Finally I got into a starting line without any water dropping from a grey sky. A little bit chilly from the wind, but it seems it gonna be a good day. I had done this race for 2 times before, it s a fast flat course with a small section of road. The plan for this race was taking an easy run, have fun, and work on my nutrition.
Course Description from The RD
This race takes place within the city limits of Philadelphia, and therefore qualifies as an urban ultramarathon, but you will not find things like traffic, noise, bad air quality & concrete buildings here. This race course is located within Pennypack Park, a hidden gem within Philadelphia’s Fairmont park system. The park stretches along Pennypack creek for about 7 1/2 miles, and is home to many trails, huge old trees, birds & other wildlife. I run here all the time, and never get tired of it.
I started the loop with my Orange Mud single bottle vest pack, I had around 300-400 calories in my 700 ml bottle. My plan was to get calories intake from Tailwind along the run, then getting some solid food and water on the aid stations. I also put an extra Tailwind stick, a honey gel and small waffle just for emergency in the shoulder pocket.
Before we started, the RD mentioned about the course was altered due to inaccessible bridge (I think), so the distance between aid station 1 and 2 would be longer then it supposed to be, about 6 miles. And we would spend a bit longer distance on the bike trail (pavement).
I started pretty easy, not in a rush. I would have a long day today. The first section was pretty fun, a lot of rolling hills, single track, and some under pass echo boom sections. Although some section were looked different from my memory. This race had a 3 different distance options, 25K, 50K, and 50 miles. The 25K was a loop race, where the 50K would do it twice, and the 50 miles had 3 loops with an extra (about) 1.5 miles in every loop. The loop was in a way feel like a figure 8 loop with a stretch of out and back in the middle, which made the aid station 1 served as aid station 3, and aid station 2 was on the far end one. The difference with this year, they have the start/finish aid station located not in the festival area, but further down when we got into the trail. This year, I think they had about 500 runners on the trail, so most of the time I had never been alone by myself on the trail. But I tried my best not to get stick in any bottle neck before I got into the single trail section, yet I also did not want to exert too much too early. This race course kinda flat for my flavor, but still there were a few rolling hills with uneven rocks, sticking out roots, and other fun stuffs on the trail. In this case, it could be a double edge for me, I could be running too fast or I could just put the auto cruise mode on.
After we ran under the bridge and went through a few rolling hills, we went up and cross the bridge/road and went back down to the other side where the first aid station was located. I quickly grabbed a few slices of oranges and chips, before I continued my ride. The second section started with a fun rolling hills before we got into another single trail and then we were running down into a creek crossing. On this section, I started to catch up with the 50 miler peeps, who started about 30 minutes earlier.
For the next section, the course was running on the 1st part of bike trail pavement. Just for a few minutes it felt good to have a hard surface to kick into, but I just got bored pretty quickly. Though we had a small break of single trail after we crossed a foot bridge (I think). Here I was passing a 50 miler who used a ear-buds and played music so loud that she did not notice our signals multiple times. So I and the other runners behind me had to cut her in from the trail shoulder. Then we were back on the pavement for a while, after a few minutes (felt like forever), we made a left turn before a foot bridge to get back into another short mile of single trail. And there was the aid station 2 located. I stopped there to assess what they had on the table and what should I get. I decided to grab more oranges and bananas. I asked them if they had cheeseburger or porter steak, but too bad they did not have one. I guessed I did not get the memo.
The course was still continued on the bike road. After a few minutes on the road, there was a female runner, who ran up the uphill pretty fast. She might be the first female, and she told me that she made a wrong turn. We matched up our mileage, it seemed she lost 1.5 miles-ish. Then she just sped up and went puff. In other situation I might got provoked to not get passed, but today was all about a fun run. Again I was really tired of this road and wished every turns would become trail. And finally I did make it to the trail. It was a little steep ascent, but I was happy about it. I took whatever trail offered to me right now. Actually this section was pretty fun, a lot of switchbacks and rolling hills. There was a pretty fun steep downhill, just before I got back to the aid station 1, now aid station 3. Here, I thought that I should get a solid food, and what was crossed in my mind was salted baked potatoes. Not sure what was happened, when the slice got into my mouth, my body kinda rejected it and threw it away. This was new, I had never had it before. I took another one and tried to eat it on the course, which had a short rocky ascent. I had a problem with swallowing it, I had to use water to down this bizarre potato.
