Taking One For The Team
9/26/2021 | 50M Road | 5:39:23
Ryan Clifford took on the challenge of running from the south shore to the north shore of Long Island in an event that is comprised of 8 person relay teams.
RYAN'S WRITE UP & MORE
The Ocean to Sound 50 miler exceeded my expectations tenfold. This has always been a race that I wanted to do solo for quite some time, but because of being at Mansfield competing, or North Dakota coaching, I haven’t been able to ever participate in the race in it’s entirety. The success I saw from today would not have been possible without my wonderful support crew whose speed and efficiency can only be compared to that of a NASCAR pit crew. Shoutout to Favian for joining the crew and getting to experience the insanity. My goal for the entire run was to average anywhere between 7:09 to 7:30 per mile making my finish time anywhere between 5:57 to 6:15 overall time. To my surprise I was able to average 6:47 per mile for 50 miles, finishing first amongst the individuals, and sixth overall.
About two weeks before the start of the event, I reached out to the race Director Bob Sherman to see if it was possible to change my start time. Originally all the individuals were supposed to go off at 7 AM, but after looking at past results and estimating where I would be finishing, I estimated that only three teams would pass me by the end of the event. Because I wanted this to feel more like a race and not a training run, I asked Bob if it was possible for me to start at 8 AM with the rest of the teams. He said that wasn’t a problem, and that is how I ended up starting in the later wave.
All week leading up to the race I was smack talking my Dad saying that my only goal was to beat his team of master and senior master GLIRC teammates. It made it more interesting as we got closer to the race.
On the day of race, I enacted my double banana bowel blocking protocol which has been the leading cause of stomach success for the last three ultra‘s I’ve done. Two bananas a day keeps the poop at bay! One banana once I wake up, and another about 20 minutes before the start. I believe that I will continue with this procedure for the near future. At the start of the race, it was about 61° and sunny. Before the race, I had made the executive decision to wear my hydration vest, but only with the two refillable waters in the front, and not the entire compartment in the back to stay somewhat light, but also hydrated. The race went off without a hitch, and I tried keeping myself in control, knowing that the harder part of the race was to come on the North Shore. After starting off around low 7-minute pace, I decided to go is tidbit faster to catch up to Una who was the first leg for the GLIRC team. About halfway up the bike path heading to Cedar Creek Park, I passed her and kept going. This was the last time I saw the GLIRC team in motion, although I did see the crew up until the transition of leg 2. Despite the slight headwind on the Jones beach bike path, I was able to average in the mid 6:40’s for leg. I also ran by a nice gentleman named Eric, who is friends with Kevin beach and informed me that Kevin was trying to average anywhere between 7:45 to 8:00 minute pace. This allowed me to assess the individual field that started at 7:00 AM and estimate if I would catch them, specifically Keivn. Before the start I figured I wouldn’t catch him, but I would catch the rest of the individuals. After a few minutes I left Eric, and before you knew it I was at the transition of leg 1 into leg 2.
At Cedar Creek Park, I was greeted by the voice of Long Island racing Terry Bisogno, and many members of all the teams that started at 8 AM. The hype was real! This was also the first time that I saw my crew, Cody and Favian. I had sucked down an entire water at this point, and tossed that to Favian. He refilled that, and gave that back to me a further down the way in the back of Cedar Creek Park. The next stretch on Merrick Road was interesting because I typically run many of my training runs on this stretch road, but because of the race I was on the opposite side of which I am used to. In addition, there was an abundant amount of auxiliary police (which should have been spread across some of the other legs). I caught a bunch of teams along this stretch, and even passed Megan from Team Runners Edge. Heading up Park Blvd was nice and smooth, and my crew gave me a strawberry banana GU. Sunrise Highway had a good amount of police that helped escort me safely across. Just north of Sunrise, I saw my Mom and Maureen who were out eating breakfast. I later on found out that I was many minutes ahead of my pace at this point, and they just happened to see me because they were looking out the window of where they were. It was smooth sailing up until Walker St and my crew swapped out my Tailwind water mix, keeping me hydrated as per usual. Before the transition of leg 2 to leg 3 I saw Yvonne warming up for her leg, so I figured that the GLIRC team had to be somewhat close. I figured wrong.
