Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Record trend continues at the Buckeye Trail 50 km

Report by Lloyd Thomas

Fourteen years ago, Joe Jurczyk introduced the first Buckeye Trail 50 km as a low-key birthday fun run. Twelve runners participated in that inaugural event. According to Jurczyk, the main reason for the run was to “introduce runners to some of the local trails that we have here in the Cuyahoga Valley.”

Back then, runners would simply sign their name and time on a clipboard after finishing. The summer 50k continued this way for the first 10 years under Jurczyk and the race grew to a modest number of 50 runners.

In 2004 Vince Rucci, co-owner of the Vertical Runner trail running store, took the helm of the event and has grown the fun-run into a highly competitive and popular trail race. In each of the five years under Rucci’s direction, the number of participants and finishers has increased – from 50 participants in 2003 to a record 185 starters this year.

Part of the reason for its growing popularity is Rucci’s grass-roots efforts in the community. In addition to race directing and promotion, Rucci leads group familiarization runs on the course in preparation for the race. “The Buckeye Trail 50 km is a popular first-time ultra,” says Rucci. “After the spring marathon season, it’s fun to switch it up from road running and get dirty on the trails.”

The 15th Buckeye Trail 50 km was held July 19, starting from the Oak Grove picnic area of the Cleveland Metroparks Brecksville Reservation. The course is an out-and-back on the Buckeye Trail, Ohio’s Millennium Legacy designated trail. The Buckeye Trail is a 1,400-mile trail that circumnavigates the state, although it’s not all developed. The 50 km course covers a 16-mile section that stretches north-to-south between the Cleveland Metroparks and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The trail wanders through the forest and traverses the valley several times throughout the race. The Cuyahoga Valley is only a 300-foot river valley, but its roots, rocks and mud gives this trail its character. The terrain is hilly enough and the trail, save the road crossings, is a beautiful and mostly single-track path. Running in the valley, it’s sometimes difficult to imagine being only minutes away from downtown Cleveland.

For the second consecutive year, registration reached capacity and closed by mid-June. This year there were 185 starters and 156 finishers – both new event records.

Also for the second straight year, a course record was broken along with several age-group records. Despite humid conditions and temperatures climbing well into the 80s, the lack of rain preceding the race provided a dry, fast trail conducive for speed. The trail’s typical mud was avoided on this day.

Kam Lee finished first with a time of 4:10:16, claiming his sixth win in seven years. Damon Blackford placed second, setting a new master’s age record with his time of 4:19:10.

Beth Woodward had never run an ultra or trail race and started showing up to Rucci’s group runs last month. In her very first ultra and trail race, Woodward placed first among women and third overall. Her time of 4:37:15 set a new women’s course record that shaved two minutes off Allison Had’s 2005 effort.

Jeff Ubersax placed fourth and reset his own Grand Master’s record in 4:41:23. Denise Flores broke the women’s Grand Master’s record in 6:26:45.

Elizabeth Hansen improved upon her 2007 Buckeye Trail debut, placing second in 5:01:37. Dawn Malone, 2007 Burning River 100 champion, placed third in 5:30:19.

Steve Godale finished sixth and became the event’s only 15-time finisher. The oldest finisher of the day was 79-year old Leo Lightner, who came in with a time of 9:14:35 and a smile on his face. Leo aspires to run this year’s JFK 50 Mile at age 80.

If there was a different vibe at this year’s Buckeye Trail race, it was because some participants were running the 50 km as a last “training run” for the Burning River 100 mile, to be held only two weeks later on August 2. Rucci and Jurczyk have teamed up to form a seven-race Western Reserve Trail Running Series in northeast Ohio, including the BT50K and BR100.

For more information on the Western Reserve Trail Running series, visit www.wrtr.org.

Thanks to race sponsors Merrell, Vertical Runner, and to chef Bill Bailey for the post-race grub. Also thanks to the local park systems that permit the race to take place: The Cleveland Metroparks and Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Full results (156 finishers)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Western Reserve Trail Running series

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Another BT50K in the books

It was record day at the Buckeye Trail 50K with 185 runners starting 156 finishing.

Link to 2008 BT50K results

Though temperatures were warmer than last year, the lack of rain this past week provided a dry and fast trail. Stellar running performances were recorded, including a women's course record and M40-49 and M50-59 age-group records.

