Another weekend, another race. I really didn’t think through my training plan when I committed to 3 races within 4 weeks. When I signed up for Doan Creek, way back in February, it seemed so far off and distant that I kind of put it out of my mind. So when it popped up on my calendar a few weeks ago, it felt like a bit of a surprise!
I was lucky to get into this race, as by the time it opens, it sells out completely within hours. It’s a very small (75 total participants) and all registrations are donation based-either a contribution to a local charity or volunteering your time to clean the course.
I’ve run this course once before, early in the year. I had the opportunity to go out on the course in January with the RD Rich who lives in the area and knows these trails inside and out. Even after having run the course now, there is no way I’d be able to ever replicate the course exactly, as it’s incredible complicated with multiple turns and plenty of opportunities to go off trail. The course marking was incredible- flags and signs every 10-15 feet which was much appreciated.
What’s most remarkable about this trail is that it’s all in suburban Cleveland. Yep a trail in the midst of a busy city. It’s tucked around a lake/creek and packs 8 miles of trail into a 2 square mile section. This means tons (I mean tons) of out and backs and switchbacks. The trail boasts some of the toughest segments of single track in the area. There are an incredible amount of rocks and roots along with quite a few boulders in addition to some incredibly narrow trails. I used my hands frequently, not just to steady myself but also to climb in a few sections. I have to say that it was difficult at times to run more than a few feet without needing to stop and walk on the unsteady terrain. Rich described it as “30,000 opportunities to fall” and warned us to “treat every rock like a banana peel”. This was no hyperbole and the multiple emails we received in the week leading up to the race with the warnings of steep and unsteady terrain were incredibly accurate. I have few photos from during the race as I just couldn’t manage to safely take any. Many of the pics here were taken from the DCTR FB page- thanks!!
Doan Creek is comprised of a 50k, 25k and a “fun run” of 12.5k. Each loop was about 8 miles so the 25k’ers did 2, the 50k’ers 4. This race has a late start of 10:00am which was so nice-I loved not waking up when it’s still dark for a change! Leighanna and I decided to run/race together because we are both in fun run mode and she managed to score an entry a mere two days before the race due to last minute drop outs. We decided to take things slow and easy which wasn’t that hard given the trail conditions. The 50k’ers who had started an at 8am were starting to come through the start/finish area as we were waiting to begin, and I heard more than a few “wow, is that a challenging trail” sentiments being shared. Goals were laid out: “A” goal: have fun and don’t die, “B” goal: don’t die.
Our pre race happy selves
We completed loop 1 in slightly over 2 hours and I must say, I was actually kind of surprised. Somehow I had decided that each loop would take 90 minutes max, however when I looked down at my watch and saw we were hitting the 90 minute mark with 2+miles to go, I realized that wasn’t feasible. Despite having run this course previously as well as the MULTIPLE warnings of the technicality, I had forgotten just how slow this course was. In the spirit of rolling with the punches as well as adhering to my goals, I adjusted our finish times as we entered the aid station and decided that my goal for loop 2 was to run as much as I had for loop 1.
I consumed approximately 600 calories at the aid station which was PACKED with some amazing goodies including some amazing pumpkin bread and peanut M &M’s which hit the spot. I packed a few snacks for the next loop and grabbed some ice for my water bottles and we were off within about 5 minutes. I’d like to add that this is a huge thing for me, especially when I’m with Leighanna. I am a notorious aid station lingerer and I often have to be “encouraged” to leave. Total non moving time was 8 minutes for the entire race which included 1 aid station and 2 water only stations-that in and of itself is a PR, dubious as it may be.
Loop 2 was definitely slower (20 ish minutes to be exact). The narrow sections seemed narrower, the switchbacks seemed more frequent and the fist sized ankle turning rocks somehow doubled in number. But we remained steady despite soreness settling in. This is where it takes more of the mental endurance to keep going. Despite “only” running a total of 25k, the amount of time on our feet was not far from a road marathon (and surpassed Leighanna’s marathon PR by 30+ minutes.) I think it’s important to appreciate that fact as we really slowed down and had to deal with the time on our feet as the main battle. The distance was absolutely not reflected in our time for sure! Final finish time was 4.27. I narrowly missed 3rd place in my age group by 60 seconds, though the women who took that title, absolutely earned it and ran a great race!
Some highlights of the race: in the last mile, there is a bridge you must go under as it passes through a creek. There is a very narrow passageway against the wall of the bridge that protects you from wading through the dark water which is of impossible to determine depth due to the darkness. As you emerge into the creek itself, the course markings were placed into the ankle-knee deep water itself which I’d never seen before and which I loved. The cool water felt refreshing, and I like to go through it anyway-balancing on rocks trying to stay dry never works out well for me!
A blurry but somewhat accurate representation of the tunnel
Some unique pics of the course including the “infamous” tunnel which was closed and the course re routed at the very last minute it’s due to structural instability. RD Rich did an amazing job of securing Cleveland PD to escort us over MLK all day (a very busy road). This withbjust 12 hours notice! Lots of graffiti
Well, this is my last long run before the Run with Scissors Marathon. I had hoped to add a few miles on to the end of the race but after 4 and a half hours of running, it was time to go home. I hiked the toughest section of RWS the day after Doan and I absolutely feel prepared at this point. It may be a lot of hiking with a little running, but I’ll get through!