Last year - The Dirty German 50k - 2013 - I arrived sick to the start line after very little sleep, rolled my ankle/fell around mile 8 and went off course following another runner up a wrong hill on the 2nd lap. My goals this year were to right those three wrongs.
2014 was off to a lame start for me - after difficult training conditions through the winter, March saw a weak finish at the HAT Run 50k and April delivered my first DNF when I packed it in after only 64 miles of the C&O Canal 100. I run these races for fun and that's it. I love to run and I train enough that I can beat cutoff times and finish. Not finishing last month felt like absolute crap. Last year The Dirty German served as a tune up for The Laurel Highlands Ultra and this year too, but to say I came to this event in need of some reaffirmation is very much an understatement.
Lasagna for supper and early to bed, meant I felt great rolling out at 3:45am for breakfast. I drove to Philly this year, last year I rode along in the passenger seat falling in and out of sleep in a cold sweat most of the way. Pinned on my number and feeling great for the start, Goal #1 was in the bag.
I ran into Tim Nash while we were picking up our race packets, we exchanged pre-race "how ya' doings?" and we were on our way. Oddly I saw Tim a short time later hustling down the sidewalk still wearing the blue jeans I saw him in earlier and carrying his race packet. I jokingly asked him if he was running in those jeans, only to learn that he was freaking out because he couldn't find where his buddy had moved the car. I assured him he had plenty of time till the start as he ran off searching. The same thing happened to me last year when Janice had to move the car. Thankfully my anxiety was brief as she had just moved across the street and I found her quickly. Tim said he had already been down and back in both directions with no luck. [parking at this event is a little challenging as it's along the street and not in the park, but I didn't see any cars parked too far from the start/finish - I've seen worse parking setups]
|Off to an easy start with Rick Martin (#307) leading the way.|
|Notice the color coordinated red trim on my shorts.|
The fall didn't take me out of the race, if anything it gave me the opportunity to collect myself and settle into a sustainable pace. I consider this an easy course so I planned to run the easy sections aggressively and "manage" through the tougher sections. We had plenty of rain the days leading up to the event and the trail was quite muddy and a stream that last year was barely ankle deep was up to your shorts if you didn't use the stepping stones. [Note: I typically just plow right through water avoiding stepping stones for fear of slipping and falling - on lap #2 I saw a woman do just that - she was tip toeing the stepping stones and soon found herself sitting on the stream bed, soaked.] That ice cold water felt great on my aching knees and it also did a nice job of washing the blood out of my white calf sleeves. I came to the intersection where I missed the turn last year and recognized it immediately, thinking to myself "remember this on the second lap" - I did, and Goal #3 of not getting lost was achieved. (For those counting, yes I achieved 2 of my 3 goals)
|Chomping down a gel coming into to an aid station.|
|Pre-race anxiety gone - Tim Nash on cruise control.|
|Perry the social runner! :-)|
I've said before that I'm a loner when running and that running with others actually messes with my head, but this day was different. There was a young guy who I learned his name was Ethan who passed me so many times we lost count. With Janice's help I was going through aid stations faster than him so he'd spend much of the next section catching back up to me only to do it again at the next aid station and that continued all day. In fact with about 2 miles to go, I sensed a runner behind me on a tight single track section and I soon heard, "I'm baa-ack" and yep Ethan again had caught back up. (When our day-long game of leap frog was over I ended up finishing about 30 seconds behind him). For a good distance I was running with a small bunch (4 or 5) runners (including Ethan) and the chatter amongst these nut jobs was actually fun. Joking and cutting up and I actually enjoyed running with them. They weren't going on about their freakin' PR's or having some innocuous mundane conversation that belongs on the phone or at a Starbucks and not on a trail. They seemed comfortable with spending extra time at the final aid station and I lost contact with them there(except of course for ever-present Ethan). So take note, Perry the anti-social runner made a huge break through and enjoyed the company of strangers while running.
|Coming in for the finish (the head above the clock is ever-present Ethan)|
Coming into the finish, there was a pretty big crowd there yelling and cheering. I couldn't pick out Janice anywhere and I was concerned she hadn't been able to find parking because of all the people in the park. Over the accordion player's polka(who I'm really bummed I didn't get my photo with) I heard Janice's voice. I also heard another familiar voice and I was pleasantly surprised to spot Janice and her sister Debbie <pretty darned cool> who lives very nearby the park cheering me on as I arrived at the finish chute. I couldn't have been happier with this finish, yes it's an easy course, but most importantly I kept myself on the edge and managed it for the distance. I didn't blow up and I didn't phone it in. I finished something like 25 minutes faster than last year, being the quickest I've run that distance and that helped to deliver some much needed reaffirmation that I might actually be a runner.
This course is perfect for the first timer or for someone who's looking for a fast training run. Elevation gain is minimal and it's 100% runnable. There's single track, double-track and water crossings. There may be a bit more pavement than you'd expect in a trail run, but sometimes you need it to simply to piece together otherwise disconnected trails. This year it was quite wet and muddy. I wore Salomon Speedcross 3's that I'm breaking in and was afraid they'd be overkill, but with the sloppy conditions they were perfect. The Dirty German offers three distances, 25k(1 lap), 50k(2 laps) and 50 miles (3 laps+). This year the race director Stephan Weiss decided on a 30 minute staggered start with the 50 milers going off first, then 50k and 25k last. While that may have caused headaches for race workers and timing, the decision got a thumbs up from me as it ensured less crowded trails. (I must say I was impressed to be caught by the 25k leaders near the end of my first lap - they were absolutely flying) Penny Pack Park is funny that's it's situated within an urban environment and it comes with everything an urban park/trail would have - fishermen, horseback riders, girls hanging out drinking a Miller Lite 30 pack in the middle of the day, the smell of wafting marijuana smoke, randomly discarded clothing and this year there was even a skull and a portion of spine of some sort of animal as a trail-trip-hazard. You're running through beautiful forest, but at times hearing horns blowing and sirens responding. The position of the park does make it easy to get to and easy for those who may come with you to find their way to aid stations if they so desire. The finish line food was tasty(I had yummy German Potato Salad and Brat Wurst w/sour kraut) and the finisher swag included a beer glass, bar towel and choice of a running cap or backpack(I got a hat last year so this year I went home with a backpack - sweet!). The only negative on the day: last year I wore a Garmin 310XT and this year I used the Suunto Ambit2 S and I was disappointed to see both GPS watches measured the 50k course as short(30.14 miles), in fact without getting lost, this year was a half mile shorter than last.
>Next up, The Laurel Highlands Ultra next month and then I'll take a break before running The Susquehanna Super Hike in September and the Oil Creek 100 in October.<