Ferenc 3rd at 50k, Voltron Style

Guest blog by Josh Ferenc

Editor’s Note: Ethan Coffey and Emily Harrison both won and set new records at the 50 km Road Championships over the weekend (in Caumsett State Park on Long Island, N.Y.). Josh Ferenc competed and made the podium, running an impressive 3:04:16. Here’s a firsthand account on the race and the trip from Josh.

Survival Musts

Let’s start this with a great big ol’ “holy cuss!” This past weekend I embarked in a vision questing miracle trip to the USATF 50k road championships in Long Island. I’ve been here twice before and left with a 2nd place the first adventure here and a disappointing 5th the other.  So I know what comes with the race, having been successful once and very disappointed the other attempt.

I had done the long runs and the distances needed for the race but definitely didn’t have the “in between” efforts I should have. Only the divine could have survived the way I did. Holy cuss…

I was rolling to the event Voltron style with Greg and Fyffe. It was to be a dude adventure where the pressure of disappointment was not going to be tolerated: I had to step up and not let my people down.

The car ride down was eventful as we spoke of politics, life, unmentionables, and general topics that drifted through my ever racing mind. I was in charge of reserving a hotel/motel/holiday inn and did one better: Rodeway Inn.

Now, on the line of the internet it had a 3.5 star rating out of 5. It wasn’t a 3.5 star hotel, that was just it’s rating. Upon arrival at the check in desk, the clerk let’s me know that the room I reserved would not be available. I then proceed to do my best Seinfeld and explain that she knew how to take my reservation, but didn’t know how to hold the reservation. The whole point of me calling 10 days prior was to assure I would have the room available that I needed… Instead of a non-smoking room with double beds, we now had a smoking room with double beds. What the cuss!!!

Greg and Fyffe weren’t to bothered by it but I wanted to keep at the poor women until she either conceded and gave us a free room or provided… Never mind.

We wanted to run so we hit the room to change before heading to the course. Now, smoking rooms are bad, but our to be room was a mixture of a Tijuana brothel where you paid in cigarette cancer smoke. It was bad. The room was probably the site of many an amateur movie where bad things with lots of diseases were filmed. Great pre-race environment. The only benefit was that our hotel stay got us 20% off at TGIFridays. I did a lot of head shaking and knew a huge effort tomorrow was in order. Cuss.

The course run was good, I felt fine on the 3 miler Greg and I did and I was getting less nerved up and more anxious and excited.

When we got back to the hotel we found our room cleaned and it appeared to be normal, except for the lingering smoke smell. Whatever. It was dinner time so we walked to the TGIFridays. No sidewalks were plowed so Fyffe and Greg walked in the unplowed sidewalk snow banks while I opted for the road. I wasn’t scared of a car hitting me, I’m going to live to be 98 and I feel super human.

Fyffe and Greg on a 3ft sidewalk snow bank.

After a mini game of Frogger to cross the highway we made it to dinner. It wasn’t bad. The bar tender was able to shed a little more light on our hotel of choice, (I’m paraphrasing) “yeah, strippers and hookers work there, a lady with a duffel bag of cash was there…” Awesome. I’ll enjoy digging the crabs out of my pumpkin patch when I get home…

I was hoping for a good night sleep and wake up as rested as possible before my quest towards 100% of everything I have.  But a good nights sleep was out of the question, it ended up being an epic Wild West story night. Haha. I didn’t need any sleep anyways…

Mid story time in the brothel cancer smoke shed.

I woke up the next day ready to eat and head to the site to get my head wrapped around ten 5k laps. The laps are esthetically pleasing and I really like the course (except one hairpin turn which BLOWS). Main goal: stay within myself. I had “mantra” going though my head. I figured it was going to be an even-run effort with the needle pinned on the fastest grind I could do, so the mantra was, “wallflowers don’t get laid, I need to hit the dance floor and GRIND!”

Race time: the weather was cold and damp but never got wet (that’s what she…). I looked the part as I was rolling with the Wild Neoteny signature series hat and arm sleeves which aptly read, “Last Hero, Only Hope” and was the appropriate decision (I needed a miracle). The plan was to go hit at race pace, 6 min miles, and hold it as long as possible. Looking at the field there appeared to be about 5 guys to challenge up front. Two years ago there were 3 guys up front but I still managed to finish 5th, which meant I faded badly. Not this year.  To win would have been a whole winter of different training, and winning was just a bit out of the question and just finishing was priority number one, with holding as close to 6 min pace as long as possible being priority number 2. The realization that I could run 3:15 was a nerve racking truth and would have been demoralizing (but a possibility).

Once the race started it was evident that there were only 4 dudes there, with me clearly the 4th guy. This settled in quickly and the only way I could move onto the podium was by staying within myself and having one of them come back. This also had nothing to do with my race so I just focused on me.

