Friday, September 1, 2017

Eastern States 100: The Call Of The Pennsylvania Wilds

[This is Part II of my Eastern States experience. Part I is about the injury and recovery leading up to it and can is found here.

There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive. This ecstasy, this forgetfulness of living, comes to the artists, caught up and out of himself in a sheet of flame; it comes to the soldier, war-mad on a stricken field and refusing quarter. - Jack London, Call of the Wild. 

It was way back in January that I heeded the call of The Wilds and pulled the trigger on Eastern States 100. I could hear those mountains howling my name, taunting me, daring me to commit to this monster of a trail race with 20,000 feet of gain and loss over the steep and rocky trails, historically horrendous weather, and a three-year average finishing rate of something like 33 percent. Upon reading the course description for the umpteenth time, I defiantly left-clicked the mouse, not without an air of bravado, bringing a sense of finality to the question "Am I really stupid enough to pay for an entire weekend of mid-August masochism?" I imagine Jack London was rolling in his grave at that very moment, as his protagonists fared worse than this daily just to survive. Two days later, Eastern States 100 was sold out.

Eastern States has no official affiliation with the Western States 100 other than serving as one of the latter's qualifying races. The top man and top woman each receive an engraved, fully functional wood axe as a prize. 2017 was the fourth year of the race, and interest in the event has been growing annually. I think it's the single-loop format and the overall rugged nature of the course that have made it a hit with ultrarunners. The 103-mile loop traverses the rough and rocky terrain of the PA Wilds—a conglomerate of state-managed parks, forests, and game lands in

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

From Zero To A Hundred In One Month

"Let's see three hops on the left foot, then three on the right." I complied by lifting my right foot off the ground, hopping six inches straight up and down with the left, and then repeating two more times.

"Okay, same thing on the other side." I lifted my left off the ground and hopped in the same manner off my right foot. The pain was so severe and so deep it felt like that single jump would cause a huge impaction fracture down the length of my femur.

Dr. Getzin then had me lay supine on the exam table and performed a fulcrum test. This involved using his forearm as a point of resistance as I attempted to extend my hip and press my femur down toward the floor. The pain was significant, but not as bad as the hop test. After an x-ray ruled out anything obvious in the bone, and an ultrasound ruled out any soft tissue pathology, there was only one explanation left—a mid-shaft femoral stress fracture. I had been training for and looking forward to running the Eastern States 100 since January, and now, only one month before race day, I was faced with the reality that I'd have to forgo the race and take a DNS—Did Not Start.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Rim to Rim at the Inaugural Many On The Genny

I’m not sure when exactly it was that #TrailsRoc cofounder Eric Eagan said "Hey, why isn’t there a race that circumnavigates Letchworth, like a rim-to-rim race around the Grand Canyon of the East?" When I first caught wind of the race last fall, I was beyond psyched. After a rambling adventure run around the park two years ago, I had a vague notion to organize a fat-ass run that circles the gorge and covers all of the most scenic park trails. The fat-ass idea never made it any further than thinking "Yeah, it would be cool to see the whole park in one day."

Many On The Genny is a point-to-point trail race that starts at the Mt Morris Dam Visitor Center on the northwest side of Letchworth. The course follows several different trails and a little of the park road southwest down to Lower Falls, crossing the Genesee on the only footbridge within the park. The aid station just before the bridge marks the halfway point of the course. After crossing the bridge, runners take some side trails and a dirt road to reach the Finger Lakes Trail Letchworth Branch, then follow the FLT northeast to the Visitor Center opposite the gorge from where they started. The start and finish are about a quarter-mile apart as the crow flies, separated by the Genesee River and a 500-foot-deep canyon. The quickest way to travel from the start to the finish is to

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Bringing It All Back Home: Cayuga Trails Take 4


