Drove 3 ½ hours very early Sunday morning to the John Bryan State Park just outside of Yellow Springs, Ohio. Weather was great – sunny & cool with little humidity and a very light breeze. These conditions were completely opposite from my last race. There was some mud along the Little Miami River, but it was easily missed & most of that had a lot of sand in it with no silt so it wasn’t slippery. The course had been changed from last year, according to the announcement by the RD, but I wasn’t there for the inaugural running & this really wasn’t directed to the 1st time runners anyway. Garry said that part of the first loop was moved down next to the river & was very technical – he was right about that. The race consisted of 2 loops run 4 times, the 1st loop almost 5 miles and the 2nd almost 3 miles. Three miles or so of the 1st loop were about as technical as you can get for a fairly flat trail. Unforgiving rocks were embedded in the trail along with roots. This section was not for someone with ankle or foot issues -- my ankles got achy though I never turned them. Some areas were really picturesque and most people (& there were many) in the gorge area had cameras and/or were packing tripods. The rushing water in the rapids (class II-IV whitewater) was very soothing to the eyes & ears! Wildflowers were in full bloom. Foot placement was so critical in some areas that it made it difficult to enjoy everything unless you stopped – which you had to do anyway for some of the visitors. The second loop was very flat and designed for bike use. This section was somewhat boring visually to me especially after running down by the scenic river. Whoever designed this section made the very most of every square foot of land – the trail snaked & zigzagged back & forth thruout this narrow strip of forest. Many times the trail was within 20 feet (sometimes even a few feet) from the trail going in the opposite direction. It seems like if you went very fast you would get motion sickness. The first loop more than made up for the 2nd, so overall it was an enjoyable course.
This is a very popular park as evidenced by the large number of visitors & with the great weather everyone seemed to be there: many people with cameras, pets or family and there were several rappelling outfits, some people with plastic bags with roots (ginseng?), bikers & hikers & other runners, park rangers leading educational tours, park employees (volunteers?) working hard (on Sunday!) on a new wood building, lovers, campers, cruisers, the ORRRC crew & 50K runners!
How did I do? Well, the usual as I never learn. The 1st third of a mile or so is downhill to the river and I took off feeling really good. I maintained a position in the top 12 for the 1st 5K, but of course this was a 50K. Much of this portion was very technical, which I liked, but I paid for that position as you would expect. The rest of the race was at a jogging pace that I needed to keep up to get to the finish without ending up walking – not good. Ten minutes after coming out of the gorge, a train of 15 runners passed me. About 20 minutes after that, another train of 12 runners passed me. I thought, there didn’t seem that many runners at the start, am I last now? I found that out in the maze of trails on the 2nd loop that there were still a few behind me (some of those would pass me too). I received a 3rd place medal for my age group (must’ve been 3rd out of 3).
In reality though, looking back at my too fast start, I don’t know if that changed my final placement by much in the long run. This course is runable pretty much from start to finish with no big hill(s) to climb. I like hills throughout a course so I can give myself an excuse to walk occasionally & take that opportunity to catch my breath. So I probably would have finished close to where I did anyway with a slower start. Sounds like I need more training . . .