Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Trap Pond 50K - Ramblings

Funny things happen to runners sometimes, we sign up for races with one purpose to only transition in the period between registration and race. My 50K this past weekend is an example of this. When I signed up for the inaugural Trap Pond 50K right before the Two Rivers Marathon last month, it was placed on my schedule as a tune-up for my 100K debut at Lake Waramaug. With Trap Pond being a 7 loop course, I felt it would be an ideal tune-up race to work on consistent pacing.

Obviously differences exist in the two races. For one, Trap Pond is half the distance of Lake Waramaug. Also, Trap Pond is flatter but also not on the road like the other. But still, the goal was pacing….that was until…..

I found out what the Pennsylvania State 50K Record was for a 34 year old: 3:21:56. My PR is a whole 3 minutes faster.

Couple that with a forecast early in the week saying race day would be lower 60’s, I decided I was going to take a crack at it. This would require going quite faster than the 7 minute pedestrian pace I originally wanted to comfortably run at. However, as the day got closer the forecast got warmer and warmer until you could say it was saying hot with the mid to upper 70’s. Still, with a 7:30 start, I hoped it would take a while to warm up and give me ample time to run ‘cool’.

Yeah so about that….at night, it dipped into the upper 50’s but was around 60 come start time.

One item of note, I want to mention is that the night before the race, I slept in the backseat of my Nissan Versa at a truck stop in Laurel, DE around 6 miles from the site of the race which was aptly Trap Pond State Park. Choosing this saved me cash and avoided such an early start. Granted the backseat was not as roomy as my old 1990 Ford Taurus Wagon that I could stretch out in like the one time I slept in a parking lot in Pennsauken, NJ while attending a heavy metal festival.

Upon arriving at the race location, I decided to race in my Saucony A4’s versus my LaSportiva Vertical K’s. I figured, if I needed to switch shoes I could do that at the finish area where we pass each loop. Also, here, I laid out my gels and bottles since I wanted to start without items in my hands. I had two gels pinned to my shorts so I was not empty.

With this being the inaugural year, the crowd was pretty small especially considering 3 race options of Half Marathon, Marathon and 50K. The marathon was the least filled event while the HM and 50K maybe had around the same number. In all 38 people started. And according to the organizers all 38 finished. The marathon and 50K started at the same time in different locations on the loop. But once we were off, we were off. I felt cool at first and felt like I was spending half the first lap trying to reel my pace in. I wanted around 29 minutes. On the first lap, I passed Chuck Engle (aka the Marathon Junkie) who was there as part of his push to his 300th sub 3:00 marathon. I had raced Chuck at Two Rivers and he is a great talent. Apparently, the marathoners started with an out and back which is why I saw Chuck. I mention this because he was the only competitor in the races I did not lap on the day.

In the end, I clicked 27 minutes for my first lap and repeated that for the next two laps before slacking a bit on the fourth to 28 minutes. But it was not starting to get warm as the sun was climbing up over the trees. Lap 5 I ran okay but felt I was fading. At one point, I thought I was on lap 6. I was pushing myself. I was telling myself I would go for the record until I slipped off the pace on a lap. Through 5, I was good. Only needed to hit an hour and one minute to get the time. Considering the last lap is a shorter distance and I had just hit 29 minutes for the 5th split, I had a shot. Yet, Lap 6 did me in. It was a suffer fest. On the portion of the course where we are weaving through pines near a campground, I just felt myself getting slower with each step. I was feeling the heat now. While running with a handheld since lap 3, I was now dumping cold water on me at the aid stations. Costing me even more time but I was heating up. On the loop there is a marker that said ‘1.0 mile’ at that checkpoint, I had lost a good chunk of time. I lumbered into the aid station that was near the finish line and dumped water on my legs and head. Did I mention the heat? It was up around 75. Lap 6 was a horrible 35 minute suffer fest. Lap 7 was a bit better. However, I knew I did not have a 26 minute lap in me. I was spent. I managed 29 minutes for the last loop stopping the clock at 3:24:39. Just shy of 3 minutes from the record.

I was bummed I had come so close but knew had we started an hour early or if the temps were 10 degrees cooler, I could have had it. The heat sucks us dry. At least it does me and Trap Pond was one of those instances I was beaten by the heat.

