When we drove back from our Ironman in August, we stopped at Melt Bar and Grilled (yum) in Mentor, Ohio. Our waiter was talking to us about running and he mentioned the Burning River 100. I must have looked up that race and saw the Western Reserve Racing website. That's how I found the Fools Run 25K/50K.
I thought it would be a great mid-training race and Mike and I registered for the 25K. Our friend, Greg, was registered too but unfortunately he didn't make it to the race because he was sick.
Not quite along the course, but parts of the race looked like this
Along the first half mile of the race
Saturday we drove the 4ish hours to packet pick-up and then drove to the race start. Since it is a trail race, driving the course was not an option. We did check out some of the trails and I was happy that there wasn't any snow in sight!
Ha, the numbers were an April Fool's joke. My actual number was 36
The race started at 9am on Sunday, which meant that we didn't have to wake up too early. We got to the race start right as the 50K runners were taking off a little past 8am. After sitting in the car for a little while, we made our way to the port-a-potties before waiting for the start of our race.
Off they go!
A little bit chilly!
More 50K runners
After a brief pre-race briefing (basically telling us to be careful on the ice), we started right after 9am. I knew that I was going to take it easier since I was using this as a training run, and I am more cautious on the trails anyway.
25K runners' start
I'm in the front of this pack in the pink jacket
The race is a giant 25K loop (that you do twice for the 50K) that meanders through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park specifically the Virginia Kendall Park. The start of the race goes on the Cross Country trails and these were nice and wide with some rolling hills throughout. I made my way around some people and then settled in.
At the start of the race, Mike and I thought we recognized this girl from the 100 Mile Tri that we did last year (and that we have volunteered at) and when I caught up to her I asked if she had done the 100 Mile Tri. She said she had and I said that she was pretty easy to spot (she is tall with short hair and has some pretty amazing tattoos). We chatted for a little while and then this other lady started talking to me since she heard that I was from New York.
I told her that this wasn't the furthest we were traveling for a race and that we'd be going to Alaska for a race (and to see Crystal and Joe!) It was nice talking with people but then I started to focus on what I was doing and my footing. Luckily, other than the fact that the mud was frozen with footprints, this portion wasn't too bad.
I skipped the first aid station at mile 2.5, Mike and I wore our handhelds since the race requested people to do so to cut down on paper waste, and then started the next portion of the race.
This part of the race had a few road crossings, which luckily I never had to deal with any cars and one crossing had a police officer there to deal with traffic. This was also part of the race where there was two way traffic, but the trails were wide enough that this wasn't a problem. When we made our way into the first part of the Ledges Trail, this was when I had to start to take things slower. Right before a bridge, a guy in front of me and some other runners yelled, "SLOW DOWN". This part in the woods didn't have any sun and the ice was slick and almost the entire width of the trail. Mike told me later that he fell at this part of the race since he didn't slow down enough while making the turn.
Some runners were falling during this part of the race, but I took it slow and walked when I needed to. This part was also really rocky so it was almost impossible to run anyway. It was really pretty in there, though, and I wish I had a camera with me!
We saw a lot of rocks like these
After making it out of that part of the Ledges Trail, we made our way along a grassy portion and then ran through the smallest tunnel that I have ever run through. Mike told me that he almost didn't fit! This led to the second aid station and I grabbed some Heed and one pretzel (ha). I was taking energy chews every three miles and had my water with me so I didn't need anything else. After stopping briefly, I was on my way to the next part of the race: Boston Run Trail.
Luckily, there wasn't any more ice to deal with for the majority of the rest of the race. There was, however, a lot of stairs. And when I say a lot, I mean A LOT. We had already run up/down some of them and there were more throughout the rest of the race. Someone told me to wait until we got to Salt Run and I knew that I would be in trouble then! Boston Run went through the woods and did a little loop, where you could see people making their way out of the trail before you went in. I looked for Mike, but didn't see him.
Another runner fell during this part of the race, but she had other people with her and I continued on. The culmination of Boston Run Trail brought us back to the aid station, where I grabbed some more Heed, and then we went through the second part of the Ledges Trail. I actually almost got lost at this point, but a woman told me to take a right. Luckily she was near me and another runner or we would have gone the wrong way! This portion of the race, Mike and I had walked part of the day before (though we didn't think that it was actually on the race course, ha). This was another trail with rocky terrain so it was slow going.
We finally made it back to the two way traffic portion of the race (only very briefly) and then ducked into the Pine Grove Trail. This trail was also really pretty and I was able to run the majority of it without walking. At one point some other runners that I passed asked me how many miles I had, and I told them 10.6 miles.
I went through the road crossings again and this time stopped at the final aid station for some more Heed. I went straight through another bridge tunnel and started the Lake Trail portion of the race. At this point I was running alone without anyone really near me. I would occasionally pass other runners and sometimes other runners would pass me, but no one was with me consistently.
The Lake Trail was short and took us out into a field, where you could see the finish line. I said to some other runners that I was passing, "that is so cruel". The guy said, "well they don't call us Fools for nothing". After that I made my way into the Salt Run Trail, the final portion of the race.
In the morning we had been warned about this trail being icy, but so many runners had already gone through (and it was warming up) that the ice had melted. Instead I found mud. So much mud that it was impossible to run up some of the hills because I was sliding too much. There were also more of my friends: the stairs.
I said to some runners who were passing me that I had originally thought the 50K would be fun, but that I'm not sure my legs would make it down the stairs on a second loop. I don't think I have ever dealt with that many stairs on a trail run! Due to the stairs, mud and some hills this part of the race was slower for me.
I just kept running when I could, luckily there was a big portion that was runnable, and hiked up the parts that I couldn't as fast as I could. Finally, I saw a sign that said 3/4 mile to the Lake Trail and I knew I was almost done.
After running up a hill and out of the woods, I saw a grassy hill that we had to run up. I probably could have if it wasn't muddy, but I was slipping so much that I had to walk. When I made it to the top of the hill, I could see the finish line and then I saw Mike on the sidelines.
He told me to finish the race and I crossed the finish line 3 hours 12 minutes and 47 seconds after we had started. Since we have never officially raced a 25K that's an automatic PR!
Not a bad time!
Mike finished the race in 2:41:53, he did great!
We hung around the finish area for a little while and then we changed our clothes. We, of course, stopped at Melt before driving the rest of the way home.
Overall, I am really happy with how this race went and I would love to do it again sometime! I am hopeful that this put me in the right direction for the rest of my 50K training.