Thursday, May 25, 2017

Out of the Darkness: The Bear Mountain 50

Ultramarathons, by their nature, take a long time to run. They take so long, in fact, that you can have a great day and a terrible day all in the same race.

Early miles just before sunrise
Photo by Ryan Espulgar

A perfect example of this was the Grindstone 100 last October, where I had a very positive experience for 80 miles before my mental state succumbed to a combination of exhaustion, sleep deprivation, nutrition issues, and the abysmal weather. I finished the race, but not before subjecting my wife and pacer Alex Thorpe to 20+ miles and six hours of relentless negativity.

Race Day

When I got out of bed on the morning of The North Face Endurance Challenge Bear Mountain 50 miler, the parallels to Grindstone were immediately apparent:
  • Tough course - check! Bear Mountain is known for being one of the rockiest and most technical 50 milers in the NYC area.
  • Bad weather - check! A Nor'easter had just rolled in, and the forecasts called for temperatures in the high-40's with rain all day.
  • Sleep deprivation - check! Due to a 2 a.m. wake up and pre-race nerves, I managed to get a grand total of zero hours of sleep the night before the race.

Alex was was battling her own demons. This would be her third attempt at the 50K distance (although the first two don't really count since they were both The Barkley Fall Classic), and she was struggling to find the confidence that had led her to sign up for this race.

We got to the starting area around 4:30 a.m. and found our friends Harry and Eileen Uberti. Harry was running the 50 miler, and Eileen was crewing and pacing him. Alex was a bundle of nerves, and I reminded her to trust her training, to have fun, and to stalk Timmy Olson at the starting line.

Pre-race pep talk

At 5:02, I took off in the 3rd wave. In retrospect, I should have sneaked into an earlier wave because I immediately had to pass a few dozen people in order to run the pace I was aiming for. After a few minutes of weaving through the crowd, I settled into a comfortable 9:00/mi effort.

They're off!

The 50K would start two hours later, and I knew that if Alex and I both had good races we would finish within a few minutes of each other. Since the last 15 miles of both courses were the same, there was a good chance that we could see each other somewhere during the race. This would be my motivation for most of the day.

The first three miles meandered slowly but steadily uphill, gaining about 600 feet of elevation. The sky was still pitch black, and my headlamp illuminated the raindrops as they fell in front of me. I managed to run most of the climb while keeping my heart rate in check. At the top, the sun started to peak over the mountains, and I happily switched off my headlamp. The ensuing descent was rocky and muddy, and I was limited to an 11:00/mi pace. I knew that I was in for a long day if I couldn't run the downhills quickly.

Douche grade hill for a douche grade runner

I passed through the Anthony Wayne aid station at mile 4 without stopping, but I did catch a glimpse of Eileen, who was waiting for Harry to pass through. I waved to her and thanked all of the volunteers for standing out in the rain to help us out.

The next three miles were another steady climb, gaining 700 feet. Somewhere in this section, Joe Limone caught up to me. We had run together at Lenape 50K, where you may remember I went off course repeatedly and ended up passing the same people multiple times. We tend to run at about the same pace, so we hung together for a little while, chatting about upcoming races and the usual stuff. We reached the top of the climb and I pulled ahead a bit on the downhill that followed.

It's hard to smile for a picture without wiping out on this course

While tiptoeing through the boulders and mud, my stomach started to growl at me. And not because it was hungry. Three hundred vertical feet later, I was at the Silvermine aid station at mile 8.7 and very much in need of aid.

"What can I get you?" asked a volunteer.

"Well, I could use some water, and uh... is there a bathroom nearby?" I asked.

He poured some water into my bottles and motioned to a bathroom facility only a few hundred feet away. I thanked him profusely and hobbled over. My pit stop was lightning fast, and I only lost a few minutes despite taking some additional time to wash my hands.

The course once again resumed climbing, and after a few minutes I found myself directly behind Joe.

