I’ll start this blog off with some context, here- read this: 2017 Traprock 50k Race Report
I came into this year’s edition with a ginormous chip on my shoulder, not really at anyone or anything- just with something to prove after my shitty performance here two years ago. I also came in here having not run an official ultra since the JFK50 almost 17 months ago, so to say I had missed racing long was an understatement.
I could bore you with training talk (it’s going really well aka BORING), or how I prepared mentally (have a lot of other distractions going on right now- all good things but BORING), or what I ate (blocks and gels and Skratch, yeah BORING I know) or any of that BORING stuff; the thing I want to focus on while writing this essay is the people.
Specifically the community of runners here in Connecticut that make everything possible. I met a ton of great runners, family and volunteers (roll call): Michael LoPresti, Andy Meisler, Tom Starodaj, Clayton Collins, Brian Shafer, Koby Nelson’s mom and dad, as well as a bunch of runners I was chatting with during the race and didn’t catch their names because I am a self-centered little shit. It was great to see and share miles with Ron Locandro, Brian Vanderheiden, Chris Deming, one of my favorite people ever Art Byram, the future of CT ultrarunning Tobias Tello, Rick Rushka, Jake Gaeta, Terry Predzimirski, Geoff and Jamie Miller, Briain O’Hartaigh, Steve and Amber Chamberland, my homey William Jara and last but not least Enrique Tello. Then finally; I got the legend himself to fill up my hydration bladder, Joe “The Highlander” Laskey.
This is going to be a short race report, mostly because everything went right for me. It was one of the most satisfying race experiences I’ve ever had. No negative head space or dark places to overcome, no existential dread, no tummy issues, some minor cramping the last five miles, a little chafage; but sorry. This is going to be a boring ass race report.
I’m mostly going to name drop the shit out of the people that make up THEE best trail and ultra running community in the Northeast, definitely in America, probably the universe. You think yours is good? Fight me.
Sorry, I’m getting emotional. I will submit that I did have a good little cry about a half mile from the finish once I realized I had the best fucking day imaginable. Like full-on air punching, FUCK YES, we did it! That kind of crying. I also probably cried because I realized I had one more fucking climb, but hey- Traprock. This shit ain’t flat.
The Race Directors are very important people, not only because they co-host a podcast with me but because they are literally the people that made this all possible; securing things like Special Use permits, EMTs, porta-potties, FOOD, ice, popsicles, Totino’s Pizza Rolls (great when not running, gag inducing while running), Coke, all that shit- these folks lost sleep over this race, making sure it was 100% a success, you better give it up for your RDs Stacey Clark and Brian Roccapriore.
Then I gotta give it up to Kurt Zimmerman, volunteer coordinator extraordinaire. The man making sure everyone doing their job was doing their job. Thanks, Kurt! In Kurt’s spare time he’s a chemist or something really hard, he gave me a quick lesson on fructose vs. glucose polymer absorption rates in the gut or something like that but I promptly forgot it all because I had just been running pretty hard for 6+ hours.
Veeder Aid Station! Great to finally meet Michael Crutchley. When I came through there the second time on loop 1 he was like “hey Jimmy” and I was all “????” and he said his name but it sounded like “Crutch Lee”. I thought, what a great name! My parents suck for naming me Jim, Crutch would’ve been dope as shit! Then like a minute later I was like “Oh, right… Crutchley. Michael Crutchley.” I thought that was probably a good time to slow the F down.
Then the “Other” Aid Station, the one I was calling ‘The Andy, Dan and Tricia Aid Station” with the Totino’s Pizza Rolls. Andy Orefice, Dan Haggerty and Tricia Dowcett-Bettencourt greeted me here a few times but due to the proximity of the aid stations I didn’t really need this one, seeing as I ran with like 2 lbs of water on my back since I knew how to read a weather report (hashtag WTF single bottle people? How do y’all live with yourselves out there?) That aid station was awesome!
Okay, kids- I’m getting kinda slap-sticky over here and I really want to bring it back in and get serious a minute. It was a really tough and unforgiving day once the sun came out. People were running untenable paces on undertrained legs, hell, I heard one guy before the race say he hadn’t trained at all. I knew that the day was going to be DNF City for many citizens.
Once I came through after my first loop and saw that I was under two hours (1:56), I thought I’d be in deep shit later. You can fake a loop. You can fake two loops on sort-of decent half marathon training. But three loops on this course on this day? I don’t think that’s fakeable. That’s also not a word. That’s a fake word.
Loop 2 was still pretty uneventful, picked up a few folks starting to succumb to their decision to start out with sub-1:45 loops but get rich or die trying, right?
Right at mile 16 I had the bright idea to start going hard. Convo in my head went like this: “Dude, you gotta go now if you’re gonna break six hours, so go now.” No, I should sit back and keep being patient, loop 3 is where the magic happens! “No you weak bitch, go now, start running hard and maybe your body won’t know what’s happening to it and you can stay one step ahead of the pain cave!” Oh man, that doesn’t sound like a great idea, plan was to start going hard on loop 3 after the first big climb, let’s just chill. “No fuck that you got this!” Okay, let’s take a chance!
I caught up to Scott Slater around this point (local badass and finisher of many hard hundos in addition to Tahoe 200), and was like “Hey Scott what’s up, man- I feel good, I’m gonna pass!” and literally like 10 minutes later was like “No, this is not sustainable, I must slow down.” Dumbass me is trying to start a 50k finishing kick at mile 17 like it’s a neighborhood 5k.
Hit the final and then loop going up the climb Brian Vanderheiden is coming down towards me and lit an actual fire under my ass with “I’m coming for you Jimmy Mac!” I didn’t know exactly how many over-40s were still in the race but I knew Brian was an old guy like me so game on!
My power hike game was strong and as soon as I hit runnable trail I was off. To be honest, the third loop was a blur. There was like a rip in the space-time continuum and I fell through it.
I started passing a few runners, but making sure that when I did so that I passed them decisively because I didn’t want to get sucked into racing anyone. In a race.
With five miles to go it starts, first a twinge there in the calf, then a tightness here in the groin, then the hamstrings; cramps.
Thank you Michael Crutchley for the ice in my pack and the send-off, I was about three miles from the finish and I could smell the barn. Or me. I think that was me. I had to dig deep and get it done now.
I kept looking back and seeing flashes of color in the trees- it is not a fun feeling knowing you’re being chased. Yeah, okay fine- I passed a lot of people but I don’t look at the way I was hunting people down and taking their souls the exact same way as being hunted, but I see your point.
I didn’t let up until that last section, up the climb back to the finish, like a half mile to go. I looked back one last time, didn’t see anyone and finally let up. I knew I just had a great day.
The exhaustion, the heat, the cramping, the mild dehydration, the chaffing, the enormity of it all finally hit me and I had a quick emotional moment. Towards the end of races I always think of the Kurt Vonnegut quote from Slaughterhouse Five, “Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt” and for a split second there that was true. Then I had to go down that horrific descent to the finish praying I didn’t die because my legs were seizing.
9th overall, 8th place men’s, 3rd place men’s 40-49
Traprock 50k is an absolutely awesome race and it’s bolstered by an even more amazing community; the Belly of the Beast Coast is right here in Connecticut. Shoutouts to all the clubs and groups that call this state home- thanks for having me!
Hope to see you all CT’s toughest 50k next month: The Blue 2 Blue Challenge
The following local clubs/companies make all the things happen here: