Tuesday, January 11, 2022

FLRC 100K Ultra Challenge Redux

I'd originally hoped to give the 100K Ultra Challenge a second attempt on December 21st, the Winter Solstice. My first run was on the Summer Solstice, June 21st, exactly six months earlier. I figured running in minimum daylight would close out the FLRC Challenge with a degree of symmetry. Neither date has any special meaning to me. Both happened to meet my own criteria of possible days for an Ultra Challenge attempt—two consecutive days when I'm off from work and my kids are in daycare. Ultimately I chickened out on December 21st when I saw how cold it would be with the likelihood of light snow. It also meant I'd be done running for the year so I'd essentially be throwing in the towel in the Most Miles contest. I decided to put the run off until the 30th. I also considered a midnight start on December 31st so I could end the Ultra Challenge with the Waterfront 5k group run in the evening, but I didn't trust myself to stay awake while driving all night between courses. 

So what's the FLRC 100K Ultra Challenge? The rules and details are all on the race Web site. Basically, it involves completed ten specific virtual race courses in under 24 hours, with a cumulative distance of 65.3 miles. Run a course. Drive to the next. Repeat x 9. You can start whatever day and time you want and choose what order to run them. The courses vary in distance from 1 mile to a half marathon and include 4 singletrack trail courses and 6 on asphalt or rail trails. The Ultra Challenge is part of the FLRC Challenge, a larger, year-long virtual series organized by the Finger Lakes Runners Club. 

The weather actually looked pretty good for December 30th. Word around town was that the trail courses were super sloppy and slushy, but passable. I decided to knock them out first, in the daylight and on fresh legs, knowing if I could finish Frolic and Thom B without injury I'd finish the whole thing well under 24 hours. I would've preferred to start at sunup or a little before, but I had to get my kids up and out the door to daycare, dropping them off in Dryden on the way to start the Challenge in Virgil. At least this time I didn't have to take a 2-hour break like I did on my first Ultra Challenge. I made it out to Kennedy State Forest and punched the clock at 9:12 a.m. 

My food and gear setup was the same as last time—all my stuff organized in my Prius' trunk like a mobile aid station. This was critical since I was on my own for most of the run—no crew, and no pacer lined up until the last few courses after dark. I packed a ton of clothes since I had to layer properly for the cold and be ready for 15% chance of rain, plus wet feet on all the trail courses. Thankfully I didn't need to guzzle water and sports drinks like I did on my first Ultra Challenge when it topped 90° and infinity percent humidity.

1. Forest Frolic 

It made the most logical sense to start here after dropping off my kids. It cut down on the driving time and got the toughest course out of the way first. I ran a double loop of this earlier in the week when the opening road section was an ice rink. Thankfully it was mostly thawed by now, so most of the course involved running through slush and standing water. Yeah, I was never so happy to plow through so much slush. I took the front loop clockwise so I could run downhill under the powerlines. All the slop made for my slowest time on this course, but I enjoyed the solitude and crisp morning air while making a conscious effort to start off easy. 9 miles, 1:58:33

2. Thom B

Hammond Hill is along the way from Virgil to Ithaca, so running this one second is a no-brainer. Hammond's DEC trails were a lot less slushy than Kennedy's, and even clear in some spots, but it was still wet and slow going. I passed Dean Russo near the end and somehow he'd caught wind of my ultra effort. Otherwise the trails were empty and I enjoyed another two hours of solitude. 8.5 miles, 1:46:53

3. Waterfront Trail

Knocking this quick course off next simplified the overall logistics. Stewart Park closes at dark. Although I'm not past running through the park after sundown, I was nervous about parking in the park after dark and risking a run-in with a cop. Ultra Challenger Damian Clemons reported that this happened on his run when he ran this course in the middle of the night. To me it wasn't worth the risk, and I didn't want to park at the Ithaca Youth Bureau and walk 300 meters to the Challenge sign, run the route, and then walk back.

I breezed right through this one. Running on a paved, even surface in dry socks and shoes was total bliss and a complete 180 from the first two courses. It was also a strange feeling passing so many other people after seeing almost no one on the forest trails. Not having to navigate an obstacle course of downed trees, a battered bridge, and poison ivy (like I did here on my first Ultra Challenge) was also quite pleasant. 3.1 miles, 29:17

4. Tortoise & Hare

By now I wasn't worried about getting rained on—the window with that 15% chance had passed hours ago. It was even warm enough to run in just a short-sleeve tee. After a quick stop at GreenStar for some additional provisions, I made my way through heavy traffic down to Buttermilk Falls State Park. I would have rather hit up Danby to finish the more technical course in the daylight, but Tortoise is another course that's closed at night and I didn't want to risk getting ticketed. 

