Thursday, November 17, 2011

2011 Mountain Masochist 50+ Race Report

This was race number two on my redemption list, which came about from my poor performance on last year's race (UROC being the other on the redemption list), and I was very excited about this race.  Emily, who assumed the Team Peake crew duties, and I made our way down to Lynchburg, VA Friday afternoon.  We arrived just in time to meet up with our friends Christian, Tom, and Nica, all from the Annapolis area and looking to run a few miles in the Blue Ridge Mountains, for some dinner before we made our way to pick up our bib numbers.  After dinner we arrived at the Kirkley Hotel just in time to hear Jennifer Pharr Davis give an account of the speed record she set this summer on the Appalachian Trail.  I was really excited for the opportunity to hear her stories from the trail and everything she had to overcome to achieve the speed record.  Truly an inspiring story to hear the night before a big 50+ mile race.

Emily and I woke up early, left our hotel 5am and drove to the James River Visitor Center (we also gave a ride to runner that didn't have a bus ticket to the start line).  Crew cars weren't allowed around the Visitor Center so I jumped out of the car about a mile up the road and made my way to the starting line.  Temps were in the low 30's at the start of the race and eventually made it up to the low 50's. 
Christian (L) and Tom (R) before 50+ miles with 9200' of climbing
The race started at 6:30, which was nice as I was starting to get a little chilly waiting at the start line.  The first 5.7 miles (more like seven miles, just keep in mind that these are Horton miles) were all on pavement.  I knew this is where I had to try to start off at a faster pace than usual to ensure that I could put a couple of minutes in the bank because I knew I was going to need every spare minute.
dam right before AS 1
I made it to Cashew Creek aid station (AS) in 1:09, which was a few minutes slower then I was hoping but still better than last year.  I made my way off the roads and onto the trail where I came across my first real climb of the day.  It was a three and a half mile incline with approximately 1300' of climb.  I was feeling good during the first climb and made it halfway up the climb to the Peavine Mountain AS in 1:45.  I progressed up the rest of the climb and then I had to implement strategy of running the downhills hard!  I cruised down to the Parkway Gate AS in 3:16.
cool shot of a runner passing under BRPW
Up to this point in the race I hadn't even asked, nor did I care, how many minutes above or behind the twelve hour cutoff I was.  This was the first aid station that I saw Emily, so I grabbed some coconut water, EFS, and Vespa from her.  I took some extra time at this aid station and made sure to grab everything I needed because I wouldn't see Emily again for another eight miles.  The next few miles went by really quickly and I was just enjoying the scenery and some nice downhill running.  I came into the Reservoir aid station in 4:42, that was when I learned that I was nineteen minutes ahead of the twelve hour cut off time.  This made me feel good, considering the effort I had put into the race thus far, but I knew it was just getting started.  Now the climb up to Buck Mountain begins!  I knew I was going to loose time on this section so I came up with a plan of walking one minute and running three minutes.  Last year I missed the cut off at Long Mountain AS by seven minutes, so I guess you could say I had a little motivation coming into this part of the race.  The strategy paid off and I came into Long Mountain AS at 5:58 (seven minutes ahead of the cut off).  My legs were starting to feel a bit sluggish and I wasn't too excited about that, considering I was a little more then half way up the tough climb (eight miles with ~ 2300').  As I made my way up the next 2.6 miles, I heard the famous Rocky theme song - music to my ears both literally and figuratively because I knew I had arrived at the Buck Mountain aid station.
Buck Mountain aid station
After running a few miles I came across Mary.  She was a sight for sore eyes because I was really hurting at this point and it was nice to chat with her and keep my mind off the pain I was going through.  We were chatting about future race plans, she and I are running Vermont 100 next July, and I was really enjoying her company.  We separated shortly before the Loop In aid station.  This could not have come at worse time as I was walking the flat easy sections of the loop.  This four and a half mile section took me 1:10 which brought my total time to 9:03.  I was still thirteen minutes ahead of the cut off time.  At the next AS Emily gave me some more EFS, Vespa, and coconut water.  I had a few downhill miles before my last climb of the day which was a 1000' climb over three miles.  This is where the wheels fell off the wagon.

