This past week without power was tough – I felt so frustrated & helpless as the hours, then days, passed. Unlike residents in Texas & Louisiana, this outage was totally unexpected. Had Louisville not sent a convoy of utility workers south for relief work when IKE made landfall, we would’ve gotten power back several days earlier. I did not have information about the Hocking Hills event which I had planned on checking online in the days before the race, so it was just a matter of using my memory on directions & race details. I ended up forgetting to bring several things too; everything seemed so out of synch coming up to this race.
The 60k got started about 7:15 am. There were other races to begin later at staggered times throughout the day, including a 5k, 10k, 20k & a 40k. About 35 runners toed the line for 3 laps of 20k over varied surfaces. I had low level pain in my ankle after the race last Saturday, so I didn’t run any all week in hopes of the pain going away (it didn’t).
It was cool at the start & the humidity was low all day. The 1st water stop ended up being at 7 miles as the one at 3.5 miles had not been set up yet (the water stops ended up being a sticking point for me this race). About 4-5 miles of each loop was pavement or gravel road. The traffic in the morning on OH 664 was ok -- the last loop it was downright dangerous as drivers were flying by just a couple feet from you. I think the speed limit was 55 (or at least the drivers thought so), but 35 on this hilly road full of blind curves seemed more appropriate to me. There was one good sized hill each lap. There were some scenic stretches along the gorge & running thru the pines was pretty enjoyable. The smooth rock outcroppings were so inviting, but I kept on the trail. With my sore ankle, I favored my left side slightly at first. Less than 1 mile of each lap is what I would call technical single track, which was down by the lake so I watched my footing closely – I didn’t need to do more damage. At just over 2 hours for the 1st loop, I knew the pace was too fast to keep up so I slowed considerably the 2nd time around. My ankle soreness went away (or it went numb) this loop. On this lap, quite a few new runners joined in on various parts of the course, 20k runners at first, then 5k & 10k runners on the last part. It’s always a bit deflating when you think you’re going along pretty good & then someone runs by you like you’re standing still. I’m sure it gives them a little boost, but wish we all had a different course.
Getting close to noon starting the last loop, it was getting pretty warm (hot for me). The shaded areas were fine -- it was just the sun beating down on my head on those long stretches of roadway with the only breeze (with fumes) coming from passing cars. The water stops on the course were just that – they were not what I would consider aid stations -- water was indeed provided & were as advertised. The only problem I had with that was the water got warmer & warmer till the water in the cups sitting out in the sun was hot! I usually came in thirsty & drinking warm/hot water wasn’t something I looked forward to. After seeing my displeasure at one stop, an aid worker got ice from her own cooler & put it in a couple cups of the water – all of it melted in about 30 seconds, but the water was cooled down – Thanks! One station used a garbage can filled with water – I could hardly stomach that when I saw him scooping from the can to fill my bottle, but then I realized I had drank water there the 1st 2 loops. All day, much of the water had a distinctive taste, like that from an outdoor faucet. The volunteers were friendly & very supportive so there were good times at the stops.
At the end of each loop, there is a half mile section on an uphill grade up to the lodge. Approaching the finish on this hill, the inside of my upper left leg started to cramp & seemed like it wanted to lock up. Maybe it was because I favored that leg so much the 1st lap trying to keep pressure off the right ankle, or more likely I was running a deficit on fluids. It was a real battle as I knew if it locked up, it would be extremely painful. All during this time, there was a lot of traffic leaving the lodge – one car slowed down & a guy started talking to me – I think he was trying to ask me a question. He was persistent, backing up to keep trying to talk to me – I never understood a single word he said – SORRY! Another vehicle slowed down & someone asked “Are you Ed?” I nodded & went on – I was beginning to wonder, are the race organizers worried about me on the course? Was I the last runner & they were waiting just for me? Later I discovered it was Cassie who had asked who I was & gave me encouragement on the hill – Thanks!
I finally dragged myself across the timing mat with an official time of 7:15:24. Surprisingly, although we had timing chips, they did not want us to go over the sensors at the end of each loop – I guess too much to keep up with. Along with chip timing, the small $25 entry fee got you a shirt & finishing token – not bad for an ultra.
Next up is Grindstone 100. My last long run is done & time to taper now. Although my ankle is still a concern, I had no trouble whatsoever with my back, which is great news.