Worst part of it all, I was so sapped yet had to get in the car to drive home. Usually, I can handle the drives fine, this one was brutal. I pulled over a few times to make sure I was not going to throw up driving. Only one bathroom stop had to be made early on but I had to fight off feeling tired as well. Thankfully, traffic flowed well and I was able to have the AC on.

While, I am proud of my time, I am sad I came so close. The good thing is I have a lot of year left if I want to chase it again.

In viewing this as a tune up for the 100k, I am taking away a few things. The 7:20 if it is equally as hot, might not be possible. Hot and exposed on the road may be dumb to chase it. Thankfully, I have mid-race options to drop down to 50K or 50M as long as I communicate to the timers. I will say this was another reason I signed up for Lake Waramaug. It gives me flexibility if it is not my day. Given how the temperature may be hotter for this time of year, I am glad. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

A note about training and races....

Consider this post a random stream of thought brought to you in due part to others posting there race schedules. This has made me look at my race schedule some and start to lock down my training with these races in mind.

Now that winter seems to be mostly gone, (while it is officially spring, we do have some cold and snow in our forecast for the next week here in the Mid-Atlantic), it should be easier to get out and enjoy training. This winter has been harsh and I have been lucky to not only train as much as I have but race as well as I have.

Last week's marathon and the prior week's 50K (34 mile - 50K) have served as a jump start to my racing year that has some big races coming up. So without further ado my confirmed 'big' race schedule:

Jack Bristol Lake Waramaug 100K - April
Broad Street Run (10M) - May
Cayuga Trails 50M - June
Hudson Highlands 100K - June
Viaduct 100M - Jul
Fire on the Mountain 50K - Oct

Now in there will be additional races like Trap Pond 50K two weeks prior to Jack Bristol and I am hoping to pencil in the Steamtown Marathon before Fire on the Mountain. I also will be running a number of 5K's too. (Ideally, some 10Ks and 5Ms too.) Some small, some large all with the goal of keeping me speedy. Plus, I love the social atmosphere at them. As my focus this year appears to be on a lot of ultra distances, I need to keep sharp, especially for a race like Broad Street. I finished last year in 53:29 and feel I am primed to cut that down some more, especially if Two Rivers was any indication.

However, right now my focus is on Jack Bristol. It is my 100K debut and all on road. While not my most favorite of racing surfaces anymore, this race is where I want to go sub 7:20. It is a lofty goal. And I might not hit it as 7:04 miles over 62 miles can be tough. I do feel the loop nature of the course will assist me. As a tune up, I will be running Trap Pond with the objective of hitting solid splits on a loop course. Unlike Jack Bristol, Trap Pond is fine crushed gravel. I'm three weeks out from that race which will be my last long run before the 100K. In the upcoming week, I hope to get one 20 mile run in (hoping tomorrow) and since I have some time off of work, a 5-6 hour training run that I would like to get 40 miles in. (It was funny yesterday even discussing a 5-6 hour training run with my partner since it is never a topic I thought I would ever bring up.) After that I will taper down and rest up a bit more. I don't want to risk breaking down too early.

Also, with the recent addition of Cayuga into my race schedule, I'm up in the air about racing a 50K two weeks prior. I'm thinking it will be smart since I likely would not want to go for a long run otherwise. Once Cayuga passes, I will lighten my training load over the summer. I didn't do it last year and I'm not sure I enjoyed the season as much. I'm definitely looking forward to what is in store.

All this is not without paying a price, I admit I will be missing some races I love, particularly those in the Trail Creek Outfitters series. The people who put the series on are great and the courses are wonderful. Also, I might be missing the entire XTERRA Mid-Atlantic series put on by the folks over at Adventure Geek. I really enjoyed hanging out with them and still hope I can squeeze in one race.

One race that MIGHT be back on my radar is a local gem, the Wissahickon Trail Classic 10K. With Cayuga on the slate, I have dropped Old Dominion (I hadn't signed up yet) so chances are good I'll be in the city on the day of the WTC. And considering it benefits the organization my partner is now involved with, something I am glad about the prospect of. The question will be....how will my legs feel about this?

Maybe that should be the question for the whole year.....Hmmm...

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Surprise! A HUGE Marathon PR....2:24:55!!!

