Sep 242014

Mt. Pisgah, NH 50k race report – September 21, 2014

Wow what a race, what a course. 5:47:25

I didn’t plan on running this event until I was persuaded by none other than Ryan Triffitt. Even after his attempts at convincing me to do it, I was still apprehensive, not sure why, maybe trying to control my out-of-control spending on running events for a while. His description of the course and the atmosphere would peak my interest so I did it, I registered.

I really liked the old school registration of filling out the form and mailing in and having to call them to confirm they received my check and registration. Chris & Gary Montgomery were great to chat with and responded immediately to my request for confirmation. I definitely had to meet them when I got to the race, as ALL RD’s are awesome.

Now that I was registered, it was time to figure out the plans to get there. Ryan and Danielle graciously offered to ride together and stay at the Triffitt’s home in Georgetown. That sounded awesome and not sure if they knew what they were getting into, although, they did take care of me through the Vermont100 with Jamie as well. So, they pretty much knew.

We planned to travel to Georgetown Saturday morning and get there early and settle in, which we did. Sam was with us as the Triffitt’s were going to hang out with Sam while we battled the Pisgah course. They have a beautiful area and home and made to feel extremely welcomed. Mrs. Triffitt, at one point, told me to make sure I help myself to anything, I’m still not sure she knew what she was offering as I eat everything in sight after a race typically. The memorable things we did…..Nikis Roast Beef sandwiches, thanks Ryan for introducing me to a REAL roast beef sandwich for lunch. Then we did a few chores for Mr. Triffitt as he is recovering from shoulder surgery and then sat out on the deck and chatted while hula hoop and ball toss went on on the lawn which it was determined that Ryan has absolutely no hula hooping skills.
Burtuccis pizza for dinner so Danielle could have her typical pre-race pizza which I happen to do a lot as well, had a meatball/potato and bacon pizza that tasted just like a baked potato, the only thing missing was the sour cream, but very tasty. Then back to the Triffitt homestead to relax, foam roll, reminisce and bed time.

I was set up in “The Wing” as Ryan called it. The beautifully finished basement complete with a pool table, exercise equipment, bar and the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in. I was sleeping before I could close my eyes. I had an awesome night’s sleep. Now that I look back at my performance at the race, I know now there were many factors that contributed to a good running day, rest being the first.

We decided a 5:45am departure time in order to get there an hour before race start to get ready and willing to be out on the trails for 5 hours+, it was perfect timing. We arrived at 8am after a several hour drive in the rain, but Ryan the meteorologist said it was going to stop as we were driving through it, he was right. As we arrived many runners were there and preparing already. Shortly after Ryan, Danielle and I pulled in we saw Ian and Emma drive in, Emma was running the 23k as Ian pulled off daddy duties and support for the runners, Ian also mentioned they drove through torrential rain but stopped as they pulled into Chesterfield. Then we saw Bob Dunfey in his normal jovial nature ready to rock the 50k. He introduced me to a friend of his who was running his first Ultra 50k, I would later run with him but his excitement was pacing him faster than I wanted to start out, so I backed off.

We had all worked our way to the start line near the school as we heard the track whistle blowing, which I thought was kind of comical, but effective. The gentleman quickly asked for everyone’s attention, not to inform them of the race specifics, but to state that Gary Montgomery was stepping down as race director and had others stepping in that will do a great job. The crowd had a loud applause and hip-hip-hurray……

After a quick pre-race Trail Monster photo, the race was under way.

I had no idea what to expect other than what Ryan had informed me about, although, I had forgotten most of what we discussed because I suffer from CRS.

I had decided Friday night, while packing my gear, that I would NOT bring my heart rate monitor or GPS watch and just run on how I feel and try to dial in my nutrition and fluids early in the run and see how it goes. I have to be honest; I didn’t miss them at all. I only asked once during the race where we were with mileage, but was miss informed by the photographer and another gentleman that was with him. It was NOT 2 miles to the parking lot as we had to run the Kilborn loop another time….hahahaha.

The course was spectacular, all runnable as far as I could see, but obviously I did NOT run the entire distance. There were several good climbs that power walking was the option.

The beginning of the race was exciting, a new trail course I had never run before, but I had to calm my excitement as to control how I would run this race and not run like I did at the TARC 50k. I needed to run smart and not like a dumbass. So that was the goal. Ryan, Danielle and I had made an informal agreement that we would run the first 20 miles together and then, at that point, it would be every person for them self, but that only lasted until mile 8 roughly. I began pacing ahead and soon could not see either Danielle or Ryan over my shoulder!!!! So, the thoughts of possibly pacing to fast came in to my mind. Then the thoughts of when I would see either Ryan or Danielle past me by at jet speeds because I ran like a dumbass again. I decided to just stay at the comfortable pace I was at, whatever that was. I ran the descents hard and reckless and methodically ran the climbs I could run and power hiked the steep climbs…..still feeling good.

