Monday, June 10, 2013

2013 Cayuga Trails 50-Mile Race Report

2013 Cayuga Trails 50-Mile Race Report

(It is all about the pie)

Blueberry Crumb! (Post-race)

This was the inaugural running of the Cayuga Trails 50-Mile run. The race is located just south of Ithaca, NY and starts/finishes in the Robert H. Treman State Park.  There are several waterfalls in the area and the course boasts of seeing 24 of them on each of two laps.  We had passed through Ithaca a couple of years ago and when JP told me about this race last January, it seemed like a good one to run since I had been wanting to try a race with some climbs.  Be very careful of what you ask for...

I had completed the Laurel Highlands Ultra the last two years w/o crew and this year we decided to make a mini vacation out of this event.  I was looking forward to having my family chase me around the course and appearing at random aid stations for support.  We drove up friday in the rain, which guaranteed to make the waterfalls full.  Two years ago, there was barely a trickle of water on Buttermilk Falls, not so this year...


Saturday morning's weather was humid but cool.  There was a slight chance of rain and the day was looking to be good for running.

Checking in at the starting line. (Mile 0)
The energy at the starting area before a race is always fun to experience and before long, Ian (the race director) blew the horn and we were off!

The course elevation profile resembled a saw blade, with 4 major climbs/descents per lap.  There were two laps to make up the 50-mile course.  The first leg of the course climbed up to the Old Mill Aid station following the Gorge Trail.  This trail was appropriately named since it traveled UP the gorge past several cascades and water falls!  It was very beautiful and the group slowed several times along the way in order to soak in the views!  The course through some of this area followed stone steps and pathways, and with the water/mist from the falls and the rain, it was a bit dicey. No major incidents however and after a quick in/out of the aid station, on to the next section.

This section contained a little more climbing and then a lot of descent back down to the valley below.  The trail conditions were very nice, a couple of stream crossings, some gravel (wet gravel/mud) roads, and some beautiful single-track through the woods.  There were several steep downhills and I was being very cautious with my knee, hoping that things would hold together.  The downhills are much worse than the up...

The Underpass aid station is a nice location on the course since the out-and-back 2-lap nature of the course will have us passing through 4 times during the day.  I had left a drop bag here for supplies for later in the day and started to prepare myself for the "Creek Crossing" and "Steep Hill".  Yes, the course description had those exact words.  The creek crossing was mid-thigh on me and the water was nice and cool.  The climb out on the muddy bank was going to be 'interesting' later in the day.  The steep hill was that:  STEEP!   There were switchbacks but they did little to minimize the angle.  This was 'only' 1/3 of a mile, but gained ~700ft.  I knew this would not be so fun the second time through.  The course continued to meander towards Buttermilk Falls through some nice meadows, mud bogs, and single track.  We had almost every type of trail condition imaginable which helped to keep your mind occupied and focused.  The temperature was cool, but very humid, I was feeling good, and was moving along well.

My crew was going to meet me at Buttermilk Falls aid station and I was looking forward to seeing them.

Coming into the Aid Station (Mile 12.4)
 I stopped to tell Denise how beautiful the course was and she told me to "shut up and get outta here!"  Later she told me that I was the first person who had actually stopped to talk there...  People must have been in a hurry or something...
Climbing back out the other side of the falls. I am in the group in the middle of the photo.
We have now covered the second tooth of the saw and need to retrace our route back to Underpass Aid Station.  As I was running back along the edge of the meadow I realized (too late) that I was probably going too fast for my own good.  But I was feeling fine and decided to keep going while my knee felt ok.  I knew that there would be a price to pay but...

I made it back to Underpass and then my crew surprised me at the campground road crossing!  They snapped a couple of pictures, shouted some words of encouragement, and I kept running.
Nice single-track (Approx Mile 18.5)

Even the crew had to go off-road!

2/3 of the Best support crew ever!
 Getting back up the hill from Underpass to the Old Mill Aid Station I felt was the hardest section of the course.  The hill seemed to keep going up and up and up. Sure the trail was nice, but it was a tough 3.8 miles.
Old Mill Aid Station (Mile 21.9)

The other 1/3 of my support crew!

Have I mentioned how nice the trail was?
 Made it back to the start/finish line to complete lap #1.  At 5:17 for the first lap, I was keeping my typical pace for running here in the CVNP, but we do not have the same elevation changes!  I knew that it was time to "Pay the Piper."  I grabbed my normal watch from Denise and left my garmin with her since I knew the battery would not last...  Besides I had data from lap #1, so I did not need it for lap #2...right?

