I ran the Febapple Frozen 50 miler today in Maplewood New Jersey, while my lovely bride ran the 10 mile version of the same event. This race is part of the NJ Trail Race series, and was my first long distance run in New Jersey (woo-hoo...add another state to the list!).
In this region, like the rest of the country, the weather has been beautiful all winter. I've been conducting my morning runs in 40 or 50 degree weather...we've had very little rain and virtually no snow. And as luck would have it, that all changed just in time for this race.
Granted...it wasn't technically BELOW freezing, but a severe storm front moved in on Thursday and Friday, dumping copious amounts of rain on the trails. The rain slowly departed, but was replaced by stiff winds and a cold front. Wind gusts were reported in excess of 40 mph and sustained winds were enough to drop the wind chill to bone chilling depths. It was not a nice day to be outside.
This race is run on a 10 mile loop course. There are actually two loops that join at the start/finish area. The first loop is about 4 miles and the second is 6. The RD promised a mix of wide double track, narrow single track, jeep roads, and a tiny bit of asphalt. Much of the course was flat, but there were also several steep ascents and descents, some very technical, some not so much, and a fair amount of rolling hills.
Now that I have painted the picture...
The RD gave a brief speech before the race, covering all the critical info about the race.
I'm listening intently, as always. Safety is my first priority when it comes to trail running...and while drinking in shady bars. I don't think the dude on the far right speaks English. He's looking a bit perplexed.
The race started promptly at 7:00. I initially went out a bit fast, but quickly reigned myself in. I have no experience on this course, so the first 10 mile is really a recon mission!
Me foolishly running out front...
My friend and running superstar, Josh Finger (in the blue). He's sporting his awesome Tussey 50 miler shirt! The dude knows cool gear when he sees it!
Bobby Bodkin running the 50K! Supporting HCM as always! This dude is ALWAYS following the cute runner girls...without fail!
The first couple of miles started off easy, but we eventually bailed off the side of steep ridge and ran down a technical trail section littered with rocks and roots. I made a mental note of the complete absence of a decent place to fall down while avoiding the risk of serious bodily harm.
After hitting the bottom, we circled around the ridge and eventually started making our way back up. For true elite runners, this section is probably runnable, but there were a few sections that required me to slow my roll.
We hit the first aid station at the end of that loop and headed back out for the 6 mile loop. This section is less technical overall and easier to run. However, there are a few long grinding hills and a few that are less subtle.
There's an aid station in the middle of this loop and we hit aid again at the start/finish line.
Unlike most races, I actually ate liberally because my intake leading up the race was terrible. I've been on a caloric deficit for about a week now. I normally try to gain about a pound leading up to an event, but it didn't happen this time. So I pigged out at the aid stations. Sorry...understatement...I ate like an Ethiopian refugee all day. Had I planned better, I would have brought my lunchbox.
Here's my Jonas Brothers lunchbox. Yes...I own this. I was fortunate enough to win it at a real race. I don't run for the age group awards.
After finishing the first loop, I felt comfortable with the course and settled into my pace...which I managed to maintain for the remainder of the race.
The weather was definitely a factor. While running through the bottoms of the valleys, we were protected from the wind. At this point, I would heat up due to my layers. And when we crested a ridge, the wind would cut right through me, freezing me in the process. It was a cycle that went on all day.
At the end of the 2nd loop, still working on my clothing strategy. Which I never got right.. I think I was in the middle of saying..."Yeah, I eat bananas. So what?"
Finishing the 3rd loop...still feeling pretty peppy!
On the final loop, I fell off my pace somewhat and was struggling with hip flexor pain. It wasn't terrible, but it was nagging and I had to fight to stay on pace. I had to convince myself it wasn't an acute injury, but rather just a part of running a tough 50 mile course. My brain was fighting me the whole time.
Just as I was coming to the finish, it started to snow. Nothing dramatic, but they were steady flurries. Seemed appropriate.
I crossed the finish at 8:21:xx, which was good enough for 3rd place overall. I was shocked when I was told that, because I had not been tracking my progress at all during the race.
Coming to the finish and damn happy about it!
Right after being told I came in 3rd place.
Big congrats from a very cool Race Director.
And most importantly...my Bronze Apple. You don't see these things every day. Don't be jealous. It's definitely getting a special place among my other race awards. While it's not a Jonas Brothers lunchbox, it's still pretty special.
I would encourage others to try this race, or any of the other races that are a part of the NJ Trail Series. These are a cool bunch of runners and I am glad to have spent the day with them.
Jo and I are off to Mississippi next weekend for the MS 50!