The Lt. JC Stone 50K was one of the best racing experiences I've ever had. This was a remarkably well-run race--flawlessly planned and executed and fun (at least from my standpoint as a runner) thanks to a great RD in Lou D'Angelo and amazingly "professional" volunteers, many of whom are local Rotary Club members. I had a great time and consider the Lt. JC Stone 50K an exceptional ultramarathon experience.
A post-race photo with Noah wearing our medal is now a tradition in the Hornsby house. Here he is wearing the beautiful Lt. JC Stone 50K medal. He and Anne are such an inspiration. When things get tough on the course, I think about them and how I want Noah to be proud of me for toughing it out.
The course consisted of one 6-mile section followed by five 5-mile loops around the lake at North Park, which is just north of Pittsburgh. The course was awesome, though a tad hilly in some areas to make a PR effort pretty difficult. I could feel all the history on this course--it was the course for the now-defunct GNC Ultras, which hosted a number of national championships and saw many great runners come through, such as Howard Nippert, Jim Garcia, Mark Godale, Tim Clement, Connie Gardner (who ran again in this year's Stone), Ian Torrence, Courtney Campbell and other big names.
Me looking like a Saturday morning jogger during the first lap, when it was 20 degrees and I had to keep warm in my sweat pants and 100% cotton sweatshirt--both of which came off after 6 miles.
Lt. JC Stone was a special forces soldier in Vietnam who was killed in action in, I believe, 1969. There is a field at North Park that the course passes by that is named after Lt. Stone. His brother told JC's story before the race and then ran a lap with us. This really brought meaning to the race. There was a great patriotic tone to the entire experience--from JC's story to the medals and tee-shirts given to the finishers--that made many of us very proud to be there.
I was nervous going into the race. My nervousness really came down to two factors: 1) this was my first experience with a road ultra and 2) I wasn't feeling great because of my cold. As such, my approach was to respect the course and stay in control, while still trying for a sub-3:40 time.
It was very cold at the start--about 20 degrees--and unexpectedly overcast. For the first lap, I decided at the last minute to wear my Adidas warm-up pants and a regular cotton sweatshirt, all of which I shed at my car at the 6-mile point. I was then down to my race outfit, which consisted of Patgonia compression shorts, Race Ready shorts with gels, e-caps etc., an insulated UnderArmour shirt, my SERC racing singlet, a beanie, mittens and my new Asics GT 2140s. I elected not to go with my lightweight trainers because I felt the distance, combined with my size (168 lbs.), was a little much for lightweight trainers. Turns out my 2140s held up well, though I did come down with some nasty blisters.
After shedding the warm-up attire, I was all systems go.
Out of 55 starters, I finished 5th overall with a 3:46. I felt strong and mentally and physically in the game the entire time. My legs never failed on me. I felt no bad aches and pains (a big surprise), except for some bad blistering on my left foot. I am beginning to think my daily intake of glucosamine is paying off. Here are my lap times:
6 mile: 42:21
11 mile: 35:55
16 mile: 36:15
21 mile: 36:57
26 mile: 37:45
31 mile: 37:25
Coming into the finish with a 3:46 and 5th place finish.
I see those times as relatively consistent. At the 26-mile mark, I was running 8th and picked off three runners in the final 5 miles. I was a little disappointed that I didn't break 3:40 and my marathon split of 3:08 was kind of sucky, but I have a bad cold, this was my first-ever road ultra, and, all things considered, the overall result was pretty good.
Congratulations to elite ultrarunner Connie Gardner, who finished 1st female and 6th overall with a time of 3:50, collecting top-female honors at the Stone two years in a row. A big thanks to Connie's crewguy, Tom, who offered to crew me as well and did a great job making sure I had what I needed. Tom gave me a Red Bull for the last 5-mile lap that totally turbo-charged me. I will use Red Bull at the Mohican 100 for sure. Anyway, I ran strong the whole way and never really lost pace.
What I Learned
The primary area where I went wrong was spending too much time at the main aid station. I spent about 30 seconds at each main aid station stop, probably adding at least 3-4 minutes onto my total time. I should have approached the aid station like I would in a marathon--take water or Gatorade and keep running--never stopping. I had plenty of gels on me and could easily have hydrated and eaten on the run. Along these lines, a 50K road race should be run like a marathon plus 5 miles--go hard, don't stop and consume liquids and gels on the run.
I also learned that while my strength and endurance are very good right now--probably better than ever--my leg turnover still needs improvement. I look back on where I was going into the 2008 Columbus Marathon (before my hamstring injury) and that's where I want to be. It's going to take some time and continued effort on the track and in my tempo runs. But the good news is that my endurance is off the charts right now. I can go, go and go some more.
We live and learn. All in all, a great day and a great way to start the 2009 racing season.
Now for the training week recap portion of this post. The previous training week I crested 90 miles before going into a one-week Lt. JC Stone taper. The week was pretty humdrum and went like this:
Tuesday: 8.05 miles easy in the Chagrin River valley
Wednesday: 8.1 miles easy in the Chagrin River valley
Thursday: 8.1 miles easy in the Chagrin River valley
Friday: 5 miles super easy on the treadmill
Saturday: 31.84 miles at the Lt. JC Stone 50K (included 0.5-mile warm-up)
Sunday: 9 miles easy in the flattest areas of South Chagrin Reservation (mainly the area between the sledding hill and Polo Field). I went pretty slow and took it easy.
Total miles for week: 70.09
Total miles for month: 258.42
Total miles for year: 806.89
Still fighting a cold and some minor discomfort in my right hamstring, my plan for this week is to recover, eat really well and continue with core strengthening. I'll take Monday off and then start running on Tuesday with a total weekly goal of 70-plus miles.
The following week I'll be back on the track and doing my tempo running.
My next event will likely be the Forget the PR Mohican 50K, which I'll use as a training run for the Mohican 100. Nothing like time on the course...and on my feet.
Onward and upward!