Results are unofficial. If you have a question or clarification with the results, send inquiries to me at: runwithlloyd@gmail.com

Special thanks to race sponsors Merrell, Vertical Runner, and Chef Bill Bailey and his Pure Fuel. Also to our wonderful park systems: The Cleveland Metroparks and Cuyahoga Valley National Park. And not least of all, the volunteers.

Click below for a few albums from today. My apologies if your photo is not there - I admit to some technical difficulties from the trail.

Pre-race and start

On the trail

Finish line and post-race

Chef Bill's grub

Congratulations to all!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Report: Grandfather Mountain races

This past weekend I ran in two races in the highlands of Western North Carolina: The Bear 5 Mile Uphill Run, held on Thursday night and the Grandfather Mountain Marathon, held on Saturday morning.

Although the main attraction was the Scottish Highland Games on Grandfather Mountain, these two running races and the 100km cycling event comprised the "King/Queen of the Mountain" competition. Our friend Denine rocked all three events.

Andrea and I were guests of a local running buddy and his family at their summer vacation cabin near Boone. For several years, he had raved about the challenging highland races and the beauty of this part of Appalachia. This year was our turn to see for ourselves.

Training: With a goal marathon still 15 weeks away, I have been building up a mileage base over the past two months. Prior to this weekend, I finished 6 weeks of 50+ miles per week of easy running without speedwork. This weekend was a treat to add some hills to the mix.

The Bear 5 mile Uphill Run:
"The Bear" is the better attended event which starts in Linville and rises over 1,500' to finish atop the mile-high Grandfather Mountain at 5,200'. The race starts at 7pm on Thursday with about 800 entrants. The quality of field was obvious with many competitive local HS and college runners. The top runners earn the coveted "Bear" coffee mug.

Grandfather Mountain with McRae Meadows, home of the Highland Games, in the foreground.

My buddy, who I am a little faster than, ran 42 minutes last year so I thought 40 minutes was a good goal. I should be able to run my "easy pace" up the hill, right?

I admit to a little trepidation before the start -- we don't have mountains like this in NE Ohio. To me, the nervousness felt similar prior to my first parachute jump in the Army. Andrea mentioned it felt like we were being walked to the guillotine. I warmed-up for 2.5 miles and lined up in the second row from the start.

The gun sounded and it was uphill right away. I immediately noticed that there was no chatter and only heavy breathing by all. The pack was tight and after 5 minutes of climbing I looked at my HR monitor to see 186, only a beat or two shy of my most recent recorded max. I was toast. I reach mile 1 (7:42) and know I was out way too fast. What else was there to do but keep on?

I backed off and continued the climb on a shaded forest dirt road. I knew I was in for a tussle when I was out of breath and reached mile 2 (8:25). The third mile flattened out a bit as we ran through the campground and track for the Highland Games. We were greeted by kilted clansmen and bagpipes as we circled the track.

Leaving the track was a steep uphill through the grass to reach the road surface and was still running (slowly) to arrive at mile 3 (8:27). By now I knew sub-40 minutes was unlikely as I was in serious oxygen debt.

We confronted the first set of switchbacks in mile 4 (10:04) -- this is where I gave in. I walked. Several times. I caught my breath and did the ultra run-walk but kept moving upwards.

With one mile to go, another set of switchbacks came into view. Nearly everyone around me -- myself included -- said, "oh shit" as we could fully see the remaining climb to the peak of Grandfather Mountain. It was now that I wish I did not take this race so seriously -- I could not get enough oxygen into my lungs.

Traversing the final turns, the cheers grew louder and helped speed the pace. The final 400 meters was one final steep uphill similar to a Tour de France hill climb with a run through large crowds on both sides of the road. The clouds thickened as I reached the the summit mile 5 (8:33) and it felt like we ran into the sky. I crested the peak, entering the finishing chute at 43:11, 94th of 819 finishers, and was surprised to receive a coveted "Bear" coffee mug. Sweet!

The top male finished 31:50 and top female 38:44.

Though I had no speedwork under my belt, it was painfully clear that I was in no shape to race here. This Ohioan is out of his league when it comes to mountain-climbing, and it showed. I wish I would have not taken it so seriously and brought my camera. Those steep switchbacks are hard to describe in words.

The good news is that there was no lingering effect or muscle soreness -- only temporary cardiovascular punishment. Upon finishing, it was a quick recovery as I regained by breath. The clouds rolled in to obscure our mountain top view but we enjoyed the mile-high bridge before returning down on the shuttle van.

