2014 TNF Bear Mountain 50 Miles Challenge – Giving up is easy, finishing up is the challenge

Distance. : 50 miles
Finish Time : 11:26:57
Pace: 13:45

Interval Time of Day Chip Time Chip Pace Gun Time Gun Pace
Start 5:01:28AM        
3.9 Miles 5:42:06AM 00:40:39 10:26 min/mi 00:40:47 10:28 min/mi
13.6 Miles 7:33:51AM 02:32:23 11:13 min/mi 02:32:32 11:13 min/mi
40.2 Miles 1:47:46PM 08:46:19
44.6 Miles 3:09:17PM 10:07:50 13:38 min/mi 10:07:58 13:38 min/mi
Finish 4:28:24PM 11:26:57 13:45 min/mi 11:27:05 13:45 min/mi

1001 Excuses
The race was not my best race (day). I twisted both my ankles multiple times on the top of my previous injury from Traprock 50k, I bonked couple times, mosquitos swarming into my face, and the list of my whining kept piling up every single miles. But I glad I did finish it, I knew I would be so upset if I didn’t finish it.

The Race Begun 
We got into the race area pretty early, about an hour before the race. I met with plenty runners from New York area. Some were my training buddies and the others were awesome runners that I was so fortunate to know them.
Earlier this year, I planned to finish it around 10 hours or under, but with my ankle issue from Traprock and raining a few days ago, I was preparing myself for a tough day.
I place myself at the very back of the pack of the first wave in the starting line. I planned to run nice and easy, I didn’t want to get provoked by the fast runners at the front.

Twist And Shout
At 5 am, the clock started ticking and we started our race. I tried to calm myself down. I started to run with Chang, I met him a few weeks before on our training day, he was a strong trail runner that just moved back to NY after lived in Chile for 3 years. I told him that I wanted to hang back a bit, so we ran our first mile together. It was kinda funny that we just started our 50 miles race, but we were already talking our next 50 mile race, Cayuga 50 miles.
Karen, one of the volunteer coordinator, had told me that there would be muds and water on the trail. So it was true. Only a few hundreds meters from the starting line, we were greeted by fresh thick muds and a slippery-sloppy rocks uphill/downhill with running water. And it kept rolling one after another.
After a few miles, I lost Chang from navigating left and right to passed a few runners who started to switch into power walk mode.
By the time I got into Anthony Wayne aid station, the sun was up. Anthony Wayne was one of the major aid station where crews and family could park, it always great to see plenty smiles at the aid station, it always brighten my day.
But I decided to keep continue with my running while my mood was good, my legs were fresh and I just got hang of my rhythm.
After a short road run crossing the bridge, we turned sharp right and got back into the trail, and in an instant the uphill was waiting for us. It was a fun rolling hills that I could enjoy tho.
On the way down, I rolled my right ankles twice, probably I was compensating my body weight too much on my right leg, away from my left foot. The second one was pretty bad that I had to halt for a second. From there on, I started to become more careful on those technical trails. Specially at the steep rock cliff that we needed to scale it down, just before the junction of yellow and red trail.
After that, there was a long down hill with loosing rocks for about a mile. It s a bit frustrating that I could not fly down on this fun trail. I had to preserve my legs and ankles strength, I still had 40 miles to go.
A few minutes later, there was Silvermine aid station.
I took off my shell jacket, grabbed a banana and continue my journey. I took a quick look to my shoulder to see the twins ski slope, I ran there the previous week for training, it gave me a quick smile. Those hills reminded me that I was ready for this race. Despite my injury, I should able to finish this race. I just needed to be smarter. As the trail became more single trail and more civilized rolling hills/ switchbacks, I started to get relax and could run a little bit better.


At one point, I was running at the back of a mountain that was running along the edge of Lake Tiorati. I felt that moment was the perfect run of a day. It was scenic, the temperature was a perfect as it could be and the sky was a perfect blue with a sprinkle of clouds here and there. Then suddenly I was running on the uphill road towards the Arden Valley aid station.

