This is the personal blog of Charity Runner Kino, a 5 Hour Marathoner turned 3:15 Marathoner, who has traveled the world running over 200 marathons & ultras, raising awareness and funding for various charitable causes while encouraging others to do the same, hence #kinosfault.
[As of 2012, the Knickerbocker 60K has been renamed as the "NYC 60K".]
I have attempted 7 different ultras and finished 5 of them (in the ultra world the DNF rate is ridiculously high) in 5 states over very varied terrain and surfaces (and I am currently writing entry en-route to my 8th ultra attempt in my 6th state, the Javelina Jundred 100 in Arizona). I can easily say that Knickerbocker 60K (37.2 miles) is the easiest ultra I have attempted, by far. It is even easier than trail 50Ks, which are 10K shorter in distance. Why is it, do you ask? The K60K is run along entirely on pavement, which is very rare. The only other "all pavement / mostly pavement" ultras I can only think of, are the Comrades Marathon (actually an 89K / 56mi ultra) in South Africa, the Mother Road 100 in Oklahoma, the TATUR Midnight Madness 50 also in Oklahoma, the Back on My Feet 20in24 Lone Ranger Ultramarathon in Philadelphia, and the insane Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race in Jamaica, Queens, New York. Additionally, the K60K is run over familiar territory (all those from NYC have run Central Park countless times). The Park is so close with no need to wake up extra early to drive, just take the subway there. Your friends & family don't have to go out of their way to come cheer. Finally, the short 4mi loops mean you have easy access to your drop bag. In fact, you have access to it once per every 40-something minutes! However, one disadvantage of a multi-looped course is that mentally it is very easy to wussy out and call it quits. You are back where you started and don't need to hitch a ride to the finish line, or walk to the next aid station to DNF. One time I had to spend an extra hour climbing a mountain just to freaking DNF myself!
I remember leading up to my K60K, I was really nervous about it. If you think about it, it's practically a marathon (26.2mi) + another half (well, 11mi instead of 13.1mi). But really, it's not all that bad. Just remember what I mentioned: The Knickerbocker is an all-road race (no portion is on trails) over the very familiar Central Park lower 4mi loop (no Harlem Hill, which is the most difficult part of the park). I ended up completing the race in a time of 6:49:13 (11:00mm). The race featured a nice intimate gathering of ultra running purists. There's no big prize money to be had in this race. There are no bragging rights to running a fast 60K because it is such an unconventional distance. The course is not glamorous and the race doesn't even provide a finisher's medal (instead you receive a plastic paper weight). The race entry fee is a mere $25 for New York Road Runners members. Basically, the race attracts those who want to run an ultra on a November Saturday morning, just for the sake of running.
The race starts off with a mini out & back, to tack on 1.2 miles before embarking on the 9x 4mi loops. It's a weird distance of 1.2mi + 36mi = 37.2mi = 60K. Why did NYRR choose a race distance of 60K over a typical 50K ultra distance beats me. NYRR has never explained this.
So you'll run a dizzying 9 loops. You'll be on your feet for a long time and will start losing count of these loops. Make sure to keep count and verify with the volunteers that they have the same lap count as you do. Each time you go through the chute, confirm with them, "That was lap 1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8 (for the last one, you'll be sprinting) for me, right?" You definitely don't want them to mess up and have to end up running an extra loop!
Everybody gets to have a drop bag a little past the start, just south of Engineer's Gate (Central Park East Drive & E 90th St). Don't worry, your stuff is pretty safe. I had my wallet & cell phone in there and nobody took it. If you officially check-in your belongings with NYRR, they will keep it under a tent, but will NOT allow you access to your gear at all during the race, so don't do it. If you do check-in anything, choose to check-in your valuables.
