Friday, May 22, 2020

#RocOurShops Virtual Covid 19-Miler

This is next in a series of mini race reports for various virtual runs and races I'm doing while the COVID-19 pandemic has shut everything down.

Eric Eagan of #TrailsRoc set up this virtual run to benefit three Rochester-area running specialty stores. The concept, thought up by #TrailsRoc member Scott Parr, was simple and all-inclusive: register for $20 to run, walk, or hike one of three distances over three days, then submit your self-recorded time via a Google form. All proceeds were split evenly between Rochester Running Company, Medved Runing and Walking Outfitters, and Fleet Feet Rochester. A few names were drawn randomly to win shoes or other prizes from the stores. 

Why sign up to help Rochester retailers when I live in Ithaca? Well, the Rochester trail running community has become like a second trail home to me over the past few years. I’ve met loads of great people at their events, and many #TrailsRoc-ers frequent Ithaca's trail races. 

The ROC community benefits greatly from these retail shops the same way Ithaca benefits from its own. On a more personal level, ever year Rochester Running Company sponsors the Final Countdown aid station at mile 35 of Many On the Genny. I've run this race twice, and after a loooonnng stretch in the woods it's always a godsend to see the trailside sign reading "You are 0.25 miles from Rochester Running Company." The volunteers at this stop always know how to get us runners going to finish strong over the final five miles. 

Another race I've run twice is the Mendon Trail Runs, which is sponsored by Medved. The hosts packet pickup and provides gift cards for overall and age-group winners. I'm thankful that Medved has played a part in keeping the Mendon race going since 1999. Additionally, Fleet Feet Rochester frequently fields a team for Cayuga Trails. 

In the era of grossly oversized online retailers and big box department stores, it's the small brick and mortar shops that have any meaningful connection with their customer base. Try having someone from Amazon fit you for running shoes or explain the difference between four different types of gels. Try getting your county's Wal-Mart to sponsor and staff a remote aid station at your grassroots-style ultramarathon. (Spoiler alert.) It's not gonna happen. We as individuals will ride the storm out and make it through the pandemic. Ensuring that these types of businesses make it through along with us is of the utmost importance. The best way to make it happen is to starting on the solution now.

I'll have a new post coming soon about my experience organizing and running a similar event to benefit Ithaca's Finger Lakes Running Company. 


This was my second virtual run in two days (after running an hour yesterday for iRunFar's Operation Inspiration.) I enjoy feeling some sense of community by connecting with other runners during the bizarre dog days of COVID, while using physical activity to maintain at least a shred of sanity.

The distance options were 19 miles, 19k, and 1.9 miles. I signed up for 19 miles and chose to run it continuously, rather than split it among two or three days. I ran around all of the most scenic Cornell trails and didn't encounter too many other people. It was a beautiful day to run around in the woods for a worthy cause.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Thom B Virtual Runs

This is next in a series of mini race reports for various virtual runs and races I'm doing while the COVID-19 pandemic has shut everything down.

Joel Cisne, race director for the Finger Lakes Runners Club's Thom B Trail Runs, decided to go virtual fat-ass style with his race after the club's board voted to cancel it. (With a race date of May 16, it likely would have been cancelled by the NYS DEC anyway.) Joel flagged the course and gave people a three-week window in which to run the 13k, 26k, or marathon and report back with their finish times.

I was hoping to run one or two 13k loops at this year's race, having only ever raced the marathon and the now-defunct 52k at the event. On the evening of May 1 I went up to Hammond Hill State Forest to take advantage of the marked route and hammer out a fast 13k loop.

Things started out okay on the initial climb and ensuing flat trails. It was a few miles before the recent rain muddied up the trails

Friday, May 8, 2020

I Run With Maud

Today I ran 2.23 miles in the cold rain around my neighborhood on an upset stomach. It was windy. I was tired. It wasn’t that much fun. But it’s much more comfortable than being an unarmed, innocent black man who is stalked and then murdered by armed, white vigilantes.

It's been eight years since the tragic death of Trayvon Martin and very little has changed.

It shouldn’t be a privilege to be able to run in any public neighborhood I want without fear of violence. It should be a basic right held by everyone in America. Sadly this is not the case.

I cannot imagine what it would be like to set out on a routine run only to realize I'm being followed. Followed by grown men whose skin color is different than mine. In a neighborhood where nearly all residents' skin color is different than mine.

