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:

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Mountain Masochist November 3, 2007

(pictures courtesy of Sue Norewood)

Saturday’s run was hard. I cried (with relief) crossing the finish line. I have run Masochist 4 times now, and this time the race really earned its name with me.

This time last year, my hamstring healing was still precarious so I worked aid stations
instead of running. This year I was overjoyed to be again at the other side of an aid station table. I wanted to run smartly (without overdoing it and straining my hammie) AND I wanted a top 3 position in order to feel pleased and to “do justice”(even in a small way) to my sponsors: Montrail, Nathan, Clifbar, Petzel and 1st Endurance. These companies have supported the ultrarunning community and me for the past 3 years and I am proud of my association. I wasn’t sure if running conservatively and placing as a top finisher could be accomplished…Nikki Kimball, Krissy Moehl, Bethany Patterson, Justine Morrison and several other “known” and “unknown” fast women were there. It would be a challenge to stay within myself and not get spooked by the strength of others.

The weather was perfect-mid 30’s –mid 50’s…gusty winds…aid stations were fabulous and excellently staffed.

Nikki and I ran side by side the first the first few miles and were quickly joined by 21 year old Sebrina Moran and Bethany. Although I was enjoying our conversations very much, their pace was faster than what I needed to be doing while still on the pavement so I backed off and comfortably settled in to my own rhythm as 4th female, keeping a keen eye on Bethany and Sabrina for the first 15ish miles. Sabrina is an excellent climber and is less experienced on technical downhills. Bethany is a dynamo on the downs.

The miles passed and I alternated between running and “plampering”. Since my hamstring injury I have learned to “plamper” (cross between a plod and very slow scamper) up the hills instead of engaging the muscle to stretch the way it must when power hiking. This technique works well for everything but very steep technical hills. Somewhere around mile 12, just as I moved past Sebrina on a downhill, Bethany took off, flying away ahead of me-her tiny pony tail and blue Montrail jersey leaving vapor in her wake. I was feeling happy for Bethany for running well and wondered how the day would continue to unfold.

I got chat some with Carl Lainiak on route to Hwy 60, yet for the most part I journeyed alone much of the day. I crossed Hwy 60 at around 4:20. Rather than describing bit by bit all the rest of the run I will say Sebrina and I crisscrossed a couple of times, she rolling by me on the ups and me by her on the downs. Going into the loop I was informed that Bethany was 3 minutes ahead and Nikki about 10 minutes. I enjoyed the loop. I love single track trail and because I’d been running conservatively earlier, could enjoy the ups and downs of the rocky, leafy trail. (Though fly down hill I did not-the leaves were quite abundant and thick in places).Bethany had twisted her ankle and moving slowly at the moment I caught up to her just before the end of the loop.

As I moved out of Salt Log Gap Aid station, Bethany checked in. With Bethany right behind I did my best to plamper and then slowly “march” up the hill to the next aid station where I got cheered on by my good friend Amy Albu. Amy was working the aid station. If she were running this year, she’d have been the youngest person to receive a 10 year jacket. Yet several weeks ago she learned she was pregnant and because of a few personal “unknowns” she was unable to follow through with her plan of running Masochist ‘07. I admired Amy’s selflessness and willingness to show up and be on the “other side” of the table this year. I could relate as I was in a similar position last year, but I think I was far less graceful than Amy! Amy shared some heartfelt encouragement and I went away down the trail-to the “long” 7 miles ahead!

From past experiences, I knew the section to the next aid station to seem like long miles…yet I was looking forward to these-after the initial climb-there is much fun downhill. Not long after setting out on this section I caught sight of Sebrina and one of her friends. Earlier that day she mentioned one of her friends would join her on “the loop”-yet was surprised to see she still had her companion/pacer with her and it seemed they intended to finish together. I instantly wondered if this was allowed? I understood the loop being a common place to run with friends-yet for 17+ miles-that didn’t seem to be part of the “level field” for a front runner. I wondered if Horton had any sort of policy? I know some RD’s do. I wondered if Sebrina finished with her pacer-would she be disqualified? She was running very well and that would really be a bummer. I didn’t know if I should say anything or not. If there was a policy than saying something would be good-if there wasn’t one –would I be out of place? No matter what I did my intentions were with the deepest respect for her and the sport. So, in the true Annette Bednosky style, I said something.

I told her I didn’t know what the policy was but I was afraid that if there was one she could be DQ’d and shared my reasoning about being on equal ground as a front runner. I hoped I came across as respectful and didn’t step on any toes. The next time I saw Sebrina she was without her companion.

With all my ethical wondering about the above interaction, this section went by very fast and the down hills and sense of getting closer to the end fueled my enthusiasm for finishing. I used lots of self talk this day and positive imaging. I am pretty good at doing this in races and am working on using these tools in other parts of life!

This run was work. It was hard. (It was fun too). Finding the balance between competing and meeting my body where it is “at” was hard for me. Juggling position all day long too was a strain mentally. Though I sort of knew where Bethany and Sebrina were all day-I had no clue where everyone else was. I finished in 2nd place in 8:43:42 , my 2nd slowest time on the course. In 2005, I also got 2nd in a time of 7:55: 52. Go figure! This day Sabrina took 3rd at 8:49:36 with Nikki winning in 8:31:42. Bethany wound up with serious throwing up issues and finished a few places after.

I am grateful to Bethany and Sebrina for the physical and mental push during the 2nd half of the course. I also thank David Horton for designing this fine and challenging course and for encouraging and pushing me, and to his wife, Nancy for reminding me to fill my water bottle Aid Station 10 when I became discombobulated due to finding my drop bag missing! It was fabulous to see old friends and meet new ones-and in conclusion I wish Clark Zealand well on his journey Into The Masochist this coming year!