in some ways the 2008 stone cat marathon was a repeat of 2007 - in terms of travel and dropping down to the marathon from the 50 miler. in other ways, it was like i ran the race for the first time - great weather, a solid performance, and some excellent post-race socializing.
the drive to danvers was very slow, and traffic-choked at every stretch. emmy and i had been down this road last summer - yet another nightmarish trip on the mass pike/i-95 to reach a race (the 24 hour around the lake ultra in wakefield). that trip, thankfully, ended a few miles short of danvers. but last year's trip to danvers took 4 hours and 15 minutes and i didn't think it could get any worse! wrong. bumper to bumper traffic on the merritt, mass pike, and i-95 resulted in 4 and a half hours in the car! we arrived at the hotel just before 8.
on the bright side, as i checked in, hiro and yuki were there too. we were all at the nyc marathon together. we roded down to staten island on the same bus, so i knew they'd be running stone cat. it would be yuki's longest distance to date. last year, she and hiro ran the highland sky 40 miler and we covered portions of that trail ultra together. even cooler, hiro and yuki will complete a marathon in each of the 50 states next month - when the take on hawaii and the honolulu marathon!
but the bright spot quickly dimmed, and was snuffed out when i had to settle for a smoking room. ugh! there is seriously nothing i hate more than cigarette smoke - so parking me in a smokers room is a hellish prospect. when i booked the room i knew it was a smoking room, but was given hope that by the time i actually arrive all those weeks later - that i would have been switched to a non-smoking room. well luck certainly wasn't with me on friday! this was not the way to arrive at a race!
to continue this lament for one more paragraph - it does get better - i woke up saturday morning feeling like i had slept in an ashtray. it was the most disgusting experience anyone could have been subject to voluntarily - and live to tell the tale. i had a smokers cough and it seemed that i hadn't just occupied the same objectionable space as smokers had - but been force to smoke those lousy cigarettes as well. i was not a happy camper. and, to conclude this silly tale of woe, i knew i was dragging when i got a call from the front desk from emmy wondering why i still hadn't come down check out and have breakfast!!
well, as soon as i dragged myself on the elevator and escaped the clutches of that dreary smokers floor - like a real life purgatory (ha) - things freshened up considerably. i was the last person in the breakfast nook - kinda spooky! last year i remember it being packed with runners. emmy drove the car up to the front door, we loaded up our stuff, and to the race we drove. interesting, it was the 38th anniversary of led zeppelin's 4th album ("zozo") - and i was immediately psyched to hear zep on the radio!
this time around the pre-race activities were much less frantic. last year it was bitterly cold - and seemed like the parking situation was very tight. no problems whatsoever this time around. we met carrie as we drove up, and inside the gym i spotted hiro and yuki as well. packet (bib) pick-up was race morning. there was no pasta dinner last night - a bit disappointing since they had such a nice one (which also served as packet pick-up) in 2007. after checking in, we moved our drop bags outside - and met up with wayne.
wayne had driven through the night to get to the race. he left new york at 2 a.m. - and i felt like a wimp complaining about having to sleep in an ashtray by comparison! we parked our stuff next to each other: wayne, emmy, me, yuki - hiro would be her crew for the day. and headed back inside the gym for gilly's pre-race briefing (and learned that previous courses were on the long side, and this version was also on the long side - anyone hear of horton miles, he asked rhetorically?). then it was time to get the party started.
on a weather note, the temperature was easily 25 degrees warmer(!) than the very low 30's that greeted us at the 2007 start! i wore a short sleeved tech shirt, a major contrast from the 3 layers the covered me last time. i also wore, for the first time in long trail race, my new balance 840 lightweight trail shoes. i had brought my 908's (much heavier and sturdier) but decided to keep them in the drop bag. that was an incredibly good decision (and fueled, mainly, by the horrible experience i had last week when i wore heavier trainers, instead of my regular 857's at the nyc marathon).
off we went! i had no real expectations for the race, but really didn't have my head into the idea of running 50 miles. almost from the start the internal dialogue began about marathon instead of the 50 - and by the second loop, the marathon would win that debate. but during the first loop i was making some great time compared to my 2007 splits. i reached the first aid station in 36:55, versus a 43:53 from 2007. while it was certainly an improvement, it didn't seem fast to me at the time.
the pattern repeated itself as i reached the second aid station in 30:02 compared to 38 minutes needed to cover that stretch in 2007. similarly, it took only 43:48 to run the last stretch (against 52:33), for a first loop of 1:50:46. that almost 24 minutes faster than the 2:14:27 it took me to run the first loop the prior year. hiro was surprised to see me come through! but not as surprised as i was to be greeted by derrick (a/k/a "durt" on kickrunners) as i made the turn to head back out! i stopped, briefly, for hiro to snap a picture (the one at the top of this race report) before heading back out.
i felt great heading back out there. i did suffer a couple of missteps the second time, but neither of those problems slowed me down too much. the first was a painful encounter with a tree stump just before the first aid station. i must have been too close to the edge of the trail because i literally didn't see - and had no idea - what hit me! for a quarter mile all i did do was let loose a (very long) string of expletives until the pain subsided. i reached the aid station in 38:28, just a bit slower than the first go round.
between the aid stations i encountered the second - which was simply having to make a couple of bathroom pit stops off the trail. still, bathroom emergencies aside, i reached the aid station in 34:00 minutes, this time 4 minutes slower than the first loop. it took another 49:54 to complete the second loop, for a 2 loop split of 3:53 - well below 2007's 5:01 split for 2 loops (which, did include 10-15 minutes between loops when i changed out of wet clothes, took a bathroom break and waited for emmy to catch up so we could do the second loop together).
after the second loop i looked for the scorekeeper and told him i was going to drop down to the marathon. then i set off on the 1.2 mile loop of the high school, which i finished in 10:50. my time for the marathon came in at 4:04:05 - not too shabby. if i hadn't dawdled a bit here and there, it would probably have come in under 4 hours. but i was happy shaving almost an hour off my 2007 time of 5:12:36! and, this year, instead of duffel bags, marathon finishers got really cool red pull-overs!
here is a fun little photo that i took of my dirty legs (and 840's) before i cleaned up:
after i changed into dry clothes, hiro and i grabbed a couple of ipswich i.p.a.'s while we waited for yuki to finish her second loop. when emmy came through i told her i had finished the marathon. she was up for at least one more loop - but i really wanted her to do the full fifty. i enjoyed my time as a spectator and fan! after yuki completed her 3rd loop, hiro went out and paced her on the 4th one. shortly afterwards, emmy finished her 3rd loop (together with carrie and barbara) - and went back out for the final one!
during this time nick finished up his 3rd and final loop (for the 37.5 miler), and i watched scott and his friends finish up the 50 miler. at some point past 9 hours in, the stone cat himself - in costume - made an appearance, for a bit of comic relief. and shortly after 10 hours, wayne, then carrie, and then emmy took turns crossing the finish. hurray!
then it was time for us to get back on the road! but not before emmy indulged me in small a side trip to search for some actual stone cat ale to bring back home. interestingly, while the race is called "stone cat," for the second year running, the beer on tap was "ipswich ale" - both brands are from mercury brewing company. we found that stone cat ale via the cody brewing company!
check out the race photos and results (with links to emmy and scott's reports and photos).
check out ian's (a/k/a trail monster) race report - and his cool photo captions!