Knickerbocker 60K Race Report: Wow

That’s a Keanu Reeves “wow”. What do I say? Where do I start? I could stare at this blanks screen for minutes, and then fall asleep!

I was really unprepared for this. No one to blame for this mess but myself. I wasn’t recovered from the marathon two weeks before. And I didn’t even know that as I had had no time to run since. I hadn’t rested at all in the last two weeks between the two races. Saturday was probably the worst day to try to do an ultra: Friday night I slept only 1.5 hours! Yeah, ridiculous. I was *just a bit* nervous.

Friday I had started worrying… This is not really like a marathon plus 10 miles. It’s more like 2 long runs back to back. Would there be two walls? My 20 milers are pretty brutal, how do I add 17 to that? And in LOOPS!! Ugh. But, I hoped the Nutella jar and pasta would erase my whole past, my recent injuries, and all I did (and/or didn’t do) in the last two weeks!

The course is pretty brutal: Nine, yes nine, four-mile loops in Central Park:

Knickerbocker 60K course

See how I could never get lost in there? SO different from my last attempt at an ultra distance…

But I figured, if I was ever to get over the DNF of my disastrous first ultra attempt, this was the place to do it. Hello, an ultra with a start and finish less than half a mile from my apartment??? I am IN. It couldn’t be any more convenient! (too bad it was this particular week!)

But the park is hilly and all the looping is exhausting and mind-numbingly boring! We didn’t even bother keeping track of the loops we were doing… It seemed like this would go on forever!

Race start, before I knew what was about to go down!
Knickerbocker 60K elizabeth Maiuolo At the start. It was COLD and windy.

Patricia T (#300) and I had spoken that week and decided to go at it together! It was a first for both of us and we were going to try to keep it conservative. 8 am, time to go! Here is a picture from the NYRR Gallery (more pics there) on our first lap.

Lap 1.

It was cold. Forecast was 38 to 54 so I pinned my bib to my pikermi short-sleeved shirt and wore the marathon shirt and jacket to the start. I figured I would shed the layers soon, but the wind was insane in the east side… so I ended up keeping my long sleeved shirt and gloves the whole race. I had to keep lifting my shirt to show my bib to go through the mats, bad (weather) planning!

Patricia T (300) and I during the first laps.
Knickerbocker 60K elizabeth Maiuolo 3 What's that look? Ah. yeah: idiotic! Knickerbocker 60K elizabeth Maiuolo 3

What I liked about the ultra thing is that you can do whatever you want. You stop for food, for hugs, for chats, for the bathroom, to stretch, to text people back. It was kind of weird for me to get my head around that, but I guess that’s the way it is. And I was in no rush, literally, to go change the rules!

Patricia T and I got to catch up on my NY marathon and her Marine Corps, but by Mile 8 I knew I was in trouble. I felt it in my energy level and in my legs. Legs were slow and heavy and with every uphill I’d drop back a bit to make sure I wasn’t pushing more than necessary. I had to make a decision then; if I was going to drop out, what would be the point to keep going and drop later? In a few miles I decided I had to do this, I had to finish, even if I had to crawl. But I had to make sure I saved as much energy as I could for the end. I kept my marathon routine: 1 gel every 4 miles, Gatorade every two miles. But I was still wondering how I could do manage more than twelve miles.

Glad we had the yellow light!

Soon enough I found out how!!! There was a way! The first of the solutions was Stephanie!! She came from heaven and did 14 miles with us. This girl has the energy of the energizer bunny and kept us entertained when we couldn’t talk. I love her. We kept at it, one mile and one hill at a time, very slowly.

Knickerbocker 60k course central park elizabeth maiuolo Look AT THAT!  no, that way!

Then the strangest thing happened. My stomach went weird and I had to rush to a porta-poopy. What? My stomach is made of iron, what is going on here??? And just for the record, before this, I never ever ever ever EVER went to a portajohn before during a race, or a long run, or anything. It was just strange. What the fudge is going on??? I hadn’t even run longer than usual yet. Oooops. We kept going. I was in such a good mood after the bathroom stop!

Knickerbocker 60k course central park elizabeth maiuolo 3

Soon after, two friends of Patricia T show up to run with us. YEY. And I see my sister, freezing her butt off. Another high point. But, with the good comes the bad and sharp pain in my lower back makes me scream. Totally insane stuff. I had never had any problems there… What is this? even touching the skin there hurt. It felt like someone had whacked my bones out of place. And this was around mile 20, not like I had gone farthest than ever… Hmmmm, It hurts but I keep going. I see Paul W cheering a few times. He’s osom!!

But I am slowing down. I feel my energy dropping and the pain increasing. Then Patricia Chow finds me: Miracle worker #2. She had also been recruited to keep me company!! You know her better as Halloween-pregnant-Paula Radcliffe.

