The Winter Buckeye 50K was started as a fun run to raise money for Regis Shivers Sr. Regis was a talented ultra runner, known and loved by many in the community. Regis lost his battle with cancer last year. The race is located in the Cuyahoga Valley National Forest in north east Ohio. It consists of two sections, The Brandywine Falls loop is 5 miles while the Pinelane out and back is 8 miles. It's about 90% single track trail with a little towpath and even less pavement. There are a decent amount of hills throughout the course, plenty of sections worth walking, but if your a front runner, you could get by with only walking one or two hills. The conditions this year were much better than last. Last year the weather crept about freezing and all the ice turned to mud after the front runners went through the first loop, making it a big slip n slide. This year the ground stayed frozen the whole race. Of course, the frozen mud ruts didn't make for the best running surface either, but it beat the mud.
I got to the Boston Store (starting line) around 6:15, got my race bib, talked to some friends, and listened to the race briefing from RD, Tanya Cady. Mike called me about 15 minutes before the start of the race to tell me that he over slept and might be late. I picked up his race bib and waited for him to arrive. He ended up getting there about 30 seconds before the race started, nice timing, Mike! We had both decided that we were going to run slow today. Mike wanted to get more time on his feet, while I wanted to make sure my leg injuries were healed and that I had enough endurance to finish the race after being out of running for the past few weeks.
The 50ker's and marathoners started off down the Brandywine Falls Loop (5 miles) while the half marathoners started off on the Pinelane out and back (8 miles.) Mike and I took our spot in the back of the pack and wattled along while the front runners took off down the towpath. My goal was to run with Mike for most of the race then if I was still feeling good, I would see what I had left at the end. Our first Brandywine Falls loop was done at about a 6 hour pace. We were aiming for about 7 hours, but the Pinelane out and back has more hills than Brandywine so we maintained a steady pace. Mike and I had a great time running together. We were talking and laughing about all kinds of stupid stuff. I don't think there was every more than 15 seconds of silence for us the whole time we were together out there. It was a lot of fun for both of us to see so many people we knew out on the trail, and offer encouragement, as they encouraged us. With 5 repeated section we had a chance to see everyone many times (Red, Maria, Debi, E-Speed, Gabe, Wendy, Chef Bill, Kurt, Brian, Lloyd, Bob combs, Wild Bill, Roy, Slim, Regis, David, Paul and all the others I am forgetting or don't know.)Raising my hands in victory after 10 or so miles, sporting my Marathon and Beyond pullover that kept me warm all day!
Early on I was worried about the effects the frozen rutted ground might have on my Achilles which had been one of the injuries that has just healed. Luckily It didn't cause me any pain during the race or the day after. My other injury was my shin, which also didn't give me any problems. The last thing I was worried about was my endurance. I had run a total of 17 miles in the month of January, 10 of those 17 were done on Wednesday, so I wasn't sure how much the break had effected me, but like the other two issues, it didn't seem to have an impact on my race. After we finished the 2nd Brandywine Falls loop (17 miles in the race) I started thinking about my strategy for speeding up and finishing strong.
I broke away from Mike about a mile from the Pinelane turnaround, as he stopped to take this picture of a cruising E-Speed, barreling down the trail. You can see me in the background as I make my move while Mike takes this pic of an always smiling E-speed. If he hadn't stopped to take the picture I would have just tripped him and sprinted ahead, he knows this.
From that point on a really started to push the pace and treat it more as a race than I had for the first 21 miles. It felt really good to be running hard out on the trails. I hadn't had that feeling for several weeks. I was able to pass a boat load of people in the final 10 miles of the race. I ran the last 5 miles (Brandywine Falls loop) at an 8:54 pace which I was very pleased with, after this past month, I was starting to wonder if I still knew how to run. My final time was 6:29.
I've ever gotten in the 30+ ultras I've run, a very nice forest green full zip Brooks running jacket with the Winter Buckeye logo on the front and Vertical runner logo on the back, After the race was over I went inside, at some chili and chatted some more. It was an outstanding race with a wonderful RD and awesome volunteers and the coolest race apparel I've every received in any of my 30+ ultras, A forest green full-zip Brooks Running Jacket, with the WBT50K logo on the front and VR logo on the back, courtesy of sponsor, and awesome running store, Vertical Runner.