The Caumsett Park 50K was held March 6, and this was my seventh time in a row running it, my longest streak of any race. And for the sixth year in a row it has been the USATF road 50K National Championship. That meant that there would again be strong competition and some exciting performances.
The weather forecast called for mild temperatures but heavy rain on Sunday, although some reports said the rain would hold off until the afternoon, which I was hoping. At the start, temperatures were in the low 50's with cloudy, threatening skies and plenty of wind. We didn't have use of the Winter Cottage this year, but a large heated tent was set up, and it was well-heated and worked well, as long as you didn't mind the goose droppings on the ground.
The course would be the same as last year, with an extra out-and-back section to make an even 5K course. The organizers warned the runners of some potholes on the out-and-back, which were definitely unpleasant, especially when they became large puddles later on in the race. It is easier mentally to run 10 5K loops, and it's nice to not have to walk nearly a half mile to the starting line, but that out-and-back is not fun with the potholes, puddles and the sharp turnaround. My PR is still from the race two years ago when we started on the opposite side of the course and didn't do have either the out-and-back or the Winter Cottage turnaround.
I knew this wouldn't be a PR (3:25) day for me, particularly since I haven't put in a lot of speedwork. But I was hoping for something similar to last year (3:28). I also was hoping to finish in the top 10 and first local runner, and maybe place in the masters category. But I saw two masters runners, Mark Godale and Dan Verrington, who I was certain would beat me, as they had in previous years, so I wasn't counting on a masters place. After the first quarter mile or so I counted the runners ahead of me, and I was in 10th place, until Mike Oliva pulled up next to me, and while I was running and chatting with him another runner pulled ahead of us. Mike continued on ahead, and after two laps, the first place woman passed me, putting me in 13th place, with Byron Lane right on my tail.
At one point in the midpoint of the race I passed Dan Verrington, who was struggling and obviously having an off day. But that gave me hope for a masters prize if I could hold off Byron. I held on to the pace I wanted to keep for five laps, but then felt myelf tensing up, and Byron was still right behind me. The rain was a minor inconvenience, but the wind was fairly strong at times. It always is at Caumsett, but it was blowing from another direction than usual, so we had the strongest winds in our faces on the second half of the loop, rather than the first. Byron and I were going back and forth the last half of the race, but he was cramping up on the last lap and I was able to finish ahead of him.
The winner, for the fourth year in a row, was Michael Wardian, who came within a few seconds of his own course record. Joshua Ferenc and Jim Johnson, both from New Hampshire, finished second and third. Jodie Schoppmann, from Levittown, broke the women's course record in 3:20:12, quite an impressive performance in what I'm told was her first ultra. Shanna Ailes Istni from Ohio was second and last year's winner, Yolanda Flamino from New Hampshire was third.
I finished 12th overall, 11th male and third master behind Mark Godale and George Adams, another New Hapshire runner! So I didn't get the time I wanted, but I did get a masters award. And I didn't finish in the top ten, overall or men, but if you want to stretch it I did get the USATF 10th place medal, since Mike Oliva, who I've done some training runs with, and who helps put on the Holidays Marathons in Van Cortlandt Park, and who rode up in Andrei Aroneanu's car (thanks Andrei!!!) along with Mat Gerowitz, finished 10th man eight minutes ahead of me but is not a member of USATF, making him ineligble for any of their awards. So after mistakenly being given the medal he had to turn it over to me, which he gamely did. That'll learn ya Mike!
So although I've seen many of my ultra friends over the winter, the Caumsett Park 50K is always a good way to see them again and to start the racing season.