Topsfield, MA - Bradley Palmer State Forest
In what was to be the tale of two races with last year's weather was the worst I've ever raced in (very cold, sleet and snow) and today's weather hitting the 50 degree mark, sunny and absolutely perfect trail conditions proved to PR central for many racers.
Last year I set my 50k PR at the GAC in a time of 4:29 and bettered it this with a 4:03. Ben, a former student and running partner joined me today, and asked me what my goal was today. He hinted at sub 4 hours and I calmly said just beating last year would work for me but knew sub 4 would have to be a stellar run for me. Let's just say that run almost happened today, save for the last 3 miles.
The course at BPSF consisted of rail trail, horse trail and some single track. The technicality is low and there is only one "hill" per say. After racing this course twice, there seems to be much downhill that you can really crank on to make up time on the "hills".
Lap 1 - 44:45
I joked with Ben before the start of the race that I was going to be an idiot like usual and try to hang with the leaders for as long as I could. I decided in this new year that I would finally smartn' up. I went out a comfortable pace, never really breathing hard except on the hills per say and found myself in 6th place. I felt slightly uncomfortable during this loop. Not sure why, but my body just couldn't find a rhythm. I ate one gel and downed a few Scaps due to my extreme sweating. Checked the watch and saw 44 minutes at the start/finish and felt good about my chances of going sub 4 and not really feeling that great.
Lap 2 - 46
Felt real good on this lap. Maybe it was the music selection or knowing that my college buddy, Bill, was going to join me for a loop or two starting on loop three. I pushed pretty hard on this loop to find myself 2 minutes off my first loop time. No worries, I was still in good shape and actually caught a bunch of people finishing their first loop. I was using these runners as targets and picking them off one by one. To note the temps started to really increase during this loop. The initial temp was about 35 degrees, I'm guessing it was close to 45 by the end of this loop. Also, I did not stop at the aid station between laps 1 and 2, but would use my car aid station to get some more gels (ate one on loop 2) and a coke/water mixture.
Lap 3 - 50
Bill's arrival kicked everything up a notch. We haven't seen each other in awhile and are constantly trying to impress each other with our extreme sporting adventures. We both trail run and mountain bike. We hike. He's hiked the 48 4000' in the whites in one calendar winter. I run ultras. He ice climbs sick walls. I....guess I have the next move....Anyway, we started off real hot and I asked him to slow it down a bit. We reeled it in and eventually found a groove and began passing many on their second lap. It was hot and I was downing my water/coke combo and tossing back some Scaps. Legs felt good.
Lap 4 - 50
Bill decided to stay for another loop and his consistency paid off. Two 50 minutes loops and I was in good shape for sub 4 heading into lap 5. On this lap, I took off my iPod, ear warmers, and gloves. Although small in weight, I noticed the drop and it felt good. We again picked off many runners and held a good pace on the ups an flats. Seemed to get really warm on this loop, with much of the ice and mud melting and getting a wee bit messy.
Lap 5 - 53
I was astonished when Bill came back out for a 3rd loop. He hadn't really been running much (the most he's run in two months is a few runs and the longest an hour). He said he'd probably bail when the cars were in sight (about 1.5 miles in) and call it a day. So glad he came out. Great talking with him and he definitely kept my pace up. So it was solo for the rest of the way. I ran steady but when I came to the "hill", which is the midway point of the loop, my legs were toast. They just didn't have anything left. I slowly plodded my way up the hill and then back down the other side, gaining a few seconds I guess. Interesting to note, this was the first ultra that I truly ran every step. Did not walk once. The last three miles simply hurt. I was doing the ultra shuffle for most of those last 3. I hit the pavement (less than a mile from the finish) when my watch hit 4 hours. I knew I'd just be slightly off my goal but gained a huge PR in the 50K distance.
Finishing time - 4:03:33 PR (7:52 min/mile) and 6th place out of 200 (estimate)
For results go here.
Huge thanks to the GAC crew for putting on an awesome race. Great volunteers and great camaraderie throughout. Also a huge congrats to Ben for a 52 minute PR. He ran a 5:50 last year in his inaugural 50k and ultra race and hit 4:58 today. Sick job!!!!