I cannot imagine what it would be like to face these men in confrontation. Outnumbered, both of them pointing loaded firearms in my direction. Scared for my life.

I cannot imagine what it would be like to wrestle for control of a shotgun and feel at close range the muzzle's hot blast as a lead slug enters my body.

I cannot imagine what it would be like to collapse on the sidewalk while a second bullet makes its mark, taking my last breath in a mass of agony, confusion, horror.

All of this because I left my house on a routine run like I've done hundreds of times before.

Because I was born white I will never have a run end this way. I will always reasonably expect to arrive home safely, load my run to Strava, and continue with my life. Ahmaud Arbery was not so lucky as to be born with white skin.

No one should have to fear this happening to them. No one should lose their loved one in this manner.


Monday, April 27, 2020

Winter Beast 2020

"Yeah, we know you can run 100 miles. You can run it through the hills of the highest mountains and through the heat of the sun in the desert valleys, but can you run it in the heart of winter? Through inches or feet of snow? Are you ready to unleash the beast inside of you and run 100 miles on the frigid, historic Erie Canal Towpath? Ladies and Gentlemen, throw away your razors for the New Year. This winter, you're going to need all the insulation you can muster!"
Thus reads the tagline on the Beast of Burden Ultramarathon's web site. After running the 50-mile option in reasonably good weather in 2016 and 2018, I was skeptical about the organizer's claims. Were winters on the canal ever remotely comparable to harsh, endless winters in the Finger Lakes or Southern Tier? Did snowstorms take the weekends off in those sleepy northern New York canal towns?

After clear trails and unseasonably warm weather for 2018 Winter Beast, I had it in my head that the 2020 race day weather and course conditions would be more of the same. I based my three months of training on this by running mostly on roads, rail trails, and bike paths, all free of snow and slush. I managed my first 100-mile training week and still felt pretty good after logging that last mile. I thought a sub-18-hour day was reasonable if the canal path was dry and the temperature kept above 20° F.

"If it wasn't for bad luck I wouldn't have no luck at all." - Albert King, "Born Under a Bad Sign"

Race week rolled around and as luck would have it, Lockport, and most of Upstate New York for that matter, got hit with three days of snow mid-week.  This left the canal path from Lockport to Middleport covered in 8-10 inches and no chance of an 18-hour

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Virtual Skunk Cabbage Half

I'm a weekend late so I don’t know if I’m DQ’ed or banned for life or what, but I ran a version of the Finger Lakes Runners Club's Virtual Skunk Cabbage Half Marathon this afternoon. I was signed up to run the half for the eight time until the COVID-19 pandemic caused it to be cancelled. The club decided to go virtual for those who didn't want a refund. I decided to try something different than the traditional Skunk course and run the distance on the flat but lumpy Stewart Park woodchip path near my house. My plan was to run loops at half marathon effort until my watch read 13.1.

Why this particular loop? For one, it’s a convenient three-minute walk from my house and usually not very crowded despite the location and ease of access. Second, because I wanted to get a taste of the hamster wheel courses that runners elsewhere around the world are confined to during the pandemic. I don’t have access to a treadmill or a track and wouldn’t go so far as to run 15-foot loops around my living room, so the woodchips it was. Picture an isosceles triangle with sides measuring 3-5-5; that’s the loop, complete with its three acute angles. Most importantly, the woods around the path are teeming with symplocarpus foetidus (commonly known as the titular skunk cabbage plants). Sadly, they were not in full bloom today despite permeating the

Friday, November 22, 2019

Trail Running Resurrected at the Mendon 50k

...and we're back!

Just like my distance running, this blog is rising from the dead after a months-long hiatus. In short, it had been a frustrating five months with an ability to perform to my expectations. During that span I accumulated several average to mediocre race results and often felt awful on any runs longer than 60-90 minutes. I'm not an uber competitive guy and don't dwell much on race times, but I still expected to run a higher volume at a faster average pace and feel good about it. The drop in performance left me with little motivation to run, read about running, or write about running. All the fall ultras I'd had my eye on—the Watergap 50k, Tussey mOUnTaiNBACK, Can Lakes 50-mile road race, and yes, even the Midstate Massive Ultra Trail 100—were no goes. Pushing myself that hard would have been a terrible idea, so I decided to leave all these races for another year.

