Finishing Lap 1
Ok...so yeah, The foot, it is pretty goddam pissed-off at me today. Yeah I know, I'm an idiot. I thought long and hard about my decision to run Finger Lakes, knowing it could very well take me out of the Vermont 100. It has been 4 weeks since I injured my foot at Rothrock and it hasn't completely healed. I have not had it x-rayed yet as I've been away and my insurance would not have covered it fully. I have been thinking more and more that there may be a fracture....but have tried to stay positive. All this past week I stayed off my foot. I didn't run for a full week and focussed instead on strength training and resting. I had told myself over and over again that it was Vermont 100 that mattered most, but there's something that I really like about the Finger Lakes race that had me deciding to give it a go. I love the friendly atmosphere, the pre-race night campfire, the camaraderie, the camping...it's all fantastic. The option to drop down mid-run to the 50k (and even a single 25k loop), gave me some added peace of mind too. I also though that even if I had skipped finger lakes and rested for an additional 2 weeks, that I'd be incredibly out of shape for Vermont anyway...even if I had moved to cycling to keep up my fitness.
The Finger Lakes course was a bit different than it was when I ran it back in 2009. Apparently they had changed it last year, but I missed it as I was slogging through snow somewhere in the Sierra Nevada mountains on the PCT. First impressions....the new course is better. I really liked the new layout, and the fact that the loops were a mile longer. Back in '09, in order to run the 50 miler, you had to run three loops, and THEN a 4 mile add-on baby-loop. This year, since the loops were a mile longer, the final baby loop was only 1/2 a mile. Of course this also meant that the 50K was actually 33 miles and not 31 (and the 25k, 16.5 miles). The course was really fun and seemed less hilly. The overall times on the new course seem faster (as are the course records). I was really hoping to break that mythical barrier of 10 hrs this time around, but was content really just having fun. Overall, I had a good day despite the fact that the temps were pushing 90. Just getting back from very dry Colorado and running in the humid sticky-fest that is upstate New York was a bit rough...but thankfully, most of the course was shaded. The few open-field highlights of the old course were still part of the new course and the aid stations plentiful. There is one somewhat confusing section of the course where runners actually share about a tenth of a mile in both directions. I passed some folks going the other way and they were genuinely confused.
Lap 1 was my best and a bit too fast. I truly believe had I been a little more conservative on this lap, I would have run my 3rd lap faster. Regardless, I am thrilled with my outcome. Lap 1 went smoothly and I ran over 90% of it. The new course has less climbs and no longer features the dreaded mile-long uphill pavement section. Being early in the morning, the temps were still cool. I had to retrain my body to eat aid station snacks during a long race. For the Laurel Highlands 50k, I ate mostly gels and my own food. For this race, I had some Ensure drinks at waiting for me at the end of every loop, several date-filled Larabars, and other snacks in addition to the aid station goodies. I came into the finish chute of Lap 1 in a brisk 2hrs 41mins. I was shooting for 3hrs and knew I had gone too fast. I spent a good 8-10 minutes sitting and resting after the first loop. When I headed out for Lap 2, I was seriously considering making it my last...and settling for the 50k, but figured I'd cross that bridge when I came to it.
Lap 2 was fairly unremarkable. I trotted through it slower remembering various parts of the course from my first lap and trying to really enjoy the beautiful day. It started getting pretty hot during this lap, but was still manageable. I noticed I after 25 miles I still hadn't had to go to the bathroom yet, and was a bit worried. After noticing the wonderful salt crust forming on my head, I started drinking a lot more water. Eventually, everything worked itself out...but I was definitely not drinking enough up to that point. In all honesty, lap 2 was probably my best, even though it was slower. I ran it at the right pace, and walked about 10-15 percent of it. It was how I should have run the first lap. I crossed the finish line exactly 3hrs after I had left it and was sitting on a time of 5hrs 41 minutes for a 50k. Not only was this time 13 minutes faster than my Laurel Highlands 50k PR of a few weeks ago, but the Finger Lakes 50k was actually 33 miles (2 miles longer). I sat down in a comfortable chair, began to wind down, and was ready to call it a day. After over 10 minutes went by I was suddenly overcome by a feeling to continue. Not sure why, but I changed into a cooler singlet, and was off.....for a very hot lap 3.
