Sunday, March 20, 2011

3/20/11: The NJ 48

The NJ 100 didn’t go quite as planned. It ended up being more like the NJ 48.

The good news was that I felt fantastic for much of the time and was in first for most of the 48 miles. The bad news is that my stomach went downhill really fast, I threw up at 43, and I just couldn’t bring it back together.

Here is the full report:


Jen and I drove up the night before from DC and got in around 9:30. I got all my stuff together for the race and was in bed around 10:30. After a whole 4 hours of sleep, I dragged myself out of bed at 2:30 for the 40 minute drive to the race. Jen drove. I tried to sleep some more but mostly whined about how early it was.

The race start/finish was at the Long Valley Church. Since it was 80 degrees the day before, it was still a pretty nice 50 degrees, though it was supposed to get colder later in the morning, and the high temperature was supposed to be around 50. All in all, pretty good weather for very early spring.

We got lined up, had a short brief on the course, and started off running at 4am in pitch dark.

Loop # 1: 0 – 16

I took off towards the front with a pack of 10 guys. The course winds for about 2 miles until you hit the Columbia trail. For the first 4 loops, we turned west on the Columbia trail, ran 6 miles to the turnaround, and then ran back to the start for a total of 16 miles. After the four 16 mile loops, we would turn east on the Columbia trail to do another four 9 mile loops.

We were all running together until hitting the Columbia trail. A group of 5 or 6 guys started to push a bit, so I let them go. I was trying really hard to stay relaxed and take it easy.

I was feeling great in these early miles. My legs felt 100%, the weather was nice, and there was an awesome full moon. It was actually the brightest moon in over 10 years!

Shortly after getting on the Columbia trail, a guy named Josh pulled up, and we started talking. It turns out his brother won the race last year in an incredible time of 15:20. Josh is also super fast and one bad mother. He had done a 100 mile run 3 weeks before during a massive storm. The run was unsupported, and he and 2 guys pushed a baby jogger with their supplies through the 50 mph winds and driving rain. Josh is gearing up for the McNaughton 200 in early May. That’s right. 200 miles. Like I said … one bad mother.

Josh and I ran side by side through 22 miles, and it was great having company in the early miles. We came to the mile 8 turnaround with one other guy and were surprised to find that we were leading the race. We had passed a few guys when we blew through the mile 6 aid station, and a couple of guys also went off course around this time, which was a bummer.

Josh and I pulled out in front after the turnaround and kept on cruising easily. We were running 8:30s, which was a bit faster than I had expected to go, but I was feeling great.

Before I knew it, we were getting back to the start and completely the first 16 mile loop. Our 16 mile spit was somewhere around 2h22m. I asked for directions on where I should go before turning back around and got yelled at by one of the race directors. I thought that “where should I go” was a pretty reasonable question, but I guess they felt like yelling at the person leading the race. They were also nasty to Jen for some reason when she asked where she could get water for me. Not exactly the typical friendly atmosphere of an ultra. Oh well.

Jen showed her outstanding support crew technique and swapped out my water bottle, handed me a gel, and sent me on my merry way in no time at all. Thanks, Jen!

Loop # 2: 16 – 32

Unfortunately I ran a bit too fast to be able to ditch the headlamp after loop 1 and still had to use it for the first few miles of loop 2. I suppose there are worse problems.

I was making a conscious effort to stay loose and run very easily. I think I was still running around 8:30s or 8:40s though. I just felt so easy!

I made a pit stop at mile 22, and Josh took 1st place on his own. My split from mile 16 to the mile 24 turnaround was 71 minutes even with the couple minute stop at mile 22. That was definitely faster than I expected , so I tried extra hard to run slow on the way back, which was a bit easier since I was running on my own.

The sun was coming up on the way back, and it was a beautiful day. I was really enjoying the awesome weather and was cruising along very easily.

I still ended up running a strong pace and before I knew it was coming back in to mile 32 and was in 1st place again. I ran 2:23 for the second 16 mile loop, which only just slower than the first lap. I felt fantastic and was actually feeling better than I did at mile 16!

