I had Tussey Mountain Back (TMB) on the schedule since last spring. Usually I don’t plan this far ahead, but the experience was definitely worth it! The course was beautiful and quite a bit different than the other courses I have raced. TMB hosts the USATF 50 Mile National Road Championships. The roads utilized are mostly gravel fire roads that run through the Tussey Mountains in Rothrock State Forest. The elevation gain is 5,035 feet. Very little of it seemed like rolling hills, but more often long gradual climbs with a few steep climbs, and long gradual descents with a few steep descents. A really nice description of the course can be found at the TMB website.
|Switchback on 3mi climb at start|
|Leaving an aid station|
I could see in the distance that Nick had caught and passed Mario. When I pulled into the next aid station I was told I was about two minutes back. With my pace still averaging 6:27 per mile, and feeling really comfortable, I was optimistic I would be able to close the gap at some point. After mile 20 I could see that Mario and Nick were not as far up as they had been. They jostled back and forth a bit as I came closer to them. At mile 25 we had a gradual climb. It was here that I caught back up with Nick. As I passed him we shared some words of encouragement, but I continued on slowly separating from Nick.It was at the mile 26 aid station that I caught back up to Mario. It was the first time since mile 5 that we were side by side. He appeared to be struggling a bit so I pushed on ahead. He did not let me get too far for the next couple miles. I looked back at one of the switchbacks and saw him no more than 30 seconds behind me.
|Gravel fireroad along course|
|Aid station on second half of course|
The next 6 miles turned out to be more of a challenge then I had anticipated. Miles 40-45 included some of the steeper climbs on the course. My climbing legs began to falter and I began to hemorrhage time on the climbs. Miles 40-42 felt like it took as long as the entire first 40 miles of the race. I kept telling myself just get to mile 46 and I could glide downhill to the finish. When I got to mile 46 I looked at my watch and realized I would have to average about 6:20 per mile in order to finish under Wardian’s course record. I thought this would be possible, until I met the last uphill section of the course. I had forgotten about this section of maybe 600 meters where my pace slowed enough to put me in a position where I would have to cover miles 48-50 at about 6:00 per mile. Even with a gradual descent I didn’t have enough in my legs to quite pull off that pace. I gave it what I had left, which was good for 5 hrs. 35 min. 51 sec., and 1st place.As we all know hind sight is 20/20, so despite being thrilled with the win I wondered about whether a more conservative pace at the start would have saved me more time at the end? Or if a strategic hit of caffeine would have given me just enough to shave two more minutes off my time? Who knows!? This is the beauty of the sport. With so many miles there is an endless amount of opportunity to learn from what we did before, and plan for what we can do different next time. All in all, I am excited about my experience at Tussey, and very satisfied with the results. In short, it was one of those races that make you look forward to the next one.
Finish Line!! fongstudio2.com
Products I used for Tussey Mountain Back 50 Mile
· Vespa Ultra Concentrate (5 total)
· 5 Gels
· 100 oz Sports Drink
· Garmin Forerunner 350
Splits: 5 hrs. 35 min. 51 sec.