Friday, November 23, 2007

The JFK 50 miler : An ultramarathon with a multisport feel!

Ooops-I did it again-dinked around with the pictures-and I am trying to figure out how to delete a couple-please put up with me until then!
Saturday was the 45th running of the JFK 50 miler.
When I arrived to pick up my number and “hang out” at the Montrail tent, I realized I’d never participated in such a big running event. I believe there were about 1200 runners issued numbers..and that is with the event filling several months before for the 1x in history!
Here’s a bit about the history of the race by Mike Spinnler, the current RD:
The JFK 50 Mile was first held in the spring of 1963. It was one of numerous such 50 mile events held around the country as part of President John F. Kennedy's push to bring the country back to physical fitness.
When Kennedy was assassinated in November of 1963, most of these events were never held again. The one here in Washington County, MD changed it's name from the JFK 50 Mile Challenge to the JFK 50 Mile Memorial in 1964. The JFK 50 Mile in Washington County, MD is the only original JFK 50 Mile Challenge event to be held every year for the last 44 years. The 45th Annual JFK 50 Mile will be held on November 17, 2007.
Although open to the public, the JFK 50 Mile is in spirit a military race. It always has been and always will be. In 1963, the initial inspiration behind the event came from then President John F. Kennedy challenging his military officers to meet the requirements that Teddy Roosevelt had set for his own military officers at the dawn of the 20th Century. That Roosevelt requirement was for all military officers to be able to cover 50 miles on foot in 20 hours to maintain their commissions. When word got out about the "Kennedy Challenge", non-commissioned military personnel also wanted to take the test themselves as did certain robust members of the civilian population.

On Friday night at the check in I met several other Montrail runners including Eric Grossman, Ragan Petrie (female), Paul Curran…We looked around for Bethany Patterson and Sue Johnson yet didn’t see them. Paul signed more guys up on the existing Montrail Team and opened a women’s team of Ragan, Bethany, Sue and myself. I enjoyed myself for a couple of hours talking with Montrail and other folks. I discussed goals for the race with several people and at first I was a bit stumped with how to answer. Paul asked me if I was going for sub 7…I blew up with laughter and said that was not possible…yet I wanted to better my PR on this distance which was currently Bull Run ’05 at 7:40ish. Yet I knew when I said this that it wasn’t 100% true. I wanted a shot at top 3…and based on history and calculating odds-I would have a good shot at a top finish if I could run 7:20 or better. So I amended my articulated goal and started to say it out loud. When I do that it helps me stay more committed to what I perceived to be and especially challenging goal.

So after a quiet night at the Microtel Inn and being in much dilemma about shorts or ½ tights –(wound up in shorts)-I made my way to the exciting start of JFK 50 ’07.

At the start line I briefly met Sue Johnson and had a chance to wish Anne and Mark Lundblad well. I knew Anne would run well and would likely win unless something very bad happened to her. Yet I thought I still might run up until the Towpath near her. Or not. My focus wasn’t on Anne or anyone in particular as we started out-I varied between people watching-so many runners with such different ideas of race wear-and consentrating on running strong but not hard.

The AT section (multisport part I)
This section came and went very fast for me. I loved it! Though I really like technical terrain-this was a pretty mild section of the AT and I was grateful for that as we ran over rocks and through millions of leaves. The swichbacks heading down towards the Cliffs were an absolute riot and the 5am starters were very generous with giving right away to those of us from behind. Anne and I swapped positions 2x-ultimatly she left the AT about 30 seconds ahead of me and I had fleeting glimpses of her green shirt for about 20 minutes on the towpath…but she flew Anne Lundblad style and I plodded on, Annette Bednosky style! (Although I really wasn’t plodding tooo slowly-).

Towpath (part II)
I’d heard wretched things about the towpath. (boring, boring, boring, etc!) I was determined to love it! After all-my hammie troubled me when running up hills and fast on flats and I would be doing neither during this 26+ miles of flat stretch!
I did love the towpath! (though I’d never trade in my trails for it!) The towpath was easy to run on, populated with tons of encouraging people. I really liked “back and forthing” with runners and checking in and encouraging each other. I also hugely appreicatied the cheering and support from the 5am starters! They really pushed me on! Other runner’s crew members were as equally encouraging as the miles unfolded. I got to “ping pong” with some of the members of the Navy Team at this point! I noticed the 5am starters wore lots of clothes and carried packs-yet I was one of the few 7am starters to be carrying a pack. Did others have a crew? Or am I more high maintaince than so many others? (Please DO NOT answer that ☺)! During the first half of the towpath I thought perhaps I might be able to go under 7 hours…yet I couldn’t quite maintain my pace and reality struck (as it usually does for me around mile 35-40) and I slowed down quite a bit.

Though I enjoyed the predictability of the towpath, I was not sad at mile 42ish to see the turn to pavement!

Hilly Pavement (part III)
The run in was all on mildly hilly road shoulder. These roads were not highly trafficked and the hills were a nice break for the muscles that had worked the in the same was during the flats in the preceeding hours and I found myself getting a “2nd wind”. Sponsoring the aid stations on this segment I noticed more aid stations run by young cross country teams and their coaches/parents? Thank you guys and gals! On the road portion mileage markers were visible each mile. Somehow I missed mile marker 5-so I was thrilled when marker #4 appeared-knowing I’d be done in ½ an hour!

Following the cones into town and up the hill to the finish line was very exciting to me. I was happy to be concluding this long effort-yet I was also very pleased with myself too. The mantra “you are strong and steady” still stuck with me, although I’d already said it to myself 200 times that day! I finished 23rd over all, 2nd woman with a time of 7:10:29. Later at Brightroom I saw pictures of myself I looked as joyful as though I’d just won and set a new World Record! But alas, I did neither, and am still grateful to be recovering from my hamstring ordeal that originated 2 years ago and delighted to feel good almost all day long (except for when it hurt! ☺ -from effort, not hammie!)

The Montrail women's team never quite materialized and the men's Montrail Team handily won the team event! The Navy guys won the Military division, Anne got 1st place and Michael Wardian was 1st man. Complete results at:


Bedrock said...

Congrats on another strong run. Your "comeback" is very inspiring. Hope to see you soon. Enjoy the holidays.

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Donna Bays said...

I can't thank you enough for your encouraging words to other runners during races. I had the privilege of running with you in the Virginia Creeper Marathon (my first marathon) this past April; I was one of the early starters. At one point you actually called out and asked my name and told me I was doing great and to keep going. You gave me a great lift with those words of encouragement. I didn't know you were running in the marathon and at that point I was too delirious to recognize you as you ran by. Later, when I found out it was you I think I actually squealed out loud in excitement.

Sometimes when running I feel the urge to apologize to faster runners for taking up space, but you made me feel worthy and welcomed. Thank you so much.

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