The race director had set up several "preems" for the race: prizes for the fastest section time, best blisters, best negative split, etc.  One set of prizes was pies!  He would place flags throughout the course with a picture of a pie on it.  If you found the flag and took it to the aid station,  you could collect your pie at the end.  Well, I like pie, and this was a great incentive for me to be alert!  As I left the start area for lap #2, Ian shouted, "I am taking the pie flags out on the course!"  Game on...

I started climbing back up through the gorge towards the aid station and there were several people hiking and taking in the sights of the water falls. I was going up some stairs and looked up to say hello to a group and caught my foot on a rock step.  Down I went but caught myself in a perfect plank pose!  That was close...

As I entered the aid station at Old Mill, I looked down to make sure I did not trip on a root and noticed a pie picture right next to the aid station marker...could it be???  I grabbed the card and asked "Is this a pie flag?"  "Yes" was the response and I let out a whoop and said "Mission accomplished!"  No one knew what I was supposed to do with the flag so I stuffed it into my water bottle holder and started off down the trail towards Underpass.

I was going along down the trail and noticed that things did not look familiar to me.  I also realized that I had not seen any trail markers in a while... Hmm... Of course I realized this after I had been going downhill for a while...  Wishing that I still had my garmin with me, I backtracked and found the trail marker for the was right in plain sight.  I must have looked to the left at the wrong time and missed it.  Oh well, nothing that I can do except laugh it off and keep moving.  I have a pie waiting for me!

Back through Underpass and up the STEEP HILL again. Yes, it did seem to grow higher the second time. I timed my ascent...20 minutes...argh...  But there is always a top to a hill and on to the mud bogs.  There was a 30% chance of rain in the forecast and we got all of it!  It had been drizzling earlier and by now it was raining a bit and it kept the muddy sections from drying out ...  I eventually made it back to Buttermilk falls where my crew was patiently waiting for me.  Another quick stop and back up the stairs to the top of the falls.

Back into Buttermilk aid station second time. (Mile 37.4)
 The final time across the cold stream crossing felt good on my beat-up legs.  My crew was waiting for me at the aid station this time instead of at the end of the campground road.  I raided my drop bag one last time and handed the bag to Denise.  They sent me on my way for the last 6.9 miles. Oh, and that one last nasty hill...
Underpass the last time! (Mile 43.1)

I managed to catch up with a couple of guys on this climb.  We were all regretting our earlier pacing mistakes and then realized that a 12 hour finish was within reach.  That got us motivated to keep moving but shortly after, I just crashed... I slowed to walk up a steep section but could not start running down the other side...crash and burn... I kept walking and knew that the top of the climb would eventually arrive, and with it, the last aid station.

Met my crew again and realized that I needed to run a 35-minute 5K in order to make a 12-hour finish.  35 minute 5K...easy right?  Down-hill, on wet stone steps, after 47 miles.... This is going to be close...

I started down and was trying every trick I knew to keep moving.  Look at the pretty water falls, watch the trail, drink, look at the ferns, count the people taking pictures,  just...keep...moving...  I finally got down to the road and had to only run across the grassy field to the finish line.  I realized that I probably did not make the 12 hours but I will finish!  I could see the clock at 12:04 and then saw Gina and Abby waiting for me.  I thought they were going to get a photo but Gina said, "Come on, we are running in with you!" 

A great finish to a great day!
Finishing with my girls!(Mile 50)

Denise took the girls back to the hotel to clean up while I changed clothes and ate some real food.  Denise  came back and we waited for the awards to be presented.   The winning times were amazing!  I could only dream of being able to move that fast.

Finally the moment that I had waited for...the pies!!  I chose a Blueberry Crumb pie and was so happy to have completed the race, and I won a pie!

Next year?  We will see.  This is an awesome course and it would be good to try and run it a lot smarter to see how I fare.  Next year's field will be even faster since it will be the USATF 50-Mile Championship.  It was pretty cool to be on the same course as the fast people and see just how well they was a blur as they ran by.

I always have a "Lessons learned" section:

  1. Pacing.  Don't be stupid.  (I seem to always need to relearn this one)
  2. Walking breaks are not just for 100-milers...
  3. Do not get caught up in other people's races.  The Male 60+ age group had quite a battle going. (Yes I was in the middle of it and they all kicked my butt!)  I had no business being a part of that...
  4. Gu can be your friend.  Do not be afraid to use it.  I was always trying to eat solid food, but forgot that Gu can kick you out of a low patch pretty fast.
My stats for the race from the race web site.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Question

This was to be a big training weekend as I prepare for the Inaugural Cayuga Trails 50-mile race.  I took Friday off from work and planned to run 30 miles in the CVNP. However life got in the way and I completed 10 miles Friday afternoon and planned the 30 mile run for Saturday.

