Dec 22, 2008

JFK 50 Race Report Part 1 - Summary & Prelude

This race report has four parts:
Part 1 - intro | Part 2 - AT | Part 3 - towpath | Part 4 - finish

The eventful drive to Maryland

Introduction & Summary
If you don't have time to read the whole report, you can stop at the end of this section

Hi! Thanks for reading my report of the JFK 50-miler, which I finished in 13:42. It was my third attempt at 50 miles and my first finish. As I write this, one week later, the elation hasn't worn off - I am really very happy that I've finally broken the 50-mile barrier. [note - I wrote this several weeks before posting it on the blog.] As far as the race itself, it was hard. The freezing cold led to me being dehydrated and it hit me hard at mile 15, which I was able to get under control but also never really recover from. There was a bit of a death march for a while there, with pain around mile 45 that I described at the time as "indescribable." But I got it done and the lessons learned are really going to contribute to my future in ultrarunning.

Leading up to the race
"In ultrarunning, there are no mistakes, only lessons."- Keith Pippin

I was signed up for JFK in the summer, before Grand Teton and before Vermont. My attitude at the time was to get three 50s under my belt and move on to bigger and better things in 2009. Sky's the limit, right? Reality check: I didn't know what I was getting into. As a result, 30 miles into the first 50, I came off Fred's Mountain a pathetic mess, convinced that I was going to drop right there. I won't rehash the story, but the next 4 hours of my life, and the reflection I've had in the months since then, have had a profound impact on me - that there's a level of tenacity that I was not prepared for, and, when faced with its reality, not willing to believe existed. Even a week later, in my GTR race report, I wrote that I had hit the absolute limits of my ability.

4 weeks later I went into the Vermont 50, completely resigned to (and ok with) the fact that I would not finish it, either. It wasn't that I didn't think I was capable of it, I actually knew I probably was - hell, I probably could have finished Grand Teton. The problem with Vermont was that I was slow - and I knew that I wouldn't make the 12-hour cutoff. However, with JFK, I had a 5am start - 14 hours to finish the race. I wasn't 100% sure that I could do it, but I definitely wasn't out there to get pulled again.

The eventful drive to Maryland

One disadvantage to being a part of the 5am start, which gave me an extra 2 hours to finish the race, was that there was no race morning check-in; I had to be in town the evening before to pick up my bib and packet - at a mini-expo that closed at 7pm. My wife couldn't get off work early, so I was alone for the weekend. I left work at noon and started driving under beautiful sunshine through jersey and eastern Pennsylvania. No traffic, I was prepared to arrive in Hagerstown in broad daylight and have a very relaxing evening. relaxation wasn't in the cards, however - a pre-thanksgiving snowstorm (!!!) in Harrisburg delayed me a couple of hours. if that wasn't enough, a closed highway, caused my an accident, delayed me another hour. finally arriving there at 6pm, I was able to check in, buy a shirt, and get out. 6 hours of driving to get a 10-minute task done before 7..

For dinner that night, I wanted something simple, cheap, comfortable, fast, and unavailable in suffern. So Waffle house it was, where I had a waffle, hashbrowns, and a patty melt on texas toast. not the ideal pre-race meal, but exactly what I was craving. I checked into a super8, and kept my running streak alive by a dark evening mile on the roads around the hotel and truck stop. It was cold. Set the alarm for 3:45am and tried to go to sleep at 8pm. that was the plan. What actually happened was I laid awake in bed for 3 hours, until finally dozing off around 10:30.

Before the race
"I had as many doubts as anyone else. Standing on the starting line, we're all cowards." - Alberto Salazar
3:45 came early - I woke up easily, got dressed, checked out, and was on my way to the race start by 4:10. When I left the hotel, the car thermometer said 23 degrees. When I arrived at the starting area, I was immediately concerned by two things: 1.) There was packet pickup! I could have checked in this morning after all! (which would have meant my wife could have come and 2.) No food! None!

I walked into a gymnasium where the race director was giving some last-minute instructions. He dismissed us and people started making their way to the starting line. One thing that surprised me was how many people were around for 5am. hundreds. I went to car, and resigned to being cold for the next half-hour, took off my sweatshirt. Started wlaking to start line, and made it about 200 meters before I realized I forgot my flashlight in the car. Damn!! Jogged back to the car, grabbed it, and started jogging to the start. It was a good distance and took at least 10 minutes to get to the starting line from the high school. I was just in time, as they fired the gun as I was arriving in the outskirts the pack.

please watch this blog for part two of this report - the AT - which will be posted in the next day or two.

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