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").

Friday, October 6, 2017

Event Report: 2017 Germantown 50k

Event Report: 2017 Germantown 50k
Germantown MetroPark (Germantown, OH)

This is the fourth event in the Ohio River Road Runners Club (ORRRC) "No Way 200k" ultramarathon series. This report is not just a report on the Germantown 50k, but also a brief review of the series.

Information about the entire series can be found at:

Special notes about the “No Way” series: At one point, you had to complete a specific slate of four 50k races to complete the 200k challenge. Now, there are five 50k races, and you can run any four of the  five. It is a little confusing because some of the literature still refers to the series as four events. 200k finishers receive a special award, which varies year to year (in 2017, it will be a jacket). There is an additional award for those who complete all five events, but I have no idea what it is.

After completing all four races, I feel like part of the ORRRC family. The volunteers are top-notch and the Dayton running community is full of wonderful people. Each race presented unique challenges, and I enjoyed each event in it’s own way. It has been a rewarding summer-long experience, and I wholeheartedly recommend future ORRRC events.

The registration fee was $40, which is a great value. 50k was the only distance option for this event, so you don’t have to share the course with runners doing other races. It is a laid back atmosphere. There were only 64 runners to start the race, which I think was the smallest field of the series to date.

Travel Plans
I have seen Fort Wayne area runners at each of the other events. I enjoy seeing friendly faces at out-of-town events. But this race was a little different because Brad Compton and I traveled together. We left on Friday evening, stayed at a nearby hotel, ran the race on Saturday then drove home.

What a wonderful experience! Brad is an accomplished ultra runner and a fine, fine person. I really enjoyed our conversation. Surprisingly, we didn’t talk that much about running. I feel like I started this journey with an acquaintance, but finished it with a friend.

Having a travel buddy makes things so much more manageable. Brad ran a great race (winning his age group!) and finished about 90 minutes ahead of me. That gave him plenty of time to chat with friends and get cleaned up. He was also feeling far better than I felt, so he drove home. Brad was an answer to prayers that I hadn’t even thought to pray, and I am thankful for his company, encouragement and assistance.

The course is a 7.75 mile loop, which you run four times. There is no “finish by” cut-off time, but if you do not begin the fourth loop by 2:45 pm (6:45 of race time), then you were not permitted to continue.

Most of the course is a wide trail with some short paved sections. It is shaded most of the time, which was nice because the temperature reached the mid 90s. Fully-stocked aid stations are available at approximately mile 3.7, 5.2 and the start/finish.

I would divide the loop into three sections:

Section 1 (to mile 3.7) Prior to the first aid station, there are a few minor hills, but nothing too severe. There are several long stretches where you can build up some momentum and enjoy the slightly rolling terrain. The path is generally clear of roots and other obstacles. It’s very nice.

Section 2 (the middle 2.3 miles): After the first aid station there is a short dam crossing, and then the trail becomes more technical, narrower, and greater variety in elevation. The second aid station is in the middle of this section.

Section 3 (the remaining 1.75 miles): Here the course flattens out a bit as you complete the loop and return to the start/finish. I suspect this area would have been quite muddy (and more difficult to traverse) had there been some rain prior to or during the race. Of particular interest is a long wooden boardwalk. While it was not a problem on race day, it could be a different story if it were wet.

There is about 900 feet of accumulated elevation per loop (good for about 3600-ish for the whole course). There were no water crossings (at least not on race day).

My overall impression of the course? It was easily my favorite course of the No Way series. It reminded me of Chain O’ Lakes more than any of the other courses. Interestingly, what reminded me of home was not the scenery, elevation profile, etc. It was how well the trail was cared for. This was easily the most well maintained course of the series. I think it says something about the COL community that, at least to me, the chief trademark of the COL course is how carefully and lovingly maintained it is.

Aid Stations
Each of the previous events had a mix of unmanned/manned aid stations, but this race had full service at each stop. I know that is extra work for the volunteers, and I really appreciated their efforts.

I usually arrived at an aid station by myself, so I got the undivided attention of the volunteers. I felt like a NASCAR driver coming in for a pit stop … one guy would refill my water bottle, another guy would chop up fresh apple slices, etc. They were very proactive and encouraging. It was obvious that several of the volunteers were veteran ultra runners by the way they knew how to take care of us.

Fare included apples, bananas, oranges, pretzels, chips, PB&J quarters, pickles, cookies, Twizzlers, and more. Everything was available at each of the three stations. Drink options included water, gatorade and stale soda.

I know course layout dictates aid station placement. Having said that, it would have been nice if aid stations were more evenly spread out. It felt like it took a while to get to the first aid station, and then the second one was close to it. Again, there’s not much that can be done about where the pavilions are located. Still, it’s helpful to know that you have to run half of the loop before you hit the first aid station.

The race started at 8:00 a.m., which (in my humble opinion) is a little late for a 50k start. The metropark likely dictates the start time, but if we could have started earlier, it would have been helpful. I would prefer running with a headlamp in the morning if it meant running few hours in the heat.

Initially, humidity was high (over 85%) and temperature was in the mid  60s. As the race progressed, the humidity dropped while the temperature climbed. There was virtually no cloud cover throughout the day, and very little breeze. By the end of the day, the temperature on the course had hit 94 degrees. It was definitely a hot one!

