Thursday, November 26, 2009

JFK 50 Miler 2009: After the Race

With my friend Abby Dennis, the runner whom I met last year when she was hypothermic about mile 46. She was such a trouper last year and was struggling to finish in the brutal weather. It was in the upper 20's but the wind chill made the temperature feel like the teens.

I ended up sharing a shirt with Abby last year. I was so delighted to see her this year and was thrilled to have her pass me about mile 48. She was so strong and finished the race in just over 9 hours!

Scott Jurek is one of the premiere ultra marathoners in America and the world. He has come in first place in Western States for 7 times and won many other 100 milers. He is a super strong runner and makes it look easy.

He passed me about 18 miles into my race, but alas I had about a 2 hour head start:-)

He is a very nice gentleman and was so kind about not being horrified by my star struckness. Realistically he is equivalent to Micheal Jordan in Basketball, Yogi Berra in Baseball, Joe Theisman in Football...and yet he is very down to earth and in fact apparently hung out after the race signing autographs as well as taking pictures.

Just like so many other ultra athletes...what a class act!
With my friend and "elite athlete coming through" Don M.

Don was an aid station captain at Javelina Jundred 100 miler (JJ100) and as any runner would go into this aid station he would yell: Elite Runner coming through. He was so inspirational and encouraging.

I have run with Don at JFK50 several years ago and got to hang out with him briefly at JJ100. In fact at his aid station (the remote aid station), I sat and chatted with him for about 10 minutes. It was only that my pacer was getting cold that I got up and left for my 100 km finish at JJ100:-(

My sister finished her first JFK50 miler in about 11:38. For her last 12 miles she was walking which made it a really hard fought finish.

I walked the last two miles with her (and her boyfriend who had walked about 8 miles with her).

After the race she said she would never run this race again. I tend to believe her because I don't get the impression she had as great a time as I had (either this year which was exceptionally fun or other years when perhaps I have struggled a bit more).

After the finish here is a a picture of Tristan (my husband but fired crew and pacer...again!), Me, Cindy and Jason (Cindy's boyfriend).

You can see Cindy and I were dressed in our Reston Runner team outfits and were sporting our newly earned JFK50 miler finisher medals.

I know have a complete set of 5 finishers medal's for this race. I definitely will run this race as long as my legs are agreeable to running it. Although I do find the AT tough, I think I am starting to figure out how to run it effectively.

I was excited to have completed my race and was looking forward to relaxing a bit. Cheering at the finish line reminds me of my prom. All the hard work was done and now it was time to CELEBRATE. And I did with wild abandon.

The first person I ran into after being awarded my finisher’s medal was my friend Abby. She had waited to see me finish which was so kind. We chatted briefly and she introduced me to her family/friends. Abby is so sweet. After a few moments we headed our separate ways. She headed into the gym while I headed out onto the course. I had hundreds of friends out there and I wanted to cheer them in.

Within a few minutes of my finish, my friend Marce from the Reston Runners (and one of my AT Stalkers) appeared on the horizon. She was moving quickly and was going to break her previous PR.

My friend Jenny from the hotel pool on Friday night was standing on the sideline with her children waiting for her husband Peter to finish. We caught up and it sounded like her husband was doing well. After just a few moments her husband appeared and finished strong.

My friend Kevin my second stalker on the AT (or the completion of the 3 musketeers) was next to appear and was finishing strong. Although he had not finished sub-11 hours he did finish in under 11:30 and now has something to aim for next year.

Reston Runners Anna B and Bill D were the next runners to pass by with Jim B following quickly. Apparently this was the first time Anna and her husband Jim had run a portion of the race together after 15 years running JFK50. It was so great to see Anna and she was running a PR of nearly an hour! The race was super fast for many runners with lots of new records set including a new women’s record by 18 seconds.

