Monday, November 23, 2009

JFK50 miler: Before the start

With my friend and race director Annette Bednosky. Although she is most famous for finishing first place at Western States several years ago, I know her from passing me at JFK 50 last year, VT100 and most importantly her race the New River Trail 50 km in October. She has indicated this race opens up registration in mid-Dec. I will be signing up as soon as it opens because it was GREAT fun, was relatively flat, non-technical, had wonderful volunteers, super yummy cookies and was an environmentally sound race. I also really loved the race premium a hand crafted mug. While I do like t-shirts as mementos of races, I also think unique race premiums (especially hand made items) are the BEST!
Before the race I made use of the hotel pool with a leisurely swim. I like swimming alot and unlike our local pool which I actually have to make an effort to get to this one was a short walk down the hall.

I swam around, did flips, performed a few handstands and just enjoyed myself. The temperature was delightful, the pool was 5 feet deep and there were only 3 others sharing the pool with me (Jenny, a wife of another runner and her two children). In fact I would speculate I was the oldest person in the pool.

When I was a kid my parents seemed to always camp (at cheapie places no less), so an indoor pool in a hotel is pure luxury!
I could have copy pasted my picture from 2008here, but in fact this picture is from 2009. I guess I figure I have finished every ultra I have started (although the JJ100 makes this statistic a bit debatable) with this as my pre-race breakfast.

And you will notice my snoballs match my hawaiin lei and my diet mtn dew matches my headband. I really think the parent company of diet mtn dew and snoballs (hostess and pepsi) need to consider sponsoring me. Seriously!!!

I would even wear a cool shirt that had the snoballs logo all over it (since I assume it would be the prerequisite pink) and I could have little patches with the diet mtn dew. Oops I forgot I work for an Agency and cannot be sponsored by a food company. Boo!!!
Before the race, the 5 a.m. early starters from Reston Runner get together for a group picture. The runners included (but were not limited to) Me, Dennis, Jarrett, Marce, Jackie. The crew included Tristan and Helen. Missing runners include: Peter W, Tammy B and a bunch of other local and non-local runners (I really am not sure what I am described as because I live very close to Reston, VA but I do not live in Virginia)

There were other early starters however, they were already on their way to the start or were otherwise pre-occupied. Because the race start is over half a mile from the gym, immediately following the pre-race brief runners do need to head to the start.
Before the race I have always gotten a picture of myself on this porch. I will be able to use this if I ever need to figure out if I might be growing taller, wider, shorter or aging.

For me, this picture starts my JFK50 miler race. This means I am committed to the race and just have a few feet to the start line. It is exciting, a bit nerve wracking and makes me so happy to be here each Saturday immediately prior to Thanksgiving.

This welcome sign really illustrates the whole community support for this race including fellow runners, volunteers, runners friends and family and lots of folks within the community.


The JFK 50 miler was my first ultra-marathon in 2005. I completed it after just two marathons Marine Corps Marathon in 2004 and 2005. Since then I have returned to the JFK50 miler with more knowledge and more experience with regards to the course as well as running in general.

This years JFK50 miler was my 78th running event of a marathon or greater distance. It was my 15th race of 50 miles or greater including 6 hundred milers. I was pretty sure I knew what I was doing but I was a little worried after my recent meltdown at JJ100 miler when at mile 45 I was exhausted and unhappy.

The 2009 JFK50 miler made up for this recent running debacle and then some!

My best time for the JFK50 miler was 11 hours and 40 minutes last year. I had a cheat sheet in my fanny pack keeping me abreast of where I was in relation to my previous performance. I came to Gathland (mile 9) about 3 minutes ahead of last year, off the Appalachian Trail (AT) at Weverton about 10 minutes ahead. At mile 27 at Antietam I was about 15 minutes ahead and by mile 38 I had about 20 minutes lead over last year. At the finish I was shocked when my time was 30 minutes ahead of last year!

By the time I got into 38 special (Taylors Landing) with about the same split of my husband from last year, I decided it was “game on” and the Massie Family record of 11:20 for JFK was going down. Luckily I had all sorts of good karma, so many friends along the course as well as beside me in spirit and just felt so great throughout the race and was able to do this with relative ease.

