I spent the majority of the day at the 14th annual Tussey mOUnTaiNBACK 50 mile relay & ultramarathon. I did the relay with a team of 6 other runners and a support driver (Erin). I was lucky enough to run in the most challenging spot in the rotation for our team. I completed Leg 4 and Leg 11 of the 12-leg race. If you click the links, you can see the course maps, a video of the course being driven, and an elevation profile.
The race was incredibly well organized, the course was marked very well, the volunteers were great, and the post-race party was OK. The course was almost all on gravel roads which was a very nice terrain. I was able to crank out the 5.6 mile Leg 4 in 38:03 and the 5.3 mile Leg 11 in 37:31. It was really neat to see the ultra-runners during my second leg (they had a big head start and I didn't see any during my first leg). This course was the USA 50 mile championship! The fastest guy finished around 5:35. I can't even run a marathon at that pace! There's also a team called "The Old Men of the Mountains" who are comprised of runners 65+ years old. Their team captain is 93!!! That's pretty amazing considering that the easiest leg of the race is 3.4 miles long. That's longer than a 5k race and this is "off-road."
There was a lot of team spirit and costume wearing...and beer drinking on some teams (we waited until after the finish). Some people ran as 2-person teams, alternating legs of the race; max team size is 8. It was nice to have people to hang out with during the time when I wasn't running. It was strange to figure out when and what to eat. I also felt a little skunky (warm up, cool down, warm up...) going into my second leg. I got pretty lucky that there was a sizable hill where I passed a ton of people. Everyone else was walking on Leg 11.
I know that I won't be able to run the ultra next year, but I might be thinking about it in the back of my mind for a few years down the road. It's not exactly a flat, fast course, but it's full of spirited people in a beautiful setting and the entry fee's not bad for the ultra people. Maybe next year I'll do a 3-4 person team. Let me know if you'd like to try and average 7 minute miles.