I always consider Punxsutawney, PA, the eastern most part of Ohio races. Many Buckeyes make their way over to Punxy, and it’s almost like a typical Ohio ultra race. This year,the crowd of Buckeyes was smaller, and it did seem like the race was smaller in size.
I missed the pre-race dinner, as I didn’t get to Punxy til 10 pm. Race day morning was a bit more humid than the weather channel had led me to believe. John gives his pre-race speech on his ladder, and we’re off on the road, out of town!
I’m looking forward to seeing the “hills” (I know, I’m a sadist). The Punxy race has ‘named’ hills. With banners, so you know exactly what hill to curse. The Groundhog 50K course is that you go out of town a few miles, then do an 8 mile loop twice, then “kinda” come back to town the same way.
I turn off the road, go through the field, which is growing corn this year, and start down the first hill. It’s unofficially named. I believe it was called “ESPN Tower” or something like that, but due to copyright stuff, it’s not a name hill. It is deceptively long, and the trademark on this hill is a kind of tree-house of pallets in a tree. About thirty of them. All up in a tree. Yeah.
Right after the unofficial hill, you cross the road to the backside of “Two Beer Hill”. So named because it takes the mountain bikers two beers of courage to go down the hill. Well, even the backside of the hill is a steep climb.
And then, there’s the welcome sign “Welcome to Two Beer Hill” and down I go! The shale and footing is a little slick and more treacherous (and I’m also another year older) so I am a bit more conservative rather than my pell mell down hill on this. Still, it’s fun, and always good to make it to the bottom in one piece. Unlike this runner from 2007:
After this, about a two mile very runnable section, then you start on the loop. Yellowbus is about a mile down the trail. I cheered when I saw the banner (I know! I know!!) and I started up the climb. My strategy is to only look at the ground right in front of me-this never works, and there is always one cursed look up to see there is STILL MORE CLIMB to do. But at the top, I whoop’d again, and paused for a very cool look around-we’re above the tree line here.
You then have a nice little dowhill, before “Crybaby Hill”. This is where Vince Rucci and Mark Godale lapped me-they were going through the loop on their second time. Vince had just a fifty foot lead on Mark at this point. Mark said “hi Kim” as he went by-that was very nice, I didn’t even know Mark knew who I was. (Vince went on to beat Mark for his first ultra win!!!! Even more impressive, this was a win over elite runner Mark Godale!!!!)
“Crybaby Hill” is called that, because you’ve just done Yellowbus and now you have yet another hill, you’ll be crying on. This is a shorter hill, but the footing has more shale on it, so it’s actually a bit harder I think.
The great thing about this course is then you have downhills. And by the time you start on the second loop, you’ve had plenty of time to recover. (Well, there are more smaller hills involved, but since there’s not named, they don’t count…lol.)
For the second time through the loop, I put music on. “Mobscene” by Marilyn Manson got me up YellowBus, and then “Greased Lightning” from the Grease soundtrack was on for Crybaby. Before I knew it, I was heading back toward the strip mine area, on my way to Two Beer, and just dreading it.
But before you get to Two Beer, you take an different route back. When my friend Andrew and I ran this in 2007, I indicated that we turned left and didn’t just follow the course back. This of course, let us experience “Water Tower Hill”. Andrew was just sick and tired of hills and RD’s that went out of his way to include more hills-and went into a very funny cursing rant all through this section, to where I couldn’t even climb the hill due to laughing–and this was where Art Moore, age 72+, passed us!!!
But this year, I was alone, for a while. Then speedy Leo Lightner, age 80, passes me by. He asks if I am feeling okay, or just tired. I laughed and told him my quads were aching, I had a cramp in my left calf that wouldn’t go away, but other than that, I was fine! (My quads were feeling the effects on the downhills about halfway through the race. But what can you do? The cramping calf was back, although I was using endurolytes and eating bananas and hydrating quite well. But it’s just a 50k! That thought brightened me up quite a bit around mile 23’ish or so. Hey, this will be over in just a few miles, it’s no stinking allnighter 100 mile run!!!)
Leo was followed by Jeannie (in her 60’s!!!!!) and I was never able to catch them.
I was finally back to Two Beer-and it wasn’t so bad. I caught up to two women, who had taken the early start at 5 am. They looked like they were hurting a bit, but were motoring on.
At some point around here, I glanced at my watch and saw I might make it back to the finish line in around eight hours, which was my goal. (Arbitarily thought of on Friday). Luckily, the last mile or so is a gentle downhill, which my quads were happy with, so I was able to shuffle on. I don’t know if I could have pushed it to break 8 hours, because of my quads and my quite annoying muscle cramp.
The last 1/2 mile is the most harrowing, since you’re back in town, and not everyone is that courteous or attentive. I did cut off one driver coming out of a side street..hey I only had 1000 feet to go, and I really didn’t want to stop so he could go first…took the turn for the finish and saw 8.03 on the clock!!
Ending funny…I crossed the finish line, and everyone is babbling to me. Someone says “Oh let me get you a chair” Puzzled, I look at her. ” I don’t need a chair. I’m good. I can stand”. Oh!! This year, the finisher’s award is a stadium chair, that says “Groundhog 50K” on! Cool!!! I didn’t think I looked that bad!!
There was cold beer and warm pizza, and showers to use at the Rec Center. And with this being “just” a 50K I still had hours left in the day! After some post race chatting, I hopped in the car for the long ride (about 3.5 hours) back home.
My quads are still still and tomorrow will probably be the worst day! Today I hope to get out on the bike and do some leg turn overs and work some of the lactice acid out of my legs.
Thanks John Goss and volunteers, another fabulous Groundhog 50K in the books!!