Buckeye Trails 50 K/Unhappy Trails
I should have paid more attention to Dave Janosko's articles about his trail running. I read them but I guess the word "trail" has different meanings for different people. When Charlie Bolek sent an email suggesting that the Buckeye Trail 50K and relay sounded "interesting" (and yes, this is definitely Charlie's fault), I assumed "trail" meant the Towpath. Doesn't the Towpath Marathon advertise itself as one of the country's top "trail marathons?" Besides, in my logical mind, I believed that no normal, sane person would run on a trail through the woods barely wide enough for a small chipmunk, if they could run on the nearby Towpath instead. It's like buying retail when the discount store is next door. Who would do a thing like that? Well, now I know. They are called "trail runners.".
So Barb Sosnowski and I shlepped down to the Brecksville Metropark on a rainy Saturday morning, though the weather did not particularly concern me because I know the Towpath is still pretty passable after a rain. I had decided to go first in the relay since I figured Barb would insist on doing the whole 50K if I didn't. SOMEONE has to look out for this girl. Things got off to a bad start when Barb informed me that the small birds swooping down on us from the shelter where we registered were bats. I don't do bats.Portent of doom. Oy. Then Guy Gadomski disabused us of any notion that we were going to be running on the Towpath. I told Barb that I could easily be talked out of this stupid idea (Charlie, where the hell were YOU?) but she was unmoved. To further scare the hell out of me, the race director proceeded to tell us that the only way to follow the race course was to locate the blue "blazes" painted on the trees. You mean I can get LOST? Thereupon the following conversation ensued:
Me: "Barb, please, please, please let's go home."
Ok I figured, what is 2 hours of running? I can do that. Ha. Running? There was precious little of that. There are really no words to describe what I went through for 15 and ½ miles. But I'll try. Just remember that whatever nightmarish scene you conjure in your mind's eye, the reality was ten times worse. There was not a flat or dry spot anywhere on this "trail." Every inch was covered by tree roots, foot thick mud and puddles, rocks, or swollen creeks where the water reached anywhere from ankles to waist. The frequent hills were impassable because they were so steep and so slippery that the only way to navigate was to hold onto tree limbs going up or down.
To add insult to injury, I could not see where I was going because I had worn my sunglasses. As I said before, I thought I was going to be running on the Towpath. Some of you may not realize this, but those sunglasses are not a fashion statement. I cannot see without my glasses. But they steamed up quickly, and it was dark because we were deep in the woods. So I had to remove them. Now I can't see where I'm going and I'm supposed to be looking for blue blazes so I don't end up in Canton. Lucky for me, about 10 minutes into this nightmare, I saw Dave Coffee, whose first words to me were, "Boy, I sure am surprised to see you here!" No kidding. I have never been so happy to see anyone as I was to see Dave. In fact, I attached myself to him, leechlike, because I knew he would not get lost. Dave was, as always, a total gentleman, waiting for me and helping me. He should get a medal just for having to listen to me complain the whole way. Talk about "endurance training." This is it, man. Things went from bad to worse when halfway through, the skies opened up and it poured rain. At that point, I actually disassociated myself from my surroundings. As I said to Dave, "Dave" I said, "Remember the ending of the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy tells Auntie Em "I just kept telling everybody, ‘I want to go home?'" "That's the way I feel."
But Dave, it turned out, did not have the magical powers of Glenda the Good Witch and I was forced to endure three hours and forty minutes of running blindly through the wild and even had the humiliation of Tanya Cady pushing me up a hill by my butt so I couldn't slide back down into her face. That was before she passed me, of course.
After the nightmare was over, I went back to collect my muddy relay partner who, upon finishing, informed me that she had had fun and wanted to run the whole 50K next year. I told her she was NOT my friend, and we left.
I must say I was vastly relieved to have emerged unscathed from this adventure. Like Dorothy in Oz, I have learned a lot from my experience. I know that I should a. ignore any of Charlie's "interesting" suggestions b. never run any race having the word "trail" in its name c. stay away from ultra runners who think a race aid station is a bunch of unattended gallon water jugs (with or without any actual water in them). Finally, if I ever have the desire to get any ruby slippers, I'll buy them at discount. Because if I have to pay retail, I didn't have any business getting them in the first place.