At 1.5 Joe Gray initiated for my to join him and Micheal Wardian. This would have looked super cool, race hob knobbing with them but I’m already super cussing cool so I elected to not ruin my race and stick to the game plan.

I was running hot every mile to start and commited to it. The first mile has a long gradual downhill and hit 5:51, second mile has a small roll to it, 11:42, the third mile is flat with a hairpin turn in it. You hit the start for 5k and head out for the lap. I was 18:10 for the first 5k. I reminded myself to relax, I was in no mans land and would be racing by myself for a while until we started lapping people. Same story to open up the second lap, 5:42, 11:39, 18:00 5k. I thought I was slowing down but I was settling in to 5:50.

I had to really focus on chilling and not continuing to gradually pick up the pace. After two laps, the effort did start to become “real,” meaning I could feel it and it was going to be tough. I was on the edge the whole race, and with 8 laps to go I realized two things: you may not hold this pace, immediately followed by don’t ever think that again and of course you’ll do it, you have to.

In the mix of the third 5k I started to get a bit more comfortable. Same story, 5:45 fist mile then held that effort to finish up 18:16, cool. Again and again I rattled off even 5k’s which was high octane confidence fuel. The middle few 5k’s were becoming a blur. Fyffe and Greg were on the opening mile and I was hydrating and fueling perfectly.

Lap 4: 18:18
Lap 5: 18:21… And smooth.

After crossing half way I preplanned a mental shift. I knew that half way was a whole different race and I had to really really focus. Around this time I was hoping that the guys up front were beating the cuss out of each other and one or two may fade back. Just the idea made me relax a bit but every lap I could see no ground was being made up.

Lap 6: 18:09

I opened up the second half with one of my fastest laps which was more adrenaline than me making moves. I kept taking deep breaths and reminding myself to relax. It was on my seventh lap that I knew I had to pray for help. Now, to clarify, my praying and to whom I pray is its own entity and my own belief structure. I prayed to my ancestors from which my family derives, I prayed to nature, I prayed to my extended godly lineages, and asked for help. I asked for help with laps 7 and 8, where if I received help I could do the last two laps on my own.

I heard the hammer and chisel from the quarry of the gods in which I was cut. A flock of crows flew to the tree that over hung the course and started cawing wildly and my family was silent, which meant it was about to get real! In seriousness, immediate after my pray request a group of crows to fly above me and did caw wildly, this was inspirational and exciting. I just kept telling myself that I was going to get help these two laps and the last two laps are your.

Lap 7: 18:36
Lap 8: 18:30

Some time in the mix of things Greg and Fyffe let me know that Gray had stepped off the course. This is unfortunate, but does benefit me as I moved up to 3rd. Joe has been on fire lately, traveling around the world and absolutely crushing souls. Afterwards he said it just caught up with him and he was tired and his legs were flat. If it could happen to him, it could happen to anyone (including me) so I had to continue to grind even splits as long as possible. Some dude I don’t know was wailing everyone in first while Wardian was in second. With two laps to go, it didn’t look like Wardian was putting any more time on me since half way and to catch him would have been improbable.

Lap 9 was one of the most fun laps. I kept telling myself positive things and knowing only one lap was left was uplifting. Every lap before, Greg and Fyffe were calmly providing updates and encouragement but upon the opening of the last two laps they started getting pumped and wild and really fueling the effort.

Lap 9: 18:51, but still feeling ok. I was gradually slowing down each 5k, but it was 2-3 seconds a lap and not at all discouraging.

Lap 10 was great, all I had to do was finish. My legs were about 5 miles away from cramping, but the good news of 3 miles left was awesome. I pushed as hard as I could the opening mile of the last lap. I thought “what the cuss, take a risk and put everything you got into it.” Evidently that was a 6:02 mile. This made me smile, 2 miles left. On the downhill of the second mile I tried to surge and felt like it was one of my best miles in the whole race, where it was my slowest at 6:22. Worst case scenario now is I hobble in at 8-9 min mile pace but the legs didn’t cramp and I attempted another surge the last mile. I hit the last mile at 5:55 and cruised in for a new PR (barely) and a third place finish.

It felt great to have a positive experience where everything went great. Greg and Fyffe immediately came over to congratulate me where I instantly let then know that “it was too easy…” Hahaha.  I may have overextended and ran a bit above expectations. That was confirmed during the ride while we were leaving the Island when I asked Greg his thoughts. Greg shook his head and said to me, “dude, that was a miracle…” Hahaha.

It really was awesome to roll Voltron style with my bros. They added an extra element where I didn’t want to disappoint them for making the trip. Sharing time with my buddies is more fun than a gutterpig…

Check out full results here, and of course follow Josh on his blog Wild Neotony.

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