I was really excited by where I was at. I was about 1/3rd of the way through the race, and I felt like I hadn’t even run at all. It was hard to believe that I had been out there for 4h45m. I felt like I just started running. I was thinking that if I could comfortably get through the 3rd 16 mile loop, that would put me almost halfway through the race in around 7h15m.

I came to the turnaround and told Jen I was feeling great. She took my headlamp and gave me a bottle of ginger ale, a Gel, a granola bar, and my headphones. Jen was like a NASCAR pit crew and got me out of there in no time flat.

Loop # 3: 32 – 48

I ate the granola bar right away in loop 3. I also quickly discovered that the water bottle I had picked up was leaking badly. I was immediately covered in ginger ale. And I mean covered. Sticky does not begin to describe it. But hey, when you are running 100 miles, you don’t exactly expect to stay clean!

My stomach started going south pretty early on this loop. I nursed a bit of the ginger ale, but it wasn’t going down very well. I took an S-cap around the mile 38 aid station and grabbed a few pretzels that I hoped I’d be able to get down. Jen was at the aid station this time and gave me a water bottle, and I worked on getting somewhat less sticky after dropping off the ginger ale bottle.

Right after the aid station, the lead 100K runner caught me. He was a really nice guy, and I ran with him for 2 miles until the turnaround. He was running faster than I had been running, but it was good to have company, so I sped up and hung with him for a bit.

After the turnaround, I took a quick walking break to let him go ahead and to make sure I wasn’t going too fast. I walked only long enough to get my MP3 player set up and then kept on chugging. At mile 42, I saw Jen again and grabbed some Tums, which I really hoped would get my stomach better.

Sadly the Tums didn’t help, and I was going downhill REALLY fast. I hadn’t had much of anything to drink in over 10 miles and nothing to eat either. Around mile 43, I threw up whatever was left in my stomach. My legs immediately cramped up, as I was now really dehydrated. I hoped that my stomach would feel better after throwing up, but again it only kept getting worse.

I was running on fumes and really struggled through the 4-5 miles to get back to the start/finish. I had no energy, was really dehydrated, and my stomach was still roiling. Josh passed me right as we came in to the start area, and I wished him luck. I came to the end of the loop at 48 miles in about 7h20m.

I sat down for a while and figured I’d take some time to see if I could get things back together. I spent about an hour trying to nurse myself back to health, but it just wasn’t working. I couldn’t get anything down, and I almost threw up any time I tried eating/drinking anything much.
I contemplated going back out and trying to slog through it, but I just couldn’t talk myself into fighting my stomach for another 52 miles. It was kind of weird to lead the race for so long and then suddenly drop out, but my body really collapsed on me.

The Aftermath and What’s Next

I think a lot of it came down to being sick and running my last really long run 4 weeks before. The time off was fine for my legs (which felt great), but my stomach never does well when I haven’t put in a long run in a while.

I’m disappointed I didn’t finish, but happy with my training and the effort I put in. If my stomach hadn’t gone south, I would have come through 48 miles with my legs feeling great in a very fast time. I think I could post a very good time on a fast course like this, and hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to do so some day!

Thanks to Jen and my parents for helping crew. My poor parents got the race just as I dropped, so they unfortunately didn’t get to see much. Sorry, Mom and Dad!

I don’t yet have my racing plans figured out for spring/summer, but I’m definitely going to be thinking hard about what to do. Hopefully I can get a good race sometime soon!


alma said...

Will, you're awesome! I'm sorry you didn't get to see the race til its end, but you have a great attitude about everything and it's good to hear that you're happy with how you did for the first half! I hope to help Jen crew one of these days!

Chen said...

Agree with the above comment - your positive attitude is inspiring! Going into an event well-trained and well-prepared and then having things just not work out in your favor is always disappointing, but you still ran a ridiculously fast FORTY-EIGHT miles and stayed upbeat about it all. Hope you get some good rest and recover well -- let me know what race you decide to tackle next, especially if it's out here on the west coast!