"Hey!" I said as I caught up.

"Ryan..." he paused, "Are you doing bonus miles again?"

"Only a few hundred feet to the bathroom and back," I explained.

He seemed relieved (although not as relieved as I felt), and we resumed hiking uphill together. We topped out on a rocky undulating ridge line. As we did, the air seemed to grow colder, and the rain fell a little harder. We were only at an elevation of 1,200 feet, but it felt much higher. Thankfully, my body is a furnace when I run, and I still felt warm despite the nasty weather.

There are at least several rocks on the course.

We descended from the ridge, and I once again pulled away from Joe and the rest of the group I was with. Again, my stomach began to complain as it sloshed around on the descent. Crap! (literally) The course popped out of the woods and turned onto Arden Valley Road. A quarter mile douche-grade climb on pavement brought us to the mile 14.2 aid station, where I once again saw Eileen as well as ultrarunning friends Elaine Acosta and Wayne Pacconi who were running the aid station. They offered a few words of encouragement which brought a smile to my face.

I didn't need any water, but I was once again in desperate need of a bathroom. I waited my turn next to the occupied porta potty for a few minutes before finally giving up. The person in there was clearly taking their time, and I had places to be. With a heavy heart and a heavier stomach, I descended the hill and ran back into the woods.

I spent the next two miles looking desperately for a bush or a large rock to hide behind, all the while tripping over the rocks and roots that littered the trail. The Bear Mountain course is not conducive to sight seeing, and I was not able to focus on the trail. Finally, I spotted a massive boulder a hundred feet to my right. Grabbing my stash of paper towels from my pack, I hid behind it and desecrated the wilderness in true ultrarunner fashion.

Finally feeling normal, I got back to work on the task at hand: relentless forward progress. The course climbed and descended multiple small ridges, the tops of which were strewn with large jagged rocks and the bottoms of which were filled with mud and ankle deep standing water. Progress was slow, but I resisted the urge to push harder and expend too much energy this early in the race.

At mile 19.8, I reached the Skannatati aid station on the scenic bank of Lake Skannatati. The volunteers were friendly and enthusiastic, and they quickly refilled my bottles and sent me on my way. The next section was some fun rocky single track with a few stream crossings. I was wearing waterproof socks and brazenly splashed through the water knowing that my feet were well protected.

The Middle Part

A couple more miles of pavement and dirt roads brought us to the Camp Lanowa aid station at mile 23.2 where my drop bag was waiting. It had only been about 40 minutes between aid stations and I didn't need my warmer clothing yet, so I passed through quickly, pausing only to say "hi" to Eileen again and to hand off my headlamp to Philip Pagdanganan, another ultrarunner friend who was working the aid station. From running the race in 2015, I knew that I only had to complete a six mile loop on fire roads before I would be back at the same aid station.

"See you guys in about an hour!" I shouted as I left.

"Yeah, probably not," said a grim looking runner who was changing his clothes.

I took off down the road at a decent clip, managing a few sub-10:00 miles on the fire roads. My average pace had been hovering around 12:00/mi for most of the day, and I knew I needed to run this section quickly if I was going to finish under 10 hours and have a chance to see Alex. These miles were fairly uneventful except for two things: (1) I began to feel cold for the first time all day and (2) I had to ford a knee deep puddle that spanned the entire trail, thereby filling my precious waterproof socks with cold murky goop. There was no need for concern, I assured myself, since I had a new pair of socks and a warm long sleeve shirt in my drop bag.

I pulled back into the aid station an hour and five minutes later (take that, other runner!), and made a bee line for my drop bag. My core temperature had been slowly dropping over the last few miles, and I knew I needed to warm up. I pulled out my long sleeve Grindstone shirt, which was an intentional bit of symbolism on my part. Unfortunately, my upper body was so wet that the fabric stuck unrelentingly to my skin. Anyone who has ever tried to put on tight fitting clothing immediately after a shower can relate. This shirt just would not cooperate, and my hands had long ago lost their dexterity due to the cold. After some spastic bodily contortions and a healthy dose of grunting and swearing, I finally got the shirt on. In the two minutes it had taken me, I began to shiver uncontrollably. I knew I needed to start moving again. Gotta get the engine revving, Ry. Dry socks will have to wait.

