JFK 50 Miler

JFK 50 Miler
JKF 50 Mile Photo Credit: Geoffrey Baker

10th place 6:24:39

2.6 miles 17:50 (6:51 per mile)

15.5 miles 2:04:06 (12.9 miles = 1:46:16; 8:14 per mile)

41.8 miles 5:19:10 (26.3 miles = 3:15:04; 7:25 per mile)

50.7 miles 6:24:39 (8.9 miles = 1:05:29; 7:29 per mile)

Upon receiving my first clinical assignment in Ephrata, PA, I decided to sign up for the JFK 50 in Boonsboro, MD. Prior to my decision to target such a historic event in November, I had been maintaining fitness by running 60 to 80 miles per week. At twelve weeks out from JFK, Apryle and I developed a training plan that consisted of one long run, two moderate runs, and four ten milers to fill out the week.

MonthDayMilesTimePaceLong Run
September31 to 664.829:05:008:2416
September7 to 1372.449:13:267:3818
September14 to 2086.5310:35:357:2031.07
September21 to 2766.448:14:527:2616
October28 to 48110:05:427:2826
October5 to 1183.4610:16:017:2224
October12 to 1871.259:00:357:3516
October19 to 2557.636:46:167:0213.1
October26 to 195.2411:52:237:2826
November2 to 856.737:56:458:2416.2
November9 to 1574.339:29:558:4014
November16 to 2294.1411:58:147:3750.7

Interestingly enough, this was the least amount of miles per week I have done preparing for an ultra or even an 8-kilometer cross-country race. However, I boosted my average pace per week and that appears to have made more of a difference than mileage. Additionally, I focused more on one long run per week than several moderate runs per week.

JFK 50 Mile Finish
Photo credit: Herald Mail Media

In the last weeks of August I was in the North Cascades doing some high mileage and steep elevation gain with Apryle. Then in early September I returned to Austin to start my fourth semester of Physical Therapy school and train in the scorching Texas heat.

At the end of October, Apryle and I traveled north to Harrisburg/Ephrata, Pennsylvania for my first clinical rotation, where I acclimated to the cooler temperatures of the north.

In late September I decided to do my first race since the Austin Rattler at the end of March. It was a low-key race called the Lighthouse Hill Ranch 50K. I covered the distance in 3:52:33. With that time I knew that I had my work cut out for me if I expected to break 6:30 at JFK, so I turned up the pace and upped the long runs.

The training went smoothly until early November when I tweaked my back and was forced to take a few days off of running. I eased back slowly, as indicated by the slower pace and dip in mileage three weeks out from JFK. I have never been a fan of the taper so it was tough for me to see such a drop in mileage so close to the race. However, I put it behind me and continued to press on.

On race day I felt primed and ready to go; Apryle made the trip to Boonsboro with me and we went over a rough plan for meeting places during the race. I also got a chance to meet up with my old friend, college teammate and JFK 50 standout Kenny Janasko (6:12:47 2012 & 6:16:45 2013). Between Apryle’s support, Kenny’s course advice, and my solid year of faster-paced training, I was confident.

I started the race at the tail end of a lead pack of roughly 10 guys and chatted a bit with former Mount Union competitor Tim Kelly. However, upon entering the AT trail section I dropped off the back and ran alone for that stretch of miles. I had previewed that section on November 8th and felt a little shaky about it. I was concerned about rolling an ankle, however, the leaves had cleared off the trail and it was much more runnable on race day.

In the transition from AT to Towpath, I noticed I had developed icicles in my hair and decided I should ditch the stocking cap for my hat. The twenty-degree weather on race day did not hinder me as much as I thought it might given my central Texas residence for much of the year. Apryle was there to meet me with food and water and it was a great boost to see her after about two hours of solo running in the densely wooded AT trail.

I hit the towpath and according to the post race splits averaged 7:25 per mile on that stretch. I remember being passed once or twice and passing about four people myself. From what Kenny and Apryle were telling me at various points, I was in tenth place. At around 38 miles I remember Kenny telling me that I was 6 minutes ahead of his time from the previous year, which was motivating but I ultimately relinquished that advantage.

When I got to the road section I had nothing left and had to take a rest and walk the small hill. I thought that I was in trouble at that point. If the section of road continued to have even the smallest inclines I would be forced to walk. But the road stayed rolling in nature and I got a second wind and was able to hold tight at 7:21 pace. This was the first ultra I have ever run without completely falling apart in the latter part of the race.

My finish could have been stronger; however, I can think of very few instances where I have finished a race strong. In high school 5k’s I would try to build an insurmountable lead so that I could not be kicked down. In college I lost All-Ohio spots because I had no finishing kick and since starting ultras I have lost 50+ spots in the Leadville 100 in the last 30 miles because my pace would be stifled to a slow trot. Perhaps it is due to poor nutrition or perhaps it is a mental block. Whatever the reason, I will continue racing and trying to figure it out.

I don’t remember what clothes I wore; but they undoubtedly were materials left behind by someone at a high school track meet back in 2006… The shoes: Apryle’s mother found some Nikes on clearance in a mall in Harrisburg. Dihydrogen monoxide: I took a handheld water bottle filled it with hot tea… and lost it somewhere on course (thanks to the person that mailed to my parents address!). Food: Thanks to everyone at the aid stations; I think I had about 12 gu packs… but my memory escapes me.

To quote Slug from Atmosphere: “Some day I’m going to be so cool, but for now I’ve got cheap shoes so I keep losing”. In all seriousness all the fancy tech gear and light-weight shoes can make you look like a runner, but what really makes the runner is the dedication, miles and fortunately or unfortunately genetics.


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