JFK 50 Miler

May 16th, 2010 - Race - Kingfield, ME - 26.2

Day 136 - Does the Pope poop in the woods? No, but Naughty Bui does...

I recently found out that the JFK 50 organizers decided to implement a lottery system for this year's race. I had been trying to enter this ultra for the past three years (very small window of time to send in the paper application, and I procrastinated all three years), and this year was going to be the year I get in! That was until I saw the requirements to bypass the new lottery system. The lottery is going to apply to only "non-citizen athletes", in other words, for people my age who can't run a sub 3 hour marathon! The citizen athletes of this JFK nation must all be olympians!

Three minutes was all I needed at Boston to seal the deal and get me into the JFK, automatically!

There was no way I was going to leave my JFK entry up to chance, so I did the next most logical thing. I decided to run a sub 3 hour marathon on one week's notice.

I asked around and the only marathon that was within reasonable distance, and not sold out and before the July 1st JFK deadline, was Sugarloaf up near Kingfield, ME. Way up in Kingfield, ME.

Fortunately for me, Sugarloaf is rated as one of the best marathons for a sub 3 hour marathon, according to marathonguide.com. More than 6% of the field typically finish under 3 hours.

Glenn S. had also been preparing for Sugarloaf for a few months now (his warm-up marathon was NOLA, back in February), and he said that everybody that he's sent up to Sugarloaf has run a PR. Hopefully, my PR will be three minutes faster.
I left Lowell around 4:30PM on Saturday for the 4+ hour drive to meet Glenn up near the Canadian border by 8:30PM. Glenn was up at Sugarloaf with the goal to run the same exact time (down to the second) that he had run six years prior! Pfffft...Good luck with that!...

We both went straight to bed (couch) as soon as I got up there, since we had a 4AM wake-up call in order to get ready and catch the shuttle to the starting line. I could only manage about two hours of sleep before waking up for a pee-break...three times. At least I was well hydrated.

There was not much fanfare at the start with this low-key race. We all got bus'ed to the start around 6:30AM. It was about an 11 mile bus ride from Glenn's condo rental to the start. The best part about this ride was that it covered the first 11 miles of the course, in reverse, including the critical section of miles 9-10. This was Glenn's 5th Sugarloaf, so he was able to provide a lot of invaluable tips, only gained from experience, that would help me out tremendously later on.

We got to the start with 45 minutes to spare. Glenn went for a "warm-up" run to make sure he didn't need to poop. I went through my pre-race ritual, and opted to go with just the gloves, underarmor, and singlet. The gloves would prove to be very "handy" later on in the race around Mile 14.

How do you know you're getting ready for a race in the backwoods of Maine? The race organizers encourage the runners to go to the bathroom...in the woods!

I took them up on their offer and watered the plants. Even without warming up, like Glenn, I knew I had to take a poop! The problem was that I only had about 10 minutes before race start when I got into the long potty line (pissing in the woods is as far as I will go). The line wasn't budging, but my butt cheeks were. I decided to toe the line and take my chances out on the course. Let nature take its course.

It was a very odd feeling to be running a marathon with a field this size after running Boston. Even though we were about four hours away from any sign of civilization, I still managed to come across a couple of familiar faces in the race crowd. A couple of SRR's were up there, along with Shamrock members, and a running friend that I had met on Facebook. The friend was trying to re-qualify for Boston after running 3:12 at Boston and 3:19 at Providence two weeks prior! I guess I wasn't alone in my craziness.

How do you know you're running a race in bear country? The starting gun is a hunting rifle!

I took off with the lead pack and it looked like everybody was holding back for the first couple of miles, even though conditions were near perfect.

(Well, it was a good idea at the start of the race - note the gloves)

My pace goal for today was to run about 6:30's and 6:40's through the first half, and get to the half around 1:26-1:27. The one thing that I kept on hearing was that this marathon was basically miles 8-10. How you handled that stretch would dictate the rest of your race. Mentally, I appreciated this as I would be able to get to the half knowing that the "tough" part was already behind me. This is the opposite of Boston, where the early miles are used to warm-up for the tough miles (17-22) late in the race.

How do you know if you're running a marathon very far away? When one of the traffic detail vehicles is a border patrol truck!

The temps were in the mid 40's at the start, but it warmed up real quick in the sun, and then got even warmer with the tail-wind, which I didn't mind one bit.

The field began to thin out after the first four miles and I found myself in the top 15 (where I'd stay for pretty much the entire race). I was alone for long stretches of the run, passing by a few spectactors here and there. The run reminded me a lot of the Reach the Beach Relay, where you would see a few parked vehicles on the side of the road cheering on runners, and then you'd be alone for a couple of more miles.

The course itself is on one road (Route 27 South) the entire way, and passes through a few very sleepy towns, including the Sugarloaf ski resort (Mile 11.5), before finishing at a "lumber yard" in Kingfield:

(One Road, One Goal)

I got through the first, relatively flat, 8 miles in 52:30 with the following splits:

Mile 1: 6:27
Mile 2: 6:42
Mile 3: 6:36
Mile 4: 6:37
Mile 5: 6:37
Mile 6: 6:32
Mile 7: 6:32
Mile 8: 6:31

Nice and steady as planned. I felt great and was actually looking forward to tackling the tough, up hill portion of the course in order to work some other muscles in my leg. As expected, miles 9-10 was a steady climb, similar to the Newton hills. Up, plateau; up, plateau.