Friday’s run went well except for the fact that I fell not once, but twice, within 10 minutes of each other!  I usually will stumble or trip at least once per run, but rarely go down. Both falls drew blood and afterwards, my daughter gave me a rap name of “‘lil tumbler”.  The trails were in great shape and the weather nearly perfect.

I planned the following route for Saturday’s run:  Start at Boston Store and run out and back to Snowville road on the Buckeye Trail. Then take the Brandywine Falls loop for another 5, then out and back on the Buckeye Trail to Pine Lane for ~8.5 more.  Then out and back towards Snowville again until I hit 3.75 miles.  This would give a bit of a cushion for the 30 total miles.  Note: Having my garmin available was real nice for this…

My goals for the day were simple:  Remain upright ( especially after Fridays fall-fest) and cover the distance.

Weather again was perfect and I started on the trail.  As I descended from the parking area at Blue Hen Falls, I said “Hi” to a dad and his two small children as they were hiking up the hill back to their car. As I passed, the daughter said to her dad, “Daddy, why is that man running?”  I laughed to myself and then thought of my two standard answers: “Running is cheaper than therapy” and “It feels so good when I stop”.  However, I then thought to myself, “Why AM  I running?”  I figured I had 30 miles to come up with an answer and it would keep my mind occupied as I ran.

Here are 4 of the reasons:
  •  The Challenge
  • The Conditioning
  • The Camaraderie
  • The Contentment

The Challenge:
I have always liked to push myself a bit to see how far I can go and what I can withstand.  Riding my bicycle across America and completing the Lake Placid Ironman triathlon are two examples of this. Ultra Trail running has its challenges with the trail, weather, bugs, nutrition, etc. that make each event different.  It is not a matter of ‘if’ something will go wrong, but “when” something will go wrong.  How well I deal with these problems is the ‘fun’ part.  Life is this way too…   An example was at 14 miles I started feeling really bad. Usually I have a bad zone between 25-30 miles but this was early. I realized that the nice weather had tricked me into thinking that I was not sweating. I was sweating but it was evaporating fast.  The white power on my arms and white streaks in my blue shirt were evidence of this. I started drinking more water and eventually pulled out of my funk.

The Conditioning:
I do not want to get fat!  Too many obese people causing too many health issues…most of which can be avoided.  The other part of conditioning for me is ‘fear’.  Fear of failure.  If I sign up for an event, I want to complete it well. I know that I will not win anything, but I do want to complete the event with a  respectable effort.  If I sign up and then show up without adequate preparation, that is just foolish…

The Camaraderie:
This one is strange for me since I am an introvert at heart.  However, The trail running community in NE Ohio is amazing.  There are some really great people and it is enjoyable to share the trails and have that common bond of being trail runners.  I do not run with people often, but it is nice to have company once in a while.  I usually find myself alone during my race events, so training alone gives me practice. (See conditioning above)  If I always relied on a group to keep me going and I found myself alone during a race, what would happen?  So much of distance running is mental, we need to know how to ‘just keep going.’

The Contentment:
Being on the trail, in the woods, listening to the wood-peckers pounding and the birds calling, it is so good.  Being on the trails, with the snow or rain falling, or the mud sucking the shoes off of your feet is also good.  I am thankful that I have the ability to do these crazy things and I have to keep reminding myself of this every time I start to feel bad during a run. (See mental above)

There were lots of other thoughts swirling through my head during the 30 miles, but they will stay there for now.

It was a good weekend of training.  10 miles Friday, 30.5 miles Saturday, 6 mile hike with Denise Sunday!  Confidence is building for June 8.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The neighbor...

There has been a very large buck, or two, or three, in the woods next to our house.  He has taken a liking to my landscaping and I have posted some photos and this video on facebook.  I wanted to post the video here so that my non-facebook friends can see him.

This video is of the big buck and his "little" brother.  They came down from the woods into our neighbor's yard.

He is a magnificent animal, too bad he likes my hostas...

Friday, June 15, 2012

25 years sure went by fast

It is hard to believe that 25-years ago tomorrow I started my bicycle ride across the United States! I had wanted to do this trip since I read a newspaper story in 1980 about a man who completed a similar tour. I had always enjoyed camping and I enjoyed bicycling.  Why not combine the two together and see the country?

So I did...

