Land Between the Lakes 50 Mile Race Report
Grand Rivers,Kentucky played host to my first official race of 2012. Signing up for the Land between the Lakes 50 mile race was easy do to the number of RUT runners talking about the race. RUT is a ultra running group from the “East” side ofMichigan. Most people would sayDetroit, but that is like saying they are fromNew Yorkand assuming the big apple. This group of runners has taken me in over the years. I met a few of them last year at Dances with Dirt Green Swampand have been running near or behind them since.
The planning for the race was simple. Register and show up in Kentucky. Kai made reservations for us all to have dinner and Roger booked the hotel. My only responsibility was to drive. Roger and I left really early on Friday and headed the quickest route there. 9+ hours later we arrived in Grand Rivers on the bank of theKentucky River. Red Neck Tom Tom got us there without any challenges. The little town seemed a little quiet at 2pm with packet pick up just starting. The Grand Rivers Community Center was the hub of the event and the laid back race directors were all to happy to have us there. They were friendly and helpful. The race swag was generous. A personalized yellow running hat with my name on it, a draw string bag, and a pretty simple race tech race shirt was our loot if we finished. The cool part was the shirt exchange. I wasn’t too attached to the yellow shirt so I traded it in for a red tank top model. Little did I know it was a little short, and I probably will not wear it that much. I was just looking for something I didn’t have since race shirts are starting to fill the shelves at home.
After running into the RUT crew at the hotel, Roger and I just crashed in front of the TV for a few hours burning time before dinner at Patti’s Restaurant. Grand Rivers should just be named Patti’s town since almost everything there has her name on it. Just sayin…
Dinner was nicely over priced, but filled the stomach.
I learned a few things right before bed. The race starts at 6am, and there is a cut off around 11 hours… WHAT!!!!! I had no idea of the cut off when I signed up for the race, but probably would have signed up for it anyways. I have run two 50 mile races before this: 1st- DWD Greenswamp in 10:40 minutes- Flat Dry Pancake with a small bump of an incline, 2nd- North Country Run in 12:30 – Hilly Smooth Course with my Mouth Wired shut. I had no idea what lay ahead, but I heard it wasn’ that bad. I started researching what the cut off meant and was greeted by, you must start the last of 4 loops by 1:30 PM which meant I had 7 ½ hours to run 35 ish miles. Totally doable.
The race started at the Light House Marina and with the start line moving back this year it took them almost 8 minutes to get started. The temperature was a cold 38 degrees. I decided to try out my arm sleeves from the Huff, AFX Toesocks, Soft Star RunAmoc Dash with thin soles, Zensah calf sleeves, Black Shorts, Under armour compression shorts, RunAmoc Tech shirt, Nike compression shirt, and my NCT running hat. I am glad I found the gloves in the back seat of my car just before I froze my fingers off.
The race consisted of 10K, 23K,Marathon, 60K, and 50 Mile racers. From what I could tell there were over 120 people with “4000” numbers on, but runners could drop down at any time to a lower distance. We were off like a way to fast herd of cattle. The first two miles were under 9:30 mi/mile pace, but everyone was jockeying for trail position. We ran road for about 1 ¾ before the 10K runners split off to continue on road while us trail runners hit the rocks and roots. The trail we were running on had parts of it underwater in the weeks leading up to the race due to the high waters of theKentucky Riverfrom all the storms that came through a week before. The trail was in great shape though. Only a few muddy spots and a few small creek crossings. The hard square rocks and roots jumped up and got many people in front and behind me as the race progressed, but not me!
The first lap was an uneventful pack of lemmings running in stride. There were 4 aid stations along the loop with the first being at the start/finish section of the loop where our drop bags were and the other 3 being pretty equally spread out over the 11 plus mile loop. Aid station 2 was at the top of a hill and had a great crew. Fried Eggs and Pizza were on the menu after lap two, but neither were attempted. They had 4oz sodas off mixed variety and I enjoyed one on every lap. Aid station 3 came at the top of another hill, and was also host to the local Welcome center. Here they provided you with normal race food, HEED and water. This was my favorite station because it also had a nice bathroom that came in handy on lap 2 and 3 when food was processing at its peek. The running water made it easy to freshen up and feel better at the ½ way point of each lap. The forth aid station was after the hilliest part of the course, and was a welcome sight after 3+ miles of up and downs. The view between these two sections was the best with an overlook at the top of every hill. The sandstone cliffs were very pretty until you realized the trail went down and then came back up to the top. The hills justified the walk and the shade of the trees kept me cool. Following the forth aid station was a short 1-2 mile trek back to the loop start. The forth aid station is where I caught my trail friend Ultra Chick who I had originally planned on running with most of the day. She had been caught up with all the fast trail runners and was hurting bad by the time I caught her.
We ran together for almost 18 miles before we said our good byes. I was proud of her for starting the 3rd lap. Her “whimpy” conscious told her to just call it a day after two laps, but with a little poking from her “pride” conscious she persevered through the third lap. I had to leave her behind, because after a very quick first lap of 2:20, I came through lap 2 in about 2:30 knowing I only had a few minutes cushion to make the 1:30pm cut off. As promised I took off just after the 3 rd station leaving me alone on the trail. I made great time through the hills and started to worry. According to my watch it was 1:34 as I ran into the cut off aid station. The sign there said 1:45pm… Thank God! (Crap that means I still have another lap). I quickly freshened up (Anti Monkey Butt Powder x 4 laps) and hit the trails, this time with a new running buddy fromLouisville,KY. It was nice having Frank along, and sharing stories of family and running. Him being a few months younger, and this race being his first 50 mile race I felt paired up with a kindred soul. We ran step for step the next 11+ miles pushing each other along the way. It wasn’t till we arrived back at Aid station 1 where I decided I didn’t want to keep up with him any more as we ran an out and back 1.2 miles section. I watched as he took off, leaving me in his steps. I ran the last few miles into the finish with a smile on my face and a huge amount of pride. Though scared to death of the 11 hour cut off, I finished in 10:47 just 7 minutes off my 50 mile PR set in a flat dry swamp inFlorida. I earned beautiful belt buckle, and most of the RUT group waited around to watch me finish, most of them having finished hours before.
Lessons learned on the trail:
- Shoes have a purpose- I ended up switching out of my favorite RunAmoc Dash shoes because Square Rocks hurt like hell when you step on them without noticing. There wasn’t enough protection, and after one lap I had way too many foot bruises to enjoy another lap in the shoes. Having a pair of Merrell Road Gloves in my drop bag gave me another option that worked really well.
- Never throw your paper cups out on a trail- I know better, but one runner behind me didn’t and got his butt chewed out by another runner who picked up his cup and ran up to him and told him to carry it the rest of the way, since he is the one who dropped it. This almost started a fight, but I am proud of the “Green” runner in the yellow shirt for standing up for the trail.
- Talking is more fun than listening to music- I have been trying to run with Music for awhile without success. Every race I am about to put in my head phones and vegetate I meet a great runner who wants to talk, and I enjoy that way more than running alone. So next time, enjoy the stories on the trail while making new ones instead of listening to someone else’s story that never ran a mile.
This is my 3rd ultra distance run in 23 days… next ultra distance is only 6 days after the last because I signed up to help the YMCA raise money for kids. Back to the Treadmill I go.