Philadelphian Perspectives is our new series in name, but a concept that has been authentic to us for the last 2 decades: highlighting the individuals who give the Philadelphia Running Community its flavor. A lot of us know our favorite Philly races, as well as bucket–list competitions for which we are willing to travel. We’ll cover all of those topics with Perspectives, hoping these accounts from your fellow runners are inspiring and relatable.
This is Part 2 of our coversation with Philadelphia Runner Erin Jaskiewicz – an insight, in her own words, into her experiences with this past year’s Worlds End Ultramarathon.
2023 would be my year, except I completely missed registration and ended up 38th on the waitlist. It was not until May 11, 2023 that I was finally pulled from the waitlist, only three weeks before race day. After having an extremely road race heavy start of 2023, my trail training was not up to par. I second guessed participating in this race many times, telling myself I was not ready. Thankfully, friends talked me out of my doubts, and I am glad they did.
I arrived at the race start on Saturday June 3rd at 5:00 am ready to give it my all. I had 55 miles of course knowledge on my side, a well thought out pace plan and an incredible crew of Vinny and my friend Heather. Heather and I met on the course in 2021 when I saved her from taking a wrong turn, and we have kept in touch ever since. Heather, a 2022 finisher of the race, would double as my pacer at mile 35. Pacers are first allowed at this point in the race and are used as a helpful aid to keep you moving and provide moral support. While the weather that day was too warm for my liking, the trails were, as the race director put it, “dusty” unlike years past when the course was muddy and mostly un-runnable. This year, I was moving. It was, head down, do the work, type running. For the first few aid stations, I was ahead of my planned pace schedule. I happily saw my crew each time, filled my water, ate snacks, and was quickly sent on my way. I was ahead but it was still very hard. During the 8+ mile stretch between aid stations 5 and 7 before meeting up with Heather, I ran out of water and lost my salt tabs which led to some early signs of dehydration. I was not the only one. It seemed like all the runners around me were throwing up. Thankfully, not me.
At the High Knob aid station, mile 35.8, a beautiful viewpoint of the race, I met up with Heather and she paced me along the hardest section of the course which included an uphill climb which took us about an hour to complete. You heard me right, uphill for an entire hour. I was having trouble breathing on the hills and did not correlate it to the wildfires disturbing the air quality until after. I made it through, but it was not pretty, there were a lot of breaks to regain my composure. Uphill is normally my strong suit, not today. At all 12 aid station stops, I wanted more time, sometimes begged for more time. Time I did not have. All the time I saved by moving fast in the beginning was consumed by the difficulty of the hills and the poor air quality. My crew kept me moving and did not allow any time at the aid stations that I did not need. I complained about it at the time and wanted to cry at some points but looking back I cannot thank them enough for pushing me.
Passing the mile 55 aid station was surreal. I knew I had more miles ahead of me but passing the distance from the year prior was emotional. From that point on, we ran the race with Travis, another runner we kept seeing on the course all day. As a trio, for 9 miles, we shuffled, jogged, walked, ran, and did everything we could to make it to the finish line by the midnight cut off. Heather kept us moving and I cannot thank her enough for this. We were both moving since 5 am and fading. Scott had not kept food down in hours and my body was starting to hate me, but Heather was pacer of year, playing little mind games that involved running from tree to tree then breaking to walk when needed. At this point in a race of this magnitude, your brain sort of tries everything to get you to stop. The brain did not win today. Around 1 mile away from the finish line, in the darkness of the night, we saw the trail marker for “Worlds End Trail”. I cried. At that point, I knew I was going to finish. I am even crying a little now as I write.
To be continued…..next week…..see you then…..
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