Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What's Next?

With my first 50 mile done over a week ago, I'm thinking about what's next for me. I have a few things coming up in my schedule.  In two months, I'm running in the River to Sea relay with friends. Then, at the end of October, I have the Marine Corps marathon. Most of my training will be focused on preparing for Marine Corps. I'm not really going to do anything special to prepare for River to Sea, other than some more running in the heat.  There may be a 5K or a half marathon somewhere in there as well. I'm of course very excited for all of these events.  I know that River to Sea is going to be so awesome with friends, but it's probably more of a fun social and bonding experience than anything else. Running the Marine Corps with Andy is also going to be great.  It will be his first marathon, and it will be so cool to run it with him, or more likely behind him. But, after running on that trail in Pennypack Park in Philadelphia for 9 hours, I really am already craving another  trail ultra. 

I don't think I'm going to do one this year, but I'm pretty sure I'll be looking for another one around spring time next year. As much as I enjoyed the Dirty German, I don't know if I can top the experience there of having all of my family and friends and winning first in my age group. Right now I'm thinking about the North Face 50 at Bear Mountain. I actually considered this race while choosing my first ultra and ended up going with the Dirty German. The reason I did not choose this as my first ultra is it is ridiculously difficult:

Note the many stars. Apparently 7000 feet of elevation gain does not warrant a 5-star rating

From what I understand, it is one of the hardest courses on the east coast.  Considering I hadn't done any trail running, and this was going to be my first foray into the ultra distance, I went with the very "runnable" Dirty German 50.  The joke is that I thought the Dirty German was hillier than I expected. One good way to compare the relative difficulty of these two courses is to look at the finishing times. The median finishing time of the Dirty German this year was 9:52.  For the Bear Mountain 50, it was 11:54. That's right, two hours slower! Perhaps some of that has to do with the elevation change:
Just to give a comparison, the Western States 100, probably the most famous, crazy ultra, which goes through the Sierra Nevada mountains, has an elevation gain of 18,000 ft.  But that's for 100 miles.  If you half that, you get 9000 ft which to me is in the same ballpark as 7000 ft. As opposed to the hundreds of feet of gain I experienced at the Dirty German.

Now that I have covered the 50 mile distance and have run on some trails, I really like the sound of this Bear Mountain 50.  I've read some race reports and I've seen some pictures and I I see that 5 stars for "Scenery" and I know I want to do it. At some point, I may consider going with a longer ultra. Perhaps I could move up to 100K, but honestly I don't think it's that much more than a 50M. The real ultimate challenge is a 100 mile, but that still feels crazy to me and I'm not ready to make that leap... yet. So for now, I think the added challenge of this super hard course is what's next for me. So unless things change, or the timing doesn't work out, I think I've made my choice.

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