Thoughts on fitness, health, good nutrition ... and running.

Welcome to Bald Man Running, a blog launched by Frank Murphy on January 1, 2015.

In March, 2013 I was selected as a contestant for the sixth season of Fort Wayne's Smallest Winner. Through this amazing program, I learned about good nutrition, sound exercise and accountability. By October, I would lose over 88 pounds (almost 37% of my original weight)! One of the many things I acquired through FWSW was a love for running. You can retrace my weight loss journey and discover how I became a runner by reading those entries labeled "fwsw" ...

Note: Many of the blog entries on this website predate 1/1/2015. Prior to launching BMR, I had written articles for various projects, and I have imported many of them into this blog (labeled "retro").

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Event Report: 2017 Tie Dye 50k

Event: Tie Dye 50k
John Bryan State Park (Yellow Springs, OH)

This is the first event in the Ohio River Road Runners Club (ORRRC) “No Way 200k” ultra series. Information about the entire series can be found at:


The ORRRC hosts five ultras in 2017. Everyone who runs four of the five races earns a bonus award. I am attempting to complete the first four events, and I might try for the fifth if my schedule permits. Each event is in the wider Dayton, OH area.

These events are fairly low cost. Depending on when you register, fees range from $25-$50. This is a sweet deal for an ultra. There is also a “no frills” registration, in which you pay less, but don’t get a shirt. I’m not sure if all ORRRC events do this. For those who have way too many shirts, this is an attractive option. I wish more races did this.

The weekend before this race, I participated in a three day relay from Fort Wayne to Indianapolis (Indiana Run For The Fallen). Out of 140 miles, I ran 64 miles (on the road, not trail). This race was less than a week later. I came through the relay without injury, but I was exhausted. I knew I wouldn’t be fully recovered or at my peak. I wouldn’t have registered for this event if it weren’t for the 200k series. My goal was to simply finish ahead of the nine hour cutoff.

I toyed with idea of driving to the race from Fort Wayne on the morning of the race, but I had a hotels.com coupon, so I got a cheap room not too far from the race. It cost me $8, and even then I might have overpaid for the room. I don’t need a ritzy hotel, but this place was so run down that it was depressing.

You do get a “pre-race” email from the director with last minute details and instructions. While not absolutely necessary, I always appreciate this kind of information. I’ve usually got a few pre-race jitters and this kind of stuff helps me settle down.

They call this the “Tie Dye” 50k, but they don’t really embrace the theme. While you could buy an optional tie dye shirt, there were no themed signs, costumes, etc. This is a small thing, and not a big deal to most runners, but I do know some people who sign up for events based on the promise of a bunch of fun “extracurricular” activities. For example, Run Woodstock (Hell, MI) has bands playing 60’s music, hula hoop contests, yoga sessions, and even making your own tie dye shirts. Many people choose to run Woodstock because of the theme. All of this to say … if you’re expecting something like Woodstock, you’ll be disappointed. If that stuff doesn’t matter to you, then you’ll be fine.

In the week prior to the event, there had been a lot of rain. The course was muddy and/or submerged for long sections.

It was mildly chilly at the start (7:30 am), so I started in a long sleeve tech shirt and shorts. Somewhere between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm, we had a thunderstorm that contributed significantly to existing muddiness and increased water levels. The temperature and humidity also climbed steadily throughout the day.

Please note: I’m not complaining about the weather. I’m simply saying that for me the difficulty level was ramped a bit because of the weather conditions.

The Race Itself
This is a 32 mile race, which is two loops on a 16 mile course. Apparently, in years past, you could sign up for a one or two loop race. I don’t think they offered the one loop option this year.

Note: mileage estimates in this section are rough guesses.

The first five miles are on nice wide trails. There was some muddiness, but nothing too bad. I thought the course would be a breeze as I was able to motor right along. I would soon enough find out that I was very wrong.

Then I came to the gorge. For about a mile I ran along the top of a cliff (not too close to the edge … it was safe), and I could occasionally see a raging river below me. It is absolutely gorgeous along this part of the course, and I was still able to move along at a brisk pace.

Around mile six, I took some stairs to the bottom of the gorge and ran about two miles along the river bank. When the water level is normal, I suppose it’s quite a nice path, but with so much rain, there were significant portions of the trail that were completely underwater. At first, it was ankle deep, but eventually I was slogging through some portions that were up to my crotch! It was really deep and made for some very slow going. It was intimidating too.

Around mile eight, I finally exited the gorge and ducked back into the woods. I found the first full-service aid station at mile nine (there was an unmanned water jug at mile 4). This was well stocked and the volunteers were superb. They asked everyone to manually check in each time they came through the aid station, which I appreciate. I had a drop bag at this station, which came in handy. I would wind up hitting this aid station at miles 9, 13, 25 and 29.