JFK50 miler is one of my favorite ultra’s (I know I say the same thing about so many other ultra’s, but it’s true!!!). In fact as per my husband I say the same thing about our pets. They are all my favorites. Alas I digress.

But JFK50 has a special place in my heart because it was my first ultra. The first year I did JFK with the support of the Reston Runners including both runners and crew: Anna B, Jim A, Helen H, Peter W, Mary K, Ed C, Dave Y, Pat B, Kathleen H, Diane L, Leslie S, Ray, Ellen M and so many others! This tradition is alive and well and again with the wonderful support of my friends at the Reston Runners I was able to crush my record. They are so supportive and encouraging. My first time, they provided guidance, mentoring, advice and gave me the courage to try it and the support and encouragement to believe in myself. This year I was grateful for their support, kindness and wonderful energy.

Before the Race

In late July I was moping around the house a bit depressed about my mom’s passing away in late May and my dismal performance at VT100 in which I nearly DNF’ed. With my SUPER pacers Shane and Dan I was able to muster enough speed to finish just barely in the allotted 30 hours. I needed something to cheer me up.

July 31rst rolls around and it is time to sign up for the JFK50 miler and I am excited to send my check to the Reston Runners to be a part of the Early Babes. The first pre-meeting occurs in early August and I am thrilled to see many of my Reston Runner friends who had just made the pilgrimage to VT100 in July ready to sign up for JFK50. And of course I get to see many others who stick with a yearly trip to JFK50.

JFK50 miler season is in full force.

My training for JFK50 (or really JJ100) included a bunch of marathons and ultra’s. Some of these races went really well including: Annette Bednosky’s New River Trail 50 km (which I highly recommend…but make sure to save some yummy cookies for me if you are faster than I!!!!), the Self Transcendence Marathon which is located about 3 miles from my dad’s house, the tails for trails 40 miler (a very cute, very well run low key ultra) and the Marine Corps Marathon. Some of these races were disasters including: the VT50, 50 km 11 hour mudfest (one mile took me nearly an hour), JJ100 which included a ~14 hour 50 miler split and several other challenging races.

Others were smarter and stuck with MCM as a training race/run and perhaps one other marathon. I clearly am not that smart. But as a sign from the Montgomery Country Road Runners along the course of the JFK50 miler suggested

Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups

My final training run for JFK50 was the Richmond Marathon. This marathon was neither a PR nor PW (Personal best or worst) but it did nearly involve some projectile vomiting. A word of advice is, never drink a large coffee shake then pound down a lot of Powerade. Apparantly it may curdle in your stomach. Although I had significant cramping and was walking for several miles doubled over, ultimately I was able to regroup and jog it in to a respectable 4:48. With just 6 days to go, it was time to taper. Oh yeah and to pack.

For me tapering included one final 4 mile fun run at Fleet Feet Gaithersburg on Thursday evening (I considered making it more by jogging to the store but needed to pack a little and it was drizzling). After a moderately brisk jog with Fleet Feet, Tristan, Gilligan (our dog) and I kept our post run Bruster’s Ice Cream and Yogurt streak alive. I think this year we now have over 20 visits to Bruster’s on Thursdays alone. This is one area in my life I refuse to DNF!

Getting home it was time to ensure all my bags and drop bags were packed. I do not take packing lightly nor do I pack lightly. It looked like I was going on a month long expedition to a location where there was no access to stores. But alas I still worry about the worst case scenarios. And it is better to have too much than too little. Of my 3 drop bags along the course, I took out only 1 long sleeved shirt. I gave Tristan my jacket, a different long sleeve shirt, my headlamp and flashlight at Gathland. Other than what I had on me and the race provided treats/food/beverages, I was self sufficient. With nearly 5 lbs of stuff in my fanny pack I should be!

Going to bed Thursday night I was confident and felt happy. I was prepared and packed. For some reason I did not sleep well. Waking up about 3 a.m. then lying in bed trying to be quiet was not how I imagined my night before the night before JFK50. I know about 3 a.m. Tristan (my husband) whacked me in the head because he was on my side of the bed because he had lost the battle for his pillow with our cat Sagwa. He suggests he was moving his arm to reposition but I know he was trying to ruin my sleep so I would not chick his time for JFK50. A little later our other cats decided the cat equivalent of the Indy 500 would be idea so I think it was a big conspiracy.

