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JFK 50 Mile - RunUltra Marathon

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Boonsboro, Maryland
United States
Cumberland Valley Athletic Club
Total Time = 10h 10m 29s
Overall Rank = 441/1014
Age Group = F40-49
Age Group Rank = 26/85
Pre-race routine:

Had Cream of Wheat for breakfast, stopped at McDonalds for a large coffee and got to the Boonsboro High School pretty early. Found myself a spot in the gym to wait. My young/fast friend showed up and it was nice to have a familiar face to chat with as we waited. This was the first 50 miler for both of us and we were nervous. (he finished 41st overall and wore vibrams even on the trail)
Event warmup:

Walked down to the start line.
  • 10h 10m 29s
  • 50 miles
  • 12m 13s  min/mile

I went into the JFK thinking that I would be about 10:30 and quite confident in 11:00 if nothing out of the ordinary happened. Needless to say, I am thrilled with 10:10.

The start was crowded with a couple of miles on the roads. It just felt like a large road marathon to me. I don't do roads and I don't do large marathons!!!! So what am I doing in this crowd? A bit of a panic attack there but I knew the trail was ahead and even though I couldn't imagine how, many people had told me that the crowd thins out enough so that it isn't really a problem. They were, thankfully, correct. I power walked up most of the initial hill which put me in a good position getting onto the trail without exerting a lot of energy. The two main goals for the AT were: 1. Do not fall and 2. Conserve energy. I accomplished both goals. OK, so I did sit on my butt once coming down the switchbacks but I didn't really count it as a fall.

I had a co-worker meet me at the bottom of the mountain with my road shoes so I could change out of my trail shoes. It cost me a good 10 minutes but I think was well worth it. I had figured it would take me 3:30 to get off from the Appalachian Trail. After changing shoes, taking a potty stop, filling water bottles and grabbing a yummy PB&J sandwich, I crossed the mat entering the C&O canal section at 3:27.

Once I got onto the canal, I started the interval timer on my watch. I had it set for 8 minutes of running with 1 minute of walking. I promised myself I would start this from the very beginning of the C&O rather than waiting until I was tired and forced to start walking. It worked out perfectly. Towards the end of the canal I was feeling pretty tired 5-6 minutes into the run but never felt like I was trashing myself by going the full 8 minutes. After the 1 minute walk I was refreshed and ready to run again. Many people complain that the 26+ miles of flat running on the canal gets too monotonous and boring. I didn't mind it at all. The AT section is so mentally stimulating and taxing that I think it took 24 of those 26 miles for my brain to recover.

I stayed with the 8:1 for the full duration of the canal. When I hit the road, I let the terrain dictate the run/walk. Fortunately, several people had told me that the first hill was the biggest. That was an important piece of information and I just walked it. At the top of that hill was probably the only time all day that I started to get a bit over anxious and had to rein myself in, after all I still had 8 miles to run. It was this last section that I was most concerned about going into the race. I do a very minimal amount of running on roads and I was worried that the hard surface, especially after 40+ miles, would be too much for me. To my utter delight, I hit that road with my legs feeling fresh and I didn't even mind the pavement.

Maryland countryside is beautiful. The three distinct sections of this course all have their very own unique beauty. In my prior life of running road marathons, it seems that even the nicest of courses have their 'ugly' section. This course doesn't have 100 yards of 'ugly' in a full 50 miles.

I passed people steadily all day on the canal and passed many many more once I hit the road. I was at 5:08 at mile 25, so my second 25 was 5:02. The first 25 is slowed naturally by the AT and I felt like I did a good job of not over-doing it there so that I was still able to run well later.

Math is very difficult for me even at 4 or 5 miles, after 40+ it became nearly impossible. I was pretty sure that I was on track to beat 10:15 but the stomach issues that had started on the canal were getting steadily worse. I was desperately looking for a port-a-potty during this last section and didn't care if a stop meant that I slipped back to my original 10:30 target. I never did find one but was able to survive to the finish line. This was a new thing for me. I've always had a stomach of steel and therefore never had to worry about the ability to intake enough calories. It is now two days later and I'm still having some difficulty getting food to stay in my stomach. I have always been nervous about the way ultras tend to put out big bowls of food and each runner digs their hands in. I'm wondering if that is what got me.

