50K (31.1 miles) – not a race for the average runner. Over the years, I have always admired Ultra Runners, vowing to one day run more than just a marathon (26.2 miles). On October 8th, 2011 I completed the New River Trail 50K (Ultra-Marathon) in Fries, Virginia…AMAZING EXPERIENCE!
Over the last few months, my training consisted of a loose schedule of weekly runs, always ending with a long run either Saturday or Sunday. Balking many ultra training programs, I averaged 35 miles a week, focusing on quality over quantity. Additionally, I spent time in the gym working out with free weights three days a week. My longest run was only 18 miles; my ‘loose’ schedule included three 20+ long runs, though schedule and injury inhibited execution.
During race week, I took the taper seriously; consumed plenty of water and ate like a King. Friday afternoon, we (my friend and training partner Rasmus Eger Pedersen) departed for Galax, Viginia where we would spend the night before the early morning race start. When traveling to a new destination, you are always rolling the dice on a good meal the night before the race. During the drive up, we choose Ciro’s Pizza & Subs (Friday Night Pizza Buffet) in the beautiful town of Independence, Virginia. What a great decision! Not only was the staff friendly, but the homemade pizza was perfect. Following dinner we arrived at hotel in Galax, and were asleep by 9pm.
The morning came fast, and before we knew it, we were standing behind a chalk starting line with 122 other runners. Everyone was friendly and ready to start, especially those with minimal clothing. I don’t remember a gun going off, just 3, 2, 1, GO! As we took off, I ensured my watch started correctly, and settled into a comfortable pace. Before starting the race there were two goals; finish and stay under 4 hours, if 4 hours was not attainable due to other circumstances, just focus on finishing.
Packs began to form depending on pace. In our group there was myself, Rasmus, Brad Belfiore, and Matthew Cared. We chatted for a few miles, holding our pace consistently with what we were targeting. At mile 7, we all discussed stopping to take a quick urination break, as sticking together was important to us all. We all stopped…Matt kept going; we were down to a pack of three.
We continued together, refilling our water bottles at the mile 10 aid station…next aid station was the 15 mile turnaround, a place where we could recover what we placed in the bag drop. As we approached the turning point, leaders passed us in the opposite direction…we began to count others in front to gauge position. After a brief count, our pack of three was in position 10, 11, and 12. Mile 15 aid station was a quick stop; I exchanged water bottles and kept moving, there was no stopping as we had a goal to meet.
After the aid station, our pace varied, mostly in the sub 7:40 range due to adrenaline, and the notion we were headed back toward the finish..15 miles to go. As we passed other runners coming towards the turn, we congratulated them and said some words of encouragement. Around mile 20 our pack got quiet, each personally battling the beginnings of fatigue. Focusing on the beautiful scenery, and making small talk passed the time until mile 24 where we would stop for another urination break.
The last few miles were blurry and painful. Somehow, we managed to slightly pick up the pace (this was the only way to push through the burning sensation coming from our calves) and pass a few other runners that had slowed down. At mile 28 we secured positions 6, 7 and 8; JUST HOLD IT! Every step hurt, and the focus was solely on finishing and not stopping. About a ¼ mile from the finish our pack split up upon consensus; Rasmus kicked hard finishing 6th with a time of 3:55:29, myself 7th 3:55:39, and Bradley 8th 3:55:42…crossing the finish line never felt so good!
Ten minutes post race, we hobbled down to the river for an ice bath (speeds muscle and joint recovery), which did wonders. After drying up, we walked down to the Fries Community Hall and enjoyed homemade soup, bread, cookies and fruit; there is nothing like a home cooked meal after running a 50K!
The entire experience was truly memorable, and I would like to extend a huge THANK YOU to Annette Bednosky; New River 50K race director, Montrail UltraRunning team member and school counselor. Please check out her blog and/or drop her an email annettebednosky [at] gmail dot com.