In 2010, I started running a few 5k's in an effort to get motivated to lose weight. Later that summer, I stumbled across trail running, which led to the natural progression that we're all so familiar with. A road 5k, followed by a trail half marathon, which naturally leads to an ultra marathon.
Then, of course, you run your first marathon AFTER you've already run an ultra just so you can get your road running friends to shut up about it.
We've all been there.
Running Labor Pains in 2010 was a turning point in my life and nothing has been the same since. It put me on a path to constant fun and adventure and has played a big role in shaping the way I live my life.
I don't keep coming back to this race to see what I can do. I keep coming back to this race so I can bear witness to what others can do when they push themselves beyond their previously perceived limits. Watching people being born into the sport of ultra running is more inspirational and emotional for me than anything I'll ever achieve on my own at this point in my running career.
Or to put it another way...I keep coming back so I can renew my sense of inspiration and exhilaration that has slowly faded from my own achievements. I keep coming back so I can refuel my heart, and it works every time.
Me and Jo Pre-Race
Another great reason to make the trip from Utah to Pennsylvania is to visit old running friends. There's a really great group of runners that I once shared a lot of trail miles with and this gives me a great chance to enjoy a bit more of that!
This Guy has Been in Too Many of My Blog Posts Lately...
For those that don't know, this race is run on a 5 mile loop and the objective is to run it as many times as you want in the 12 hour timeframe. That seems reasonable enough, but I find it nearly impossible to run pass the beer garden for 12 hours and once that thirst kicks in, the desire to keep running fades quickly.
My experience has been that 5-6 hours is the maximum amount of time that I can continue running passed cold and available beer. Just enough time to run a 50k before I opt out in favor of cocktail hour(s) with my friends.
In typical Pretzel City Sports fashion, the race started about 20 minutes late. I would have been disappointed otherwise.
Leon and I started the race together and were running up near the front. We were just chatting and enjoying the trail together without a lot of thought to any kind of race plan or strategy. I knew we were running too fast for the early miles, but I really didn't care and was enjoying the pace.
It was still early and the heat and humidity were bordering on offensive. In the second mile I knew this would be a shirtless run for me today as soon as I could get through the loop and shed my shirt.
Leon and I finished the first loop in 42 minutes. That's a PR for me on that loop, which is saying something because the RD added a lot more elevation gain from previous years. I made sure to remind Leon that we ran that loop too fast, but damn....it was fun!
Leon stayed with me for the second loop, and we chatted and laughed our way through another 5 miles. I laughed when I saw the clock at the end of that loop because our pace hadn't fallen off much at all.
After that loop, Leon abandoned me. I'm relatively certain that he came to the realization that I was trying to draw him into an unsustainable pace in an effort to bring on dehydration, an early bonk, and an ultimate DNF, which would lead to a very early visit to the beer garden.
That may or may not have been my plan.
I'm not saying 8 minute miles are SUPER fast. However, for the weather conditions and our level of interest in taking the race seriously, we were running way to fast.
Some Sweet Single Track
My bride was somewhere on the trail and I kept thinking I was going to run into her but she somehow eluded me. She was very vague about her intentions for the race, but I had my suspicions...
The third loop was a bit slower because I didn't have Leon with me for company and was forced to enter into conversations with other runners at varying paces. I stopped at the aid station and talked with that group for a few minutes before pressing on.
More Sweet Single Track
THERE SHE IS!!!
As it turns out, Jo was running a loop, then stopping for a beer and some social time before beginning another loop. When I ran into her at the start/finish area, I made the mistake of acting like we were in a race and suggested that she get on the trail. This is when I learned that Jo DID have a plan and it happened to include heavy doses of cold beer and leisurely banter every 5 miles.
I won't lie...I liked her plan better than mine.
