You must do the things you think you cannot do.
Eleanor Roosevelt

Sunday, November 21, 2010

JFK 50 Course Support

Yesterday morning was the 48th annual JFK 50 mile race, and I was able to help out at the aid station run by Hank's cross country coach, Coach Z, and his wife, Anne.

You can go here to read about the history of the race and then go here to see a 'fly over' of the course.

This was such a cool experience, and I have a new respect for Ultra Runners.  Our aid station was at the bottom of the mountain just before the runners got on the tow path, and that section of the trail on the mountain is very rocky and technical. Add the leaves that have fallen and it makes for an extremely difficult stretch to run.

Runners were coming into the aid station with bloody knees, faces and arms, and torn tights. One guy lost two teeth. Another had to be taken off the mountain via an ATV.  And most runners kept going. We only had 3 drop out at our aid station which I thought was incredible and very inspiring.

I parked at Brunswick and rode my bike the 3 miles to the aid station. It was one of those mornings where little things were going wrong - had to stop for gas, it was wicked cold, the front wheel on my bike was messed up and I couldn't engage the brake, I forgot I don't have a bottle cage on my bike so I had to carry my coffee in one hand and steer with the other (yes I looked ridiculous!) and I tore my favorite sweats on the chain thingy on my bike. BUT I could hardly complain because by the time I arrived to help set up the aid station, many runners had been out there for over 2 hours.
Coach Z had most of the stuff we would be using and we unloaded his Suburban and then Anne came with their pick up full of more stuff. And then another truck came with stuff leftover from an aid station earlier on the course.  I was actually glad to help unload tons of stuff since it helped to pass the time and became a modified weights work out with some easy cardio.

Apparently, this is the FIRST year in the race's history to have potties at this stop. Many veteran runners were ecstatic over this!

On the far right of the picture is the trail the runners come down. See the pole with the white blaze? Just to the right of that.

After we got set up, we spent quite a bit of time just standing around.  In the picture below, the tall guy on the left in black shorts was waiting for a friend whom he was apparently going to pace.  He went from Pacer Friend to BANDIT when his friend arrived because he stuffed his pockets FULL of gels and PB&J's (and didn't even say thanks). Not cool, dude.

The C&O Canal towpath is a national park and their arrangement with the race director required that runners not enter the towpath until 8:30 am. That meant that any runners who arrived at our aid station before 8:30 had to stand around until they could cross the train tracks and get on the tow path.

They even had a Ranger with a bike and a taser show up. I guess he was going to chase down any rogue runners on his bike and taze them?? The few runners who arrived before 8:30 were very cool with hanging out and spent the time eating and stretching.

The guy below was wearing a kilt *and* sporting that wonderful Sean Connery accent.  swoon!  The guy to his left is wearing a 500 mile club shirt which means he's a 10 year veteran of the race. They also have members of the 1,000 mile club - 20 races X 50 miles = 1000. Amazing!!

Waiting for 8:30 to arrive
the guy in yellow is stretching, not barfing

We were insanely busy for about 2 hours. People were coming down the mountain like a steady stream of ants and most of them were extremely hungry and thirsty. These folks must all have iron stomachs because they were throwing back food like it was nothing, and they still had 35 miles to go.

There are two start times - 5 am (orange bib) and 7 am (white bib). The official start time is 7, but you can request to start at 5 if you think you won't be able to complete the race by the 7pm end time. Either way, you have to finish by 7pm.

The 5 am starters were supposed to clear our aid station by 10:30 am, but we did have some stragglers who were allowed to continue. The 7am starters had to clear us by 11:30 and if I remember correctly, they all did.
After the last runners passed, we cleaned up, loaded the trucks and I headed back down the tow path on my bike.

So you're probably dying to know who won, right. A 27 y/o guy from Colorado (running for Team Air Force) in 5:52 and change - that would be a 7:03 pace. Second place was 5:53 in a 7:04 pace. Amazing!

I took a quick look at some of the past first place finishes and they were in the 5:50- 6:07 range with the course record being 5:46. Very impressive!

So after participating in this small way,  I am definitely inspired to add the JFK 50 to my bucket list. I emailed Anne afterwards and told her that hopefully I won't kick the bucket in the next 6-7 years because I won't have time to train for it before then, but this race is on my list.

1 comment:

abbi said...

Nice report on the race from the course support viewpoint!


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