This course was entirely dry so my feet didn't get wet at all. Someone positioned an 8-inch-diameter log at the upper park's water crossing so that you could walk right across if you trust your sense of balance. I passed Aaron and Amanda King who were each running the course twice to help lock up the team win for the Thundering 30s by ensuring that our team would have the most completions on the Tortoise & Hare. They knew what I was up to and and all the excitement kept me moving relatively fast through the second half of the course. 5.4 miles, 1:03:49.

5. Danby Down & Dirty

Without question Danby was the toughest of the ten today. I still felt pretty good after 26 cumulative miles and I didn't have my legs stiffening up after getting out of the car like I did the last time. I started this course at 4:12 p.m.—exactly 7 hours elapsed on the clock—but only made it 2 miles before I had to turn on my headlamp in the middle of the ravine swamp. I slogged through the swamp and power hiked the Pinnacles climb but it only got worse from there. All the fog at the higher elevation made it tricky, especially in the super muddy spots going up the big hill, and again on the way down. 

The Danby course is tough enough when the trails are dry and you can see where you're going. Add in loads of extra mud and 2-3 feet of visibility and you're in for a rough ride. I also have a yet-to-be-diagnosed eye problem in which my ability to see in low-light environments has been deteriorating over the past 2 years. No, it's not exactly ideal for ultrarunners. (This is one the main problems that made for a painful 33 hours at Virgil Crest.) Running became impossible and I had no choice but to walk the last 3-4 miles. Near the end of the loop I encountered an entire family—2 adults, 2 young kids, and a dog—hiking the Abbott Loop in full darkness with headlamps. Now that's the kind of thing I want to get my kids interested in at an early age! 6 miles, 1:29:05

6. South Hill Rec Way

As I left Danby to return to civilization, I went to town on the buffalo tofu sandwich I'd grabbed earlier at GreenStar and it was the best thing I'd eat all day. I also called Hayley and said goodnight to my kids over the speakerphone. I felt like new once it struck me that all 4 trail courses were behind me and the last 33 miles would be dry terrain and even footing. Not having to change shoes and socks again was another plus. 

When I got out of the car and onto the trail I found myself freezing cold, even with the appropriate clothing layers on. Nothing else to do but get moving and hope to warm up. By the time I hit the turnaround at Burns Road I was back to a comfortable body temperature. I still felt okay physically and mentally, but I really struggled to maintain a reasonable pace in the dark. I always felt like I was moving much faster than the pace indicated on my watch. This would end up being a trend through the end of the Challenge. 

I spent the second half of this course alternating between jogging and walking while texting with Amelia Kaufman to figure out when and where she would meet me for pacing duties. She ran over to the Rec Way from her house and we settled on meeting in front of Ian's house after I finished the course. 6.8 miles, 1:13:39

7. Black Diamond Trail

I considered saving this for last like I did the first time. I've run the BDT course in the dark many times and consider it one of the easiest Challenge courses, especially when you're fatigued and don't want to navigate turns or watch for traffic. Saving it for later meant extra driving time and running an extra mile back up the East Hill Rec Way, so I decided to just get the BDT over with. 

Having a pacer for the later miles was a whole new ballgame. Amelia kept me entertained so I forgot about how tired my legs were getting, and she convinced me not to walk much. I don't remember much else about this course—it was over before I knew it. 10 miles, 1:55:26

8. Pseudo Skunk Cabbage

Driving over to the Ellis Hollow Community Center brought on a new and unexpected three-word element to the Ultra Challenge. Fog. Like seriously, all of Upstate New York's fog condensed into the Town of Ithaca's east side. I had to creep along at 20 mph just to make it to the course without flattening any deer or driving into a ditch. 

Running in near-zero visibility was marginally easier. At least if I ran into a deer on foot I'd probably not end the day with a trip to the emergency room. There was hardly any traffic at all on the Pseudo Skunk course, which was nice since I wasn't anywhere close to running in a straight line. I avoided running close to the shoulder because I was afraid of falling sideways into a ditch, but had no trouble moving over when I saw oncoming headlights. The canter/camber of the asphalt surface, designed to shed water efficiently, caused me to swerve all over the road. I couldn't see far enough to know where the hills were. Instead, I had to feel them under my feet and was in for a surprise every time I felt a change in the gradient. If anyone was spying with infrared goggles all they'd see is a couple of drunks staggering down Ellis Hollow Road, and none of it had anything to do with fatigue. I also couldn't see any of the intersections where the course turns until I was right on top of them. Amelia's eyes are sharper than mine which helped me avoid missing any turns. Running this with a pacer was eerie enough—I honestly don't think I would have done it alone. And it wasn't just me. Amelia, who hadn't already run 40 miles today, agreed. It was like running a half marathon in a sensory deprivation chamber. The only thing missing was a UFO abduction. 13.1 miles, 2:42:01

