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.