JFK 50 2008


Dave, Dane, and myself gathered up and headed down to Maryland to run the JFK 50.  Dave and Dane for the second time, and myself as a rookie.


That’s the way it was supposed to read, but fortunately my application missed the cutoff, and I didn’t get in.  Instead, I headed down for a second year to provide some support for our two Mass Sole resident lunatics, and hope that some of their grit, determination, and athleticism might rub off on me.


As the reader may recall, it was unseasonably cold for this event last year, and this year was looking even worse…  Or so Ranger Dave told us.  In fact Dane and I were beginning to think that this might be the normal weather for this event, with Dave just trying to get us to believe it wouldn’t be like this next year.  Or the year after that..


As before, we flew down on Friday, early enough to go clothes shopping for warm weather gear.  One would think that having watched the weather reports so closely, our boys might have brought the proper gear, but not these two.  I can only hope that the day I run this event we all have to go shopping for shorts.  Regardless, I was starting to get alarmed, with less than 24 hours to go before the run Dave and Dane were not thinking clearly.  For example, who debates for 20 minutes on whether they should buy bananas or not when they cost $.57 per pound?  I mean, these two would be arguing about whether or not they should buy some bananas, as if it was a decision that could shake the entire US financial system, and I’d make a comment to the effect of “guys, the bananas are fifty seven freakin’ cents, just buy them and lets get on with things”, and their eyes would light up as if they were Moses and God had just appeared on the mountain and offered up the 7 Commandments.  Dave even started referring to me as “King Solomon”, and when you earn that title over a couple of simple $.57 cent decisions, you know somebody isn’t thinking too clearly.


Somehow, we made it from the airport to the hotel for check in, grocery shopping, clothes shopping, and registration.  Along the way, we saw a painful reminder of just how deeply Hagerstown was affected by the economic down turn – apparently, the local church had resorted to showing porn films, this weekend they were showing something called “Grasp the enormousness of his immensity”, or something like that.  I’d also foolishly mentioned to Dave that I’d trained for this event (I did run 2 marathons a few weeks ago, so I figured I could pull it off if given enough time), and promised him that if I could register at the door, then I’d run it with them.


I don’t know what it is about Rangers, Dave seemed to get really excited about the prospect of another person experiencing extreme pain for the better part of a day.  I mean, what’s in it for him?  The pleasure of knowing that at the end of the day nobody else in the room will be in less pain than he is?  I don’t get it.  Fortunately, they had no spots at the door, and this event doesn’t seem like the kind of event you can run as a bandit with no support, so I started watching the weather more closely and made sure to point out to Dave and Dane how terribly cold it was going to be the next day at every opportunity.


We were left with one more thing to do before turning in early, and that was to find Kelly!  You remember Kelly, our cheery dinner server from last year, who’d divulged her life story during her introduction, then steered us towards the night club filled with philosophers the following evening?  Dave was taking odds on her still being at the good ole Chicago Uno Grill, as we walked in there the odds were 70/30 that she’d still be there.


We walked in, ordered a table for 3, and asked about Kelly.  We were told that Kelly was not there – that night was her night off!  And tragically, she would be flying to Vienna the following morning, so we wouldn’t get a chance to see her at all during this trip.  We asked what was going on in Vienna, and one of the hostesses mentioned something about sausages, and started frantically winking at Ranger Dave.  (I’m only making half of that last one up..).


We were seated at our table, our server was some vanilla guy named Ted, or Bill, or, well, who the heck cares, all we know is he wasn’t named Kelly, and it kind of put a damper on our entire evening.  Now we had nothing to do but eat and sleep.  Zzzzzzzz.

About 10 minutes into our meal, a white vision appeared at the end of our table, and kind of took us by surprise!  “Hi guys!!!”.  Whoa, it was Kelly!  Turned out she’d forgotten her purse (yeah, right) and had conveniently dropped by to fetch it!  Wow!  Now, while Kelly knew that she knew us, she didn’t really know who we were, if you get my drift.  I mean, we passed through town a year ago, which is probably like a decade or two in Hagerstown years, so while she recognized us in some capacity, I’m pretty sure she had no idea that we were the same semi professional athletes that had blown through town a year ago.  But that didn’t stop her from going through her entire Vienna itinerary, after which she abruptly announced that she had to go, she had an early flight the next morning (Hagerstown International Airport, 4:30 AM).  Naturally, it was hugs for everyone, which for one of us required her to sprawl across the table.  No problem for her, I got the impression she’d done this before.  Quite a few times..

We’ll see you next year Kelly!  I’m sure!


With Kelly gone, our spirits were lifted, Tim brought the check and we headed back to the hotel for an early lights out.  I had the same cot from last year, the one with the 2x4 that went straight across the back, but we were all pretty tired so I didn’t worry too much about the jar of Vaseline on the night table.


I was up before the crack of dawn, and started waking the boys just before 5:00 AM.  They had some important decisions to make, such as whether to bathe or not before the run (I convinced them it would be in all of our best interests), and which clothes to wear (naturally, they didn’t use any of the clothing we’d bought the day before).  Dane graciously gave Dave some nipple tape, they dressed up, and we were on our way.  It was damn cold outside, we followed a car with a Mass plate that seemed to be heading in the same direction we were, who else would be out driving at 6:00 AM on a morning like this?  We followed him into the Doonebury High School parking lot, and went inside to listen to the runners instructions (“you’re $%#!'ed, and don’t wear any iPods”), and then stumbled to the starting line.  Along the way, a cheery woman went running past us, telling everybody they’d better run if they wanted to make it to the starting line on time (she as wrong), and as we passed the Hagerstown Trust (still waiting to be bailed out), we observed that the temperature was a mere 19 degrees.  I reminded them that this was really going to suck for some of us..


