Well, maybe the race wasn’t entirely without drama.
There was a new start this year, so instead of getting spit out onto the road right away, we got to do a six mile loop of trail around Squire’s Castle first. There had been much talk of what a disaster it was going to be, crowding 300+ runners onto single-track just minutes into the race. Surprisingly, it was wide enough to be bearable, and DB and I had lined up close enough to the start to have a clear path while not obstructing others. We settled into a nice pack and a nice pace with friends and acquaintances from around the state including Dave Essinger, Kyle Fahrenkamp and Dave Corfman, Emily and Todd Bello, and some others. Conversation was light and we all worked to just relax into the race. I kept reminding DB to slow down a bit; there were some stairs and a couple of short hills to walk, and then someone mentioned they hadn’t seen a course marker in a bit.
To be fair to the race, there had been torrential downpours the night before, and I did later see areas where the lime arrows had been all but washed away. But to be fair to the competitors, we were told the course would be marked every .1 mile with yellow flags marked “BR100” in red – and it was surely not.
Readers, you can imagine my panic. After all, I am (sadly) no stranger to this situation.
We keep running, now a group of about 50. There are no course markings. We run another three minutes or so with no course marking. At one point, DB declares that he’s going to cut through the woods to another path he sees to check things out. I am now in full-fledged panic mode. Are we off-course? How far? How do we get back? Will we have to start the entire loop over again to complete it? How much time will all this add? Okay, I’ve got 42 minutes in now … which is … and I know I shouldn’t be doing math, but what if I’m 42 minutes down ALREADY?!?!?
“I’m racing,” I start moaning under my breath. “Oh my God, are you kidding me? I’m racing!”
Emily or her husband, someone with the group is trying to calm me. DB is nowhere to be found, and he hasn’t returned to the group.
“MARKER!” someone yells.
“MARKER?” we yell back.
We all begin to celebrate. We agree that we are on course, have always been on course, that we were merely victims of poor course marking. Our celebration lasts about two minutes, at which point we begin to climb the same set of stairs we climbed … how many minutes ago?
“We’ve run this before,” someone says dejectedly.
And I know we have, because I recognize the stairs and the hill immediately thereafter.
The sun is coming up, and we keep our eyes better pealed this time, and we see the marker that someone ahead missed earlier in the day. We make the right hand turn through the woods, and though I’m upset at the time lost, my confidence is restored in knowing that we are officially on course – and that I needn’t repeat the loop, as I’ve returned to the point of departure and continued from there.
I would later find out from DB that he found the correct turn just moments after leaving the group, but we didn’t hear him calling out to us. In truth, we had been victims of poor course marking, but had given up too soon on finding the correct marker and ran a short loop back to it instead.
Wonder of wonders, the adrenaline of being lost had cancelled out the short departure from the course, and I completed the loop a couple of minutes faster than my pace chart called for. DB was waiting for me to confirm I got off the loop okay, and we continued away from the Castle and onto the path along Chagrin River Road.
Boring, boring, boring. DB is peeing a lot and I say hi to Radames Colon, who I ran this section with last year. He picks it up a bit. DB and I leapfrog based on his pee breaks. I try to decide if there’s a thunderstorm coming our way. There was. It rained a couple times. I can’t remember when. That’s how little it bothered me.
I just wanted to get to Polo Field. I wanted to see Pepper (Elizabeth), and after that, I wanted to see TRAIL. When I choose to run Burning River, I expect a certain amount of road. But I come for the trail, and I was bored. That was the last time that would happen. Ladies and gentlemen, cue the music.