in anticipation of saturday's return to carmel for the sybil ludington 50k, i decided to post my 2007 race report. this will be my 4th sybil, but the first one with the race starting in the opposite direction! in an email, the race director announced the course change last month. the new course should be "safer" than the original now that we don't run down a busy stretch of route 6, and then trace the narrow contour of the south side of the lake.
the trade-off may result in a few more hills - and lost is the downhill slope of the first couple of miles. still, it should be an interesting race this year :D
Sybil Ludington 50k
Carmel, New York
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Sun and more sun! It was forecast during the week, and it actually came true on race day. That alone had me smiling all day long. After the waterlogged trip to Boston, and the string of lousy weather weekends we had this Spring, it was hard to believe we’d get to run in sunshine. Last year when I ran Sybil, it was my first ultra and I had no idea what to expect. The weather was miserable then - cold (30's), wind, rain and snow - which made it all the more memorable. My 4:43:58 finish was more about survival than running or racing. This year things looked to be different.
The course retraces the ride of 16-year-old Sybil Ludington, who some consider the female Paul Revere, during the night of April 26, 1777. She rode to alert the volunteer militia so they could go fight the British, who had just captured Danbury, CT. It seemed fitting, on the heels of the Boston Marathon, held on Patriots Day to honor the ride of Paul Revere, to follow up that race with the Sybil 50k and continue the thread of Colonial American patriotism.
I drove to the race with my friend Emmy. She had also run Boston earlier that week. She was undecided until we actually reached Carmel, whether to volunteer and then run some of the course as training for the Lake Waramug Ultras next week, or run the entire 50k. Luckily, she decided on the 50k. The race organizers car-pooled the runners to the start, which was a mile beyond the finish line. The finish was located, appropriately, at the statue of Sybil Ludington on horseback.
The first 6 miles were a downright dangerous run on Route 6. The race literally began in the breakdown lane and ran downhill into oncoming traffic. The course continued on this busy stretch into Mahopac Falls, before it turned north onto the less trafficked Route 32. In the first half mile I was pleasantly surprised to meet RunnerTim, from the Coolrunning Forum. He posted a query about Sybil a few weeks earlier and since we were both running the race, we’d look for each other. He had no problem finding me in my yellow Marathon Maniac singlet. Tim’s day began at 2:00 a.m. with a drive from Harrisburg, PA. In addition to Sybil, he planned to run the Promise Land 50k next weekend. I introduced him to Emmy and we three ran together for the first 10k of the race.
My ideal goal was to finish in less than 4:30. Aside from that broad objective, I didn’t have much of a pacing strategy in mind. This was a very hilly course, which made maintaining a constant pace per mile difficult. The mile markers were spaced at five mile intervals. The aid stations were not located at standard intervals. For example, the first aid station was a 4.2 miles, the second was at 5.8 miles, and so on. There was also a marker at the first mile, which we reached in 8:41.
We picked up the pace and ran a five mile split of 40:56 - an 8:11 pace. Just after the 5.8 mile aid station I pulled ahead of Emmy and Tim for a while. I also took this opportunity to switch from my cap to a headband. We had been running in a steady 15 mph headwind and I was tired of constantly fidgeting with my cap. I reached 10 miles in 1:20:41, dropping my pace to 8:04. The half marathon split was 1:45:41, and the 15 mile split was 2:01:42. Soon the combination of hills and constant headwinds caught up to me. As I tried to catch the runner ahead of me, Tim caught me in mile 16.
Then, we began a long stretch where the three of us pretty much ran together in a loose configuration. It was in mile 16 that we began walking the steeper hills. Tim and the other runner would pick up the running just at the crest of the hill and I would usually rejoin them on the bottom of the next hill down the road. For some strange reason there was a mile marker at 18.2, which I reached in 2:29:26, an aid station at 18.7 miles, which I reached at 2:35:09 and, finally, the twenty mile marker in 2:47:40. Then we reached the next aid station at 21.2 miles, in 2:59:09.
The husband and wife team at this station, set up in the back of their SUV, were very kind. They insisted Tim put on sunscreen, which they provided, because his skin was a little red! They wanted me to take off my shirt and run in just the singlet because it was too hot. I had on a short sleeve tech shirt under my MM singlet. I declined since it was still windy enough for me to benefit from that extra layer. When I reached this point last year, I was in such poor condition that she suggested that I go get some hot soup from the Chinese take-out place (free, I was told) in the adjoining strip mall. Emmy, who had just caught up with me that mile, grabbed my arm and insisted I keep going without the stop for soup. I skipped the soup.
The next aid station was more than 3.5 miles away (mile 24.9). Just after we after left the 21.2 mile aid station, I started to feel thirsty - not a very good sign. I was actually more than 5 minutes ahead of my 2006 time and in much stronger condition. We were in a two mile stretch of dirt road that, last year, was practically unrunnable for me. My quads had gotten so beaten up at Boston in 2006, that I was reduced to walking down the hills in this stretch. This year I ran the entire stretch without a problem. When we exited this portion and returned to the road, only to confront another long uphill climb, Tim fell behind slightly. The other runner and I pushed ahead as a duo.
During this stretch I ran into Joe, running Sybil at the young age of 76! Last year the race fell on his 75th birthday and the race organizers had a birthday cake for him at the finish! It was, as always, an inspiration to see Joe. At this point I seriously needed some fluids. We reached the 24.9 mile aid station in 3:34:07 and I drank about 6 Dixie cups of water and Gatorade before setting off. I passed mile marker 25 in 3:36:53, and set my sights on the marathon split. The fluids from the last aid station kicked in to give me a boost of energy and I passed the marathon mark in 3:47 - again a solid five minutes ahead of last year.
I still felt strong at this point. I wasn’t able to catch the runner ahead of me, but I was still running, occasionally mixing in some walking to climb the hills. But I could feel the dehydration creeping up on me. By mile 28 I was parched and all I could think about was water. I knew that there was an aid station around mile 29, but it seemed so far away. That aid station, it turned out, was actually at mile 29.6! Could it really be almost 5 miles between aid stations? In hindsight, I would have worn a fluid belt. Emmy caught me in mile 29. When she asked me how I was, all I could say was, "I need water. But go ahead and win this thing!" She was just two miles from nailing down the victory!
Just as I reached the 29.6 mile aid station, Tim caught me too. An aid station volunteer snapped a picture of the two of us there. Tim took the lead out of the aid station, but after reaching mile 30 in 4:22:19, we pretty much ran the last mile to the finish together. It wasn’t possible for me to do the last 1.1 miles in 8 minutes, so I walked the last two hills in mile 31. Tim crossed the finish just ahead of me. I finished in 4:34:31, an 8:51 pace - a full nine minutes better than 2006. I drank two entire bottles of water right there at the finish line! But even more importantly, I found out that Emmy had, indeed, won the race! Last year she came in second. This year she improved to first! Awesome!
Despite missing my 4:30 target, I was very pleased with my effort. This year’s Boston/Sybil double of 3:41:51/4:34:31 was slower than last year’s 3:16:36/4:43:52 performance. Last year my Boston run was all business - I needed a qualifying time for 2007, so I raced it. That accounts for the substantially faster finish in 2006. But in keeping with the trend of this year’s training cycle, this double worked out very well for me. I ran Sybil, a much more difficult course, in the same time I ran the Kurt Steiner 50k at the beginning of the April. While I hadn’t planned on the sun and constant wind creating a dehydration problem, it only slowed me down for the last 5k of the race. It wasn't that big of a deal in the overall scheme of things.
Next up: the Lake Waramug Ultras in New Preston, CT, this weekend.
check out the 2008 race report and race photos.