Friday, November 20, 2015

Stone Mill 50 Race Recap

In early September a Facebook post from a bunch of friends saying they signed up for Stone Mill got me interested.  A few weeks later I was signed up and started training.  I figured I had about 5 weeks to build up to acceptable shape and I did.  Every one of my friends dropped out, but I decided to stick with it.  Going into the race I had no clue what my pace would be.  I’ve run 3 50s.  One was in the snow, and two were fatasses where I ran completely alone for 35 miles.  I scanned past results and settled for a goal of around 8:45.  Which would be a 45 minute PR at the distance.  Knowing the course is very runnable I did a lot of miles of training on the Perkiomen trail and the regular trails at Evansburg.  The trails of Stone Mill were very similar in elevation to Evansburg.

The first mile of Stone Mill is downhill on a sidewalk before hitting the trails.  I was probably somewhere around 30th place and the pace was just right for this early on.  Mile 2, when we hit the trail, was a 9:59 and that was the slowest mile for the next 20+.  My plan was to stop as little as possible at aid stations.  I wore a pack with a bladder for the first time ever.  For every Aid Station up to mile 24 I simply grabbed a handful of chips or pretzels and kept moving.  Kym and the kids came to help me out and I would basically just get high-fives and keep going.
Photo: Ken Trombatore

The course was very well marked.  The only part where I was slightly confused was I didn’t know there was a long (~2 mile?) road section leading to the mile 14 Aid Station.  I was following a group of runners who appeared to know what they were doing, but I couldn’t help question it.  We crossed a 4 lane highway, then ran about a mile on the sidewalk, then crossed right back over it when they realized we shouldn’t have crossed the road.  The fact that we were on the wrong side of the road is probably why I wasn’t seeing any course markings.  But eventually we came to the aid station and crossed under the road back to the trail.

Photo: James Williams
Shortly after this a deer popped out and ran in front of a few of us on the trail for a few seconds.  It was a big buck with a nice rack.  It then left the trail and turned around and ran full speed about 50 feet in front of us directly across our path.  About mile 45 I saw another deer running full speed.  It was grunting like wild pig. Or maybe I was just delirious at that point.

Photo: James Williams
Everything went pretty smoothly and at mile 24 I handed Kym my pack and took a handheld for the 3 mile section along the towpath.  I didn’t want a full pack bouncing around on that fast section.  But, there was a stiff headwind the whole time to slow me down.  I did 3 sub 9 minute miles, and they turned out to be the last three miles I’d do under a 10 minute pace for the rest of the day.

Photo: Dan Reichman
At the next aid station I grabbed a half a PB&J, and that ended up not sitting well with me.  I spent a lot of the next section trying to figure out if I’d puke or not.  I didn’t, and when I got to mile 34 I was pretty miserable.  I couldn’t eat anything, but Kym gave me a ginger chew.  It seemed to really calm my stomach and I was able to churn on.  When I got to mile 37 aid station my watch read 35 miles.  I was 3 miles to the next Aid and when I got there my watch read 39 miles.  According to my watch this section was a mile longer than advertised, but I’d been expecting those miles to be made up at some point.  From mile 40 on I tried to justify walking every hill possible.  But the hills are so small it was hard to justify, and when I did walk, it didn’t feel right so I’d quickly start running slowly again.

I made my final exit of the trail just in front of a guy I had passed.  As we started up the road he passed me and we jockeyed a few times.  He joked it was like a snail chasing a turtle.  At one point I gave up chasing him and turned around.  I saw two other people exit the trail and decided I didn’t want to get passed.  I ran strong to the finish.  When I crossed the finish line, the announced said “Tim, come see me.”  I was the first 40+ year-old-finisher and that won me the Maryland Masters State Championship.  On paper, the best running accomplishment of my life?  8:31:18, 16th overall, 1st out of 66 in my age group.
If coach woulda put me in fourth quarter, we would've been state champions