 

I checked my watch and I am pretty good with my timing, not to get cut off to the next aid station, Skananti. I created a cheat sheet for aid station distance and cut off on my left arm the night before.
At the Arden Valley aid station, I saw Joe Del Conte. I thought he was already blasting like an hour ahead of me. He was a pretty fast runner, he just won second place on Beast of Burden 100 in January and first place at NJ Ultra Fest 50k in April. He told me that he got ankles issue, he twisted them a few times. So I wasn’t alone then.
We started to run down the road together and back into the trail. Then we started to run on a vicious rocky terrain. The terrain’s elevation was flat, but these big rocks were covered by leaves, so it was pretty slippery and also the gaps between rocks were hidden beneath the leaves. And BAM!!  I slipped and jammed my left legs into one of the gap up to a knee-deep and luckily I fell backward, so that I didn’t break my leg. I was screaming for sure like a little girl, Joe looked back and was terrified since he knew I had ankle injury on this leg. I was slowly checking my leg and ankle movement, I could move them which was a good sign. I told Joe to keep going and I would catch up with him. But he insisted to stay, so I pushed myself up and started to move again. Alas, after a few meters I twisted my right one this time. I was like “that’s it, I m walking! ” Then I saw Gerry Sullivan passed me and checked on me if I could continue. Gerry won Leatherman loop plenty time, he was a fast and experienced runner. I did run with him a few weeks earlier on a training day. So I told Gerry that I would be okay, I just needed a few minutes. That’s my turning point of the day. From there on, I couldn’t conquer my fear, I ran very carefully and walk on the trail that I thought I could twist my ankles. It s frustrating that I could not jumping around like a monkey in this race but I preferred to finish than injured. I began to flipping my brain and think how could I manage to finish before 12 hours. I knew for sure that I would definitely not able to finish under 10 hours. And really, there was nothing I could do except just keep running, so I told my self, “Suck it up and keep moving! ” So I increased my pace to made up my walking time. I told Joe that I needed to go and hope to see him soon.
Around 10 o’clock, I got into Skananti aid station. I was pretty happy that I had plenty time to the next cutoff and I thought I might still able to finish it in somewhere around 10 hours time. I refueled and refill my flasks. Although it was so pretty in the lake side, but I still had long way to go. Ugh I wished I could just jump into the water or lay down on the grass.
This section is pretty short and half of it, was running on the road. Usually I would hate road, but today was an exception. I could rest my ankle and put auto cruise on. Tho I was running slower on the road, but I didn’t mind. The view was pretty too, so they kept me entertained. I felt so blessed that I have a healthy body and strong legs, I could be here to enjoy the beauty of mother nature. That feeling energized me and kept me running.
And there I was on the second big aid station and our drop-bag station number 2, Camp Lanowa.

Honk When You Bonk
It was a pretty crowded and busy aid station, I got confused a moment before finding the right direction for my loop.
Not long after the aid station, there was an uphill, probably the steepest one. Suddenly, my right quads was cramping on every hike, first bonk. I gulped more water and chugged my shot blocks. After a few steps, I could start move again. Phew, it scared me for a moment. Then, the trail getting more flat and down hill. I made a good run on this section. I might had a few small twists but I could overcome it and I felt a bit better than a few hours ago.
Then I got into the Camp Lanowa for the second time. I treated my blister on my right big toe and changed my mud-soaked socks with a fresh one. It took me more than 15 minutes, I couldn’t bent my knees, my inner-quads was cramping, so I took a salt tablet. Meanwhile, Chang came up to the aid station and we talked a little, he looked pretty strong and then started to move along. Afterward, I saw Joe came to the aid station. He also had not a great day as I was. But I told him to move along and didn’t wait for me, I would catch up (at the end I was not able to catch up with Joe, neither Chang).

