Finding My Ultra 5.0 - Paumonok 70K Race and Relay

Paumonok Pursuit 70K Run and Relay

Paumonok is a local trail race put on by Jen and David of Jen and David are two long time fixtures of the endurance/multisport scene and have developed unique races across Long Island. Paumonok offers runners of all abilities an opportunity to enjoy the Paumonok Trail from Rocky Point to Hampton Bays. Despite the infancy of this race I have a feeling it will be be a fixture on my calendar for years to come and that it's popularity will only grow. 

My intentions for Paumonok was to utilize it as a final tune up for Traprock.  It would serve as my last long run and as an opportunity to dial in my nutrition, clothing and sneaker choice, as well as pacing. The previous weekend I had an absolutely amazing time racing in Connecticut so the days in between were focused on recovery.

Last year Mother Nature blanketed the course with 4 inches of fresh snow and freezing temperatures.  This year as I sat in the parking lot I watched as a mixture of snow, sleet and rain accumulate on my windshield.  I'm not sure about the arrangement Jayasports has with Mother Nature but the weather is always exciting! 

Lining up at the trail head I'd guess that there were nearly double the amount of runners as compared to last year which is great for this event, as well as the trail running and ultra community on Long Island.  I made small talk with a few runners and talked for minute with Brian R before zig-zagging my way to the front.  Mentally I was prepared for the miles of adventure ahead of me however, the way my legs would respond would remain a mystery.  

The first of three legs I was running was a flat, gently rolling at best, 10.75 miles. I wanted to keep my effort level low and maintain a conservative pace. This was to be a training run not a "bury myself" race. For the initial miles I fell in line with the pace of other runners as we navigated the firm single track, pocked with puddles.  I made a conscious effort to avoid the puddles but my socks were soaked within the first 15 minutes of this 28 mile day. This could be a blister disaster.  I ran this leg of the race last year and was fairly familiar with the landscape.  In no time at all I emerged from the woods to complete leg one.  My legs had somewhat surprisingly ticked over 8 minute miles placing me 7th overall. 

Leg 2 registers 8.5 miles in length over flat terrain.  This leg was different from the meandering, single track of Leg 1 in that it was predominately wide, slightly sandy fire road.  For the first time I decided to use headphones during a race because the last couple of longer races had become lonely and I felt I needed a little accompaniment.  My IPod Shuffle was generating the worst play list for Leg 1 so hopefully the soundtrack for Leg 2 would be better.  I had expected to be passed frequently as the relay teams reloaded with fresh legs,strangely enough I wasn't passed and ran alone until the last mile. I was still ticking off 8 min miles but I could feel the fatigue setting in and a resulting debate ensued between three voices; The Coach, The Athlete and The Teammate.

The Coach said in a calm and wise voice, "Traprock is in 2 weeks. You just ran 19 miles at a solid pace, call it a day and start your recovery immediately. Running another 10 miles would be foolish."

The Athlete voiced his opinion with much confidence and conviction, "You just ticked off 19 miles at an 8 min clip, turn up the music and go bang out another ten!

The Teammate spoke last in a quiet, almost timid, rationalizing tone, "You volunteered and committed to run three legs.  You should stop now but you can and will suffer through the next 10 miles. Smile. Refocus. Get back into the game."

About 40 yards from the end of Leg 2 I saw my teammate Brian D.  He asked how I was doing?  I told him I was fine but the next 10 miles were going to be quite a bit slower. 

I needed to quickly get a mental grip on what was about to happen. 10 miles of hilly trail running. Fatigue was setting in. Hydration and nutrition were on point. Temperatures were getting warmer, music was getting better and I was sitting in 11th overall.  It could be worse . . . 

For roughly the next 3 miles I was passed by a couple of fresh relay runners as my pace slowed.  My legs simply could not produce the power necessary to ascend these grinding hills.  A sufferfest was unavoidable.  I only remember a few details of the remaining miles. First, the music and weather were becoming dramatically better. Second, the constant fields of "woop-de-doos" were brutal. Third, I haven't suffered like that in a while and enjoyed it.  Fourth, amiss the tunnel vision induced by the suffering I went off course (this course is unbelievably well marked). Fifth, the sad realization that Traprock was not going to happen.

As I handed my race belt off to Brian D I couldn't help but shake my head and laugh.

As it turns out this race marks the end of my Spring racing season and the pursuit of Finding My Ultra.

Before the race

Brian and I - Second Place Team of 2

Shaking my head and laughing


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