Sunday, April 27, 2014

Glacier Ridge 50 miler

Sometimes good things take time.  This is the story of my life.  

Exactly two weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to finish first at the Glacier Ridge 50 miler in Moraine State Park.  You know, it's funny that even though I finished first, I'm not that impressed with my run (8:14 and change).  A couple/few days before the race I managed to mess up my foot/ankle somehow.  On my run two days before the race, there was some serious compensating going on.  That is never a good sign. However, I am seriously grateful for simply finishing, let alone making the podium.  

The day seemed as if it had started the day before, with a simple 7 hour work day on the feet.  Though I know that on the day before a race it's best to stay off the feet, I needed the cash, and this was intended to be a training run for the Laurel Highlands 70.5 on June 14th.  I also only tapered for a week, which was a risky move for how my body works.  After I got out of work at 5, I had to get an oil change, inspection, yada, yada.  By the time 9 or 10 rolled around I was cursing myself for doing so much the day before a fifty.  "Devon, you're such a dumb ass.  Why?"  

Anyways, 3am rolled around soon enough.  I drug my haggard butt out of bed and immediately ate a PB&J with raisin bread, in addition to a banana or two.....with coffee of course.  I had it in my mind that "Everything I do is for Laurel", and that I was going to finish this thing.  I arrived at the start by about 4:30 or so, being one of the first to arrive.  It was still dark, so I got my drop bag ready in my car.  It was time to mentally prepare for what I was about to put myself through.  

Then, time started fading away, as it always does.  I met with my friend Mark Cangemi (Mark Vincent on FB) before the start, and chatted a bit.  

At 6:30 sharp, we were off.  From the gun I knew it wouldn't be a perfect day for me.  However, I did know that I could still be strong.   From the gun, I took off at the front with Mark, (a then unknown) Billy Hafferty, and a couple unknowns.
Start of the race

The first, I don't know, maybe six or so miles I spent chatting with Billy and Mark.  They were some great miles.  I'm fortunate for each and every one of them.  
I started to just run my own race, and forget about what everyone else was doing.  It's stupid to race the first 20 of a 50.  There was some back and forth with a few cats until after 17 miles in.  By this point, I was not leading, but was not worried.  I reached the aid station (mile 21) at some point, tied for first.  An older (but fast) friend Jeff Nelson was there helping a friend out, and pointed at my competitor, and said "he's right there".  So, I took off.  I made my move.  Thanks Jeff!

The next miles were a lot of Jeep Trails/Fire Roads, so I used this to my advantage, being that I couldn't run technical downhill well (which is normally my strength).  My foot/ankle was hurting good.  I didn't run any rocky/rooty trails with confidence, which was not fun.  I did however, run those Fire road sections fairly quickly.  I knew it was my only chance.

It got hot out there
By the time I reached the aid station at mile 40, I was feeling good, and thought, "Hey, I think I can break 8 hours".  What a jerk I am for thinking that.  My injury was pissed.  Every technical, or downhill section that I normally glide through, was aimed at sparing myself. 

Finally, I reached the paved bike trail at the end (~1-2 miles), and started running kind of fast.  It always feels good to cross the finish line.  

Soon after, my broken body hobbled over to a picnic table while some fine people fed me gatorade, pizza and cold water.  Not long after (~3 mins), an inspiring gentleman named Billy Hafferty from Massachusetts comes cruising in for second in his first 50!

Yeah, it's cool to win.  It's nice for the ego, and whatnot.  But, the best part of these races is always about the people you're surrounded with.  The best parts of this experience were based on genuine human interaction, which is slightly ironic given the nature of trail runner. 

Billy, Myself, and Mark
After Billy finished, we put our feet up on some chairs in the grass, and enjoyed the sun while we geeked out on running, and got to know each other a bit.  We had some good laughs, especially about how pathetic we were at the end of a fifty miler.  

Then, I met a dude named Ben that is an incredible marathoner, who intends to run a 2:30 marathon at some point.  I chatted with him for a while and collected his insights on running, marathoning, ultras, pro runners, Boston, training, etc.  That was pretty informative and inspiring.  

Afterward, Mark was nice enough to invite me to The North Country Brewery in Slippery Rock with his friends.  They were almost, if not all runners, all specializing in different distances, terrain, etc.  Everyone was different, and awesome in their own way, but also super nice/genuine/inviting to say the least.  I struggled through a burger, and salad, cherished a beer, and had a nice time with friendly folk. 

Here we come Laurel Highlands Ultra, 2014!  I hope to arrive at your line healthy.  

This last effort at Glacier Ridge is dedicated to my Grandma, Liz Swalga who passed on Friday, April 4th, 2014.  She was out there with me, for sure.  Also, to my Mom who is the strongest person I've ever met.  Always look forward.  Always stay positive.