I worked a few hours from home including a teleconference that was pretty uneventful except for a period of about 5 minutes when someone must have gotten off mute or else started talking. And for a bit they were too involved in their conversation and did not hear the other participants yelling at them to “turn on the mute”. It was classic.

After my workday was complete, it was time for the pre-race lunch of champions. I walked to our local Potbellies for a sandwich and got one for both Tristan and I. I considered my favorite sandwich, an ice cream sandwich with frozen yogurt, but decided to try to be healthy. Returning home, Tristan was finishing his workday. Soon my sister, Cindy, arrived and it was time to put all the stuff in my sister’s SUV.

Because of her need for a driver back from the race, we decided to carpool and her boyfriend would come up to Hagerstown later. Our car is set up for pet travel but not people travel so we ended up with a vehicle that has a license including “Chik” in it. Tristan sarcastically suggested he loved driving this vehicle during the race.

As we were getting ready to head off, Cindy mentioned she sort of forgot a critical part of her running attire. I was worried it was shoes. But then she clarified she was debating between two sports bra’s and ultimately decided to go without inadvertently. This from the same sister who refused to pace me at Umstead in 2009 in a sports bra but instead every few minutes would ask if we could go slower so her boobs wouldn’t jiggle! I was not overly surprised. But I told her I had many, many sports bra’s. And all were seamless which really makes a difference in 50 and 100 milers. I offered up several different colors and support levels and she chose a boring white Seamless Champion sports bra. I totally would have picked a pink one if ever offered but I guess she has messed up priorities.

After resolving this issue, our first task was to purchase some unmentionables from the Hagerstown Factory Outlet. (for those of you confused, if I mentioned they were underpants and bra’s they would not be unmentionables, would they??). Oh yeah, and for those of you thinking my priorities are screwed up, I was talking about running unmentionables. Who needs real cloth? Cindy was grateful to our yearly shopping at the outlet so she could get some running products. In fact she wore a new long sleeve shirt as well as a new sports bra (guess she had lendee’s remorse about picking my white bra that I have no idea if it is lucky or not—many of my pink bra’s have a history in my ultra/marathon racing making them part of my “lucky” sports bra collection-but the white one’s I really have no idea).

Completing our shopping spree it was time to head over to the race hotel for packet pick up. This year we were lucky that packet pick up was at the hotel Tristan and I were staying at. Cindy was staying at a different hotel because she waited to reserve her room until a month or two before the race.

Checking into the hotel was very easy and I was able to leave a set of keys for our roommates for the evening at the front desk. During the week I had learned of a friend who might appreciate a place to crash. Since Tristan and I always get 2 double beds when we can just for this reason, we were able to offer up our spare bed. It was a real treat to have Dave and Shannon as roommates and they were very quiet and did not have the sprawl I did with bags, junk and random items all over the room (well not exactly I tried to create an invisible line for their half versus our half just to ensure our stuff did not get mixed up—and since I have a sister very close to my age, I am very skilled at the invisible dividing line). This was done in both the room and the bathroom and yet almost everything was mine (in fact even Tristan seemed to have only one bag and about 4 toiletries...I really need to pack lighter)

Packet pick up for me was a huge reunion! I saw so many friends. Of course I expected to see many Reston Runners (which I did), but I also saw my friend Jen V, Monica N, Jackie, Annette B, and so many others. Topics of conversation varied from the predicted weather (beautiful) to upcoming races to life in general.

My husband was highly amused by Annette’s comment/introduction to another runner when we were chatting about the fact that I have a lot of enthusiasm, enjoy running so much, loved the cookies on her New River Trail 50 km course and finally “yes, I would be wearing my hawaiin lei and sparkelerized fanny pack”, to which she responded that I was a “freak”, but in a good way! Annette is very amusing.

With packet in hand and a few mementos of the race (bought by herself which may be bad karma, I tried to convince Tristan to buy a shirt/hat/jacket for Cindybut alas somehow he did not), Cindy suggested she was leaving. Abandoning us and leaving us without a car. This was kind of a bummer because I thought Tristan would drop her at her hotel then go on a junk food run. I had no snoballs, the breakfast of champions!! But before I could protest or throw a fit Cindy was gone. Luckily I secured a ride with the Bradfords so was going to be hoping a ride with Todd, Jarrett, Jim and Tristan driven by Anna at 6:30.

