As I sit here typing I am just sitting down for dinner at 11pm, exactly one week after Cayuga Trails 50. I just got home from a workout on Virgil Mountain (Former home of the Virgil Crest Ultras R.I.P.) under a blood red full moon. There is a large mixing mixing bowl in front of me filled with cheese Tortellini, Chicken, Quinoa, Avocado, Green Onion, and some Almonds I roasted the other day. I’m hoping my dinner gets cold, because that would mean I’m actually getting this race report done, something that I have been dreading for well, about a week now. The Virgil Crest Ultras were where I have accomplished some of my biggest running goals, so I thought a trip out there would get my mind moving again and give me the spark I need to get words up on the screen for you to read. Prepare to enter my world as of late- This is maybe not so much a race report, as much as it is a glimpse through a keyhole into my head.
You have to embrace the darkness to get to the light. There have been a lot of big changes in my life since my last race report, which was for Grindstone 100. I pretty much had a walk through Hell at Grindstone, as my marriage was coming to an end amongst other things. Trudging through pouring rain mostly alone for 30 hours or so gives a person way too much time to think. After I realized my race goal was absurdly out of reach my mind brought me deep into the pain cave, and I decided to embrace it with open arms. Grindstone was where everything came to a head. Exhausted in the pitch black and driving rain I broke myself down as far as I could go. I brought everything I had buried within myself to the surface and confronted it head on. Somehow I knew that completely tearing myself apart was the only way I would be able to rebuild to be the person I am now.
So why am I writing this at 11pm on a Saturday night? Because I’m a single dad and the day after Cayuga I started my “week on” with my Daughters Kinsley and Hailey. On top of being a single dad I decided to take a new job that is a 45 minute commute from where I now live. Both my girls are running and playing soccer, so I am pretty much a taxi driver during my weeks on, generally driving just over 100 miles a day. Once I got all my errands done, Girls On The Run drop off and pick up, more chores and a soccer game in the girls and I got home at 8pm. I got them dinner and then it was off to Virgil for my workout. These days I function on 5 hours of sleep if I’m lucky, but I can honestly say I haven’t been this happy in years. Kinsley and Hailey keep me on my toes, and when I have them I am always “on”. I used to hate waking up early, but now I am up at 4:30-5am everyday, even on weeks when I don’t have the girls. I’m writing this at 11pm because I’m switched on, and I’m confronting my fear of writing race reports.
I’m really fortunate to be a member of the Mountain Peak Fitness / Red Newt Racing team. Did I say team? What I meant to say was family. One of the heads of my running family is my coach, Elizabeth Azze. This is my third year having Elizabeth as my coach, and she really has me dialed in right now. She was there for me as a friend during my separation, while at the same time coaching me toward what I want to achieve as an athlete. Thanks for bearing with me Elizabeth!
The Thom B 52k Trail run was my lead up race for Cayuga. The main goal was to go out at about 80% and stay consistent on the 13k loop course, as well as get my nutrition dialed in. My friend Mike Welden was racing and is super fast, so I figured I would see if I could hang with him for a while. At the start line he shook his head saying he wasn’t coming with me, which basically told me to run scared, because he could come from out of nowhere and smoke me at any moment of weakness. The race starts with a big climb up a seasonal road and then makes a hairpin left onto singletrack, where you can see runners on the climb as you head back down through the woods. I didn’t see anyone headed up the climb as I doubled back, and it would remain that way the rest of the race.
The weather was rainy and maybe 54 degrees, and I couldn’t get warm. I really focussed on running just out of my comfort zone, working the climbs and really hammering the descents- something I have really been working on getting better at. I went through the 1st loop in about an hour, and didn’t stop at my drop bag for aid. Loop two was about the same, just over an hour and I stopped briefly to switch out my bottles and grab some oranges. For quite a while I was using Tailwind, but for some reason my body wont tolerate it anymore. I switched to Skratch Labs in training and this would be my 1st race using it. Loop three was more of the same, just rolling consistently and trying to stay warm. I stopped very briefly after loop three to grab some more fruit and was told I had a big lead on Mike. I didn’t really believe what I was told, and was feeling good so I really went after the last big road climb. When I got to the top I just started rolling on the undulating single track and pounding the downhills, working on my turnover. The final ½ mile or more of the loop is all downhill and I went after it hard and felt great all the way. As it turned out I ran a 27 minute PR for the course, and was 8 minutes off Cole Crosby’s 2014 course record. More than anything else I was really psyched that my nutrition was spot on and that I felt that good during the race regardless of the result.