PC: Steve Gallow
I could hear the siren song of the Treman gorges calling me back. On a 50-mile course that’s thrice chewed me up and spit me out, it was inevitable I’d return to and face the known peril of Cayuga Trails. Lucifer’s Steps were calling, and the tune was nearly palpable. And hence my quest once again for a 10-hour finish. This was my fourth straight year running the Cayuga Trails 50, and the fourth time it's served as the USATF 50-Mile Trail Championship. In 2015 I narrowly missed going under 10 hours after a rough second loop. Last year, my training was there but some early nutritional mistakes put me in a hole and I finished way off my potential. Based on my training over the first half of this year, it was all but given. I fully expected to run somewhere around 9:15. That is, until I learned of some late course changes a few days before the race. Ian mixed things up a bit compared to previous years, leading to two significant changes in the route. A flat, half-mile of grass and park road adjacent to the start/turnaround was replaced with some hilly singletrack through an old growth forest a few miles in. Double that over two loops, and it meant two miles of rolling hills

Monday, May 29, 2017

Thom B 52k Trail Run 2017

With Cayuga Trails 50 just over the horizon, I signed myself up for the Thom B Trail Runs 52k. The small, local race is a four-looper around Hammond Hill State Forest. It would serve as a supported long run three weeks out from CT50, giving me a chance to test out gear and fueling in a race situation. One week prior to the Thom B, I committed to throwing caution to the wind and actually racing the 52k rather than running it leisurely. Hayley and I were leaving the next day for a week's vacation in the Pacific Northwest. I figured I wouldn't be running much during the R&R and would have plenty of time to recover from a harder 31-mile effort.

With that in mind, I find myself at the starting line on a drizzly Saturday morning, staring up a rutted-out, mud-soaked dirt road with the goal of running under 5:00.

T-minus two minutes to liftoff, and all of the sudden RD Joel,comes roaring up Hammond Hill Road in a rented box truck. He hops out the cab way too cheerfully for someone who's getting soaked in the rain at 6:58 a.m. and has already been setting up aid stations for the past hour. Joel—alter ego Mr. Hector, har har—hollers some pre-race announcements about how all us mild-mannered trail runners become fools the second we pin on a race bib, and reminds us not to do anything foolish like getting lost in the forest. Our main job is to ensure that the Search and Rescue team stays bored all morning.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Not Quite Dawn to Dusk at The Seneca7

The Seneca7 is like a scaled-down version of the Ragnar. Teams of seven race on the roads and circle Seneca Lake in a counter-clockwise direction, mostly sticking to New York State Routes 14 and 414, for 77.7 miles. Each team member completes three legs, passing the baton﹘or in this case, an early-1990s snap bracelet﹘to the next runner at the conclusion of each leg. The other six members who aren't running at any given time have a chance to rest while they travel from one exchange to next next in their team vehicle. (Unless of course, the team registered in the bike division. Then they cycle between exchanges and don't really get to rest at all!) The road route starts and ends in Geneva, NY, and runs through the heart of the Finger Lakes wine country while providing panoramic views of the lake and it's opposite shoreline. Several of the exchanges are even at some of the better known wineries.

When Hayley first proposed the idea of getting a relay team together for the Seneca7, I was immediately intrigued. I'd never been on a relay team before, and I'd heard a lot of good things about the event. We were easily able to recruit four other local friends﹘Ruth, Norah, Juan, and Nate. Juan's father-in-law, Jack, took the final spot. Jack is a veteran runner who'd previously convinced Juan into to take up running by registering for a ten-mile mountain run somewhere in the northern

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

It's Alright Ma, I'm Only Bleeding: Scenes From the Breakneck Point 42k

Midway through the marathon, I looked down at the watch on my left arm and watched the seconds tick by. 3:04:59, 3:05:00, 3:05:01... "No BQ today. Ratz."

In fact, I was barely past the half marathon distance.

Then I took another good look at my right arm﹘the one I'd torn up into a bloody mess two hours and nine miles ago. "This ain't Boston. This is Beast Coast."

I'd been in a good groove on the first major decent around mile four, where the course drops 1,000 feet in just over a mile. One moment I'm enjoying the cool, crisp air as my legs can finally rest from the first big climb and the rocky, rolling slopes. The next moment I'm picking dirt from an open wound on my palm while the road rash (trail rash?) on my forearm tastes like burning. I guess it goes to show that at a race like Breakneck, you can't lose focus for even a split second.

***

Held in mid-April, the Breakneck Point Trail Runs 42k and 21k serves as the Upstate New York trail and ultra running de facto season opener. It's the first major trail race of the year to have a regionally competitive field and a large turnout