Alien abduction somewhere on the Pseudo
Skunk backroads

9. Cornell Botanical Gardens

With Pseudo Skunk behind us, the only thing left was the two shortest and easiest courses. Each was a victory lap. CBG was a quick shuffle. It was still uber foggy but the arboretum was closed to traffic and at only 2.4 miles, I was done before I even had the chance to warm up. I tried to finish under 30 minutes but couldn't quite make it and didn't really care that much. For some reason I kept thinking of the time Amelia was pacing me in the dark at Eastern States and I saw a cat sitting on the side of the road and was sure I was hallucinating but it turned out to be real. 2.4 miles, 30:22

10. East Hill Rec Way

Seriously, how in the hell did Aaron King end his Ultra Challenge with a 7:01 mile on this course?! I was a physical wreck when I got here and felt like an Olympic medalist when I dropped my pace to under 10 minutes per mile in the final sprint. More fog. More shuffling. Then I saw the blazing outdoor light at the Cornell ecology building and knew the end was just ahead. I scanned the sign and high fived Amelia. Then we started the looooong walk back to the car. 1 mile, 11:06

Post Script

Since I wasn't signed up for any ultras I figured another go at the FLRC 100k Ultra Challenge would be a worthy effort and a good way to wrap up the Challenge at the end of the year. I initially thought the 65 miles would put the Most Miles contest out of reach, but Karen Ingall logged some big miles in the final week and we agreed amicably to end the contest in a tie. 

The Ultra Challenge was way more fun the second time around. I never bonked or felt terrible even though my run time was an hour slower. I enjoyed managing the extra logistics that aren't part of a conventional race—driving, deciding on the order of the courses, etc. I'm hoping the 2022 edition of the FLRC Challenge will include an ultra component so I can attempt something like this again. My final run time was 13:20:11 (cumulative time on course), and elapsed time (which includes driving and breaks between courses) was 17:00:06. If I'd know I was so close I would've run that last mile 7 seconds faster!

Thanks to Amelia for pacing and making sure I didn't become roadkill courtesy of a semitruck or get permanently lost in the endless fog. And thanks to FLRC Challenge race director Adam Engst for putting it all together and egging me on along the way.

Done after an Olympic-caliber 11-minute mile. 

Any burrito joints still open at 2 a.m.?

Friday, December 17, 2021

2021 Cayuga Trails 50

It's been more than six months since the 2021 Cayuga Trails ultramarathon and I'm finally getting around to writing something about the race. This recap will be to the best of my recollection, kind of like Proust triggering vivid memories with his madeleine and tea, but far less boring and long-winded.

The course was modified extensively in 2020 due to COVID-related permit restrictions. It retained a similar course for 2021, with the staging area at Robert Treman State Park but in a different spot than the original layout. The modified course still covered most of the same trails, but was made a little tougher by an off-trail section near lower Buttermilk Falls. The format was essential this: Start at Treman Park's Y Camp. Run a 10-mile loop around the park and back to Y Camp. Then run a 15-mile lollipop loop that leaves Treman, passes through the Lick Brook preserves, and loops around to lower Buttermilk Falls State Park and back to Y Camp. 50-milers do this circuit twice and 50k runners do one full circuit followed by a 10k mini loop. Those running the shorter Lucifer's Crossing race only do the 10k loop. An aid station is set up every 4-6 miles. 

I came into the race not feeling my best. Two weeks prior I ran 19 miles on the course with two fast friends—Rich Heffron and Adam Pacheck—who pushed the pace and left me hurting. I thought I'd be fine after a day or two, but I still felt sort of beat down a week later at the hot and humid Thom B Trail Runs. I ran the 17-mile option at this small local race just to get in the miles at a casual pace, but the humidity and residual fatigue left me hurting after this one too. In retrospect, both of these runs were a bad idea that left me with sore quads and calves. I should have run fewer miles, easier efforts, or both. 

Fast forward another week to Cayuga Trails race day. Gone were the scorching sun and 95% humidity from Thom B. Cayuga was chilly and rainy, with plenty of mud and slick spots along the entire course. I don't know that I'd ever run a race in late May wearing a rain jacket for warmth, so this was a first.

The Cayuga Trails 50-mile is no longer a USATF Championship race, but that didn't stop it from selling out. Ian Golden knows how to put on an A+ event, and that seems to be the selling point here; not the race's championship status or lack thereof. The 50-mile field was large enough that it was split into two wave starts in order to better accommodate social distancing. The first wave took off at 6:00 a.m., and my wave at 6:30. 

The first 10-mile section went well enough. I made it a point to start slow and treat this section as a warmup run. We all had to tread carefully on the stone stairways and granite sections along the park's Rim and Gorge Trails. By the end of this section the temperature had risen just enough to shed my rain jacket and toss it the car. 