Jo Laughing at My Suggestion That She Hurry Up
Leon Adopting the Jo Agnew Race Strategy
And...MORE Sweet Single Track
My 4th and 5th loop began to feel a bit like work. My pace slowed in direct relationship to the rise in the ambient temperature and humidity. I was drinking Hammer Nutrition Endurolyte Fizz at an astonishing rate and seemed to be keeping up really well with my hydration, but it was just getting HOT and OPPRESSIVE by now.
The 5th loop was my slowest and I felt like a bonk might be coming on, but I fueled more aggressively and managed to fight it off.
By the start of my 6th, and final full loop, I was feeling better than I had felt all day.
I briefly considered the notion of bumping up to 50 miles instead of 50k, but better judgement and my upcoming 100 miler dictated a more conservative plan.
Shortly into my 6th loop, I was passed by a guy that was moving at a ridiculous pace. Trying to keep up with him seemed like a good way to burn through my last loop.
This Guy Was Burning up the Trail...
I caught back up to the guy that passed me and we ran together for the rest of the loop. The pace was comfortable but extremely fast. I could keep on this guys heels easily, but I doubted my ability to hold that pace for another 20 miles. We talked the entire way to the finish and the time passed blissfully fast.
My final loop was as fast as my first loop.
I later learned the runner I was with was the race leader.
After finishing 30 miles, I had to complete a short out and back to complete the distance. On the way out, I picked up Tim Nash, a great runner and a great friend. He was finishing his 50k too, so we ran it out together and chatted the entire way.
Crossing the line, I was the 2nd runner to finish the 50k distance. I was beat by just over 1 minute by the 1st place finisher.
I quickly grabbed a cold beer and transitioned into spectator mode.
Soon after, Jo came in to finish another lap. We talked for a while and it was obvious she was having fun and felt good.
Jo at 20 Miles
I began some pretty intense socializing, mixed with a bit of beer drinking and spectating. There were so many great people that I hadn't seen in a long time and it became a huge blur trying to spend enough time with all of them.
Sooner than I expected, Jo came in to finish her 5th loop and still feeling great. I walked her out through the aid station to the trail and confirmed that she wanted to do 50k.
That's my GIRL!
Jo at 25 Miles, Heading for 30!
After finishing her 6th, and final loop, Jo wanted to be paced by Lindsay Lutz for her final mile. This made perfect sense because those girls are great friends. It also made no sense at all because Lindsay was wearing a skirt and flip flops. But whatever...I've never really understood women.
Jo and Lindsay Headed to the Finish!
The Real Reason for the Popularity of This Race...
The hours wore on and we watched runners reach new milestones. We watched the lead change from my earlier running partner to my buddy Jimmy Blandford, who also holds the course record here. And we witnessed another endurance race finish by 81 year old John Schultz. John is an amazing man and a huge inspiration!
John Finishing 36 Miles! I want to be This Guy Someday!
Jimmy Winning With 70 Miles!
Hot Much??? The Results of Dehydration. Carnage.
I've written a lot about this race in the past and there's very little else for me to say that hasn't already been said. Simply put, this race means a lot to me and Jo and we plan to keep coming back for as many years as we can.
The people at Labor Pains are the reason this event is so special. This starts with Ron and Helene Horn from Pretzel City Sports and continues with their staff and the race volunteers. The runners, spectators, families and friends are also a huge part of why this race is so great. The atmosphere is unlike any other race I've ever done and I know most of the other participants feel the same way.
I want to congratulate all the runners that achieved a new mileage goal and all the runners that came out and made the race special. It was an amazing and inspirational day for me, and I'm certain many other people feel the same way.
Jo and I can be found in Park City next weekend for the Mid Mountain Trail Marathon. I'm beginning to gradually ease off my weekly mileage in preparation for the Bear 100 on September 27th. I'm going to see if tapering actually works. Some people swear by it, so I want to give it a shot and see what all the fuss is about.
Thanks again for reading my posts. It's greatly appreciated and I really enjoyed meeting so many loyal readers this weekend at Labor Pains. It means a lot to me that people take the time to check it out. Thanks again!