Ohio Reunion Part I: Rocky River FKT
I traveled back to my home state of Ohio for my fifteen year high school reunion on August 24th 2023. After stepping off the red eye flight, I headed straight for Berea Falls near my old college campus in order to pursue the Rocky River Reservation FKT. The Rocky River was as high as I had ever seen it and the falls were thundering through the canyon. Many sections of the road were closed to traffic, so I was unsure of whether I could even traverse the valley in order to complete the route. Because of the storms from the previous night, there was a lot of debris on the trail and many sections of mud coating the pavement.
Despite the suboptimal conditions, I decided to pursue the FKT anyway. I started the run just a little after noon and the temperatures were in the low 80s but the humidity was in the high 80s. The combination made for a difficult run. That coupled with the fact that I did not sleep or eat breakfast made an otherwise fairly easy run quite challenging. As I started down the trail, a flood of memories of college running came back to me as I left Berea and descended into the metro parks. It was as if I was chasing the ghost of my 20 year old self on a trail that was once my second home.
The moisture in the air was palpable and the scent of the river engulfed the valley and even though it had been over a decade since I had last consistently run through Rocky River Reservation, I felt comfortable and at home. The first crossing of the river was only about 1 kilometer into the run and the river nearly breeched the bridge. The second crossing was at mile 2.2, the third at mile 3, and the fourth at mile 3.3. I hit the first 5 kilometers in 19:17 and began to realize that I was still not fully recovered from the Fatdog debacle.
Between the second and third river crossing, I passed the big hill, or at least what I used to think of as big, before moving to mountainous areas. Then following the fourth river crossing I passed by the Rocky River Nature Center. This reminded me of my amphibian survey days in undergrad. I used to bike into the metro parks at night and quantify frog and toad populations based on the intensity of their calls. I actually participated in a training and learned how to distinguish the animals by their unique vocalizations. As I continued past the nature center, the humidity began to take its toll and I was completely drenched in sweat that would not evaporate from my body. I began to feel like an outsider in what used to be my home.
Despite the ease of the route, I was struggling with the conditions. I tried to remember back to the winter in Rocky River in order to cool my body temperature. I recalled back to times when I was trudging through the snow in the dark playing owl calls in order to do point counts for Barred Owls, Screech Owls, and Great Horned Owls. This, unfortunately, did not help me to forget my current discomfort. At about 5 and 5.4 miles into the run I passed under two towering bridges. Twelve years ago, this was usually the point that I would turn back for Baldwin Wallace campus. However, I pressed on with my Rocky River Reservation traverse.
I passed through the 10 kilometer mark in 38:42 (19:25 second 5K). I took in a sugary gel and remembered back to the Maple Sugaring Festival where I hulled buckets of sap to be converted to maple syrup. It was an interesting feeling to return to a memorable place after an extended hiatus, it was like visiting an old friend. The fifth river crossing came at mile 9.2 and I turned over 58:30 for 15 kilometers (19:48 for third 5K). I crossed the river for the sixth time at mile 11.3. At around mile 11.5, I made a wrong turn up Rockcliff Drive, caught myself and returned to the trail after loosing about 1 minute.
I lost some steam with my error, but got back on track and crossed under another towering bridge at mile 12. I hit 20 kilometers in 1:18:35 (20:05 for fourth 5K) and crossed the Rocky River for the seventh and final time at mile 12.7. Then the route ended with a punchy uphill to Detroit Avenue were I stopped my watch with a time of 1:22:45. I was happy with the time, though I know I could have run more focused and I could have been better prepared. Overall I was happy to click off a solid tempo run on a familiar trail through a beautiful Northeast Ohio forest.