Sunday, October 19, 2008

Presque Isle Endurance Classic

The sun rising over the Water Works ponds

Yesterday was the 29th running of the Presque Isle Endurance Classic, which takes place in Presque Isle State Park (Erie, PA). This was my first time participating in this event which is chip timed and only $5 to enter, with the option of a $15 commemorative long sleeved t-shirt.

According to the event website, the primary purpose of this run is to promote cardiovascular fitness in a safe, relaxed and friendly environment. Many individuals will run/walk a distance beyond that they have previously achieved or set a personal goal that is meaningful to them. It is a personal thing and not a competition with other participants. There are no trophies or prize money to be handed out but there is an option to purchase a commemorative plaque that is personalized with your name and accomplishment (miles).

This event was started 28 years ago by some of the founding fathers of the Erie Runners Club to test the endurance of some of the local runners. It still stands today as a personal test of ones endurance, whether it be running or walking or any combination thereof because of the tireless efforts of Rick Ferko and his long time volunteers. Rick’s battle with cancer ended shortly after the 2006 Endurance Run and his family and friends wished to have a lasting memorial that would exemplify his life. Since social work and helping others was such an integral part of Rick’s life, the Rick Ferko Spirit of Social Work Scholarship was established to give an annual monetary award to a social work student who exemplifies Rick’s dedication and enthusiasm. On the run application there is a section to contribute to the scholarship, since it is funded solely on individual contributions.

I've been very excited in the weeks leading up to this run. Not only because it's a new local event for me to try out, but also because it lets me re-visit the town of my alma mater, Penn State Behrend, and hang out with an old college friend who agreed to let me crash at his house the night before and after the run. On Friday I drove to his place in Erie after work. By the time I arrived it was going on 7:00 so we headed over to the Olive Garden for some pasta and then came back to his place with enough time for me to organize my stuff for the morning.

Before I knew it my alarm was going off at 5:30 am and I was on the road around 6:00. Luckily my friend only lives about 10 minutes from the start/finish line which is located at the Rotary Pavilion (about 3 miles into Presque Isle on the lake side). I arrived at the pavilion around 6:15 with enough time to pickup my chip & t-shirt and chat with Kurt Osadchuk for a few minutes. After final preparations at my car I walked over to the start line and talked to Bob and Suzanne Pokorny before listening to some last minute race instructions. Everyone was anxious to get moving since the starting temperature was around 45 degrees. I started off wearing shorts and a long sleeved tech shirt over top of a sleeveless tech tee, then switched to just my sleeveless tee, before puting on a short sleeved tech shirt over top of my sleeveless one when the wind started to pick up. At 6:30 everyone was off and running. It stayed dark until about 7:30 so I ran with Tom Jennings and Kurt O. who both had handheld lights.

Kurt and I early in the run

The course, which begins in front of the Rotary Pavilion, is a one mile rectangular shaped loop with the length about 3 times longer than the width. There are scenic views of Lake Erie on both sides of the loop and a lagoon in the middle. From the pavilion you run counter-clockwise on the road to the first left turn unless you decide to take a dirt/gravel path that meets up with this turn. After turning left you then have a long straightaway on the road, but you can choose to run on the grass if you'd like. Then, before you make your 2nd left hand turn there is a very slight gradual uphill which seemed to get steeper as the run went on. After turning left you can then choose to run on the road until turning left to the start/finish area or you can hop onto an actual trail (a new option for this year) which meets up with the road leading to the start/finish area.

Sunrise over Lake Erie on the opposite side of the start/finish area
(downtown Erie can be seen on the other side of the water)