After having a few hiccups getting to the starting line of a road marathon since Boston in 2011, I have been very quiet about my sign-up and intention to run the Two Rivers Marathon on March 15th. To chronicle my issues, in 2012, I got violently ill the day before Steamtown, in 2013, I had a stress fracture before Harrisburg and recently the cancellation of George Washington Birthday Marathon. Obviously, with three false starts, I did not want to make much of it. Plus, my goal at Two Rivers was not to chase any particular time but more to gauge my ability to run a marathon along with using it as a tool towards next month's 100K.

Also, I was driving up the morning of the race and driving home immediately after. A trip that was close to 3 hours each way. I told my partner that I was aiming to go under 3 and maybe 2:45. She would not be coming up with me mainly because I did not see any reason due to it being a small race. Not to mention, this race is one week after the Seneca Greenway Trail Race (aka the 34 mile 50K.) Further adding no reason to expect much performance wise except the stated goals.

However, there was one thing that could factor into my performance, the course. The profile of the course is a largely downhill course without any major climbs. Think of it like Steamtown without the final 4 miles or California International Marathon with a larger drop. Still not expecting the world.

I say all this because it was my mindset of expectations going into Two Rivers. And then.....two days before the race, a roster of entrants was sent out by the race director. Obviously, being curious, I did some looking at who was racing. And I knew of one registrant in particular: Chuck Engle . He is an incredible talent with his ability to churn out quality marathons like no tomorrow. I figured he would be the man to beat and that I could run with him. That became my plan on race day. Or so I thought.....

On race morning, as I was walking to my car, Chuck passed by and said hi. Apparently, I was known. I was taken back a bit. I'm not someone who expects to be known by other runners unless it is a local road race or maybe an ultra where the same people tend to be seen. For much of the hour before the race, I got to enjoy some pleasant conversation with him. We both had an understanding that we were the two guys in the marathon.

Just prior to 9am, we lined up at the starting line in Hawley, PA at the Woodloch Resort. (Well, the road near the resort but then again, it is a large resort.) As the start command was given by RD Marck Hughes, off all of us went. And it was within maybe 50 feet of starting, I had a choice to make: run with Chuck or just go. I just went for it. Not entirely sure why I had that thought. Looking back, it feels like it was just something that needed to happen, like I just had to do it. So off I went pounding the pavement pushing my pace. With Chuck in the field, I knew my decision could backfire. I immensely respected his ability and knew the risk I was taking that I could be caught. But I kept going. In the past, I would mark my splits on the watch, this time I did not do it. I also did not even look at the watch every mile or do any head calculation. In retrospect, those moves might have been a sign of how all in I was. Mile by mile I kept pushing. By the half way point, I was pushing into a darn headwind!!!! Really?! All that I could think was to keep going, worrying about getting caught and that if I am lucky have a tailwind on the way back during the out and back section. Usually, I hate out and back sections. This one not as much. I think the winding road helped and the relatively flatness of this section. As the miles ticked by, I was beginning to pine away for the turnaround. And there it was!!!!! After the turn, I glanced at my watch. This was where I could see how much of a lead I had. I did not expect it to be much but had no clue what it was at all since I had not looked back since maybe mile 5. Around 4 1/2 minutes later, I saw Chuck. 9 minutes, I had 9 minutes with around a 10K to go. I just kept pushing. Pushing. I looked at my watch. I had over 40 minutes on the clock before 2:30. It was at that moment, I began to realize, I could hit my PR. Not only that but hit the time I had as a goal. Just not the goal at this race. I kept pushing. Pushing. Before I knew it the bridge crossing came up. I was there! I was going to do it! Just did not realize by how much. I made the final turn and saw the clock. Not my watch but the clock...2:24! HOLY COW....

I was happy! Really happy. I was shouting in joy pumping my fist in the air. (While the awards for the other races were occurring.) Official time: 2:24:55!

Not only sub 2:30 but 2:25!!!

Thankfully, I had made the last minute choice to put a bag in the trailer carrying bags to the finish line. Warm clothes! Yay! I savored those clothes.

Mark Hughes presented me with my overall award. I chatted with a number of nice people while waiting for Chuck to finish. As soon as I spotted him on the bridge I cheered him in. When he saw me on my way in from the turnaround, he was so encouraging. It shows how great a sport running is. And I was honored to cheer him in. His time: 2:35:30. A great time.