Heading out to Buttermilk, the initial excitement of racing began to wear off and fatigue began creeping in. At the mile 15 Upper Buttermilk aid station, I took some time to eat chill out for a bit, knowing I'd be in a world of hurt after feeling it so early unless I was proactive about taking care of myself. The aid station was staffed by Sarah Dobler and the Binghamton Area Trail Runners, better known at the BATs. Sarah had Muse blasting on the sound system, and if there's a band that can get anyone psyched to tear up the trails, Matt Bellamy and company are it. I put in a request to cue up "Stockholm Syndrome" for my next time through. After the 5-mile loop through lower Buttermilk I reached Sarah and the BATs again, and sure enough, "Stockholm Syndrome" was pumping through the speaker. 

I don't remember much else about the race's first half. Only that the water crossing at lower Lick Brook—which is usually quite tame at this time of  year—was raging, and I struggled through the waste deep creek while Ron Heerkens snapped some photos. I went on to finish the first half in about 4h 47m and knew I wouldn't be breaking 10 hours. 

The second loop was the same as the first but the hills were so much steeper! At least the recent rain provided spectacular views of the gorges and all of their raging waterfalls. I'm always amazed how people travel from all over the country to experience Ithaca's beautiful scenery when it's all right here in my backyard. It's tough not to take it for granted when I can drive 10 minutes to a trailhead and see sites that most people will never have the opportunity to see. 

Most of the second half was a blur. I hiked the uphills and jogged through the rest, with a major low point on the shiggy off-trail section from about miles 42-44. When I reached the top of Lick Brook I knew it was mostly downhill to the finish line three miles away. I spotted another guy close behind and decided that not getting passed would be my motivation to finish strong. I ran every step of those three miles, occasionally glancing over my shoulder and seeing the guy in pursuit, and imagined we were racing for the win. I was hurting hard by the end, but managed to cross the 8 seconds ahead of the other runner. The 10h 34m finish time was around average for me at this race, although the course was a little longer than 50 miles and, per Ian, tougher than the old course. 

I never thought I'd run an Ithaca-area race on May 29th and be ever-so-happy to sit next to a fire by the finish line, but that's exactly what happened. Instead of jumping in the park's swimming hole to cool down and then sitting in the sun with friends and food, I layered up and struggled to keep warm until I could muster the energy to pack up and head home. Plenty of other runners and crews did the same, cheering for finishers while basking in the fire pit's warmth. 

This was my sixth finish at the race's 50-mile distance, second all-time to only Rob Seltzer, and my first time running it since 2018. The modified course beat me up more than the traditional route, but it was nice to have the changes to make the experience little different. Kudos to Ian, the BATs, Eric and Sheila Eagan and the entire #TrailsRoc volunteer team, and all the rest who were out there!

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

MFAMTL: Will Run For Gummy Worms

This was only my second time running a fixed time race and the first that wasn't on snowy trails. I jumped into the MFAMTL 6-Hour last minute as sort of a birthday present to myself. Who wouldn't want to spend their birthday weekend pulverizing their quads and then gorging on a giant burrito? 

MFAMTL is an acronym—with no logical pneumonic device that I know of—for Maybe the First Annual and Maybe the Last. My friend Michael Valone created the low-key event a few years ago, unsure if it would become a recurring race or just a one-off—hence the moniker. Turns out it was the former, and after three years of missing out I finally was able to make it up to Rochester's Durand Eastman park for the race. 

The format is simple. Run a one-ish mile trail loop as many times as you can in 6 hours. The first 3 hours you run clockwise, then you're told to turn around and run the same loop counterclockwise for another 3 hours. Only loops completed before the 6-hour time limit are counted; partial loops are worth nothing but extra calories burned. And you apparently earn good karma or fun points or something by yelling MFAMTL—pronounced "muh-fom-it-el"—to no one in particular at the end of each loop. 

I carpooled up to the race with my Ithaca fiends Vinny and Amelia. All three of us were coming off finishes at the Virgil Crest 100, so the goal was just to run around and have some fun in the woods. My real goal, though, was to knock out 39 loops for my 39th birthday 3 days later. We set up our chairs and drop bags near the staging area and set off at 9:00 into the cool, crisp, late October woods for the first of many circuits on the ol' hamster wheel. 

The loopy singletrack had a nice flow to it, with a few very gentle hills, some rooty spots, and a serene view of Eastman Lake. After 2 loops I realized I wasn't in shape enough to handle the hills and roots and still bang out 39 miles, so I decided to just plod along and see how far I got. I hit 18 loops before being turned around at the timing tent at 3 hours on the dot. My legs didn't hurt much until 4 hours elapsed, and after that I just sauntered along until time ran out and I finish with 32 loops. It wasn't too pretty, but it went okay and I got another ultramarathon finish to my name. Amelia, Vinny and I totaled 76 loops for the Ithaca crew.

