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OPSF – November 2010

November 2010

As I mentioned it prior, I guess I should update a bit… November 6 I ran in the OPSF 50/50, a fifty mile trail race (although the race director admitted it was closer to 53 miles) that wanders through the Owen-Putnam state forest in central Indiana (over 8000 feet of elevation change – nothing big, just constant hills). The day was beautiful. I had travelled down with my neighbor Kevin and was joined by a couple of other area ultra-runners. We headed out to the start area of the race at 6a – beautiful stars in a moonless sky. It was cold (34* or so), but we were ready to go.

just under 20 miles done…

We headed out on the first loop – headlamps guiding us along 5.5 miles that included some road sections and some climbs and scrambles along a powerline. I ran with Kevin, and we focused on maintaining a very easy pace in the early going. We returned to the start, ditched our lights and grabbed some fuel and then set off along a 13.5 mile loop through the woods that was primarily single-track. It was gorgeous – brightly colored leaves hanging in the trees and on the ground. Interesting valleys and ridges. Very pleasant and helpful aid station workers. Kevin and I chugged along, slowly catching up with and then passing folks as we went along. The loop brought us back to the start area where we refreshed our supplies, grabbed our ipods, I changed into some shorts as the temperature was rising, and we were off again.

the rough patch – almost 30 miles done…

We headed out on the same 13.5 mile loop. We felt great. It was all sunshine and feeling like I was holding back, but I was ready to run free… and then we got a little further along… my stomach started to feel odd (it is tough to eat as you run, so I rely on some endurance drinks with protein and carbs – sometimes they don’t play well with my stomach), my feet were really hurting, and I found my thoughts increasingly incoherent (I was dumbfounded when we arrived at an aid station that we passed twice each loop – I couldn’t figure out why the same people were at different aid stations). I was definitely focusing on just running – no more sunshine and feeling strong. We returned to the start area, well over 30 miles in the bag, and I was in rough shape. Even so, Kevin and I had succeeded in running the loop faster than the first time around. Luckily, Michael (who had already finished the 50k version of the race) was there to help me get some supplies as I changed my shoes and adjusted my fueling options. I had once helped him through a rough spot in a trail race, so I guess it was a bit of karmic payback.

Kevin was feeling stronger than I was, so he took off, and I was alone as I began the 13.5 mile loop for the third and final time. I don’t remember a lot about the next couple of hours, but I did find my groove again. By drinking more water, I was able to get my stomach corrected, and the fresh shoes and socks made a difference. I was exhausted, but I knew I could keep going. Happily, this time around I wasn’t cramping the way I had in previous races. So I just kept going. I sang to myself in the woods. Chatted with the folks at the aid stations – they were amazing, spending close to 12 hours in the woods to help those of us crazy enough to run all day. Just kept moving along. I even kept passing folks, and my pace felt consistent, although I never did see Kevin again until the finish. I returned to the start area at almost exactly 10 hours into the race.

I had finished the third loop in the woods faster than either of the first two, and all I had left was another powerline loop (the loop that had begun the day – 5.5. miles). I dropped everything I could – supplies, ipod – grabbed some water and a snack and “sprinted” away. I had run the powerline loop in just under an hour at the start of the day. I had 53 minutes and 30 seconds remaining if I wanted to finish the race in under 11 hours. I was wiped though. The short sections of running on the road felt like I was hammering my legs. The rocky service road that lead to the powerline trail was difficult. There was even a vicious dog patrolling one area – I lost precious time stopping to yell and threatening to throw my water bottle at him. Even though I knew I was almost done, I wasn’t sure I would finish. Just thought I might have to stop. Just stop. It made sense at the time, but luckily I pulled myself together and limped back towards the finish – my watch was ticking ever closer to 11 hours and I had almost given up finishing before that time. Somehow I found myself back on the short road section that lead back to the start area (now the “finish area”) with just over a minute to go. My legs were shot, every part of my body was wasted, but I staggered/limped/sprinted onward. I crossed the finish line at 10:59:56 according to my watch.

the finish…
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