A week and a half before the Mendon Trail Runs, I had an appointment with sports medicine physician Andy Getzin.  All of my blood tests—white blood cell count, inflammation markers, iron and B12 levels—came back normal. Dr. Getzin more or less told me to listen to my body and ease back into things.

A few days later I tested my endurance by running 37k (23 miles) on my 37th birthday (consuming only water and Gu Birthday Cake gels for posterity). The pace was slow and my legs were tired near the end, but overall it went okay so I signed up for the

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The Pine Creek Gorge West Rim Trail

I first learned about the Pine Creek Gorge West Rim Trail from Phil Maynard last year after he hiked it with his son over two days. He described it as smooth and fairly fast, unlike most of the technical, rock-strewn singletrack that winds its way through the Pennsylvania Wilds. Phil ran a south to north  FKT on the West Rim earlier this year, which re-piqued my interested in making this adventure run happen.

I'd only been down to the PA Wilds area once, when I ran the Eastern States 100 in 2017. That race covers only a few miles of the West Rim Trail, near the trail's southern end. My friend Amelia and I decided to head down on a weekday to run the trail end-to-end, an impromptu 50k. We drove to Pine Creek Oufitters, an outdoor gear and rental store in Wellsboro near the West Rim's north end. The store offers shuttle rides to the opposite end of the trail (or other drop off points on this and other trails). For us it was $40 for the 30-minute ride. They let us park the car at the north terminus parking lot on Colton Road instead of having us leave the car at the store. This way we didn't have to run an extra mile on asphalt at the end to get back to the store. Other possible transportation arrangements include parking a car at each end, or for the more adventurous and multi-sport inclined,

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Things I'd Do For a Pint Glass: The MMT 100

On paper the Massanutten Mountain Trail 100 didn't look all that intimidating. The 18,500 feet of elevation gain, while significant, isn't all that monstrous over the 100-mile distance. The race website, however, fails to reiterate just how many large rocks have been tossed across the trails in the George Washington National Forest.

By all accounts, Massanutten is a somewhat easier course than the Eastern States 100—less technical with a several K feet fewer in elevation change, and without the switchback-less, scree-laden, 1,000-foot climbs. Training had been going well. In fact, it was the best training block I've ever had for a 100-miler, as detailed on a previous post

The MMT course is essentially a 100-kilometer loop around the ridge surrounding the George Washington National Forest, followed by a marathon-distance loop to the south, then a few miles down a road to bring it all back home. The course makes frequent drops down the ridge to aid stations at road crossings; this is where most of the elevation change comes in. There are a few sections with two to five miles of dirt road at a time, but otherwise it's all singletrack. 2019 marked the 25th straight year of the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club's marquee event.

MMT welcome sign. 


I arrived to the starting line at Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp already in a handicapped state.

The afternoon before the race, I attended Hayley's grandmother's funeral, then drove seven hours straight down to northern Virginia to arrive around 9:00 p.m. I missed the expo, pre-race briefing, etc., but was able to get my bib and mug shot that night. The drop-bag drop-off deadline had already passed, but I'd made special arrangements with the Race Director and his drop-bag coordinator to leave my three bags in a bin behind the drop-bag transportation truck. (RD Kevin Sayers was very accommodating when I explained my predicament in an email a week earlier. More on this later.)

Pre-race mug shot. PC: Raj Bhanot
I then made my way to a stuffy bunk bed cabin shared with a dozen other runners. The lights were already out and I fumbled my way onto a top bunk, trying not to wake anyone although I doubt there was much slumbering anyway. Snoring, lack of fresh air,

Thursday, May 9, 2019

A Few More Loops at the Thom B, 'Cuz Why Not?

The Finger Lakes runner's Club's Thom B Trail Runs is local, low-key race around Hammond Hill State Forest. The marathon comprises three singletrack loops, plus a mini loop at the end to even out the distance. The event also has one-loop 13k and two-loop 26k options. The small field size and 20-minute drive from my house made the marathon ideal for a final long effort even though I was a week into my three-week taper for the MMT 100. I'd run this race twice before, in 2014 and 2017 when the longest distance was a four-loop 52k instead of the marathon, and I've run the main loop dozens of times in training.