I quickly refilled my water bottles and headed back toward the trail.



Before I could figure out what was happening, I was splayed out on my back like a starfish and I was covered in mud. I had completely wiped out in the middle of the aid station in front of every spectator and volunteer. So much for my warm dry shirt.

"Ooooooh!" they all said in unison.

Philip came over and asked if I was okay. I sat up and assessed my limbs for a second before deciding that I was probably going to live. However, my ego was severely bruised.

I ran through all kinds of crap like this only to fall on flat ground at an aid station.

For the next mile or so, I told every passing runner about my fall. Most of them just smiled and nodded (or grimaced and nodded). Not a very talkative bunch. Finally one runner responded, and we struck up a conversation. His name was Steve, and he had traveled from Ottowa to run his first 50 miler.

"Well you picked a nice easy one," I teased him.

We ran the next few miles of technical trail together. Around mile 32, he proudly announced that he had set a new distance PR. I was excited for him, especially since he still seemed to be moving well and was in good spirits.

We exited the woods and trotted up a douche-grade paved section called Lake Welch Parkway. Those of you who are paying attention might have noticed that there's a lot of this so-called douche grade climbing on this course. This was probably the worst of those sections, as we climbed for more than a mile at an uncomfortable grade on Satan's tar (aka asphalt). The fact that we were on smooth terrain and were unable to run comfortably was demoralizing at this point in the race. In fact, it was here in 2015 that a fellow runner had announced to me that he was dropping out at the next aid station because he was going too slowly (I didn't bother to mention that that was a dickish thing to say to the other runners who were going the same pace).

We finally reached the top of the climb and Steve pulled off to the side to answer the call of nature. I didn't see him again, but he would go on to finish in 10:41, which is an excellent time for the conditions we were in.

The next few miles were a sullen but uneventful affair. I was mostly running alone at this point, and the trail resuming meandering up and down rocky ridge lines. My waterproof socks, which had dutifully sheltered me from the elements for 25+ miles, were now holding a few ounces of water each, making my footsteps just a little heavier than I would have liked. The cold weather was making it difficult to stomach my Tailwind nutrition, although my energy levels felt fine.

I passed through the next aid station (mile 35.2) without stopping, which drew a round of cheers from the volunteers. I thanked them for their support as I ran by. More miles ticked by. More douche grade climbing. I just kept my head down and plugged away. I occasionally passed another 50 mile runner, which gave me a little boost of energy. The 50 mile course rejoined the 50K course around here, and I expected to see Alex any minute.

I quickly refilled on fluids at the Owl Swamp aid station (mile 38.6), ran a few muddy miles, and then passed through the Anthony Wayne aid station (mile 41.3) for the second time, where I was hoping to see my mom and in-laws, who were crewing for Alex. When they didn't appear, I knew that Alex was either doing really well or really badly. From her training and recent races, I knew she had the fitness to do well, but I was concerned that she might have fallen or otherwise gotten hurt on this ridiculous course. I picked up my pace a bit for the next few miles, running almost every hill and passing a few more 50 mile runners.

I knew the crux of the course was Timp Pass, a steep rocky climb and descent that had demoralized me back in 2015. Around mile 45, the course climbed 200 feet sharply up a rocky embankment and topped out at a bald exposed summit. Was this Timp Pass? It didn't look the way I remembered. I checked the altimeter on my GPS. We were close to 1,000 feet. How high was Timp Pass supposed to be? The descent was a wet muddy disaster. I turned my feet sideways and surfed down the slippery slope. This section resulted in my slowest mile split of the day, and I could feel a 10 hour finish slipping away.

