Feb 4, 2009

JFK 50 Race Report Part 4 - The Finish

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

The Finish Line - see cellphone in left hand. My wife called 200 feet before the finish line! I just said, "hang on a sec..", and let her figure out what was going on.

"My doctor told me that jogging could add years to my life. I think he was right. I feel ten years older already." - Milton Berle

So at Mile 42, we were given reflective vests and directed off the towpath, onto the asphalt. We'd be on this surface for the remainder of the race. And the first thing you do is climb a rather steep hill, which actually felt good because we got off the relentlessly-flat towpath, emphasizing different leg muscles. I didn't mind the hill one bit, powerwalked it and it felt great. I was going to resume a pattern of walking up hills, running down them, but that plan didn't last very long due to odd knee pain that I've never felt before. I resolved to walk it in, and I probably wasn't moving faster than 17-18 minutes per mile. I ran when I could, but was unable to sustain it for more than a couple hundred feet at a time. The pain, not the fatigue, was keeping me from running.

I was grateful for the very strong tea that they had at the mile 44 aid station, also clearly staffed by ultrarunners who appreciated the value of caffeine at dusk..

Once it got dark, in retrospect, this section didn't seem that long. It was only 5-6 miles. However, at the time, it seemed to take forever. As is always the case with me, I just wanted the race to be over.

Random events from the last 5 miles:

* Once it got completely dark, my flashlight (Fenix L2D) started acting up. It would go out, randomly. I'd have to shut it off for a few minutes before it would come on again.

* lots of walkers passed me, but I couldn't walk very fast anymore.

* the distance between "3 miles to go" sign and the "2 miles to go" sign was almost 2 miles. This turned out to be a much bigger deal than you'd think - as it indicated that I just had a 25-minute mile split and wouldn't finish the race before the cutoff (I didn't have 50 minutes to go 2 miles).

* the last aid station, 1.5 miles from the finish, confirmed that it was in the wrong place, which mead me feel better. *much* better. (:

* After a left turn on the highway and it's downhill to an underpass of i-81. I ran this whole section, as the pain had receded a bit.

* I ran about the last quarter mile.

* 200 feet from the finish, my wife happened to call (read photo caption, above.)

* 30 seconds after crossing the finish line and getting my medal, I headed straight for the bus back to the starting line, on which I got the last available seat. This was nice, I was not interested in hanging out for 30 minutes until the next bus left.

One of the most vivid memories I have of the entire race is not the finish, but of the period after. Imagine, if you will, getting off a bus into 15 degrees, with legs completely tightened up such that I could only limp slowly. I tend to feel cold after races anyway, so with a 200-foot walk to the car, I got cold fast and started shivering more violently than I ever have in my entire life - literally. It was crazy. Once I did get in the car, it took forever for me to warm up. I got dinner at a drive-through chick-fil-a because I didn't think I could handle a walk across a parking lot at a restaurant. (My reward for running 50 miles turned out to be a chicken sandwich with two large fries, a large coke, and a large coffee. I needed caffeine and lots of it!) Within 60 minutes after finishing the race I was north of the mason-dixon line, with the heat on high, but still shivering.

If the race was a death-march, then this was a death-drive. At one station, and a worried gas station attendant wondered what the hell was wrong with this 300-lb shivering freak in her station begging for warm water dressed strangely with a medal around his neck. Yeah, I was insatiably thirsty, but I couldn't find luke-warm water anywhere (every gas station & truck stop I went to - and I went to 5 in PA - had only cold refrigerated water!) Driving was difficult, so I took 2 30-minute naps in parking spots. At one point I sat on a chair in a truck stop for 10 minutes, just staring at the floor. By now, I was probably in the Allentown area. Coffee just didn't sound appetizing, so I ended up buying a gallon of cold water. It was fine, I just needed to drink.

Finally got home about 2am and went to sleep.


  1. that sounds rough. you're such a die-hard, you'd do it again in a second, wouldn't you? congrats on your medal!

  2. That is a great question. I wouldn't consider doing JFK 50 again, for a couple of race-related reasons that I won't go into here. But the biggest reason is that there are just so many great ultras out there, and only so much time to do them in, that I feel like I'm robbing myself by doing the same ultra twice - with one exception. I'd do the Grand Teton 50 again in a heartbeat!! No race I've ever done comes close to how wonderful and enjoyable an experience the Grand Teton Races are.

    On that note, we'll be in your neck of the woods around labor day. I'm not sure we'll go as far South as Colorado Springs again, but joey has said he'd like to see sam. Maybe we could meet up in Boulder? (:

  3. Good luck at Rocky. Hope the weather is good for us.

  4. good luck to you too! forecast still looks good - 58ºF-73ºF, sunny saturday, overcast sunday.

    I'm going to run in my tank-top for the first time since Chicago!!