The Thom B is small enough that I thought I had a shot at winning—or at least winning the men's race. That is, until Ian Golden showed up at the start as a last-minute entry. Ian's been running well as of late, and in March he took the win at the inaugural Castle to River 50k against a pretty solid field. I also didn't expect to keep up with Ellie Pell, though I knew she's in training mode for the Buffalo Marathon later in May. I'd been running pretty well myself this year at the smaller, local trail races, and have learned enjoy and feed off of a competitive mindset, even if a race only has a few dozen starters. I also hoped to score some big points in an attempt to win the FLRC 2019 Stonehead series.

From the gun, Ian quickly took off up the rocky dirt road and vanished in the fog as he turned onto the trail. I expected to never see him again. I wanted to run the race at about 90% effort, and even at 110% I knew I'd have no business trying to hang with

Friday, May 3, 2019

Massanutten Mileage

Here we are at the start of May. The area's flora is quickly brightening and well on its way to full bloom. Trail surfaces are drying up and daylight hours are increasing. In other words, it's a great time of the year to come out of hibernation and step off the roads onto the trails.

The following are scattered thoughts on what has been my strongest training block to date.


At the time of this writing, we're only 15 days out from the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100, which happens to be my focus race for the first half of 2019. This past weekend (April 27-28) I completed a huge training block for MMT and am now in the midst of a three-week taper. I think this has been the best training block I've ever had, for any race or distance, and am feeling very confident about breaking 24 hours at Massanutten.

Starting the third week of December, I began the training block with a series of two or three tempo interval workouts per week for five weeks. I followed that up with a string of several 70- to 80-mile weeks, mostly on roads and occasionally on a treadmill. I largely avoided snowy, icy trails so that I could increase my cardiovascular fitness with tempo intervals and steady paced, medium length runs. The treacherous footing on trails would make the pace so slow that I wouldn't be able to benefit from

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Palmers Pond FatAss 50k

As part of my buildup toward the Massanutten 100, I signed up for the Palmers Pond FatAss 50k out in Almond, New York. Colin Bailey and Michael Valone decided to resurrect this gem, continuing with the no-fee, no-frills, no whining mentality of a true fatass trail run. (Just google "fat ass" if you don't know the term.) In fact, 2019 was only the second year of the event, following the inaugural 2016 run and a two-year hiatus. Registration was free on UltraSignup, but due to permitting, there were a limited number of spots and it "sold out" quickly back in January. The only fee of any sort was to bring something to share at the course's sole aid station.

The course comprises two different loops that are each run three times. The West Loop measured about 5.1 miles on my watch and was somewhat more forgiving terrain, while the East Loop measured 5.4 miles and had more mud, more hills, and a half-mile bushwhack section. The race HQ slash aid station sat roadside in the middle of the forest, where we'd pass through following each loop and have access to our gear in our cars, if needed.

The DEC trails around Palmer's Pond State Forest are all ATV- and snowmobile- friendly—in other words, wide, smooth, and not all that steep. This is a stark contrast to all the singletrack DEC trails I'm used to running around the Ithaca area.

The real challenge here was the mud. The trails would make for some fast 50k times when dry, but early April's heavy rains turned the race into a 32-mile mud run. What I thought was a likely PR was instead one of the toughest and slowest 50k races

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Trail Methods Last Runner Standing

With the ever increasing interest in Big's Backyard Ultra, there's been an uptick in events with the last runner standing (LRS) format. The general idea is that runners repeatedly complete a loop in a specified amount of time. The field is narrowed down as runners are eliminated when they miss cutoffs or refuse to continue for another loop. Eventually, the last runner who doesn't time out or quit is declared the winner.

Every October Big's Backyard Ultra in rural Tennessee takes the LRS format to the extreme. In 2018 alone, overall winner Johan Steene totaled 283 miles and took nearly three days to do so, narrowly outlasting perhaps the world's top female ultrarunner, Courtney Dauwalter. Until a few years ago, this race, along with the format, was widely unknown. The indefinite time limit, the lore of race director Lazarus Lake, and the resiliency of the race's top competitors have lead to more and more media coverage, and hence a surge in interest. Big's now has a series of qualifying races globally that mimic its format, with the winner from each granted an automatic entry into Big's.