I did not talk with Chuck nearly enough after the race but I thank his presence at the race. (The reason I did not stay around long was, the shuttle bus came and I hopped it to make the trek to the car to drive home.) It helped push me. It encouraged me. To him, I say thank you.

One thing, I do think made this performance possible has been my increasing dedication to ultras. Running longer and longer has had an impact on my ability to sustain my speed longer. And today, I think that played a part much more than I thought it would have. It shows that I still have potential to tap and growth to experience.

Also, importantly, I thank everyone who has been a supporter of my running. My family, friends, teammates and competitors. All played a part in yesterday. Thank you all!

My CR only lasted a day as today's winner (it was a two day festival with marathons each day) ran a 2:22:49. Darn. However, I wonder what would have gone down with both of us in it together.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

And update of sorts

Here we are nearly two months since my last posting. Not very good of me, huh? It is not that I do not think about posting. I do. I just don't. FAIL.

But alas, here I am, once more doing an entry. While you would think two months would yield a boat load, in this case you are wrong. The 2013-2014 Winter in Philadelphia (and much of the Mid-Atlantic) has been brutal. Training has been more of survival with much of my running being commutes to and from work. Not exactly ideal but if I had to run and couldn't bike due to the endless snow and ice storms impacting my bike commute route. In this two month span, I have only done two races. One more was slated but got cancelled due to...wait for it....winter weather. That race was the George Washington Birthday Marathon. I was ready for that so on the day of the cancellation I ran....you guessed it a marathon. Obviously not hard but I wanted the distance. And it gave me a good gauge of my fitness level. As a result, I signed up for another marathon, Two Rivers taking place this weekend. One of the races I did do was the weekend before GWBM, it was a 5K called Cupids Cranium. Very happy with my time result was 16:10. Smoking for the 1st time out.

My lead-in to this weekend's race was last weekend's Seneca Greenway Trail Race.....wow was that course a mix of everything...including getting lost on some rerouted trail. Yep. Amazingly, I still managed to pull out a victory in the 50K (more like 34 mile) race. In fact, I was the 3rd person to cross the finish line behind two marathon finishers by less than 9 minutes. Time was slow but that was partially due to the getting lost more than the sloppy trail conditions. Those did help however with the slower time.

I'll probably add another 50K to this spring....I'll finalize some my schedule soon....there are a few things to move around and possibly a tentative or two but before the weekend is out, the majority of races through June will be known.

That ends this rambling post now......I'll try to make the next entry more substantive.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Batona FKT Recap

Wow, the layer of dust on this blog is much thicker than I expected. Apparently, in my mind, I thought I did an entry in November. Wrong!  In fact, it is almost 3 months! Well, don’t you worry, I am alive. The stress fracture did not send me to my doom.

As a matter of fact, the fracture is healed. So much so, I have run an ultra distance 3 times. Back in the beginning of December, I participated in the Rocky 50K. As it was not a race, it was a good test of my healing and fitness. I ran with a small group and had a heck of a time. On the first weekend of this month, I participated in the Phunt 50K which was all sorts of distances for people due to issues that resulted from snow coming down two days before. As that also was not a race, this was another training run.

Both of those you could say set me up for tackling one of 2013’s leftover goals: The Batona Trail FKT.

Oddly enough, a ‘fat-ass’ race was organized for Jan 19 to run either a 50K or 50M on this route. Due to some trail re-routing, both of those were 3 miles longer.  Of course, I was going to do the full distance as that was the entire trail!

Knowing, the trails through the Pine Barrens (in NJ if you did not know) are a variety of substances, I know it was not going to be easy. I’d be running through pines, bogs, sand, on some road and dirt. But it is a relatively flat trail. So in the few days prior, I was loading up my belly and stocking up on both GU’s and Clif Shot Blocks. Only uncertainty was how to carry all of it. My plan was to load as many into the pouch on my handheld bottle and pin the rest to my shorts. With the distance, I also went with my larger 22oz handheld. Thankfully to having aid stations on the route, I did not have to use a pack with a bladder.

In terms of attire, I was going to run in shorts and a pair of tech shirts. (One long and one short). This was based on the forecast. That changed come the morning of the run. You could say this was the biggest change made. I’ll get to that in a few.

