October 4th – Once again I toe’d the line in Lockhaven PA this year for the Mega Transect (http://ultrahike.com). This year was another sold-out affair at this highly sought after event. I really enjoyed it although it kicked my butt like no other. The weather was wet most of the day making for a slippery course. The terrain was insane as usual, straight almost vertical climbs with terrifying downs. This year’s course I think was the hardest yet and I went down many times. The race directors made it even better (worse?) with the addition of two huge climbs in the middle of the 28.5 mile course. I ran my hardest but was ultimately out-smarted by the course. I went out too fast, didn’t pace my effort on the climbs and gassed. The rain made it really tough to stay warm and I finished around 86th/900 in 7hrs 15 or so, a bit slower than I would’ve liked but still really happy with the result. I recovered really fast and decided I needed one more race before the year was out.
The search for one more race led me to the NJ Trail Series One Day; (https://sites.google.com/site/njtrailseries/oneday) a 24hour event in Sussex NJ over a 1 mile loop course. This just happened last Saturday so it’s still fairly fresh in my mind. The goal was simple; to run as long as I could. Easier said than done.
I hadn’t really trained for something like this but since it’s a loop you’re never far from home so the risk was fairly low. I drove up the night before and camped out. This meant I could just roll out of bed and start running. The not-so-smart move was forgetting to bring my own food. I had some bagels but nothing really substantial. I also had no coffee but managed to scrounge some from a volunteer. The night was really cold, probably 20C so not the most restful of sleeps but not bad. Thank goodness for my JetBoil (love that thing).
The course was certified exactly 1 mile and almost flat except for one a small incline in one section. We ran laps starting from 9AM into the night.
I started off smooth enough but realized I was running too fast and had to force myself to slow down. I clocked the first 10miles without noticing. Too fast at ~10mins/mile. Over the next 10 I forced myself to slow down and used my watch to maintain a steady sub-12min pace but still too fast ~11mins. I passed the marathon happy enough at 5hours but then hit a wall around mile 28. I pushed through and hit a new PR for the 50km of just over 6hours 8mins. Then I realized I’d forgotten to eat.
Eating’s super important in this kind of thing as you’re going to be out there all day. I motored on to mile 36 after some hot pizza. Then the miles started to get longer. I was in uncharted territory having never run past 35 miles before (ever). It was a loooong way to 50miles and I hit some really low points around 47, 48, 49 but I made it. I got a bit of a boost from passing the 50mile mark in 10hours and 5mins.
I had already decided I’d switch shoes at 50miles so I quickly swapped out to my Hoka Cliftons. This was a mistake as I’d been running in Saucony’s and the toe box on the Hokas is much narrower. Plus my feet were mangled at this point and a bit wider than normal. I should’ve stuck to the Saucony’s. This decision led to some crazy blisters over the next few miles but it was too late before I realized. By mile 55 I began to accept that I’d be cutting my night short. I’d been in pain for miles and mentally worn out. I’d had enough. Everything was aching from about mile 35 onwards and I’d dealt with it but now my ankle/knee/hips were starting to send me sharp, painful messages every once in a while. I was also really nauseous having burned something like 7000 calories but stamina-wise I still had some kick left. I decided to pay attention to the sharp pains and cut my race short at mile 63 – 100kilometers in 13:07:31
This was an amazing experience. I thought I’d be really bored but that never factored in. It was mentally tough to keep going knowing you could drop out at any minute. That was probably the hardest thing of all. That and the vicious freezing wind that slapped me in the face on the outer portion of the track. Your mind goes to a strange place under that kind of stress but I think I’d like to get back there someday.
I must make mention of race director Rick McNulty, his wife Jen and all the volunteers who really bent over backwards to look after us all. The event was flawlessly organized with beautiful course, huge clean facilities, warm showers, tonnes of Heed, hot/cold food, whatever you needed. One of the best furnished events I’ve been to.
Overall really happy with the outcome. 100km is twice as far as I’ve ever run. Ever. With my first 100km and 50miler under my belt I can finally lay claim to the ultra runner title. I might even try this event again. With some smarter food, shoe and pacing choices I’m sure I could get 100miles. But that’s a story for another day.
Here’s mile 60-ish…