>What a weekend. JFK 2008 will undoubtedly be a race I will remember for quite some time. I never thought that my finishing place in a 50 mile race would ultimately be determined by 66 seconds. I’ll start at the beginning:
I have never, ever, ever slept through my alarm on race morning. In fact, I’m usually tossing and turning so much that I barely sleep at all. However, at 5am on Saturday morning my Dad came bursting into the room wondering why I wasn’t awake (I had said I was getting up at 4:30). Ooops. So the morning was a bit more rushed than I would have liked, but off we went on the drice 20 minute drive to Boonsboro High School. There was the same old scene: a thousand nervous runners packed into a gym, the mens bathroom line huge and the women’s line nonexistent. I took off all my nice warm clothes and sent them to the finish line before heading out to the starting line at the (only?) stoplight in town (about a mile away). A nice lady who owned a local antiques store kindly let me use her bathroom right at the starting line, so that was pretty clutch. Anyway, off we went at 7am and headed up Main Street to get to the AT. It takes about 21 minutes to get through that 2 miles, because the second mile is just straight up (sucks). It was taking me longer than I wanted to warm up (due to a starting temp of 19 degrees) and I wasn’t moving too fast at that point. I saw 2 women ahead of me–Connie Gardner and Susan Graham-Gray, and I just told myself to relax and get to the top. Once I hit the trail, I was much more comfortable. Flew through the first aid station at 3something miles, and got to my least fav part of the course – more uphill. But this uphill is about 2 miles long, on a paved bike path that goes up to the top of the mountain. I was passed by 2 more women on the climb, putting me in 5th place. I got to the top, and then was at my favorite part of the trail. It’s a rolling and rocky course at that point – what I’m best at. So I hit it hard, putting myself back into 2nd place, and caught up with a fellow TWSS runner, Travis Warren. We ran together until the next aid station where I found my parents, and he took off a little faster than I did after stopping to change bottles, etc. The next trail section is more climbing, and apparently a little trickier seeing as I took 2 good falls leaving me with some sick bruises today. Another woman was right with me as we came out 7 miles later.
After the trail part was over I had been running for about 2:35 – putting me 5 minutes behind my 2007 pace. I wasn’t too concerned with that, but I was a little surprised. I knew that meant I had to go for it on the towpath, especially considering the other woman had passed me at the aid station, and I was back in 3rd place. I won’t bore you with all the dets of the towpath. There were a few noteable moments – mostly getting to see my AWESOME friends Melissa and Brennan at mile 27, who were decked out in Team Alyssa t-shirts and held posters that Fun Jen Koshy helped make last week. I was still feeling pretty good, although a little lonley. At 27 I was passed by Susan Graham-Gray again, putting me in third. I knew there was another woman right behind me, and several others within minutes. After this, I ran with some man for the next 15 miles or so. We literally said NOTHING to each other the entire time. Just ran in-synch (haha, N’Sync) and silently helped push each other to avoid any walk breaks. It worked. There was still a woman close behind me, but out of sight, giving me at least a minute up on her.
At mile 41.something we turned off the towpath onto steep climb onto the road portion of the course. I am not sure how to describe it, but as soon as I hit the road my legs turned to lead. Every step became a huge burden and I began to get worried. Constantly checking behind me, I got to mile 44. It was there I turned around and saw 2 women, one about 200 yards behind me, and another about 100 more beyond that. Uh oh. This is where things got good. I’m freezing cold and have 2 women within sight of me. Unfortunately, they have the advantage at this point. Being able to track me ahead of them is probably easier than me trying to salvage my place and turning behind me every minute. The good news at this point was up ahead I saw 2 crazy people, one of whom was doing cartwheels in the street. Both were cheering my name. Melissa and Brennan save the day. They run me in the last mile of that section to the 46 mile aid station. We won’t get into details, but I’ll just say I made it pretty clear to them I wasn’t feeling to good, or too confident at this point. I knew in my head if I got to the last aid station at mile 48.5 still in front of these women, I could pull a third place finish. However, the next 2.5 miles were some of the longest I have ever run. Completely driven by fear and pride, I continued on. About a mile later, one of the women caught up to me when I was walking. The other was about 100 yards back. We had a short conversation, in which I asked her if she knew how close any other women were behind them. A fifth place I could handle at this point, but no more than that, and I wanted to be prepared for the worst. She said that the other women were minutes behind. I thanked her, and began to run again, expecting her to follow – but she didn’t. Surprised, I turned and saw that her and the other woman were still walking. That’s when it hit me – they had nothing left either. All the will in the world can only carry you so far and so fast. I hit the last aid station, crested the last hill of the race, and took off. I did the last section at an 8-minute pace, and as I made the last turn of the course putting the finish line in sight, I knew I had it. The next two women behind me finished within a mere 66 seconds.
Interestingly, this was only two minutes faster than last year, but 40 places higher overall and 8 places higher in the women’s division. Although some of that can be attributed to the luck of the draw with the field that came out to race, it’s clear the weather took it’s toll on many. Jennifer Davis, who has consistently finished a half hour ahead of me the past 3 years was about 10 minutes behind me this year. There were 925 finishers, and I believe over 1100 people started the race this year. The RD said that the wind chill brought temps into the negatives on the towpath, and said that they measured it at about 15 degrees on top of the mountain. For the first time at this race I had made it to the podium, and got a sweet trophy and a check for 100 bones. Although the race itself cost more than the check, a third place finish also comes with an automatic entry to WS100. Given the cancellation of WS last summer because of the wildfires, I wasn’t sure if that would be the case this year. However, this post on the montrail blog from a week ago seems to confirm that it is true! If you know me, you know that this is an opportunity I will not be able to pass up. I’ll believe it when I see my name on the WS website though…
*note – My dad is awes, but he is a horrible videographer. However, there are some clips of this race on my FB page if you want to watch/listen to parts of the race. Do not watch them if you don’t like shaky camera footage.