Sunday, November 27, 2005

JFK50 Race Report (My First 50 Miler)

The race began for me the day before. My sister Michelle and my my brother-in-law, who was also going to run, picked me up at 8 AM and headed to Hagerstown. We got to Hagerstown early enough so that we could scout out areas for Michelle to be able to meet up with us during the race. We decided that the Weverton aide station at the end of the Appalachian Trail section, at mile 15.5, would be a great place for her to be and where we could change from trail shoes to road shoes for the towpath section.

We got a phone call that the other folks from our area were in town and going to meet at a restaurant called Ledo's Pizzeria in Hagerstown. At dinner, the other members of the team were there: Dan Fox, Dave Peterman, and Lloyd Thomas. The final member of the team, Brett Himes, was enroute but was not to make dinner Also, other folks running from the NEO Dead Runners Society club were there: Joe Novicky, Mike George, and TJ Hawk. There was also a gentleman there named Joe Trask who was going for his 20th JFK finish!

The food and company were great. I had the lasagna and salad. Soon, it was time to head back to the hotel. I wanted to do a final check of gear and logistics with my sister. After that, I got into bed and read over some more race reports from previous JFKs and finalized my plan. My final plan was get to Weaverton in 3-3.5 hours. Do the towpath marathon part in 5 hours, but negative split it. Then cover the last part in the rest of the time left in 1.5 hours. Final goal: under 10 hours.

I got up for my usual pre-race ritual at 4:30. Jeff soon called and we were on our way to Boonsboro gym for the pre-race meeting. The parking lot was full, so we actually parked around back. By the time we got all our gear ready, many others had parked there as well. We found our way to a back door, which was locked, but someone opened the door for us.

At the gym, we meet up with the other Ohio runners. I talked a bit with Mark Godale while slowly the others began to appear. Soon Mike, Joe, Lloyd, and Brett were there while Jeff, Dan, and Dave were in line for the restrooms. After a while everyone was together and the pre-race instructions began. After that, out the door we went and headed to the start. On the way, Joe, Mike, Brett and myself talked. We were almost to the start, when BANG! The race started!

Up the hill we went and out of town. We ran along some rolling hills passed by a road named Clevelandtown, then up a pretty steep hill which, after a bit we can to the an Inn (which we had breakfast at the next day) and headed for the Appalachian Trail.

At the top of the hill was a bunch of porta-johns which once inside we extremely unstable. At this point I was with Bret and out we went and down a small hill to the stone gateway to the trail. As soon as you pass through, the rocks started. What I didn't know, this wasn't the rocky part. We proceeded to the first aide station where we met up with Joe and Mike. A short time later on the backtop portion we picked up Dan. The four of us hung together until the next aide station at Crampton's Gap.

I stopped again for a porta-john, which ended up being a LONG wait. Dan and Brett moved on. While waiting in line a guy I didn't recognize was wearing a Vertical Runner shirt. His name was Gerald. I said hello and wished him luck and he went on his way. I finnaly got into a john, but forgot to turn the handle letting people know it was occupied. Sure enough, the door soon opened! Hello, runners!!

Once again, out I went and up the hill for a bit and started to get into more rocky areas. After a bit I met up with Dan Fox again who had just taken a double fall. He assured me he was fine and off I went again. I started to get the hang of the rocks and was able to start picking up speed and passing people on the left. I ran into Jeff and asked how he was doing. He told he trail shoes would have been a good choice at this point in time. On I went again really picking up speed and having a total blast.

Up ahead, some guy informed me the "Rock Garden" was ahead. Gotta love when places on courses get names. They don’t name easy places. Soon it was very rocky. I never locked up but was still moving quick and passing folks whlie bidding them good morning. This was better than yelling "On your left!" at them. Moments later, I came to a guy who looked like Uncle Jesse from the Dukes of Hazard warning us to slow down, the were just switch backs ahead. At this point, the trail was backed up pretty bad and we were reduced to walking. It took me over 20 minutes to get down the hill. While on our decent we began to hear people screaming and yelling while some sounded a loud horn. At the bottom, we were greeted by a gentleman yelling "Welcome to Weverton!" There I found my sister, and was done with the first stage of the race. I completed that portion in about 3:28.

I quickly changed my shoes and shedded my pants, and went to pee real quick behind the car, right in front of a cop! DOH! This is where I sustained my only injury. Trying to hide from the policeman, I sliced my thigh on a thorn bush. Soon, I was on my way when I thought I heard a train. I flew down to the aide station grabbed some stuff and ran across the tracks just to he safe. No train. Oh well.

Next thing I know, I am on C&O Towpath. My goal here was 5 hours, and try to do negative splits in the "marathon." Along this part I met all kinds of cool people. Like Steve running his 17th JFK. I also met Randy, running his first, there to beat his wife's time. I got to talk with Bob Drake from Ohio a bit, too. Soon, I was caught up with Dan and Brett. The three of us ran together for a good while. We lost Brett at an aide station, and Dan and I stayed together for a majority of the towpath.

At about mile 27, we met my sister again and geared up a bit. She updated us on everyone she had seen. Lloyd and Dave were about 45 min ahead. Mike was about 20 min ahead. We saw an ambulance headed to the aide station. This snapped me back to the task at hand. Time to go, break over. On we went, and soon we crossed milepost 71 (halfway in the towpath portion) in 2:33.

This next was the portion of the race I was the part I most worried about. We were coming up on the 50K mark, my longest distance I had ran to this point. At this point, Dan and I did some math, and realized we were in danger of not making the 10 hour mark. This is where we really started to cruise. Talking to Dan and passing people and doing around 9:30-10:00/min pace. The "bad miles: 30-40 went by unnoticed. At the 38 Special aide station, I couldn't keep up with Dan "The Hammer" Fox any more. I cruised a little easier but still pushed myself to make the cutoff.

I ran for a while with a lady named Cindy. This was here third JFK. She had just done the Mountain Masochist. Her daughter was running it, too. She too wanted to be less than 10 hours. A bit later, I finally heard what I had been waiting for...the sound of waterfalls! Milepost 84 passed, we were finally done with the towpath!

I ran into the aide station, grabbed what I needed and got my vest. Up the hill I went to the third and final part of 8 miles of "rolling hills." I pushed myself along this part. Especially on the downhills. I hit the last two aide stations. Just after the last aide station, my muscles in my leg began to cramp and I realized no sub-10 hour for me. This is where I realized I did it again. I had stopped eating and drinking regularly. I have a tendency to do this in longer races. I eased off and decided to enjoy the last miles of the day. Soon, the final stoplight was in sight and I began to hear an announcer and people cheering. Finally, the end! I cruised in at 10:05. Close but no cigar to my sub-10 hour goal.

My final splits were:
AT section: 3:28
Towpath: 5:02
Final Roads: 1:35

So, for my first ultra and JFK, I had a blast. The course, volunteers, and other runners were great. I am planning on running JFK (in less than 10 hours) again next year!