I didn't know until I finished the last loop that I was in fact the men's winner. Ellie Pell breezed by in the last half-mile to finish her 32nd loop too, but she won the tie breaker because her final loop was faster than mine. In the moment I thought another guy was a lap ahead for the overall win, but it turns out he'd only done 31. In my exhausted state I was confused why Michael want to take my picture with Ellie next to the finish line until it sunk in that I'd won. The official prize was bragging rights, but to me the real prize was the monster-size handful of multi-hued Trolli Sour Brite Crawlers gummy worms that I duly shoved down my esophagus immediately following the photo shoot. Nothing ever tasted as good as those TSBCs, not even the post-race Chipotle burrito. 

Thanks to Michael Valone, Eric and Sheila Eagan, and the rest of the crew for organizing!

Ten Junk Miles Podcast - Meet the Nation

A few days ago I had the pleasure of talking to Scott Kummer over the phone to record episode #147 of the Ten Junk Miles podcast Meet the Nation series. These episodes are short, 20- to 30-minute interviews of listeners and fans of the show, where callers can discuss their history with the sport of running, favorite books, movies, and albums, and whatever other miscellany happens to come up in the conversation. 

I've been listening to this show regularly since 2016, particularly the Long Run episodes. In this format, Scott digs deep with all types of people in the U.S. ultrarunning community, most of whom are everyday runners rather than elite athletes. I've been drawn to these episodes mainly because Scott has a way of getting his guests to open up so it feels like the listeners actually get to know them. A few of my personal favorites are David Clark, multiple world record holder Camille Herron, Iditarod 350 runner Scott Hoberg, and a guy named Mark Scotch who told his story of donating a kidney to a complete stranger. 

I've also enjoyed listening to the other 146 Meet the Nation episodes and hearing stories from other podcast listeners. 

Anyway, click the link to check out my 28 minutes of fame and let me know what you think. 

Friday, October 8, 2021

Just the "Fun Run" at FL50s

“And I feel so much depends on the weather.” - Stone Temple Pilots, “Plush”

July 4th weekend can only mean one thing for Upstate New York trail runners—the Finger Lakes 50s and its notoriously nasty weather. The Finger Lakes Runners Club resurrected this race after a hiatus in the Year of the ‘Rona with Forest Frolic race directors Peter Dady and Mike Stone now at the helm. 

The race’s 16.5-mile loop is quite fast when the trails are dry. Problem is, they’re never dry. Some combination of gooey mud, slick mud, wet leaves, and flooded trails always seems to hinder the whole lot of us at this race, year after year. 

This time I opted in for the 25k "fun run" to avoid burnout after beating up my body at the Cayuga Trails 50-mile at the end of May and running the FLRC Ultra Challenge two weeks before the FL50s. That made it my first time running this race in a distance

Thursday, October 7, 2021

The Hyner Trail Challenge : Socialism, Bigfoot Pens, and One Big S.O.B.

The Hyner Trail Challenge is aptly described as a northeast "classic" race. The event has been around since 2009 and annually draws one of the largest fields of any trail race in the region. Like all races, the Covid-19 pandemic threw a wrench in the works for 2021. UltraSignup lists 267 finishers in the 50k and—get this—811 in the 25k in the 2019 results, not including DNFs. Other recent years show similar numbers, with over 1,000 finishers in the 25k alone in 2015. The demand for this race is insane, as are the logistics of managing that many runners on such a challenging and remote course. The race is held every April, with registration for the following year opening on May 1. As you can guess, it sells out immediately, almost a full year in advance. 

The main attraction along the course is Hyner View—a point overlooking the Susquehanna River and the PA-120 bridge 1,300 feet below, along with the surrounding forested hills. The viewpoint itself is a rectangular stone structure built by CCC workers during the Great Depression. 50k and 25k runners reach this viewpoint around mile 4 as they crest the first big hill just after its steepest slope, all the while reaping the benefits of American socialism at its finest. 

That view of the Susquehanna was two years in the making. I registered for the 2020 race on May 1, 2019—the day registration opened. Even then I had to spend a few weeks in waitlist limbo before gaining entry. This was before we knew that Hayley was due with twins in March 2020. After learning the baby news, running Hyner in April of 2020 was most definitely a no go. Then Covid struck and the race date was push back before ultimately being cancelled altogether. When RD Craig Fleming announced

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

The FLRC 100k Ultra Challenge

Late last year when in-person races were still in flux due to COVID-19, the Finger Lakes Runners Club put together a unique virtual race series with a competitive element. The FLRC Challenge is a year-long event that involves running 10 specified race courses in the Ithaca area. Some of these are courses from in-person races and others are popular non-race routes, with distances ranging from one mile to the half marathon. Some cover asphalt, some are gravel rail trails, and others are on singletrack trails. There's flat, hilly, and everything in between. Anyone who completes all 10 is considered a finisher and earns a medal. Competition for each individual course is scored based on fastest overall time, fastest average, and most completions, with additional series-wide scoring aspects. There's a lot to it, and rather than explain it all myself you can get the rundown on the event Web site

