JFK 50 Miler
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.
|September||31 to 6||64.82||9:05:00||8:24||16|
|September||7 to 13||72.44||9:13:26||7:38||18|
|September||14 to 20||86.53||10:35:35||7:20||31.07|
|September||21 to 27||66.44||8:14:52||7:26||16|
|October||28 to 4||81||10:05:42||7:28||26|
|October||5 to 11||83.46||10:16:01||7:22||24|
|October||12 to 18||71.25||9:00:35||7:35||16|
|October||19 to 25||57.63||6:46:16||7:02||13.1|
|October||26 to 1||95.24||11:52:23||7:28||26|
|November||2 to 8||56.73||7:56:45||8:24||16.2|
|November||9 to 15||74.33||9:29:55||8:40||14|
|November||16 to 22||94.14||11:58:14||7:37||50.7|
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.
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.