Today is November 15th, one week after I ran the Stone Cat 50 Miler up in Willowdale State Forest in Ipswich, MA. It has taken me this long to write up my recap for a couple of reasons. One, I was on vacation in Maine where I tend to be much more removed from technology. Second, I was busy running the mountain near the house we stay at and doing some hikes. Both of these have been beneficial in enabling me to even do a race recap for Stone Cat.
In short, I consider it the worst ultra performance of my ultra-career. (Despite placing 2nd in 6:28:23) Respectfully, I should have seen this coming....
Back over the summer I was looking for a fast 50 mile race to take a crack at sub 6 hours. In examining my options, I got down to Stone Cat and the Nashville Ultra in early November. (Due to JFK's entry fee, I did not consider it.) Stone Cat became my preferred choice as it could easily be tied into a vacation to the house my spouse shares with her sister in Maine. Plus, it was two weeks after Fire on the Mountain as opposed to just 1 for Nashville. Thankfully, I lucked out on the lottery and got into Stone Cat back in July. As thus, Stone Cat became a nice A-race to close out the year of big races. And despite it being the third marathon or longer in a month span, I was geared to it. I had to be knowing Samuel Jurek and Sebastien Roulier were in the field. Both guys had times sub 6:15. My logic was it would take a sub 6 possibly to win on an extremely runable course. So yeah, some pressure there.
A couple weeks back, the spouse told me she did not ask her relatives living 45 minutes from the race site about staying with them since we'd have out dog Falcon. This left a bit of a small scramble but luckily the race hotel, the Comfort Inn in Danvers, took pets in addition to having a great rate! This settled things.
However.....on the Thursday, before the race, I locked my keys in my car during a run. My spouse had to come back from work in NYC early to retrieve the car for me since she had the spare pair on her. Stress where I shouldn't have had it....not good.
The next day, Friday, we drove up to MA with only a dash of problems the worst of which was 95 20 miles from the hotel. Not bad since we still made good time, had an easy time checking in, prepped my bottles and gear for the morning while grabbing some take out Panera. (Sadly, they did not remember to give me my Cinnamon Roll.)
All this was fine.....until.....sleep. Went to bed around 10 to wake up around 4:30. An hour later, Falcon barked. We had never stayed in a hotel with him before. He usually is not a barker but he is always attentive. (He is a shepard/chow mix.) Typically, telling him once to stop does the trick. Not this night. Anyways, while he did not bark throughout the night, this instance kept me awake far too long. Stress level HIGH! In the end, I managed only 3 hours of sleep due to being unsettled.
To say I was pissed would be an understatement, I was furious. Thankfully, the drive to the race was easy enough. My spouse, Peg, and Falcon came along. Falcon would be in and out of the car during my race. Peg was a trooper on this day because she knew I was not going to be rosy after the night. My focus was off and physically, I was exhausted. These factors played a big role in my effort.
At check in, I ran into a former HS XC teammate's brother, who I also knew. He was there crewing for a friend of his also doing the 50. It was great to see him and gave me a slight boost.
Before I knew it, 6:15 had arrived and we were off. Three of us, Samuel, Sebastien and I ran together up front almost from the get go. We had some nice conversation. It was really the best part of the day for me. Eventually, Sebastien dropped off the back. I was feeling exhausted. I recall looking at my watch and one point going, 'it's only been 15 minutes! I feel like it has been 30' That said it all. Despite running with Sam for a while, he pulled away and put 2 minutes on me before the end of the 1st lap.
All I could think about was how exhausted I was. Essentially, I was mentally defeated already. During ultras, we all hit that bad patch. Well, I spent much of the race trying to find a good patch. As I finished the first of four 12.5 mile loops, I changed handhelds and mentioned how exhausted I felt to Peg. I was so out of it, I had almost forgotten to take off my gloves, arm warmers and tech shirt I had on at the start due to the cold. Rookie. I tried to run faster but I just did not have any gears. My head and body kept me back from pushing with any relative ease. I was fighting myself and I was losing. After the second lap, Sam had gained another 2 minutes on me. At this point, my only goal really was to finish. This was because I made a promise to Peg that once the race was over, I would be in vacation mode. And the only way, I could do it was to finish because I would really have been pissed about the lack of sleep had I not run 50 miles. Sam's lead grew after 3 to 8 minutes. My pace was ugly. I wanted to sit down and nap or just go for a walk through the woods. I mentioned this time to Peg that I wanted to go to Maine after the race instead of staying another night so we could see family the following morning.
In the end, I slogged through the last lap and SOMEHOW managed to finish in 2nd place. I was happy to be done but sad that I could not give it my best. I allowed myself to mentally lose prior to reaching the starting line. Granted physically, I was drained from the lack of sleep but I do think beginning a race in a bad headspace was my biggest downfall. Due to that, I would claim this as my worst performance since becoming an ultramarathoner. There was no reason I could not have given Samuel a better run for his money. And let me say, he ran an outstanding race. My hat's off to him.
Eventually, I came off my stance of wanting to leave for Maine immediately. And if you were to ask Peg, I handled things much better than you would have expected. Thankfully, the weather in Maine was ideal and on Monday when I finally got to hit trails on Pleasant Mountain, I was able to move on.
Where do I go from here? Maybe try to add something before the end of the year. Likely won't be a 50 miler since I would have to find money to travel for one of those.