John Calabrese

City Invincible Race Report

Massanutten’s Revenge
I have to mention that in 2022, when I signed up for the City Invincible Track Ultra in Camden, New Jersey, I was highly conflicted, because Massanutten’s Revenge was also happening the same weekend. But I couldn’t pull off starting a race on that particular Friday, so I went with City Invincible. Well, City Invincible got canceled last year due to Hurricane Ian, and I wasn’t going to be able to run the Revenge again this year, so I utilized the deferral. I’m very sad that I couldn’t be apart of Revenge and want to congratulate this year finishers.

Shifting Goals
For my friends and family, I can be a handful, not just because of the number of races I do but because I do so many different types of races. I love challenges and my priorities with running switch a lot between road and trail and anything else that comes along. Trail races are always dear to my heart but I’m a runner and I just do what makes me happy. For people that don’t understand my strategy, the miles I run, my methods or whatever, I hope this race report sheds some light. I jumped all in this sport in 2017 and I’m still just figuring stuff out.

Week Or So Before The Race
I had a lot of crazy going on heading into this race. Due to way too much going on, Denise and I mixed up our dates and she wasn’t going to be able to go with me. In hindsight, it may have worked out better even though I would have liked her to be there, but I’ll explain more later.

The host site for the City Invincible Track Ultra

The main motivator I had going into this was an experience I shared with my buddy Donald Harms right before the race. Donald and I were playing soccer at the tennis court and in a freak accident the ball caused his chair to flip over. Luckily, he didn’t have a scratch on him, his chair worked, he wanted to continue playing and was actually very angry at me when I told him we need to call it a day (just to be cautious and look him over, etc.) It was one of the toughest things I’ve ever seen go down. People were yelling, “Does he need an ambulance?????” But we were like, “ Naaa he wants to play more!” Donald just wants to work hard and do what he loves.

John’s trail for the next 106 miles.

The night before the race, I left from work in Manassas and drove to Baltimore to stay with my buddy Stephen Wancowicz, who was very kind to invite me. I was exhausted when I got there and passed out immediately hoping to be awake to drive to Camden on the morning for the race.

Race Format
Run around a track for 24 hours and switch direction every 4 hours. Pretty simple! You can’t get lost! There’s one big aid station and bathrooms on each side of the track.

The starters - or at least those in the field who knew that the race was starting at 7 AM sharp

Race Day
I managed to wake up at 3 am and got myself ready to get to the race at 6 am, which gave me a whole hour to prep once I got there. I still, however, managed to screw this up though but I’ll get to this later. I checked in, took some pictures, relaxed, and left my trip to the bathroom for last.

For some reason, as I was coming back from the bathroom, I looked over at the track and saw the race starting (without me). For some dumb reason I got confused and thought the race started at 7:30. But I knew it was 7:00 and just made a mistake that cost me 5 minutes.

John represented despite skipping the trails for 24 hours

Catch Up!
I quick tossed on my stuff and ran hard out the gate. I caught the leaders and thought “they’re going at a pretty conservative pace. Screw it, I’m going for it!!” I felt great. The last 4 races I’ve done were all slower paced mountain races (slower paced for me that is-others run them fast) so I wanted to run!

I was running very fast for an ultra but my initial thought was knockout the 50k fast then go slower. I kept feeling good and initially the other 24-hour runners weren’t pushing me, so I just kept doing my thing. It was really strange. Usually on ultras it’s the opposite. I do my own thing and I’m not competitive. I can be fast on road and it just kind of clicked. I was kind of hoping a 24-hour runner would step up and test me.

Erin Jaskiewicz bringing the heat

Enter Erin Jaskiewicz
Nobody passed me for a long time until Erin, the only woman running, started bringing it. I was ahead of her but she started passing me multiple times. I picked it up just to ensure I stayed a safe amount of time ahead but she was definitely putting pressure on me.

Since I did not have a crew, I relied heavily on volunteers. They were awesome. They helped me keep moving. I barely stopped at all unless I had to go to the bathroom. I feel as if Denise had been there, I would have been tempted to spend less time moving. I noticed that the people who had big crews and family at the race were stopping more often.

Oddly, I Was Having Fun
I didn’t use headphones on this race. I was just joking around when possible and there were long periods when I didn’t really run with anyone. I did say hi to everyone over and over and over.

The conditions were perfect, no rain; not too cold, just overall amazing.

Ideal conditions to spend a day (and a night) on a track in New Jersey

I started getting really tired around mile 88 but kept running the best I could. Erin was in striking distance but then a new competitor emerged, Max Nguyen. I didn’t talk to Max a whole lot, but I didn’t have to, I knew what he was cooking up. He had a highly effective strategy with his run walk. He was behind; however, I knew he would be able to break 100 with his method. Looking at his Ultrasignup (after the fact) he also did the 24 hour at 3 Days at the Fair. Though he didn’t break 100 there, he definitely learned from that race and was bringing it here.

I kept talking mainly to those two but I also was intrigued by another runner who was battling stomach issues. He had to rest some in his tent for portions of the race, but he was trying hard to keep going-I was really impressed. Unfortunately, I do not know his name and don’t want to get confused by the results and mix up anything but if you are reading this, please hit me up on social media!

Night time miles

100 Miles!!!! Now What??
Boom I did it! I believe I squeaked in under 21 hours, but the way Erin and Max were running I felt that I needed to do loops until they got done. My body didn’t want to run so I basically just hiked until Erin got done and cheered her on. I told her not to go to sleep yet and at least get a couple more loops to be safe. She declined and went straight to her cot. I didn’t agree with her decision, but I understood. It was rough and this was her first ultra! I was happy for her but didn’t want her to let up because we still had hours.

Max Effort
I knew Max’s game here. He was going for Erin’s spot. I kept doing loops until I knew it was out of reach for him to beat me then I stopped. As a side note: My mom and girlfriend were driving to the Wild Dance Intensive in Baltimore with my daughter and keeping an eye on the race results. They panicked when I stopped because they thought Max had a chance of beating me. Then they figured out that I had won and relaxed.

Not pictured: net elevation gain

Priorities and Regret
I really wish I would have been at the finish for Max, what an effort. He beat Erin by 1 loop. My daughter was in Baltimore so I had to leave to see her dance, but I wish I could have seen him finish.

Great job Max, I hope to see you at other races and compete against you!!

What’s Next??
I have to say I think I found my calling here. I want to try the the Sri Chinmoy 24-Hour, 12-Hour & Midnight Marathon at Rockland Lake State Park in New York state next June and go for 150 miles.

I like doing the timed road loops I can maintain speed and love the strategy!

Of course I’m still going to do trails. I feel like I need the balance to switch things up and recover.

This was really interesting for me to have this happen. I’ve won races before but I actually really enjoyed this. I usually do my own thing at ultras but I really think I have found something different.

Running is all a process of refining yourself. Finding what you like, your goals, your strengths, etc.

The race director

I’m extremely lucky to know so many good people in the running community. Thank you to my family, to Donald for showing me such toughness, and to Believe In The Run for helping me figure out what kind of shoes to run 100+ miles around a track in! Thank you, Stephen Wancowicz, for letting me crash. And thank you to VHTRC. Initially I thought this race had no business being on the website, because it’s not a trail race, but I’m glad I reached out to Q and Keith because I really hope this story will inspire others. Every runner has their day. I may never win another race again! But I feel very confident and I really want to see if I can do well at the Sri Chinmoy 24-Hour, 12-Hour & Midnight Marathon at Rockland Lake State Park. There’s something really relaxing (sort of a strange peaceful nirvana) to me about pushing yourself around and around on the loops.

Link to results