East VS West Coast Virtual Challenge- 50k

A couple of weeks ago I ran the East Coast Vs West Coast Challenge put on by Destination Trail and the Yeti Trail Runners.

It was a fun challenge where 918 runners signed up to either run a 10k, Half-Marathon, or a 50k or in classic Michael Wardian fashion, run all the distances. This would be my first virtual run and coming off of the Towpath FKT, I felt recovered enough to give it a go and represent the Beast Coast as best as I could. There was some hype around the event from the East Coast Trail and Ultrarunners Facebook page and it was really cool to see all of the posts from fellow runners completing their races.

I chose the 50k distance and had my sights set out to run as humanly fast as I could go. With my PR from last year in 50k at 3:03, that was run at the Caumsett 50k, I am so close to running an automatic qualifying time for the National team. 3 minutes faster and I would be there. Could I beat my PR? Well, I would try my best to do so.

I waited to run this event close to the end of the month in part because of recovery time and also schedule. I eyed Friday morning and chose a flat and fast course at the Carnegie Center, a corporate business center near my home in New Jersey.  What I did not anticipate would be how hot and humid the conditions would be. On the verge of a thunderstorm, the mid 80 degree temperatures and near 90% humidity at 9 am was a recipe for not running a PR. I set out on the course and starting to run 5:40-5:50 mile pace.  By the time I reached 5 miles, I was struggling to stay cool and my effort started to wane. By mile 10, I was ready to pull the plug. I kept pushing up to the half marathon mark and called it a day. There was no way that being self-supported and no ice for the run would allow for me to run a solid 50k in those conditions without risking some my health. I had 5- 20 ounce bottles of Tailwind that I went through all before mile 13.1! The course I thought would be solid as no businesses are open right now but it was crowded with trucks and other vehicles which made the run more difficult and at times a little dangerous.

With my tail between my legs, I re-grouped for another go.  Luckily, Sunday, the last day for the event showed really nice weather.  After Andy-Jones Wilkins was able to run his 50k after a DNF on the same day as me, I knew I had to get a finish in.

I chose a 1.9 mile loop even closer to home and around another corporate plaza. This stretch would not have any traffic and would bode well for a fast time. My legs were a little beat up from Friday, but we would give it a go and see what the outcome would bring.

The 50k Run- Attempt # 2

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I set-up my lawn chair and bottles in a parking lot near a Lifetime Fitness. The morning was cool like in the 50’s with abundant sunshine! It would be a good day. I set out on my run and started to settle into 5:50 miles. I could feel a little fatigue in my quads from the attempt before and felt that a PR may not come but hopefully I could notch a sub 3 hour 10 minute effort. I split most of my miles in the 5:50-6 minute range. I clicked away the miles and soon realized that this course had some nice little inclines to it. What I thought was flat was more challenging that originally planned.

I did not have the pop in my legs that I am used to and with running in one of those fast carbon-plated racing shoes, all I could muster is consistent 6 minute miles. I had two short bathroom breaks during the run yet the carbon shoes allowed me to surge back to the 6 minute pace and split a 6:14 mile and a 6:08 mile which was pretty cool considering my stopping.

I just focused on running as controlled as possible and running around the 6 minute level. Anytime my watch would show a pace above 6:15, I would surge to lower the time. The run really was pretty uneventful: just switch bottles every 6 miles and take a gel every 8-10 miles or so.

I split the marathon in 2:37:18, not my fastest split but a solid time. I then kept low 6 minute miles all the way to the 50k mark. I ran a little extra to make sure I was over the distance just in case. I finished my run in 3:07:41 for 50k and 3:07:58 for the challenge.

Once I hit that finish, I had to walk about a half mile to my car. My quads were wrecked!

After all was said and done, it turned out I ran the fastest overall 50k time for both East and West and helped the East Coast take the win!  The next closest time was a 3:16 by Jeremy Arthur from New York City!!

In the time of Covid- virtual racing is becoming more of the norm. As my first go at something like this, I really enjoyed the comradery behind it and even though it was more of a time trial run, I liked the challenge and pressure of pushing myself. With everything going on, it can be hard to stay motivated and I truly think that these virtual runs are a great way to do so!

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Go East Coast!

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