Tuesday, October 18, 2011

New River Trail 50K – Jimbo’s day of awesomeness

I enjoyed this race last year, but for some reason didn’t end up registering until a few days before – so late that there was a distinct risk of not getting a t-shirt, and as you are probably aware, the only reason to do these things is to get a t-shirt to prove I actually did do the thing…..

Each race I do in this part of the world, I am guaranteed to know at least a handful of people – this was no exception. From Tammy volunteering at the registration desk (who would also run as sweep), Laura, Lauren, Daniel, Bill, probably someone who I forgot (but you get the point). And I really like this aspect of our sport – and even if I didn’t know anyone at the beginning of the race, I am pretty much guaranteed to know someone by the time the day is done.

So, how did my day go? Pretty well actually – thanks for asking. I did go into the race with somewhat high expectations of what I would achieve; I have been running well, slogging through the heat and humidity of the NC summer, this was going to be my first cool run, and an opportunity to see how well my endurance levels had improved through the summer. So, yeah, I definitely thought there would be some pressure on my 50K PR (5:35 from Derby last November). I told one friend that my “WTF?? LOL dream-time” would be sub 5:30.

As the race got underway, I just felt on top of the world, and each mile was going by at quite a few seconds under 10 mins per mile – even after a pit stop 5 miles in, I was managing to remain below that average.
As the journey continued, my pace kept creeping up, mile after mile went by quicker than the mile before it, and before long, the first 13.1 mile split came up – just under 2:04. That’s good; I think I have only done one or two actual half-marathons with that kind of time.

It was at this point I made a decision to just keep hammering away until I fell apart – sooner or later it would happen, I wanted to find out when. So I pushed the pace. I hit the halfway point at 2:23 or so, and felt incredible. I started to believe that today I was going to see a performance that would be special. It was around about then that I saw Laura coming the other way after the turnaround – I estimated that she was probably about 1.5-2 miles ahead of me – she was second place female at that point, and was looking strong – in all honesty, to be that close to someone of Laura’s caliber at that point in a race was yet another sign that I was having a good day.
About a mile or so from the turnaround

After the turnaround, I ran with Stephen for a while. Stephen is another Raleigh area runner, and even though we have ran many of the same races, we had not actually met before. Even at this stage, the average pace was increasing.

I saw Lauren coming the other way –– Lauren is just coming back from an injury, and it looked as though everything was going well for her, and when I stopped to take a picture, Stephen went on his way and I couldn’t catch up to him again.

Lauren approaching the turnaround
And here s the picture Lauren took of me taking a picture of her.....

As the miles went by, three things started to emerge as possibilities, 1) Not only a PR, but a sub 5-hr 50k (WTF?? LOL!) 2) A PR for a marathon (WTF?? LOL!) 3) and a sub 2-hr split for my second 13.1 – (another PR).

By 25 miles, 1) and 2) were now a given (subject to not having a catastrophic failure), 3) was borderline. So I pushed the pace up a notch to see if I could do it. I did – barely, I think it was 1:59:40. Marathon split 4:03:xx. Hindsight being 20:20, I wouldn’t have done that almost sprint (LOL), because it was a stretch and it did take me out of my comfort zone. The result of that being I really felt the after effects of that extra push for the rest of the race, and I couldn’t quite get back up to the pace I was holing so well up to about mile 25. I started to walk a few yards every half mile – even doing that though I was still maintaining a reasonable pace, but I was barely hanging on.

By miles 28/29 or so, I was very tired, I had been up since 4am, and that combined with the overall effort for the day was taking its toll. Time to get the thing done, I was fading fast. It looked like my time was going to end up between 4:50 and 4:55, which delighted me.

I came across the finish line in 4:52:12 – Laura took this picture. Lots of smiles. More smiles later when I learned that Laura had finished as first place female. Congratulations.

Yay.... Awesomeness!
(Picture by Laura)

OK, I can be a little superstitious, sometimes strangely so. When I looked at the official results, the perso who finished immediately before me – his name began with a “J”, and so did the three people immediately behind me. That’s just weird, 5 J’s in a row out of just 100 or so finishers? What makes it especially spooky is that my big race this fall is Javelina Jundred – often shortened to JJ. I am taking this as a sign from the UltraGods. So yay for the ‘J’s’!

Annette Bednosky, the RD asks a good question on her blog. Basically it would appear that this is a first time ultra for many of the participants, and apparently some people were questioning the lack of age group awards, finishers medals etc. I know that Annette would welcome feedback; so, here is my opinion for what it is worth…… I think in general, races are way more enjoyable when an RD puts on a race that he or she would like to run, their own dream race so to speak – and as a runner, that ultimately means that I get a race that puts the runners first (as opposed to profits, sponsors, expo exhibitors, the park/city  etc.,). The New River Trail 50k is I am sure a race that Annette would like to run – fast, environmentally friendly, homemade goodies, using local suppliers, beautiful scenery etcetera.  I like the idea of random drawings for a ‘door prize’ (despite not winning AGAIN!) instead of age group awards  (I wouldn't win those either :)), I like the Patagonia shirt. I regret that I didn’t enter early enough to get the pottery instead of the Nathan bottle (not that there is anything wrong with the Nathan bottle), that’s my fault though, but I do like the fact that there would have been a choice.

When I finished, I received a handshake, a hug, and a ‘congratulations’ from the RD, who was genuinely pleased for my PR’s – who also happens to be an ultrarunner whose achievements I admire greatly. Don’t me wrong, I love bling and would never turn it down, but that meant a lot more than a medal. I was greeted at the finish line by the smiling faces of friends and volunteers and race director, and I celebrated my personal triumph with an awesome homemade chili, with fresh baked sourdough bread. Annette, I am pretty sure this is the kind of race you would like, after all, it has your hallmark all over it – keep it your way, keep it as a race that you would like to run, because if you do that, people like me will continue to flock to your race – and I hope you think that’s a good thing.

Laura and I with bananas -- kinda like Hinson :)
Picture by Lauren

Three happy finisher, Lauren, Jimbo and Laura
(Picture by Chad)


  1. Great work -- Congratulations on the PRs! See you there next year, I hope!