After packet pick up was complete, I wanted to make use of the pool. I had my swimming stuff and went to our room and changed. I wandered down to the pool (which was right next to packet pick up-in the same foyer area) and was glad there were three others in the pool. I was disappointed that 2 out of the 3 were about 3 or 5 years old, but at least I had company. Jenny (the mother) said her husband Pete was running the JFK for the first time. I ended up chatting Jenny briefly after the race and seeing him finish on Saturday with a time of about 10 hours and 30 minutes.

After a relaxing swim I headed to the room for a quick shower. Our roomies had arrived but were not there. The only way this was noted was because of one or two extra bags in the room. It was spotted by Tristan because I apparently would only notice if my 10+ bags morphed into 20+ bags.

My shower was uneventful and I was happy to have hot water. Last year I think I showered after returning from the Pizza Hut and recall my shower was not that hot. As I started blow drying my hair, our roomies, Dave and Shannon arrived. They were running late for their dinner activities so we just briefly chatted. I explained the Saturday breakfast ticket as well as suggesting that if they needed a different temperature for the room they were welcome to change it. I always worry that we all have different internal thermostats and it is not fun to be too hot or too cold. I know I like rooms/houses to be warm, but I also know I can put on another layer or add an extra blanket. Luckily Tristan is pretty agreeable to my preferred temperature although I think we both compromise a bit.

After Dave and Shannon headed out, we had to head out in just a few moments for our dinner. Tristan headed downstairs to the lobby while I chatted with a first time 50 miler. Our conversation sparked our next room neighbor to pop out of his room because he apparently heard me mention Reston Runners. It was Jarrett from Reston Runners. We chatted with this young lady for a bit and tried to give her some last minute hints and advice.

Jarrett mentioned he thought Reston Runners were supposed to bring drop bags to the dinner. I suggested DB’s were to be brought to the start. Since Helen H is the organizer for crew, I figured it would be wise to confirm there was not a last minute change. She confirmed bring DB’s to the gym. Sadly while chatting I realized Ed C and Helen H were struggling with some Reston Runner pre-race materials. I offered to help by carrying some bins to their car but then got locked out of the hotel. I had to circle around the hotel and while initially I was the first person waiting for the carpool ended up being the last person. Luckily Anna did not abandon me.

At the Pizza Hut we met up with my friend Iva from Montgomery county. Her husband initially was going to travel with her but then at the last second had to work late. As Cindy’s date for the evening, her boyfriend Jason had backed out we had a spare dinner ticket. This worked out really well because Iva could ask all sorts of questions to experienced JFK50 mile runners and many of them were 7 a.m. starters. Sadly my experience has always been with the 5 a.m. start and I have no idea what the 7 a.m. start logistics are like. I know it is crowded but other than this I am pretty clueless.

The dinner at pizza hut as usual was great fun! There were lots of Reston Runners both JFK50 milers and crew. Tristan, Iva and I found a place to sit. Since I was running, I was ready to start eat. After loading up a full plate with spaghetti, pizza and salad, it was time to chow down.

Initially we were with some runners I knew by face, but after a few minutes our table companions changed to Bill T, Luanne T, Carolina and her husband. Carolina and Bill were able to offer lots of advice to Iva about the 7 a.m. start. In addition to advice I learned lots of stuff about everyone. Bill T (who has done 100’s of ultras), was running his 17th JFK 50 miler…which I find amazing! Of course I know he does ultra’s very regularly including the following ultra’s this year alone: Rocky Raccoon 100 (which I did the 50), Umstead 100, and VT100 miler among others. I believe he did Mountain Masochist 100 km just 2-3 weeks before JFK.

After a very fun and useful dinner, it was time to head back to the room. 3 a.m. comes very early! Tristan and I dropped Cindy off at her hotel after being assured her boyfriend was on the way, then we headed back to the room. I changed into my night cloths and started getting ready for bed. I was hoping “Man vs. Wild” would be on TV but alas all I could find was “I can’t believe I’m alive” (or some other reality based show about someone surviving against incredible odds). I was watching it while Tristan was out at the store getting me some snoballs.

