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Race Result

Racer: Jesse Leitner
Race: JFK 50
Date: Saturday, November 19, 2005
Location: Hagerstown, MD
Race Type: Run - Ultramarathon (Other)
Age Group: Male 35 - 39
Time: 8:28:50
Overall Place: 92 / 951
Age Group Place: 27 / 166
Comment: PR by over 2 hours from last year!

Race Report:

After having completed the training and the actual race for the Tahoe Triple, I felt like I would be in the best aerobic shape possible to last a long time in this race this year and really improve on my 10:34 time from last year (which I was quite happy with). (target was a 45 minute improvement.) Many back to back 20 milers, and a few triples have built an aerobic base that far outlasts my body’s capacity. One of the biggest problems from last year to overcome was nutrition intake, which becomes very important if you’re going to be out for more than 6 hours or so. Last year I ate a bunch of crap before and early-on in the race, which I paid for with stomach cramps for a good 25-30 miles. This year I was careful and meticulous. I still wanted to maintain full consistency with my “fat-burning” approach that I’ve been following, avoiding much in the way of carbohydrates within a couple of hours of a long race. I ended up getting up around 4 am and eating some toaster pastries and few glasses of fat-free milk. I packed two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in halves as these have worked well for me on long bike rides. A protein plus powerbar and 6 accel gels and I was ready to go. It was 22 degrees outside in Boonsboro, which would have been fine for a marathon, but definitely colder than I would have wanted for a 50 miler, especially since I had no course support to dump layers off. So, I had to dress right in the middle ground with a Nike cold weather long sleeve under and my Twinkie the Kid cycling shirt as it has three great pockets to load up with my food and gels. The first 15.5 miles are mostly on jagged, ratty portions of the Appalachian Trail, along with a few miles of extremely steep uphills on roads, paths, and the AT. Last year, I finished this part in 3:40, averaging just over 14 min/mi pace. This year I was targeting a 12 min/mi pace. I decided that this year, I was going to try to “run” the entire 50 miles (50.45 to be exact), only walking through aid stations while eating and drinking. Up the really steep hills I “wogged” by everyone walking. My wog seems to be more efficient (pace/HR) than my walk. I kept a very quick pace going, when possible, on the AT, but I would pay the price. I had my usual several “ankle collapses,” about 2 of them which occurred on some steep drops running on unstable, jagged rocks, would get me later. I came off the AT around 2:35, around 10 min/mi pace, which for me, was unbelievable. How would I pay the price for the time I banked? At this point quads still felt good, aerobic system perfect (heart rate very low), but when would the delayed onset muscle soreness hit me in my quads? When you go down those trails fast, there’s no way to control your motion, you take what you can get and hope not to fall and kill yourself. The temperature is still in the high 20s when I begin the run on the 26 mile towpath. The sun is out and the scenery is great – not the dreary scene from last year with cold rain. I puttered through the aid station at the beginning of the towpath, had a half PB&J, an accel gel, some water, a Gatorade, and moved on. Thought about a potty break, but said “nah” and moved on. I just counted the miles off – 20, 25, … Then at 26.2 I was at 4:18, very happy considering the nasty first 15 miles. Aerobic system still doing great, running about 8:50 – 9:20/mile at 75-80% max heart rate. Then I hit an aid station just after mile 27. Had a cup of chicken noodle soup and shoved in bunch of potato chips, M&Ms, powerade, and another accel gel. Then it hit me – severe pain in the front of my left ankle. Almost brought tears to my eyes. I looked down and there’s a huge blue/purple knot the size of a racquetball on my front ankle, just above my shoe. It now hurt to stand or walk. Now I’m asking how I can make it another 23 miles. Oh well, it’s just another training run now, only at slower pace. My overall pace was still better than 10 min/mi, so I figured no matter what I did I should be able to beat last year’s time. I painfully started running after the last gulp and shortly got back on pace. It hurt a lot, but not as much as standing there or walking, so I just kept moving and counted down the miles. About every few minutes I’m passing another person or batch of people who had started at 5 am. Everyone is commenting on how my shirt puts them in a mood for a Twinkie. My psychological milestones were 30 miles, 50k, 35 miles, then the aid stations. I maintained my sub-10 average pace until mile 42, which was (finally) the end of that dreary towpath. On the towpath you can easily run for patches of 5 miles with no one in sight. You’re thankful for the slower 5 am starters just to see people. Every once in a while a bike would go by in the opposite direction with a stereo blasting. At mile 40, I really started to pay for my earlier indiscretions on the AT. My quads were absolutely ripped. Now everything was hurting, but the aerobic system felt like it could go on forever. My heart rate was getting lower and I was just pushing to keep up the pace. This was another one of those times where I was using the heart rate monitor as a motivation to get myself to move faster. It helped a lot. I’m shocked at the pace I’m holding as it looks like I can easily beat last year’s time by an hour or more, and maybe even break 9 hours. After mile 42, you hit the last stretch - the rolling hills on country roads. I still kept up my policy of no walking, so I’d run slowly by the others in my boat going up the hills, and most would pass me on the downs. Since my quads were shot I couldn’t take advantage of the downs as much as I would usually like. As the miles are ticking away, I’m starting to get loftier and loftier goals. Can I beat last year’s time by 2 hours, or come close? I calculate that I just need to stay in the 10-11 min/mi pace frame and I can do it. I hit mile 49 (1.45 miles to go) and pick up the pace. I shut out all pains in my body and my aerobic system is almost like I just started. Shortly, I bring myself to an 8:30-8:40/mile pace and my heart rate is still less than 80%. I pace a few people en route to the finish, coming in at 8:28 and change, absolutely thrilled. Not the least bit out of breath, but my body has had enough. I went to the post-race food area, got my fried chicken, pizza, about 10 Cokes, and then whaddayaknow – they’ve got Twinkies. Everyone’s eating them after watching Twinkie the Kid run by. I’m not sure when I’ll be back running again – hopefully I’ll be back on a bike in a couple of days. I doubt I’ll rehabilitated for the Northern Central Trail Marathon. I just noticed that my time on this race qualifies me for the Western States Endurance Run, sort of the Boston Marathon of Ultras. Not that I have any desire to do it. Yet.

And, for those who have been following my “science experiment” with heart rate training, here are my paces and average heart rates throughout the race – the timer continued to tick when I was at aid stations (my max heart rate is 210):

8:39/144, 9:51/154, 9:38/156, 8:47/157, 11:05/162,
11:47/158, 10:39/154, 9:33/155, 9:33/152, 10:02/163,
10:07/160, 10:48/165, 9:56/162, 10:14/166, 13:24/156,
11:49/156, 8:48/163, 9:00/162, 8:54/163, 9:27/163,
9:03/163, 9:04/164, 10:10/160, 9:01/162, 9:16/164,
9:07/164, 9:04/164, 11:14/158, 9:30/160, 9:35/159,
10:48/155, 9:31/159, 9:38/160, 9:15/160, 13:19/150,
9:20/159, 9:47/160, 8:55/161, 11:54/155, 10:09/158,
10:03/158, 10:29/156, 10:52/154 , 10:25/156, 11:11/152,
10:33/153, 11:19/151, 10:25/153, 10:29/153, 9:09/157,