Lovin' The Hills 50k/15 Miler
Jefferson Memorial Forest, Louisville, KY
February 17, 2007
By Lois Berkowitz
Cathy Troisi, NY, ever the researcher after the ultimate (read that really hard) running experience, said she was going. So of course, the follower said, "I'll go, too!" It was a cold weekend. I don't know how cold, but it rivaled Last Chance for Boston, in Dublin, OH the weekend before, and Louisville promised serious hills. Cathy's plane was delayed, so I researched the trip to the Horine Center in the forest where packet pickup was held. After several false turns, I found Brenda, one of our RDs, and confirmed that I was in the right location before going to pick up Cathy at the airport. I returned with Cathy in tow an hour or so later, shortly after 5 p.m. The Horine Center is small but has several rooms including a fireplace room, and is quite beautiful. We picked up our packets and finisher's gift, a red and black blanket, and samples of Hammer Gel and bars. We were primed for the early start at 7 a.m. the next morning. We were told that we needed to provide flashlights and fluids for ourselves.
The next morning we started out in plenty of time, grateful that we had checked out the route the day before. We made it to the start in time to meet people, find the indoor and outdoor restrooms, and kibbutz a bit about what to wear. We started in a clearing at 7 a.m., about seven or so of us. The trail 50k consisted of a five mile loop bringing us back to the clearing and the first aid station; an eight mile loop bringing us back again to the clearing; and then an 18 mile long out and back. The first two loops were as tough as anything I've done before. Cathy and I agreed somewhere toward the end of the second loop that this was tougher than Pike's Peak and the Tahoe Rim Trail 50k. There are 17 "hills" on this course. In Michigan we would call them mountains. They were long and extremely steep, both up and down. Initially there was snow on the course and some ice, but it was possible to sidestep it for the most part. The trail in many places was probably about a foot in width, and there were rocks, leaves, roots, and other impediments to delight any trail runner. There was one ice cliff - Cathy and I were lucky enough to have a couple of other runners near us at the time. The entire passage area was ice. All of us crawled up around the ice onto the dead leaves, hanging on to bushes and tree limbs for support. For me, at least, this scene was repeated on other parts of the trail. Sometime during the second lap, the snow began. This of course made us even slower and more careful. I took two or three slippery downhills on my behind (on purpose) and one that way by accident.
In sum, after traveling probably a mile on the last section of the course, I whined to Cathy (visible, but well ahead of me), "I can't do this!" several times and then started back. Easier said than done. I saw a sign that said "1/4 mile to the finish" and quite a while later, decided that I was lost. I tried a couple of other marked areas without luck. I called out "Help, help!" a few times until I ran across two ladies completing the 15 mile course. They weren't sure of where they were going either, but three frozen is better than one frozen. We made it in and after over seven hours on the trail, I believe I completed at least 18 miles.
The lodge had a fireplace going, four warm soups, cookies, fruit, bagels and peanut butter, and lots of company. A lady posted at the front door caught all runners, had each sit and remove shoes, and put hospital booties on us. Cathy came back via car probably three hours later, with another runner. They had probably covered a marathon distance, but it was sleeting, even colder, and they had no battery in their flashlight.
Lesson: Get trail shoes with Yaktrax or crampons for this kind of thing. Don't take arthritis medication beforehand. Consider training.
If you are intrigued, check out http://www.cherokeeroadrunners.org/. The Cherokee Road Runners are a great group.
Editor, 50 States Marathon Club Newsletter
Riverview, MI 48193