Knickerbocker 60K elizabeth Maiuolo

She was to keep me company during the last 16 miles of the race. And to save me. She really did make this race happen for me! All of a sudden, another quick portajohn run, what is going on??? I felt like my stomach and myself didn’t even know each other anymore. They had defizzed coke, pretzels and potato chips. I had some chips and they tasted like heaven, better than anything I ever taste before. I also had never run for so long before either!

Patricia C and I run and chat
That was the last lap. I was just not talking anymore. Not good.

and by then we had a big group, like 7 of us. Seeing that Patricia T had enough help, Patricia C and I take off. The last two miles were not so chatty for me, but she was so fabulous at keeping me company… I’d say things like “tell me about your family” and she’d go! Fabulous. One lap to go and I think I’ll make it.

With a mile to go, I feel a like a tingling in my legs and something strange, they’re not gonna keep holding me up. They felt like rubber. Or melted ice cream. I was scared, I thought they were going to drop me any minute. And I had just crossed the 102 transverse and had so little to go!!! This couldn’t be happening, whatever it was!! I stopped talking, I focused and thought about the finish just a few minutes ahead. I even closed my eyes. I had to keep going!


With a bit less than a half mile to go I see the tents and the finish. But after so many laps and so many hours (way over 6 by then!) I couldn’t be sure! I asked Patricia C like 5 times “Is that the finish like?” She’d say yes. I’d say “Are you sure? Like really really sure?“. Then 4 more times again. I couldn’t believe it. Then I started dry heaving and crying, with a few minutes to go. I can’t see, I can’t breathe, I am completely overcome with stuff, maybe emotion, maybe pain, probably all of it together, but I keep running, I had to finish this!! I cross the finish line and I cry hysterically for a few minutes. I couldn’t stop. Patricia C and my sister are holding me, I can’t even stay upright. I was really tired, and scared, and in pain, and in disbelief that I had done it. And I was so happy it was over! I didn’t feel like Wonder Woman finishing the NCYM two weeks ago at all. I felt totally human and broken in a million pieces, and I didn’t understand why I had done all of this painful stuff to myself. This is really not me: I don’t like pain, I don’t see the point of it, and I already knew I could push through it, so why do it?

That's the clock, and there I come. DSCN0733 Worse face ever. People seemed concerned...?? I was crying hysterically, that's why!

All done. FINALLY. UgH

The clock read 6:41. Garmin says I did 38.10 miles in 6:41:17 (that’s an average pace of 10:31). Moving time is 6:16:10 (that’s an average moving pace of 9:52), which means we ate, pooped, and stretched for 25 minutes! Still, I can’t believe I was running for WAY over 6 hours.

There is my Finisher’s plaque (I came in 2nd in my age group) and yes, I am wearing a tiara. Patricia C and my sister are in the other pictures.

knickerbocker 60K central park new york Elizabeth maiuolo

The frozen photographer! Patricia, got to run the last 16 miles with me. Amazing woman!

Did I tell you it was really really repetitive? The heart rate monitor was ESSENTIAL in this race. I made sure I never got above 170 (which would be marathon pace) until the last two loops when I was ready to go (in the marathon, it was the last two miles!). But it was rough. I had never run over 4 hours! The back pain was there the whole way (and still here, thankyouverymuch!).

The half-mile wobble home was perfect, though slow. And I was holding on to my sister, who was frozen and horrified of the craziness she had witnessed in the park (her post is here, but it’s in Spanish!).

It’s also perfect that I have amazing sushi in the corner of my apartment. Because after running for over 6 hours, sushi is even more amazing!

My reward! I couldn't think of anything else.

Sitting down (with the back pain) was the big problem. Laying down to sleep later was big problem #2!! The pain didn’t ease up yet. It’s quite strange, I feel like I have a bone out of place. Might need to have this checked. But, you can call me an ultramarathoner now! Oh, yeah, and you can clap and send me chocolates too! I know I am ready for some crazy Thanksgiving dinner. Really ready.

Well, after all that work, this one is in the books. Still, I am not sure this is for me. I am  not sure if it was the many miles of the amount of repetitive laps. I’ll have to wait and see. Maybe try a trail one, where I can’t get lost or fall, with friends to pace with, wearing a helmet and knee pads, less than a mile from home, and with no loops!!!!

Anyway, I know this race was not mine. This race belongs to everyone who run with me and who came to cheer me on. Runners, spectators, friends, and a sister in Central Park made this happen: it was not me. My body was not ready and my brain was not sure what was going on, so it’s even more amazing how this all unfolded. This is all yours, my dear friends. It’s amazing how much we can get done when we all join forces, you made possible the impossible. Yeah, another day when nothing and everything was possible/impossible:  possimpible. Thank you!


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