Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Finger Lakes Fifties Report and Final Badwater Prep

Finishing the 50-miler in 8:54 (Photo T. Murray)
4th place overall, 2nd place men

As expected, Christine and Joe Reynolds put on another fantastic race this past weekend up in the Finger Lakes National Forest.  Still one of my absolute favorite races, I went into this past weekends foray with two goals:  Get in one last good long prep-run for Badwater, and maybe....try to better my time of 9:20 from last year.  I told myself I wouldn't push it though and to take it easy, run strong (but not carelessly), and enjoy the wonderful single-track.  I knew it would be hot too (low to mid 90's with high humidity), so it would also be great for my Badwater heat preparations.  The trip was strictly a weekend endeavor, but also allowed me a quick visit with family on Sunday to discuss a few Badwater planning points.  I think everyone is ready and eager for the desert mayhem in two weeks!  Wow....two weeks, still can't believe it.


It's hard to put into words why I love this Finger Lakes race so much.  It could be argued that doing a loop course isn't ideal, but in this case it really doesn't hurt the race at all.  Especially with the knowledge that you can stop after 2 loops and still get a 50k award if you want (which a lot of people did on Saturday with it getting very hot).  Each year I leave that option open for myself, but always tough it out for the full 50 miles.  I think what attracts me so much to this event and brings me back year-after-year, is both the homegrown/grassroots feel, and the amazing director and volunteers.  Every time I participate in this event, I'm smiling, chatting away with other runners, and looking forward to heading back out on another loop.  The night before the race, there is always a jovial atmosphere around a large campfire and people seem just happy to be outside.  I always camp by one of the ponds and fall asleep to the sound of frogs all night too...it really is a magical little place.  The scenery is never dull either...and things are mixed-up quite well.  There are sections of wooded single-track, dirt roads, open grassy ridge-line fields, cow pastures, ponds, mud, roots, rocks, hills, and super volunteers spaced out perfectly; like I said, all-in-all, one of my favorites.

Quick Report:
I arrived Friday evening, pitched my tent, checked in and relaxed by the fire for a while.  I opted to go to bed early and retired about 9:30 just as the bats were starting to fly around overhead.  Saturday morning we all gathered after I wolfed down a quick muesli breakfast and we got the usual course rundown from the director.  at 6:30 prompt, the 50k and 50 milers all started together with the sound of the traditional cowbell.
Lining up (I'm over on the left side by the car)

The race director (Chris), layin' down the law

Joe telling us we better close the damn cow gates!
(or he'll personally come after us)

My wee campsite

Loop1 :
I quickly worked my way down near the front on the quarter-mile road section as I knew that once that single-track starts it becomes very difficult to pass in the first section.  I dropped into the woods somewhere in the top 15 or so.  My time on the first loop from last year was 2:41.  I remember running a very strong race for the first two laps in 2011, with only the 3rd lap being painfully slow.   Knowing this, I figured I wasn't going to beat my first lap time by much, if at all.  My goal was more to try and stay consistent and NOT have a repeat of last year with a very slow 3rd loop.

For the entire loop I ran.  Even the hills (albeit slowly).  I stayed even, but didn't push.  I was careful about salts and nutrition and stuck to my own gels/gummies rather than the aid stations.  The sun was still low and the shade plenty, so the temps were moderately cool.  Loop 1 truly was wonderful.  I don't think I ever stopped smiling and had some great conversations with other runners.  As I neared the end of the loop, I checked my watch and I was right on the same pace as 2011.  When I crossed through the loop gate my watch read 2:36....five minutes faster, so I was very pleased as I still felt fantastic.  I took about 5 minutes restocking some gels/gummies at my little station, pounded a gatorade and immediately headed back out.

Early on in Loop 1...rockin' the shades.
(Photo N. Werner)

In 2011, I ran loop 2 in exactly 3 hours and crossed the gate in 5:41.  I was now only 5 minutes ahead of that pace, but definitely felt that I should be able to at least run that pace.  The field was noticeably thinner at this point and I found myself running alone quite a bit.  I passed a lot of the 25k runners who were walking the course during this lap as well.  It was still early enough in the day that the temps weren't too high until near the end of the loop, so I again fared well.  I did start working at the aid-station sandwiches and chips during this loop as the gels just weren't cutting it for me.  As far as running, I was able to again run almost the entire loop minus the steeper hills.  Somewhere in the last few miles, I again noticed I was right on last year's pace and when I did finally come through the gate after my 50k, I had gained another 5 minutes and crossed in 5:30.  This was great, I was now 10 minutes ahead of my 2011 time.  The key was how much could I improve on that dreaded 3rd loop.  I was definitely beginning to tire a bit.  I spent only 5 minutes resupplying and starting walking out on loop 3 while eating some food.

