|Pre-race sunrise. Looks to be a beautiful day!|
|"And we're off!" Photo: Ultra Race Photos|
|Cruising in the early miles. Photo: Ultra Race Photos|
five mile section on the side. I guess I had suppressed the painful memories from the years prior - memories of struggling up the steep ascents, running down 15% grade on dry creek beds composed of loose, sharp rocks, the heat of the late morning, and the 4000+ feet of total climbing and descent. As I ran the first mile, on the most runnable section of the course none-the-less, I already felt like I was struggling and would be in for a long day. I immediately began to doubt the prospect of finishing in sub 6:00.
|Photo: Ultra Race Photos|
Before long though, the course started to get pretty gnarly as it merged with the Long Path. A lot of steep ascents with some mini rock scrambles while traversing a ridge made for a long stretch between aid stations. I think it was somewhere around mile 15 where I inexplicably sat down on a trail side bolder simply because I didn't feel like climbing up the steep ascent that was now staring me in the face. I began to have doubts about whether or not I'd finish this thing.
"Save your legs for Cayuga Trails, the race you've been training for since January."
"Forget it. If I can't handle 31 miles here, there's no chance at ever finishing Cayuga."
"You're only halfway. The second half will be way more hellish than even this."
Several runners passed my listless corpse here on that boulder and a few kind souls checked that I was okay. I gave them the good old ultra-grunt as an automated reply. I'm not sure how long I sat like this - in reality probably only a few minutes - but it seemed like an eternity. At some point I glanced down at my watch, studying the numbers as if the distance display would magically read 30.9 miles. It did not, but the pace display of "0'00/mi" hit me like a bolt of lightning. Where does this little Finnish piece of electronics get off with taunts like that? "All you gotta do is avoid sitting on your lazy ass all morning and another ultra is in the books." I vividly remember that shocking revelation - "As long as that Suunto pace reads something other than 0'00/mi, you're guaranteed to finish this thing." And with that new-found wisdom, I started up the rocky hill.
|"Gnarly, Dude!" Photo: Ultra Race Photos|
|Photo: Ultra Race Photos|
|Next up - Cayuga Trails! Photo: Ultra Race Photos|
The post-race runner amenities were plentiful. Runners were treated to a post race massage, a delicious hot meal, and free beer from Sierra Nevada. We also had access to an ice bath tent, a foam roller tent, free print screens on our race t-shirts, and a boatload of samples of Cliff products to take home (which I eat regularly even when they aren't free.) The North Face event organizers went all out to accommodate runners before, during, and after the race. For such a large scale event, it was very well organized and thought out. (I'd say the same for the previous two times I ran at the event.) Surprisingly, the entry fee is on par, if not cheaper, than many smaller scale trail running events of this distance. Although the course at Bear Mountain is very difficult across all the distances, the cutoff times are fairly generous. The races consist of the 50 miler, 50K, marathon, and marathon relay on Saturday, and a half marathon, 5K, and 10K on Sunday. I'd definitely recommend North Face New York for first time ultra or trail runners.
|Enjoying a beer by the lake.|
At last, it was time to hit the road for a four hour drive home. Feeling pleased with the day's work, my thoughts as I pulled out of the parking lot were simply "Bring on Cayuga Trails!"