Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Stone Cat 50 Mile Race Report

I know for many Ultramarathoners that a 50 miler may seem the usual, but for a back of the packer that had really only started running on January 1st of this year, it seemed like a monumental if not overwhelming first year goal. I had researched earlier in the year what was an achievable 50 miler, and the only one that seemed to fit the bill, including being in New England, was Stone Cat. Registration day came and I arrived early to work to sit at my computer, credit card in hand and the open slots would fill in a little over an hour and fifteen minutes, and I was in. I probably put in a few less miles than I should have, and probably a LOT less miles than my co-runners getting ready for it, but the alarm went off at 3:11am Saturday November 3d and off I would go.


Paul and I at the start
I had made plans to ride up with Paul G, as I was unsure how I was going to feel afterwards and Laura was coming up later in the day to see me for a few laps and the end of my journey. Dropped my car off at the Charlie Horse Restaurant at 4:30 and an hour later, Paul and I were setting up our race stuff (ok honestly I was setting up my race stuff, Paul brought a bottle of Gatorade). Prior to race time, we would meet up with Dean, Mike, Eric and a few others I have been lucky enough to meet my inaugural year of trail running.

The race started about 15-20 minutes late, but the weather was great and no one seemed to really mind. But as we started a snake of headlamps would go out for the first of four 12 ½ mile loops. I would go for awhile with Paul, who is much faster, but once I hit the first aid station and realized how far ahead of my preplanned pace that I was, I let him go. I felt really good coming out of the second aid station and then the usual happened and happened quick. Before I knew it I was face down in a pile of leaves. Luckily I didn’t hit any rocks. Unluckily I tweaked my right groin, but not enough to slow me down YET, but it would hinder me the rest of the day. Regardless I came through the first lap 12 minutes ahead of my pace, but albeit sore, still felt really good.

Second lap was like the tail end of the first, feeling really good, but the groin not particularly happy with me. By this time, with the exception of the 4 or 5 runners that we kept passing each other back and forth, I was running alone. The weather was perfect for running and the course was well marked. Somewhere near the end of lap two, the ball of my left foot was starting to get really tender and I could feel every twig and rock. Having two miles to go, I kept my head down a little more than usual to watch my footing, and decided to change over from my Salomon’s to my Hoka’s at the turnaround for the third lap. I finished lap two 16 minutes ahead of pace, but would give back 11 minutes of that, with changing shoes and eating a little more at the aid station than planned.

Third lap was almost a carbon copy of the second lap, feeling good but not pushing overly hard. I know I was only half way thru and was just looking to get thru this lap until Hayley, my pacer, would help to drag me thru my last lap. I would end up giving back those 5 minutes (ahead of pace) that I had worked at, but the Hoka’s were doing their job, and I was pretty happy to be 37.5 miles in, and dead on my pace. I would hit the aid station and Laura was there to welcome me. I was getting cold so I decided to change my shirts. I text’d Hayley and out from the parking lot, she came running ready to get me thru.

Hayley has run a few Ultras, and is one of my Saturday running partners (along with Todd W), but with conflicting schedules, the three of us haven’t run much lately, so it was nice to catch up and lose a few miles in conversation. That is not to say that she was going to have any part of us taking a leisurely walk. She was the perfect pacer, pushing me when needed, encouraging me when it was obvious that I was hurting and getting me thru the aid stations as quick as possible.

I really can’t go any further without giving the aid station volunteers their due. They were absolutely the best! They were so accommodating and friendly, I can’t say enough good things about them. That being said, I regretfully did not catch his name, but at the first aid station on my last lap there was one individual in a clown costume that really made his mark. I was inhaling a grilled cheese and tomato soup when he came over and started talking and asking questions. Hayley mentioned that this was my first ultra. The genuine enthusiasm, pride and support that he showed to me, a perfect stranger, really got me excited to finish. I wish I knew who he was to truly thank him. Besides finishing, it was truly one of the great memories of the day. Well back to lap four….. we left the aid station and continued on. Now don’t get me wrong 50 miles is a long way, but I really hit me how long I was out there when the sun started setting. Thankfully I was somewhere around 48 miles down, so it wasn't too bad.

Hayley and I started down the final fire road heading towards the school. I thankfully had grabbed my headlamp for the finish. Just as we were taking the last left to go, we saw two glowing eyes looking back at us. A few steps later and this good size doe ran off into the woods. We turned the corner and started across the field. Hayley ran ahead and called out for Laura so she knew I was coming. That last 100 yards or so was almost surreal. It was like time slowed down as I passed the last family and friends waiting for my fellow back of the pack finishers, and heard Hayley and Laura cheering for me. I crossed the line in 11 hours and 46 minutes and 34 seconds, stopping a few feet afterwards to put my hands on my knees and to revel in this overwhelming feeling of accomplishment. I had finished my first 50, I had gotten my finishers jacket, I had done it!

I am so appreciative of all the people that put the race together. The course was perfect and the volunteers were awesome. I also want to thank Laura and the people I know and love for all their support and for dealing with moving around their schedules and lives so I could get my runs in.   I couldn't have done it without you, and I thought of each and every one of you at some point(s) during the day. 

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