Tuesday, December 1, 2015

JFK 50 Miler - second ultra distance, first 50 miler, huge learning curve!

I debated, got nauseated, got excited and nervous thinking about doing a 50 mile run.  WHY? HOW? IS THIS POSSIBLE?  But too much karma came together to make me hit the button and sign up for the JFK 50 Mile Endurance run.  http://www.jfk50mile.org/

Training went well, I had put in my long runs, back to back runs, and runs keeping leg speed turning.  I knew I needed to stay healthy and thanks to David Roche, I did! My goals for the race, wait...GOAL...FINISH.

 The night before the race I spent the night in a Boonsboro hotel room feeling anxious and excited, writing scribbles with a sharpie on my arm of life events and aid station mile markers.  I knew this was going to be a mental test and I needed to keep my focus positive with little reminders of my family, friends and life events. 
Scribbles of on arm
Race morning I am geared up and was excited to be toeing the line and catch a glimpse of stellar runners such as Sarah Bard, Emily Harrison, Ian Torrance, Michael Wardian to name a few.  As we waited for the countdown Sarah Bard lined up beside me and I said "Are you Sarah?" she answered "Yes," I congratulated her on her win at JFK last year and her huge successes in running. 

 Away we went headed up hill on paved road. It was beautiful and I was enjoying this moment but also knew not to push and get caught up in someone else's pace.  I kept Sarah and Emily in my site, not that I would have any chance of hanging with them, but I thought I needed to try or at least see how my pace would roll out.  We headed on to the AT and it was gorgeous, very rocky and even slippy with leaf cover on the rocks. It was during this section we started meeting runners that started at 5am and it felt great to wish them well on their journey.

Appalachian Trail  photo credit Geoffrey Baker www.geoffreybakerphotography.com
 During those 16 miles Sarah, Emily and I exchanged positions and chatted.  Such lovely running ladies!  I was lucky to be running with them but also felt like I had no business to be running with elite women, however the pace was relaxed and effort was good. 

 After those 16 miles we hit the towpath and it was nice to just zone out and cruise on flat straight trail.  I picked my leg pace up but it was not the pace I hoped for, so I kept conservative and even, not knowing how the later miles would feel. 

 At mile 26 the achiness started to settle in my hips and legs.  I got nervous..."if I am aching now, it's only going to get worse and I don't know if I can do this."  I kept cruising, thanking volunteers and smiling, but as I got by myself on the towpath I had to dig deep.  Mile 26-34 became a mental journey.  "Why am I out here? Maybe you can't run ultras? Just stop, call it a day," but I just couldn't give up.  I had a choice to quit or to finish.  I then started to gaze at the scribbles on my arm.  I smiled, even giggled.  I remembered a quote saying "the pain doesn't get worse, it's just if you can tolerate it." I kept moving forward using small increments to keep me motivated, "get to the next big tree, aid station etc." I got passed by some runners and one guy empathized with me, he said, "I am sorry you are walking, you looked so strong, " "Thank you," I replied, "it is what it is." It was then I knew I just had to start running with this group of guys, I needed their company.  It was during these miles I thought about the history of this race and getting a medal with JFK on it.  "Screw it, this is not the pace you wanted but you NEED to finish this goal no matter how long it takes." I needed to show my boys, Morley and Alex, that even tough challenges can be accomplished.   I kept plugging away, singing Christmas carols, smiling and enjoying the beauty of the day.  Soon those rough miles were done...it was now time to get off the towpath. "What?"  My watch said 40 miles!!!  "Oh wow, I have never run 40 miles!! Yay!!!"  Now the excitement and smell of the finish was growing closer.
Photo credit Geoffrey Baker www.geoffreybakerphotography.com
I hit the pavement of the last 8 miles of the race.  As my muscles adjusted to running on pavement, the achiness subsided and I knew, "I got this, you will finish. This is not the time you hoped for but you will achieve the goal!"  The miles kept coming and finally there were no more aid stations.  As I rounded that last mile I could start to hear the loud speaker calling runners in and I teared up, "I am going to finish this! I am going run 50 miles today! 50 miles! Almost 2 marathons! Wooohoooo!!!"  As I looked down the street, there it was...the finish line.  I was overwhelmed with joy and the muscles in my cheeks cramped from the huge grin on my face. I DID IT!!!!  I DID IT!!!
Finish!!! Photo credit Geoffrey Baker www.geoffreybakerphotography.com
I hugged the race director and another older man who resembled Santa Claus, perhaps some karma coming back to me from singing on the towpath! It was perfect...well at least until I had to bend down to grab something off the ground...good golly that was tough! OUCH! 

JFK 50 Mile Endurance run is a well oiled machine! These race directors know what they are doing and do it well!  The course is beautiful and offers a nice change of scenery from trail, towpath to road.  Thank you to all the volunteers for helping me achieve my goal, just being out there clapping helped me more than you know.  Thank you Geoffrey Baker for the great photos www.geoffreybakerphotography.com .  Congrats to Sarah a on great win and getting a PR!  Also a big congrats to Laurie Paretti Dymond, 49 years old, who was the 3rd woman. She PR'd her 24 hour race by 15 miles this year! Amazing!

My husband Paul, our sons, Morley and Alex, along with the rest of my family are the reasons I am able to do this! Thank you! David Roche, you kept me healthy and help me believe in myself!  SWAP - always an anchor!

 What went well:
1) Nutrition - no stomach problems and energy was good - VFuels every 20mins, Vega electrolytes and water as needed
2) No blisters or chaffing!! WWOOOOHOOO!! 
3) Smiling and thanking volunteers - this will always go well!  Can't thank those folks out there enough!
4) Sticking to my plan but adjusting my goals as needed

What to improve on:
1) Knowing you can tolerate the soreness
2) Picking up leg speed with achiness
3) Again...not every race is going to be good! Yes, this was not my time goal but I finished and that means it was a great day!

1) HOKA One One Clifton 2
2) VFuels gels
3) VEGA electrolyte mix
4) Nathan waist belt
5) CEP ankle compression socks
I got my medal!

Enjoying recovery and a bit of cross training!  Wish I was playing Ringette!!!


  1. Hi Lorraine! Congrats again on a great race! I think it's very clear from your two ultras that you definitely have business running as an elite :).

    Hope to see you at a race again soon (post holiday/recovery)!

    1. Thank you Sarah! You are so very kind! Being my first 50 miler it was a learning experience but in a very positive way! I have such a respect for you running ultras at the speed you do! I look forward to seeing what you do next :)

  2. CONGRATULATIONS!! I love your spirit and what you bring to running. And to the world!

  3. Love your modesty, you definitely belong up in front with the elites! Congratulations again! You're a big inspiration to all of us!

    1. You are very kind! Thank you! This was a whole new distance for me but in the end and yes the end did come, haha, it was very positive and I am so glad I did it! I am looking forward to future running! Thanks for reading and commenting! I appreciate your support! Have a great holiday season!

  4. Lorraine - in your quiet, determined, and driven way, you amaze and inspire folks like me to get out and do something. I am proud of you and salute you for your efforts. I know 50miles on a bicycle is hard work, running 50miles demands respect!

    1. Thank you Dr.D! ;) Maybe I'll see you venturing to this distance?!?!? Hope to see you on the trails!