A few months ago THIS video was released on Facebook about an 80 mile route in Ohio that hits 12 gourmet donut shops along the way. I had so many people send the video to me saying "You should totally run this! You love donuts more than your children! Okay, many not more than your children. But definitely more than your dogs. So you should totally run this!" (The video has more than 11 million views.)
Then over the next few months I began working with Amanda Ensinger and the Butler County Visitors Bureau who provided a gracious invitation to come and run the Donut Trail. I can't thank them enough for their hospitality.
So a week ago, Mel, my daughter Kylee, and I headed to Ohio for the sugar-filled adventure. We started at Holtman's Donuts on Saturday morning. The sweet smell of donuts filled me with happiness.
The shops had a huge variety of donuts, including s'mores, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, cookies and cream, lemon meringue, Lucky Charms, and pink frosted donuts that looked like they had been delivered right from a Simpson's episode.
One of my favorites was this little morsel of heaven: a cheesecake donut. Let's just say, hypothetically speaking, that Publisher's Clearing House showed up on my porch with a human-sized check for one million dollars. I would promptly get on an airplane, go to Ohio, and purchase one million dollars worth of cheesecake donuts.
Some donut shops were nearby, within a few miles of each other. Some were more spread out, ten or eleven miles apart. I was really digging the small town vibe as I ran from town to town.
Almost all the donut shops had long lines. They start making donuts early in the morning, then when they sell out, they close for the day.
In the afternoon I was starting to get a little jittery from all the donuts. (Shocker!) I was ready for some real food. So Mel stopped and bought some mid-run pizza. Because if an ultramarathon fueled by donuts is good, an ultramarathon fueled by donuts and pizza is better.
When drinking alcohol, people try to walk a straight line to determine their blood alcohol level. When people are pounding donuts, they try to walk a straight line to determine their blood frosting level. I determined that my blood stream was now 60% frosting.
After running for many hours, I saw this big vulture or buzzard on the side of the road. Maybe it was just a coincidence, or maybe I was looking like I was about to drop dead.
Mel and Kylee were such an amazing support. They helped me with directions on the route, and they would drive ahead a few miles at a time, then wait for me to arrive where I could refill my water.
By the afternoon, I was in a pretty rural part of Ohio. Sometimes I'd go quite a while without seeing another person. The scenery was stunning.
The Donut Trail isn't actually a dirt trail. It's all on roads. The route isn't really designed for runners. Nobody had ever run the whole route before. Most of the roads had a pretty small shoulder so it would be tough to make this into a formal race.
I was very lucky to have nearly perfect weather for the run. I loved the simple beauty of the places I was running.
I wasn't feeling too great for the first 15 miles. My energy felt drained and my legs were stiff. I was apprehensive about how the rest of the run would go. Thankfully I loosened up after 15 miles, and felt pretty good for the rest of the run.
Because we knew we'd be hitting some donut shops in the evening or night after they were closed, we kept an extra surplus of donuts in the car for me to eat at the closed shops. In the evening my stomach was less enthusiastic about eating more donuts. Toward the end, I could only handle a few bites of each donut.
A few miles later, I was swallowed by a sky of pink, and purple, and yellow, and orange as a sunset lit the sky on fire.
I heard my Garmin beep when I hit mile 54 of the Donut Trail 100 in Ohio. I was in the middle of nowhere. I could see my breath by the light of my headlamp. And I'd see a porch light from the occasional houses I passed. Suddenly I heard someone yell "Hey!" I stopped as I saw the shadow of a man walking toward the road where I was standing. He asked me what my name was, and what I was doing. I explained that I was trying to run 100 miles. Then he said "Come here." I protested and said I needed to keep running. I told him I still had at least twelve more hours to go. (Not to mention the fact that I didn't want to be murdered by a stranger in rural Ohio.) He insisted. "I want to introduce you to my family!" I looked past him to the garage and saw a few people inside. They didn't look like ritualistic murderers so I agreed to go say hello. When I got to the garage, everyone was so intrigued and excited to hear about the run. They said they were so impressed. And they offered me a beer and a ride up the road. I politely declined. Then they gave me a hug and said "Keep going. Good luck! You can do this!" Their kindness and enthusiasm was just the boost I needed to keep moving forward.
In the middle of the night, the cold air bit my face and I saw each breath evaporate in a cloud of steam. I was in a remote part of the state where I rarely saw a passing car. By 2:00 am I had perfected the art of sleep walking, so I found a perfect patch of grass fifteen feet off the side of the road for a quick power nap. I had been laying down for less than one minute when a truck drove down the road. And then the driver slammed on the brakes. And then he threw the truck in reverse. And then he rolled the window down. And the driver asked if I was okay. I was embarrassed, and sheepishly explained that I was trying to run through the night but got tired so I stopped to take a little nap. I got up and decided I didn't want to risk scaring anyone else by taking a power nap. I carried a big stick with me just in case one of the occasional dogs I passed decided to eat my donut-filled body for dinner.
By Sunday morning I completed the official Donut Trail. I decided that since I had already covered a bunch of miles, I'd keep going until I hit 100 miles. My friend Matt Garrod lives in Cincinnati and came over to run the last nine miles with me. I was laughing the whole time and he was a great distraction from the pain cave.
And after 29 hours 20 minutes I finished the Donut Trail 100! (Here's the route from my Garmin: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3072620582 )The Donut Trail has passports available that can be stamped at each donut shop. For the shops that were closed, Mel made a note of what time we arrived.
If you hit all the donut shops, you get one of the official Donut Trail shirts:
Kylee drew me this awesome belt buckle. Of all the buckles I've collected over the years, this is one of my favorites. We had an absolute blast in Ohio. I'm praying that Publisher's Clearing House shows up with a huge check so I can go back and buy a million dollars worth of cheesecake donuts.
Huge thanks to Mel and Kylee for coming to crew this adventure. Thank you Amanda Ensinger, Butler County Visitors Bureau, and UltraRunning Magazine for making this all possible, as well as my amazing sponsors Altra Running, Injinji, St. George Running Center, Tailwind Nutrition, and UltrAspire.