The race took place in the Finger Lakes National Forest and camping was free! Jessi and I drove up on Thursday afternoon - she wanted to get up there early to relax and since I'm not working I caught a ride with her. We arrived with plenty of time to hang out, eat, drink beer and set up our tents before the excitement began - a nice little bonfire plus fireworks! Well 3 fireworks that someone bought in Ohio, but still a nice fun display - especially watching the guys run after lighting them. Friday we spent touring the area - saw the falls at Watkins Glen, a tasting at the Finger Lakes Distillery, and a beer at 2 Goats Brewing. The only thing missing that day was a wine tasting!
|Watkins Glen State Park|
I slept pretty well and planned to sleep until 5:15 AM; except Joe the RD had other plans for all of us, ringing a cowbell at 5 AM. Ugh! But it was probably for the best as I had time to get coffee - surprisingly the Maxwell House instant coffee wasn't bad - had breakfast (egg & a muffin), and had time for a bathroom stop. I filled up my Camelback with water in the bladder and other race food and my camera the night before so I wouldn't have to worry about it in the morning. And thankfully it was an early start. The forecast for the day was sun and a high of 90F!
The race started on the road for a bit before heading into the woods and the single track. There were some rocks and tree roots but it wasn't bad running. It was a bit slow going at first because of all the runners but not too bad. The trail then went across some fields - which was going to be really hot during the second loop. Back into the woods where I caught up with Melissa Huggins. We ran together for a while - down the long down hill to the first aid station (in hind site I should have run that bit a little slower) then UP back into the woods. We ran together for a while till I needed to take a bathroom break. I was hoping to not have any of the issues I've had in the past and I had taken some Imodium just before the race started to ward off those issues - and I think it worked. I stopped three times during the first loop to use the "facilities" (a tree off trail) but no real issues. Though I will have to remember to bring some tp in a ziplock for the next time! I kept alternating places with 3 women from Brooklyn. One introduced herself to me as she figured we'd be seeing each other quite a bit through the rest of the course. However, the reason we kept running into each other was due to my pit stops. I knew I was running stronger than they were. The course alternated between open fields and the woods - both hardwood and pine - with some road. There was an aid station about every three miles and I made sure to eat something and take Heed at every station, and keep my Camelback full - well for the most part. I ran into Joe at one of the aid stations and he told me that Jessi had to pull out of the race. I was sorry to hear that but I knew that it would have been better for her to not start. But you can't keep her from running! Just before the last aid station was a decent stretch in tall grass - nice and exposed for more "lovely" sun & heat. Made it to the aid station where the volunteers filled up my Camelback, I got some food, and talked to Jessi for a bit - who then yelled at me to get going. Thanks for the push! The course then took us through a cow pasture - we made sure to lock the gate. Don't let the cows out! Through another pine forest, back into some hardwood forest and past the first pond - which looked really refreshing. I had thoughts of swimming that pond during the second loop. The trail took us back to the road near the camp, through the woods and past another pond - not as inviting looking as the first - and then back to the start/finish. I ran the first loop in about 4 hr 15 min (est avg pace: 15:27).
At the aid station, Jessi filled my Camelback with ice - wow that was great! I made my last pit stop and picked up some food - 1/4 pb&j, watermelon, and some Pringles. Jessi yelled at me again to get moving - Melissa just left the finish area for her second loop - so I walked and ate at the same time. I actually try not to linger at aid stations but its always nice to get a push to motivate me. Since I was feeling pretty good I had hoped to push the pace a little - perhaps run a bit more of the uphills than before - and at first that was going well. I caught up to Melissa who told me she was planning on walking a lot more. So I ran with Melissa for a bit but then soon passed her. When I made it to the long downhill to the first aid station, I realized how much my quads hurt! So I tried to walk, but that hurt too! So I walked most of it backwards - a great way to continue moving and to use muscles in a different way. I and a volunteer struggled with the Camelback - the lid seemed to be on awfully tight, then we couldn't get it closed without it leaking. Ugh! Melissa caught up with me and then continued on. I never saw her again until the end. At this point I was still feeling pretty good - again trying to run more than before - but those good feelings eventually ended. I started walking more - but still trying to push myself. My lower back was starting to bug me. And I made the mistake of not filling up my Camelback at the next to last aid station. I ran out of water and I knew that if I ran the exposed section that I was really going to feel worse! So I walked much of the last 5 miles or so of the race. The volunteers at the last aid station filled my Camelback - and offered me a chair in the shade. I knew better than to sit at that point! Got to keep moving! Relentless forward progress as a fellow ultrarunner once told me. I was really hurting at this point. Every joint from the hips down hurt! My waist hurt! And every so often I stopped - cause I was tired! - and my lower back was tight. I made my way past the first pond - a fellow runner who finished encouraged me to get in - and I was tempted. Oh how nice that cool water would have felt. But I needed to finish this damn race first! Got to the road, through the woods, past the second pond, realized all of a sudden I was HUNGRY! and finally to the gravel road to the finish. As soon as I saw a glimpse of the finish line I ran - or at least attempted what I thought was a run. And finished in 9 hr 27 min. It was the longest run in one day that I've done - and has definitely cooled any thoughts of running a 50 miler! Ouch! The last loop was run in about 5 hr 8 min for an avg est pace of 18:40 for the second loop. Overall average pace:17:12.
The rest of the evening was spent chatting with friends - and meeting new people, eating, and drinking beer! A great race - great RDs, amazing volunteers, well marked course (though a few people actually made a wrong turn - not really sure how??), nice mix of the various ecosystems, and a great place to camp. It was HOT but we missed the major storms that hit the east coast. It did start to rain about 3 AM Sunday morning but I was pretty oblivious to it until 4:15 AM when I threw my rain fly over the top. I'd definitely come back and run this race again!