50 miles is a long way... the JFK report


Hello World!

50 miles is a long way! I know a lot of you are going ummmm "we could have told you that, Brooke..." But I survived, more than survived, enjoyed it. I found my rhythm -- once I got off the trails -- and didn't get bored. Our team -- did I mention I was running from a team out of Albany, New York? -- placed second! Hello John and the Albany Running Exchange! If I'd known we were only three minutes off first, I would have rolled down the trail hills --rocks, what rocks? who cares about cliffs? -- and not stopped to take pictures... It was beautiful out there.

This was the 47th annual running of the JFK 50 Mile also known as "America's Ultramarathon." We started in Boonsboro, MD and ran a squiggly, horseshoe-shaped race through the Appalachian Trail near to Harper's Ferry where we picked up the C & O Canal Path. From there it was only a marathon -- ha, feels funny saying 'only' -- along the canal before we headed north to finish in Wlliamsport, MD. Along the way, we passed near Antietam and Sharpsburg.

Ultramarathoning is a different animal than marathoning. Let me start by saying I respect anyone who can get themselves across 50 miles without the aid of a vehicle of some sort. And let me say that I really have a new respect for trail running and those able to do it without killing or seriously injuring themselves. But let me finally say that I now have ultimate respect for someone who can put the trails and the speed together and finish something like this at breakneck speed. Hello Mike Wardian who holds 2nd place for all-time top performers with 5:50:34! For some perspective, it took me almost 10 hours...

I discovered new muscles that I didn't know existed. I learned that you can have pebbles, leaves and unidentifiable mush in your socks and still race on! I learned that it is possible to run on PB and J's, bananas, m&m's -- okay, only had a few of those -- hammer gels, coke -- yes, I did drink one cup of coke and survived. I tried the chicken broth and raced on with pretzels sticking out of my mouth. And I learned that you really can push on and push through and run 50 miles.

The Good: The scenery. Think old historic towns and stone walls, think twisty and hilly leaf-strewn, single-file trails, snaking around boulders with switchbacks. Think 100+ sheer cliff faces with train tracks at it's base, then the C & O canal, the leaf-covered canal path and then the Potomac River, sometimes broad and calm, sometimes fierce with falls. The camaraderie. Think happy people doing what they want to be doing that day.

The Bad: No real nutrition for the first 18 miles save one borrowed GU from friendly runner Kay. My fault, absolutely. My fault for not checking the course map for aid station stops, my fault for not being self-reliant and at least carrying some water, my fault for being so cavalier. Did I learn my lesson? Absolutely. What I was thinking as I waved back to my non-running friends at the start? This is what I had: camera, tissues -- who carries tissues? --, and lip balm with spf! That was it. What was I thinking?! Middle on nowhere, no food, no water, no phone with sometimes no one in site...

The Ugly: No real ugly except the near total face-plant on the Appalachian Trail. Think helicoptering arms and spinning legs and the surreal stoppage of time as your body and gravity and luck decide your fate. Thankfully I survived that one with only some slight embarrassment and no blood. Others weren't so fortunate...

Will I run another Ultra? Absolutely as long as I can count it in my 50 states or continents category. Will I be more prepared? You bet. Like I'd make sure that I always had the basics, you know, food and water. And I'd prepare with some like-course training. If there were trails, train on some trails, etc. See though, the thing was that I didn't really want to know too much. I didn't want to see how far 50 miles was on the map. I didn't want to psyche myself out. I wanted to go about it like it was just a marathon. You know, a big plate of pasta the night before with a few sips of really good red wine, a good nights sleep, a few strong cups of coffee the next morning and a little body-glide. Good to go.

And it really is true, if you're marathon fit, you can finish 50 miles. I remember thinking to myself as I finished 30 of the miles. Only 20 more miles to go. That is like 20 lengths in the pool; that is like some easy 400's on the track. That's right, you can do it. Easy, no problem... And you know what, it wasn't. Once I got on solid, flat ground, no one passed me. I would see someone in the distance and that would be the next person to pass... I say that no one passed me but that is not entirely true. One girl -- she called me 'girl' so I guess I'll call her one -- said "come on girl, hurry up, we've got to finish in under 10 hours." And thanks to her, I did.

Next up: December 5th. The St. Jude's Memphis Marathon. Sharon D. and I are going down for a little running, some bar-b-que eating, Graceland touring and duck spectating -- you know, the ones that parade in a straight line through the lobby of some old, historic hotel. I'll figure that little duck-detail out before we go; some old habits die hard.

Cheers! And it is a beautiful day for a run...



John K. said...

Congratulations again Brooke. You're awesome!!!

runningbrooke said...

thanks my friend and thanks for having me on team ARE! let's do it again :)

Anonymous said...

10 Hours is the time cut-off to qualify for Western States 100 mile and some other events. I was impressed that you picked it up and got under the 10 hour time! You don't want to kick yourself later for missing it by a few seconds/minutes.


runningbrooke said...

Hi junebugrunner-

Thanks for the post. So does this mean that I have a Western States ahead of me?! Just reading about that race in Born to Run... awesome book and a must read. Done a 100? Have a blog?

Cheers! RunningBrooke

Anonymous said...

Hi Brooke,

I hope you have a Western States ahead of you...it's the JFK 50 of 100 milers, meaning its the oldest, and maybe the most desired for people to enter. They only have a few spots, so its tough to get in these days.

I've finised two 100's. Vermont and Umstead.

Skimmed your website, wow! Sounds like an awesome adventure you are having with this goal of yours!!! It is life changing for sure!

You will definately be ready for a 100 after all this running you are doing! Maybe I'll see you on the trails.


runningbrooke said...

Hi Junebugrunner-

Thanks for your comments... So how did the 100's go for you. I might have to try one when I finish the quest I've set out for myself. The runners in the 50 seemed much more laid back and chatty. A nice change :)


Anonymous said...

Running 100 miles is an awesome experience, and you truly will be ready very soon as you embark on this quest of yours. With all the miles you are putting in, your body will be used to running on tired legs which is key in a 100 mile event.

I ran the 50 mile distance for 12 years before I attempted my first 100. I think the 50 mile experience really helped me signifigantly. Especially in the mental area. 100 milers are also very laid back, very giving, and often a bit looney. For some 100's though, the time cut-offs can be stressful. Leadville 100 is super hard based on the cutoffs. 100's like Umstead or Vermont are easier and that's why I started with those. Bandara or Rocky Racoon should also be doable.

Not sure what you prefer, but I prefer trail courses and scenic courses over a fast course. Since you have already inveested so much energy in your trek, you are naturally going to be ready to tackle a 100 if you have it in your desire systems. If it doesn't appeal to you, nothing is going to make you run one because there are dozens of reasons why you can drop out during a 100 and 90% of them are mental.


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