Lap 3 was tough. Hot and sluggish. I did my best to run when I could, but suddenly the very gradual inclines became ridiculous hills. I walked probably 30 percent of lap 3. Had I been able to keep a decent pace, I may have broken 9 hours total, but I was just too spent from a hard/fast first two laps. I slowly but surely made my way around the course with a smile of contentment on my face. I was happy that I had decided to push on. The temptation to quit after 50k is so strong. You are there, at the finish....the volunteers are grilling burgers, people are resting, all you want to do is lay down in the shade and eat cold fruit and sip ice-cold sodas. Yet somehow in my insane and twisted brain, I voluntarily decided to torture myself for another 3+ hours. Every step of trail I passed I knew would be the last time I would see it. I didn't have to think to myself, "when I see this turn on the next lap....". Everyone running with and around me at this point was struggling hard. People that I had partnered up with were having all sorts of muscle issues, cramps, stomach problems, etc. Of course there was me with my foot. When I came into the finish chute, it read 9hrs 15 minutes. I took me a full 30 minutes longer to run lap 3. All I wanted to do was collapse....but alas, it wasn't over. I had my "baby loop" left.
The Baby Loop was more of a victory lap. Unlike '09's 4 mile baby loop, the new course featured a wonderful little 1/2 mile loop around the parking lot. I didn't even stop after my 3rd lap. I figured with 49.5 miles under me, I could push another 0.5 out before stopping. I gleefully ran around the loop smiling at everyone. Spectators that saw me knew I was less than 5 minutes from finishing and so I got a lot of "congrats". I came around the corner and finally went through the finish chute for the 4th and final time with an overall race and course time of 9:20:05. I broke my 50 mile PR by 1 hr and 14 minutes....and with a wonky foot.
Final Time: 9:20:05
Final Place: 7th (6th Men)
Official Results: RESULTS
This race was the first time that I had some major stomach issues. Most ultra runners at some point deal with nausea and/or stomach issues. This was the first time where I had some major problems. About midway through lap 2 I came very near vomiting several times. Not sure if it was the heat, the food, or the Ensure drinks. Several times, I considered trying to force the issue....but instead decided to first try my luck at ginger. I always carry a ginger chew (or two), but always end up giving them to other runners. This time, It was me that needed them....and they really worked. I sucked on those things, one after another, and my stomach issues gradually subsided. Had it not worked, I'm not sure what my next move would have been, but I most certainly would have quit after 50k.
In the next day or two, once the adrenaline wears off and I begin licking my race wounds, I'm sure I'll get a good idea how bad my toe suffered. During the race, it was completely painless. I never felt a pang of any kind. I taped it up really well beforehand, and it really did the trick. At some point this week, I will also probably suck it up, and finally get the dreaded x-ray.
Overall Comment about the Race and Race Director
I want to personally thank Chris Reynolds for again putting on such a fantastic event. This race was great in '09, and was even better this year. I can't say enough about just how much this type of event epitomizes what trail running and the trail running community represent. The volunteers were amazing, the aid stations, well-stocked, and the post-race festivities spectacular. So.....thank you Chris, and hopefully I'll see you in Vermont in 2 weeks!
On a side note, I spent some time gawking at the wonderful geology in and around the Watkins Glen area of NY. The Watkins Glen State Park hike along the gorge is fantastic....I highly recommend it.
Here are some more pics:
After Loop 1, taking a break, mouthful of food
Coming in after Lap 2
Coming in to finish!
Done! Getting my timing chip removed
Somewhere early on in Lap 1
Coming down the 2 mile dirt road section (Lap 1)
Waktins Glen Gorge
More from Waktins Glen State Park
Awesome Waterfall alongside Seneca Lake