Contrary to the running woman, we arrived a full 2-3 minutes before the gun went off, which gave me time to get a good vantage point of the start, and lose Dave and Dane in the process.


I should mention, that for the entire trip down, the shopping, the dinner, breakfast, etc, all I’d been hearing was about how they needed to reign themselves in, take it easy at the beginning, try not to run 7 minute miles when they got out of the woods, blah, blah, blah.  But now, with the starting line in sight, Ranger Dave started pointing out how they really needed to get in front of all these slower runners, otherwise they’d be held up all the way through the trail part of the run.  I reminded him that up until 5 minutes ago that was their strategy, but now with the starting line in sight the strategy went out the window.


A note to the readers: You people think I make all this stuff up.  I don’t.  If anything, I have to tone it down from time to time, for the children.


Anyhow, the gun went off, I took a few picture that may or may not have had our hero’s in them, and I set off back to the parking lot, a warm car, and hopefully to find a real, warm breakfast with real, warm coffee.  I’d remembered the support instructions this year, so I didn’t have to race back to the hotel to get them, that should give me plenty of time to fetch something to eat and make it to mile 9 in plenty of time to get there before our runners.


I did get there in plenty of time, huffed two duffle bags up the hill, and waited a good long time for them to arrive.  It was pretty cold, which made things even worse.  The water that was being served at the first station was freezing when the runners grabbed the cup, nothing like a nice icy cold cup of water on a frigid morning.  This race really screws up the support crew, the fact that you have a nasty climb up a mountain trail really screws up your mile pace.  No matter how early you get to the aid station, you can’t help wondering if your runner has already passed through.


Mine hadn’t, eventually they showed up, Dane was sweating like a pig, and changed into shorts.  Both of them changed their sneakers (they’d started off in their crappy ones, just in case the trail was wet, to save their good ones for the tow rode and streets later on).  Also, I didn’t realize it, and Dave didn’t say anything, but apparently he kicked a rock at mile 6 and either broke, or severely stubbed, his big toe.


Note: Confirmed broken in two places


The next aid station was at mile 15, Dane got smart and put some pants on, and also mentioned that he’d turned his ankle at mile 12.  Dave, not to be out done, pointed out that he wasn’t complaining, but he wanted us all to know that he’d done something to his toe at mile 6, and was in as much pain, or more, as Dane was.


The next aid station was at mile 27.  They both were looking surprisingly good at that point, but confessed later on that they’d reached a low point at mile 21, wondering if they would be able to finish.  Last year, I’d followed them along the tow path for a while, stopping at various points along the way, but this year I was anxious to get to the next aid station at 38 as soon as possible, so I would have more time to run back a little further this year, and run more miles with them.  Also, while they might have been doubting their ability to finish, I was kind of taking things for granted.  It never really crossed my mind that they wouldn’t finish, they’d made it last year, after all.


I got to mile 38, stuck some Gatorade, water, Gu, hand warmers, and 5 Hour Energy Drink into my back pack, and started running backwards along the trail.  Just short of 4 miles I found our boys, they were looking good, but struggling a little bit.  Dane mentioned his ankle a few dozen times, and Dave responded by pointing out that he wasn’t complaining, but his toe might have suffered some damage, and we really had to look at it when we got to the finish.  Last year, I think I ran two and a half miles with them, and had trouble keeping up, this year I ran almost 4, and for once in my life I was able to keep up with them pretty easily.  True, I was in a lot better shape than last year, but it’s also an indication of how much they were hurting.


We made it to mile 38, Dave chugged down something, ate something more, and moved up the trail a bit, Dane formed a deep and lasting relationship with each and every worker at the aid station.  It’s funny how most humans couldn’t run a half marathon, but here we were with that distance in front of them, and they were cheered by how little they had left in front of them.


Last year, I’d been able to kind of follow them along the route from this point on, but not this year – the organizers had all the local roads blocked off to anybody except the locals, so I went off in search of some hot chocolate to hand to them at mile 46.  McDonalds was out of hot chocolate, but it turns out it didn’t matter because it was served at mile 42, where Dane had four cups!


At 46 our hero’s were still smiling, they recognized they were a little off the pace of last year, but given the conditions of the weather and their feet, any time would be a good time.


They reached the finish line at 10 hours and 14 minutes, almost 20 minutes off last years time, but still amazing nonetheless.  We went inside for some tasty pizza, and for Dave to whip off his sneaker to show us his toe:



And Dane, not to be outdone, couldn’t find any ankle damage, so he showed us all his blisters:



Dane realized that his blisters were kind of lame, so after he got home he found a picture of somebody else's swollen ankle, and sent it to us, claiming it was his:



The rest of the trip was kind of uneventful, we went back to the hotel, cleaned up, and found Ava’s, the same dive bar that Kelly had pointed us to the previous year.  Unfortunately, there were only 5 people there, so we went back upstairs and played ‘Name That Tune’ to Hagerstown’s best classic rock cover band!  They were pretty good, once or twice we figured it out before they were halfway through a song!


Next year, I’ll be running this race, and hopefully a couple more Mass Soles as well.


Pictures can be found <here>.