The next section was probably my favorite part of the loop. It was a maze of switchbacks with sharp turn one after another. This year Stephen, the RD, add a few falling trees for us to jump around. I had so much fun to run it fast.
Satan Tar What They Call
When I got into the start and finish area, I found that they had tweak this part a little bit. It went out from the tree section into a walk path and ran straight to the finishing shoot. Since the last couple of miles, I had this unsettling stomach feeling. It did not feel like I needed to take a dump, but It was more like uncomfortable feeling. When I got out from the festivities area, I slowed down my pace a bit and try to make my body a little calm. And when I got into the Start/Finish aid station, I grabbed a sip of ginger ale with a little of potatoes chips and oranges. I still kept my pace a little slower, tried to be friendly with my stomach. When I got into aid station 1 tried to put in a slice of potatoes and see how it would work. Again I needed to push it down with water, but I felt not too bad about it this time. Probably because I was running in the out and back section, where I exchanged encouragements from the other runners that ran to the other direction.
Unfortunately, I did not feel good again when I got into the road section after the river crossing. The long endless pavement Satan Tar did not help either, too boring. At one point where the 50 miler runners started to catch up with me and passed me, then I knew I was in a bad situation. Then I saw the RD ran behind me and caught up with me while carrying a jerry can, filled by chalk powder. So what happened was, there was a culprit who vandalize the trail marker. It was where the turn that led back into a short trail to aid station 2, just before the foot bridge. The turning marker on the ground was wiped out with the sands, and the streamer on the branches had been snatched away. I never understood what the funny of this act, and I had experienced/heard this trouble more often in these past years. In a race like Dirty German, the harm would probably only the runner finishing time, but in other races that run through mountains or multiple states, the risk would be fatal, could be someone life. Probably this anger might had fueled me to run a bit normal than before since I started to lose my shadows behind me.
When I got into aid station 2, I gulped 2 cups of cokes and grab a few slices of oranges. I was walking for a few minutes till my stomach feel a bit better. Again the stomach grumpiness and the pavement boredom were taunting me. Another batch of runners passed me on this section. After the left turn to the foot bridge, I got tired from being a road kill, so I decided to bring back my pace into my normal easy pace. I picked the last runner on my view finder, and used him as my pace measurement. I could be slightly getting closer but I would not allowed myself to have a further gap. And when I got back to the trail, that was my turning point where I was closing the gap, in a few minute I caught up with him. Just before the last aid station, I passed him on the downhill.
I only grabbed another 2 cups of coke, and slowly to get moving. There were a small steep uphill after the aid station, where I slowly getting my fast hike into a motion and started catching up with more runners. When I got to the maze, suddenly I forgot all the uneasiness and just run, and had some fun. Fast turn, jumping logs and pick up pace, repeat. Then I got into another ascent where the junction between the 50k and 50 miler, where I had to force myself to keep on the small jog mode. It was probably less than 2 mile less, I crossed my fingers and toes to keep my shit together. I started to hear the automobile noises, the music from festivities, and I was just sprinting it out from the tree line, to the walking path, to the finishing shoot, and that was it. It was done.
Bad Day Was Not So Bad
I sat at the bench tried not to puke. I was a little upset that I did not have a good race, but it was a training run after all. Also it was my longest run in the last 5-6 months. So I thought I should be happy to finish it sub 5 hours, I did not fall, no wound or injury, not even blister or black nail. I should not be too sulky about it.