Monday, July 16, 2018

Cayuga Trails Course Guide


The Cayuga Trails 50 has quickly become one of the northeast's premier ultrarunning events. Race Director Ian Golden created the race in 2013 under his Red Newt Racing brand. The event was conceived as a way to draw runners to the Ithaca area to immerse themselves in the beauty of Ithaca's best trails and to experience the community that Ithaca is known for. Ian added a marathon to the event in 2016 to increase participation. Since 2014, the race has served as the USATF 50-Mile Trail Championship, making it a selection race for Team USA to compete at the IAU Trail World Championship. There is also a large cash purse up for grabs, overall awards, raffles, and in-race premiums from the race director himself, and additional USATF awards for overall and age-group winners. What's more, the 50M is part of the new Empire State Triad — a three race series that includes Many on the Genny and Twisted Branch and has a ranking system for finishers off all three.

The course circumnavigates Ithaca's two state parks, Robert H. Treman and Buttermilk Falls, both of which are popular destinations among hikers, tourists, and vacationers. The parks' trails offer up some of the nicest scenery on the east coast, traversing through, over, and around dozens of waterfalls, gorges surrounded by natural stone walls, ravines, old growth forests, and a lake. The course crosses over a small dam, runs past a historic stone mill, and traverses trails built by the Civilian Conservation Corp in the 1930s. The route encompasses a wide variety of terrain, including singletrack and doubletrack trails with varying degrees of technicality, stone stair cases, several creek crossing, a few paved and dirt road sections, rolling hills, and one very steep, switchback-laden climb. Most of the course is runnable, but constantly having to change gears and adjust your stride can be very challenging.

I live a few miles from these trails, run them regularly throughout the year, and have run the CT50 each of the past four years. I find the race challenging but highly rewarding, and always come away with some new friends. The purpose of this guide to give runners an idea of what to expect on each section of the course, with a reasonable amount of detail. For event rules, announcements, logistics, etc., you should consult the race website and/or detailed pre-race e-mail.

Note: This post was updated 7/16/18 to reflect course changes for 2018. The course is always marked thoroughly with flags, arrows, and chalk; I reference trail names and colored blazes in this guide to provide direction during training runs. I'll update with additional photos of the trails when I am able to get them. 

The course essentially runs 12.5 miles from lower Treman out to the base of Buttermilk Falls, then 12.5 miles back. Marathoners do this once, and 50-milers twice. Some of the inbound portion of the loop overlaps with the outbound portion and some of it is different. There are three aid stations on the loop and you'll reach two of them twice. 50-milers will have

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Running in the OBX

We took a vacation to the Outer Banks in North Carolina over the last week of May. This was my first time in the OBX, and my first time in North Carolina aside from passing through the state en route to other destinations. Hayley and I, along with the extended family on my dad's side, rented a beach house in the town of Corolla, on the north end of the OBX only a few miles south of the Virginia border. The house was huge, but was just big enough for our party of 15 adults and 3 small kids.

My father's cousin and her husband, Debbie and Sean Hunt, own the house and gave us a great deal on the price for the week. We had our own private pool and the Atlantic Ocean was a five minute walk away. Also of note: the Hunts own a microbrewery in Fairfax County, VA, called Mustang Sally Brewing Company. I haven't had the opportunity to try their beer yet, but I'm confident that they know how to brew a great beer.

Sunny Daze, our home for the week. 
I won't go into too much detail on the vacation, since this blog is mainly about running. Instead I'll just provide a few notes about some places I ran and hiked, or would have liked to if given the chance, plus brief details on some other interesting stuff. Most of the interesting but non-running itinerary is toward the bottom of this post.

After a night in Quakerstown, PA, for my cousin Elizabeth's wedding, we arrived in Corolla on May 27, the day before Memorial Day. I'm told it was early enough in the summer for us northerners to beat the heat, but temperatures in the mid-to-upper 80s and near 100 percent humidity were still more than I was used to. I managed a few runs on the bike path that follows NC-12 — the state highway that serves as the main through-way for the entire length of the OBX. A few rows of

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Bear Mountain Blues

It had been three years since my last romp through the woods in Bear Mountain and Harriman State Parks. I had a rough day at the 50k there in 2015, and it remains my slowest 50k to date. They say time can heal all wounds, right? Well when I registered for North Face's ECSNY 50-mile, those mental scars had healed pretty well and I forgot just how difficult the terrain can be, leading to unreasonable expectations and some prolonged suffering.

2018 was actually my fourth time running the North Face's New York event. I ran the half marathon with Adam in 2012 when I was new to trail running, returned in 2013 to run the full marathon during the buildup toward my first ultra, and then ran the aforementioned 50k two years later. Although I signed up pretty late this year for the 50M, it fit into my schedule and I'd been strongly considering for quite awhile.

PC: Joe Azze/Mountain Peak Fitness
The course is a loop that starts and ends near Hessian Lake at Bear Mountain Sate Park, although most of it runs through the adjacent and much larger Harriman State Park. The land has a lengthy history behind it dating back to the Revolutionary War era, and it contains about a third of the Appalachian Trail's 90 miles within New York State. Bear Mountain also serves as the locale for the obscure Bob Dylan song "Talkin' Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues."
Well, I run right down and bought a ticket
To this Bear Mountain Picnic
But little did I realize
I was in for a picnic surprise
Had nothin’ to do with mountains
I didn’t even come close to a bear
I spent the night before the race renting a room via Air BnB at a guy's house in Newburgh, 20 miles from the park. Vincent, the owner, was there during my stay, along with his buddy who was visiting from Houston. They asked about what I was up to for the weekend so I told them. Usually conversations with unsuspecting non-ultrarunners turn into a sort of Spanish Inquisition with a lot of awkward explanations about eating and peeing, and disbelief on the side of the non-ultra parties. "Really!? I don't even like to drive that far, har-har." Although neither men are trail or ultra runners themselves, they were unfazed by my discourse and tales of previous races. Vincent, in fact, had section-hiked the AT, and his friend had several