Race: Tie Dye 50k
Location: Cincinnati, OH
Results – 4:22:05, 2nd place overall
3 Bests – what aspects of the race did you like the most
1. Training Grounds: these two parks are where I spend most of my weekends running around the trail system that has around 30 miles of trails between the two adjoining parks. I knew every rock and root on some areas of the course!
2. Water Features: Yes, I am making a bit of a funny here because one entire section when under knee-deep water along the river and we made sure runners had that experience (I helped design some of the course), but also there are a ton of waterfalls throughout the Gorge. With the rains, these were beautiful and made for great sightseeing along the course.
3. All Trails: The entire course was run on dirt trails (okay, you crossed over a road twice), and most of them were single track. A couple of the faster sections are on the single track trails in Glen Helen Nature Preserve which made up a 4 mile section of the course this year.
Not so much – aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you
I was against including the mountain bike trails in the course design, but dammit they were included again this year. I hate this section and almost never run it during my weekend runs. The trails have many tight turns and loop back on themselves multiple times. Plus, the maintenance group of bikers who oversee it are always slightly changing the trails so there are many spots where the dirt is not well-packed and retains just enough water to reek havoc on a runner trying to use any speed through them. End rant.
Weird factor – what’s the weirdest thing about this race
The race is held in Yellow Springs, OH, home of Dave Chappell and Ohio’s biggest saturation of hippies – hence the tie dye theme. Yellow Springs has some great charm as a small town in Ohio and its many quirks are why I enjoy it so much, plus shoes are optional. No joke, half the locals don’t wear them.
Highlights of your race – what did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular
Well, I did well putting out the many fires that were constantly causing my race to go up in flames haha. I kept a level head when I almost took a wrong turn and had to backtrack a bit. I did some mental work on being behind early in a race and never feeling like I could catch the guy ahead of me as well as trying to keep myself motivated when GI issues were really limiting my performance and I had no rhythm. I stayed calm when I could feel my dehydration getting somewhat worrisome and just kept working at taking in fluids.
However, for an all around highlight, running the flooded river section was by far my favorite moment on both laps. The water level reached my waist in one hole and otherwise stayed around my knees. I actually found it rejuvenating and it also tickled me a bit to imagine first-timers hitting that section and wondering what the hell they signed up for.
Lessons for others – share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner
There are multiple restrooms throughout the campground but everyone always lines up at the one right by the start/finish. A 1 minute drive down the road takes you to another restroom in John Bryan State Park and will give you ample time to get you to your morning race weight. Also, Yellow Springs is a great town with some fun and artsy shopping. Make sure to stop in shops, grab coffee at Dino’s Cappucinos and eat at Sunrise Café for the best food in town!
Lessons you learned that will help you next time around
I will never be able to eat pizza the night before a race again. From now on, I am back on the Chipotle burrito bandwagon I rode all last year, and am reinstating the “nothing to eat after 6pm” rule I had for myself previously as well. Because I worked late then marked the course, I got home and was ravenous which caused my stomach to get the best of me. Ironically, the pizza I ate was called Socrates Revenge…the name was well-established by the end of my run, that is for sure!
Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race
While there are some faster sections, the trails can be fairly technical. The mountain bike trails were, as above, ridiculous as the looping absurdity of these trails drives me crazy, but during dry weather, they would be pretty fast – we just happened to get rain all day leading up to and during the race. The early Gorge section is very technical and takes some very tactful footwork to navigate at faster paces. The Upper Rim trail and Stagecoach trails are much better groomed trails where I was planning to really turn on the gas, which I thought meant go faster but my body had other gassy plans. The Glen Helen trails are tight but few turns and less technical terrain makes them a faster section.
Aesthetics – is it a pretty course
The rains make the entire area into a waterfall haven that I find stunningly beautiful in the early, green spring. There are plenty of wild flowers throughout and even some good views along the multiple streams that run along the trails. The Gorge has beautiful view throughout with very open trails. The Glen trails are less open but also less trafficked.
Difficulty – is it a tough course
The technical trails make this a bit tougher of a course, but the elevation was only around 2,300 ft of gain I believe. The flooding certainly added another variable to things and there are a few good climbs on the course of around 150 ft. This used to be a 4 loop course and find the 2 loop version to be a vast improvement. Next year, when we cut out the mountain bike trails, this course will be awesome!
Organized and well run – did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?
Hmm, well the Glen Helen section of trails was impeccably marked (yeah, this was my section haha), but there were multiple people who got lost on the mountain bike trails and on some of the switchback trails in John Bryan. I would give this a 5/10 on course marking as some sections just were not obvious and frustrated me even when I was part of the design and knew where to go. Also, the RDs kept saying they would put the course map online and they never did. On the bright side, the shirts were Patagonia this year and they are awesome.
Competition – is there a strong field?
Meh, it had potential but Chad couldn’t make it due to an emergency situation with family and Jay was nursing a calf injury. I honestly thought I would cruise to victory here. Lesson learned,never underestimate the stalling power of a debilitating gastrointestinal illness.
Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.
Race didn’t fill up until about 2 weeks before the event but the field is limited to only 150 runners. There is a nice bed and breakfast in Yellow Springs that was just finished this year and then, of course you could stay in John Bryan and do some camping. If you’re here next year, stay at my house!
A central aid station allowed for four passes by a well-placed drop bag if you wanted it at miles 9, 13, 25, or 29. This and the start/15.6 mile/finish were the only fully-stocked aid stations. There was one other water stop at mile 4 with just a couple 5 gallon jugs to refill bottles.
Weather and typical race conditions –
Usually warmer with light rain often, sunshine usually and flood trails once. The trails hold up pretty well even if it rains though, especially the Gorge trails which are pretty much carved out of stone.
Gear – did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?
I definitely could have used some toilet paper, but other than that, I don’t think there is anything particularly special that you need. I think a one-bottle system works just fine here especially with the water stop. If you have shoes that do well on slick-rock, I would recommend those. My Cascadias do well on most terrains except for slick rock because the hardened rubber lugs don’t grip well. There is quick a bit of this in the Gorge. My vibrant soled HOKAs do well on these and I believe it is due to the softer rubber.
Spectators – is this a friendly course for your friends
I had a couple friends follow me to each of the “stocked” aid stations which to drive from the central aid station to the start/finish took about 2 minutes. Seeing a runner 6 times is pretty good for a 50k so I would say this is a fan-friendly course.
Awards to top 3 male/female
The Overall Score – how many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it
Well, I would give it a 3/5 this year for me mainly due to circumstances totally out of control of the RD; however, a couple course marking issues are contributing factors that will be rectified next year. Still a fun experience. Onward!