Making the turn on the 1-mile loop course
On a last minute whim, I decided to sign up for the inaugural NJ One-Day event put on by the NJ Trail Series guys. Back in May, I decided to participate in my first timed event at the NJ "3 Days at the Fair". I figured this 72-hour event would be a good way to prep myself for my upcoming slog across Tennessee at the Last Annual Vol State Race. I knew I needed some long pavement training miles, but I was admittedly nervous about the idea of running a 1-mile loop continuously for 72 hours.
What transpired, was wonderfully surprising. Not only did I enjoy running the one-mile loop, but I was introduced to the fun and vibrant NJ Trail Series running community. One of the things that made the 72-hour event so much fun was that it was so incredibly social. You are never more than a mile away from anyone on the course and at some point you'll either pass them, or they'll pass you.....giving you yet another chance for good conversation. I came away from 3-days with some really fantastic memories and a whole slew of new running friends.
So.....when I saw that the race director was going to be putting on a new 24-hour race on the same course this month, I didn't hesitate to sign up. I knew I'd get to again run alongside some great folks and that I would likely have a fun time. I knew I wasn't trained as well as I was back in May, but I also knew it would be good to get some miles under my belt. Additionally, I have never run a 24-hour event before, I was curious as to how many miles I might be able to cover. More so than miles though, somewhere deep down I had always wondered how fast I could cover 100-miles. Before arriving at the fairgrounds, I told myself that more than covering total mileage, I wanted to try as hard as possible to break 20 hours for 100 miles. This mythical number has always seemed unreachable to me, and the closest I've ever come at a race was 21 hours 41 minutes. Obviously the 1-mile loop is relatively flat at the NJ fairgrounds, but if there was ever a time to go for that sub 20, this was it.
I drove out Friday night and arrived at the fairgrounds after dark. It was bitingly cold. I set up my tent and found that I was completely alone. It seemed everyone else opted for local motel rooms. For the most part I stayed warm through the night, but just before sunrise I was definitely chilled as the temps dropped down into the 20's.
At 8:45 am, the 50+ runners lined up at the start. I chatted at length with fellow Vol Stater Bill Shultz and fellow 3-days runner Dave Lettieri. It was good catching up with all of the folks I met back in May.
At 9:00 am we set out and started making our way through the loops. I wasn't really sure what proper pace should be, so I kept it somewhat conservative. I basically ran the first 20 or so miles at a similar pace to that which I ran during the 72-hour event. The daylight hours went quickly and by 4:00 pm it was already starting to get dark out. I knew I was in for a long, cold night. Still though, I was thoroughly enjoying myself, and my mileage was really beginning to rack up. I covered the first 50 miles in about 8hrs 20mins, which was basically the same pace I covered 50 miles at both Tussey and Pine Creek. I knew that this meant the wheels would likely fall off at some point, but I wasn't having too much fun to care.
As the wee hours creeped in, the temps plummeted and I focused on just trying to get through multiple loops without stopping too much for aid. Up to this point, I found that I was stopping after almost every loop and it was costing me unnecessary time. At some point around 3:00 am, it occurred to me that I was on pace to possibly break 20 hours for 100 miles, but the fatigue had definitely caught up to me. I was struggling to keep the running going and by 19+ total hours I was hurting fairly badly with 95 total miles. I pushed it hard for the next five miles and crossed the mat for 100 miles in 19 hours 54 minutes. I had done it. I finished 100 miles in under 20 hours. I realize it is somewhat of a technicality as it was done during a timed event, but in my book, that still counts!
I took a long break after 100 and eventually slogged an additional 14 miles. I walked a lot of those last miles and really wasn't too motivated to push it. I was tired and sore to boot. The 114 miles though was enough for 3rd place which was an unexpected surprise. It won't get me on any US National Teams, but I was thrilled to have topped 110 for sure!
My third place, 114-mile, license plate prize
On a side note, I recently did a 2+ hour long podcast interview with Eric Sherman over at DFL ultrarunning. We talked everything from Barkley, to Vol State, to Badwater, to Thru-hiking. I had a blast chatting with Eric and I was honored to share my stories. Here is the link to the podcast (My bit starts at 25 minutes in):