As I noted previously in earlier posts, this spring I decided to do something different with my racing. Instead of running a few big races, I decided to load up on shorter 50K’s before my big dance with Mr. Manitou.

Enter Glacier Ridge 50K. I have had various friends do this race many a time before but this would be my first outing. In the hills of Western PA between Butler and Slippery Rock, the terrain is gently rolling, making almost the entire course runnable.

This is something I needed.

Despite running a conservative race at Hyner, my injured quad from February was still giving me grief. I didn’t have problems with it during the race at Hyner, but I felt it in the days after Hyner. Sore and achy, it seemed my left quad was much slower to recover. It was frustrating since I wanted to run immediately after Hyner but it was about a week before I went out for a run.

With my quad still an issue, I decided to run the race as easy as possible.  I headed out to Butler around mid-afternoon Friday, meeting up with Todd Lewis at Reclamation Brewing in Butler. In marketing circles, I am considered as an “Experience Seeker” – one who explores new places to eat, drink, participate in activities, traveling and such. A small but way cool brewery, Redemption Brewing was a great find. Thanks Google Maps! The food included pints of bacon, mac and cheese and a sandwich called The Swanson! Later that night I stayed at a Holliday Inn Express.

Stuffed with pork, fine beer and well rested, I was ready for the race.

Glacier Ridge 50K is a smaller, low-key race held in Moraine State Park. It offers a 25K, 50K and 50 mile races. Todd had ran the 50-miler a couple of times previously. This time we were both doing the 50K.

We set out on the race under perfect weather conditions. Todd and I ran together for several miles – both of us just taking things easy. Todd noted that this was the best he had ever seen the trail. In years past, leaves and spring debris obscured the trail but this year the course was well traveled and grooved in. The course was almost entirely singletrack.

Hey, hey! It’s Kool-Aid!

We continued along until we came to the first major downhill of the course. Between Todd and I, I am a better downhill runner so when we got to the first descent, I took off. Halfway down the hill, I felt a little tweak in my quad – not enough to affect anything – but enough to warn me not to go crazy. I dampened my pace in response. After the downhill, there was a twisty section near the lake before a slightly technical climb. I trained on such terrain so I felt right at home.

I vectored away from the lake and I was slightly climbing as I run toward the north and out of the valley until I came to downhill toward what I thought would be the 50K turnaround. On the way down, Tim Flaherty from Pittsburgh was coming toward me. He was running the 50 miler – his race stared an hour before me and he had already made the turnaround.

“Turnaround is up ahead. Go right,” he said.

Since I failed to look at the map before the race, I knew the course was an out and back with a lollipop at the far end. However, I thought the loop was only a few hundred yards around, not the 3.5 miles to do the loop! It felt like I was running and running without getting anywhere. This got in my head.

Finally, I seemed to curve toward and continue toward the west instead of northeast which was the general direction I had been traveling toward since leaving the lake. Now, it seemed I was heading back toward the start and soon entered into an aid station. I was only there for less than a minute before Todd arrived on my heels. We left the aid station toward and toward a low-land section of the course near Big Run. Coming out of the bottom land and up the hill toward where we would meet again at the end of the lollipop. It was then an uphill over a small ridge then back downhill to the lake. After the lake I was in a funk. I think it was a constant running with no big climbs or opportunity to use other muscles on a steep downhill, I could not get myself into the race. I felt like I muddled along – I was continuing forward but without any energy or intent. Then at times after consuming a gel, or had a nice downhill ahead, I wanted to surge forward but was worried about upsetting my quad. I was like in this melancholy – a running purgatory where I was either tired and worn down, or afraid to charge out of my doldrums.

With a few miles to go, I got hooked up with a female runner from Ontario who chose this race as her first 50K. Considering that this was her first ultra and she admitted that the forest near Toronto is rather similar, she was doing great. We ran together out of the last lowland and over a ridge toward the finish. Whenever I run with someone, I tend to ignore whatever I am feeling – good or bad – and just enjoy the company with whoever I am with at the time. In this race I have been running alone since mile 5 or so. During races, I rather be running with someone, or have someone chase me. This is something I have thought about a lot and which is why I asked Todd Lewis to pace and push me at upcoming Manitou.

Running toward the finish, I kept asking my new running partner that the last stretch was coming up. On the way out, Todd and I ran past a DCNR building and crossed a paved road. Where was this road? I thought. Finally we get to it. As soon as we get to the shale walking path, my newest friend took off while I was left behind, my feet spinning in the loose shale. I run down the gravel trail, made a left and crossed the finish.

Yeah… okay. Right. Woo, fricking hoo…

My time was 6 hours and 39 minutes, good enough for a 16th place and 75% UltraSignup score. That sounds good but I swear if I was feeling better, this would normally be a sub-six hour course for me. But again, you get the cards you are headed with and all and all it was a good day to be out and about on the trails.

Todd was happy with his run, 15th place and 6 minutes ahead of me place. This for him was a recovery run. He had a bout of Lyme’s Disease this past winter and this had been the first time in a few months that he had felt better since receiving a strict regiment of antibiotics.

Always watch out for those outsiders.

After the race, I hung out at the finish a bit longer than I intended but still had a great time. Patrick Knott from Ohio and Jeff Nelson near Titusville bullshitted at his truck for a time until I went back to the finish line to see some of the North Park Trailrunners finish the 50-miler and talk to Matt Lipsey who said he had a bad race for once. Seriously, he had a bad race! He was a bit pissed since the weather was perfect and he set out to beat the course record when the unthinkable happened! He tried Hammer Perpetual at the last aid station for the first time ever and it ended up wrecking his stomach so much, that it reduced him to a walk!

After that, a bunch of North Park Runners and I went to North Country Brewing for tasty bevs and dinner and thus concluding a good weekend in Western PA. There we spent most of the time making fun of Matt. I wish life for him was not that cruel. God bless, Matt Lipsey.