My recovery from Thom B went really well. My right calf was a little locked up but a quick visit to Gerrit Van Loon at Natural Health Family Chiropractic and a daily routine on the trusty trigger point roller fixed me up PDQ. Regular foam rolling and stretching, along with A.R.T. and massage have proven to be an invaluable part of my training and I can’t recommend it enough.
Other than having a lot of nervous excitement I felt great going into Cayuga. The weather was going to be perfect, and the girls were with their mother the week going into the race, so I didn’t have a ton of running around to do. The night before the race Elizabeth and I took over Ian & Sherry Golden’s house for the MPF/RNR potluck dinner and good fun was had by all. After the potluck I hit the foam roller and stretched and was ready for rest, as my 4am alarm was going to come quick.
I woke up race day feeling fantastic. I had a quick bite to eat, an amazing cup of coffee and was on my way to the start. Elizabeth was going to be crewing for me which gave me an extra layer of security. I also got a Bonus crew member, Gavin Nephew (teammate Ben Nephew’s oldest son). At check in there were so many people to talk to I forgot all about the nervousness, and in no time the ram’s horn sounded and we were off. I stayed back from the lead pack, aiming to run the 1st 25 miles in just under 4 hours. My main goals were to run under 8 hours (which would be a 45min. PR), hopefully finish top 30 overall and top 5 for masters.
I ran the first section to the Grist Mill aid station really conservative until I got to the Finger Lakes Trail. This section of the FLT is one of my favorite sections of trail around, almost all downhill flowing singletrack. I picked up the pace and had a ton of fun all the way to the underpass, running fast and relaxed. I stopped at the underpass quickly and filled my bottles and got some food. The top guys were already skipping aid stations, which boded well for me, as this course tends to prey on those who don’t take care of themselves. The next arguably toughest part of the course is the lick brook climb and then descent into Buttermilk state park.
I hiked hard and ate some food on my way up the climb, but being careful not to over do it. The running from the top of Lick Brook to the bottom of Buttermilk was pretty uneventful, as I was just cruising along in the zone. When I got to the Trailsroc aid station at buttermilk I grabbed a fistful of bacon and two bottles and off I went. It was shortly after that when I spotted Yassine Diboun on the climb up Buttermilk falls. When I caught him we started reminiscing about training together when he lived in Ithaca. At this point there may be some video footage, as Joe Azze was close behind us until we reached the Bear Trail. Yassine wasn’t feeling too good and we parted ways, but I had a feeling I would see him later in the race. It was at some point from the Lick brook descent to the halfway point that I too started to not feel very good. As it turned out I was over hydrated, which has never happened to me before! Elizabeth cut my water rations in half and when I got to the halfway point I took a 12 minute bathroom break (ugh). I think my time for the first half was around 3:46:00, a bit faster than I thought I would be.
The second half was very similar to the first, without all the bloating. I reeled in all the people who passed me during my extended pitstop but told myself there would be no “racing” until the Lick Brook Descent. At the bottom of Buttermilk Elizabeth gave me a stinger waffle followed directly w/ a honey stinger gel, which was pretty much Heaven! She also showed me her Garmin which read 7:42. “What’s that?” I said. Elizabeth replied “That’s Ben”. I knew Ben must have been having a bit of a tough day, but it still lit a fire under me because I knew he was 1st Masters, and that left me in 2nd.
As I had no idea how close the next masters guys were I tried to pick up the pace. The rest of the race went by pretty quick and my memory is foggy, as I was running scared. I got to the Gristmill aid station and ditched my pack for a single bottle. The last few miles were quick and quiet. I really just embraced the beauty and sounds of the gorge and took in the last bit of what was an awesome day. I crossed the line in 8:26:52, an 18:26 PR. I also nabbed 2nd masters, and 11th place overall (8th for the USATF championships). Click here for full race results.
Better than the results though was how I felt. I moved really well most of the day and only had one low patch. My recovery is also going much better than previous races, which is good as Many on the Genny 40 miler (www.manyonthegenny.com) is just two weeks away. Many thanks to all the volunteers for helping Ian Golden and Red Newt Racing make this event happen! Happy trails…..