Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Cayuga Trails 50. A first-time 50 miler at a first-time race.

Hot damn!  If you are looking for a challenging, but beautiful, east coast run, look no further than Cayuga Trails 50.
      I was nervous as all hell going into this race--not only was it my first 50 miler, but there were course and elevation changes being made in the days before the race.  The final course came with over 10,000 feet of elevation gain--more than I usually see in a month!  I was able to calm my nerves with the fact that the West Rim Trail is around 5,300 feet of gain over 30 miles and I scrambled through that a month before. Anyway, on to the real news...the race!
Loving that uniform!

I was originally going to head up to Ithaca on the Thursday before the race and relax and check out the area.  Due to some crappy rain coming through and a few other changes, I ended up driving up on Friday afternoon.  It rained for the entire four-and-a-half hour drive, muddy trails dancing in my head as we plugged along and got into town just as the pre-race briefing was letting out.  I ran into my training partner and we decided to go for some food at viva taqueria with a friend of his. If I run the race again next year, I'm eating here again, as it was pretty damn good race fuel.

We headed to the hotel and ran into another Philadelphia runner, one who I actually had run some local races with and had met at work a few months before.  He is a kick ass runner and this was also his first 50.  He was strong and up front all day, but took a spill in the creek and had to hike the last 8 miles.  He still finished with a great time!

I got all my race stuff laid out and the backpack set for Heather and her crewing duties.  I decided to hop on the foam roller and get a last minute session in, which I am very glad I did.  Around 11pm my phone rang and it was my friend Tanya, the Scott rep.  She was still out at the start of the course with Ian the RD.  It had started raining and some of the markings had come down, so Ian was re-running the course in his underwear to make sure it was well-marked while she was setting up tables with food and coffee and everything else for registration and breakfast.  It wasn't her job to do it, but she stayed until 4am to make sure that runners would be taken care of in the morning...fucking amazing.
Tanya with Sage Canaday ( I still can't believe I didn't get a picture with him)

She got back to the hotel just as we were waking up, so I promised to bring her coffee at the start.  I jumped in the car and headed into Ithaca to try and find a 24 hour deli that we had seen earlier in the evening.  Instead I got lost and wound up at a Mobil gas station...at least the coffee was hot.  I grabbed two cups and headed back to the hotel.  As I got out of the car, I found a heads up nickel on the ground.  I'm not superstitious, but I did secretly think of it as good luck.

Heather was up and ready, so I threw on my running uniform (no matter how many shirts and shorts I own, I always seem to go back to the same things).  My biggest debate was which shoes I would be wearing for the day.  I wear my Montrail Rogue Fly for nearly all of my running, but with the muddy conditions I was debating on the Bajada.  I chose to start in the Rogue Fly and change if needed. We hopped in the car and headed to the start.  I found my friends Tanya and Matt and his friend Jen for the start.
Matt, Jen, and I before the race

I felt very calm going into this race. Even when they announced the course and elevation changes, I somehow stayed very calm.  Maybe it was the exam I had taken on Thursday that had used up all of my nerves (I passed by the way!) or maybe for once I was able to wrap my head around the idea of just finishing since it was my first 50.
Ian made a few quick announcements and at 6am the horn sounded and we were off.  We headed out through a field and up a fire road into the woods, a 3.1 mile ascent into the first aid station.  I made sure to be diligent about eating and every 30-40 minutes ate a VFuel peach cobbler gel. I topped off my bottle with water, grabbed a few more gels from Heather, and was off.  I had left Matt and Jen and was plugging away getting into a comfortable pace.

The next 3.8 miles was very runnable and I made good time of it.  I found myself constantly debating about whether moving too fast would hurt me later, but I kept moving regardless.  I decided that if I hit that rough dark point later I would just work to get out of it.  I went through the next aid station the same as the first and encountered the first creek crossing.  A lovely waist-deep chilly crossing, but since we would be going through this again and there was a fine mist in the air, it never really crossed my mind to worry about changing shoes and socks.
There were so many ups and downs by this point they all sort of ran together.  There was one quite brutal uphill switchback, which in reading some of the leaders' blogs they said was totally runnable, but for most of us it was a hike.  I did, however, learn I am a pretty good uphill hiker and I ended up passing a great number of runners that didn't catch up.  The mud was the toughest part.  As more and more runners were trudging back and forth over the trails, the mud became worse and it was like ice skating.  Every foot step was met with a slide.  The once small ankle-deep mug bog turned into a few miles of heavy mud.  Luckily, there was a road crossing where we could stomp out the mud before heading back into the trails.

Around mile 20, Sage and the other leaders made their way back along the course.  I actually got to say hello and see them all running, which was so cool.  It was just the push I needed to get me into the aid station at mile 25.  A quick coke and back to it for another fine loop.  I wish I had counted the number of steps we climbed up and down over the course of 50 miles, but I probably would have lost track anyway.  The water fall, the steps, the views...absolutely amazing.  It didn't how bad my quads were burning, you couldn't help but smile when you looked around at how beautiful this course really was.

Buttermilk Falls

I reminded myself to just keep smiling, which really wasn't all that difficult since I was really enjoying myself.  There was so much beautiful scenery to look at that the miles just seemed to fly on. It wasn't until I hit mile 36 that I hit a rough patch.  I started to feel a little twinge in my left hip that slowly made its way into my knee and I was soon walking very painfully and panicking about something going wrong with my ACL.  I tried to stretch it and found that galloping was the easiest way to move, so that's how I made my way into the next aid station at mile 38.1.  I talked to Heather, filled my bottle, and got some gel,s all while debating on what to do.  With 12 miles to go I decided (with a little pushing) to get going.  The next aid station was 5.7 miles away, so I would see how it felt there.  I made my way up the stairs and away from the aid station.  The uphill stretched out my knee and I figured it was IT band issues.  Suddenly, everything just seemed to click and I felt like I was running on someone else's legs.  I had a very fast section into the next aid station and came in with a huge smile on my face.
Always smiling!

After that it was just a few short miles to the second to last aid station and...I didn't see Heather.  I felt really bad, but decided to get going because I knew I was close to the 11 hour mark and really wanted to try to get in under it.  I got my legs moving and headed to the end, while crossing my fingers and hoping Heather would be there!  I headed through the woods, looking back once to see if anyone was behind me, and headed to the last descent.  I rounded the last corner and there were Tanya and Heather cheering away!  Someone had told them I went through the last aid station and they hurried to the finish.  I was so excited that I kicked with everything I had around the field and down the final stretch. 10:52 for the finish of my first 50.  I really enjoyed the distance and will definitely be doing a few more.
Under 11 for my first 50!

The stairs, the waterfalls, the mud, and the climbing all came together to make a tough race, but an awesome race.  I had the best time ever.  Thinking back, it never seemed like I was on my feet all day.  I am recovering well and would love to get out the door for a shake-out run soon.  It seems the only nagging pain is the flexor tendon on my left leg.  Hopefully nothing a little rest, ice, and ibuprofen can't fix! I can't wait to get back out on the trails.

Best Hug Ever.

So happy to have finished!!


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