I would like to introduce, Jeff S, on Twitter. Some how even though Jeff pulls for another football team, located 100 miles to the south east of the Great Cleveland Browns, we have become friends on SM. Jeff is an accomplish marathoner with 31 finishes at the 26.2 mile distance. Jeff recently he ran his first Ultra-marathon. I asked Jeff to wear orange and brown during the race but he declined and instead took me up on my offer for him to share his feelings on his first 50k.
Ladies and Gentlemen…..Jeff’s thoughts on his first Ultra and the LT J.C. Stone 50k – March 21 2015
The LT. JC Stone 50K Ultra Marathon is a very well organized event that is held at beautiful North Park Lake in Allison Park, PA. The scenic course starts at the North Park Boat House with a short loop, then proceeds to complete six five-mile loops around the lake. I suppose the course could be considered by some to be a bit boring and mentally challenging due to its six consecutive loops, but it is also a strategically perfect event for a first-time Ultra runner. The looped course on rolling paved roads has two aid stations 2.5 miles apart.
While some could consider this a boring course, there is no shortage of beautiful scenery and wildlife consisting of deer, bald eagle, herring, Canadian geese and other wildlife. The Race Director does a very good job organizing this small event and the volunteers and spectators who support the runners are very helpful and enthusiastic.
A nice perk to being a loop course, is that you can park your vehicle and setup your support camp right along the Start\Finish stretch and stop whenever you need for refueling, or change of shirt or whatever you need. My support crew of 10+ folks had a blast at this event. If you have a support crew, they are to pace you and provide support as long as one person does not pace the entire event.
(Jeff did spot some Orange)
I’m glad I chose this small, local 50K race for my first venture into the Ultra Marathon World. I was nervous and anxious leading up to the Ultra, so it was nice not having to worry about travel, hotel, meals and unfamiliar terrain. Because I train at this park every weekend, I’m very familiar with the course, and it felt like I had home-field advantage not having to worry about the unknown.
I’ve now completed 31 Marathons including four Goofy Challenges, two Dopey Challenges and one 50K Ultra Marathon. I cannot thank my support group of friends enough. They kept me going and on pace throughout the entire run in addition relaying on all the well wishes and encouragement from Twitter and Facebook friends!
I thoroughly enjoyed my first 50K, and my support team was the absolute BEST that day, not only providing support to me, but all athletes as they passed by my base camp. I’d like to say I’ll do another Ultra in the future, but I honestly don’t know if I will. This one provided perfect temperatures, terrain and organization, and my support crew couldn’t get any better. I feel like I should stop while on top of the world! I don’t think I can top this experience or feeling.
I had some follow on questions for Jeff:
How did you feel once reaching the 26.2 mile mark and still have 5 miles to run? I felt pretty good. (My longest run ever was 27.1 miles) My Ultra strategy of a comfortable 10:15 run pace with a 45-60 second walk break each mile kept me feeling fresh and right around that 11min\mile goal I had in mind. I always had at least one or two members of my support crew with me to keep the mood light and conversation flowing. I was tiring somewhat but the adrenaline and visions of the Finish Line celebrations in my head kept pushing me forward.
How did this compare to your marathons? I’ve had good and bad marathon experiences. I do not run well in warm and humid conditions and tend to break down from dehydration. Because this race started in the 40’s and never got warmer than low 50’s and was overcast I was in HEAVEN! My first Ultra experience was an all-round WIN-WIN for me!
Why did you decide to run a 50k? I have some friends that are Ultra runners and they kept encouraging me to give a 50K a try. My dear friend and Ultra Coach Marie B. is an outstanding Ultra Marathoner. She Coached, encouraged and kept pushing me telling me I was capable running an Ultra. She wrote her prediction on a piece of paper and came with two minutes thirty two seconds of my actual finish time. She told me – “I know you Jeff, I know what you are capable of.” This meant the world to me knowing she had such faith in me that I could achieve this goal.
What was the hardest part of the run? Past the 27.1 mile mark – this was the furthest I’d ever run. I took a deep breath, exhaled hard told myself I can do this and keep pushing forward. I’m not gonna lie, the last three miles with the rolling hills were more challenging than they seemed earlier in the race. I also encountered a very strong head wind the last four miles that made it feel as I was running on a treadmill going nowhere at times.
What advice would you give to someone considering running their first 50k? I would tell them YOU CAN DO IT! It’s only five additional miles from the Marathon. Unless you are an exceptional or elite athlete, you must start slower than you normal marathon pace. Conserve your energy early so you still have some in the reserve tank for those final five miles. I was told on my very first marathon – You don’t bank time, you bank energy! This is very true! What a great feeling to finish strong and still have energy in the tank and the legs still feel strong. I would also tell them, do your research. Find a course that sounds doable to you. Is it a road or trail course? What is the elevation like? Is it an out and back or a loop course? Find something that sounds achievable to you. Set yourself up for success not failure!
I have several Ultra Friends, and they are a different breed of athlete. I’m not sure if I fit into that category, but at least for one day I can say I achieved the honor of finishing and becoming a member of the Ultra Marathon Club. I now can proudly say I am a Runner, Marathoner and Ultra Marathoner!
Great Race Jeff, Congrats and welcome to the club of special idiots who run longer then 26.2 miles……