Friday, November 20, 2015

Stone Mill 50 Mile Race Report

This was my second time running the Stone Mill 50 Mile. I ran the JFK 50 in 2013, and chose this last year as it was closer to home and cheaper. Last year, my time was 11:33, which was higher than I had anticipated. While the time was higher, my body felt great, and this feeling of completion and non-debilitating, good soreness was what led to my eventual running of the C and O 100 mile.

Photo by Jonathan Bird

This race really started for me on Friday night. We carb loaded at a small Italian place in Adams Morgan called Pasta Mia. Our company, the Turners, had their first date at this restaurant ten years ago so they joined. It was a nostalgic walk down memory lane for them and a great meal for us. I ate my pasta, most of my wife’s, some of my friend’s wife's, and a bit of my friend’s. From a carbohydrate standpoint, I was ready for this race.

I went back and forth leading up to the race about what to carry. I decided on using Andrea’s old camelbak since it holds more water and stuff. My plan was to use tailwind powder throughout the race and utilize the food at the aid stations. I packed 5 small ziplocs filled with tailwind, creating the illusion that I was both a runner and a drug runner. I also packed two fruit mush pouches that I impulse bought at Starbucks the day before, and had two gels leftover from the last time I used the pack (ooops). I had two goals leading up to this race: Finish under ten hours and beat my time from last year, 11:33. The ten hour goal was a little arbitrary, but based on some recent race times, and with the help of the internet, it seemed in play.

When we arrived at the race, the school was locked (no fault of the race director). We quickly hunted down a McDonalds because I really had to go (see: Pasta Mia). Back to the school, and we were gone. Traversing the woods in the early morning darkness, with several hundred other runners wearing headlamps was quite magical. I wish I had a picture, but it was across between the Peter Pan ride at Disney World and the Blair Witch Project.

I had mentally divided the race into three parts: the first 27 miles, miles 27-34, and 34 - 50. The first 27 I am familiar with, and it is early in the race, so I figured I’d be able to get through it pretty easily. The next segment, my goal was to keep pace until I saw Andrea at 34. Finally, for the last stretch, I would utilize things I had been resisting, such as Coca Cola and music.

The first 27 miles went great. The terrain was beautiful and runnable, and I felt like I was moving at a good pace. The rolling hills keep you engaged but not panicked. I reached the Stone Mill Aid Station at Mile 27 at 11:00 AM, 5 hours into the race. There was maybe a mile on sidewalks (which was a welcome break from trail running) and three on the C and O Canal (ditto). I had one fall during the trail part of this section, but it wasn’t bad. It felt like a reminder to wake up and start paying attention. At Stone Mill I had a couple grilled cheese pieces and refilled with Tailwind. New to the course this year, we actually ran through the Stone Mill (instead of past it). It wasn’t a huge change or big deal, but it was cool.

Photo by Alex Reichmann

From mile 27 - 34, I really pushed it, coming into 34 at 12:20 PM. Unfortunately, I was meeting Andrea there at 12:30, and missed her. In addition to being in the doghouse for the rest of the race, I didn’t have my music, which I was planning on listening to.

Photo by Ken Trombatore

Put bluntly, miles 34-40 crushed me. Every hill seemed bigger than the next, and while my pace was decreasing, it felt like I was exerting more effort than earlier in the race. I wasn’t comfortable temperature-wise, and a stream crossing had my shoes soaking wet (although that felt kind of good). I also went down a few more times. Once again, not bad, just caught a toe on a rock or root, more demoralizing mentally than anything physical. It was in this section that I met a nice woman named Rebecca from Philly who was in the process of organizing a 50K that followed all of the routes that Rocky ran (how cool is that?!).

I hit mile 40 at 2:15 PM, and was able to regroup, eat some ramen, and give myself a little pep-talk. With ten miles left, I was back to running the 12 minute miles I planned, and Andrea and I were able to see each other at mile 44 (right near where her parents live). I finished strong, before the sun went down, in 10:13:47.

The Good:

Reached one of my two goals, and the other is “in range” as they say.
Well organized race with friendly and helpful volunteers.
Aid stations had great food and support.
Weather was the nicest fall day so far.
This little gem at the finish line:

The Bad:
I fell a bunch of times. I wound up wearing my normal road shoes, because I was having shoe issues (long story) leading up to the race.

Moving Forward:

I recommend this race to anyone looking for a fall 50 miler. The course is beautiful and fair, and is centrally located for a lot of folks.

1 comment:

  1. This was my first 50 miler, and "it was across between the Peter Pan ride at Disney World and the Blair Witch Project" describes the beginning so perfectly! It was such a great day for a run, and I loved this race! Congrats on your PR!