I told myself for weeks before the race that I would save something for the second lap. It didn’t work…
This year the Cayuga Trails 50 was once again the USATF 50 mile National Championship race. Held in the beautiful gorges of Ithaca, NY, this is one of my favorite races of my young ultrarunning career. It features two laps of a course with steep climbs, technical trails, stunning waterfalls, and stairs. Lots of stairs.
I have mixed feelings on races that feature multiple laps. Logistically it is a great format, with less trail to mark, great aid station access, and plenty of chances to see your crew. Mentally, however, it can be really hard to know and dread what you have to contend with all over again on each lap. This is the mental state I found myself in as I headed out of the start/finish area for the second lap of the CT50 this year.
I randomly came down with a sinus infection a week after my last race at Bear Mountain on May 2nd, and although I was never seriously ill, I missed a few long runs in the lead-up to CT50. This left me a little unsure of how my body would respond to the distance, but determined to make the best of the day. I was 13th place in 8 hours, 11 minutes in 2014 and my goal for this year was to be top-ten and improve on my time as much as possible.
On my shakeout run on Saturday it was muggy and around 80°F. It felt like I was breathing soup! Mercifully, race morning came with drizzly rain and temps in the 60’s. Perfect racing weather. Ian sent us off with his trademark ram’s horn and the race was on. I went out with the lead pack but I could tell after a few miles that I had started too hard, so I backed off, telling myself that there was a lot more racing to come. I was running right around 13th place and focused on covering ground as efficiently as possible. My wife Alli, parents, and in-laws all came to the race to crew and support me, and it was great to see them at every aid station! It is definitely more hectic and stressful for crews to run around finding aid stations and keeping us fueled and motivated than it is for the runners. A great crew is a huge asset and I am eternally grateful for their loving support!
Despite my best efforts to stay patient and conservative I came back into the start/finish area of Robert H. Treman State Park feeling pretty gassed. To be honest, I was dreading the prospect of another lap of punishment. I got a fresh bottle and some encouragement from Alli, drank some soda and trudged back out for that second lap. I don’t know if it was the caffeine and sugar kick from the soda, the cheers from the spectators, or the note Alli had taped to my bottle (a combination of all three I’m sure), but I started to feel much better both mentally and physically. I gained a few spots as the race started to take its toll on guys who had gone out a little too hard or were having nutrition issues. I kept rolling along, making sure to monitor my eating and drinking, and everything went smoothly until about the 40 mile mark. Then the wheels started to come off the wagon.
I was expecting this; my lack of volume over the last few weeks was showing, but again, I focused on moving forward as efficiently as possible. I got to the Underpass AS in ninth place, determined to gut it out to the end. Unfortunately I was passed by one runner and try as I might, I just couldn’t reel him back in. My mind was willing, but as I told my legs to go faster they just couldn’t do it, they were tapped out. I got through the final gorge section and down to the finish area to be greeted by teammates and family, worn out but satisfied with my effort. I finished in 10th place overall in a time of 7:51, 3 spots better and 20 minutes faster than last year!
I would not say that I had a particularly good race, I never really felt that I found a groove, but this experience showed me that a patient and deliberate approach can pay dividends. No matter how bad you are feeling if you stick it out, take care of your nutrition, and keep from feeling sorry for yourself out there things will turn around, you WILL make it to that finish line. Much like life, stay focused on your goals and stay positive!
I would like to thank Ian Golden and Red Newt Racing for another great race weekend, the Mountain Peak Fitness family for the support, Run On Hudson Valley for my gear, and my family for all their love.
Gear & supplies used:
Ultimate Direction Handy 20 Bottle
Hammer Perpetuem- Orange Vanilla
Hammer Gel- Apple Cinnamon
Altra Superior 2.0
Injinji Run 2.0 Lightweight Socks
Patagonia Strider Pro 5” Shorts
Patagonia Air Flow Singlet
Garmin Forerunner 910XT