Warning, long entry)
Ultralong Champs, East Fork Park. I was not looking forward to this race. I really hate orienteering through the gullies in Ohio. And my body is built for short distances, not endurance events. Throw in a rainy day, and forget about it. My goal today was to finish. I had no interest in competing or trying to win. It was an exercise to see if my body could handle this event. The only thing I was looking forward to was the mass start: I hadn’t done one of these races in many years. It’s always fun to read everyone else’s write ups on AP about the Highlander or Billygoat, and who saw whom and when.
So, we line up in the road in the pouring rain, and run off en masse. It was hard to run on the first trail, since the people around you were going at different paces, and the trail was now a stream. But I made it cleanly to the first two controls.
After 2, I decided to cut down and up through a reentrant. Down on my butt. Try to go up, take two steps, slide back to the bottom. Try again, slide down again. Move to a third location, and was finally able to make it up. THIS is why I hate orienteering in Ohio; I know where I want to go, I just physically can’t get there. No fun. But this was a good reminder early in the race, and helped me decide not to go through any more gullies or reentrants for the rest of the race.
By this time I was already alone, except for occasional trains of red or blue runners passing through. Saw Julia B (F45), Linear Ice (Erin) and some MNOC guys as I approached 3, so I knew I was not too far behind. Leaving 3, I looked at my watch, and saw that I had been out for 30 minutes. Time to stop and ingest some Cliff Blocks. My plan to survive the day was to eat and drink every thirty minutes. Erin passed me at this point, and she did a double take when she saw me standing still by the side of the trail.
Lots of problems with 4. The plan was to hit the trail, then follow the funny looking white stripe of woods. Obviously, I didn’t execute this well, and no surprise, never found the white woods. I was mucking around in the thick green with Erin and another MNOC fellow, when we stumbled out onto a trail. I stood there for a bit to get my bearings, while Erin and guy went off to explore the trail a bit further. I began to think I was on the trail that lead to the control, if I just headed NW to the building. But just then, Erin and guy came back, and I overheard them say ”I can’t believe we were so far off”. So, I followed them down the trail to the SE. Bad, bad Mary. Should have trusted myself. We got out to the road, and Erin and guy kept going. I finally stopped and looked at the map again, and realized what I had done. Doh! Back down the trail to the control, where I saw Angie B (the only other F45). Passed Erin coming in to the control as I was heading back out.
Erin, Angie and I all took different routes from 5 to 6. My plan was to follow trails and fence lines most of the way. The vegetation was bit thick around the fences, but I thought all was going well. I was getting a bit tired here, and slowed way down through the woods. I was all alone, and suddenly I saw something weird in the ticket up ahead. I can’t be sure, but it was really tall and hairy. Dare I say it looked like a Bigfoot?? At this point I was begin to wonder what was going on, since I dropped my map and didn't notice for a 20 feet. Finally looked at my watch: it was past one hour. Time for food, of course! Stood still, ate and drank. Looked around. Bigfooot?? What was I thinking? Clearly I was hallucinating. Oriented my map and compass and whoa! I had been heading in the wrong direction. My body is definitely not made for endurance events that require thinking. After the food break, went cleanly right to 6.
I figured that Angie and Erin were way past me by now, so I was surprised to see Erin punching 7 as I approached. On the long run towards 8, Julia was running towards me on the trail towards 10, so I knew she had the F45 win all wrapped up.
I was always alone now, except for Eric Bone blowing past me, and watching Wyatt leading a train of young guys hanging on his tail. I wonder if he minded? Or even noticed that they were there?
(TMI warning: this paragraph talks about peeing in the woods, so you may want to skip it): On my way to 10, I knew I had to take a bathroom break. I saw a huge rootstock just to the west of a trail junction, which would give good cover, so I went there. In reference to the recent AP discussion on women peeing in the woods, I can add one more inconvenience: wet clothing. Getting them down was hard enough. Pulling them up was harder. And a very uncomfortable feeling. I know they were only wet with rain, but boy, your body sends different messages to your brain when you pull on wet underwear :) It was hard to put out of my mind and get moving again.
As I was heading down the trail to 10, I was surprised to Angie coming towards me on her way to 8; guess I passed her somewhere. I took some refreshment around now, since it was the 2 hour mark, but I don’t think it helped. I had a hard time keeping track of where I was on the trails to 10. When I hit a horse camp with some man made structures, I could not figure out where I was. Slowly walked along the trail, looking around and trying to relocate. Finally the brain kicked in and I noticed the steep gullies on both sides of me, and aha! that’s where I am. And the horse camp, where I stopped, was right at the trail junction I was looking for! Doh! To be fair, it was a minor trail, heading right down the hill, and one couldn’t see it until you walked over the edge of the hill. But still. Tired body, tired brain. When is this course going to end?
As I got closer to 10, Nadim and some other runners were coming towards me. Nadim told me that Mike was walking and I must have looked startled (my first thought: is he injured?) Nadim quickly assured me that Mike had skipped a control and was taking it easy (Ironically, it turned out that Mike WAS injured, but fortunately, not badly. After his knee injury, I’m always a bit nervous about hearing he has been ”injured”.)
Picked up some guy I didn’t know near 11. We were together on the approach to 12, both of us moving very slowly. It seemed like a long way to the trail. Just as I finally saw the trail, the guy yelled at me ”the control is back there” and pointed to a rootstock. Ah, so he was going slowly because he was looking for a control, while I was just tired. Silly me, I knew I was a long way from my control, but did that prevent me from going to look at the control he mentioned??? No, of course not. Usually, I know better than that. Another sign of rigor mortis setting in my brain.
As I finally hit the trail leading towards 12, I looked at my watch and realized I had a chance to make it in under 3 hours. That gave me a bit of a boost to keep going, but I was really glad to find a trail through the woods leaving 12. One final push to 13 and the finish, and I was finally done!
Can’t say I will ever do another ultralong, and certainly not in Ohio:) But I did survive this one, and in fact, my body was not completely exhausted afterwards, nor was I stiff and sore the next day. My Forerunner says my actual distance was 14.5 k, which Mike guessed, and I confirmed, is the longest distance I have ever run. (I told you, I’m not an endurance runner :)