There are a number of smaller, less extreme races that follow the LRS format, one of which is Trail Methods Last Runner Standing. Eric and Sheila Eagan, experienced RDs who also direct Many on the Genny and several other races, are the race directors for TMLRS. 2019 was the third edition of the race.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Frozen Branch 50k

The Frozen Branch 50k & 25k is put on by Scott McGee and Jeff Darling, architects of the increasingly popular Twisted Branch 100k. Frozen Branch runs from miles 42 to 58 on the TB 100k course, stopping in Urbana at the location of Twisted's final aid station. Frozen Branch 25k-ers finish here, with loads of hot greasy food at their disposal, while 50k-ers have the pleasure of slogging it another 16 miles back to the start at the Evangeline Shelter in Urbana State Forest.

This race is about as old school as an ultra can get these days. The event was capped at 40 entrants between both distances, with 12 finishers in the 50k and 18 in the 25k. (It's an increase from the two and seven finishers, respectively, in the inaugural 2018 race.) The entry fee was low, there were no fancy prizes, sponsors, or swag, and there were no course markings aside from the permanent orange and white blazes along the Finger Lakes Trail. Upon check-in, each runner was randomly given a playing card from a standard deck in lieu of a bib. At the 25k turn-around, we'd be given another card to match the one we started with in order to prove we completed the whole course. Runners lined up and the lucky SOB in front of me received the Ace of Spades, while I had to settle for the jack of the same suit.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Snowshoe Racing Debutante

Wintertime in Upstate New York can be conducive to a number of outdoor activities. Cross-country and downhill skiing are abound, along with winter hiking. With the volume of snow dumped across the region this winter, one thing that became difficult is trail running. With that in mind, I signed up to race in snowshoes for the first time.

The Finger Lakes Runners Club holds a snowshoe race on Hammond Hill annually, always the day before the Super Bowl. The Super Frosty Loomis Snowshoe Race 10k course is essentially the FLRC's Thom B course run in reverse, minus a 1.5-ish mile section of red-blazed singletrack on the forest's southeast side. The event has a 5k race concurrently with the 10k. At 1,700 to 2,100 feet elevation, Hammond Hill always has more snow than the surrounding valley at this time of year.

I was originally hoping to run Goose AR's Cast-a-Shadow 6-Hour race on this day instead, thinking there might be little enough snow west of Rochester that it would become a trail race sans snowshoes. (As it was when I ran Cast-a-Shadow in 2017.) But nope—it was full-on snowshoe season this year at CAS and I was unable to find a pair to rent or borrow on short notice. I instead

Friday, December 21, 2018

Running By Woods on a Snowy Morning

Halfway through the second of three loops, I'd been wallowing in self pity for quite some time as I made my way up the biggest hill on the course. Michael Valone and a few others sporting #TrailsRoc orange gazed down the slope as I meticulously inched my way forward and seriously considered calling it a day and hiking it back in with this crowd. Michael yelled something about looking strong I muttered back something about feeling awful.

It wasn't until I crested the ridge and exchanged high fives with Michael that it struck me what a selfish, grade A a-hole I was in that moment. Here I was, spending a couple hours exhausted and cold and sore, but doing something I genuinely love to do on almost any given day. And for the last hour and a half I was blind to it, practically begging for an ounce of sympathy while trying to maintain traction up that snowy singletrack. It wasn't until Michael and I high-fived that I was bitten with his always-present, infectious energy. Only then I remembered how lucky I was to even have the chance to be out there sauntering through the woods.


Of the four 100-milers I've run the Wawayanda Wonderful Wonhundred was by far the easiest. On paper. In reality, I had to work harder for this belt buckle than for any of the previous three. I wasn't able to find much info on this low-key race aside from the event website, so I'll describe the course and the race in more detail than I normally would for anyone who's interested in running it in the future.

Now in it's third year, the Wawayanda Wonderful Wonhundred is put on by NJ Trail Series annually in mid-October. NJTS is an event production company owned by husband and wife Rick and Jennifer McNaulty. They organize trail and ultra races year round, the best known of which is Three Days at the Fair. The WW100 uses the singletrack and logging roads in Wawayanda State Park in Hewitt, New Jersey, with the race HQ located at a boat launch area on the edge of Wawayanda Lake.