A few moments later I finally ran into Tristan. He arrived at the finish about 10 minutes behind me. I guess my last few miles were pretty fast because he was unable to catch up to me over the 7-8 miles on the roads. He congratulated me on my finish and retaking the Massie family record. We chatted while walking the course backwards as well as cheering on the runners. He said he was going to run back to the car, which was about mile 46. But before he headed off he shared that Cindy was no longer 40 minutes behind me but would probably be arriving at the finish about 6 p.m. She had hit a wall about mile 27 (the same place he did) and was about 2 hours behind me at mile 38. Since it was only 4:30 I had plenty of time before she arrived to wander aimlessly. Tristan took off jogging and I debated joining him but decided I did not feel like running on the road. Also I was a bit chilly so was not sure I was up for running fast enough to stay warm or was willing to get colder.

Walking the course backwards I re-iterated my appreciation to the volunteers along the course. There were so many nice folks lining the course. As I walked backwards some spectators questioned what I was doing going the wrong way on the course. I was having a great time cheering on the runners!

I see Bill T from the VT100, Rocky Raccoon 100 (but 50 for me), and many other ultra’s that I have run or volunteered at. He is looking strong and will be finishing his 18th JFK50 miler. I am amazed because he just finished the Mountain Masochist 2 weeks prior to JFK. Bill is such an incredible runner and yet always is so nice, friendly and encouraging.

My friend Richard T from the Niagara is the next friend I spot. Richard is moving quickly and is running with a friend from Canada. I have run bits of a variety of ultra’s with Richard as well as the Death Valley/Las Vegas Double Marathon last year. We had a great time there and lots of fun together. He is really nice and enjoys taking pictures almost as much as I do. In fact our first introduction was noticing we both had the same shockproof waterproof Olympus Camera several years ago at the Niagara Ultra. I assume Richard will be taking his camera on his Marathon De Sables race next spring in the Sahara Desert.

As I continued walking along the course I approached the 1 mile to go marker. I was thrilled to see my friend Don from the JJ100 miler as well as JFK50 miler for the past few years. Don is so sweet and so friendly. I decided it was time to head back to the gym. As we walked and jogged towards the finish we chatted and caught up. Don is so friendly and outgoing and just a super fun person. We chatted about racing, Tristan’s mountain climbing, how much fun we were having and how he went from being in front of me on the course (the last time I saw him was about mile 10 and yet somehow I finished ahead of him).

Don, who was wearing a rustafarian hat and dreadlocks apparently took off his shoes as he got off Weverton cliffs and put on flip flops. He hiked down from the cliffs to the C&O Canal in his flip flops to have a bit of fun. He is so funny! I wish I had been there appreciate his antics.

We were getting very close to the finish line. It was time for me to kick up my cheers and hooting and hollering. I cheered him on repeating what he said as we headed to his aid station in Javelina Jundred 100, “incoming elite athlete”. And he was in my opinion an elite athlete!

I was getting a bit chilly so it was time for me to go inside and grab a slice of pizza, take a potty break and put on my jacket. The pizza was just as yummy as I remembered. And the potty break was nice especially having running water to wash my hands. Luckily I had not relied on Tristan to be at the finish and had a warm winter jacket in my finish line drop bag. I grabbed it, put it on and headed back out onto the course. It was just about 5 p.m. and I was feeling great and happy.

Heading back onto the course my friends, the volunteers and some spectators along the course recognized me and asked when I would be finished. I could not answer as my goal was to walk the course backwards until I ran into a friend needing a pacer to the finish line.

Walking along the course it was harder and harder to see runners because the sun had set. Some runners had headlamps and flashlights and while easy to spot these runners (as compared to runners with just reflective gear), it was difficult to figure out if I knew the runners. I continued cheering and offering encouragement. Occasionally I would recognize a voice but everyone was plugging along. I passed the “1 mile to go” marker. It was 5:40 and I was starting to worry about my sister. Pretty soon I was at the water stop. I stopped briefly and asked if I could have a Gatorade. I was a bit thirsty and the volunteers graciously offered up several cups of Gatorade and refilled my bottle.

Continuing on I wished all the runners good luck and congratulations I was approaching the 2 miles to go sign and started wondering if I had missed my sister. It was after 6 p.m. and I was a bit worried in the darkness I hadn’t seen Cindy. I knew she should with her boyfriend Jason and he would be dressed in sweats. Looking for this outfit and knowing my sister was a little smaller than I, I had hoped I could spot them amongst the other runners. I cheered on runners and suddenly I heard. “Is that you Tammy?”. It was my sister walking with Jason towards the finish line.

