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Race Report: TNF-DC 50 mile

Result: 2nd, 6:50:10 (full results here)
*A bit of press from the Running Times here.

Sometimes it's best to abandon expectations, for expectations are rarely realized. This is a lesson that's easy to learn: set an expectation, then see if it materializes. I tried setting expectations this year with my spring race schedule. Let's see how that played out...

Expectations: (1) finish the American River 50 in under 6hr:05; (2) finish the Mad City 50k in under 3hrs:10; (3) finish top five at the Ice Age Trail 50. How many times were my expectations realized? Exactly zero. Oh, and I got injured along the way. So I thought it best to abandon expectations at the TNF-DC 50 mile, especially in light of the fact that the forecasted low temperature for the day was 73 degrees (the high? 93!).

Of course, I knew that Michael Wardian would be running the race and, after finishing less than two minutes behind him at the Rock N' Roll USA Marathon in March, it would be inauthentic to pretend that I didn't expect, well, let me be more realistic, hope, to beat him. That hope seemed fairly realistic when I found myself six minutes ahead of him at mile 15, seven minutes ahead of him at mile 17, ten minutes and thirty seconds ahead of him at mile 24, ten minutes ahead of him at mile 31, and eight minutes ahead of him at mile 35. After feeling great for the majority of the race, the heat and miles began to take their toll: I was light headed, I felt dehydrated, I was unable to climb as swiftly as before. I was losing my lead, and fast, and I began to wonder if I would finish. That wonder was especially prevalent at mile 39, when Wardian finally passed me while I was laying on the side of the trail, trying to lower my core temperature and regain my running legs.

But I was able to continue: sometimes walking, sometimes hiking, mostly running (though usually slowly). And, to my surprise, I arrived at the 42 mile aid station just forty-five seconds after Michael had left (or so the aid station volunteers told me). However, much credit to him, Wardian was able to move through the last eight miles well, and I was never able to do enough to catch him (try as I might).

If you have a chance, and a legitimate chance, to beat Michael Wardian in an ultramarathon, and you let that chance slip, you kick yourself. I won't soon forget what happened at this race: I let a huge opportunity get away from me. But I'll learn from it, and I'll hope to have the chance to battle with one of the best again. Next time, the third time, might be a charm.

Some thanks are in order: to the volunteers, the aid station workers, and especially Cynthia, Danny, and Kari for the on course support; thanks, too, to RaceReady for the first-rate gear and support.

Pictures and video from the race:

                                           Coming through the aid station, around mile 15.

The pre-dawn start in Virginia. 

Finding some shade with Michael Wardian after the race.

Take 2.

Joy? Fatigue? Cold? Yes.


  1. Eric, you freakin' rock! Racing with Michael Wardian? You bloodied him up it seems, from the pics. Did you get a WS100 entry from this race? I understand the heat thing; we've had no chance to heat acclimate this year in WI. I was feeling it at the Kettle 100; and it was only 80°.

    1. Thanks, Dave! How'd the Kettle 100 go for you?

    2. DNF'ed at mile 63; I sat down ( I was physically OK, but mentally trashed. I'll have another go next year. Thanks.

    3. At least you got a nice 100km training run out of it!