By Gary Scarano
This Saturday, June 1, 2103, I ran and completed my first 50 miles race. Since I did not finish the Bear Mountain 50 miler, I didn’t tell anyone I was going to do this. I made too big a deal of the Bear Mtn race in advance and I learned my lession.
It was, as you know, 95 degrees and very hot. On the way down my cell phone rebooted and I lost many of my contacts and all of my text messages, so there are people who I no longer have contact info for.
The race stated at 5AM, but it was already 74 degrees by then. I had a 2 liter hydration pak, but it was empty before I got to the 14.8 mile aid station. I did my best not to run to fast in the beginning and did pretty well, but I still could have slowed down. You can see my splits below. Since my pak was empty I dropped it and decided to try to get by with a hand held of 16 ounces. I thought I would have more freedom; and the next ~21 miles of the race were comprised of 3 loop of about 7 miles each. This was the most technical part of the course, but I would estimate only about 6-8 total miles compared with Bear Mountain. At one point you are literally a few feet from a 40-50 foot drop into the river (see photo). I could not believe that one of the three times I passed there right at the critical point a guy yells “On You Left.” This left me about 18 inches of space. I said very load, “Don’t push me off.”
They could have had more water stops. And although they had manned turn-around points, they did not have water. That did not make sense to me. I had to ask others for water now and then. On my last of the three 7 mile loops I decided to switch back to my hydration pack and I filled it up (I thought). I didn’t know at the time that the pak was folded and it only filled half way. This was after mile 28. I kept slowing down but since I did my first 25 miles in 5 hours, I had 8 hours left to finish the rest of the race. I thought it was plenty of time (I was wrong). My pak went dry and I slowed to a walk. Many people were walking at this point.
It was here my and another man came to a young women in the woods just crying fanatically saying she could not breath. The other man said he would stay with her while I tried to run as fast as I could for help. I told her to take off her pak to help he to breath. I came across first aid about 15 minutes later and sent them.
I was doing my best, but was very concerned. I was out of water and ask people for sips. If it was not for the generosity of the other runners, I would have had to stop right there. At one point, this very nice girl gave me her hand held. She told me to give it back to her at the end, but I never saw her.
Later I was running with a guy who told me that in order for us to make the cut off we had to so do sub 17 minutes miles pace. (if you don’t finish the race in 13 hours or certain check points at the avg. pace of 15:36, you are told you cannot finish the race. and pulled off the course. They are pretty strict about this since they don’t want to be searching for people in the wilderness in the dark). We were doing 25 minute miles up the hills at that time and I got worried that I would not be able to finish in time. He left me in the dust and for the first time that day I thought I was not going to make it.
This was about Mile 35 now were coming to the end of the hills (see chart). At this point I filled up my hydration pak the right way. I ask the guy for ice to put in my pak and he just pointed. I started throwing ice cubes in my pak when the guy yelled at me saying that tub of ice was for runners to dunk their heads in towels and wash themselves off (ughh). Only a runner could understand that it just didn’t bother me at that point. I emptied the pak the best I could in one throw and picked up ice from the other tub. I made sure I filled it all the way and I was off.
It was great to see John Mackenzie (about six times 🙂 during the race. With all the turn arounds you get to see other runners a lot. He had helped me a bunch by giving me ultra tips before the race. I think he said he ran a marathon the day before the 50 mile race!!!! He finished well over an hour ahead of me. Thanks John!
My hydration pack of 2 liters ran out at mile 45.5. Instead of taking the time to refill it I just drank about 5 cups of Gatorade and continued on. Finally when I pass the 47.8 mile marker with about an hour to go I finally knew I would make it. At this point I got dizzy, but it only lasted a minute. I did not sweat much, but I was wet all over and uncomfortable since at the aid station they ask you if you would like water poured over your head. I said yes every time, but ended up getting wet all over. Running is wet shorts is not fun.
During the last 1/2 mile I was completely dry and I asked the guy next to me for a sip of water. He gave it to me and I hope he didn’t mind but I ran past him, his friend, and another person during the last 1/4 mile. I was very happy for my strong finish of the last 15 miles and very happy to finish my first 50 miler.
I ended up finishing with 28 minutes to spare, which means I did a whole lot better than a 17 minute mile for the last 15 miles at least. I was in utter pain, but felt great. I came in 4th in my age group.I have to thank so many people for their advice and support including Johh M., Jonathan, Ali, Laura, Jamie, my good friend Don M., my wife Deb, and many others.
Sorry for the long note, but it was a long race 🙂