The Grand Finale

The course descended sharply a few hundred feet more. I was still moving well, but I was ready to be done. Every time I saw a runner ahead, I expected it to be Alex, but she never appeared. Two scenarios flashed through my head. One was finishing the race and finding her waiting at the finish line with a medal around her neck and a big smile on her face. The other was finishing and not seeing her or her crew, which would mean having to run back along the course to find her and pace her in. I hoped for the first scenario.

At the bottom of the descent, the trail crossed a stream on a small wooden bridge that had collapsed into the water. I gingerly stepped across, but had to stop when the runner in front of me decided to block the path and wash his feet in the water. I gave him the ole stink eye and took a step around him.



I was down again. This time I landed on one knee. Pain shot through my leg, and then quickly subsided. Once again, I had averted disaster.

The trail turned steeply uphill and I put my head down and power hiked. From a few hundred feet above came a familiar voice...


...accompanied by a smiling face that I'd been looking forward to all day. It was Alex! She was a switchback ahead of me and moving well. A few minutes later, I had caught up and we were finally running together. Well, we were hiking together anyway. It turns out that this was the start of the infamous Timp Pass.

Alex asked if I wanted to run ahead. I did some mental math and figured that if I really pushed hard, I would probably finish in 10 hours and a few minutes. If we ran together, I'd be just a couple minutes slower. The difference between a 10:02 finish and a 10:10 finish seemed much less important than the chance to run with my wife during her first ultramarathon. It was settled: we were going to finish the race together.

The climb up Timp Pass wasn't as bad as I remembered it being, and we passed the time swapping stories from our day of running. Slowly but surely, we finished the 400 foot climb and began our final descent toward the finish line. The early portions of the descent were filled with loose rocks and running water, and we slowly picked our way through the mess, still passing other runners from time to time. We stopped briefly at the 1777 aid station (mile 48.2), where Juliet Ciaccia and Jason Friedman were volunteering. They cheered us on and assured us that we were almost done. After gulping down some warm chicken broth and a salted potato, we were on our way.

The last few miles were almost entirely downhill, although the trail was essentially a river at this point in the day. I encouraged Alex to run whenever possible, although we occasionally disagreed about the definition of a "runnable" trail.

Finally, we exited the woods and began the home stretch. I told Alex that we had to finish strong and put on a good show for the spectators. She obliged and took off at an 8:00/mi clip, huffing and puffing with each step. The finish line came into view and I grabbed her hand as we passed through the crowds of spectators lining the final tenth of a mile.

Last few steps!

We crossed the finish line hand in hand and stride for stride.


After years of training, Alex was finally an ultramarathoner! Our times were 10:09:37 for the 50 mile and 8:07:37 for the 50K, good for 42nd and 59th in our respective divisions. Alex's final effort left her completely drained of energy, and we spent a few minutes wrapped up in a hug while we both caught our breath.

A wet and muddy hug

Post Race Thoughts

Like I said, ultramarathons take a long time to run.

Leading up to this race, I had been hoping to finish around 9 or 9.5 hours. Over the course of the day, it became increasingly clear that the conditions were not going to allow that to happen. Eventually, even a 10 hour finish slipped away. The stomach issues, nutritional woes, and lousy weather conspired to put me in a sullen mood for the latter half of the race. However, being able to run with my wife for the last 4 miles of her first ultramarathon more than made up for any shortcomings I felt about my performance. In the span of time that it took for me to recognize Alex ahead of me on the trail, any feelings of disappointment or frustration evaporated and were replaced by overwhelming happiness that I could run with Alex for a while.

I hope I can carry this feeling of gratefulness and positivity into my next race. But if not, well... I'll just keep running until my mood improves.