Looking down at the switchbacks in the final mile.

Grandfather Mountain Marathon:
I took the marathon a little less serious and brought along the camera. The goal was to get in a good long run without causing too much muscle soreness. I had heard that a decent time is about 30 minutes slower than "flat" marathon, so I targeted 3:30-3:35, or about 8:00 per mile pace.

The Grandfather Mountain Marathon is a course that is never flat -- always going up or down, but mostly up. Here is the elevation profile recorded from a garmin device:

The race started on the track of Appalachian State University in Boone.

With Denine, our Queen of the Mountain.

And we're off!

I made the mistake of drinking too much coffee in the morning and I had to pee before even leaving the track. It worked out well since I was now at the back of the field of 400 runners. This helped me to take it out slow and talk to some of the other runners in the early miles. The first two miles are the easiest of the race -- a slight downhill stretch through the city of Boone before heading into the hills.

Mile 2: 16:59

The hills hit me right away and I knew this would be a long day, but I intended to take in the scenery:

Mile 3

Mile 4 - Up the hill

Mile 5 - going up

Mile 6 - Christmas tree farm

Miles 6 through 10 climbed a winding road that delivered us on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC. Miles 11-13 were a glorious downhill stretch on the Parkway with tremendous views. Without changing effort, I recorded my fastest mile of the day in the 11th mile (7:17) and neared the half on pace for 3:40.

Mile 13: 1:48:18 (no marker for 13.1)

Mile 12 - On the Blue Ridge Parkway with Grandfather Mountain in the distance.

Mile 13 - View from the Blue Ridge Pkwy

Mile 14 - Grandfather Mountain in the background. The finish line is on the other side

The second half of the race is mostly uphill and miles 16-17 follow a dirt road.

Mile 16 with Grandfather looming in the distance

Mile 17 - Steep uphill dirt road

Mile 18 - Still going up

Mile 20: 2:47:37

I took less pictures in miles 18-24 and concentrated on the task of climbing this mountain. These were some of the best miles of the day. Due to my conservative start, I got into a good groove and started picking off runners ahead. Without really speeding up, I estimate passing about 25-30 runners in the final ten miles.

These last eight miles were on State Hwy 221, a winding road which was not closed to traffic. Not only did we have to negotiate the mountain climb, there was some car dodging on the blind corners, too.

On this warm and clear day, the mostly tree-lined course protected us from the sun. The aid stations were spaced a little farther apart than optimal, every 2-3 miles, so I did make a point to walk through each station to ensure consumption of 6-10 fluid ounces at each. Nutrition-wise, I stuck with water only, Succeed! capsules (3 total) at 0:45, 1:45, and 2:45, and a Gu gel (3 total) at 1:15, 2:00, and 2:45.

The 24th mile provided a steep, but short, downhill pitch before the diabolical final two miles uphill to the finish at McRae Meadows. We crossed the Blue Ridge Parkway for the last time and entered the stadium and a lap around the track to the cheers of the crowds at the Highland Games.

Final time: 3:39:09
42nd place of 351 finishers

Grandfather Mountain was the most difficult road marathon course I've run. We hung around to watch all the finishers until the 6 hour cutoff. With such a small field, magnificent course, and the Highland Games as a backdrop, the post-race camaraderie and stories were highly animated.

I will cherish my time in the highlands of North Carolina. Thanks for reading.

McRae Meadows - Home of the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games

Queens of the Mountain: Denine, Annette, Jane

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

On the road

I'm taking off for a long weekend to Western NC. Stay tuned for a report of the Grandfather Mountain adventure.

The weeks ahead are sure to busy. With the Buckeye Trail 50k on July 19 and the Burning River 100 on August 2, Northeast Ohio's ultrarunning community is sure to be fully energized.

I am heading up the Station Road Bridge aid station (miles 33 and 39) once again at the Burning River race. I am seeking volunteers for a few hours between the hours of 7:30 am and 5:00 pm. Let me know if you'll be available. Volunteers receive a Burning River T-shirt and I'll need to know your size.

To the mountains!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Running log scripts

Though I'm not happy with changing websites again, I think I've found the site that fits my needs. I've abandoned Running2Win and am now logging my miles on the Running Ahead website. I now have two months data from May and June.

I'm posting here to test the automatic scripts provided by Running Ahead:

I'm curious to know more about run log methodology. How do you log your miles?