a humbling but beautiful day at blue marsh.

Today the 6th annual Blue's Cruise 50K was held at the Blue Mark Lake recreational area in Berks County, Pennsylvania.  This would be my second traversal of 31.1 miles and, like my first 50K, this was again an out-and-back course, requiring a run "out" of just over 15 miles, a turn around and a 15 mile run "back".

I took my camera but never bothered to take it from the car.  The weather was so beautiful that I just wanted to take it all in without pinning myself behind a lens.  Once the race began I wouldn't want to be saddled with a camera anyway and by the time I returned to the finish line I'd have little on my mind except hydration, sleep and painkillers.

I'm not going to give a full race report because, frankly, I'm too tired at the moment and don't want to wait to put up this post.  I do want to say how impressed I was with the race host, The Pagoda Pacers, a long-standing running group based in Reading, Pennsylvania.  I can't remember a start/finish line where everything felt so under control, so un-frantic.  The aid stations were numerous, enthusiastic and skillfully run.  If I weren't intent on getting to the end, I might have just started making random requests, as it seemed like each station had anything and everything a runner could think to ask for.  Least importantly but still impressive, the race swag was a high-quality zip-up Blue's Cruise 50K 2010 running jacket.

The course had been pounded by the tropical depression-induced storms that swept over the East Coast in the days prior but with weather breaking cool (50's/60's) and clear, the track wasn't nearly as sloppy as one might've expected.  I'd read and heard that the course was flat and there were certainly extended sections that were pretty featureless, but there were also numerous, if modest, elevation changes along the way with a pretty steep up and over climb starting around 10.5 miles that was even more challenging when you hit the other side of the slope coming back at 19.5 miles.

As for me, I was happy with the way I covered the first half of the course, especially considering that I hadn't logged nearly the quantity or quality of long runs that I should have for a race of this distance.  However, the combination of the poor training and an arch injury suffered fairly early in the race that bothered me more and more as the miles piled up turned my sub-9 minute mile pace into something far slower for most of the return trip.  Shortly after the turnaround I actually thought that a "Did Not Finish" was likely as the arch was really giving me trouble.  Thankfully, willpower and an eventual dulling (or psychological numbness) set in and found me running quicker miles over the last 3 miles than I'd managed through the 2nd third of the race.  Maybe I was just striving for the siren song of the finish line.

The final few hundred miles, after a couple of short late uphills, follow a downslope to the finish and I really enjoyed running that stretch knowing that I'd shook off some serious "call it a day" demons to get there.  I'd been running at a pace earlier that morning that had me daydreaming of a solid sub-5 hour time but by early afternoon I was thrilled at the prospect of getting in 15 minutes shy of 6 hours.

My calves (as evidenced in the photo below) and upper thighs were cramping but thankfully not in a crippling fashion.  Though I barely remember it, I apparently had a smile to offer as the finish line loomed.

Photo by Bill Reynolds
And I'm still smiling now as I sit on the couch with my legs kicked up, typing this bulletin and icing my arch.


  1. Leon, first off that is one righteous beard you have there. Second, I envy your ability to trail run for over 30 miles. As I’ve aged I’ve become lazier, although I’m still in the Air Force so I have to do PT often, I just pretty much do the bare minimum. I was injured in 2003 and pretty much use that as my excuse not to do more exercise than I do, but I know I could do more. I just don’t feel like it, although I can only imagine the sense of personal accomplishment you feel at the end of the race, just knowing that you did it. Anyway, it’s good to see you are well, take care of yourself and your family my friend.

  2. Props accepted re: the beard...I'll take complements when/where I can. Also accepted is a "hello" from days gone by. Here's hoping you've found a happiness that makes not exercising as often as you (think you) should matter little. As the years rolls by and I find myself in a job that I love but that demands only mental exertion, I find I've got to conjure up physical challenges to round things out. I have a suspicion that if I were serving in the Air Force I might not feel that tug as strongly. It's great to hear from you and, again, I hope that life is treating you well...glad you found me.