To complete the Summer Trifecta of Suck was my second running of the Ghost Town Trail Challenge. Last year, I had a blast at the 25k and this year I shot for the 50k. Well, based on the fact that I’m now calling this the Summer Trifecta of Suck… you can guess how this one turned out.
I wound up leaving the house around 4:30 in the morning, which seems absolutely ridiculous seeing it written out. When I left, I already felt pretty comfortable in my tank top and shorts – it was bound to be a hot one! I drove the 45 minutes or so to Ebensburg, checked in at the start line, threw my bag in the car, and got my feet prepped for the race. My blisters had vanished, I’d done a few short runs, and I was feeling pretty good.
The bus came, all the 50k-ers hopped on, and we headed back down 22 to Blacklick. We got there in enough time for everyone to use the bathroom, get stretched and warmed up, and the race director’s husband passed on some messages on her behalf. With a short countdown, we were off.
I immediately settled into an altered run/walk from my usual times, coming in at 4:30/1:00. Even though it’s much longer than traditionally prescribed run/walk times, I like having time to get into the groove of running.
The first stretch of the trail felt pretty good. It was about 6.5 miles from the start line to the first aid station, so it was plenty of time on my own, even though I didn’t have to resort to podcasts for any of that first stretch. There were a few other people ping-ponging around me, so that was nice to see the same faces over and over. My feet were holding up pretty well, I was holding a pretty solid pace, and it wasn’t all that hot out yet.
From mile 6.5 to mile 13 is where the wheels started to get a bit wobbly, but I knew I had to at least get to the halfway point of 25k before I pulled. I definitely slowed down and did a lot more walking in the second chunk of the race. I already pulled out the podcasts and had them playing from my belt, so I had something to keep my mind off of the pain in my feet.
At the second aid station, I got into the med kit and used some Vaseline and some moleskine to try to control the issues cropping up. But I had blisters popping up in totally new spots, the balls of both of my feet were getting hammered, and the toes on my left foot were getting shredded. I headed back out onto the course after loading up with some gummy bears and potatoes, and it was a long slog from there.
From mile 13.5 to mile 19, I wanted to cry. My feet were killing me. I was power-walking to the best of my ability, arms swinging to provide some sort of forward momentum – I probably looked like a goofball. I at least had some good podcast episodes that I had been saving for just this kind of occasion, so that brightened my spirits a bit.
Once I hit the 25k mark where the 25k-ers had started earlier in the morning, I wanted to collapse and quit right there. But I still had about three miles until the next aid station. My splits were slowing down so much that I flipped my watch around so that I couldn’t see the face because it was so discouraging. It was absolute hell, but I kept on pushing.
When I reached the aid station at mile 19, I called it quits. I ripped my socks and shoes off to look at my feet, and the kid volunteering there (who had also been at mile 13.5) said, “Please tell me you’re not going to keep going.” They were that bad.
I took in some water and some more sustenance in the form of gummy bears and potatoes. The race director’s husband was back at this aid station, and he offered me a spot in the truck to head back to Ebensburg. Even though it sucked, I hopped in and headed back.
When we got to the finish line, he offered to go and get my finisher’s awards since I had finished more than the 25k. Since they weren’t specially marked for each particular race distance, I said sure (it wouldn’t haunt me on the medal rack like the silver Buffalo would have). He went and came back with a medal, bottle of water, and a 32-ounce growler marked with the race logo. I said a million thank-yous, then pulled myself fully into the car and set the cruise control to head back home.
Even though it’s not what I wanted, I still have to give this race so many props. I love the Ghost Town Trail Challenge, and it breaks my heart that I probably won’t be back in the state to try again next summer. The course is beautiful, the volunteers are so friendly, and the aid stations are well-placed and well-stocked. Both years the weather has been hot but wonderful, which is just luck of the draw for western PA!
I’m still not sure what’s up with these stupid blisters, but I’m basically taking the rest of June and most of July off from running. I’m still walking dogs four days a week and riding my bike as much as I can. My blisters have again vanished and new skin is growing in its place. I finally had a black toenail and now half of my left index toe is missing. I don’t know if these issues are because I’ve gained a little bit of weight or because I haven’t gotten fitted for new shoes in a while. Either way, I’m saving up for a new pair so I’ll have comfy feet when I move to Florida and I’m also watching what I eat a lot more closely.
I guess after having such an awesome school year, I shouldn’t be surprised that I’ve been having a shitty summer when it comes to my running. Even though I enjoyed Buffalo, Ragnar, and Ghost Town, I wasn’t able to participate to the best of my ability. That’s a bummer, but I’m interpreting it as my body telling me to take a break for a while and focus on getting ready for the move. Less than two months – eek!!