3 Days at the Fair

Sussex County Fairgrounds, NJ
13-14 May 2016
51 miles completed

I had so much fun at 3 Days at the Fair!

This was my first ever 24-hour event. I initially was looking for a 12-hour, but there aren’t very many and the 12-hour run at 3DATF starts at 9pm. I didn’t want to run overnight, so I just signed up for the 24. (Get all that?) It turned out to be the right decision.

I arrived at the Sussex County Fairgrounds early Friday evening. I was nervous about setting up my tent, because it’s new and I didn’t feel that confident with it yet and because it had rained and I was nervous about setting it up in the mud. I also wasn’t sure exactly where to go, even though I had watched the RD’s video of the fairgrounds. I decided to do reconnaissance first thing. I just parked, grabbed the tent, and walked around to see what was what. There were quite a few areas with campsites, lots of places to choose from, but I eventually settled on the barns. There are five of them and the middle one had plenty of room, so I put my tent up there. This turned out to be a good, central location, and dry, even if the ground was kind of hard. (This is why we have sleeping pads, right?) Once my tent was up I was able to move my vehicle right up by the barn, so unpacking my stuff and setting everything else up turned out to be a snap.

I spent a couple of hours walking around, hanging out by the timing hut, and talking to some people who were getting ready for a poultry show the next day. There were some really pretty chickens and a 31-pound rooster! I got ready for bed early, wanting to get as much rest as possible, and was asleep by about 10pm. The chickens and ducks were pretty loud. I woke up a couple of times and heard them, but managed to go back to sleep. I got up for good around 7:30. I grabbed some coffee from the aid station and ate a Luna bar in my tent before getting dressed to run.

24 hours worth of essentials

I lined up at the start with about 60 other runners and at 9am sharp we were off. The course is flat, exactly one mile, and roughly mushroom shaped. There are paving stones in the timing/aid area, a short stretch of dirt road, and the rest is macadam. In my head, the “top” of the mushroom, the road away from the buildings, became known as the “back half” of the loop. Whereas the bottom of the loop was among buildings and people and vehicles, the back half was quiet and void of everything except runners and walkers. I liked the course a lot. I do most of my running on roads, so the pavement didn’t bother me. The length was good and there were enough interesting things to look at to keep from being bored. In addition to the poultry show, there was an equestrian competition all day in two separate arenas butted up to the course. Saturday evening brought a Relay for Life event on the other side of the fairgrounds.

One thing the course didn’t have was shade. Saturday morning was sunny and warm and temps quickly climbed up to near 80. Of course I didn’t adjust my run/walk strategy, so I was already struggling at the 3-hour mark. I decided to wear my Suunto because I wanted to make sure I didn’t start out too fast, but I pretty much ignored it and went out too fast per usual. Around noon I forced myself to sloooow waaaaay down for fear of running out of steam all together. For the first time ever I ate a quesadilla during an event. (I’d read somewhere that you should keep regular mealtimes, if possible.) Having real food in my stomach made me feel better. I seemed to be on a good fluid schedule and I wasn’t very swollen, which was a big plus. Around 2pm the wind picked up and clouds started rolling in. That made things a lot more comfortable.

coming into the timing area/aid station
the “back” half

I managed to relax, regroup, and find a sweet spot of running and walking that I was able to maintain for several hours. Early evening, I started having trouble with my hip. Not my right hip, that gives me trouble during every event, but my left hip. I resigned myself to briskly walking and fell in with a woman from Massachusetts, who was moving at my pace and willing to chat. We walked together for 3-4 hours and by that time my hip was really complaining and I knew it was time to rest. In 13 hours I had finished 42 miles.

I went to my tent to lay down and ended up sleeping for about four hours. Around 3am I got up and after a quick trip to the restroom, was back out on the course. I finished eight more loops and decided I was done. I went back to my tent and fell asleep again. I woke up at 8am and with an hour left to go, I couldn’t resist finishing another loop, even though I had to hobble some of it. 51 miles completed felt a lot better than 50, somehow. lol

3DATF was like running crack. I’m already making plans to be there next year and I’m actively searching for other 24-hour events. Rick and Jen McNulty (NJ Trail Series) are among the best race directors around and this event proves it. It’s damn near perfect! The kitchen serves up hot and cold food and beverages around the clock. There are restrooms with showers right off the course. And as I mentioned, plenty of space to camp and park. (There is also at least one motel nearby, for those who need a real bed during long events.) I really recommend 3 Days at the Fair and who knows? Maybe someday I’ll be a 48- or 72-hour runner!

Shoes: Topo Magnifly, Altra Provisioness, Altra Paradigm

I borrowed this video from a 2014 runner because it has views of the course and it’s funny. (educational, maybe, for anyone who doesn’t understand what a timed event is about)

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