Wednesday, March 27, 2013

NJ Ultrafest 50K - 2013 version

Going into the NJ Ultrafest 50K this past weekend, I knew that I would have a slow time. The questions were how slow and how much was it going to hurt? My training was sub-optimal at best. I was sick the first week of January and this semester I was teaching 3 classes and 1 lab at 3 different community colleges, which proved to be stressful and tiring even though I had taught the courses before. Which also meant that I wasn’t running nearly enough and my two longest runs were 12.6 and 12.7 miles. And then there was the weather (cold!) and the trail conditions (snow, water, and mud!).

I showed up to the race site on Friday around 5 PM. Saw that Jen was working solo at the registration table with a long line of runners waiting to pick up their race packet, so I jumped in and helped. I continued to help with registration and anywhere else until dinner – sushi! Thanks to Jessi for bringing in a huge platter of sushi. This has become a regular meal pre-ultra/marathon for a couple of years now. In the past I shied away from sushi – from the thought of eating raw fish, to the taste of the seaweed in the rolls. But I’ve found much to my surprise that I like sushi and it’s a nice relaxing meal with friends. Sushi and beer was good but it was COLD! I was not relishing the thought of sleeping in a tent the night before a big race with the temps dropping into the 20s. Thankfully Jessi decided to drive home and let me sleep on her futon. A little warmer and more comfortable than a tent! But I know I hadn’t gotten enough sleep the past two nights (average 5 hrs) with the 5 AM wake-up on Saturday! Ugh!

A stop at QuikChek for some coffee! and back to the race. Once back at the fairgrounds, I quickly set up my stuff at the start-finish – extra shoes & socks, clothes, food, beverages, etc.  – got some more coffee and a muffin from Jessi (definitely less calories and protein than my usual pre-race meal). Then wandered around chatting with people and helping out where needed. Soon it was race time – a very reasonable 7:45 AM start for the 50K. I started a few seconds late (was staying in the barn away from the wind) which was fine, it allowed me to pass a few people and run some with Mirna who was running her first 50K. My goal for the first 11 miles was to use a run/walk approach (8 min running/1 min walking) and to eat on a regular basis given that in my last 50k race I felt I hadn’t eaten enough prior to and during the second 10 mile loop. But based on how I felt on Saturday, it looks like I still have some learning to do. I also wanted to keep my time at the aid stations to a minimum. No need to add to my time in what is already going to be a slow race!

For the first loop I kept to my run/walk pattern, walking some when it got really wet or when I needed to eat. Quickly got some food at the far aid station and back to the start-finish. Time: 2:22:43 for 11 miles (12:58 pace); not bad. I wore my Mizuno Wave Rider 15s with wool socks for the first loop. Shoes & feet got wet and my feet started to feel sore. So I switched to my Sauconys and new socks, a quick stop in the bathroom, and a bit of food from the aid station and I started my second loop. Spent about 9 min taking care of things. Not bad.

View of part of the course. Many of us tried to stick to the left side to keep our shoes dry.
I started the second loop and was just not feeling it. I was tired, my legs were sore (about 2 miles into this loop I was running more than I had in 2013), and I just did not want to run. So I ended up walking most of the first out and back all the way to the far aid station where I picked up some cup-o-noodles and orange soda and had renewed energy. Definitely need to eat more! I tried to get back to a run-walk routine as much as I could. The second loop wasn’t nearly as slow as I expected. Time: 2:57:30 (17:45 pace).  

Obviously trying to keep my shoes clean and dry did not work!

I really wanted to stop after the second loop but I was determined to finish and get my sweet finisher’s jacket! This time I needed to spend a little more time at the aid station. Added a few more layers, had another bathroom break, and food! Time at aid station: ~20 min. I grabbed a hotdog and some gummy bears and continued walking while eating. The extra food certainly helped as I was able to run more, though definitely at a slower pace and at most for 1-2 minutes at a time. I made it to the far aid station for more food – noodles and Mountain Dew (never thought I’d like it but I do) – which gave me some more energy. But my legs were definitely taking a beating from my lack of training. As I made my way back to the start I caught up with Elaine who was attempting the 50 miler at Melissa’s urging. Elaine had never run more than a marathon and was moving slowly so I encouraged her to run more so she would finish her 3rd loop as quickly as possible. (Note: Never listen to crazy younger runners that encourage you to run a distance much greater than you’ve run before. They think they are invincible). I kept up running and walking till I made it to the fairgrounds and the only visible hill on the course. At this point, I pretty much walked the rest of the way. I was tired and my legs and knees were sore! I ran a bit of the downhill but even that hurt! I made it to the finish for my jacket and medal and to the sounds of cheers from a group there for another runner. Clearly when I finished I was not looking happy as Rick, the RD, asked if I was pissed or sore. Not pissed. Just sore and tired! Time: 3:05:07 (18:30 pace)

Finisher's jacket and medal!

Total time: 8:52:22 (17:11 pace).  I definitely need to get more focused on training. I really would like to break 7 hrs for a 50k and I think I can. A few days after the race my legs are feeling good and I will be back to running this week. Next event: 3 Days at the Fair.


  1. can't wait to share a lap or two with you at 3 days..

  2. Looking forward to it Steve!

  3. This is so inspiring!

    I wanted to say thanks for your encouragement the other day. My Dad has really gotten into training. He did 6 miles on Saturday in just over an hour, and is planning to go out again tomorrow (Monday) for another long hike.

    I am working up a little slower (although, my first goal is a half-marathon in October), but have been slowly increasing the distance I run. I did three miles strait on Friday and again today, then another two mile run this evening. I'm crossing the threshold into really enjoying running, and very much like reading your blog about it. Who knows, maybe I'll be ready for the Ultramarathon in a year when my Dad does it. :)

  4. So awesome that you are getting into running and enjoying it! Try a run when you are a little tired and all you feel like you need is coffee. The oxygen running through your veins will be a great pick-me-up. ;) Keep it up. A half-marathon is definitely doable. Try to get some shorter races in so you get used to the experience. Right now you can easily hop into a 5K. Just make sure not to get caught up with the crowd in the beginning and start out too fast.

    Keep your eyes on this site. I'll have another post about a major effort - 48 hrs on a 1 mile loop in the middle of May.