Speaking of being grateful... big thanks to our crew: mom, Julie, Dave, Kelly, and Kyle who all came out to stand in the rain and support us. I didn't get to see them on course, but they drove us to and from the venue and even handled my wet and muddy clothes after I got changed afterwards. And thanks to all of the volunteers who came out to run the aid stations and direct runners on the course. You guys are the backbone of the race, and your enthusiasm is contagious.

Full race results can be found here.

My GPS refused to upload my data to Strava, but you can check out data from a similarly paced runner here.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

NJ Marathon 2017

Since 2013, the NJ Marathon has been my annual attempt to set a personal best at the marathon distance. The course is pancake flat, and it's early enough in the year that the weather is usually mild. Here's a quick recap of this year's race.

Coming into the finish


I followed a bastardized version of Pfitzinger's 18/70 plan (18 weeks, 70mi/wk max). Bastardized in the sense that Pftiz doesn't tell his athletes to run trail ultras in preparation for a road marathon. Whatever, man. I ended up running 980 of the prescribed 1090 miles for an average of 54mi/wk. I missed a few days of training with a brief Achilles tendon issue, a few more due to sickness, and some just for rest and recovery.

The bread and butter of the Pfitz plan is the medium-long run. There are 2-3 of these scheduled each week, and they are 12-15 miles in length. The goal is to start them 20% slower than marathon pace and finish 10% slower than MP. With 3:10 (7:15/mi) as my somewhat arbitrary goal, these runs would start at 8:42/mi and finish at 7:58/mi. I was pretty successful in sticking to this formula. However, I missed a ton of scheduled speed work (i.e. track intervals, half marathon pace runs, race pace run, etc.) for various reasons, so I was not confident in my ability to run much faster than this med-long pace on race day.

Lesson for next time: More speed work! Marathons are fast. Improve that VO2 max and lactate threshold. And get comfortable running fast.

The Race

We got to the starting line 30 minutes before the scheduled start. Normally this would be plenty of time, but it became immediately apparent that there were not enough porta potties for the amount of runners in attendance. It took - and I am not exaggerating - 28 minutes to get through the bathroom line. After one of the more stressful bowel movements of my life, I made it to my starting corral just as the gun went off. Warm up be damned, here we go!

Lesson for next time: Arrive earlier. No need to stress out any more than necessary.

Miles 1-5: 7:07, 7:00, 7:13, 7:06, 7:04

Because of my late start, I ended up about 100 feet behind the 3:10 pace group, led by US 24-hour Team member Rich Riopel. It took a few minutes and far too much effort to weave through the mass of slow moving folks who probably shouldn't have been in that starting corral. Such is life in road running.

My first impression was that the pace team was taking us out a bit too fast. However, it would soon become clear that I just sucked at running the tangents of the course and was slowly adding extra distance on to my race. My GPS splits would rapidly begin to differ from the official course markings by a few tenths of a mile.

Lesson for next time: stay far enough behind the pace group that I can run the tangents. It's too crowded when you're right next to the pacers.

My breathing was under control, and I was feeling optimistic about achieving my goal time. The weather was almost ideal, with overcast skies and temperatures in the mid-50's all day. However, my legs were not used to the pace, and it required constant concentration to stay with the pack.

Miles 6-10: 7:09, 7:08, 7:08, 7:07, 7:09

Random thoughts while running:

There are a lot of freaking turns on this course. And I'm not running the tangents on any of them.

That guy in front of me looks a lot like Otto Lam. Holy crap, it's Otto Lam!

Me: "Hey Otto!"

Otto: [blank stare]

Marathon pace is hard! I should have practiced running fast.

We were hitting our official mile splits almost perfectly, despite what my GPS was telling me. I was still moving well, but I had a feeling that I wouldn't be able to hold this pace for the entire race. A lot of negative thoughts were already forming in my mind.

This is gonna hurt...

Miles 11-15: 7:01, 7:09, 7:12, 6:59, 7:11

Still on track for 3:10. For now...