This tale would be empty if I did not mention how creepy it is to be driving in this portion of South Jersey at 5am. Lacking signage takes the creepy factor up a notch when one has not driven to a particular spot before. Amazingly, I made it to the ’50 mile’ designated parking spot with people still there! This was big considering volunteers were waiting to give rides. (This fact is why doing the FKT was possible. Normally, I would not be able to get from one end to the other.)

It was at this point of arrival prior to transport to the start that I realized, it was much colder than I expected. I would need an extra shirt layer. This was something I did plan for even if I did not want more clothing to shed. However, I made the best of this. I wore track pants to stay warm on the trip and figured, I could use the pack I now needed to carry my nutrition along with storing clothing. Luckily, the pack I got from the Big Elk Marathon was perfect. I use it to commute to work periodically so I knew it would not bounce much.

Just before 7am, our shuttle pulled into the start area. (I will say 4 people in the back seat of a Jeep Wrangler is impressive.) There was a good turnout. 30 people? Maybe more? I do know a good number of people showed up to run a trail in the Pine Barrens in January with other crazies. One person who I saw on the ‘50K’ list that I hoped to run with unfortunately was not there. This meant I knew if I wanted a FKT, I was likely doing it all alone when it came to the running portion. Having 7 aid stations was going to be where I got my mental boosts and refueling of my handheld.

Once, our organizer Angie, told us to follow the pink blazes and be careful about missing turns as it happened to her (which was the most important bit of information on the day), our lot was off.

In order to document the run, I did run with my GPS watch and was trying to shoot for 7:30-8:00 pace. I knew if I hammered hard, I could go under 7. I’ll save the suspense now. Didn’t happen. Mainly, two things: a lot of early stops and starts to navigate some really wet trail (like walking on small tree limbs that had fallen) and the aforementioned trail checking. A fair amount of this happened early enough that the start/stop wore me down more in my pacing after I hit the 50K mark. I’d say it was a prolonged bonk that I really did not snap out of.

Denis, Angie and Paul were my rocks out there loading me up with fuel.

It was when I saw Angie around 35 that I knew sub 7 was not happening. (if you look at my splits you’d see.) I told her under 7:30 would be good. This was still a bit 8 pace on some various terrain. Also, it was here at 35, that I finally started to feel warm and removed two layers. I could have done it sooner but was moving well. In hindsight, the extra layers longer might have helped slow me.

After hitting Paul around 43, I did rebound a bit. I will say he had some lovely chairs out I eyed up coming in for aid.

Denis gave me the biggest scare when hitting him at nearly 52, said 5 miles to go. In the end it was just 1.5 more. The trail re-routing impacted the mileage markers at the aid stations.

Seeing Angie those 1.5 miles later felt like another spectator stop as I just ran by her. Turns out I had finished the end of the trail. Thankfully, she shouted out to me to stop. Better yet, she gave me a ride to my car about a mile away.

In the end, I completed the trail in 7:18:24. (8:13 pace) Around 19 minutes slower than I hoped but I accomplished what I set out to do, establish a fastest known time on the Batona Trail. (And under the 7:30) Having left so much time up for grabs out there, I hope others will take on the challenge and go for it.
While my pace was slower, I do feel this will have served me well come April when I go to tackle my big goal for the year. My 100K debut. Not only that I want to run it at US 100K consideration pace. It is going to be hard but I want to tackle it the best I can. Between now and then, my training will have a focus on this goal.

Next up: George Washington Birthday Marathon (2/16)

Mar 8: Seneca Creek 50K

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

SANITY NOW - Stress Fracture Status: 2 1/2 Weeks In

So it has been around 2 ½ weeks now since my diagnosis of a right foot 3rd metatarsal stress fracture. A range of emotion has been experienced in that time. Some of feeling good about the time off while some of it being frustrated at not being out in fall weather doing what I love. And that is just the running perspective. Life in general has been tossed about. For the first week, walking was painful, especially when trying to find shoes to get around in. Normally, my commute to work was via bicycle. Not at the moment. At the advice of my doctor, I ditched running shoes due to the flex in the front. I bounced from dress shoes to work boots to cowboy boots trying to find the best fit from a function standpoint. Despite having an injury, I had responsibilities in the home, one of which is walking the dog, especially on days when my partner has to leave early for her classes at university. So it was vital for me to find something I could do without setting me back. Towards the end of the week, the cowboy boots seemed to produce the best results. Mentally this was going in the right direction.

