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.