Wednesday, June 22, 2016

2016 The Great New York 100 Mile Running Exposition: Race Report

a bit long... but hey, it was a long race :D

I am so very grateful to start off this race report knowing that in the end I cover the distance – which is not how my last attempt at 100 miles (at this very race) ended! Back in June 2012, the inaugural edition of The Great New York 100 Mile Running Exposition (there wasn’t 100k option that first year), I had to drop out at the mile 41 aid station. The foot (and shin) pain that led to my DNF was subsequently diagnosed as chronic compartment syndrome. That, in turn, led to a significant drop off in my running (both mileage and races). I had to miss the Vermont 100 the following month and the JFK 50 Miler in November (both of which I was registered for). Long distances weren’t in the cards for the next year or so.

Fast forward to 2016, the GNY 100 filled in 3 hours! So I was on the waiting list for this one. As an aside, I wanted to run the 2015 edition because I had put the chronic compartment syndrome behind me and successfully rebuilt my mileage base. But it wasn’t in the cards because I had cataract surgery that pretty much knocked out my running for most of June and July that year. When I got the email from Phil at the end of April that I could run it – I was simultaneously ecstatic and mortified! Mortification was overriding because I had just under 2 months to train and prepare! I was game – and immediately focused on building up my mileage base.

That weekend was the third GNY 100 training run – which I did want to run. But the day before was the Ted Corbitt Memorial Run Around Manhattan, so I kicked off my training with a slow and easy 50k. It would, in fact, be the longest distance I’d cover in the run up to the race. Aside from the fourth GNY 100 training run, which covered the final 18 or so miles of the course, my longest training run would be a 20 miler.

My overall monthly mileage was well below what I would consider an optimal level heading into a hundred miler. I ran 154.4 miles in April and edged up to 167.5 miles in May. The May figure would have been larger, but I had a business trip to Kuala Lumpur that basically took up two weekends with trans-pacific flights. Still, on the bright side, I ran 135 miles in June, leading up to the GNY 100 (and 225 miles in the 30 days preceding the race). All in all, I thought I built up a decent enough mileage base given the time constraints!

As for the race itself, all things considered I wanted to get to 100K (which I was sure I could do) – then just keep moving forward to 100 miles (that I wasn’t sure of at all). Aside from the physical preparation, the only real qualm I had (mentally speaking) was the bridge crossings. At a minimum I knew getting over to Queens via the Triboro Bridge from Randall’s Island would be pretty stressful (as it was for me back in 2012). And, while I didn’t reach it the first time around, I have the same anxiety/panic crossing the Marine Parkway Bridge later in the race.

But I’d cross those fears (pun intended) when I reached them. Before the first bridge, however was 50K+ worth of running. The race kicked off a couple of minutes after 5 AM, following a group photo in front of TKTS. This stretch was a familiar run north up to Central Park, along the West Drive, exiting at the North end of the Park and heading over to the West side – then north. I’ve done portions of this stretch many times. My goal at this point was to get in as many miles as possible during the cooler temperatures. While I don’t advocate “banking” miles, I didn’t pay attention to that bit of wisdom.

I felt pretty good at that stage, despite the steadily rising temperatures. I carried a small backpack – instead of the fanny pack I had worn in past ultras. While I didn’t think so at the time, in hindsight I did over pack it (but that didn’t make a difference in my race - just something to file away for future reference). In addition to the pack, I carried a 20 ounce water bottle. I actually drank the contents of that bottle (mostly water, but occasionally gator aide or iced tea) between each aid station! At the early aid stations I mostly stuck to watermelon, nuts and pb & j sandwich quarters. Later in the day I was more interested in real food (mostly salted baked potatoes and pizza where I could find it).

I ran the first 50k in roughly 5:35 – making only one small wrong turn before reaching Randall’s Island. I made another wrong turn on the way to the World’s Fair Marina aid station at mile 41. Those were the only missteps until much, much later in the race. Then I would miss a turn and run about 9 blocks off course before realizing the mistake (but I’m getting ahead of myself). For the most part I was running this portion of the course (with the exception of “power/speed walking” over the bridge, as I clutched the hand rail!). I reached the Alley Pond aid station, just shy of 51 miles in about 11 hours.

