Monday, June 30, 2014

CAYUGA TRAILS 50 Mile Championships - Ithaca, NY - June 1, 2014

Ahhh, you hurt so bad.....Warning: There is a gratuitous amount of pictures in this blog post!

One of the many waterfalls at Robert Treman State Park.

I race a lot. Especially this year. Not all are goal races for me but, Cayuga, this was a goal race.  How could it not be? It was challenging with lots of elevation and I really wanted to keep my streak of placing in the top ten of my 4th and last USATF event for the year.  If there was anything I learned from my horrible performances of past, like Gorges Waterfall, it was that races like Cayuga were not my forte. I learned this back in November when on a whim i drove to Georgia to run a 50K with 10,000 feet of elevation gain. Yeah that took me almost 9 hours!

Cayuga training crew.

So with guidance from my coach, Michele, I worked on running trails and hills, including down hills. I even skipped a marathon to go up to Ithaca the month before the race and ran the whole course over two days.  This turned out to not only be a smart training move but really freaking fun!
I swear we really did actually run during these training runs.
Evy, Nobu, Ralph and I all met up on a Friday evening at Robert Treman State Park, the site of the start/finish of Cayuga.  Ralph had run last year and I was impressed to find he actually remembered the course.  We even chatted with the Park Director who helped us look over the map the morning before heading out.
We also did a lot of this during our training runs.
 We also discovered the old course was not passable in sections due to flooding and harsh winter conditions and that reroutes would be necessary.  Well those reroutes added at least another 1,000 feet of gain.  I'm not sure what the final number is because everyone's GPS says something different and those things aren't accurate but let's go with 11,0000. Anyway I am getting ahead of myself.
Lots of climbing in this course.
I could honestly write a whole blog on just our training weekend. It was that fun.  The four of us had such different personalities and approaches to training yet our love of trail running made it all work.  The first night there, we set up in the dark and it started to rain so we sat in the big tent and talked about mostly running.. oh and seltzer!  We talked a lot about seltzer, mainly because Ralph works for Polar Seltzer and he brought a trunk load of it with him. Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love seltzer! God, I wish Polar seltzer was my sponsor.
Training hard or hardly training.

Dating profile or raccoon warning sign?
In the morning we woke up (thank god for another day) and after planning our route headed out to the trails starting in the field where the race actually starts.  We ran some portions that we thought would be added on due to the rerouting and climbed a lot of hills. We back tracked a lot and stopped to take pictures often. We figured we would get all the picture taking done now and just worry about finishing on race day.
Why Ralph and Nobu didn't want to participate in our skip through the flower field, I''ll never know.
After our first morning trail run, Ralph and Evy go back to the tents to chill.  They are the laid back ones.  Nobu is down to join me for the brutal hill repeats I have on my schedule. Nobu takes his training very seriously.  
See i told you we were training hard.

So here is my moment of Zen and basically the whole point of this section on the training weekend.  We go back to meet Evy and Ralph at the camp site. It's sunny and hot but quite pleasant. Evy goes to nap in the big tent and so does Nobu. I think Ralph lies down right on the picnic table. Now I am just not a napper but this looks like a damn good idea so i pull the rain fly off my little tent and climb inside so i can see the sky.  I'm laying there super relaxed and feel this overwhelming calm come over me. I shut my eyes and I am completely comfortable just laying on my back which is not a sleeping position for me ever. And then this weird yet serene thought came over me. If I was to die right then and there, I would die completely happy. I did not want to die but if i just slipped away i would be OK with that. But i was alive and living my life just the way I wanted and I made sure to be grateful for that at that moment and I made a mental note to think of this moment from time to time. So yay for life because the weekend of camping and running continued. And it was awesome..... 
Repping our Fishtown Beer Runner shirts and pointing.
Now on to the actual race... By the time we arrived back to Ithaca first weekend of June the leaves of green had bloomed.  This was definitely a Come and  Take It reunion. The last time the most of us were together was Rocky Raccoon in February.
Come and Take It Crew. Left to right: Prince Nobu, KenTom, The Legend, Maggatron, E-Rod, Thunder and Kino.
So finally, getting to the start of the race i was feeling like a much improved trail runner.  Not the same runner who lined up at the start of Gorges Waterfall in the dark in Oregon over 2 months ago. Two weeks prior I had set a major PR in the 50 mile on trails and although the trails were in no comparison to Cayuga, I was feeling confident.  That feeling quickly dissipated after about 3 miles, when I realized my legs just didn't need to warm up a little but that they were actually pretty dead.  I contemplated quitting at the first aid station. I kid you not!  A DNF after 3 miles was better than suffering for 31 and DNFing then, right? Ug no, just keep going. Just one more aid station.  I dragged myself on, going aid station to aid station.
Lucifer's Staircase
  This course is an out and back which I like because you get to see everyone and it keeps your mind occupied for just a little bit. I got to see all the elites and my faster friends, as well as the slower ones. It was uplifting temporarily but the truth is my legs felt like shit.  I was also keeping my eye out for my friend Mike Daigeaun. I was really looking forward to seeing how he was doing. He was one of the favorites expected to do well. I never saw him on the course and later learned he had to drop at mile 6.5 due to a groin muscle pull. Bummer.  But we live to race again and I can't wait to see what he will do next.  
Buttermilk Falls
So on i go continuing to lift one dead leg after the other.  This early in the race shouldn't be this painful and yet it was. Not even 15 miles yet.  Usually 15 miles is where my low starts. I was struggling with the idea of dropping after the first 50k loop.  How can I finish like this? As I approached the end of the first loop, I thought maybe I could call someone like my friend Annukka and ask her what I should do but I knew her answer would be "suck it up and get back out there, Biotch!"  So i didn't bother calling her and got the hell out of the start finish and on to my second loop before I had more time to think about it.  I decided to embrace the pain and make this an extreme suffer fest. (As if it wasn't already) I decided I would push the pace as much as possible. I left the Start just under 5 hours to begin my 2nd loop. I figured I could do the next loop in under 7 hours and possibly finish under 12.  Not too bad considering my 15:26 finish at Gorges Waterfall.
I love water crossings!
Ralph, that's not a Polar Seltzer in your hand!
Nobu, Ken and Evy were all running their first 50 milers. I saw Nobu multiple times leap frogging with Ralph. Both said they felt like crap when I saw them.  I think most people were in pain. This was a tough course. I saw Ken Tom a few times but eventually learned he dropped at 28. Although I have no doubt he has the fortitude to finish he is a slower runner and wasn't going to make the cut offs.
Ken Tom! This man will drop everything and come crew for his friends. He will run 100 one day and he will have the best and largest crew ever.
  Kino was also doing badly. His legs were also thrashed from multiple tough races leading up to Cayuga and a possible injury creeping up.  Evy was feeling great when i finally saw her again at her mile 30. Her and Kino and Violet eventually combined forces to finish together racing the cut off til the end.