Other than the stomach issues, the only other problem I had was a good sized toe blister at about mile 38. As I was seriously starting to think I might have to do something about it, it popped on its own and was then just a minor distraction. Now, two days later, I don’t feel any worse than I would feel after a hard road marathon. I think my legs may be ready to work again in a couple of days but I’ll probably have to watch the ‘fatigue factor’ for a couple of weeks.

The support, volunteers and aid stations were fabulous. Every aid station I came into had someone right there with a water jug ready to refill my bottles and assist in whatever I needed. The other runners were a complete delight. I didn't run into a single 'grumpy' person all day. Some that were suffering and not having the day they had hoped for but still smiling. I think the most amazing people were those with the orange bibs indicating the 5:00 am start. Those folks had been out for 2 hours before I even started and many of them would remain out there for nearly 2 more hours after I was finished. The ones I passed looked more and more ragged as the day went on, but still they were all smiles.

I've heard it said many times that when running 100 miles, the first 50 you run with your legs, the second 50 you run with your heart. The legs did their part at JFK. Now I need to discover how big the heart is.

One step closer to a Buckle!!!

What would you do differently?:

I felt like I had a real good October but fell off too much in November. The rest probably did me good but I think it was a little too much because I was losing motivation and felt stale.
The 4 weekends in October were:
1. Triple Lakes trail marathon
2. Medoc trail marathon with a 9 mile w/up to make it a 35 mile run
3. 20 mile training run
4. Ridge to Bridge marathon in 3:52

I have also been carying an extra 5 pounds for the past several months. I should have made a concentrated effort to get rid of them. Must do that before attempting the 100. Actually if I clean up my general nutrition it would take care of itself. I am overall very good except the junk stuff that is always in the office.
Post race
Warm down:

Went in the gym and put my name on the waiting list for a massage. Moe's was providing the post race food so I got just a plain rice borrito. I knew my stomach wouldn't handle meat, beans or salsa but I thought I needed to get something in me. Ate that while I waited for the massage. By time I got off the massage table my stomach was in full revolt. It is now Tuesday night and I am still not back to normal.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

The only thing that I think limited me significantly was the stomach issues.

I also started the race wearing a long sleeve jersey which I took off and tied around my waist when I came off the AT. It drives me crazy to run with a shirt/jacket like that. I didn't want to ditch it because I am very affected by cold and if the temperatures dropped at all I would have needed to put it back on. Stopped several times to retie it and try to get it comfortable. It was very irritating.

Event comments:

This is a well done race. I understand now why it is on people's bucket list and why people keep coming back. I enjoyed it very much and would whole heartedly recommend it. However, there are so many other races out there that I would like to experience that I doubt that I would do this one again.

Last updated: 2010-07-24 12:00 AM
10:10:29 | 50 miles | 12m 13s  min/mile
Age Group: 26/85
Overall: 441/1014
Performance: Good
Course: This course has three distinct sections. 1. The Appalachian Trail 2. The C&O Canal 3. Rolling paved country roads The race starts with ~2.5 miles of paved road prior to getting on the AT. The first mile rolls with probably an overall downhill. Then there is a major climb. Once on the AT it is VERY rocky. This was slow going. I am not very nimble and light of foot. I was glad that I took a weekend a few months ago and explored this section so I knew what I was in for. The Canal is a flat dirt road. Nothing more to say about it. It is quite pretty, tree lined with a nice view of the river in many sections.
Keeping cool Good Drinking
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5] 5
Physical exertion [1-5] 5
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 5

2010-11-23 7:38 PM

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Extreme Veteran
Ft. Myers, Florida
Subject: JFK 50 Mile

2010-11-23 8:20 PM
in reply to: #3224130

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Waller County, TX
Subject: RE: JFK 50 Mile
Perfectly executed and well done.


You are going to do equally well on your 100-miler and snag that buckle.
2010-11-24 12:16 PM
in reply to: #3224130

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Extreme Veteran
Subject: RE: JFK 50 Mile
Congrats again on your finish!  I agree with you about the course.  The entire 50 miles was beautiful, but like I said before, I'm not a flat runner so that towpath got the better of me towards the end of it; otherwise it was beautiful.

I hope your stomach issues get better soon! 

Did/have you decided when you're doing a 100 or where you'll do it? Sounds exciting. 
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