Tuesday, December 1, 2009

He kept pain at bay, took 2nd in 50K

Jonathan Savage, one of the top ultrarunners in the area, finished second at the Derby 50K Ultra Run last Saturday. His official time was 3:53:03, just 91 seconds behind winner Joe Sauerbrey of Archdale. (For those who don't want to do the math, Jonathan averaged a pace right around 7:30/mile.)

Derby is -- by the race Web site's own admission -- "in the middle of nowhere," about two hours directly east of Charlotte. Interestingly, despite the relatively close proximity, Jonathan was our greater metropolitan region's only representative at the Derby 50K.

I interviewed Jonathan about his 100-mile races and other topics back in July (click here to read the story); today, the 43-year-old software architect graciously sent me this recap of his experience:

"The Derby 50K is a race with wonderful logistics. It’s run in November when the weather is nicely chilly, which can be ideal running temperatures. The start is just outside the Derby community center, which allows you to stay toasty warm until a minute or two before the start. I have a deep hatred of the time before a race starts, and standing around for hours freezing makes things even worse.

"The course is three loops, each one passing in front of the community center. This makes it easy to access your gear. I was able to drop off extra clothes as the morning warmed up, and restock on Gus, which made life much easier.

"The terrain is gently rolling; classic rural North Carolina. It is mostly asphalt, with a little bit of dirt road added in for variety. The roads are not closed to traffic, but I saw few vehicles. There are three aid stations, staffed by some wonderfully experienced ultrarunners.

"My goal for the race was to break four hours, which is a 7:40 pace. I was reasonably confident about that goal, but also acutely aware of the dangers of hubris! I generally focus on longer distances, so it took me a while to settle. I was just getting into the groove by about Mile 6 when my left hip flexor decided it wanted my attention. I honestly thought I’d fixed that muscle, but apparently not well enough. Having a problem this early in a race means these four hours will seem like a long time. Luckily the pain stayed at the 'you’re going to pay for this tomorrow' level, not the 'catastrophic failure' level. (I did pay for it the next day, as I could not lift my left leg into the car without pulling it in with my arms. Plenty of ice and it was back to normal for Monday, so I can’t complain.)

"I started off in fifth place and kept my pace reasonably even. I was a little slow to start off, and picked things up slightly as the race progressed. I passed some of the faster runners, but I never saw the winner until I had finished. I was only 90 seconds behind him, but I would not have caught him if I’d seen him, as I was running all out for the last 1.5 miles. Overall, I finished in 3:53, which achieved my goal of sub-4.

"Overall, I had an awesome time. I found that edge that divides 'too slow' from 'crash and burn' and held that pace. The edge is where you are not sure you can keep it up, where you fear that you will not be able to handle the pain, but somehow you do. I look back on the race and know that I did the best I could, which is deeply satisfying. As Alfred, Lord Tennyson put it 'To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.'"
If you are running the Thunder Road or Myrtle Beach marathons, Jonathan is pacing the 4:00 groups at both and would love to run with you. He also keeps a blog here.