Groundhog Fall 50K, Punxsutawney, PA  3.4
Start Elevation: 1295'        Elevation Gain:  3383'      Highest Point:  1803'
September 8, 2012 -  The forecast was for temps in the sixties and 100%
chance of rain, which proved spot on.  Arriving early in Punxsutawney the
weather was mild at 72 degrees with a forlorning crimson red sky to the east.
The field assembled on North Findley Street and headed off amid mild fan
fare in expectation of a very wet day, hopefully not as wet as the previous
year's event.

With nothing to prove this was largely a training run on familiar terrain among
friends.  Heading up the hill toward the high school the field seemed bunched 
and reluctant to spread out.  Finally everyone settled into a comfortble pace
before descending Seatrees Hill to first test the traction of an already wet
surface.  Climbing Two Beers Hill seemed relaxed before the steep descent 
into the first aid station at Adrian.  The hill was just muddy enough to throw
caution into the entire field.  Slipping here and bouncing off the hill behind
me with my hand would be the only fall I would sustain, exercising restraint 
rather than speed throughout the day.

By Buck Run Aid Station I had found my sweet spot and relaxed into a more
extended stride and quicker tempo through the woods to arrive at the 
base of Yellow Bus Hill.  Light rain had started by this time, but at least it was
warm.  I donned a wind breaker to add an extra layer for warmth and
continued with more emphasis upon socializing than upon racing.  It was
good to catch up with people I knew and share stories with new friends.

Each aid station was manned by the friendly support of people I knew, so I
enjoyed a quick exchange with old friends at each one.  The first loop on the
back half of the course went well, by and large.  Hitting the road back to the
Buck Run aid station I strode out, but didn't motor as I had done on my three
previous race appearances on this course.  I could tell the absence of training
on my part and recent races was showing up as a general lack of strength in
my legs.  Nonetheless, I continued to hold my own, not losing or gaining on 
the rest of the field.

By twenty miles I purposefully backed off my tempo to save my legs for a
more ambitious race next weekend.  My legs weren't 100% ready to continue
racing at a 6 mph rate, so I just eased through the woods in the muck and the
rain to finish the second loop and head for the finish.  The rain pounded us at
one point; mud was deep enough to come most of the way up my calf, but I
wasn't close to losing a shoe.  The trail was generally covered by pool after
pool of muddy water, with rivulets of water pouring down any slope.  Rather
than run around the pools I continued a direct line through most of them and
enjoyed the endless splashing and thorough soaking the deluge offered.

Walking up most of Two Beers and Seatrees I found an inspiring fellow to 
accompany me and chat with as we eased back to the finish in town.  Despite
my pedestrain approach to the event my time of 5:38:49 proved to be my 
quickest time for a 50K this year, aside from a solid training 50K on the 
Ghost Town Trail.  The Punxsutawney course is not an easy one.  If anything, 
my quicker time here demonstrates just how tough many of the courses I race 
on really are.

After thanking RD Bob Lott for the invitation to join in the race I headed out 
asap to attend a family reunion to round out a good, albeit drenching, day.