One element of the FLRC Challenge is the ultra version. The total distance for all 10 courses is advertised as 65.3 miles—a little over 100k. The Ultra Challenge involves completing all 10 in a 24-hour period. You can run the routes in any order you want, but

Friday, April 30, 2021

Running Inside Out Podcast — Guest #100

I had a great time as a guest on episode 100 of my friend Chris O’Brien’s podcast Running Inside Out. On the episode we discuss ultramarathons around the northeast, the Ithaca and Rochester trail running scenes, the FLRC Ultra Challenge, training while managing kids, the Star Wars Holiday Special, and a whole lot more! Check out the episode Web page at Running Inside Out Podcast: 100: It Can Be Life Changing - with Pete Kresock or look for it directly on Apple Podcast, Spotify, etc. 

The Rochester-based Running Inside Out podcast has been around for a few years and mainly focuses on trail and road running around Upstate New York. I've struck up conversations and started friendships with strangers after hearing their stories on this podcast. I'm happy that Chris is bringing it back after a 10-month hiatus, and honored to be the first guest of its return and the one featured on episode 100. 

Thanks for listening! 

Thursday, April 15, 2021

A Personal Best 50k Time Trial

Training has been going well for the past seven months. In the midst of the pandemic and my first year raising twins, things really started to click back in September. At the time most races had been cancelled, so I started running all the Ithaca area trail race courses and popular trail routes at race effort. The consistent, quality mileage carried over through the winter in the form of tempo runs and steady state runs on rail trails and roads. With no Beast of Burden to train for this winter, I kept the mileage lower than I did in previous years—50 to 65 miles per week for most weeks. In a few weeks it was lower due to inclement weather, being homebound with sick kids, or both. But the consistency was there, and it paid off. 

Once race director Adam Engst began opening courses for the recently launched FLRC Challenge virtual race, I gained extra motivation to run hard on the race's road courses while waiting for the sloppy, snowy trails to dry out. Tempo intervals and fartlek runs on the Challenge's Pseudo Skunk half marathon course, marathon-pace efforts on the 10-mile Black Diamond Trail course, and so on, kept the fitness gains coming all the way into April. When our local trails finally thawed and dried enough to run

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Farewell, Beast of Burden

The New York ultrarunning scene lost two of its bigger races this week when the Beast of Burden Ultramarathon race directors posted a statement announcing their winter and summer events would be discontinued for the foreseeable future. 

Hello Beast Runners, We are writing to inform you that, due to a variety of contributing reasons, we have made the...

Posted by The Beast of Burden 100 & 50 Miler Ultra Marathon on Sunday, March 28, 2021

Hello Beast Runners,

We are writing to inform you that, due to a variety of contributing reasons, we have made the difficult decision to put the Beast of Burden Race Series on permanent pause. With this decision, that means we are cancelling the 2021 Summer Beast of Burden Ultra Marathon, and will not be scheduling a race series in 2022, or the foreseeable future. For those that have registered for the 2021 Summer Beast of Burden Ultra Marathon, we will be sending out refunds for your race registration.

This is truly a bittersweet moment for us. As Race Directors for this series for the past decade, we have had the great pleasure of building on a great race series to bring it to where it is today; a unique event that seemed to have taken on that of both an endurance run, and a family reunion of our ever growing clan of runners and awesome volunteers.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Solo Trail Racing Through the Pandemic

After feeling worn out and miserable for most of the summer, I got back in the game with a non-race effort at the Hash House Hundred Fast-Ass 100k in late August. That left me wanting to get back into racing trail races and ultramarathons, but of course autumn in 2020 brought another slew of race cancellations courtesy of la 'rona. Throughout the summer I was expecting as much, and came up with a creative way to get in some quality mileage and satiate the trail racing bug.

The project involved attempting a PR on as many of the local trail race courses as I could. For some races, this meant running each of the different distances offered for the event, i.e. the 13k, 26k, and marathon on the Thom B course. Many of these races I'd run at less than 100% effort during the buildup to various ultras. Some, like the FL50s 25k and 50k distances, I'd never raced at all. With a few exceptions, I chose race courses 16 miles and shorter and within a half hour drive of Ithaca. I ran all of them on my own, unsupported or self-supported, following the courses from memory. 

Although the first three listed aren't race courses, I've included them because they're established and noteworthy routes. A few notable courses, like Forge the Gorge, the traditional Lucifer's Crossing course, the Monster Marathon at Treman, and my usual

Friday, February 26, 2021

Back to Racing!

It had been way too long.