I officially split 1:35:05 for the half marathon, which was a 2 minute improvement on my (very old, very soft) personal best from 2015. That was encouraging, but I was seriously doubting that I could run another 13.1 miles at that pace.

The pacers were concerned that we were a few seconds too slow at the half marathon point, and they picked up their pace in the next mile. Hence the 6:59 split. That one hurt a bit. I suspect that the timing mat was actually in the wrong spot because we were 20-30 second ahead of 3:10 pace by the mile 14 marker.

At some point in this section, I did something that I've never done in a race before. I told off another runner. Here's what went down: he had been stopping dead in his tracks in the middle of the road at every water station, which inevitably tripped up the runners behind him. That put him on my shit list, but that's not what set me off. Rather, it was the fact that he kept sidling up to me and slowly running me off the road. I was running on the right side of the road and he sidled up to my left shoulder, gradually pushing me into the sidewalk. I backed off the pace and let him in front. A mile later, it happened again. So I moved to the left side of the road, and he sidled up to me and gradually pushed me into the median. After the 3rd or 4th instance of this, I finally barked at him, "You have the entire road to work with! Give me some space." He mumbled an apology and it didn't happen again.

Miles 16-20: 7:17, 7:12, 7:25, 7:19, 7:45

The pace group slowly started to pull away from me around mile 18. I considered making a mad dash to re-join them, but didn't want to completely burn out with more than 8 miles left to run. More random thoughts:

Hey, someone is playing Bruno Mars! 'Cause uptown funk gon' give it to ya! 'Cause uptown funk gon' give it to ya! 'Cause uptown funk gon' give it to ya! Saturday night and we in the spot. Don't believe me just watch!

[awkwardly tries to dance while running]

Well that was a fun 30 seconds. I have so much energy now!

[30 seconds later]

And the adrenaline rush has officially worn off. Jesus, there really are a lot of turns on this course.

Mile 19 marked the turnaround, where we began to head north along the shoreline. The weather reports had predicted winds from the northeast all day, so I had been hoping to stay with the pacers and let them act as a wind break. Unfortunately, I entered this section solo and had the full force of the wind in my face. Hence the sudden drop in pace.

Miles 21-26: 7:44, 7:56, 7:59, 7:57, 7:41, 7:43

I had officially hit the wall. I was able to manage my collapse better than in previous races, and my pace only slipped by 30-40 seconds per mile (in the past, I have often lost more than a minute per mile in the last 10K of marathons).

The stretch of road from mile 20-25 is the quietest segment of the race. There were a few spectators at intersections, but otherwise I was alone with the sound of my breathing and my increasingly heavy footsteps on the pavement. I focused on my form: run tall, stay on your toes, push through the glutes and hamstrings (rather than the quads), high cadence, elbows back, shoulders relaxed... Going through this system check every so often helped mitigate the collapse.

This is not an efficient way to run.

Thankfully, I started to pass other pace groups on this out and back section. The pace leaders are mainly trail and ultrarunners from the NY/NJ area, so I happen to know quite a few of them. Paul DeNunzio shouted a few words of encouragement as he passed by. Elaine Acosta waved hello and snapped a picture of me (incidentally, she might be the only runner in the world that takes pictures of the spectators). Ken Tom, who had paced my mom and her friend to half marathon finishes earlier in the race, provided his own unique brand of motivation.

Me: "Hey it's Ken Tom!"

Ken: "Ryan Thorpe! You sexy sexy man, you!"

Me: [blushes]

All of this support helped to mitigate the meltdown that my body was having. I had known for a few miles that 3:10 was not going to happen, but 3:15 was still a distinct possibility. I would have to push hard to hit that goal though. I did a little math in my head. My last few miles would have to be under 8:00 each. Borrowing a line from Nick Hollon, I thought to myself "this ain’t no sob story, GO!!"