I gave her a hug and started the long walk to the finish with them. Although comfortable with my jacket, I offered it up to my sister with the philosophy I could always run on ahead to the finish and get warm. She said she was fine temperature-wise but wanted to hand off a headlamp she was carrying. It was a pretty pink one and I commented on it and thought about asking if she would trade for one of my ugly but strong headlamps.

She was walking pretty slowly and explained she was in a lot of pain. I sympathized with her because while currently in the best shape of my life, I definitely have been in excrutiating pain at the end of events. Most recently the VT100 in July. She was struggling to move forward but seemed to be in good spirits. She mentioned she was on target for a 10 hour 50 miler through mile 27, then hit a wall. She had been walking on and off since then and since about mile 38 had just been walking. I can relate to the death march into Williamsport.

At the water stop Cindy stopped and drank a bit of water. Jason and I ensured she did not stay too long. She was starting to get close the 7 p.m. cutoff and needed to ensure she kept going. Walking along the road we chatted about the race, how tough it was and how far 50 miles is. As we headed down the hill along the main road closing in on 1 mile to go, I suggested she consider walking it backwards. My favorite thing at Umstead 100 on the downhills is to walk hills backwards. It feels so good. Cindy declined this suggestion so she will never know how good it would have felt.

Approaching the underpass I warned her that it smelled a bit of dead animal mixed with gasoline/exhaust. She said as long as it did not smell of skunk she would be okay. We then talked about the various road kill we saw. This is when I learned the two pieces of skunk I thought was a skunk split in half was really a pair of skunks. Huh!

Jason and I told Cindy that just past the underpass was the 1 mile to go sign. She was happy to hear this. We were getting close to the finish line! At this point I noticed Jason had a flashlight with a girly ribbon on it. I commented on this and suggested it was really cool. I then learned it was my flashlight that I had given to Tristan early in the morning at Gathland. Tristan had given it to Jason so he could see the road as he headed out to meet up with Cindy. I have good taste in girly-ing up my stuff! I also learned that the pretty pink headlamp in my pocket was my own, hmm!

As we approached the left turn I told Cindy they would say there was 600 meters to go. I think this was a slight underestimate but told her she was really close. Pretty soon we were passing by the Citgo. Just one more small hill and she would be done. During this segment Cindy pointed out she would not be running at all, not even one step at the finish line. That meant I did not have to run full out to get near the finish line to take a picture. We continued walking and as we got within 200 meters of the finish, I ran on ahead.

I took several pictures and watched my sister cross the finish line with pride. She had made it!

After my sister finished, we took several pictures near the finish line. Then Cindy headed inside to grab some food and beverage and sit down.

There were only 20 minutes left until the race was over, so I walked up and down the course cheering on the runners that were finishing their 50 mile adventure. I love this part of the race. Cheering on runners who were probably accomplishing things they never thought they could. There was so much energy and excitement. I cheered, danced, hooted and hollered.

The final runners arrived and all to soon it was 7:00 p.m. The race was over until 2010.

I headed inside and ran into Cindy. She was heading to her car with Jason. I suggested that Tristan could drive them to the car which was 600 meters or so away from the school. I did not mind lurking around, hanging out with other runners. While I had enjoyed my experience immensely I did not want my day to end. Grabbing another piece of pizza, thanking the RD for a great race and chatting with other runners all too soon Tristan was back ready to take me home.

As we drove south on I-70 by Boonsboro I suggested to Tristan that we should stop and I could run another JFK50 miler. I felt really strong and really great and was excited about doing this race again!


Mary Sunshine said...

Congratulations! You are amazing!

This race is in my plan for within the next 5 years.

joyRuN said...

Congratulations to you & your sister!!

I'm gonna have to stop reading your ultra race reports soon, Tammy. They're sounding more & more intriguing.

And Scott Jurek would have me speechless flabbergasted awestruck, btw.

A Plain Observer said...