My Performance
I wish I could tell you that I absolutely crushed it. My first lap went really well, and I felt good about my second lap as well. I was able to share a few miles with different folks, which was very pleasant.

By the time I started the third lap, the heat had climbed up enough to impact my performance. I was also by myself most of the final two laps, which is not unusual for me in a long race.

I knew the final lap would be difficult, but I was ahead of the cut-off by about 30 minutes, which meant I was okay. I changed shoes, removed my shirt and added a handheld water bottle (I had been using a water belt with a single 16 oz bottle). I think each of these things helped, and this is a fine example of implementing lessons learned from previous races. I’m finally starting to feel like a veteran!

Prior to beginning the last loop, I asked the race director where I was in the standings, and she estimated that about a dozen runners were still behind me. Knowing I wasn’t the last person took some pressure off of my shoulders.

I wound up walking most of that last lap. I just didn’t have much left in my tank. I had started struggling to put fuel into that tank as I was having a hard time eating. Over the last few hours of the race, I was reduced to eating apple slices almost exclusively. It wasn’t that I was struggling to keep food down (no nausea), but I would put something in my mouth and then have a hard time swallowing it. I can’t remember ever experiencing this kind of phenomenon before.

I do think I did an acceptable job of hydrating. I took a pee a few times during the race, and color/odor was never a cause for alarm. Having a second water bottle allowed me to “spritz” myself liberally, which felt really, really good.

When I made it the first aid station on the last loop, a volunteer told me just a few people were behind me as the field was thinning out. Eventually, two guys caught up to me … the dreaded course sweepers. I knew sweepers existed, but I had never seen them in action before. This is when I learned that I was officially the last person still on the course.

The sweepers never directly engaged me in conversation. I could overhear their conversation (most of which involved ultra horror stories). While they did their job, I feel like it was a missed opportunity. I imagine that if I were a sweeper, I’d try to use the opportunity to be an active encourager. As it turned out, even though they were behind me, I was still pretty much on my own. I simply pressed on and stayed in front of them all the way to the finish line.

After each loop, I had to adjust my estimated finish time. After loop 1, I thought 7:30 was possible. After loop 2, I thought 8:00 was realistic. By the end of loop 3, I thought 8:40 was likely. I didn’t hit any of those estimates. I wound up finishing with my slowest ever 50k finish time. I was this year’s official DFL.

Lap 1 > 1:45 (1:45 elapsed)
Lap 2 > 1:55 (3:40 elapsed)
Lap 3 > 2:32 (6:12 elapsed)
Lap 4 > 2:52 (9:04 elapsed)

For the record, I am completely cool with finishing last because I finished. Out of 64 people who started the race, I was #45. That means that, for whatever reason, almost one-third of the field did not finish. By the grace of God, I was not a DNF. I’m grateful that I was able to finish, and while I was completely spent, I was also quite satisfied. Despite the difficult conditions, this was my favorite race of the series.

You get a nice shirt at packet pickup. The finisher award is a beanie with an LED light in it. It’s a nice cap, but it’s not suitable for running. I sweat a lot when running in the cold, and this would be a pain to wash, so it has limited usefulness. There were no finisher medals, and the age group awards were inexpensive water bottles. Having said this, you know when you register that it is a low cost event.

I appreciate that the race directors found creative ways to reward finishers. The beanie is the first item of it’s kind I’ve ever got at a race, so kudos for thinking outside of the box. I suspect that next year they’ll find something else to offer.

Series swag (by event): #1 = very nice tech shirt at registration, ceramic vase for finishing, #2 = a cotton shirt at reg and a tech shirt at finish, #3 = buff at reg and a medal at finish, #4 = shirt at reg and a beanie at finish. (Based on what I've overheard at races, swag items vary a little each year.)

Series Final Thoughts
Each race gave me a gift:

#1 (Tie Dye) was incredibly difficult due to heavy flooding. I had never encountered such conditions, but I was able to persevere and finish. When I hear other runners share extreme “war stories” of difficult races, I can now contribute one of my own.

#2 (Another Dam) was my best effort, but unfortunately, I was heavily fatigued going into it. I have ran a lot of races this year, and Another Dam was so close to other events that I didn’t have a proper recovery/taper. I learned valuable lessons by running tired. I am pleased that I tackled this race with less than ideal conditioning and was still able to put forth a solid effort.

#3 (Dog Gone) was frustrating at first. There was so much mud! The first (of two) loop had me questioning my sanity. It was the closest I ever came to dropping a race simply because it sucked. I was not injured or ill. I was just upset. Fortunately, it dried out and I was able to enjoy the second loop. If I had quit, I would have failed to learn a valuable lesson in perseverance. This was the most mentally challenging race of the series.

#4 (Germantown) was my celebration race. The finish line was not just for a 50k, but for the 200k series as well. I had worked hard for months to complete a big goal, and it was cool to know what the finish line really meant. It didn’t hurt that the course was enjoyable and the company I kept was awesome. The heat took a lot out of me, but it didn’t diminish my determination to finish.

So … that’s the story of how I ran the No Way 200k series. Hopefully, you were able to finish reading my race reports in less time than it took me to run them.

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