This past Saturday was the NJ Ultra Festival at the Sussex County Fairgrounds in Augusta NJ. There were five events: 100M, 100K, 50M, 50K and Marathon. I was running the 50M event. This was my sixth ultra at this distance.
The event is a 10 mile route repeated to make each event distance. There were also partial laps to make up the one, six or two mile add-on distances. There was an aid station at the 6 mile mark. After each out and back you returned to the Start/Finish area which also provided aid. Each route started via a fairground road for about 1 mile, then right onto a utility maintenance trail for about 1.5 miles to a turnaround. Then back across the entire trail length subtly downhill for about 3.5 miles to the 6 mile aid station turnaround, then return back subtly uphill for about 2.5 miles to the trail entrance point. At this point, a right turn leads you to a few small hills on the fairground road/field for about 1.5 miles to get back to the start/finish.
Course map is shown below. Base map courtesy of NJ Trail Series here: [Course maps and summary].
The utility maintenance trail goes from the bottom left to the top right. For the most part the course was all runnable. On the maintenance trail there were a number of small stream crossings, mostly old bridges, and a few very wet and muddy areas. The maintenance trail was, shall I say “unmaintained”. Meaning the surface was not like a tow-path or like a single track trail under regular use. So runnable but uneven in a lot of places. Also some water/mud and slippery sidehills.
The nature of the two out and back routes had you crossing runners all day long which provided a nice boost to encourage each other. There were five events and about 250 runners total out there at some point.
The 50M event started at 7:15AM and I arrived at about 6:15AM. I had arrived the afternoon before, picked up my packet and stayed locally at a hotel. Some people camped out.
It was about 55 degrees at the start. I started with a visor, a short sleeve tech shirt, a pair of light arm warmers, short pants, Inov-8 F-Lite 195s, water belt, and a Garmin 610 watch. This was the first time I would run an event with a GPS watch.
The temp probably reached 65 with some sun and a breeze out of the east initially, then turned from the west.
For the first ~3 laps the three leaders ran together and we chatted a bit.
- The first lap was in 1:23:47. Too fast vs. my target which was between 88-90 minutes. The GPS watch was a great resource … next time I might actually pay more attention to it.
- The next lap was 1:26:32 after some added aid time. I had two Endurolytes at mile 16. I added some fuel via a UCAN/Vega mix at mile 20+.
At about mile 28.5 I took a little fall and paused to regroup and the 2 others continued on.
- That third lap was 1:35:40 after I regrouped and walked a bit up the hills just off the trail. I had two oz. of ASEA at mile 21. Plus two more Endurolytes at mile 26. I was starting to wonder if I was getting enough water or taking in too much electrolytes. The sun had come out and it was warming up. I removed the arm warmers on this lap.
- The fourth lap was in 1:41:46. I had a Hammer Gel at about mile 32 then again at mile 37. I wanted to make sure my brain was fueled and that was not the source of the tension.
- The fifth lap was in 1:44:59. I had a Hammer Gel at about mile 40, 45 and 48. I also had an Endurolyte at about mile 42. I could tell I had too many electrolytes at mile 46 when I noticed salt all over my face.
Aside from my primary technique focuses of position, feeling my core with each step, a light turnover and a efficient arm swing – I started to add in a few more specific focus points on the last two laps:
- Whenever I paused to walk a bit, I really focused on my ChiWalking to allow me to reset on position, an active core, relaxation and fluidity. Then when I wanted to start running I imagined the video images in the ChiWalk-Run video. This helped me fall back into running while maintaining the relaxation/fluidity. I mainly paused to walk through any obstacles (bridges, ruts, mud, water, etc.) and then tried to run to the next obstacle.
- Starting on the subtle uphill about mile 32, I focused on Arm Swing synced with Breath using the concept of “Gathering and Issuing”. Although I have been using this concept for some time, it was just published in the new Chi Marathon book (chapter 4 and 9) for the first time. I continued to use this even on the subtle downhills.
- I focused on a few “Physics” related focuses I have been working on. This is basically considering what I can do to “feel” momentum and reduce resistance, but I will be sharing some details on these focuses in upcoming blog posts. This “feeling” of momentum was a great way to keep me running when I wanted to walk. It helped me realize how effortless (read “less effort”) it was to keep running vs. walking.
- I focused on my mindset. At one point an affirmation popped into my head. As soon as I did that my I felt myself lightening up and I am sure I was a little taller. Hmmm.
- My bruised left foot from December’s 50K was fine. A little tentative on it but it was not aggravated even though there was plenty of opportunity for it.
- My lower legs and feet are a little sore which is to be expected on the uneven and unstable terrain.
- My core muscles are sore, but that is actually a good sign since they did most of the work.
- Otherwise moving around after and the following day ok, but with some overall fatigue. See updates below.
Overall my time was 7:52:44 for a 24 minute distance PR. I was 5th overall out of about 50 starters. I was undertrained on distance with only three 20+ runs since the new year, but well trained on technique supported by a lot of core strength focus.
Another great running lesson which transforms the mile 43 “what am I doing here?” question to looking forward to the next test on which lessons you really learned and which ones will provide yet another gentle whack to the head.
Of course a big thanks to the RDs and all the volunteers. This is a great event which brings out the best in the NJ running and ultra running community. We are very lucky to have these events in NJ. I will be back.
[March 25th Update: The day after a did a short run to the gym, a nice rollout/stretch, then a few mile run around town. I was definitely feeling fatigued but moving well. Just some soreness in my lower legs and core as noted above.]
[March 26th Update: Fatigue is lingering, and legs feel very loose and ready to run. Plan to do a normal group run tomorrow.]
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David Stretanski is a holistic health, fitness and wellness coach and Certified ChiRunning®/ChiWalking® Instructor. For more information on David, please see his About Me, Contact page or his website at http://www.eChiFitness.com.
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