Coming into the first stop, I decided to switch to a lighter, short sleeve shirt because it was getting hot. I managed to get my sweat-soaked shirt off, but got distracted somehow and about a half mile after leaving the aid station, I realized I had forgot to put the other shirt on. I find myself doing this too often for my own good … I intend to do something specific at the aid station, but forget to take care of it when I get there.

Leaving the aid station, I entered “The Lollipop” which is a four mile loop with a variety of terrain. Compared to the rest of the course, this was medium difficulty. I came back to the same aid station at mile 13.

The last three miles of the loop take you through a lot (and I mean *a lot*) of switchbacks on some moderately difficult terrain. The start/finish line is also a fully-stocked aid station.

I finished the first loop in four hours, and I was pleased with that considering the conditions. It had started raining really hard, and I knew my second loop would be more difficult. It was. Oh yes, it was.

The “easy” part of the loop was fine, but when I got back to the river bank, I had a much harder time finding my way. The water level was also higher and I got lost more than once. Thankfully, my Garmin allows me to see a map of my current run, and I was able to see where I had been on loop one. I was forced to rely more heavily on this map than I did the course markings.

Some course markings had been blown away in the storm or were moved by park visitors (the park is not closed to the public for this race).  I even passed a couple that told me they’d moved a course marker a little behind them (apparently, it was in their way?) and they were nice enough to tell me to bear left at the fork I would soon approach. I wonder what would have happened had they not said something…

I wound up getting lost coming out of The Lollipop again. Fortunately, I stumbled across the race director who kindly helped me get back on track.

Regarding elevation: not much. There were some hills, but that wasn’t the prominent feature of the course.

Regarding tree cover: Most of the course had significant tree cover, which was helpful when it was raining. Very little of the course was over open ground.

I signed up for the tech shirt, and it’s a nice shirt. It’s simply adorned with a pocket-sized logo on the chest, which is unique. Most races shirts have a lot of text on it (sponsors, etc). I like the spartan design of the race shirt.

Tie dye cotton shirts were available separately at the registration table. I did not buy one. You could swap your tech shirt for the tie dye one.

Instead of a race medal, I got a small ceramic pot. I’m not sure what it is called. It’s too stubby to be a flower vase. It’s kind of like a coffee mug without the handle. I don’t mind something a little different, so it’s kind of cool. If you’re a runner who wants a medal, then you’ll be disappointed.

The event staff was nice, personable and helpful. I’ve ran a few ORRRC events, and will continue to do so. They’ve struck the difficult balance between providing a nice event and staging an inexpensive event. If you’re thinking about running an ORRRC event, I can give a hearty recommendation.

I would have liked to see another aid station between the start finish and the start of the Lollipop. The unmanned aid station at mile 4.5 simply isn’t adequate. Due to pre-race communication, I knew it was unmanned, so I was prepared. I realize it’s difficult to add volunteers, equipment, etc. This is a small thing, and doesn’t keep me from enjoying or recommending this event.

My other suggestion would be to improve on the course markings a bit. I think it was adequate on loop one, but was significantly less helpful on loop two. Perhaps some signage that alerts park visitors that a race is in progress would be helpful. There were portions of the trail where I’d like to have seen a few more sanity flags. This is also a small thing, and I understand some of the factors contributing to the problems were outside of the director’s control.

Final Thoughts
My spirits were high throughout the entire race and I’m really glad that I did it. It was hard, but I was harder (you know what I mean, right?). I beat the sweeper by about 20 minutes, which was cutting it pretty close (getting lost didn’t help me much), but in the end, I did it. I’m thankful God watched over me and got me safely to the finish line without injury.

I’m actually glad the course turned out to be so soupy/poopy, because now I’ve got my very own ultra war story. I’m pretty sure that each time I talk about this race, it’ll get increasingly extreme. I suppose that by my tenth retelling, there will be schools of piranha and hordes of pirates along the way.

I can easily say this is the most challenging race I’ve ever completed, and that includes two 50 Mile events. Each ultra I’ve attempted had it’s own challenges. Trying to navigate crotch deep water trumps every other challenge I’ve faced. I came prepared to run in mud, heat, cold, etc., but I have never trained in these conditions, so much of this experience was new to me. I’m thankful that I was able to overcome new obstacles and win the day.

Final shoutout to my fellow members of Three Rivers Ultra Running Team:
Mike Else and Sam Bird also ran this event (and Sam came in first by a wide margin!). Even though they finished way away of me, they stuck around until I crossed the finish line. They didn’t have to do that, but I’m thankful that they did. I sure do know some cool people!

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