>photo proj

>Tom Sperduto is currently working on a photo proj in which he takes portraits of ultrarunners right before starting and right after finishing their race. The article on his motivation for the project is here or you can skip to the pics here. Kinda funny how small the ultrarunning community is – one of the dudes in the pictures is a Bad to the Bone teammate of mine and the others are friends and familiar faces from races as well.


>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.

>Stage 1

>Driving through what felt like a blizzard today on I-70W, I resigned myself to the ultra mantra of “it’s not about the watch.” On a day where there’s a high of 35, flurries, and winds up to 25 mph predicted, it is not likely I will run my fastest 50 mile time. However, as friends have been quick to point out today, every runner tomorrow will be in the same weather — and not every runner has put in the training I have. Tomorrow I will run for place, not for time….though a sub-8 would make things pretty awes.

So I already mentioned the blizzard, but that was brief and things took a turn for the better as I pulled into Hagerstown this evening to pick up my packet. Packet pickups in general are always fun because of the people watching: the man who has made sure to wear something displaying a logo from every race he’s ever run, the woman who’s already stressed out because her husband will be running all day tomorrow and leaving her alone in the cold with 3 bratty creatures (ahem, children), and the newbie who is stopping everyone they can to ask questions while simultaneously purchasing the hat, fleece, hoodie, hankercheif, and polo shirt with the race logo on them all serve as endless entertainment to me. However, I stopped myself from staring for too long, and head out. I went to Quiznos for a sub – and let me say, I don’t even like Quiznos. However, this is the meal I have always eaten before this race, and this is the meal I will always eat before this race. I’m a creature of habit. Then I headed over to the Homewood Suites, checked in, and got my race food/drink prepared:
I plan to eat about 16 GUs, 2 packs of Powerade coke gummi things, 3 bottles of perpetuem, 2 of HEED, (at least 3 of just plain water in between them), varying amounts of Endurolytes, ibu and ginger caps. I have no idea how the cold will effect me nutritionally tomorrow, but the best I can do is plan to be out there for about 9 hours, and hope thats an overestimate in the end.

Info. on the top competitors is in this article. It looks like on the womens side I’ll be up against Bethany Patterson (’03 winner), Connie Gardner (02/04 winner), Jennifer Davis (4th last year), and Susan Graham-Gray (2:45 Olympic Trials Marathon Qualifier…but she is legally blind).

My fav quote of the article:

“The course record is 5:46:22, set by Eric Clifton in 1994.
If it’s broken, others likely will suffer for it.
“Carnage occurs. Guys go with guys they shouldn’t go with and blow up,” Spinnler said. “It could be a spectator’s dream but a runner’s nightmare.” “

>Oh hot damn

>These are my (pre race/road trip to Boonsboro) jams:
1. Don’t stop the music (rhianna)
2. Potential breakup song (aly & aj)
3. Already gone (Sugarland)
4. LoveGame (lady gaga)
5. Little Black Backpack (stroke 9)
6. Love in this club (usher)
7. The Sign (Ace of Base)
8. Right Now (na na na) (akon)
9. The Call (Backstreet Boys)
10. If you Can’t Dance, Slide (will smith)
11. Too Little Too Late (BNL)
12. I’m yours (Jason Mraz)
13. Closer to Free (BoDeans)
14. Thunder Road (Springsteen)
15. Come on get higher (matt nathanson)
16. You Can’t Count on Me (Counting Crows)
17. Bottle it up (sara bareilles)
18. Don’t Turn off the lights (Enrique)
19. Johnny and June (Heidi Newfield)
20. Why Not (hill Duff)
21. If you don’t, don’t (jimmy eat world)
22. 7 things (miley)
23. foundations (Kate nash)
24. summer girls (LFO)
25. its gonna be me (n’sync)
26. feels just like it should (pat green)
27. Boys boys boys (lady gaga)

>Weather report, etc

>So the weather for Saturday in Boonsboro, MD is expected to be a high of 36 and a low of 23. This is about 10-15 degrees colder than in the past years. This means Alyssa is unsure of her outfit for the race. I was trying to avoid wearing pants at all costs, but if its 20something at the start, that may not be poss.

In other news, they have also changed the competition rules for this year. In the past, men competing for a top 10 position, and women competing for a top 5 have not been allowed to use a pacer. They actually take this rule, and the one about no i-pods, extremely serious in this race and have designated people out there watching for these things. This allowed me to have my dad run with me for about 8 miles last year, which was pretty cool. I knew I was out of the top 5 by about mile 30, so it wasn’t an issue. However, this year the rule is top 10 for women and men. This blows. Kip had graciously offered to run some miles with me, and that could have been crucial this year. I usually hit a low around miles 25-35 and it’s really nice to have someone around or something to look forward to. Oh well. Having Mel and Brennan out there, and of course mom and dad, will hopefully get me through the boredom of the towpath 🙂

>4 days.

>“Every year you need to flush out your system and do a bit of suffering. It does you a power of good. I think it’s because there is always a question mark about how you would perform. You have an idea of yourself and it can be quite a shock when you don’t come up to your own expectations. If you just tootle along you can think you’re a pretty slick bloke until things go wrong and you find you’re nothing like what you imagined yourself to be. But if you deliberately put yourself in difficult situations, then you get a pretty good idea of how you are going. That’s why I like feeding the rat. It’s a sort of annual check-up on myself. The rat is you, really. It’s the other you, and it’s being fed by the you you think you are. And they are often very different people. But when they come close to each other, that’s smashing, that is. Then the rat’s had a good meal and you come away feeling terrific. It’s a fairly rare thing, but you have to keep feeding the brute for your own peace of mind. And even if you did blow it, at least there wouldn’t be that great unknown. But to snuff it without knowing who you are and what you are capable of, I can’t think of anything sadder than that.” -from the last chapter of Alfred Alvarez’s book, “Feeding the Rat”, about the climber Mo Anthoine

>5 days


So these are my splits from the 6 main aid stations at JFK, and then my finishing times and overall average pace. Apparently I cut a lot of time out on the trail portion last year, and I doubt that I will be able to get much faster than that this year. I am looking to take most of the time off on the towpath. It is pretty much an easy solution to do that – run more and run faster, while walking less. Basically on the towpath that all comes down to a mental game, so who knows. I’ve done the training, now it’s time to relax and trust in the taper. Yay.

>Sunday Morning

>Me: So who else was there last night? Any randoms?
Anon: Yeah some dudes came with girls at the end.
Me: Oh yeah? Were they fun?
Anon: We didn’t talk to them. The girls weren’t really like us.
Me: What do you mean?
Anon: Well, they were just like bigger. And more ethnic. And by ethnic…I mean one had brown hair.