Overall Time: 3:24
Place: 2nd of 22
AG% : N/A
Weather: 65, sunny
Start Time: 8:00am
Before The Run
This was a little trail race out in Rocky Point, Long Island that I used as a tune-up for the JFK 50 Mile in November. This was sort of a last-minute substitute for the Hartford Marathon due to its proximity to the City and the fact that it was on trails. If my two “A” races this year are on trails, then that means I should be doing my training on trails. Hartford would be out, and Tesla Hertz was in!
The entire event was very laid back and stress-free. There were several events happening concurrently: a 50K, 50-mile, 100K, and 100-mile races. The races consisted of a number of loops around 10.4-mile loop — 3 times in the case of the 50K. There was an aid station at the start (at the north end of the loop) and halfway along the loop (at the south end of the course). We’d get fairly well-acquainted with the whole setup since we’d see everyone a few times.
When I looked at the course online, it appeared fairly flat and fast — even if it was mostly on single-track. However in person it wasn’t quite as fast as I thought it would be. Before the race I thought for sure that breaking 4:00 would be doable even just for a training run. I hadn’t tapered in the weeks leading up to this race because it’s not an “A” race, but still figured a 3:55 would be a given. I was wrong!
It’s hard to pin-point exactly why this race was slower than anticipated, but it may have had something to do with the constant tiny turns on the course. It’s hard to get into a good 50K running groove. For the longer stuff (100K, 100 mile) you don’t have to worry so much about fast running — but for the 50K you are still moving at a pretty good clip and that was really made difficult by the lack of straights.
Although the course was slower than I expected, it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. I wasn’t so concerned about time; this was more an effort-based race for me. So long as I kept the pace pretty constant and put in an good effort, I’d be happy with my result. And quite honestly the constant little turns in what appeared to be a fairly straight course was sort of fun.
The overall elevation was basically flat. This is Long Island, after all. There were bumps and small rollers that kept things interesting, and only one real bump a few miles from the finish of each loop that caused anyone to slow down. It was very small but incredibly steep. I was happy to be able to still run the entire thing on the second loop but will admit to having power walked up it on the third loop.
Footing on the course was generally pretty good, although I did have a couple very painful ankle experiences in the final loop. This being New York in October, there were leaves on the trail and may have hidden a few rocks that I would have seen otherwise. But to be fair the trail was pretty free of rocks and roots; this definitely wasn’t anything like TNF Bear Mountain 50 miler.
For such a small race, they were really prepared. Along with your basic fluid choices (Water, HEED), they had some fairly good food. There was nothing out of the ordinary, but I guess I just didn’t think that a small first-time race would be stocked with all the chips, pretzels, potatoes, PB&J sandwiches, sugar wafers, and candy (Twizzlers!) that they had. Except for fluids I didn’t partake at all during the run, but those sandwiches were from Heaven once I was finished!
My race was a fairly typical, well-paced run. I led the race for the first 7 or so miles before two guys right behind me decided to make a move. This wasn’t a race I wanted to try and fight to make the podium on, so I let them go. I wasn’t going to ruin my training on account of my own testosterone and ego getting in the way, so at the end of the first loop I found myself in third place.
I had run the first loop with no water bottle, so at the aid station at the start of the second loop I picked up my new Orange Mud backpack hydration system. I wanted to test it out to see how it held up so that I could make a decision as to whether or not to use it for JFK. It added a minute or two to my time, rummaging through my pack to get it out and put it on, but it was worth it — I needed to give it a good field test before running with it in a big race. By the end of the race I would decide that it was one of the better purchase of the year and that it would by my hydration system of choice for JFK and Lookout 50.
Unfortunately shortly after beginning the second loop I got a little lost on my run and added a half mile when I failed to pay attention to the course markings and accidentally veered down some ATV trails. The trails and the course were definitely well marked as long as you paid attention, so this was all my fault. That was a little frustrating for me as I went from 3rd place all the way to 6th (ack!). I did panic a little bit, knowing that I had lost substantial ground. I had to push the pace a bit to regain 3rd position and it was confusing when I had to then re-pass those who thought I was in front of them (“What are you doing back here?” they wondered aloud). After settling back into things, the remainder of the race was pretty quiet. There weren’t enough people in the race to settle into a pack, and the only other people on the course were running the longer distances and were thus running a fair bit slower. It would just be me and my thoughts.
Before my little detour on the second loop, I had thought I could catch at least one of the two guys ahead of me. But after going off course I sort of threw that thought aside, and instead started worrying that I wouldn’t be able to maintain a Top 3 finish. I worried that the little surge that I had thrown in to regain 3rd position might bite me in the ass during the last loop. Yikes!
On the back half of the second loop a few people told me I was not terribly far from the leaders. But I know how these things work; misinformation is rampant in races, and you should never — NEVER — trust other people who tell you things, no matter how well-meaning they area. I didn’t think I’d be able to take 1st or 2nd place, and was really just focused on maintaining 3rd overall.
Starting the third loop, I made sure not to get lost again and just kept my head down for the final 10 miles. Unfortunately my right ankle was taking quite a beating, mostly due to it being a little weak from having a minor sprain a month ago. It happened in the worst of places, too — just after beginning the third and final loop. It forced me to stop a couple of times. It was just too painful to even walk on. I wondered if I’d have to drop and walk back to the start without finishing the course. In the span of a half mile I managed to jam it on random rocks a half dozen times, and it would send pain shooting up my leg and I would have to stop to collect myself. I was really nervous about whether I’d be able to finish this race dealing with the current pain and fearing injuring the ankle any more. After a couple minutes the pain calmed down and I decided to pay attention to my footing and try to finish the race, albeit at a somewhat slower pace.
Toward the last half of the final loop I started to get a little bit of mojo back and I could sense that I was gaining on the second place runner. With only four miles left to go I could see him up ahead. Somehow despite my detour in the second loop and having to nurse a weak ankle in the third, I caught up with the 2nd place runner. He said he was struggling, which was easily apparent. We had chit-chatted during the first loop and I knew that he was finishing off a pretty long and tough race season. It had definitely worn him down and he was in a pretty bad state but still moving forward. He was moving too slowly for me to try and encourage to run together, so I made my way to the finish.
I pushed on the last few miles just to make sure no one passed me and that I could hold onto a somewhat respectable 2nd place finish. Before I knew it, the race was over and I had made my third Top-3 finish this year! Granted it was a super tiny race, but it still feels good.
Quick Final Thoughts
This was a great race that I’ll be recommending to many friends, especially those who are looking to try their first ultra-distance events — 50K, 50Mile, 10K, 100 Mile. The support is really great for such a small event and everyone was incredibly friendly. The race director was at the start the entire time and the volunteers were all fantastic.
Typically ultramarathons (especially those on trails) have a great feeling camaraderie, and Tesla Hertz was no different. Everyone — runners and volunteers — had a very positive outlook on the event no matter how much they were hurting, and there were lots of words of encouragement on the course whether you were passing someone or being passed.
If you’re looking for a great ultra experience close to New York City, I highly recommend Tesla Hertz.