Around mile 25, the course turned onto Ocean Ave, and the crowds grew bigger and more lively. I saw a few ultimate frisbee friends, who had dragged a full couch onto the sidewalk and were drunkenly cheering for the runners.

Friend 1: "It's Thorpe!"

Friend 2: "Go Thorpe!"

Friend 1: "I'm gonna give you Kudos on Strava!" [he did]

The cheers were a huge mental boost. A half mile from the finish I saw Harry Uberti, a fellow ultrarunner and world class motivator.

Harry: "Is that the legend?"

Me: [Jersey fist pump]

Harry: "It is! It's the legend, Ryan Thorpe, ladies and gentlemen!"

Harry ran a few hundred feet with me and offered some much needed words of encouragement. He told me I was looking strong, and I resisted the urge to call him a goddamn liar. Then he said that he was having trouble keeping up with me, and that put a little more pep in my step.

I hit the mile 26 marker with just under two minutes left to hit my new 3:15 goal. I turned on the jets and ran the last two tenths at a 7:15 pace. I passed by my family and flashed a big smile as they cheered for me.

I kinda thought this pose would look cooler in pictures.

I finished in 3:14:51, a 2+ minute improvement on my previous PR, and 153rd of 2,045 runners. Not bad for a stocky mountain runner!

Post Race Thoughts

It ended up being a day full of PR's for my friends and family. Alex took seven (!?) minutes off her half marathon PR, and somehow finished looking like this:

I'm still not convinced that this was taken in an actual race. It looks too good!

My mom finished the half marathon 43 seconds under her old PR, despite various training setbacks and nagging injuries. My friends and training partners Andrew and Scott both finished their first marathons, Andrew running a negative split and Scott powering through debilitating cramps over the last half of the race.

Although I was initially disappointed that to fall so short of my time goal, I'm happy to come away with new half marathon and full marathon PR's. And here's the good news: this sets me up for another PR at the NYC Marathon in November!

The Thorpe, Dresser, Finn crew with our fancy medals

Julie, Andrew, Me, Alex, Scott, Mom, and Beth after our post-race meal.
There are 5 PR's represented in this picture!

What worked:

My gear all performed admirably. I wore my Salomon shorts, a Tesla compression shirt, and synthetic Injinji socks, and had no issues with blisters or chafing. Due to Achilles concerns, I used an old pair of Brooks Glycerins, which have a larger heel drop than my usual Altras. The lack of Achilles pain afterwards suggests that this was a good idea. I also used a FlipBelt to carry my gels instead of cramming them all in my shorts or arm sleeves. This worked really well.

My nutrition worked pretty well, despite the fact that I hadn't practiced with it at all this year. I ate a Gu gel every 4 miles and was able to stomach it without any issues. I didn't carry any fluids, but still finished the race feeling well hydrated. I hit the wall at the end, but I think this was a result of pacing rather than a lack of calories.

What didn't work:

While my weekly mileage was higher than ever, my speed work was not sufficient to prepare me for race pace. I need to spend more time at marathon pace (or faster) during my training runs. Perhaps scheduling a tune up 10K or half marathon would have helped with this. But that will all have to wait a few months, because I'm now transitioning into full-on mountain mode for my summer races.

I enjoy running with pacers, but I need to stay far enough behind the pack that I can run the tangents. This probably didn't cost me much time, but it meant that I had to expend a little more energy at every turn to stay with the pace group. My pace and perceived effort in the early miles reflects this.

Worryingly, I started having negative thoughts very early in the race, as I began to rationalize why I wouldn't hit my goal time. Perhaps I was just being realistic, or perhaps this is what happens when I focus to intently on hitting exact mile splits. Either way, there were a few very depressing moments in this race, and I'd like to avoid that in future races. Maybe better race-prep would help with this.

Next Up

I'm going back to the mountains for the North Face Endurance Challenge: Bear Mountain 50 miler on 5/13. Then I get a month to recover before the daunting Manitou's Revenge 54 miler in the Catskills.