The start of leg 3 was exciting after the transition because there were a bunch of people in the park, and few people from the Sayville Running Company team was rooting for me. On North Linden St, Cody and Favian met me to see if I was all good, but no fluid exchange was needed. On the way up north on the bike path I kept leapfrogging between a few teams, and they kept asking me if I needed water. At this point, many of these teams didn’t know I had a support crew because they were so damn fast. It was nice of them to offer fluids though. This leg also involved me starting to pass some of the teams that started at 7 AM. I also met my competition for the day, which was the We Are Athletes team. I’ll get back to that shortly. Outside of the Bethpage golf course was Kevin and Sarah who drove out to cheer me on. Around 18 miles in this leg, Cody and Favian provided excellent blockage for quick pee break. It took about 30 seconds total. I also swapped out water with the crew. The turns were a little sketchy a long Round Swamp Rd, but I had run on this road previously, so I kind of knew what to expect. After the quick bathroom break, we swapped water again, and got another GU into my system.
As I came into the elementary school parking lot, I was once again greeted with a lot of people for the transition between leg 3 to leg 4. It was also ironic that there was a porta potty at this transition. The more you know. At this point in the race there wasn’t much catching of other teams, and more or less holding my ground. After a nice police blockage on Old Country Road, I saw Glenn who kindly stated that you couldn’t see my GLIRC singlet because I was wearing my hydration vest. Love getting my balls busted from Glenn. Up along the bike path was a nice stretch where Cody and Favian were able to drive alongside me, so we started the cooling off process of Ryan on the run. This involved squirting a very cold water bottle onto my face to cool off. I also alerted my crew that I wanted to start wearing a hat dipped in ice water to cool myself off. At this point the temperature had risen to the high 60s, and I didn’t want to take any chances. Around 22 miles in I took another salt tablet, which was the second for the day. This has proven to come in clutch more than once! The crew also took the time to refill my Tailwind mix. I had about 1/4 of a protein cookie as well, to purposefully get something solid in my system. They drove up a little bit more, and the We Are Athletes team started leapfrogging me and my crew with their vehicle. One of the people on their crew asked if I was single, and to this day I have still not responded. At the time I thought in my head, only if you catch me. Also one of their runners, who was running leg 8 (later came out to find this was Maria) said that she was going to catch me by leg 8. I joked with them that we’ll see about that… You can say that it became a running joke for the rest of the race. Right before the end of the fourth leg, there was a very steep downhill which broke up my momentum. This is where I started to feel some fatigue in my legs, but nothing too critical to worry about.
The transition between leg 4 and leg 5 was at the Cold Spring Harbor train station. Another transition with a bathroom. Go figure. This is where the race started to climb a bit in elevation, so my plan was to take the hills at a slightly slower pace while maintaining the same heart rate. This ended up working quite well, helping me conserve energy. The first half of leg 5 was very nice and actually enjoyable. It went through some of the side streets of the Cold Spring Harbor area. Along the side streets I passed the lead woman for the individual race that started at 7 AM. I also began looking at people’s bibs when I passed them, as the individuals had a zero at the end instead of the leg number. The second half of leg 5 in my opinion was the most dangerous part of the course because of the blind turns and lack of police presence. There were a few occasions where I almost got sideswiped by vehicles on some of these turns. I also had pre-loaded the last couple of legs into my watch because I was unfamiliar with the area. I made a wrong turn about 3/4 of the way into the leg, but only lost about 10 seconds overall. Along the way Cody and Favian refilled my water, and I took in a GU too! I also had some more of the protein cookie. There was one point of this leg where a sign to turn was not present, so I had to rely on the navigation feature in my watch to not get lost. That is why we prepare. Eventually I found my way to the transition of leg 5 to leg 6, which was a familiar looking area because the Huntington 4 mile turkey trot started and ended in the same spot. It had been about 10 years since I’ve been to this point though.
