On Friday night, the 20th of May, I stumbled accross "The Dirty German Endurance Fest" while looking for potential trail ultras to run while in NJ.
My month long training at McGuire AFB, NJ involves training six days a week for 10hrs a day, so my opportunities are limited to basically 3 Sundays. I had looked for a race a couple of times before, but somehow missed The Dirty German.
Unfotunately I had already done a pretty focused 40 minute tempo Thursday along with a few nights out late, so I wasn't physically in the best postition to race. Mentally, I was frankly a little nervous about just randomly jumping into a 50 mile race as well. Considering the fact that I won't be on the trails for the next 6 months, I decided to go for it though.
The race is located within the city limits of Philadelphia, but had suprisingly nice trails. The race would consist of one smaller loop followed by three 25K loops.
|Yes... there was some pretty sweet single track.|
This was the inagural Dirty German Fest, which included a 25K, 50K and 50 Mile. All three races started together with the 50 Mile runners going off in a different direction to run a supposed 3.5 mile mini loop before jumping on the 25K figure 8 style loop for 3 laps.
The lead pack took off and quickly jumped onto a bike path where we followed a guy on a mountain bike. After a mile or so, the lead bike stopped, as he believed he passed the turn possibly. The pack did a quick U-turn and was headed back. After a minute or two we did another U-turn and then another. People were upset and confused, the biker was on his cell and for the first time in my running life, a good chunk of the racers stood around for a few mintues wondering what was next. We then took off back the original direction until we took a flag marked right turn onto a single track trail.
Yeah, people were upset, but I honestly thought it humorous and a bit funny, but maybe that was partialy due to my last minute decision to run this race and that I wasn't overly concerned with pace or time for the race.
At this point I was not leading the race, but instead about 20 seconds back behind 3 guys. I wasn't overly focused (at the begining), but rather very relaxed, stress free and actually talkative. At Nueces, North Face and even at the Cheyenee Mountain 50K I never had a conversation with anyone and didn't understand those who did. In college, road races, marathons, I've always felt talking is a total waste of energy and furthermore, I felt it still wastes energy when running an ultra. At the Dirty German 50M, I was a social butterfly. If I was really focused on winning, running a particular time or setting a course record at a big name race, I'm not sure I would be chatting with other runners, but I sure enjoyed talking at this race. The first hour flew by and I enjoyed talking to other people.
I met Joe Kulak, who knows some of the Boulder crew (Dave Mackey... Joe says hi!) and has run some awesome races over the years. I met a guy from the Inovate team, Ryan Jones, who got second and a recent Boise State college grad who just finished his track season.
From the gun we were running decent pace, sub 8 minute miles I'd guess, but we lost maybe 4-5 minutes on the back and forth and I stopped my watch for approximately 2 minutes while everyone stood around. The clock read 37 minutes at the end of the 3.5 mile loop (watch said 35), so I'm pretty sure the loop was around a mile off.
|Yes, it rained a lot before the race and the creek was much bigger than this picture!|
Being from Boulder, I haven't run in the mud much at all and there was some pretty serious mud as it rained a lot the week before. My legs were covered in mud, there were numerous spots where it was very slick, a few spots where it was over ankle deep and a lot of places where you had to run around standing water and mud as well.
At around an hour I caught up with a group of 3 guys leading the race. The Inov8 guy, the Boise State guy and another taller runner who I overheard say he wanted to break 7 hours. We ran together for maybe 30 minutes until the Boise State guy and I started to pull away a bit. I felt good, the weather was overcast, cool, but a bitty muggy, so overall, things were going well and I was having fun.
The main 25K loop was sort of a figure 8 up and back down the Pennypack Creek, which was bigger than most Colorado rivers. Maybe 11 or 12 of the 15.5 mile loop was trail that varied from bike path width to extremly narrow and windy single track that was borderline overgrown with foliage. The remaining 3.5 or 4 miles was on bike path. There were maybe 3 or four creek crossings if I remember correctly that required getting into the water, which was a blast.
