Next year I turn 50. Hard to believe, but happy to still be here and still able to move. As 2019 winds down, I’d like to reflect on what has been, for me, a busy race year. It marked my return to ½ marathons; I ran 2. My 12th Boston Marathon and my 1st year running more than a single 100-mile run in a calendar year; I ran 3. Throw in 2 more gnarly ultradistance trail runs over the summer and there you have a banner final year in the non-masters age group.
The year started out with the Rocky Raccoon 100 miler outside of Houston, Tx in February. There, I paced my friend to his 1st 100-mile run/finish and captured my 5th 100-mile buckle. Immediately after this Ultra, I had to recover and then turn to shorter and quicker running as I prepared for the Boston Marathon less than 10 weeks later. I slow jogged the Hyannis ½ in cold, rainy and miserable weather and then the next month red lined the New Bedford ½ to determine if I could post a Boston Qualifying time for April’s race. All things considered, I was happy with a 1:32 half in New Bedford and felt as though a 3:18 Boston was possible. And, 3:18 it was! Unfortunately, it was on the lower end of 3:18 and I missed out on being able to participate in the 2020 Boston Marathon by less than 20 seconds. Ouch.
With Boston out of the way, it was time to slow it down once more, lengthen out the distances and start climbing. Each year I have 1 goal race. This year it was getting some revenge at the Leadville Trail 100. Last time out, in 2016, my race ended in an ambulance ride after my bee sting allergy was confirmed 14 miles into the day. In May, I ran the Wapack out and back. It was a 43+ mile out and back race along the Wapack trail which starts and ends in Massachusetts, while most of the terrain is in New Hampshire. In June, the North Face 50 mile at Wachusett thoroughly kicked my ass. Though I had a decent race, I ended up in the hospital for a few hours and a few bags of IV fluid. Thereafter, lots of hills, lots of miles and lots of time with my good friend Jim who was doing Leadville with me.
Leadville was August 17 and 18th. We spent a week in Breckenridge prior to acclimate to the altitude, which is not essential, but helpful. Unless you live at altitude (or can acclimate for more than 2 months) I’m not sure a day or a week or even 2 really makes that much of a difference. I’ve done each of these (a day, a week and 2 weeks) and while the longer duration I’m at altitude the less like crap I feel, from a race performance standpoint, it hasn’t seemed to make much of a difference. As was the case in 2015, I felt like complete garbage for the 1st seven and a half hours of the race. My buddy Jim was doing great and headed out of the aid station about 10 minutes before me. I sat at the aid station thinking that this wasn’t my day as I was exhausted, my head was pounding, I couldn’t eat and though I drank a ton of fluid (wanted to avoid the E.R.), I wasn’t really peeing. My pacer Joe “forced” me to take an advil and caffeine pill. I was reluctant with concern over my kidney and fluid balance, but I also knew that if something didn’t change, this race was over. Heading out towards mile 40 and the start of the hardest 20 miles of this hard race, I listened to some music and tried to change my attitude. Whatever it was, it worked. Something similar happened in 2015 where I went from feeling like crap to feeling great. I climbed up and over Hope Pass at 12,600’ faster than everyone around me and kept with great pacing through the half at mile 50.5 and then back to mile 61 (same aid station I left despondent less than 6 hours before). I couldn’t really eat still as my stomach never seemed right, but the fluids started to work, I started peeing (and didn’t stop for the next 24 hours!) and my body felt fine almost the entire way to the finish. Though I didn’t hit the sub 25-hour goal, I was really happy with my 26:30 finish which was good for 110th out of 386 finishers with over 650 people who started the race. It was a good time to take a break!
Sooooo, after doing a few runs here and there over the next 6 or 7 weeks, my buddy Jim was thinking of doing the new Midstate Massive Ultra that goes from NH through Massachusetts finishing in Douglas State Park; which while running in the park takes you through Connecticut and Rhode Island before returning to Mass. The draw for me was to run the Midstate Trail from New Hampshire to Wachusett AND during the fall foliage season. With the 1st part of the race being in daylight, I had to sign up for the entire race if I wanted to do that section. Truth be told, I never had as much interest in running the 2nd part anyway. So of course, I signed up. And of course, once running I was going to do whatever it took to finish. Jim and I finished in 28 hours and 52 minutes and officially ending the 2019 racing season at 451 total race miles run. On to 2020!