Donations have officially closed. But the fight doesn't end.
I will start this recap off by saying that I can't describe just how much every one's support meant to me that day. During races such as these (unlike the NYC Marathon), there are so many times when I'm just running by myself. It's easy to let negative thoughts get stuck in your head and make you not want to run anymore, or slow down, and end up having an negative impact on your race. But every time it was beginning to happen, I just looked down at my purple tutu, and different thoughts and memories filled my head. Not all were necessarily positive memories. Some were sad. As the title of this blog says, the race was in memory of Kurt Ousman. There were plenty of moments during the race when I thought of the games of co-ed soccer we played at Pier-40, the tailgating at Red Bull games, and all the BBQ's at his apartment. Those are happy memories but it's sad thinking that new memories with him like those in the past will not take place in the future. A sad but motivating memory was the last day when I saw him and he was surrounded by friends and family. I won't describe it more than that but it is just something that is hard to understand and comprehend how and why cancer like this happens. So if I was feeling a little low on the course and I thought of that, well I voluntarily put myself into this race and situation. Kurt had no choice. The other thoughts were about all of you that donated to LLS to support this adventure of running the race in a purple tutu. Most of you never met Kurt, so to have this support means so much because you must really know the type of person he was for me to do something like this. And others gave me additional reasons of running. As donations came in with "In memory of" attached to it, I once again realized just how widespread this is and how it will impact so many people at some point in their life. So while I set this all up to run in memory of Kurt, I also ran in memory of Phil Cookson, Ronnie Green, Apple Jax., Agnes Amkreutz, Paul LoMonaco, and Candy. And I ran mile 19 in honor of Ariel Fixler. So far, I have raised over $5,500 and there are still more donations expected to come in and matching gifts as well. All in under one week! The support absolutely blew away my expectations. Just as you will see that this race far surpassed mine.
Now for the long recap.
Even if I was not wearing a Tutu for the first time, I had in my mind that I would hopefully be able to finish the race in 11-12 hours, hoping to at least beat my time last year of 11:45. Maybe, if everything worked out perfectly, I would come in a little under 11-hours somehow. I'll cut to the chase and say I must have had help from Kurt and from above, because I ended up finishing in 10:16:35, nearly 90 minutes faster than last year and basically 45 minutes faster than I thought I could run this course! I placed 41st out of 273 finishers, while there were close to 500 people signed up for the race, maybe 400 or so starting.
The morning was rather chilly, mid 40s when I got off the shuttle bus that takes runners from the parking lot where my hotel (minivan) was to the starting village area at about 4AM. I dropped off my two drop bags to be transported to mile 4/41 (same location) and mile 27. Then I went and stood around by the little heating areas, like mini camp fires they set up and drank my breakfast. Runners around the fire were just chatting about what to expect on the course and other things running. With 15 minutes to go before the start, I put my tutu on and then went back to the fire and got weird stares. Finally, someone opened their mouth and asked if I lost a bet. I explained why I was wearing it and they were very happy with that reason.
Because of the large number of entrants into the race, they split the start into two waves separated by two minutes of each other. I was in wave two. No big deal as our times were electronically tracked by chips on our race bibs. Here's a couple photos of me at the start.
So the gun goes off and we are slowly moving along. It starts off straight away on grass before hitting the trail and an uphill climb on some rocky terrain (pretty much the way the course is most of the day). I warmed up quickly, or at least wasn't cold anymore. The running turned to walking in a large group up the hill. Then it turned left and downhill, but rocks the size of one or two fists were all over the ground and loose. So no one around me was flying down this hill. It's fine, no need to go out so fast at mile 1-3 in a 50 mile race. Lots of people commented on the tutu which was great. By 5:30, the sun was good enough that I didn't need my headlamp anymore so I took it off and put it in my pocket. It was turning into a beautiful day. I got to the first aid station and my drop bag, exchanged my water bottle and empty hydration pack (just used it to carry my phone) for a different hydration pack. I filled it up with water, and was off. The picture all the way at the top is right before I left the aid station.
So up, and up we go as the first 7 miles of the race gains nearly 1,500 feet, with over 25% of that happening in mile #7. I get to the next aid station at mile 8.6 and grab some Clif Shot blocks. Basically, all I ate the entire race was these gummy energy chews (Clif shot blocks and Pro-bar chews). I also ate two small organic blueberry "Pro-Bars" and 1 small red potato dipped in salt. So surprisingly, that's all I needed for the day. Usually I'll eat most of the aid station menu including cold cuts, PB&J sandwiches, cookies, pretzels, M&Ms, potato chips, chicken broth, and whatever else they have that's loaded with carbohydrates. But today, I just felt like the energy chews were what I needed. All I drank was water and when I would begin to get into a low moment, I would take a Tums and 2-3 enduralyte (electrolyte - salt) pills, since it was probably a function of being low on electrolytes.
5.3 miles to the next aid station and we continue to climb. So with 1,500 feet in the first 7 miles, you climb another 1,000 feet in the next 6 miles. One of the climbs is pretty much just straight up a rock wall that you have to climb up using your hands. Here's some sort of shot of me nearly at the top of that climb.