Leading up to this run I was trying to determine a goal mileage for myself that I could put on my race application, but wasn't quite sure what was reasonable to shoot for since this is a different kind of race than I am normally used to. After talking it over with some of my running friends I decided to shoot for 60 miles. This would require me to do an average of 12 minutes per mile. I didn't make up a split sheet or anything though. Instead I planned to just run by how I felt and every once in awhile glance down at my watch to make sure that I was still on target.
For the first 26 miles I only had 3 miles that took longer than 12 minutes so I knew I already had some time in the bank. And I was feeling pretty good so far. I remember thinking how fast the time seemed to be going. It wasn't until near the midway point that I started doing each mile a little slower. I started feeling slightly nauseous, much like when I have a salt/water imbalance during summer ultras. I figured that I was probably feeling this way because it was lunchtime and I needed to refuel myself with more solid foods, rather than just Shot Bloks, Gatorade, etc. I was right. After trying to eat half of a turkey sub along with some other items I was beginning to gain my energy back. Note to self - During this run I learned that I also like to eat Chips Ahoy, Sun Chips, and Oreo cookies. It was also around this time that I finally broke down and listened to my iPod to keep me motivated. I was trying to put this off as long as I could but figured that halfway was a good time to start listening to music.
One more change I made around this time was my shoes. I started off wearing my Nike Pegasus road shoes (can't remember the last time I wore these) and eventually put on my Montrail Continental Divides for the extra ankle support they provide, since my right foot was beginning to get sore around my ankle and just overall in general. After a mile or so of wearing my trail shoes the soreness went away and I was back into the zone, clipping off the miles again.
As the run went on everyone else was beginning to tire as well, so it became a little easier to talk with the other participants. That's one feature I really like about this event... being able to see everyone else on the course and help motivate each other. Here's a couple photos of just a few people I spent time with on the course...

"Erie Tom" Jennings

I also have to mention a couple other runners who amazed me by their efforts. 69 yr. old Richard Sitter, who completed a total of 51 miles (only 6 spots behind me), and 84 yr. old Fran Albaugh, who finished 37 miles. During my last 10-15 miles I was able to have a nice conversation with Richard who had a lot of good advice. He said that during his younger days he would do 70+ miles at this event and it was evident by the way he can still run today.

Surprisingly some of my best miles came between mile 45 and 50. I'm not sure what happened but at times I was running at an 8:30 pace or faster even though my final average pace for these miles does not entirely show this. Maybe I can accredit this to the pacifier that my friend Jim gave me before the run. You can read the story behind the pacifier by reading my previous post. Anyways, I wore it on my right index finger for the entire 2nd half of the run to keep me from whining like a baby. It ended up turning into quite a conversation piece at the start/finish area each time I passed through. One lady said, "Did you lose your blanky?" That made me laugh pretty hard. So, the lesson here is to make sure that you keep that mind over matter attitude during endurance events. If you don't mind then it doesn't matter!

Once I reached mile 50 I decided to focus on just getting the next 5 miles done and then I'd have the final 5 mile countdown to my goal. Sometime before this the volunteers switched the race clock to show a countdown rather than how much time had passed. At first I didn't really like this but then realized it was necessary to help everyone figure out how many miles you could fit in with the time remaining. With 5 miles to go I only needed to keep like a 13 or 14 minute/mile pace to finish with 60 miles, but at this point I was walking each mile completely. Thankfully I'm a pretty good power walker and had Suzanne P. and this other guy with me to share in the suffering. The running I did during mile 59 gave me an 11:22 mile and left me with plenty of leeway at the end, but not enough time for what I thought I needed in order to finish another mile before time ran out. After 12 hours of going around in loops, I was very happy to finish my 60 mile goal in 11:49:06. You can view my splits by clicking here or check out the complete results by clicking here.

Finally, I'd like to give a HUGE thanks to Mike, Dave, the timing guy, and all the other volunteers who gave up 12 hours of their day to help make this run a success! It's events like these that make our sport so much fun! I'm already looking forward to next year's event.

Me holding up the N.E. Ohio Trail Club pacifier at the finish


Kim said...

Nice going! It's kind of fun to try out a different type of race, it ends up being very mental to go in circles. It looks like the weather wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

ErieTom said...

It was a blast spending the day with you Brian! GREAT JOB! Let's shoot for 65 next year.

Remember to send me that photo (really looks like I'm moving in it, hehe)!

Lloyd said...

Congrats on your run. Excellent recap.

Nick Billock said...

Nice job, Brian. 12 hours on asphalt...reminds me of Green Jewel. Care to join the party next May?
Again, congrats on reaching your goal!

Brian said...

Kim - Thanks! The weather was nice. Partly sunny and upper 50s.

Tom - Congrats on your finish as well. Sounds like a plan for next year. I emailed your photo last night.

Lloyd - Thanks!

Nick - Thanks..I tried to stay off the road as much as possible but I'll keep the Green Jewel in mind.

ErieTom said...
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Mike said...

Wow - I really feel how much I missed out on now...Great job Brian!

ErieTom said...
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