Writing my cheat sheet - photo by Elaine

Writing my cheat sheet – photo by Elaine

Based on my cheat sheet (arm), the upcoming aid station would be a long one, so I took out my spare handheld flask and also refuel myself at the aid station.
The trail started pretty flat before I ascended to the Irish Potato. Then it started to descending and have more flat trails with plenty muds, water and falling trees on the course. After a mile or so, we came out from the trail and running on the road for a mile or two. Honestly, at this point I was not sure how long was the road since I got bonked again. I started to eat my blocks again and drink more fluid. It was not working probably until just a half mile before I got back to the trail. It was a little blur on this section since I was trying hard to focus myself to keep running until I got into Tiorati aid station. I ate potatoes with salt, some banana and refill my water.
From here to the next aid station, Owl Lake, it was a pretty flat section that I could do more running, again, with plenty mud and water crossing. I almost stepped on a snake that made me jump and scream like a little girl. Then, the trail became an ascending running water trail. Around the last mile of this section, we started to merge with 50k and marathon runners. The Owl Lake aid station was a really small aid station that was using the back of pickup truck, they had only fluid and gels. And alas, I couldn’t find any shot blocks.
Right after the aid station, there was a good size of hill that we need to hike. At this point, there was no chance I could run the uphill anymore, I was thinking I should safe my energy on the flat and downhill where I could make up my time. Despite my bonking, I could manage to keep running on the upcoming rolling hills, until we hit the white trail. And the runner that had been trailing behind me said that we were half mile away from Anthony Wayne aid station. I just realized that I knew this trail, I had run this section for hundreds time. I ignored my body that was whining at that time, and pushed myself to keep running.
I was so glad that I got into Anthony Wayne aid station, I knew I only had 10 miles left and only one tough hill.
The bad news, I couldn’t find any shot blocks, again, so I just got a potato with salt and a banana. And I kept moving.
We continued on the road for another half mile. I tried to run but my body couldn’t keep it going. I tried to take a salt tablet, it did not work. I could only run for a few hundreds meters before my body put on halt mode. It kept going like this for a good 2 miles. I tried to eat my cliff bar, take a leak and drink more fluid, but non of them could revive me from the bonk. Every time I saw a big rock, my body wanted to take a seat or nap. It was really a frustrating moment.
It was so happened there was an Irish Samaritan guy who spared his shot blocks to me. I took that shot blocks while I was hiking the hill. I was not sure which one that helped me, either the shot blocks or the downhill, but I started to run again all the way to rest of the section. After a turn, I saw a lady in striking dark blue clothes and wig from far away. I yelled, “Queensboro!!” I was so happy. First, I knew it was about less than 5 miles to the finish line. Second, there would be only one big hill, then the rest of the trail would be downhill or flat. As a bonus, they had shot blocks. Yay!!
I immediately chugged a few blocks after refueled myself with water and sodas.
I continued my journey, I hiked the last tough uphill, slowly but sure, then I tried to make up my time on the mile long downhill. It was rocky and water running through the trail, but I said to myself f*** it, I needed to run. I needed to finish before 5 pm. So I just ran thru those rocks, muds and puddles, at the same time try to be cautious not to twist my ankle.

The Best Volunteer.
Then from a few hundreds meters from the 1777 aid station, I saw a kid standing on the trail. I gave him a wave. When he saw me, he started to cheer on me (us), this kid was the best supporter on the trail ever. Everything he said was such an energizing vibes. Right at that second, I forgot my bonk and jelly legs. I could not hide my smile and I could only give him a hi-five as a return.
There was also Kenneth Tom, another awesome runner who helped me refuel and refill my water. I wished I could give him a jumping photo, but I probably had only 20% energy at that time. And the best part was he shoved me back to the trail to finish my race. God bless Ken!

