have stopped to tape it up, but wouldn't that be considered whining? Something not allowed in these races.
Tank and I finished the second Circuit in just over two hours. My feet were done for the day and Tank had to leave. Therefore, my ultra debut was only half realized at 16 miles. That's alright. I had fun, meet some great people, and got to run around a very picturesque park. The weather being what it was, didn't make for the prettiest day, but there is a lot of potential. There are lots of trails to discover. I will return to this one for another run.
Here are some shots: