Sunday, June 5, 2011

Dirty German Endurance Fest - 50K

   After a night of dancing and less than three hours of sleep, getting up for this race was not particularly easy.  But this is what I'm all about.  So after a little over an hour drive to Philadelphia, Jackie and I arrived at Pennypack Park for this 50K that we must have been crazy to actually sign up for.  There were three races taking place at the same time that morning: a 25K, a 50K, and a 50 mile.  Still, though, there were a lot more cars there parked along the side of the road than I was expecting.

Jackie and I: night before race (left), after race (right)
   I wasn't really sure how I would feel for this race.  Like the Delaware Marathon, and the Trail Dawgs race, this was a 'training race'.  I was out there mainly to have a good time and maybe push it a little bit if I was feeling sparky.  So I started out nice and easy, at about a 9-minute pace with Jackie.  It was weird to think we were within the Philadelphia city limits, running on single track trail along a creek, especially considering some of the areas we had just driven through to get there.
   After three or four miles, I decided I felt good and would pick up my pace a little.  So I started picking people off.  I'd run faster until I caught up with someone, stick with them for a minute to see if they wanted to chat or whatever, then move up to the next person along the trail.  This went on for about an hour.  About 55 minutes into the race, I caught up with a group of 4 or 5 who seemed to be moving along at a decent pace.  Then I took a 2-minute pit stop in a porta-pot.  The course is two 25-kilometer loops, and the second half of the loop has a stretch of a few miles on a paved path through the park.  When I came out of my pit stop, I sped along this path until I caught back up with that same group.  It contained a woman running the 50K, one or two men running the 50K, and one or two men running the 25K.  They were pretty talkative, and moving at a good pace, so I decided to latch on with them.
   One of the 50K-ers in the group was named Scott, who is training for a 100 miler.  He and I got to talking, and there seemed to be an unspoken agreement at some point that we both wanted to ditch this group.  So we sped up a bit and continued talking; the course had turned back to mostly single track trail by this point.  Scott was more a veteran of the mountains, me being more experienced on roads.  This course was mostly flat, with only a little bit of up and down in the first few and last few miles of the loop.  Everything was runnable; all hills were short, and only a couple were steep.  I could still tell, though, that Scott was stronger on the ascents than I, and I seemed to be a little stronger on the flats.  We both seemed to handle the descents well.  We talked about this, and decided to work together for the remainder of the race.  We had no idea what place we were in at this point, but figured we could continue to move up.
Scott and I working together, coming through half way
    Scott and I went through the first loop together, arriving at the half-way point at about 2:05.  That sounded pretty good, I thought.  As we continued on to the second loop, I kept telling myself I was going to slow down a little and chill for a bit, but that never really seemed to happen.  We pushed the next several miles, and before I knew it, we were approaching the aid station at the far end of the loop.  The volunteers told us we were sixth and seventh place, and we could see fifth place just up ahead.  I told Scott to go ahead, I was going to hang out for a minute and get hydrated.  There were 8.25 miles to go from this aid station.  Scott took off after the fifth place guy, and I ate a potato and some orange slices to re-energize.  I started running about 100 meters behind Scott, but felt better than I had going into the aid station.  So I took off along the flat road section for a couple miles.  Shortly after the course turned back onto the trail, I passed the guy who had been in 5th place going up a short hill.  He was walking, so I felt good about staying ahead of him.
   I had been maintaining about a 20 second distance behind Scott.  At an aid station with 4 miles to go, I stopped and took my time to rehydrate and re-energize.  But as I put a piece of potato into my mouth, that same guy came around the corner approaching the aid station, and I immediately took off again mid-chew.  About a mile later, I came into a short clearing and saw a runner 50 or 60 meters ahead of me looking over his shoulder.  Something told me he was a tired 50K runner.  I quickly caught him, confirmed that he was in the 50K, and encouraged him on.  Now I was in 5th place.  I was having a blast.  I felt fantastic.  It was the final few miles of the race and I was continuing to speed up.  It was fun seeing how many people I could catch.  After going through some very windy single track, the trail straightened out a bit and I could see I was still about 20 seconds behind Scott.  With maybe 2 miles to go, I decided to shoot the gap.  I caught up with him and we ran together through some of the small rolling hills, but I could tell he was tired.  I was hoping the two of us would run together to the very end and have a gentleman's race to the finish, but I ended up putting a little distance on him.  I seriously felt awesome, and I kept speeding up all the way to the finish.  My time ended up being 4:07, so I ran a negative split by a couple of minutes.

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