On the Saturday after my injury, I decided to order a pair of Hoka One One’s. Really, I did not want to drop 160 on a pair of shoes. But I felt, they might be worth the investment. Luckily, I got the Bondi’s for 101. Most expensive shoes I have EVER purchased but I felt, if they did not work, I would know quickly so I could send them right back. (Thank you Running Warehouse for your awesome shipping and return policies.)

Desperate times call for desperate measures, right? My logic for pursuing these shoes was due to the maximalist sole. I figured such a large sole would not have the same flex in the front.

As I arrived home a week ago, the Hokas were waiting for me. Once I settled in from my day, I took them out of the box and did the flex test. YAY! They did not bend like I hoped. So, with this positive result, I put them on and walked around the house. For the first time, I felt I could walk normally. Progress?

Since then, the Hokas have been my get around shoe. Except in the office, where I make due with some dress shoes when I have to leave my desk.

With the benefit of the shoes, I have been thrust through more emotions. Wanting to run and healing. It is a balance I am doing my best to maintain for the sake of my sanity. After the two week off from running, (okay, so I made it 12 days), I have done some running. Most of it has been limited to 2 miles and not everyday. However, I have done two 5K’s. The first of which, I brought 3 pairs of various shoes types. Before racing, I tried each set and ran around 50-100 meters to see which was the best. On that particular day, the Hokas won out. It was a weird experience doing essentially a sprint in them as I did feel my stride off some. This is probably due to the sole magnifying any imperfections caused by one leg longer than the other. On the second day oddly enough, the Hokas did not feel right so I ended up using a pair of cross country spikes with a stiff (but not plastic) sole. I had no problem at all in either case with post run discomfort.

Obviously, this makes me want to run more but I know running the Harrisburg Marathon is not going to happen. Such would set me back months trying to race it under 6 minute pace. I would not be surprised, if I am extending the recovery period just a bit with some short runs. But my goal is balance. I would be willing to trade a few extra weeks for peace of mind. Part of it, I admit, is the fact this time of year is when I love to run and race. Last weekend showed me I can do short bursts. Right now, those will be how I maintain balance. Next week, I do hope to try bike riding into work. I’d like to do that since it is expensive taking the train daily.

Come Nov 4th when I have a follow-up, I will have a better understanding if I am going about things the right way.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Snapped: Ultra Streak and My Foot - Blues Cruise 50K 2013

You might say that we want the good things that happen to us to linger and the bad to get the heck on out of here. As a runner, I tend to have that logic. This race report is definitely one of those. Considering Blues Cruise was this past Sunday, you might be able to surmise which of the two. (Especially since it took me a month to write about Green Lakes.)

Nonetheless, this report might just be cathartic.

It was not long after a strong showing at Green Lakes in August and some nice early September 5Ks that I decided to enter Blues Cruise. Aside from the 20in24, where the course passes over a 24 hour span less than a mile from my house, Blues Cruise just outside of Reading is the closest ultra to home. Pros of that are clearly no lodging costs and shorter drive times. A lot to like about those factors. And being in October, it could be typically expected for cool temps. I say typically because this year that was not the case. At start time, weather forecasts had the temp expected to be around mid 60s climbing to a high of 86. Yikes! A 50K in that heat is not necessarily the most ideal. However, it was expected to be overcast so we might luck out.

On the morning of the race, I got up and out of the house in a timely manner to get me to the race site by 7:30, an hour before the start. Surprisingly, when I pulled into the parking area, the line at registration was super long. Apparently, it had not opened for pick-up yet. I used a bit of the time to make a bathroom stop and move my bags closer to the start/finish area. Here I filled my handhelds and prepped my drop bag. Gels were pinned on my shorts. After handing in my drop bag, I was ready to go.