In the drop bag, pack emergency worst case scenario stuff like extra socks & sneakers, additional shirts (I changed into 3 shirts, but not because I was super sweaty or disgusting; I was just trying to be a Brian Hsia and represent 3 different causes, which were the Maniacs/PBDS/PanCAN), a poncho, an anti-blister kit, Kinesio tape, BodyGlide/Vaseline/NipGuards, packets of your fav electrolyte drink mixes, your fav ultra foods like Granola bars/bananas (I think NYRR gives bananas)/etc, etc.
Be prepared to change gear in case of rain/hail/sleet/snow. Also, the race usually starts off VERY cold. We were blessed with very unusually moderate temperatures, so runners busted out speedy times. It's the same weekend as the Philadelphia Marathon, and you all know that Philly is a cold weather race that is afflicted with black ice at water stations and frozen water in the water cups.
There are two aid stations. One is at the start (which is also the finish). That one has food and flat Coke (yum). Not sure why, but to me flat soda tastes awesome during ultras. Take advantage of the food! This is not a marathon. You need to eat and constantly fuel yourself. Think outside the bounds of a traditional 26.2mi race. Eating stuff like pretzels and potato chips are okay and actually encouraged! Your body needs the extra salt to re-salinate after all the sodium lost due to sweat (just feel your face after a race and notice the caked on layer of salt). If you don't salt up, you WILL cramp, and cramp badly. You also run the risk of developing hyponatremia! I like to take a packet of salt/a couple SaltStick capsules/pinches of rock salt prior to the race and after every 10 to 13.1 miles. Some ultras even have super salty chicken broth, which rocks, but as I recall K60K does not.
Along these lines, you need to replenish certain minerals such as magnesium and potassium. Hammer Nutrition's Endurolytes capsules (I take 2 to 3 per hour, 4 if I'm really desperado) or even a banana does the trick. In my "Ultra Tips" posting I mention these various salt + mineral products.
As with a 26.2 miler, you still will need to carboload prior to the race. I particularly like to carb up the 2 days prior to a race and not just the night before.
So the other aid station on the west side of the park, at about 2 miles apart, is just a regular fluids aid station with water & Gatorade and cheering fans + volunteers. There is no food here. At the main start line food aid station, feel free to stop and eat and take a short break to munch on stuff. You don't need to feel pressured to shove food in your face and keep moving. But do NOT sit down. You stiffen up if you do and it makes starting up again hellish.
As for pace, don't be a fool and go out too fast. Do not run your marathon PR pace at any point. You will pay for such foolishness. For example, my marathon PR is an exact 9min/mile pace, and for the K60K I ended up averaging an 11min/mile, but that included a lot of walking up hills. I don't have a general rule of thumb, but dropping down a minute from your PR pace would be a wise choice. I cannot stress enough about starting off slowly. Going out too fast is an appetite for crash & burning and that's no fun. Run, cramp, shuffle, walk, run, cramp, shuffle, walk, ... is no way to enjoy a race. I've been there too many times.
You run around the lower 4mi loops CW (clockwise). This means Cat Hill is no longer a hill. But you do you have the rollers on the westside (what were those hills called?). So strategize wisely. It is totally okay to walk the hills on ultras, even if you're not tired. Sometimes it's just not worth tiring yourself out by climbing them. And funny or not, sometimes walking is almost as fast as shuffling up a hill, with much less energy exhausted.
You are running around a lot in a loop and constantly turning in a single direction, which would be the right hand direction. As such, this puts uneven stress on one side of your body. It doesn't help that the inner course at Central Park is cambered/camphered/sloped/angled/cantilevered/whatever the correct term is for this (I still don't know what the proper term is), so don't run a tight circle or worry too much about running tangents. I tried to do this and my right ankle hurt a lot after the race!
To whoever reads this Knickerbocker 60K race report, you probably did so in preparation for your race. Many runners use the K60K as their foray into ultra running. If this includes you, best of luck! Don't let the K60K race be your last ultra. Try a trail ultra out. It will be a lot more fun and scenic, and at the same time more rewarding yet challenging. You'll then understand why us ultra runners simply love this sport!