JFK Experience 2011: Finding My Limits
Nov. 19th 2011
This was a long year of racing for me. I will run at least 3,100 miles by year-end and will have raced at least 625+ miles including my first two one hundred mile ultra marathons, Vermont and Rocky Raccoon. I was sucked into the vortex of a flurry of races by ultra veterans, Doug Berlin and Jim Ashworth, who typically set up race schedules that could kill most people. Their annual calendars should be called a survival series. This year I got a taste.
By the time JFK 50 rolled around my butt was literally tired. Seriously my glutes and upper hamstrings had been tight and sore for the last 4-5 weeks. However, I was determined to make the most of this race that I love and I committed to trying to run this race hard. I did find new found empathy and awe for Jim A, Doug B, and runners like David Snipes and Tammy Bagdasarian that continue to run 20+ ultras per year. How do they do it!?
In 2010, I treated every race like a Final Exam, eating right, dialing in on tapering, and pacing. In 2011, I went through the motions by year end desensitized to the race energy. In 2011, I returned to JFK for one main reason: to continue a tradition and run a race that my wife and I both vote is our favorite race to attend. I love running the race and my wife loves watching this race.
The race was surprisingly great- the morning was brisk and I wore a windbreaker (GoLite jacket) for the first 15 miles on the Appalachian Trail. I ran slower on the AT this year hoping that I would have more juice to pick up the pace in the C&O Canal. While my legs felt better at Mile 15 this year than last and my energy level felt very steady due to my new found love, VESPA, my speed was shot on the C&O. My glutes were acting as internal governors and every time I went to speed up my legs pulled back like flashing neon warning signs; so I would constantly ease back to a comfortable groove. By Mile 35, I knew I wasn't going to blow my 2010 time out of the water.
Last year I started taking walk breaks, Jeff Galloway-style, at Mile 30, and walked one minute every 15 minutes for the miles between 30 and 45. Ironically, I ended up slower this year overall, but didn't take any walk breaks. I had more speed last year and would try to run 8:15s last year after 1:00 breaks every 15 minutes, as opposed to keeping a 9:00-ish pace this year and jogging the whole way.
By the time I made it to the country roads at Mile 42, I ran lockstep with Richard Cook, a very strong ultra runner who is known for 100 miler performances in PA and NY. I kept thinking to myself I was in the overworked ultra runner zone this year with myself and Richard looking like two typical sloggers trying to emulate road runners...whereas last year I was trying to pose as an ultrarunner and was probably more of a half-marathoner.
I made it to the finish in 7:36 and celebrated with fellow team members Dennis K, Doug B, and James W. We were Team "mandatory mustaches", but Dennis K was the only member who grew a slick stache. Doug B had some peach fuzz, and Whiteside and myself looked like 12 year olds. We came in 4th as a Team.
I learned so much about racing this year. My nutrition in the race is dialed in with Vespa, gels every 30 minutes, and S-caps every hour. I now know how to Vaseline my feet to avoid blisters. I can recover from a 50 miler and run 50 miles the week after the race. However, I have also seen that I can't race an ultra every month and expect to PR. I need to increase my speedwork and decrease my number of races in 2012. Thus, this year proved to be a year of exploration, trial & error, and testing my limits.
I am now more appreciative than ever of all the support Reston Runners offers runners including drop bags, crew information, maps, experience articles. The list is endless. A big thank you to Anna Bradford who welcomed me like a Prodigal Son to the JFK 50 after training with the not so core rogue Reston Runners ultra-splinter-group of Jim Ashworth, Dave Miller, Doug Berlin, et al. While we all run for different reasons, the running community is a wonderful support system- thank you to everybody involved.