Friday, June 27, 2014

eliot's "the great new york 100 mile running exposition" race report: guest post

it was a while ago when eliot posted a race report on his first 50 miler (lake waramaug).  there have been plenty of marathons and ultras since that first 50 miler, but just last weekend eliot finished his first 100 miler right here on the streets of nyc!

The 2014 Great New York Running Exposition 100M/100K – Finding My First 100 Mile Finish – Eliot Lee
TGNY100 had its first 100M running in 2012 and was the brainchild of ultra-marathon runner Phil McCarthy.  Phil is the current American 48-Hour record holder with 257.34 miles.  Phil had a vision that he executed and continues to nurture.  Other than saying that this course covers 100.3 miles through and around four boroughs of New York City, starting and finishing in Times Square, I’m not going to spend time describing the course of this great event.  It was described in this 2013 WSJ article.
For 2012 and 2013, my involvement was that of a volunteer.  Phil called me his ‘supply chief.’  For this 2014 edition, I was a runner.  This was my second attempt at the 100 mile distance (my first attempt was a DNF at the inaugural TARC100 in MA last June) so I had some pressure to finish this one.  The rest of this write-up won’t be in the typical ‘race report’ style; rather it will be a compilation of my scattered running thoughts (good and bad, funny and not so funny).  Here goes …
·         Many happy and excited runners toed the line in Times Square at 5:00 am last Saturday morning.  I was in the ‘Class of 2014.’  The TGNY100 class size is getting bigger each year.  Phil, Trishul, Kaaren and so many others worked hard to get the race started on time.  Richie and Tim were there to start supporting the 20 aid stations on the course.
·         As I ran up Broadway to and through Central Park and further north, it was easy to keep other runners in sight.  But, this was still early.  I made a decision to ‘try’ to stay with a pack of runners for as long as possible.  The pace may have been slightly fast for me but I would save time by not having to stop to read the turn-by-turn directions.  So, for all of Manhattan and some of the Bronx, I tried to stay in the company of Thunder, Cherie and my new friend Ray.  It was also better to run harder then before the full strength of the sun was on us.
·         Midway through the Bronx, I let the runners go and ran alone because I needed to slow down.  Now, I had to rely solely on my maps and directions and had to stop often to regain my bearings.  When I got to Emmy’s aid station in Soundview Park (~50K), I realized that my pacer John who was meeting me at the 60 mile mark in Queens would be there too early given my current pace.  I called him and told him to get there at around 5:30 pm.  By then, the full sun was out.
·         ‘Kuya’ Gerald steps in.  ‘Kuya’ is Tagalog for big brother.  I may be older than Gerald in age but not in terms of ultra-running.  This was his third TGNY100 and he told me to ‘run’ with him.  So, I did for as long as I could.  Gerald is a strong and consistent runner.  He took me through the rest of the Bronx, over the Triborough Bridge, through Randall’s Island and into Queens.  As much as I wished I could have stayed with Gerald, I told him to go ahead at the World’s Fair Marina aid station (~42 miles).  If I was going to finish, I had to run my own race.

·         I took the next 5 or so miles myself again navigating with the directions and maps through the streets of Queens.  Somewhere on Brooklyn-Queens Greenway, ‘Kuya’ Luis steps in.  Yes, I am older in age to him too, but he was also my big brother that day.  This was his third time on the course (once as a 2012 pacer).  Luis was nursing a sore Achilles from the Massanutten 100 in May.  So, Luis and I ran/walked together through Flushing Meadow Park until the 60 mile point (Jewel Avenue) where I met my own pacer, John.  Luis forged ahead.

·         At 60 miles, I was really starting to feel the fatigue.  I made a decision to stop running and to start only walking from that point onward.  Doing the math, it would be possible to finish under the cut-off by keeping a 20 minute pace (3 mph).  Finishing my first 100-miler was still my only goal.  I didn’t want to risk another DNF by pushing too much so I was being very conservative.  Actually, I was being a big baby, I know.  But, if I was going to finish, I had to run my own race.  My 50 mile split was ~10:00 and my 100K split was ~13:14. 
·         The next long 30 miles of walking (~10 hours) were very interesting, especially at night.  I’ve never walked that long or that far!  We walked to and through aid station after aid station.  Darkness fell.  Every mile that passed, I tried to do mental math to project a finish time which was always somewhere between 26 to 27 hours as long as we kept moving.  It is very difficult to do math when you should be asleep. 
·         Having no headlamps proved to be a hindrance.  With no light, we were directionally challenged in and after Riis Park and again up along the Belt Parkway.  We couldn’t see the yellow course markings or our footing especially with the glare of the headlights from oncoming cars.  We used our map light for the ground when we could.        
·         About my pacer John …  he has only run a few recent ultras (some BUS) but has not done a 100 mile race himself (yet).  So, why John?  He and I run together all the time.  I know his idiosyncrasies and he knows mine, so it was comfortable.  Plus, he was raised in Brooklyn so he knew the lay of the land … even in the dark.  I can’t thank him enough.
·         After 80 miles, even the walking was starting to slow.  Now, I started seeing ‘people’ but they were trees and shadows.  I did start seeing rats too, but they were actually rats.  Once in a while, I scared John by letting out a primal ‘grunt’ or by slapping my own face to wake myself up (a driving straight back from Florida habit).  I even told him that I was going to grab onto his shoulder and continue to walk with my eyes closed … so he says, anyway.  And, that darn Verrazano Bridge was like the moon.  Walk, walk, walk towards it … but, it never got closer.
·         By almost 90 miles, we were going over 20 minutes per miles and slowing more.  Enter Paul.  I heard Paul’s carefree banter behind us and watched his effortless gait.  Somehow, that sparked me and calmed me … hard to explain.  It made me realize that I only had 10 miles to go and was going to finish this thing.  So, after the Leif Ericson Park aid station, John and I ran but walked now only when necessary.  The running seemed to wake my mind and body up as it got my blood flowing. 
·         We ran through the last aid station at mile 95 without stopping and walked over the Brooklyn Bridge.  Once in Manhattan, we continued to run/walk to Times Square.  We managed to finish the last 10 miles in just over 2 hours (almost 5 mph) for a 25:14:57 finish time in Times Square at around 6:30 am on Sunday.  What a second wind!  That is where I gave Phil a big ‘thank you’ hug.  I am now the proud owner of my first 100 mile finisher buckle.  Congratulations to all the 100M/100K finishers … especially to my new friend Ray who showed such resolve on his own first 100 mile finish.
In my 50’s, I am now doing things that I thought were out of my reach.  Life is funny that way.  And, about this first 100 mile finish … as Grant so appropriately quoted these song lyrics to me, “Ain't nothin' like the first time …”

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