Nobu finished his first 50 miler in an amazing time of 9:45  but not without a spill in the first 4 miles.
I was pleased to find that sometime into the second lap, I finally started to be in a better place mentally. The pain did not subside but at this point i had been dealing with it for almost 7 hours and I just fell into the zone.  A few times I ran into Dave James who seemed to have lost interest in racing and went on a quest for beer. He finally found it and was all smiles as we passed each other running through the long field section. Later, I would learn that the sleeping body I passed  on a picnic table on my way through the last aid station was Dave James. 
Dave James victorious in his quest.
During the first lap, the realization of my physical state came as a severe blow. I had trained really hard on hills and stairs with more intensity than in any of my past training. I will continued to do the plans and workouts Michele gives to me. I didn't hire a coach to not do what she says. Cough cough ahem *kino* ;)
 I really believe that although my legs were trashed, my training was the only thing that got me through this challenge.  A 50 miler effort with a good result just two weeks prior was definitely my downfall in this race.  It is since this race that I have kind of lost site of my desire to run lots of races. I realize that if I am going to train this hard and this intensely just to perform poorly at every other race than, what is the point?
Just like in Stand By Me except we were not on a quest for a dead body. 
Finally, I realized that it was going to be possible to finish in the 10 hour range! And let me tell you, when you are mentally preparing to be out there for a long time and realize you  are going to be done sooner than you think, it is a great feeling. That's why i usually try to prepare myself for the worse case scenario which doesn't always work...Ahem (Viaduct 2013).  I finished in 10:25 and to my surprise actually placed 8th USATF female.  
A few of the top ten USATF women.

The Legend and I with our USATF medals.
After the race, as my friends finished one by one, we all hung out watching the other finishers. I got to chat with Krissy Moehl for a bit (2nd place) which was awesome. Like Pam Smith, Krissy is just a down to earth trail runner who happens to be super human. I also met Magdalena Boulet (1st place), a past Olympic marathoner, who is about to take the ultra scene by storm.  I also chatted briefly with Matt Flaherty and let me tell you his mustache is as grand in person as in pictures.  I met a local and talented ultra runner Iain Ridgeway who lives in Collingswood, NJ. Cassie Scallon was also there in her boot with her screws in her ankle(which apparently she injured dancing) but had came out anyway to support her friends and enjoy the atmosphere.
Magdalena Boulet and Krissy Moehl with lil ol Maggatron.
  The best part of all, although it was nerve wracking, was waiting for Kino, Violet and Evy to finish. Time was ticking down.  As I said earlier, they finished just before the cutoff of 15 hours as the sun began to set. It was an epic finish.
Just after Evy, Kino and Violet's epic finish in time to spare.

Later that night, we hung out at the cabin. Most of us decided to stay and hang rather than drive back and get home at 2am.  I met another couple Jackie Palmer (3rd place) and Jeff Merrit who were also somewhat local to the Philly area.  I have since run a few trail runs with them and we are planning a July 4th camping trip to run more trails. I love this sport as I have said time and again. Its hard to describe the bonds you form in such a short time. We are brought together through one common bond and it really is kind of like a big family. 
Hanging out at the cabin with old friends and new ones.
All in all I am really happy with this race. Although it didn't go as planned, I feel I tapped into something deeper than I had ever tapped before.  When you think you have dug deep and can't dig anymore, try anyway.  You may surprise yourself. This experience has been invaluable to me and I am a stronger runner for it.  I plan to use this new found level of focus when I really need it July 26th at the Viaduct 100.  I have run one marathon since Cayuga and will write a brief blog on that but from then til Viaduct I have no races. I will continue to train hard and hope to break 20 hours that weekend. There, I said it.  Now its real. 
I'll end with this.  The same weekend as Cayuga, Comrades was happening and I read Ellie Greenwood's account of her win. It was not easy and her legs were dead.  But the title was Never Give Up. I repeated that mantra in my head over and over during the course of the race so I thought it was fitting.  You can never, never give up in an ultra.  You never know what can happen.

Evy never gave up and finished her first ever 50 miler and she wasn't DFL! One guy finished after her, Violet and Kino. Congrats, E-Rod!


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