A Staten Island triathlete and endurance coach ventures into the ultramarathon realm where there are seemingly no limits to human endurance. In 2013, he successfully finished the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning (picture of 2013 Grand Slam finishers above; I'm second from right), becoming only the 282nd person (since its beginnings in 1986) and only the fourth New Yorker to finish four of the oldest and most prestigious 100 mile ultramarathons in the U.S. in only 10 weeks.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Long Island Greenbelt 50k Race Report - No Guts, No Glory

Today was the day the new, leaner me was put to the test.

The night before, some thunderstorms swept through the area, waking me with a jolt. With thunderstorms in the forecast for race day also, I knew it was going to be a sloppy, wet day.

I was one of the first to arrive at the race venue, the reason being that the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway was part of the drive to Long Island, and that expressway is notorious of having heavy traffic, even on weekday mornings. The BQE was thankfully tame this morning, and I got there with plenty of time to spare.

Once there, I quickly got my bib number (#44) and got myself ready for the race. Since this was going to be a wet one, I made sure I lubed up every body part with Bag Balm to avoid any chafing (it worked like a charm). 

I met several familiar faces. Zandy Mangold, a very talented ultra runner, was ready to tackle the course. Cherie Yanek, fresh off her 50 miler at Bear Mountain, was ready for her 2nd ultra in as many weeks. Right before the race started, I also saw Bob Wisner arrive for his 25k race that started one hour after our 50k.

My strategy was an aggressive one. With my weight officially at 177 pounds, I wanted to really see what would happen if I pushed myself to the edge.

We started off promptly at 7:30. For the first couple of miles, I settled into the second lead group of runners. The first part of the trails were generally downhill, so our pace was aggressive from the outset. I was with this group all the way toward the northern end of the trail.

The northern end of the trail is perhaps the toughest part of the course. With its steep ups and downs, and littered with rocks and roots, our group quickly started to break apart. I decided to walk some of the uphill sections as it was still early in the race and I didn't want to wear myself out too quickly. By the time I crested the last hill and descended the last downhill to the aid station at the turnaround, I was in 9th place overall.

I quickly replenished my water bottle and ended up around 7th place as I left the aid station on the way back. We settled back into a group again as we finally left the difficult hilly section and back to the gentle section. At this point I saw Cherie Yanek running towards me on her way to the turnaround. She joked to me that the finish line was only a half mile away, a dig at the erroneous info that I gave her about how far out she was to an aid station a week ago at Bear Mountain. I joking replied that I believed her with all my heart.

Several miles more and I started to see the runners of the 25k race coming toward me. Bob Wisner came by and we quickly acknowledged each other. He's been looking very good at these races lately. 

At the close of the first lap, I still remained in 9th place.

The second loop, of course, was definitely going to be the test. How long can I sustain an aggressive pace? Two of the runners in the group in the first loop, started slowing down ad I passed them to get into 7th place.

Midway out on the 2nd loop, the weather made a turn for the worse.

The skies grew dark, the wind whipped up, and we experienced heavy rain. The course was sloppy to begin with, but now the course got downright slippery and dangerous. In some sections, the trail turned into small rivers. It got real ugly really quick.

With the rain heavy, we entered into the difficult northern section. Zandy appeared and quickly passed me, shouting words of encouragement.

About a couple of minutes after Zandy passed, that is when I had my intimate contact with the mud.

I always had a rule when trail running. When the trail is wet and slippery, I always step down the center of the trail, where it is flat, no matter how rough it is. The reason is that the edges of the trail are sloped, and sloped trails greatly increase the chance of a slip and fall.

I didn't follow my own rules. On a particularly steep downhill section, I settled for the edge of the trail, my right leg took out my left leg, and I quickly fell down on my right side and rolled onto my face.

I was fine. I was caked with mud, and I looked real bad, but I had no injuries and proceeded to press on as aggressively as before. Some of the people asked me if I was OK, and told them I was. I also joking told them I wear the trail very well.

I finally got to the turnaround station and got out quicker than some of the other people, quickly getting 6th place. I still remained in a group, but as the last miles rolled by, some of the faces change, as some runners started to slow down. They were quickly replaced by other runners behind me who kept a good fast pace.

On the way back towards the finish line again, I met Cherie again. She saw me all caked with mud and jokingly asked me if I had an argument with a mud puddle. I think I said I did, and the puddle won, lol.

I held my own. I teetered between 7th place and 10th place throughout the remaining miles. I only started to slow down in the last 2 miles of the race. As Zandy passed me for the last time he encouraged me to run with him. Although I couldn't match his pace, I was still running by the time I reached the road a half mile from the finish. I finished off in 9th place, only a minute behind Zandy. Official time for my race was 5:11:58, a very good time considering the sloppy course.

(Official results of the 50k race can be seen here)

I was very strong throughout the entire race, something I can definitely attribute to with all the hard work I did in training in the spring and the change of diet that allowed me to lose a lot of weight. I will definitely never go out at an aggressive pace in my 100 milers, but it's great to see I have a lot of strength in my running, especially on the hills.

One other important thing to note...my legs are a little tired, but not sore at all. I have every reason to believe that my legs will be close to 100% in only a couple of days. This is very important because I will need the quick recovery during the short periods between the 100 milers of the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning. If I can recover as quickly as this, it will give me a greater chance of actually completing the Slam.

3 comments:

  1. you look lovely covered in mud.

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  2. lol. They say mud packs make the complexion look better. I guess it worked. ;-)

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  3. Was your diet the elimination of sugar, wheat and dairy?

    ReplyDelete