I knew I was going to have a nice race when we turned onto a flat dirt path, with pine trees on one side, and water on the other. I was running a 50K in nature, in beautiful weather, and all was irie with me.
This was the YUT-C 50K, the Youngstown Ultra Trail Classic. Run entirely in Mill Creek Park, a gem of a park in the middle of Youngstown, Ohio. It’s a beautiful park. The trail follows around a river and several lakes; there are man made waterfalls on the river and several natural waterfalls in the woods.
I got to the race start a bit early, and Bob Combs, the race director asked me if I wanted to start early, another couple was taking the early 7am start. I had about fifteen minutes to decide, and since my gear was ready to go, I decided to. Instead of waiting around for another hour, I was there to run so why not?
Jim Harris graciously paced us out the first mile or so, through the little urban area to where the trail began beside some football fields and tennis courts. It was fun being out there at 705am, because it really was not very light out yet, and the tree cover was heavy. So Lisa, Dennis and I were pretty cautious and concerned about staying on the trail.
I got ahead of my running partners when we hit the “Monkey Hills”. These were some up and down trails on some pretty steep hills, about five in all, all one after another. But the footing was nice dirt and pine needles and no rocks, so that helped. At the top of one of the last hills was “ The Tree” that I had been warned about. It’s a tree blocking the path. On a 5’2” female, the tree comes up to my waist. My only way over it was to lie down on it, and roll over!
The trail continues to follow a river and lakes. It’s an old path; on one side are the woods, usually at a steep grade uphill. There are many retaining blocks of sandstone that probably were built by the WPA back in the 30’s. It’s all grown over and covered in moss at this time. I marvel at the hours of work it took to put all these stones in place. I am also impressed by the lack of graffiti in the park.
I come to a section of wooden boardwalk,
which leads to the old Gristmill, where the covered bridge and aid station is located.
I am the first runner through!!! (Remember, I started one hour early.) Everyone congratulates me and I laugh—it’s a good feeling to be first! I might as well enjoy it while I can!!!
I decide to keep with that theme, and try to gauge when the first men are going to catch me on the course. I believe I conceded the lead at mile 10. That was pretty funny. There were about 10 guys in the first fast group; about half of them knew me, and figured it out that I started early. The ones who didn’t know me gave me this “what the heck is SHE doing out here?” Oh well, I enjoyed it; they had a long time to figure out who I was and what I was doing.
It was fun running with the “Big Dogs” as I tend to call the front-runners. We get back to the race start, and then we run the same loop again, backwards. So now I was passing all the other runners coming toward me, and that was fun, I think I knew about 1/3 of the runners, and it’s great to hear a personal “way to go!”
I saw a bunch of roadrunners out on the road, and just kept shaking my head. They had a beautiful trail just feet away and yet they ran asphalt!! Freaks!! (I’m sure that they said the same about me when they saw my wet, dirt covered body.) I was crossing a road when I ran into two roadrunners, and tried to cajole them on the trails. They rather haughtily told me “they were training for a marathon”. Dudes! Excuse me! I’m just running a piddly 50K on rocks and roots!! Freaks!!!
I ran the first loop in just under three hours, and the second just under 3 hours also, which was very good for me. I conceded my lead as first female at mile 19. The last loop is shorter, 7.94 miles. As I got into the 3rd loop, I started to feel a little light-headed, a new trail feeling for me. I stopped and assessed my situation. It was a cool day, in the 60’s but high humidity because it was trying to rain. I had been hot on most of the course and doing most of my usual sweating. I had taken my last Succeed capsules on the last loop because I was starting to get a cramp in my calf muscle, and didn’t grab any at the last aid station. I also had not eaten much salty food in the last 3 hours. I also realized I had not peed but once on the run, very unusual for me. So I grabbed a gel from my waist pack, feeling that would have to help. The light-headedness would come and go a bit, but I knew the aid station was only about 4 miles away. I kept running and wondering when I was going to get to the hills. Did I miss them somehow? Ran them already and forgotten?
I hit the last time through the “Monkey Hills” and the third time was actually easier than the 2nd (probably because I was lightheaded!!!!) but my running kept getting slower on this third section. This course was very runnable also, no big chances to walk! The only time I get cranky is when I think I am hitting the last, final section, and it turns out that I forgot a piece that I still have to go through. I finally turn onto the park road for the last little finish and get cheered in by the other runners.
Bob shakes my hand and hands me a pint bottle of beer, from the Buckeye Brewing Company. I get cleaned up and spend another hour eating soup and pizza and cheering in more runners. We get a nice short-sleeved technical T-shirt and I find a pair of Dirty Girl Gaiters in my goody bag!!! Very cool!! I change clothes and when I take my socks off, I am puzzled to see a slug attached to my toe. Hmm, it’s a rather large blood blister. I make sure I show it to all the other runners. Everyone is in awe of my blister and say it’s a good one. I do remember reading that being dehyrdated can lead to more blisters. I think it’s also time for me to try the Injini socks and see if that helps me out.
I enjoyed the course. It’s very runnable, a bit rocky, but not vicious hidden rocks. You just have to watch. Some parts had some roots. I thought the course was marked rather well. There were a few places, where, as a first runner of the course, I had to apply some common sense and keep a watchful eye for trail markings. I hope Bob and Team PR get the word out about this race; Mill Creek is a very nice and scenic place to run. Thanks Bob and the volunteers, the food was plentiful and the volunteers were friendly and helpful, I had a great time!