It was nice to return to run with the GAC crew this year at the Stone Cate Ale 50. I missed it last year but had been there for the previous 3 years. I was looking forward to this years race as it looked like a reunion of the top ultra runners in New England with the likes of Leigh Schmitt, Todd Walker, Kevin Sullivan, David Herr, Brian Rusiecki, Joe Carrara and Aliza Lapierre. My training leading up to the race had gone well, racking up lots of miles as usual, mostly on trails. But the big change this year in the week leading up to the race was sleep, or should I say lack of sleep. The combination of personal changes and working a new part time job which has me up at 4:00 AM led to a week getting anywhere from 1 to 4 hours of sleep a night. Not my usual 7 hours to replenish the body & brain. A little burned out by Friday but thankfully I got a ride down with Joe Carrara & his wife Kathleen and a new young buck from Middlebury College, Alex Russo. I passed out soon after I got in the car. On the way down we stopped at Lui Lui in NH and carbed up on some great pasta and a nice cold beer. Back in the car and back to sleep for the trip to Danvers, Mass. Alex and I roomed together for the night, getting our race gear ready for the early morning wake up.
4:15 AM wake up. Breakfast was on! Hot Waffles! One of my favorite pre-race meals. A short drive afterwards led us to the race start in Ipswich. A quick registration process, race meeting and meeting with old friends and we headed outside. A cool morning in the upper 20"s. Shorts or tights? Shorts was my call which worked out just fine. Soon the sun was up enough to see and the start of the 2009 Stone Cat 50. Feeling sluggish as usual in the morning, I tried a short warm up run to get the blood flowing and then we started. Right off the line Ben Nephew took off. He was only running the marathon distance so he went out at a fast pace along with Greg Hammett who was also running the marathon. There was a group of six of us running together, chatting along as we pulled slightly ahead of the other runners. We were led by some unknown runner who set the pace, but it seemed comfortable. We had Leigh, Kevin, Todd, Brian and myself. David Herr was just back a bit, trying to be smart and conserve a little for later as the last three runnings of this race I've had with him, he lost it on the last lap. This was lap one of four to make up the 50 miles. Soon in lap one I saw that Todd has fallen back but at the same time noticed that David Herr had caught up. It was still the unknown runner leading followed by Leigh, Brian, Kevin, David & myself. First lap was uneventful, we were going along at a good pace but not killing it. We were probably doing a 7:30 to 8:00 pace for much of it. I usually pride myself in the fact that I can pee and run at the same time, usually saving it for an uphill climb where the pace slows down but I was amazed to see that Leigh had perfected it. He could pee while we were running full speed and without losing a second. Wow, that's how he wins all those 50 milers! I tried it later on but had to slow down a bit. Need to practice. Lap one was done with the unknown runner coming in first with the four of us following. I did a quick fluid exchange which was all set to go and off for lap 2. It was the four of us again but the unknown runner was starting to fall off. We headed out at roughly the same pace until Kevin, who "was not racing" today decided to pick up the pace about halfway through lap 2. He took off and we all followed. After a while, the lack of sleep was catching up. I knew if I continued to run Kevin's race, I would be done soon. I backed off and decided to run my own race. Kevin, Leigh, Brian & David continued on ahead. I was really starting to feel tired and a bit dizzy and then I went down, hard! That hurt. Up and onward. A little while later, down again. This time on my face, knee and thumb. That really hurt! Not having fun. I was ready to give up but kept on going, sort of like in a trance or zone. Finally lap 2 was done and it was slightly faster than lap one and I was only a few minutes behind the other 4. A quick refuel and out I went for lap 3. Kevin had continued on his fast pace for lap 3 but as I headed out, I saw Kevin limping back in. Calf issues and done. Then there were only 3 ahead, Leigh, Brian & David. Lap three felt better although I was in the full trance/zone just plodding along by myself. It was great to see the aid stations on route for a quick drink and a bite to eat. Still I went down 2 more times, hard. Never have I fallen this much. Lap 3 ended and I was about 10 minutes slower than the previous 2 laps. As I was heading in I saw Brian, Leigh & David still moving along, probably about 10 minutes ahead of me. They all looked strong. Lap 4, I was in the zone and dizzy, thinking I could just walk and still finish without a DNF. Then I figured if I could just maintain and get in under 2 hours, I would still be able to do a sub 7 hour finish. I could live with that for such a tough day. I also kept thinking about the keg of Stone Cat Ale at the finish. The sooner I finish, the sooner I can have a beer and then sleep! Next thing I knew, I was down again, hard. 5th fall today, not good. Pick up the feet. I felt like I was slowing down incredibly and kept looking at my watch to see how much time I was losing. Could I even get in under 2 hours, I was starting to doubt it and wanted to walk. But no, keep going. After going by the old car in the woods where the guy in the Stone Cat outfit usually honked the horn, I knew the end was near. Coming around the last hill about a mile from the finish I saw someone in an orange shirt. He looked familiar. It was David. He had lost steam on lap 4, worse than me. At that point I was actually feeling better knowing a slight downhill was all that was left. I passed David and picked it up a notch, or it felt like that anyway. Finally the finish with the last lap under two hours and with my total time of 6:51, coming in third overall and first master with a new 50 mile PR for me. Hmmm, what if I were rested?
Beer time! I don't why but I was being served beers as I stood around after finishing. Thanks Jason and someone else who brought me beers. Instead of sleeping, I was hungry so had a couple of burgers off the grill and other snacks. David Herr ended up coming in just behind me, less than a minute. Brian ended up winning the race in 6:27 (course record) and Leigh was second in 6:30. Soon after David was my buddy and VT 100 pacer, Joe Carrara in 7:18. Joe does incredibly well for not training enough, or so he says. And a minute after that was Aliza Lapierre, first woman with a new course record. We also had some of our local VT trail runners down for this even. Alex Russo, the youngen (20 years old) from Middlebury finished his first 50 miler ever in 8:02. Soon after that was Sue Dodge in her first 50 at 8:04 for third place in the womens division and first women's master with blood streaming down her shin. Formerly a road runner, Sue has crossed the line into trail running. Then was Rowly Brucken, Bob Ayers Jr. & Todd Archambault. Todd was also running the next day at Franklin Park for the NE XC Championships. Good luck Todd! One the way home Alex and I got a ride back from Bob Ayers, Jr. I knew with the lack of sleep I would be in no position to drive home myself. Thanks Bob! Another Stone Cat come and gone. It was great to see old friends and chat. And the GAC crew puts on a great low key, well organized event. Thanks again.
I wore the Mizuno Wave Cabraken trail shoes. Great shoe! The rest of the gear, Mizuno shorts & Mizuno shirts (layered in the morning and took off the long sleeve as the day warmed up). Excellent techy wear. Thanks Colin for all your support.