Leg 6 was very special for me because it offered some nice views of the bay, and Cody and Favian were able to drive alongside me and keeping me company. Even though they hadn’t broken a sweat once for the day. We kept up the ice water in the hat routine every mile and a half or so, and that kept me cool. The midday heat was in full effect, reaching low 70°. Leg 6 also had a good amount of rolling hills for the first few miles, so I kept an eye on effort once again. There was also a transition refueling the Tailwind mix, and I took in a GU too. Eventually I saw Boyd, and was catching on him. I figured he was just putting more miles in, but as the Team Runners Edge support van came whipping around the corner, they screamed “get in the f***ing van” closely resembling a child abduction. Boyd must’ve thought he had more time, as he was very confused. I realized that he was their 7th leg. It was also evident that their team was closing on me because he would have finished the warm-up if he had the time. As I made the turn onto the back street of the road leading up to Cold Spring Harbor park, the Team Runners Edge team passed me. I screamed over to Cody and Favian that they must’ve put the studs in for the latter half of the race. It made sense because it was the tougher part of the course anyway. I also saw Alan Baisch from GLIRC at the transition, and he said that he was coming for me. I figured he was messing with me because it was very evident that they were way behind.
Legs 7 proved to be the hardest part of the race for me, but thankfully with the crews fast thinking, disaster did not strike, and nuclear meltdown was avoided. The long stretch up 25A had about 2 miles of climbing and was directly in the sun so I tried to not think about it. This was quite hard, so I threw in music to distract myself from struggle. It only took 39 1/2 miles to listen to music. Nice. A top the hill, around 42 miles Favian and Cody created another temporary bathroom with the car doors, and I was able to pee just a little bit. If you’ve ever had salt tablets before you know that too many of them in your system at once can lead to tough time peeing. I had slightly dark yellow pee, so it was obvious I was slightly dehydrated. As the crew refilled both the Tailwind and water, I took a big slug of Mountain Dew. It was about 50 seconds of stoppage total, but well needed. Over the next few miles I drank the fluids, but had to do it in short bursts because of the sloshing in my stomach. I also stayed on the right side of the road where my support crew could check on me which was contrary to the original plan. When the shoulder was small, my crew created a safety barrier as well. After what felt like forever, I made it to the transition.
The leg 7 to leg 8 transition was very interesting, because it was resemblant of running into a driveway and then turning around like you made the wrong turn to get back on the course. Maria from We Are Athletes team was there and looked like she was ready to kill someone. She also once again verbally said that she was coming for me. I knew I didn’t have the best leg 7, so I figured they were close. I kept trucking along, with nothing eventful happened other than my hat being dipped in water occasionally. With about 3 miles to go I crossed over 25A again and knew the rest of the race was downhill. However, it was very evident that the We Are Athletes team was very close because they were leapfrogging my support crew. With about 2 miles to go Maria had caught me. After she passed me I tucked right behind. She was breathing very heavily, and at that point I knew it was time to start the kick. I looked across the way to see Theodore Roosevelt sitting on his high horse in statue form. I looked to him as he gave me the nod of approval. At that point it was time. I wished Maria luck, and took off like I was one of the Teddy’s Roughriders. With about a mile and a half to go all I could think about was the fact that I wasn’t going to let Maria beat me. You see, I had a nice 47 and 1/2 mile warm-up to run a fast 2 mile finish. Kicking it to high 5 minute pace wasn’t too difficult, so to my surprise I was able to bring it home, and gapped the We Are Athletes team by about 30 seconds over those last 2 miles. It was great to cross the finish line, but in hindsight, I should have ran the extra .2 to get a clean 50. My overall time was 5:39:23 and was an individual course record. Mostly because it was a new course. At the finish line my support crew chatted with me and Maria was across the way looking like she had just been to war, clearly in need of water. As I play it back in my mind all I can think of was that one scene from SpongeBob where he has been out of water for some quite some time and is screeching for water. Luckily Favian brought her some water, and everyone made it out alive. I really appreciate the We Are Athletes team being there pushing me, and never got the chance to thank them. Kudos from your friend Patrick Star.
It was great to chat with so many people after the race, drink some beer, and enjoy some food. I can definitely cross this one off my list. After a post race roll with the R8, my legs actually didn’t feel too bad. Getting stronger day by day, and certainly becoming more consistent at these distances. A big takeaway as well, was over the entire race, I wasn’t moving for only 83 seconds, and only 5 miles were in the 7 minutes with the rest in the 6 minutes. Thanks for following along, and until next time!