America and the entire world are now a full year into the Covid-19 pandemic. Although I've missed in-person races and running events as much as anyone, most organizers that opted to cancel events out of precaution made the right call and I respect race directors' decisions to do what they think is best. Given all that's been going on, some races that did take place weren't events I was comfortable running. And of those I was comfortable with, some went off just fine at a time I was in no shape to run them (i.e. 2020 Cayuga Trails) due to the cumulative stress of trying to train while stay-at-home parenting twin babies. All the local sub-marathon races I may have considered running were cancelled, leaving me no organized in-person race since the Beast of Burden Winter 100 in early February 2020. 

Almost a year to the day since my last race of any kind, I made it up to Hammond Hill State Forest for the Finger Lakes Runners Club's Super Frosty Loomis Snowshoe Race. With a field limited to 40 runners across two distances, separate start times for each distance, mask and social distance requirements, and a bare minimum of volunteers and spectators, the club determined it

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Pseudo Skunk Mini "Race" Report

Tuesday afternoon marked my debut at the 2021 FLRC Challenge and Pseudo Skunk 13.1. I carried my phone and used the RunGo App to follow the half marathon route along Ithaca's backroads and get familiar with the course. Snowy shoulders made it tricky to dodge traffic and move forward at the same time, but I tend to enjoy running Ithaca's backroads throughout the winter and have gotten used to it. Much obliged to race director Adam Engst for putting that Turkey Hill mini climb in the second mile (instead of mile 10 like in the actual HM race), but curse him for the grind up Ellis Hollow starting around mile 9. Notable scenery included that new looking, bright red phone booth in someone's front yard near the corner of Ellis Hollow and Hunt Hill, and a car parked in the middle of the damn road on Ellis Hollow where people drive 50+ mph around blind curves. The RunGo voice cues lagged by 10-15 seconds, but were 100% accurate and made it super easy to follow the route without thinking about it much.

I had such a blast running the Pseudo Skunk on Tuesday that I went back again on Wednesday for another go. I had a few hours to kill after work and before picking up the kids from daycare and couldn't think of anything better to do. With temps in the low 50s, most of the snow, ice, and slush had melted off the shoulder of the roads, so the running was much easier and more

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Danby Down & Dirty Results

Thank you to the 21 people (not counting myself) who ran the race course and submitted their information. I know several others not listed here also ran one or both of the courses during race week, and a few of you added "bonus mileage". If you ran and forgot to submit your time, you can still do so here and I'll update this page accordingly. Any corrections, contact me or comment below. Shout out to Nick Ruiz, who took a half day off from work to run the 10k on his 40th birthday! 

The Danby trails were uncharacteristically dry for this time of year—race day would have been great for some fast running. Nothing is certain, but I really hope that by fall 2021 I'll be organizing the in-person race once again under the guise of the Finger Lakes Runners Club. 

1Eric SambolecMale4210k0:48:12
2Pete KresockMale3710k0:54:47
3Steven FolsomMale4110k0:59:08
4Dave KaniaMale4010k1:00:42
4Adam EngstMale5310k1:00:42
4Jay HubiszMale-10k1:00:42
4Sean NicholsonMale-10k1:00:42
8Daniel LongakerMale5010k1:01:19
9Bill KingMale6010k1:02:00
10Damien SteeleMale4410k1:02:52
11Sarah RidenourFemale3510k1:15:53
12Nick RuizMale4010k1:16:03
13Kristina HarrisonFemale4510k1:23:51
14Robert TaldaMale5910k1:26:37
15Steve SavageMale4710k1:30:54
16Holly FolsomFemale4010k1:33:30
17Joe ReynoldsMale-10k2:46:00

1Pete KresockMale3720k1:56:53
2Will FoxMale4520k2:18:14
3Gabrielle WooFemale2820k2:18:55
4Robert TaldaMale5920k2:29:57
5Lori JohnsonFemale5620k2:58:00
6Dean JohnsonMale6020k3:01:00

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Danby Down & Dirty 2020 Virtual Edition

Virtual race results

Welcome to the Danby Down & Dirty 10k/20k Trail Runs 2020 Virtual Race. The Finger Lakes Runners Club and I elected to cancel the in-person race this year due to restrictions and concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. In keeping with the spirit of the race, trail runners are encouraged to run the course on their own. To make it feel more like a race, names and times

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Hash House Hundred 100k Fat Ass

There's no question the COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the ultrarunning world. I'll acknowledge that, when looking at the big picture, race cancellations, physical distancing guidelines, and wearing a face covering while running are all minor inconveniences. There's no need to say any more about the pandemic here, except that hardly anyone was surprised on July 19 when the Twisted Branch 100k race director announced his race would be cancelled this year. And to be sure, he made the right call. The race would lose its luster and all the things that make it special if forced to adhere to precautionary measures required by state and local governments. The competitive and social aspects of Twisted Branch would be largely absent if a limited field size, wave starts, and elimination of pre- and post-race festivities were required to hold the race. 