Mile 9: 6:51
Mile 10: 6:43

And then the bottom just fell out (in more ways than one).

After Mile 10, there's an extremely steep downhill portion, which Glenn had pointed out earlier during our bus ride in. He warned me about going too fast here. He suggested that I run on the gravel shoulder to reduce the pounding, and that's exactly what I did. A couple of runners, about 30 seconds in front of me, did the same thing and ran on the gravel. The one runner that didn't do that, I was able to catch later on in the race...when he was walking.

I flew through Miles 11 and 12 in 6:31 and 6:20, respectively. I didn't feel any worse for the wear, and was ready to enjoy the rest of the race when the other bottom fell out.

By the halfway mark (1:26.30 - right on target), I was starting to feel the full effects of not going to the bathroom at the start. I pushed on for another mile, but "the feeling" was starting to slow me down. It was either I lose time now, or lose time later.


I got through Mile 14 in 7:52 (cough), half-a-pound lighter, and missing a pair of well-used gloves.

The fuel dump at Mile 14 moved my average pace up from 6:34 to 6:40, and I spent the next three miles trying to get it lower.

Mile 15: 6:33
Mile 16: 6:29
Mile 17: 6:33

It was at Mile 18 that I began to feel the full effect of not properly training and resting for this race. Even with some GU in me, I could only manage a 6:49 Mile 18 and 6:48 Mile 19. I was starting to have trouble holding down liquids, and used most of the water at the waterstops to cool myself off. It was getting really warm, with the temps in the upper 50's and the sun beating down on the runners.

I was looking for shade wherever I could find it. I also started to really focus on cutting the tangents as much as possible on this winding section of the course (in the end, I think this strategy was the biggest factor for me getting the sub 3). I managed to pass a couple of runners that had passed me earlier when I was playing Pope in the Woods at Mile 14.

Using the tangent strategy, I passed another runner, moving me into 11th place overall, when I used a substantial curve in the road to my advantage. I was really surprised that the other runner in front of me wasn't cutting the tangent, as it was a savings of at least 30 seconds.

Mile 20: 6:58
Mile 21: 6:56
Mile 22: 7:02

Without a doubt, I was slowing down and cutting it real close. With a little over 4 miles to go in the race, I was at 2:27:31 for elapsed time. I just told myself that I had 30 minutes to run four miles. 7 minute pace. Easier said than done.

Unfortunately, the GU at 18 was beginning to wear off, and I felt a nasty side stitch in my stomach. I could barely hold down any more water/gatorade at this point, even though I knew I had to take in some fluids.

My average pace began to creep up closer and closer to my limit of 6:51. By Mile 23 (7:14), I was averageing 6:44's, and I felt that I wasn't going to get much faster, unless there were some really nice downhills coming up.

Even though the elevation profile for the course showed a steady downhill for this part of the course, it seemed like I was constantly climbing up one small hill after another. I was hoping for some reprieve after each climb, but the course kept on going up and up! It was so demoralizing to see another hill after each bend in the road.

Mile 24 came and went in 7:12. I managed to take a GU at the start of 24, hoping it would help me with the final kick. This was my one regret at Boston, that I didn't have a GU on me at 24, where I completely bonked and probably cost me a better shot at sub 3.

Amazingly, and to my surprise, Mile 25 was also completed in 7:12, where I felt like death (see Exhibit A below), and where two runners passed me, moving me into my final finishing position of 13th overall.

(Exhibit A - what happened to the gloves?)

I had about 10 minutes left in the bank as I started the final assault on sub 3. A smile crept across my face, mainly from delirium, but also from the fact that I knew that I was almost home and on target!

From about half a mile from the finish I could clearly see the finish area, but I was still asking spectators if that was the finish. My Garmin had already crossed over the 26.2 mark, so I had no idea how much further away it actually was. I kicked it into my final gear and managed a "dead" sprint over the final quarter mile, hitting my fastest speed on the day.

I made sure I saw the time on the race clock, and not rely on my Garmin, when I crossed the finish. I didn't see any leading 3's, so that was a huge relief. I confirmed on my Garmin that I was about a minute and a half under 3. Phew! That was close.

Glenn finished about 16 minutes later with a time of 3:14:49...beating his time from six years ago by...1 second! NICE JOB!


(Student and Sensei...Glenn taking a nap before our 4 hour ride home)

Final Splits:

How not to train for a marathon:



  1. The Naughty Bui, putting the loaf in Sugarloaf since 2010.

    Congrats J, you are really on a roll. Next stop, 16:XX

  2. Now wouldn't that be a sweet marathon time! :)

  3. I've had the mile 14 2x this year on my trail runs. There is no better feeling of relief. I never thought I would ever do that, but chalked it up as a salute to Jay Marine.

  4. Putting the "runs" in trail runs since 2010.