Dave and Shannon arrived back from their dinner. We chatted about the course, life in general and what we both have been up to since JJ100 (our last event in common). I have known Dave since before Umstead 100 when I was introduced to him through my friend Emmy. I am always so impressed by how easy he makes ultra running look.

I learned that while I apparently pack everything including the kitchen sink, Dave has the same items replicated about eleventy billion times. He had a bunch of water bottles that were filled with water and a measured amount of Vitargo's GENr8. This was an assembly line process. In each of his water bottles he zipped in some fuel packs. I learned a lot about nutrition that night. He shockingly does not consider Snoballs the breakfast of champions. Nor is Diet Mountain Dew the beverage of champions. And it would appear that gobbling up Hostess Suzy Q’s on the course may also not be part of his race experience. He has no idea what he is missing!

As he was setting out his outfit for the day I was shocked to see him ripping tags off his shorts. I thought we were never supposed to try something new, particularly something as important as shorts. Apparently his shorts disappeared so he ended up getting a new pair for the race. All I can say is "WOW". After his wardrobe was set out and all his bags were packed, he and Shannon headed out for a bit. I consoled myself about my super early bedtime in that I had a 3 a.m. wake up call while he had a 4 a.m. wake up call. I am not sure what time they went to bed but pretty much was asleep by 9:30 or 10.

A little before 3 a.m. I woke up naturally. I turned off all the alarm clocks I could but did not know how to disable the hotel wake up call. I tried to get ready very quietly and stayed primarily in the bathroom to keep the noise and light to a minimum for those still sleeping. At 3:15 when the wake up call occurred, I woke up Tristan so he could get up and drive me to the race start at the Gym.

The weather was going to be great. A low of 40 and a high of 60 sounded delightful (particularly when compared to last years low of 13, high of 29 and wind chill in the teens!). I was dressed and ready very quickly. I even had time to drop an e-mail to my dad and to update my facebook status. I was feeling great and ready for the race.

The drive to the school was pretty uneventful. I drank my second diet mtn dew and just enjoyed sitting for the last time I would in 10-12 hours.

I was excited on the drive that we were following a truck with cones. One time a few years ago there were cones extensively on the course in the last 8 miles. But most of my other JFK’s have been just on the side of the road. This frightens me. In fact I asked about the cones during the pre-race briefing and was very happy to hear there would be cones. I believe I let out a “Wahoo” and thanks as positive reinforcement. Having been hit by a car once, I don’t want to have that experience again!

The gym was filled with lots of runners and had lots of nervous energy. I felt pretty good but was anxious about the Appalachian Trail (AT). I am really bad at trail running and fall a lot. Thus the 16 first miles are the bane of my existence. The next 34 miles are relatively speaking a piece of cake.

Pretty soon we had our Reston Runners pre race picture and then it was off to the start. What they don’t necessarily focus on in the race description is that it is about a mile to the start. So we started our 15 minute stroll to the start.

At the bank I was pleased to see that it was 43 degrees. At the main house in downtown, there was the sign “Welcome JFK Runners” Of course I got a picture. This year I was able to get a picture with my friend Joe C and Richard T from Canada, then with AJ from New Jersey and finally with my friend Peter W. In my opinion this race is more about relationships then about the 50 miles so I was so excited to see and know so many runners and friends!

Pretty soon we were being called to the start. My goal was to be in the top 25-percentile once I started the AT. I knew these folks (like I) would be jogging with purpose when it was possible. Several years ago I was in the lowest 10th percentile and many folks were strolling along the trail. This meant I had to run pretty fast though the middle miles and a few times I was worried about DNF’ing off time.

The race director announced it was 1 minute to start. It was time to get ready, get set, ….

1 comment:

needlerunning said...

Tammy,
I have been reading your blog for a couple of weeks now and I just wanted to comment. From reading your blog and the article you posted yesterday, you are awesome.

I know that it would be blast to see and run with you at a race. I love your race reports and it alwasys come through how much fun you are having.

Having fun while running is very important and many of us forget that.