I had been told by one too many people who said the Blues Cruise 50K ultra was a fun and runnable race and that I should do it. The event was 6 days prior to the Oil Creek 100K I was signed up for, but I knew I wouldn’t have an issue with 5 days of rest in between. I decided to sign up for it.
Blues Cruise is located west of Reading. It is put on by the running group Pagoda Pacers, a known running group who put on fun and challenging races. The race is a loop around Blue Marsh Lake. For the past few years, they have reversed direction of the course. The even years are clockwise, odd years are counterclockwise. I was told the counterclockwise is a little tougher with more hills located towards the finish.
Fellow running friends Mary Lou, Gary, Matt, Jay, Rick, and Ethan were also running the event. It would be Ethan’s first ultra race. My trail running friend Kristen was there to cheer on Ethan. She would be running her second OC 100 mile race the following weekend.
The weather was to be sunny and nice. There had been rain a day or two before the event and there was questions as to how muddy the course would be. No worries for me, I like getting dirty.
The start was your basic “on your mark, get set, go” type of start. Here I am on the left, shortly thereafter….
I knew there would be lots of running and minimal hiking with this race. With the OC 100K the following weekend, I knew it would be somewhat tricky to conserve energy for it.
The aid stations were spread out every 4 miles or so. They were often and plentiful and there were multiple food options with each. It is known that the Blues Cruise is a great “first timer” race. If you are struggling, aid is usually a close proximity away. Here’s a picture of one of their buffets with one of their friendly volunteers….
I bypassed the first aid station. That was the first time I passed through an aid station in an ultra event. I will at least stop to eat a pringle or get a piece of a banana.
There were some muddy spots on the trail, but overall, it wasn’t that bad. Here I am in the first 10 miles or so of the race….
I really enjoyed the diversity of this race. One minute we were running in the woods, the next we were running in an open field, the next we were on a wooden bridge, viewing the lake, the next on a side of a road.
Supposedly, the toughest hill was around mile 15, but for some reason I don’t remember it. I do remember that it was starting to get warm outside, warmer than I was expecting. I hadn’t been taking many salt tablets, so I decided at that point to start taking more.
Trying to conserve for the following week, I found out, was trickier than expected. I was definitely exerting more energy than I would have hoped. How dumb of me to look past a 50K ultra without giving it proper attention. In the back of my mind, I knew I could run a little harder, but not much.
The last 10 miles or so included some ascents and descents. I decided to be passive and hike each one of those hills. I was also taking full advantage of each aid station.
The last couple miles included a view of the dam leading to the Blue Marsh Lake, a climb up a road, some rolling fields, and a finish back at the park. Here I am at the finish. I still had enough energy to express my feelings for this race….. with a high-five to the sign….
Rick finished a few minutes before me and said he shaved minutes off of his time from the previous year. Matt and Jay finished a few minutes after me, and they were also pleased with their strong finishes. Gary finished a little later on. He likes to climb more and wasn’t sure how he’d do with this flatter type of ultra. Afterwards, he was pleased with himself. Mary Lou finished her second ultra. She said it was her toughest event to date, but still managed to beat her only other 50K time.
Ethan finished soon after Mary Lou. He told me he ran the last few miles, not stopping to hike once. That is impressive considering the hills that were included. I think he’s a hook, line, and sinker for another ultra in the future.
As for me, it was an ultra that I really enjoyed, one that I will definitely go back to in the future. Speaking of future, onward to the Oil Creek 100k….