The kid behind me was the best supporter ever - photo by Kenneth Tom

The kid behind me was the best supporter ever – photo by Kenneth Tom

The Finish
For the last 10 or 15 miles, a group of 3 runners and I had been passing each other. And again, after the 1777 aid station, they were tailing on me again. And they started to pass me on the last next uphill, poor my short jelly legs that could not keep up with them. But those guys yelled at me, “we gonna finished it together, you have to stay with us till the finished line”. I said I would try my best, but deep down in my heart, hell yeah I need that killer sergeant now. Thank you my “Three Musketeer”.
And a few minutes later I could see the festival area, the crowds, the FINISH LINE! Everybody cheering on me. And again I could not hide my smile, yet I was depleted. I felt I could run it again. And I did finish with a small jump at the end.

Mayday! Mayday!
One of the best thing of this race was I could see all my running friends in one event, from ultra, trail and any kind of runners from NY. After I passed the finishing area, I talked with some of them for a while. I found out Chang was having a great time and finished really strong. Joe, despite his ankles twisting issue in the first 15 miles, he finished not long after Chang. Jess, who was doing 50K, she shaved off over an hour PR time. Elaine was 7th place female on 50K and 1st on the female age division. It was  such a great atmosphere to see everyone had a great time. Then not so long, I saw my Irish Samaritan runner, who revived me from bonking with his shot blocks. I came to him and say thank you (too bad I did not get a chance to take a picture with him).
Then the bad news started. While I was talking to Jess and Alex, suddenly I felt like I was really tired that I needed to sit down. Within a minute I felt so cold, my heart rate was uncontrolled, my breathing was hard, and I started to feel numb all over my body including my brain. Some of my friends started to come to me, some of them put jacket and blanket on me, and Kat gave me salt tablet. After a few minutes, I did not get better, Tom O’Reilly and Matt brought me to medical tent. Chang helped me to retrieve my bags and my stuffs that I left behind. Mary Harvey gave me her apple juice. Jess and Alex stayed with me the whole time till I got better, probably it was a good 30 minutes. Finally I could start make a stupid jokes again and changed my clothes, which was a good sign. After grabbed my burger, Joe helped me to get back to the car and drove me back to the hotel. And I survived.

Margarita Aid Station (1777)
The next day, I woke up early to do my volunteer for the Sunday race. Amazingly, my body felt great except my ankles, which could barely move, specially the left one. I went to the race festivities area pretty early and helped out with the registration. It was getting crazy just within a second, from empty quiet morning into a busy-buzzing runners that could not wait to start.
Then I moved to the aid station 1777, which will be the last aid station for the Half Marathon race. It was the last 2.8 miles pushed to the finish line. I thought this aid station would be pretty essential to make the runners finish strong, I experienced it in person the day before, so I prepared my cheering mode with my ninja turtle costume. The operational staff dropped us at the aid station location, and we started to prepare all the water, electrolyte fluid, gels, shot blocks, and off course the decoration. One of the volunteer, Allison, she had everything prepared. From the hanging decoration, 2 awesome drawings in front of the table, costume props, etc. Probably she and the other volunteers had been doing it every year, they knew what they were doing, pretty organized and systematic on their workflow. Compare to me, this was my first volunteer work at a trail running aid station.
Suddenly, on the arm radio, they said the first runners were heading to us. They were head to head with probably with less than 30 seconds split in between. Then a few minutes later, one by one, the front-runners came in and out, then the big group of middle pack were swarming “party” aid station. It was really interesting to be on the other side, it seems I could understand what they needed, even before they spoke. I tried my best to make they re-fueled as smooth as I could, so they would not need to stay too long (or I made them to keep moving). I was really interesting to be at the other end of the table. I could feel the energy from the runner, the feeling from their determination, pain and love of what they were doing. It was simply inspiring.

Time goes by real quick. The last runner passed us. We packed up the aid station. I got my lunch. We wrapped up the festivities. And I drove back to the city.
I was pretty bummed that the weekend was over. I wished I could do this everyday.

 

 

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