Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Two Decades of Racing - The 2014 JFK 50 Mile

There we were, still parked in front of a coffee shop in Hagerstown, Maryland, at 6:15AM on this very frigid JFK 50 Mile race day morning.  We sat, heat blasting, but still shivering while waiting for the java joint to open its doors.  Had this been a race I'd never run before, had I been solo, or with runners I didn't know I suppose I'd have been worried about getting to the race on time or getting lost on the way to the start.  However, I was at ease.

I was surrounded by guys I'd logged hundreds of training miles with.  Josh Brimhall sat in the driver's seat.  Josh, owner of Red Rock Running Company, traveled from Las Vegas to start his third JFK.  James Bonnett, who flew in from Phoenix, was finally starting a race he's always wanted to run since he began participating in ultras at the age of 9.  I had just met Montanan Jim Walmsley, but after hanging for a night of pizza and beer I knew he was a kindred spirit.  In the adjacent parking spot Eric Senseman had his seat reclined and eyes closed.  Eric had just spent the past few months training in my hometown of Flagstaff, Arizona, and I enjoyed giving him the tour of our local trails as he settled in.

I'm no stranger to the JFK 50 Mile.  It was my first ultra in 1994 and I've returned every year since.  With the exception of a DNF in 2007, I've finished each year.  This year's race would be my 20th finish.  I've amassed 16 sub-7 hour finishes (a JFK record), 10 top-10 finishes, placed 3rd three times and 2nd twice.  Still, my course PR of 6:09:27 continues to be pushed from the top 50 performers list and I fear 61 seconds (the amount of time I was behind 2004 winner Paul South) is as close as I'll get to winning.  It's all good though...I'm honored that I've been able to become a part of this race's deep history.

61 seconds...see the little figure in the background.

So, yeah, I found myself composed and very happy to be here once again, among good friends, and getting ready to roll up South Mountain to the Appalachian Trail.

The race was a success.  Finishing my 20th JFK in under 7 hours was pretty damn sweet.  The adiUltra Team claimed the Team title.  We had come and done what we set out to do.  A special thanks to David and Cheryl Harrison (Emily Harrison's parents) for crewing me along the way and to JFK race director Mike Spinnler who continues to invite me back year after year.

Find the 2014 JFK 50 Mile results here.

Great coverage by Andy Mason in the Hagerstown Herald here.

More coverage on JFK's history by Matt Flaherty and Eric Senseman at Running Times here.

Now for some photos:

The 52nd JFK front line moments before the start in Boonsboro, Maryland.

Passing the miles among the rocks and leaves on the Appalachian Trail.

Running across the grass field at the Gathland Gap aid station (mile 9).

AdiUltra Team runner Jim Sweeney passes through Weverton (mile 15).

AdiUltra Team runner James Bonnett passes through Weverton en route to his first JFK finish. 

Just following the other guys' lead at Weverton aid station.

AdiUltra Team runner Josh Brimhall on the canal.  He'd end his day at mile 34 due to some wickedly painful Achilles tendonitis.

Refueling at Antietam aid station (mile 27) with the help of David Harrison.

Montana's James Walmsley comfortably puts in miles on the canal.

Phoenix, Arizona's James Bonnett finishes in 9th place in 6:22:36.

Walmsley wins his first 50 mile race in 5:56:31.

Getting high fives from adiUltra teammate Jim Sweeney near the finish line.

Just a few more steps to complete #20.

High fives to Bonnett and Walmsley.

20 finishes!

The 2014 JFK 50 Mile top ten.  adiUltra Team members Walmsley (1st), Sweeney (8th) and Bonnett (9th) collect their hardware with the other fast guys.

Team adiUltra wins the men's team title. (left to right: Bonnett, Torrence, Sweeney, Walmsley)


Pete Breckinridge said...

Nice recap, Ian. You've become an outstanding ambassador of ultra running, really putting your mark on the sport.

Unknown said...

Congrats and welcome to the 1,000 mile club! Takes a lot of long term dedication and a bit of luck to pull that off. Also what happened in 2007 that lead to a DNF? For the longest time you were the one person who also started in 1994 and kept their streak going. -Liz W.

P.S. Nice speech at the race dinner! said...

Ian - great job - just amazing. It sounds like that race is a great tradition. I enjoyed reading how you were sharing it with old friends, new friends, and a Flagstaffer new to the race itself. Woot!

Unknown said...

A wonderful tribute, Ian. Here's to a life well-lived and a spirit that will never die. Much love!