Around 2hrs the Boise State guy and I were pushing the pace pretty good and the social conversation began to taper off. This was the first time I went into a less than confident slump and subsequently started to doubt my ability to run well. Along with the fact that I have been spotty with training, pretty stressed, traveling from Boulder, to Spokane, to NJ, to Boulder and back to NJ, I started to have flash backs of the Cheyenne Mtn 50K where I duked it out with a younger ultra rookie, fell apart at the end of the race and got second. I managed to keep my chin up and felt pretty confident that lightning wouldn't strike twice in the same month, so to speak.
Coming around to the end of the first 25K loop I started to sense and see that my competition was having a little bit of a rough time with the mud, hills, etc... and the pace. At the end of the 25K loop and aid station there I grabbed my second EFS liquid shot and filled my water bottle. The Boise State guy stopped as well but I left before him. My 25K split was 1:55 I believe, maybe a bit fast considering my situation, but I wasn't mentally confident enough to be patient and run from behind for an extended period so I gambled that we would slack the pace soon.
-Moment of Truth-
I kept the pace in hopes of breaking away, which was apparently working. 4 miles later I checked behnid me on a straight away and saw no one. Unlike Nueces, my legs, energy levels and body were letting me know that I was no where close to race ready. I kept running "in fear" for another maybe 5 miles, until I started to let myself believe I was alone. I was hydrating well and taking my standard race protocol of 3 sips of EFS liquid shot/1 ounce every 30 minutes and kept rolling.
I was deep into the mental gymnastics of staying positive via deriving statistics of progress, looking forward to scenic sections, creek crossings, etc... finishing less than desirebale paved sections, splits, sentiment of "my last trail 50" this year, etc... Sort of like setting my recent best time up Green Mtn I was running quite a bit with my heart/determination/emotion vice fitness.
I was pretty surprised to split a 1:58 on the second 25K loop for a 3:53 50K split (after the 4ish miles start too). Yes, the course was fast, no doubt, but it did have some mud, a bit of weaving, creek crossings and I was far from in race shape. Running off a big boost of positive energy of being on the last lap and clocking good splits I was on the last 25K. From here I had a hard time telling what my pace was as I was hurting energy wise and the legs were getting really tight. I know sometimes when it starts to really hurt like this I can keep pace on my long runs and even speed up despite how much slower it feels. I am pretty sure I kept pace halfway through the last 25K based on rough splits at aid stations and landmarks.
The last 9 miles wwere gruesome. I wasn't a disaster like I was for the finish of the Cheyenne Mtn 50K, but I was slowing down and really tightening up. I was also starting to feel queezy. After Cheyenne Mtn, I decided that if were to start to die in a race again, that I would try the stop and strech mentod. I stopped and pulled my knee to my stomach to strech my hamstrings... my knee didn't make it even to above my waiste before I nearly had a fall down on my face cramp. Forget streching. I pressed on and fought counting the seconds. I kept thinkgin about how Dakota passed Timmy Parr in the last 5 miles in Moab this year... I can't let that happen. All ambitions for running a certain time disapeared and I miserably dwelled on finishing, winning the first place Coo-Coo clock, how good it would feel to sit down, take my blistered feet out of these shoes, not move any more, stop. Yes, I was hurting.
As I finally saw the last turn, I felt it was nearly a miracle that I would finish under 6:40 and sudenly I broke out of the mental prison I had been captive in for to long and finished the race. My watch read 6:34, 6:37 on the official board. The people running the race didn't think I was finished and had another lap or was in the 50k, but after I promised them I ran all of the 50 mile race they congratulated me. I sat down got my Coo-Coo clock, brats, cake, kraut, potatoes and savored what I had been looking forward to for hours and hours, being done.
Ended up the Boise State guy dropped out along with the Inov8 guy. Ryan Jones finished second 16 minutes behind me (6:53) and Joe Kulak was 3rd (7:25). Joe did some awesome push ups at the finish line, awesome.
This was an AWESOME race. I had a blast and I am so gratefull that I got the opportunity to race one more 50 mile.
Recovering now and planning on getting one more race in this weekend, a 26 mile trail race in the "mountains" of the Watchtung Reservation located in northern NJ. Yeah, stupid to race so soon, but it will truly be my last one this year.