Sunday, June 24, 2018

Crescent Trail Self-Supported FKT

So this is what I do on my day off now, when Hayley's at work. The idea was to do a long run someplace I'd never been that I could complete and be home by dinner time. The Crescent Trail in Perinton, NY, just south of Rochester, looked cool so I drove up there for the day. Monday, May 21, called for beautiful weather and I had nothing else planned for the day. I was also feeling well rested two weeks removed from the North Face ECSNY 50 at Bear Mountain, and wanted to get this run in before leaving for vacation in the Outer Banks.

The trail as listed as one of several Fastest Known Times (FKT) on Eric and Sheila Eagan's Trail Methods FKT Regional Zone. Following the site's rules and attempting the FKT was more of an afterthought. The time to beat was 6:51:20, and it seemed reasonable to better that time without running the route at race effort. There are a few different FKT categories listed on the website. I decided on the two-way, self-supported run, meaning I'd run a 35-mile out-and-back route without relying on any outside help. I carried all my own food, water, and gear, aside from a hidden water jug
where I could fill up twice during the run. The afternoon was expected to be too warm to only carry 40-60 oz of water — otherwise I would have gone unsupported.

I relied mostly on the #TrailsRoc app's GPS map to navigate, but the entire trail was pretty well marked — just follow orange blazes the whole way. I chose to run the route starting at the west end at Bushnell Basin, running east to the turnaround at Northside School and back. The southwest half of the trail is lightly technical, rolling singletrack. The northeast half is pretty flat, with field trails, some singletrack, and some wider, easier terrain. Parts of the trail run through suburban backyards, which I found a bit strange. The eastern terminus, according to the app, is at the road in front of the school, although I didn't see any sign marking it as such. I hid my gallon of water in the bushes by the trail where I'd have access at miles 11.5 and 25.

I started my watch at 8:02 a.m. and began running, but it turned into a false start. The first half mile navigates around and gas station and fire station, and it wasn't clear to me where the trail officially goes. I wasted too much time looking for it, so I decided to job back to the beginning and restart, adding an extra mile to an already long day. I restarted the watch at 8:13 for the actual attempt.

Bushnell Basin, just before setting off.
The run out to the turnaround was pretty smooth sailing, aside from missing a turn going up Turk Hill Road - the GPS signal was lagging and the turn wasn't marked. I thought I was south of the turn when in fact I'd passed in, and realized this when the GPS "caught up." Fortunately it added less than 0.5 miles and wasted no more than 5 minutes. Aside from that, I had no major navigational problems. The trail was mostly dry and mud-free, and was very runnable. I reached the halfway point at Northside in 3:11:47, giving me 4 hours and 40 minutes to get back to the car.

It was a god thing I had a huge buffer for the return section. I bonked hard with seven miles left and started feeling too dizzy to stand upright, let alone run. This was probably the scariest thing I've experienced during a run, and I seriously started wondering if my day would end in an ER bed. After taking a break, then walking slowly, the gel and S-Caps kicked in and suddenly I could run again. For the next hour I was exhausted and pretty miserable. The residual fatigue I attribute to the Bear Mountain run left me drained on most of the short but steep hills. The pace slowed big time, and I didn't come out of the rut until I realized I had 20 minutes to finish the last 1.5 miles if I still wanted the FKT. After all the work getting to that point, I'd hate to be so close and miss out. All the sudden something clicked as I shifted into high gear and it was smooth sailing back to Bushnell Basin and the car. I clocked a 6:45:28 on my Suunto, only beating the previous FKT by less than 6 minutes. (Results on the Trail Methods FKT Regional Zone.)

I doubt my FKT will stand for very long. I know at least half a dozen Rochester area runners who could beat it in any half serious attempt, and many more who could crush my time if they focused on it. Still, it's cool to be (at least marginally) involved a sort of FKT craze is sweeping the ultrarunning world. Nationally and internationally, tons of new and notable routes are cropping up and times are constantly being lowered on well known, existing routes. For more on FKTs and to geek out on some really impressive runs, check out Buzz Burrell and Peter Bakwin's FKT website.

Thanks to Eric and Sheila for putting together the FKT Zone. I think it's a pretty cool idea to bring more attention to the trails and add a new level of regional competition. If I ever get the time, maybe I'll look at starting something similar in the Ithaca area. I also appreciate the #TrailsRoc-ers and other crews who marked and maintained the trail, and whoever's responsible for the club's iPhone app. 

Scenic overlook near Horizon Hill.
Crossing the Erie Canal.
The Crescent Trail, just after the turnaround. 
Post-run, before rinsing off in the canal and then heading to Moe's.

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