The WW100 course is a looped format in which runners complete three separate loops — marked blue, orange, and purple — totaling 25 miles, then repeat three more times for a total of 100. 50-mile and 50k races are held concurrently on the same loops. This year, parts of the course were altered due to flooding on the trails; as a result each loop was shortened slightly and we had to run more of them. We started off with a truncated 1.8-mile loop run twice, then began the

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Racing the Rain

After tearing through John Parker Jr.'s Quenton Cassidy trilogy at breakneck speed, I found it impossible to hold back from an afternoon run. I'd been pretty much sedentary since running 100 miles two weekends ago, but but Parker's narrative of the competitive miler (and eventually marathoner) and his lifestyle are enough to make anyone want to immediately lace up and begin clicking off the miles en route to greatness. The original novel Once a Runner and it's sequel and prequel all have elements that many of us can relate to on some level — the innocence of youth and the hope of great things yet to come, and then longing to relive those youthful days later in life.

Halloween afternoon. Overcast but mid-60s, this is possibly the warmest day Ithaca will see for many months. I arrive home from work, quickly swapping scrubs for shorts and a singlet. It is all I can do to avoid suicidally attempting to rip off a series of 60-second 400s on the IHS track, pretty much guaranteeing a complete rupture of my still-achy tibialis anterior tendon. I restrain

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Monster Marathon 2018

I just can't get enough of the Finger Lakes Runners Club's Monster Marathon. The timing usually works out that the race can serve as a long, supported training run on close-to-home trails. There's also a bit of nostalgia factor; the accompanying half marathon (run on the old course in Kennedy State Forest) was one of my first trail races back in 2011.

The marathon course is a double out-and-back that snakes its way around Treman State Park in a slippery S-pattern. (Half marathoners run a single out-and-back of the same route.) Runners receive handicap starts based on age and gender. This means people who are older and/or female had a head start over the final starting wave. At age 35, I'm still considered a young buck and was rewarded with an 8:00 a.m. start time in the final wave of runners. Standings are based on the order in which runners cross the finish line, rather than their time spent running. Essentially, it meant I was starting off tied for last place overall

Thursday, August 30, 2018

No. Sleep. Till Hammondsport! — Twisted Branch 2018

I. Naples

Now in its fourth year, the Twisted Branch 100k Trail Race is one of the more challenging ultras in New York and the northeast. The point-to-point course follows the Finger Lakes Trail's Bristol Branch from Naples down to Mitchellsville, then heads east along the main FLT before finishing at Champlin Beach in Hammondsport. The singletrack trails are somewhat remote and technical, serving up a healthy dose of rolling hills and steep climbs as the course twists its way through various state, county, and privately owned lands. The race also packs a punch with 11,000 feet of elevation gain and a 1,500-foot net loss.

I'd been hoping to run this race for the past few years, but other commitments meant I had to put it on hold. The point-to-point format on terrain similar to the FLT in the Ithaca area really appealed to my tastes. I finally committed to it early in the year when I signed up for all three races in the inaugural Empire State Triad Series. This series is comprised of Many on the Genny (40 miles) and the Cayuga Trails 50, with Twisted Branch as the 100k+ grand finale, measuring long at nearly 65 miles. The buildup in distance throughout the summer seemed like a logical thing to do. My main focus was a good performance at Twisted Branch since it's the only race in the Triad I hadn't previously run.

The pre-race logistics were different than anything I'd been through before. Because of the 4 a.m. start, the shuttle buses from the finish line to the start run the night before the race. That meant arriving at the finish line in Hammondsport on Friday

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Time I Ran 40 Miles For a Garbage Plate

Author: P. Allan Kresock
Date: 20 August, C.E. 2018
Topic: The time I ran 40 miles for a garbage plate
Category: Non-fiction
File under: Race reports

I've resided in Upstate New York my entire life — 35 years, 7 months and 28 days, to be exact — before finally experiencing  Rochester's signature dish affectionately known as a garbage plate. I like to run a lot and I like to eat a lot. This is my story.

I ran along the top of the canyon, taking in the view of the Gennessee River several hundred feet below and winding through the damp singletrack. I let the lead pack of four go on ahead and settled into my own rhythm, alone. I briefly considered trying to hang with the leaders' easy pace, but it felt just a little too fast for the opening miles. That pack included women's defending champion Ellie Pell, eventual men's winner Phil Nesbitt, and two guys I didn't recognize. Only 38 miles to the garbage plate remained.