Saturday, July 7, 2012

Finger Lakes 50K+

I signed up for this race a few months ago when Jessi mentioned that she was going to run the 50 mile race and that there were a few spots left. I hadn't run an ultra outside of the state of NJ and its been almost a year since I ran in the Finger Lakes region, which I enjoyed. Plus I have met the race directors so I decided why not! I figured after the 50K in March and running almost 48 hrs at 3 Days at the Fair in May that I should be able to just continue running - hopefully with a couple long runs in between - and I should be ready for the race. But after running the 50K+ (the + is because the actual distance is 33 miles) I realize that I definitely needed some longer runs and more runs with hills! After 3 Days at the Fair (where I ran/walked 2 marathons in two days), I ran 17.5 miles with Susan during Memorial Day weekend, which had hills but I struggled, and 12.9 miles in the Forest Preserves of Cook County where the only decent hill for most of the run was in the first half mile. What I really needed was at least one decent 20 miler with some hills - a run in South Mountain Reservation or Watchung would have been good. And that is going to be the plan for getting ready for the Wildcat Romp 50K in August.

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

After our tour and some shopping at EMS and Wegmen's, we went back to the camp for some dinner and relaxing before getting to "bed" early for the 6:30 AM start. Jessi bought a ton of food and fed me all weekend - fresh scrambled eggs for breakfast, cooked chicken, and soba noodles and broccoli slaw with peanut sauce for dinner on Friday. Oh yeah - and plenty of baked goods. Jessi certainly knows how to cook and bake. Thanks!

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.

Soon after I finished, I got out my camera for a finishers photo - not much of a smile. Changed into my bathing suit, a t-shirt, and my Keen shoes (definitely a worthy purchase even if I couldn't really afford them). I grabbed a beer out of my cooler and got some barbeque - a Coney dog which apparently is a hot dog made of veal and pork, boiled potato and pasta salad. I ate with Seb and his wife and Jessi at just the right spot - it was in the shade and all the 50 mile racers had to run past us for their last baby loop of 0.5 miles. It was awesome to see friends and others make that final push. After eating and chatting, I grabbed another beer and made my way to that refreshing pond. Used some of Jessi's camp soap and washed up a bit in the nice cool water. Wow that felt really nice!

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!

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