I was about a full hour ahead of my rough time estimate (12 hours for 50/15 hours for 100k). But the sun and heat had started to take a toll. When I arrived at Alley Pond, Esther was there sitting on the ground not looking that well. After a bit, we continued on together – mixing in a lot of walking to reach the next aid station. At the Kissena Park aid station I took some Motrin because my legs were starting to ache. It did its job well because it knocked out the pain and kept me moving forward.

Esther and I reached the 100k finish/aid station at Forest Park in just under 14:30! Truth be told, I was ready to call it quits at that point. But a combination of the incredible restorative effects of cold beer and warm pizza slowly brought my body came back to life. Plus, Rob, my pacer, was waiting for me at mile 64 and I wanted to at least get there to meet up with him before making that decision. So, after a couple of minutes enjoying the simple act of sitting – ah, the sweetness of sitting in a chair after all those hours on my feet – we reluctantly moved on.

When we reached Rob, he made it clear that I couldn’t quit – and said, in effect, I had 15 hours to just simply walk the remaining 36 miles. Very doable in his fresh eyes, very daunting in my exhausted eyes. At this point Esther went on ahead to meet up with her pacer, waiting for her at mile 70. Rob and I began walking. And walk we would for almost all of the remaining miles. Rob had planned to run about 20 miles but stuck out the entire distance with me!

I must add that for the next 10+ miles his determination single-handedly kept me in the race and moving forward. At any given point up to the Marine Parkway Bridge – and especially the Bridge – I could easily have tapped out. In fact, at the foot of that bridge I had my last bout with panic/anxiety (even going so far as to imagine running over it on the roadway instead of the pedestrian overpass). But I sucked it up and forced myself across the footpath (mentally chanting, “don’t lose it, don’t lose it…” while again holding on to the railing as moved across).

Once we were on the other side Rob said the rest of the course should be one long bridge because I just did my fastest mile getting across it! While that line is funny in retrospect, at that point my heart was beating so fast I thought it would leap out of my throat! Still, not only did a wave of relief sweep over me, but that was the point I knew I’d finish (even if crawling)! I was finally in the great state of Brooklyn, my home town.

The only hitch we had on the way to the finish was missing the turn arrow for Bay 52 – which, unfortunately led to us running 8-9 blocks out of the way before realizing the mistake… and then having to run back that distance to Bay 52! What made that detour somewhat annoying (not getting off course, that happens.) was that I had just run that portion on the final GNY 100 training run a few weeks earlier! But that did get me motivated to run again. In fact, after the mile 84 aid station at Bensonhurst Park, we pretty much ran the 2+ miles to the Verrazano Bridge. And, at the mile 90 aid station at Leif Ericson Park, Richie had hot coffee (and a slice of pizza) there for what became my early breakfast.

The remaining miles were relatively uneventful, but by the time we got to the Borough Hall aid station at mile 95 I had to take some more Motrin (my third dose) because the soreness in my legs had come back with a vengeance. And, in an incredible act of random kindness – when I got to the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge, a total stranger/volunteer offered me a cup of Starbucks iced coffee! That caffeine fix was just what I needed to power up the last 3.5 miles to the finish!

It was such an incredible positive feeling to cross Times Square (surprisingly it was crowded with tourists at 8 AM!) and reach the finish line!! Phil handed me the finishers buckle – and in the other hand I had a cup of cold beer! What a perfect ending to a great day. And I’ll say it again, if it hadn’t been for Rob during the stretch of miles from 64-75 I would have celebrated a 100k finish instead! And i need to give so many thanks to Phil and all the volunteers for putting on such a great event – a great event every step of the way!

As a post-script, my feet were pretty swollen for a couple of days (and I did lose the nail on my right pinky toe) – but otherwise, I was no worse for the wear. I’m already thinking about the 2017 edition, even though I swore a million times over that I’d NEVER cross those bridges again :D

Here are my race photos &results

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