I kept a journal during the 46-day trip and I hope to post its contents here as soon as I can completed the editing. (come on Jerry, it has been 25-years! You are not finished yet?)

I think that it is safe to say that this trip changed my life in the sense that it opened my eyes and made me realize that there was (is) a whole world out there waiting to be explored and experienced.

Brookville Star Article the week after I left for the West Coast
(Click for a larger view)

Monday, June 11, 2012

2012 Laurel Highlands Ultra Race Report

This year marked the 33 running of the Laurel Highlands Ultra.  The race is a point-to-point course that follows the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail from Ohiopyle, PA to just south of Seward, PA.  I completed this race last year when the course was extended 7 miles due to a detour caused by bridge repairs.  This year the route was back to the original 70.5 mile distance.

My training this spring went well.  I did not get a lot of long long runs completed, but I had been running faster this year than I have in years past.  I was thinking that a midnight finish would be a good goal for the  event (18.5 hours) and seemed reasonable.  As always, the main goal for me and ultras is to (1) finish, and (2) stay out of the medical tent!

Once again this year, I drove out Friday afternoon to Johnstown for the pre-race meal/meeting and then slept in my car at the finish line Friday night.  The shuttle bus left the finish line Saturday at 3:30am and we headed off towards Ohiopyle.  I rode the bus with Paul L. and it was nice to catch up with him a bit.  The starting area was pretty full with people since the race had sold out with 130 people registered.

Pre-race, I was a bit worried, ok, a LOT worried about my right calf.  One week prior to the race I re-injured it during a run and could not run on it for several days.  I was worried that I would start the first climb out of Ohiopyle and not be able to go any farther, making for a very short and disappointing day.  Race day I took a short run from the rest room to the starting area and felt the calf twinge a bit.  I took an ibuprofen tablet and prayed for the best.

5:30am we started out from the parking area towards the trail-head.  Calf felt ok and it felt good to be moving. The weather was cool but was forecasted to be mid-80s with some humidity.  I was not worried about the heat since the trail is mostly in the woods and shaded.  (I should have been worried)   The first few climbs felt good and I was trying to be patient and go real slow for the first 10 miles.  I went much too fast last year and paid for it later.  Paul caught up with me and we ran together for a few miles.  He was handling the downhill parts much faster than me and he pulled away.  We each said "See you later" and continued on our way.  The big climb towards mile post 8 seemed bigger than last year but before I knew it, I was at the first aid station!  It was good to see Slim and Kimba there helping the runners and I got in and out quickly.

The LHHT trail contains a wide variety of conditions, with the common denominator being rocks!  They are everywhere.  Sometimes large, sometimes small, but they are everywhere.  Not MMT-like, but you have to keep vigilant or you will trip. (Disclaimer: I have not been on the MMT course, but I have seem photos... :) )  The mountain laurel was in bloom and was nice to run through.  However, the fragrance was almost overpowering at times...

The temperature kept climbing along with the trail.  Eventually we reached the Seven Springs Ski resort, which is the highest point of the trail, 26 miles from the starting line.  One other intersting thing about the LHHT is that there are mile posts that you can use to keep splits and to know how far you have gone and have to go.  This both a blessing and a curse... Sometimes you could swear the posts move farther away...

I spent a lot of the day playing "ultra tag" with people.  "Brian" told me about this phrase.  Ultra tag is where you seem to always leap-frog people as the day goes on.  It seemed that a lot of people around me, and myself included, were having stomach issues.  This is typical in ultras where after a while nothing tastes or sounds good.  When you did eat some food, it would just sit in your gut and you wished it was out...  Just like a car needs gasoline to run, our bodies need food/calories to run.  I typically have a bad patch from miles 28-34 and this race was no different.  I forced a couple of gels down and that started the recovery.  It was taking a long time however to get back to feeling good again.  The whole day ended up being this way.  I would force some food down at the aid station, feel good for about 45 minutes, and then start to crash again.  Force more food down and start to slowly recover.

I eventually realized that I should try to eat more frequently and used my watch alarm to prompt me to eat every 12 minutes or so, even if it was only 2-3 pretzel nubs or a bite of a power bar, but eat something!  It only took me 50 miles to figure this out...  It seemed to help since my mood seemed to stabilize but my lack of big training runs was starting to become painfully obvious.

However, the scenery of the course, the aid station volunteers, and my fellow runners helped to distract me and keep me moving.  I caught up with two ladies after the mile 57 aid station and they had a tremendous 16 min/mile power-walking pace going.  I tried to keep up with them the best that I could.  When we approached the gas line road that lead to the 62 mile aid station I ran ahead a bit.