I spent most of the summer running reduced mileage and struggling to find the time and energy to get out the door at all. I had no doubt about completing Twisted Branch within the 20-hour time limit, but the run would have been a struggle. When Pete Dady, a fellow Finger Lakes Runners Club trail race RD, invited me via Strava comment to his 100k fat ass run, I was naturally drawn in. The run was the weekend following the cancelled Twisted date. My wife was agreeable to letting me run it while she took care of the babies since she'd previously agreed to watch them while I ran Twisted.

The fat ass run, which Pete D tentatively titled the Hash House Hundred, is a single 100-ish kilometer loop through several state forests and many tracts of privately owned land, comprising a total of only three trails—the main Finger Lakes Trail, the Finger Lakes Trail Onondaga Branch, and the Link Trail. According to Pete, an Upstate New York trail map connoisseur an expert on all things FLT, this is the only area within the Finger Lakes Trail system where such a large trail loop exists. The terrain varies in

Monday, June 15, 2020

Aravaipa Strong 100

As soon as the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic was known, races cancellation notices began popping up left and right. Every spring and early summer race of significance was either cancelled or postponed, and with good reason. Many virtual races started appearing, but there were very few large scale races that catered to the ultrarunning world. Enter the Aravaipa Strong. 

Jamil Coury and his team at Aravaipa Running, a for-profit trail and ultra event company based out of Phoenix, Arizona, quickly organized Aravaipa Strong. This was a virtual race that was open globally, comprising seven distances—5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon, 50k, 50 miles, and 100 miles. Runners could sign up for a small registration fee and had from April 17 to April 26 to complete their chosen distances. As a virtual event, runners chose their own route, recorded their own times, and submitted the results for review. Unlike most virtual races, everyone's result was verified, official results were published, and awards were given to those with the fastest times. 

With 10 days to get it done, I decided I'd go for 100 miles or bust. I would've loved to run some epic route on the Finger Lakes Trail and complete the whole race in one day, but there was no way I'd have the time or bandwidth for such a monstrous effort. A week-long effort it was, then. 

To make this race fun and interesting, I set myself a couple of loose ground rules. I would do all of the miles on trails, with no repetition. That meant no multi-loop run or long out-and-backs, and no running in the same park or forest on more than one day. If I became short on time or energy, I'd make exceptions and even include neighborhood walks with the babies if it was the only

Monday, June 1, 2020

FLT Interloken Branch FKT Fail

With virtually every spring and summer race cancelled, Fastest Known Time runs have been all the rage these past few months. Ultrarunning media outlets are reporting en masse on FKTs, with loads of obscure new routes popping up and times falling on some of the more competitive FKTs.

Early this year I had the idea of establishing a baseline FKT on the Finger Lakes Trail's Interloken Branch in the Finger Lakes National Forest. This trail runs 11.2 miles north to south through the forest, connecting with the main FLT at the Interloken's southern terminus. It's mostly flat singletrack and notorious for it's copious volume of mud, especially on the sections where horseback riding is allowed. Anyone who's run a loop or three at the Finger Lakes 50s is familiar with the southern half of the Interloken. 

As of February there was no FKT listed at FastestKnownTime.com, so I figured I'd be the first to put it on the site. After running around in the FLNF on the final day of the Aravaipa Strong 100, I decided to commit to an Interloken Trail FKT attempt sometime later in the spring, once the trail had a chance to dry out. The plan was to run the full out-and-back, 22.4 miles, unsupported. I came home to check the official FKT Web site and found that Dana Wood, of Corning, New York, had beaten me to it only a few weeks earlier. He had run the out-and-back in 3:47:22 on April 5, starting and ending at the southern end. 

Friday, May 29, 2020

Operation Inspiration

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.

One of the first of many virtual runs to pop up after the pandemic struck was iRunFar's Operation Inspiration Virtual Race. This was not a competitive race, but rather a global community run with the goal of bringing runners together, albeit virtually, while raising money for charity. Or as Meghan and Bryon state on the event's Web page:
Without these races and the inherent goals they allow us to work toward, our daily running might feel a bit rudderless. Not to mention, we’re missing the time spent with our community at these group events. The Operation Inspiration Virtual Race is, thus, meant to help give us a way to get our competitive juices flowing again and to gather around a communal physical effort.
The idea was to run any route you chose, for a minimum of one hour, on Saturday, April 4. The registration fees were donated to the WHO's COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund—a global effort that is working to fight the pandemic.

One facet of the event was to dedicate your run to a group or an individual. As I casually traversed part of the Cayuga Trails course at Robert Treman State Park, I thought of my current and former healthcare coworkers and former Rad Tech classmates. In many facilities, diagnostic imagining technologists are right up there on the front line caring for infected or potentially infected patients. While the direct patient interaction is less than that of nurses and physicians, imaging techs are still an integral part of

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