Well, after I put my shoes on first, opting to go with my reliable La Sportiva Vertical K’s. Before, I knew it, 8:30 and start time had arrived. In the largest field in the history of the race at around 350, the trails would see a lot of activity. The race directors started us off for our 31 mile counter-clockwise loop around Blue Marsh Lake. At the go, I went out comfortably in second right behind the first place runner. After a good 15 minutes, another runner in yellow blew past the two of us on an uphill. Here, it was the “do I go or sit” moment. Knowing the talent in the field, I opted to go deciding to not allow first to get very far ahead of me. For the next hour, the yellow runner was my prey. He seems to want to put me away as he was always looking back and every time he did so put in a bit of a surge. Not long after each burst, I would seem to close a bit more. I knew I could catch him. It was not until around aid station 3 that I took the lead. However, it was not long lived as we reached the big hill on the course. Within the first quarter, he went racing by me. This was not to be long lived as I passed him before the top. Around here, is when I started to really feel discomfort in my right foot. For the week leading into the race, something felt off but nothing that impacted my running. This sensation started to make me think different. However, I quickly moved on as on another hill in this mile stretch of course, the same yellow runner would pass me again. Finally, I would pass him one more time for good. In the end, he would finish third. He appeared to carry no gels or bottle during the race while also listening to his headphones.

Now that I was in first, I felt ok but not smooth. As the course ungulated along, the terrain kept playing havoc with my foot making me really cautious with the discomfort in my first foot. I managed to keep plodding along at pace aiming to hit the bag drop aid station (around 18-19 mile) around 2 hours. It was no long before this spot that I got to see second place. As we ran around a rolling field, I saw the runner in second about 3 minutes back. It was not the one in yellow I passed earlier but someone in black. At the start, I glanced certain bibs that I knew would be a contender, this was the one I felt could take the race being a 2:38 marathoner. (Could be 2:36, I don’t want to take away from him. Just having a hard remembering of exact details at the moment.) Knowing he was close, I pushed as much as my foot was allowing me. And it began not allowing a lot. Cardio-wise neither the heat or energy were the problem. It was just becoming tough to run on my foot anywhere there was not a completely flat section. And that means little of the course. This is not to say I was walking but my pace declined in direct correlation to the increase of discomfort. However, I was in first and did not want to lose by quitting, even if the thought crossed my mind.

Yes, my race turned into the suffer zone. Mentally I was cracking because physically I was cracking. A spiral effect was being fought as I was trying to hold 2nd off. At 22 miles, my lead was around 40 seconds. Just 5 miles later, 1:10 down. It had been around a mile prior to the last aid station I was overtaken on an uphill. I just could not go. In that instant, I felt defeated and let down by my body. But being this close, I kept grinding it out. With 2.5 miles to go, thanks to a slight mistake by the leader, I closed the gap to 20 seconds. I felt like I might push through and rebound. As the course continued to roll, I felt any chance slip away. I just could not go on my foot. My mind was doing a lot to block out the pain as my body was trying to do its best to not do anything painful. This meant slow pace and powerhiking the smallest of hills now. My goal time was gone. I hoped to challenge the record of 3:34. I was at that with 2 miles to go. Those two miles were a slog. At this point, I was hoping to just be under 4 hours. Had I had enough to shave 1:10 off, I would have been under 3:50. In the end, I wound up with 3:51:10. A time that was exactly behind John Wallace’s winning time of 3:45:10.

I felt really bummed that I tried to give it my all but could not as I had my first defeat at an ultra distance. My pace in the end was slower than my 50 mile pace and the winning pace was just under that 50 mile pace of mine. So it stings.

However, I did enjoy all the race had to offer. The finisher hoodie is great and someday I will wear it around. Today is too soon. Talking with and seeing all the other runners finish was great. Plus the spread was fantastic. I used a few cans of soda to ice my right foot and downed some grilled cheese with potato pancakes. I stayed around 2 hours after finishing before heading home. Taking in the atmosphere was really nice and needed.

Once I got home, my partner and I went out to the Penrose Diner in South Philly for breakfast food. She also had dessert, I did not.

Yesterday morning, due to my foot, I called the orthopedic specialist for an appointment. Luckily, I was able to get in to see one of the sports medicine doctors and get some extras. Now the diagnosis, while nice to know is not too great. Stress fracture in my third metatarsal in my right foot. I’m on rest for a few weeks. I could keep doing activity but it will not be pain free, so rest it is. That means at least one weekend with now racing. Bummer because it was the 10K & 5K combo I was looking forward too. Lets hope it is a short period, especially since I just need another 90 miles for 3000 on the year.

Plus, once I get back to winning some ultras and running, I feel like I can wear the awesome hoodie. Right now, doesn't feel too right even if the effort was gutsy.

Quick shout out to the Misery Loves Company folks. You've been great in the morale department since Sunday even if you haven't known it.