I went from being thirteen minutes ahead of the cut off to barely making the cut off.  I saw Emily one last time at the Salt Log Gap aid station and she was urging me to hurry because I was in danger of missing the cut off after running forty one miles.  I was running/walking fourteen to seventeen minute miles during the last climb.  Beating the cutoff was probably not going to happen, I was starting to get negative and questioning my training and my manhood.  I had about five to eight people pass me and I sunk even lower.  I began to accept that I wasn't going to make it.  I ran straight through the Forest Vally aid station because time was tight and shortly after the aid station I began weaving all over the trail.  I made it to the final aid station and decided I needed some EFS to help my energy level.  I had four miles to the finish and forty seven minutes to do it in.  That sounds easy, twelve minute miles on a downhill trail to the finish, but I had been averaging 15:30 pace the previous four miles and that pace would have me finishing the last section in 63 minutes.  I became very upset with myself that I was going to run all day and miss the cutoff by only a few minutes (if I were to keep the 15:30 pace I would finish in 12:20 but the cutoff is 12:00 so basically I would miss the cut off by ~2.5%).  My EFS started to kick in and my energy level rose and next thing I knew I ran a 12:30 mile.  The next mile was 13:14.  I had two miles left and twenty two minutes to make the cutoff.  With confidence gained from the last two miles I became a man possessed and started hauling ass!  I ran my second to last mile in 9:30, which meant I had thirteen minutes to go 8/10 of a mile.  Was I really coming back from the dead to finish the race in under twelve hours?  I was feeling it and decided to really push the pace and I was overcome with emotion as I closed in on the finish line and saw everyone yelling and cheering me on.  I ran the last 8/10 of a mile at a 9:00 pace to cross the finish line in 11:55:03.

As soon as I crossed the finish line I shook RD Clark Zealand's hand and started hooting and hollering as I hugged Emily.  Both Clark and Dave Horton looked over at me and smiled as I was carrying on, I proceeded to shake Clark (for a second time) and Dr. Horton's hands and thank them for putting their hearts and souls into the race.  I exclaimed how much fun this race is and Dr. Horton yelled to me "that's the way it suppose to be".  Talk about an emotional race.

Each race offers it's own challenges to overcome and as soon as you become comfortable or complacent is when you are doomed for failure.  Each race gives me an opportunity to stay humble because no matter how much I plan I always have to be ready to adapt to the given situation.  You can never read enough, study enough, or run enough to perfect running.  Some things are out of our control and, for me, that is tough to accept because I like to be in control, but pushing my self to the limits is a true introspection into my soul.

Congrats to Christian (10:46), Tom (11:13), Nica (11:22 & AG winner), and Mary (one tough lady who finished what she started).

my splits
My Gear: 
Shoes:  Montrail Sabino
Socks: DryMax 
Hydration: Nathan 1.5 Liter Backpack 
Nutrition: GU, S!Caps, EFS shot, Vespa, Coconut water, XS shot,
Shorts: Zensah compressions shorts 
Sleeves: Moeben
Shirt:  Tech T-shirt  
Gaiters: Dirty Girl Gaiters
Watch:  Garmin GPS 310xt 

Extra Pictures from the race

See ya on the trails,

Thursday, November 3, 2011

JFK 50

I have run JFK 50 twice and I enjoy the race very much, I particularly like the large crowds of spectators and  the rich history the race has.  I don't agree with the qualifying standards, because it creates a "Boston" atmosphere where fast flat courses are sought after so people can qualify.  That being said, Boston is an amazing race and I have the utmost respect for the history of the race and for those who qualify.  I think the standards for JFK 50 should take in to account courses such as Zane Grey 50 or MMTR 50 which have slower finishing times due to the difficultly of the race.  While I don't want this post to go off topic about the JFK 50 qualifying standards, I did want to share an article I came across concerning JFK 50.  I am not passing any judgement because I am not privy to all the facts, however, I do find the article very interesting as to where the entry fees go.  Entry fees in 2007 were $85 and this year they were $195, I know fees increase due to higher overhead but 129% increase in 4 years seems a bit excessive.  Feel free leave a comment let me know what you think.   

See ya on the trails,