I remember several parts of the course where there were many large trees with very little undergrowth. They were definitely pine trees as the trail was riddled with pine needs that made it soft under the feet. There were long stretches of this terrain until stretches of more technical, rooty, rocky, switch-backy areas. There were lots of single track, where you had to focus on footing and placement so I may have missed some of the trail beauty due to focusing on my footing, especially on descending. The one thing that will stick in my mind is the wood bridges….wooowahhh, those bridges were wonky. I had never crossed bridges that would flex that much as you ran over them. Some in disrepair, some new but definitely not designed well at all…..but passable and that’s all that mattered at the time. A few of the bridges were slick with green ice as Ryan calls it. I managed to do a split on one on them and hoped my groin was still in tack…hahahaa.

I was alone for quite some time! Then I approached a woman who I believe was the first woman in at the 50k. She was ahead of Ryan, Danielle and I at the beginning and there was some conversation for a while until she pulled away. I then began pacing harder around mile 8-9 and found myself behind her again for several miles as we approached an aid station. I noticed she was reaching to her back looking for her nutrition but there seemed to be some panic in her movements. She stopped and frantically asked if I saw her belt pack and picked it up on the trail? I felt bad I did not see it. I asked what she was using for nutrition as I had plenty with me in my pack and could offer enough to get her to the aid station. She was using GU packs so I handed her several that I had and watched her press on. As soon as she disappeared around the next switch, I thought “oh God, I hope those weren’t expired” as not to create a stomach issue….hahahaha. I then caught her at the aid station and passed as I did not stop at but one aid station for more than 1-2 minutes.

There is one location in the race that brought me great energy. I was running alone for a lot of this event, other than the beginning. I was getting near the mile 19 aid station, although, at the time I didn’t know that as I did not have GPS. I ran down a small descent to a new wood bridge and as I came into the clearing to the bridge, I heard hooting and hollering, I looked up and saw Ian, Emma and Iona standing at the opposite side of the bridge. That really got my energy up. They gave me a few friendly thoughts of encouragement, sent me in the right direction……yes, I was going to turn right at the left turn, and pressed on. It was awesome to see them at that point and happy to hear I was close to the aid station. What I wasn’t prepared for, even though Ryan had explained it to me prior was, having to run the Kilborn Loop again. It is a 6 mile loop of single track trail, winding, technical, difficult running to get us back to the same aid station and to mile 25.4. I remember having the same feeling I get while running the O-Trail at Bradbury. That feeling of when is this going to end, the feeling of having been here already and whether I am on course. The feeling of oh my god, I feel like I am running so slowly. It was hard to keep saying “It’s only 6 miles, keep it together”. I have to say the only thing that kept me together on this loop was the fact that I was overtaking other runners that were questioning it more than I was!!!! I at one point said out loud….”John, if you can run the O-trail, you can run this loop, pull it together”. At that point I met up with a woman walking. Her name was Liz. Liz was walking and didn’t seem to want to chat much, so I kept it short. She appeared out of the woods, obviously after a pee break. We said only a few words and then played cat and mouse for 3 miles until she just let me pass and continue ahead of her. I never saw her again until the finish. The other thing I remember is I could hear a strange bird in the woods. The birds call was not a call I was familiar with, I kept wondering what it was but couldn’t get a glimpse of it! Oh well, for all I know it was someone hiking just whistling, hahahaha.

Once I got back to the aid station for the second time, I was feeling pretty good. I asked the aid station volunteer taking numbers where we were in miles…..i heard “25.4”. I was feeling good at that point that it was only another 6 miles to the finish. My thoughts were it can’t be as bad as that last loop. Then the volunteer says, “It’s an elevation loss from here”. So I headed up the hill to what was supposed to be an elevation loss!!!! Hahahaha.

The trail was very challenging with single track and climbing, but where there is climbing there is descending. I came across a first time Ultra runner Rod from MA. This was his first 50k and wasn’t sure how to run it. We were in mile 25-26. I looked at him and said, “No need to worry about it now, you’re almost at the finish!!!!” We talked for a while and he asked if it was my first Ultra, I said no. He then started asking me questions about Ultra running which is very difficult for me as I still see myself as an infant in this sport. We chatted for about a mile and then I pressed on. I think the only advice I gave him that made sense to me is….”Every race brings new adventure, even if it is a race you have run before, go into it willing to learn something about yourself and willing to push yourself to unknown limits and see where it goes, just make sure you can race another day”

I met up with another runner who was wearing a Pineland Farms shirt, so I chatted with him about his 50k at Pineland, his name escapes me. He seemed to be struggling a bit. I noticed his gate was wonky and his breathing was labored and out of control. We chatted a bit about Ultras in general until he decided to walk the climb we were on, I pressed on thinking the end is near.

I met other runners that seemed to be slowing, but this one looked familiar. I could tell from a distance that it was Bob Dunfey! I was totally surprised to see him walking/limping. It was apparent he was injured. I came up to him saying “Hey Bob, what’s going on?” He quickly mentioned he damaged his Achilles when he stepped on a rock that hyper extended his foot. He looked to be uncomfortable but was still moving so I offered what I had to get him to the finish. He took several gel-caps, swallowed them and pressed on. I asked if he would be ok and he said he would be. He said he opted not to run the Kilborn Loop, so he was looking at a DNF, total bummer. But I admire him for continuing to the finish line. I pressed on getting back into a run and soon he was far behind.

