The Stone Mill 50 miler began in September for me. During my run of the Gunpowder 50 K, someone I was running with (Christine Hinton) mentioned Stone Mill after I stated that I was kind of bummed about not making the JFK 50 miler. Little did I know that this would be a blessing in disguise!
The week leading into the race I started to question my decision to run Stone Mill. This is probably normal, but I convinced myself that this was a good decision and that I had the support of my family. Also, the investment was too large to turn back now. I went through the race preparation focusing on hydration and fueling during the route. Without a colon (removed through surgical procedure in November 2006), I had to focus on not getting dehydrated, so my plan was to consume at least 24 ounces of fluids between aid stations and take in one gel pack every hour. After pushing the negative feelings into remission, the plan was about finalized.
The night before the race, I ate dinner with the kids (perogies), put them down to bed, walked the dogs, and set the alarm clock for 5 am. All things considered, I had a fairly good night’s sleep. The weather was going to be perfect on Saturday! So with my wife by my side, I sprang out of bed at 5 am, hydrated, and put the race day clothes on. This consisted of my favorite Brooks running shorts, Race Ready tights (wonderful birthday present), long sleeve tech shirt, hat, and gloves. I jumped in the car, which now had a full tank of gas, and headed out to Damascus Regional Park where I would embark on my journey.
Upper 30’s and sunny at 6 am, nice crisp feel to the air. Good autumn morning. When I arrived, I registered, picked up the bib number, dropped off bags, and picked up swag (surprise! – coffee mug and future drop bag). Next, I headed to the port-a-potties, and as I was waiting in line, I realized that I was starting to cut it close to the start of the race. Heading back to my car to take off the sweat pants, I could see everyone at the start line so I started my fast walk. When I arrived at my car, everyone left the start line except for me and a few other stragglers. This would be good because I would be in the back of the pack and not forced into a pace that was ahead of my plan (my pacing plan was readjusted at the turnaround point).
On with the adventure! The first 7 miles were rolling with a flat stretch in there somewhere—typical terrain for this part of the state, not too hilly and not too flat. Remembered to stay hydrated and drink a full bottle on the handheld. So onto the next aid station that had a Port-a-potty (time for a stop), PB&J sandwiches, M&M’s, and another bottle of water. This routine repeated for most of the first half of the race until we started to get close to the turnaround. A few miles before the turnaround things were starting to slow down. I was on a 5 mph pace but the left ITB started hurting right around the knee, and I knew it would be trouble if I continued to push myself. So I slowed it down and took it easier on the downhills. Overall, I still felt good as long as I could keep the ITB in check. As we approached the aid station at the half way point, the first thing I saw was pizza! As I was heading for the pizza box, I was informed that I was not at the half way point yet. Oh no, what was going on? The Garmin says a little over 25 miles, but they are telling me to just go up the hill and touch the tree. As I start going up the hill on the road, I am told to diverge onto the path, the really steep one. I know from reading race reports that these types of things are normally thrown into ultra events, so I stick with it and go up the really steep hill and touch the tree with all the ribbons around it. The way down is better but slow – remember the ITB. When I pass the next race official, I mention that this is a cruel joke, in jest of course. I head back to the pizza and take a slice, refill my hydration, change my socks, fill up on new gels, and head back for the second half.
Every mile is getting me closer to the finish now! At the 29.9 mile stop, I take two liquid gel ibuprofen, and that helps tremendously. I heard the race official say they were easy on the stomach and they are. I was running with Perry for most of the race, and it was odd the way we would lose distance on each other and then meet up again. I was able to pace behind Perry for a rough period between mile 30 and mile 37. He was going at a good pace, and I stuck behind him. At one point, we started to talk about hydration, and he mentioned that he was not drinking as much, and I told him that I was consuming a bottle each aid station. The Clopper Lake aid station was motivational because Allison (my better half) and my youngest daughter Julia (15 months) would be meeting me. I reached the top of the hill and noticed a woman and child but it was not Allison and Julia. Where are Allison and Julia? Has anyone seen Allison and Julia? So I waited about 5 minutes, no sign of them, filled up, and headed back a little let down that they were not there. I had a feeling that I would see them though. I just knew it.
As we headed to the Route 355 aid station, there were Allison and Julia! This was a FANTASTIC uplift, and now I was ready for the last 10 miles. I kissed Allison and Julia a couple times, took a picture, and headed out on the trail. Uh oh, where is my headlamp? I left it in my mile 40 drop bag that I forgot about at the 355 aid station. Luckily, I was not too far down the trail and took a U turn to go back and get it plus my running sleeves. These two items turned out to be very handy as it was now getting dark and starting to turn cold. From this aid station to mile 48 (Brink road crossing?) it was getting dark and cold and the body was really starting to get run down. I was forgetting to take the gels every hour, and this may have contributed to the fatigue. I also knew there was a stream crossing somewhere before the finish, and I was getting very confused as to where this was. It finally came up, and I saw a bunch of lights up ahead, which kind of startled me as I was not paying attention, and I almost rolled right into the woods after stumbling. I regained my balance and slowed down for the crossing. Only ankle deep, so not too wet, and I didn’t care at this point. The next interaction was at a road crossing. The race official was kind enough to stop and guide me across the street. He then told me I had 3.3 miles to the finish! I was ready for the last leg, but at this point it was more of a walk then a run—it was dark, and it was cold. I just listened to the sounds of nature and told myself that I was so lucky to be able to participate in an event like this. To be in a condition to endure 50 miles and to have such a supportive family was a good feeling over the last 3 miles. Once I reached pavement, I knew there was no doubt that I would make it. I must say that when I headed over the crest and saw the houses and lights. I was a little overcome with emotion. I crossed the finish line to a cheering crowd and was handed a pizza by my sister! Boy, did that taste good after the race.
The inaugural Stone Mill 50 miler was incredible. It was such a good event, and the race support throughout was tremendous. The aid stations were well stocked with food, Advil, and hydration. God willing, I hope to participate again next year!
UC diagnosis: 2/1997
Fractured Right Hip: 4/2004
J Pouch Surgery (Step 1): 11/2006
J Pouch Surgery (Step 2): 2/2007
Acute Pancreatitis (one week hospital): 10/2007
SBO (2 weeks hospital): 3/2010