Somewhere on loop 2
(Photo N. Werner)

Coming in to the end of loop 2
(Photo E. Makovskaya)
Now it was getting hot.  Temps were floating around 90-92 and the humidity was also pretty steep.  I found myself power-hiking some of the softer hills and running slower in general....but still felt that I was doing better than in 2011.  I saw very few people on this loop.  A lot of runners had stopped after the 50k and the 50-milers that were left, most were actually behind me (something I didn't realize until later).   A few miles into the loop a woman came up on me fast and blew right by.  I cheered her on and never saw her again.  Turns out it ended up being a huge day for the ladies this year...but more on that in a sec.  Up until this point, I had just sort of assumed I was still floating around 10-15th place, and honestly didn't really care.  This race was about getting in a solid prep-run for Badwater, while still having as much fun as possible...and I was definitely having fun.  Even on this third loop, when I hit the pasture sections, I was giggling like a school kid.  Like I said before, simply put, I just love this race.  As I started nearing the end of the third loop, I noticed my time was looking to be at least 10 minutes faster than last year.  I quickly did the math and realized I could actually break 9 hours if I kept up a decent run for the last 3 miles.  I didn't want to push myself, but I figured a little push over the last three miles would be worth the sub-9 finish.  I picked up the pace a smidge and weaved my way through my favorite section of the course: the pine woods between miles 14 and 15.  When I crossed the finish gate the time read something like 8:50, meaning I had improved 15 minutes over last year's time for my 3rd loop.  Of course I wasn't finished.  The course is laid out so that after three loops, you've only finished 49.5 miles, meaning you have to run a small 1/2 mile "baby-loop" victory lap to finish officially.  I didn't even stop at my supplies and just blew through on route to finish that last 1/2 mile as fast as possible.  When I did finally finish outright, the clock read 8:54 and change.  I was welcomed by some hearty cheering and lots of high-fives.  I had not only bettered my time from last year by 25 minutes, but, I had finally hit a sub-9 time at finger lakes!  Then, I was handed an award and told that I won my age group!  Even cooler! I'm not sure what my overall place was, but I think it may have been 5th or 6th (they are still sorting out results - I should know soon).  Jack Pilla won the race this year, and was followed by two super-strong ladies (one of which was the one that blew past me early-on in loop 3).  It was a really strong showing for the women this year, and in previous years the women's winner could have won outright.

Early on in Loop 3
(Photo N. Werner)
Timed Results are in now:
So apparently I finished 4th overall and 2nd! for men!  WOW.  I've never finished higher than 5th overall at an ultra (excluding Barkley) and NEVER 2nd place for men.  Along those lines the results show that 4 of the first 6 finishers were women, so big congrats go out to the super strong ladies this year!
Here are the results as posted:

Overall I got out of the race exactly what I was hoping.  A great time amongst great people.  So thanks again Chris and Joe and you know I'll be back next year!

I used some new gear for this race as well and was quite pleased with all of it.  Some of it was simply trying out some Badwater equipment, other stuff was just experimenting.  Here's a quick breakdown of the new stuff I carried/wore:

- Vest: Ultraspire Revolution.  Absolutely love, love, loved it!  I like bottles, and I like vests.....perfect combo!  This will be my goto pack henceforth.
- Sunglasses:  I still love and swear by my Julbo glacier glasses, but being black in color, I decided to buy a pair of white glasses for Badwater.  They are cheapo Ryder brand and they worked out great!  Will use for Badwater, but will probably use my Julbo's for everything else.
- Calf Sleeves: Finally decided to give calf-compression sleeves a go.  I didn't want to spend the 30+ dollars on a brand name, and it's hard to find white...so believe it or not, I actually wore medical-graduated-compression sleeves.  They were like 10 bucks from a medical supply store.  Honestly, I noticed no difference during or after the race.  I only bought them because they are white and will use them for Badwater.  I'm not sold on the calf-compression hype just yet.
- Shorts:  I wore a pair of Mizuno shorts that I got courtesy of a friend of mine (and Mizuno rep).  They were shorter than my normal shorts, but also had a zippered pocket....something that's getting harder and harder to find in shorts.  They fit great, and had good support.  I actually kind of liked the shorter cut as well.  I will definitely keep these around for future use!
- Socks:  I wore a pair of drymax socks and definitely liked them.  Can't fully comment on socks though until they've seen heavy use.  So far so good though.  Still love my Darn Toughs and DeFeet's regardless.

Everything else was my standard setup both food and equipment-wise.  Nothing special or different.

One of the ridge-line fields (Photo C. Reynolds)

One of the many ponds the course circumnavigates

The winner awards!

My age group award-cow and bottle opener!
Best.  Award.  EVER!

As far as Badwater Update:
I'll keep it simple.  I went over some logistics with my family (aka support crew), and it looks like all is falling into place.  I have all of my clothing and gear now, and the sauna sessions are still daily (sometimes twice).  I would be lying if I said that the 135-mile distance doesn't scare me a bit, but I will not let it bring me any doubt.  I am getting excited about participating in such a prestigious event and look forward to the experience and stories that will surely come of it.

T-minus 2 weeks!


Derunzo said...

Good Luck man! Badwater better get ready for a Bad-Ass! Very Inspirational!

Eliza Ralph-Murphy said...

That's incredible. It must have been the socks:-P

UltraChris said...

hey john ... it was great to see you back again! you had a fantastic day and you look amazing every time i saw you! best of luck at badwater and i can't wait to read all about it.

Jeff said...

Great report - I ran the 50K and got totally fried out on the course. I know a LOT of 50 milers dropped to the 50K because of the heat.

Nice job and good luck at Badwater!

ultracassie said...

Congrats and good luck at Badwater! Love the cow award :-)