I soon came to the summit of the climb and had to descend. I decided, at that point, I would not let up on the aggressive descending. I wanted to run them hard and reckless if I could, but I was feeling the pounding a bit on this stretch. The two sections of the 6 miles that hit me were the gravel road descent that was fast and furious for a long distance. It reminded me of the Vermont descending that brutally wounded my body. I couldn’t stop thinking of the blisters that it caused me in Vermont. But this day was a different day. I pounded that gravel like nobody’s business. Then I remembered the comment that Ryan Welts had at the start. He said “Be prepared for the mile of paved road for the finish”. I didn’t think much of it at the time but I did when I saw the gravel turn to pavement. Pavement depresses me and I have to run a mile of it at the end? Why couldn’t it be trail or grass or feathers….hahahaha. So, I did the only thing I could do, I ran on the shoulders where there were shoulders. I didn’t care if it slowed me or not.

I see a paved intersection ahead, I don’t see any flags for direction??? I’m wondering which way to turn!!!! As I approach the intersection I slow to a jog looking left and immediately hear the crowd begin to cheer to my right….hahaha, they must have seen me at the intersection standing looking as to where to go…..I see the finish shoot and it looks fabulous, but what I notice more is the smell of BBQ in the air. I cross the line as the crowd cheers and feel absolutely good about my run this day. Much smarter than my last 50k and I don’t have to drive home….hahahaha. Now I await Danielle, Ryan and Bob.

Ahh yes, Danielle and Ryan…..Honestly I was surprised to reach the finish and look over my shoulder and not see Ryan or Danielle at my heels. The last 50k we ran together, Both Ryan and Danielle overtook me later in the race as I had bonked, big time, due to just not running smart and I totally thought I may had done the same at Pisgah by not wearing a GPS or HR monitor to gage my progress!!!! It turns out, I did ok. I cleaned up and changed quickly so that I could go back to the finish and see Ryan, Danielle and Bob finish.

Danielle turned the corner to the finish looking strong and relieved it was only a few more yards. I approached to congratulate her and the words she spoke were “Holy Cow, that was tough”….hahahaha. Then immediately told me she got stung by a bee on the tongue, how does that happen? Thank goodness she didn’t have an allergic reaction. Ryan and another woman were with her at the time so help was there. I asked about Ryan and she then informed me that he possibly had developed a stomach issue and was slowing. She then walked it out for a bit and returned to the car to clean up and headed for the food tents to refuel. I sat back at the finish awaiting Ryan and Bob.

Bob then appeared around the corner, holy bananas, he was running, but he seemed labored and happy he was at the finish. I felt bad that he didn’t have his normal Bob Dunfey laugh in celebration of a good finish. He quickly informed the finish timer that he had not completed the course. Great effort out there Bob, you are a rock star for pushing through.

Now back to the finish line to await Ryan. There was some concern during the week before as to how Ryan’s calf would hold up after sustaining a calf injury. He had stated to Danielle and I before the start that we were NOT allowed to ask “how he is doing” during the run. Wow, that is hard to do, but we both kept silent. I was secretly hoping he was fine and this would be a great run for him if his calf held up. I never thought that something else might go wrong. Danielle and I sat at the finish while getting food/drink in and awaiting Ryan to turn the corner….we spoke to one of Ryan’s co-workers husband. He mentioned that he had given Ryan Tums out at an aid station to help calm his stomach down so we were hoping he got back into the battle and was duking it out with other runners on the course. Bob Dunfey said he saw Ryan at the Kilborn Loop aid station and he didn’t look good but was on the move, so we knew it might be awhile.

What we didn’t know is Ryan decided he was not going to let the course get the better of him, he set a goal for himself and decided he was going to make it in under 7 hours, and that he did. Danielle and I were happy to see him turn the corner in a run and looking relieved the finish was in sight. Great work Mr. Triffitt, way to tough it out and be a badass. Pisgah 50k 2014 completed.

We sat for a bit refueling, a few beers, cheering other runners and chatting about the run. I always like the chatting after about what everyone experienced while they were out there. Every runner has a story to tell and not one story is the same as another.

It was time for the long drive back to pick up Sam and then head back to Maine. We had good fun talking about our run on the way, lots of laughs and reflections. It was another one for the books.

Thanks to Chris & Gary Montgomery for their years of organizing this race.

Thanks to Ryan, Danielle, Sam and Ryan’s parents for a great trip to MA and then to NH to do what I love.

Thanks for Ian, Emma and Iona for cheering me on at mile 19, it was a huge boost and congratulations to Emma for her great 23k finish, way to go Emma, so happy to see you back crushing the leaves and branches beneath your feet.

This course is a definite do-again, I recommend it to anyone looking for a tough 50k run.

 Posted by at 6:44 pm

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