The Cayuga Trails 50 was yesterday and it was an amazing experience! On race day, I got up at 3am and had a Picky Bar, a ProBar and a banana. Next, I made the hour and fifteen minute drive down to Ithaca. I got there right around 5am, picked up my race packet and checked in.
At the start of the race, it was about 50 degrees and skies were clear. This race was USATF 50 Mile Trail Championships so there were speedy people everywhere. I highlighted many of them in my men’s and women’s previews. I grabbed a spot in the second or third row near the starting line – just within range of Matt Flaherty’s moustache – and we were off with the ram’s horn!
The pace felt pretty modest early on and the lead groups didn’t thin out much until we hit some of the stone stairs. I was running near Cole Crosby, Ben Nephew and Yassine Diboun. The three of them pulled ahead of me just before the halfway mark. I hit it in 3:30, which is exactly where I wanted to be!
Unfortunately, as I said in the video, I took a few falls during the race – four of them were in the first 25 miles. Matthew Hammersmith (14th overall), who I ran with for quite a bit, witnessed two of them, and he said I was lucky they didn’t take me out of the race. I couldn’t agree more!
Right at 32 miles, I felt a sharp pain in my left knee. I had to stop for a minute and try and work it out. No such luck. I stopped again a minute later to try again. I also had a brief “discussion” with my knee – we can do this the easy way, or we can do this the hard way… but we are doing this.
The deepest creek crossing was just after that and the cold water definitely helped. I was in 13th place at that point (31.9 miles).
The next 10.2 miles was the toughest part for me – I was in uncharted territory, as I’d never run longer than 31 miles before. Those 10.2 miles included the Buttermilk Falls section, which climbs at a 10% grade for a mile and a half straight. It’s relentless and I was feeling it! Not only that, it was getting hot out.
At 37.4 miles, I saw Alister Gardner, who had just dropped. Michael Owen, who was leading the race at the halfway mark also dropped there. Jordan McDougal had dropped earlier at 25 miles. It was nearly 30 degrees warmer than the start and it was taking a toll on everyone.
As I came back across the deepest creek crossing I was in 16th place. In all honesty, I felt like I was barely moving, yet I wasn’t getting passed. We were all riding the pain train together. With that being said, Magdalena Boulet was behind me and I knew she was coming. A couple of miles later, I spotted her behind me. I was just trying to stay on two feet and she looked like the T-1000 coming after me. I had a nice climb up the final set of stairs (they go up 400 feet in the blink of an eye – steep!) and actually put a little distance on her, but my legs were completely shot for the descents. She went by me right at 47 miles with some nice words of encouragement. I actually felt okay once the course flattened out a little and I finished in 8:27 – good for 17th place overall.
I may have gone out a little quick – it’s tough to say. It seems like everyone really struggled the second half – the challenging course and the warm temps could not be escaped. To put it in perspective, Chris Vargo’s second loop was 35 minutes slower than his first loop and Magdalena Boulet’s second loop was 48 minutes slower than her first loop – and they were the overall winners!
Here are the top 5 men and women:
Chris Vargo 6:57
Tristan Williams 7:02
Matt Flaherty 7:15
Yassine Diboun 7:19
Ben Nephew 7:29
Magdalena Boulet 8:22
Krissy Moehl 8:51
Jacqueline Palmer 8:57
Karen Holland 9:04
Amy Rusiecki 9:12
Full results are available here.
As I pointed out earlier, there were a lot of DNFs. As best I can tell, the finish rate was about 75%.
I will have a separate post later on about my nutrition during the race – I feel like I managed my food/hydration really well – hopefully, I can provide some insights for you!
This was a really cool experience and I had a lot of fun. I’m not sure what’s next for me – I’m going to take a little time off and see how everything is feeling.
I do want to give a shout-out to Ian Golden, the race director, who put on a brilliant race. I also want to thank the aid station volunteers who were extremely helpful! If you’re looking for a challenge, this is the race for you – maybe I’ll see you there next year 🙂
(I will be adding pictures later – or including a second post – but I’m experiencing techinical difficulties at the moment)