I have run this race many times. Every time I ran in the past, my finishes were 3rd place. I always struggled in the late stages of the course. Tussey is my kind of ultra! With about 6k of elevation gain on rolling gravel roads, this USA 50 mile Road championship course is one that a true smart pacer of their efforts will be happily rewarded.
I have always come into this race either tired or sick. One year, I had pneumonia, the next, I was gassed from all my time out on the road while bouncing around with Nathan. The build-up for this race was very much the same. With having a busy October at work and just starting to get my back to feeling a little better from my injury at Eastern States, I was hoping I could pull together a Tussey Finish I know I am capable of.
After a long work day, we loaded up into the car: myself and Ashlee and off we headed to State College, PA. We drove through the rain and the weather was expected to rain all day on race morning with cool Fall weather for Central Pennsylvania. I do not mind the rain, but personally do not love running in cold rain. Maybe some do, but I prefer to be nice and dry.
Race morning came and the weather was wild! With howling winds and pouring rain, I knew this Tussey was going to be an interesting one. I toed the line with my fellow competitors and off we went.
I paced the first road climb with Hoka One One athlete , Tyler Andrews and also PA ultra running legend, Josh Finger. I started looking at my watch and my pace was reading 12 minutes as those around me had us at 7 minute miles. I knew something was up with my watch as it did not pick up the GPS and I was no running blind in terms of effort and pace. This would be something I wrestled with the whole race in terms of gauging my effort.
My first mistake of the morning was to wear a water-resistant jacket-not a waterproof one and to not lube up enough with anti-chaffing cream. It was fun to get the race going and different from past years that I have run it was we would run the course in the opposite clockwise direction which I was very excited to experience the course in a different way. By the 10 mile mark, it was Tyler and Myself running together. We hit the aid station, I stopped to use the bathroom quickly and then caught back up the mountain. For Tyler’s first 50 mile, the guy was show-casing his wheels on the flats and descents. We pushed some of the climbs and by the stretch near marathon mark, after a series of 6:15 miles on the flats, I let him go on the next climb as this one would be one of the bigger climbs of the day and I did not want to repeat what I did at Mad City.
The rain continued to pour as my jacket continued to flop against my body. My clothes felt like I was carrying a sled of bricks behind me. After running in soaked clothes for a couple of hours, I stated noticing some odd rubbing on my chest and groin area that was far from enjoyable. I blocked it out as best as I could. Our marathon split was fast and our 50k splits faster running around 3:26 for me or so as I could look at my overall time and match it to the signs on the course. This is finally when the rain eased off and the temperatures got a little warmer. I spent the next 10 miles grinding away as I could see Tyler through the fog and clouds of the course. I kept his lead through the latter parts of this stretch to around 3-5 minutes for most of the run. My body started to feel tired though I kept my nutrition plan well throughout the race. From running in all of the weighted-down clothing, I felt like I was spending too much extra energy. On one of the aid stations: Lin from the USAT was nice enough to lend me her watch to help with my splits. This was incredibly helpful as I had run a decent race but perhaps pushed too hard too early given the conditions of the course.
By Aid station 8, I was running but my body was feeling the cumulative fatigue. I continued to press the pace as best as I could as I knew that in my other Tussey Mountainbacks, I felt apart by this point and on this day, I was going to keep things together. As I hit the Whipple Dam aid station, I knew that I had 6 more miles to go: 3 up and 3 down to the finish. If I could run low 7 minute miles, I could finish around the mid 5:50’s. I knew I had time in the bank and pushed as best as I could. I would run one mile at low 7 then the next closer to 8 then bounce back to 7 and rinse and repeat this up until the end. By the time I hit the last climb and final aid station at T11 and was ready to fly. I pushed so hard with my cramping legs and the burning coming from my legs due to the dirt of the trail rubbing up in my shorts and along my legs. It averaged under 7 minutes for these miles grunting as I flew down the mountain path.
I hit the finish overjoyed to survive and finish in a time of 6:07. My best before this was 6:16. Given the difficulty of the conditions, this was a solid time for me and more importantly, I did not fully blow up as in races’ past. 2nd place was much better than 3rd and Tyler ran the race well. He pushed hard and managed a solid debut at 50 miles.
Now it would be time to recover for the New York City Marathon, which I would be running in a week’s time and would be shooting for the fastest weekly race double of 76.2 miles.
Video footage from Martin Mazur of the 2019 Tussey Mountainback 50 mile
Thank you to RD Mike and his team of volunteers. I always love running Tussey and this year was no exception.
Thank you to my sponsors for all of their support
Finger Lakes and Confluence Running
Ashlee Prewitt Crosby—My crew chief and longest sponsor so far!