Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Redefining the Grind

2012 JFK 50 Mile Race Report

Grinding down the towpath.

Perspective is a strange thing.  Case in point, I just ran 5:45 at this year's 50th running of the JFK 50 Mile. That is the 5th fastest time in race history.  It would have been a new course record in the first 48 editions of the race.  Sounds like I have a lot to be excited about right?  Well, I am - sort of - but my perspective tempers my excitement.  It just didn't feel like I ran very fast last Saturday.

First of all, I ran 5 minutes slower than last year.  Granted, that was one of those phenomenal races where everything just comes together perfectly.  It's not realistic to think every race could be that way, but it's hard to forget how that felt.  Secondly, I came in third place this year.  It's even more difficult to feel great when you watch 2 guys roll by you effortlessly and know you won't be seeing them again until the finish line.

So the best description of how I feel about my race is that it felt like a Grind.  I never felt particularly good or fast, I just gutted it out and never gave up even though I didn't feel smooth early.  But I am proud of myself for grinding it out.  Especially after a DNF at UROC six weeks ago and the ensuing injury that hampered my training since, I really needed a solid race.  I knew my training hadn't been perfect, and I wasn't quite in the same form as last year, but JFK gave me a chance to learn how strong I am - mentally as much or more than physically.  

Here are a few more highlights from the race:

Max and I ran relatively close together for a good portion of the Appalachian Trail.  I think he was content just to sit a few seconds back, being careful not to make a mistake, and just wait for the towpath.  My legs felt relatively good on the AT.  I was a minute or so faster hitting the towpath after being slower to the trailhead at the start, so I ran the technical section a good bit faster than last year.  It's fairly apparent where my training has been focused the last six months, and I was very strong on the rocky trail because of that focus.

The grinding really began when I hit the towpath.  Max passed me within a mile and was gone.  Last year I was consciously holding myself back to keep from running sub 6:30 pace early, whereas this year I didn't feel smooth running sub 6:40 and the legs began aching early.  My lack of fast, flat long runs over the last 6 months was very apparent.

My nutrition situation has been a problem most of the year, and this race was no exception.  I dropped out of UROC largely due to stomach problems, and because of my injury, I wasn't able to practice a new nutrition strategy between then and JFK.  But something had to change, so I went ahead with my untested strategy which consisted of only drinking GU Roctane...no gels.  I had the occasional pretzel, a couple swallows of Coke, and a few salt tabs, but other than that it was just the high-calorie Roctane drink.  Clearly I survived following this plan, but the stomach definitely could have felt better.  I need to continue tweaking and practicing my nutrition plan, but I imagine this will be my biggest weakness for some time to come.

Max King and Trent Briney just raised the bar and redefined what is humanly possible on that course.  I have my work cut out for me if I want to challenge their times next year.

That's a pretty solid top 10 group of guys.

So what now?  To be honest, I'm not sure.  I didn't earn an entry into Western States, so that doesn't look like a real high possibility for June.  I'm tossing around a few ideas though.  I know I'm going to focus on the World 100k that will be run in South Korea next October.  This spring I think I could go two ways.  I could train to run a fast, flat 100 miler.  Or I could go back to real road marathon training and see what I'm capable of now.  The road marathon speed would serve me well next fall at World 100k and if I decide to run JFK again.

First though, I'm going to take a few weeks, get everything healthy, and enjoy the holidays.  I hope you do the same.

King, Riddle and Clifton.  19 years of the JFK course record.

1 comment:

  1. Congrats on a stellar race, David. Sounds like you did a great job of managing many variables on race day. Be proud.