Castle to River 50k 2019 “Follow the (Team) Leader”

I didn’t really know what to expect with this, from all angles. My training was inconsistent, I had no idea what the Castle to River 50k course would entail, and I wasn’t sure who was running. When I saw Ian, Scottie, and Jay, I figured we would have a nice team run for the vast majority of the race. Wow, was I wrong about that!  After a short warmup, we were off, and by we, I mean Ian. He was leading the charge like a boss on a boat, and the rest of us were along for the ride, not realizing we were on a road to nowhere. 

After a rapid first two miles, Ian decided to really start running when we got to an extended hill at 2.5 miles. Jay started walking, and I tried to bridge the gap to Ian. As soon as I got to within 5 seconds, he cranked up the pace even more. My jaw hit the gravel. We were not even 5 miles in, and I was not interested in digging my grave any deeper, so I decided to pass on the uber fartlek. The 4th mile was an 8:30 with 350 feet of climbing, and the grade adjusted pace for the first 6 miles was right about 7 flat…and that is where most of the racing ended. The remaining 24 miles were basically just a long, painful cooldown of shrapnel carnage from the Ian Golden’s “Shock and Awe” tour 2019.

Photos by Gavin Nephew

Photos by Gavin Nephew

Even with the early onset fatigue, the loop starting at 5 miles was definitely some fun trail, where it seemed as if someone had raked a new trail just for the race, and I wished I had been running it with the rest of the team. There was also a secluded mini moss covered ridge along a pond that seemed to appear out of nowhere. I thought about waiting for Jay, but I knew he was probably tired from Tammany the week before, and I kept thinking that Ian would back off at some point. Nope.

Soon after passing the castle for the first time at around 11 miles, the sky got dark, the temperature quickly dropped, and it started to rain. I wasn’t really expecting to need my jacket, but my core temp dropped soon after the ambient temp, and I got the jacket on. Given the humidity at the start, I was mostly happy about the rain, and curious to see how my Salomon S/LAB Sense Softgrounds would do as the ground got soft and messy.

I kept up a moderately aggressive pace until about 12 miles, still could not see Ian, and realized my legs were quite dead for this early in a 50k. While it was nice that the vast majority of the race was runnable, it also made it hard to have no hiking breaks. The multi-multi loop format was a bit confusing, but the course was well marked, and the aid station help was great about confirming directions. It was fun to see Gav helping Elizabeth out at the Castle aid station, and I knew he would think the Castle was pretty cool.

By 25 miles, my tempo run recovery had worked, and it felt like I might be ready for my next workout on the faster miles down to the finish. I didn’t expect to catch Ian, but thought I might minimize the damage to my ultrasignup ranking (my entire identity) by closing the 6 minute gap he had opened up. I think he established that in about 4-5 miles, then maintained that until mile 25. I hurt just thinking about that. 

I was surprised at how much I was able to drop my pace at that point in race, and the positive feedback from Jay Friedman that I was catching Ian prompted me to see if there was another gear. There wasn’t, but I kept my foot to the floor to make Ian earn it. After a 7 minute downhill mile, miles 28-29 were something out of the twilight zone. My GPS claims that they were over 9 minutes, but they felt substantially faster than that. I got it back down to 7 minute pace for the last 0.6, and was surprised to see that I had closed to within about 90 seconds of Ian at the finish. Maybe not that surprised considering how hard he had run the first 10 miles. I would have called it a day at that point! Despite the rain and slick conditions in the second half, we had run under 4:30, with a grade adjusted pace of under 8 minutes. I looked at the many other similar runs and races I have done around that distance, and Castle to River tops the list for pace with similar climbing. It is certainly a runnable course, but 6k of vert is 6k of vert.

The race venue is one of the best, and made staying around to hang out with the team and the rest of the runners very pleasant. I was very impressed with my first race in the Sense 7SG, they really like to run, hold almost no water, and can handle greasy trails. Congrats to Ian, he showed us all who the new Daddy was, and all the rest of the racers who toured the Castle grounds. Thanks to Salomon and MPF RNR for creating and supporting the event, another great Hudson Valley race. While the race was great, I have to admit the best part of it was rewarding Gav for his volunteer work with dinner at the Round House in Beacon. Food always tastes better after a hard day of work.