I was looking forward to this aid station all day. Last year they served soup and grilled-cheese sandwiches which tasted so so so good!  This year's menu consisted of potato soup with grilled-cheese sandwiches.  I sat in the chair by the fire, (two big no-nos for ultras "beware the chair") and enjoyed a bowl of soup.  I don't know why, but that soup tasted so good again this year.  Probably the same reason peanut butter and jelly sandwiches taste better at the top of a mountain than at the kitchen table...

I had little less than 2 hours to complete the remaining 8 miles and I knew that my midnight finish was not going to happen this year. I was ok with that and just was happy with what had happened.  I left the aid station and the two ladies were just behind me. I heard them talking about wanting a sub-20 hour finish and I realized that I might be able to salvage a sub-19 hour finish!  Game on!  My glycogen-depleted math skills said that if I could keep a 16 minute/mile pace, I would be real close.  I started running the best that I could and the first mile was 15:30.  great!  Next mile, 16:50.  Ok, there was a climb that slowed me down. Next mile, 20:30!!  Oops, wrong way... Next mile, 19:50...sigh... Don't give up! 

The last 3 miles are downhill, and a pretty good grade downhill to boot.  I heard voices behind me and was NOT going to get passed again here like I did last year and I started to run again, downhill, on a rocky course, in the dark...  Tripped once, twice, three times within a minute and decide that primary goal #2 is more important than a time goal.  It turned out that the voices I heard were in FRONT of me and I was the one doing the passing.

Shortly afterwards, two other people came flying by me like I was standing still...actually I was since I stopped to let them get by...  I could hear the crowd at the finish line and ran the last (short) mile in 8:30...

I finished the race in 19 hours 11 minutes and 23 seconds.  I was the 49th out of 85 finishers.  Oh yeah, Paul finished just ahead of me at 18:58!  I was less than a mile behind him!!!

It was a great day even if I did not make my time goal!  Good experiences on an awesome course with some of the best people around!  It does not get much better...

See you next year...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

No-shirt 50K or whatever FA

Today was the Annual "No-shirt 50K or whatever FA" organized by Roy and Shannon. Started at Station Road in the CVNP and followed the Buckeye Trail to Pine Lane and return for an out-and-back. Winter arrived (finally) here friday and we have a nice covering of snow. The temperature this morning was 16 degrees with a wind chill of 2. brrrr!

13 people started at 8am towards Ottawa Point on the Buckeye Trail. It did not take more than 50 yds for us to get off-trail since the snow all looks the same! We really had to pay attention to the blue blazes! Roy yelled from behind, "Follow the blue blazes, not each other!" Pretty funny.

The snow conditions were actually pretty good. Fluffy, light, and not too slippery. However, it covered everything, logs, holes, rocks, and mud. The ground was not frozen since it has been so wet and warm this winter and the mud was still lurking beneath the clean snow. I am so glad that I have my Brooks Gore-tex trail shoes to keep my feet (mostly) dry!

I knew that I did not have 50K in my legs today and had decided to turn around at Columbia Road. I started back when I met the others. Roy said that I was the leader. I replied, "No, I am the first wimp!" As I ran under the power lines and cell tower near Snowville Road, I noticed that someone had made an awesome snow-angel! It was nearly perfect and brought a huge smile to my frozen face. This section along the ridge-line was the coldest part of the day.

I made it back to my car after 18.4 miles of snowy trail. Changed into some dry clothes and made it home to a hot shower!

Thanks to Roy and Shannon and everyone involved in organizing this fun event!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

ahhh. That was nice!

It has been a long while since I have posted anything and I have to say it has been a nice break. Not much to post: Work was crazy busy and we just completed the project last week. It will be nice to think that this project should provide a million or two of increased sales. However I still get miffed about why we had to do this project in the first place...sigh...

Started running again this week after I was 'persuaded' by my family to register for the Winter Run for Regis in January. I have been running a couple of times a week over the summer, nothing structured, nothing long; just some "Sanity" runs. I have to admit that it feels good to have an event on the horizon to get me out the door.

The weather has been fantastic this week! It will change, but it has been a glorious fall week. Denise and I went out this morning for a fall hike and enjoyed the colors and the smells of autumn. We then took the girls out this afternoon to Bedford Reservation to look at the Gorge Overlook. Not peak colors yet, but nice nonetheless.

Cross country has been going well for Abby. She PR'd again this week at Stow and the conference Championship race is this weekend. It is safe to say that her freshman year has exceed expectations and she has had a blast too!

Life is pretty good, and I am very very grateful...