Coming down some of these sections wasn't easy either, because think about how it would be to get down from the other side if it's the same thing as the way up?
When I reach the 4th aid station at mile 21, I see a few familiar faces and one of them was unfortunately dropping out of the race. He had hurt his knee a couple weeks earlier and it wasn't cooperating this day so he did the smart thing. We chatted for a short time before he shoo'd me away because he said I should be running, not standing around chatting like the people that dropped out there. Apparently there were quite a few that dropped at this aid station both voluntarily like this guy but because this aid station was one of two hard cut off times. If you don't leave the aid station before the cut-off, you are not allowed to continue the race because you won't be able to finish the race in the allotted time. I was about 100 minutes ahead of the cut-off time. So nothing to worry about.
On the next stretch, I could start feeling it getting warmer. And since it wasn't even noon yet, I felt that I would have to go into the drop bag at the mile 27 aid station once I got there and change into a singlet from my t-shirt and take the arm warmers off too, and hoping that the tutu would not chafe my arms. So I got to the aid station and did just that!
There I am doing an amazing ballerina pose after changing. Just had to put on some spray-on sunblock (of course I ended up missing a couple spots) and off I go. More than 50% done so each step and mile now can be counting down to the finish.
The next few sections were a repetition of sorts. Going uphill, going downhill, running on gnarly trails and rocks that look like this
So I just stuck with my plan to run easy and not feel like I'm pushing my effort. Stay in control and if I clock between 10-11 minute miles during parts that look like above, then I'm going to do extremely well. Those averaging out with the slow hiking uphills would give me a good time. I was trying in my head to calculate where I was in terms of tracking towards the finish time and I thought I was on track for close to 11 hours which I was psyched with. But then calmed myself down because I still had 20 miles or less to go and that's way too much time for something bad to happen and for the legs to tighten up, stomach to get annoyed at me, and plenty of other problems. But I still had faith that unless something really caused me to slow down tremendously, I would be on track to go faster than I did the year before. So I continued to run the same way and hydrate and eat.
The sun was out and it was really getting hot out there. Maybe a little too much detail (I've given worse) but I didn't pee until mile 30 because I wanted to make sure I wasn't running into any hydration or kidney issue. So I went and the color wasn't abnormal, so I was relieved (get it!).
On and on I went, passing runners all the time and telling them "nice job" and "good work" and they would respond with "go get 'em", "love the tutu", etc. It's such a great group of people that run these races. Even when some of them say, "I can't believe I'm getting passed by the guy in the tutu" you know they are just saying that for the humor. I keep chugging along and try to maintain a nice pace. By the time I get to mile 38, I go through my head thinking that if I do the next 12 miles at a 15 minute mile pace (remember this has to include time spent at aid stations to refill my hydration pack) I will be done in 3 hours and be under 11 hours! So that meant I had room to feel bad and still have a great finish. When I got to the 2nd to last aid station, I spent an extra minute or so taking pictures with one of the "characters" there. All the volunteers dressed up in weird costumes but the one that I obviously had to take a picture with was dressed up all in purple.
So he last 6 miles is basically a test of will. There's about 2 miles of tough uphill culminating with what they call Timp's Pass and the 0.5 miles going down from there is just as hard as the climb up. Personally, the climb up doesn't bother me. Eventually I was up and down and at the last aid station. I had enough water in my pack from the prior aid station that I didn't need a refill. I just gulped down two small cups of cold water, poured cold water on my head and back of the legs so they feel refreshed and now I know I can start to run. Well, sort of. I take off and run the flats and downhills but I don't run the uphills, or at least the entire uphills. There are still to decent climbs at the end and I'm making such great time that I don't mind that walking might make me 3-5 minutes slower. Especially because I can put the downhills into overdrive. I surprisingly was able to open my stride, instead of being so tight at this point in the race. I clocked some 6:30 minute mile pacing according to my watch. I also saw and slowed down to speak with a couple people I knew that were doing the 50K and finishing up. But they both after a minute told me to stop chatting and go on and finish strong. So that's what I did. I came through in 10:16:35, stopping on the finish timing matt and did a couple poses. I can't wait to see the official photography from the race.
I was so happy to be finished and with a time I could never have dreamed of actually doing. I felt so proud of this accomplishment not just for what it was, but because what it represented. I was doing this race in Kurt's memory and to raise money so that a cure can one day be found so that no one will ever have to go through what he went through and no family members and friends have to witness that as well. I think he was up there somewhere giving me strength and support. And I am so humbled by every one of you that donated in his memory and to support me running in his memory or in someone else's who was effected by cancer.
Below are some additional pictures from the race:
I don't know how I was able to stand like this and I don't know why the person taking my picture told me to do this when I asked what a good ballerina pose would be.
I was in the pictures on-line for Long Island's newspaper, Newsday.
Here are the official photos from the race photographers. Click this link and type in Bib# 46
And here's the link to the Garmin GPS data: