Amy convinced me that a 50K would be a good idea on the heels of Cayuga Trails 50 earlier this year. She had run the Green Lakes 50K a few years prior with Jenny, and was excited to try it out again. As we’d both be coming off of Intermediate Triathlon training, and we’d been steadily running all year, we were not wholly unprepared for the challenge. We signed up on July 12 for this late August race.
We drove to Syracuse after dropping an Emoticake off in Ithaca. Getting our bibs the day prior would be one less thing to do race morning. It would certainly be better to roll into the race venue just ahead of the start, given the 1:45 drive from our home. We headed back home with bibs, stickers and shirts in hand. There wasn’t much time left in the day to get ready. We had been to the Trumansburg Fair earlier with Xander, and after we returned we enjoyed some ice cream, dinner and a brief bonfire at my parents’ house. The only thing left to do before bed was to lay out our race clothes, pin bibs on our shirts and try to get a good night’s sleep.
The drive to Green Lakes was uneventful, but just a little on the long side for an early morning drive. It reminded me a bit of driving to ski races, with better roads! Amy and I enjoyed chatting during the drive and stopped once at the I-81 rest stop. We saw people sleeping in their cars, all in a row, as we traipsed in and out of the rest stop building just before 6a. We’d never seen that. Is that a thing, overnighting at rest stops? I knew truck drivers did it, but not people in cars.
There wasn’t much to do but assess our surroundings and double-check things once we arrived. Sadly, Amy’s hydration pack was leaking and had soaked the bottom of her pack. She made the decision to run without her pack, using aid stations for water and opting to not carry a phone. She was looking forward to catching up on podcasts! I mixed Tailwind in my pack, so was secretly grateful mine wasn’t leaking. Despite being wet, I still would have carried it though! (Note: Nathan has a great lifetime replacement policy on their bladders, so a new one is on the way!)
We walked down a short hill to the starting line path. Steam lifted slowly off the lake as the sun rose. The scene provided a beautiful backdrop. Amy and I would be running approximately 5 hours. The temperature was perfect. There was no rain in the forecast. We were in a beautiful park. It was time to have some fun!
Loops 1 and 2
Given the loop format, I was relatively sure I wouldn’t see Amy again until the finish. I lined up near the front, just behind the runners that comprised a stacked field. The day’s top male and female runners were in the group, and they’d both set course records today. I just hoped to have a solid race and not fall apart (or simply fall, for that matter). Doug Hardy posted a video of us starting the race. Unlike a road race, ultras seem super casual to me. We’re just kind of standing around, waiting for the start. Then when we’re released, we run. But not too fast. We’ll all get there eventually!
I don’t have much else to say about the first two loops, other than I ran them too quickly. I love the trails at Green Lakes, and they were well marked for the race. Without the proper marking, it’s pretty easy to lose your way, given the network of criss-crossing trails. The aid station at the top of the Serengeti would be an oasis later in the race, but I didn’t stop on the first loops. Back at the start, the aid station was quite nicely set up in the Old Administration building. I ran straight through between after Loop 1, not stopping for anything other than a pleasantry. I was feeling great!
After my second time up on the Serengeti, I was grateful to make it quickly back down to the lake level, knowing there was no more elevation and exposure until I ascended again. I stopped for aid, downing some water, banana and watermelon. I’d been running for just over two hours, my second loop a few minutes slower than the first. Could I pick up the pace a little? I was unsure.
I was starting to beat myself up mentally at this point, knowing that I was getting slower instead of faster. I’d been listening to podcasts up ’til this point, and shifted to music. Maybe something uptempo would lift my spirits? I really enjoyed seeing “In the Heights” at the Hangar Theater last year. I put on that soundtrack and it helped the miles click by. I stopped at the Serengeti aid station and spotted a jar of pickle juice. I was feeling a lot of calf tightness and hoped that the miracle juice would help stave off cramps.
Back near the start, I rounded the far edge of the lake in the open sun. It’s a beautiful beach, and the juxtaposition of the few sunbathers relaxing and reading while I was sweating my ass off was not lost on me. I would have loved to trade places with them. Back at the aid station, I stopped for more banana and watermelon. I took my sweet time, even sitting in an Adirondack chair just outside the door to think. I was mentally beat up, but I knew I had to continue. It had been 3 hours, 20 minutes. Only one more loop.
The stairs that led from the Old Administration building down to the path loomed before me. I had bounded down them two-by-two after Loop 1. I had run down them after Loop 2. Now, I walked down a few steps, turned right, grabbed the railing and stepped my legs far behind me to stretch out my calves. I breathed deeply and looked at the lake. It was beautiful. I was tired. A runner descended the stairs behind me. I had to get going.
I ran the level path around the big lake. There were port-a-potties at the junction with the small lake, so I stopped there. There was also a bench facing the small lake. I used the bench’s back to steady myself as I stretched my calves once more. The scene was serene. I wondered what would happen if I sat there awhile, just taking it in? Another runner came down the path I’d come from, passing quietly behind me. I had to get going.
I called Elizabeth back home to say hello. I think she thought it was super weird her Dad was calling while racing. I did, too, but I really didn’t care. I was tired and lonely. She filled me in on what she and Xander had been doing, and then I asked her about my prior 50K time. It was written on a sign in our home gym. She told me it was 5:40. I took solace in the fact that, unless I totally fell apart, I’d crush the time. I was on a faster course today, sure, but it was still a PR. I thanked her for indulging me as I was running, and hung up.
I power hiked the few stretches of elevation that separated the lakes from the Serengeti. I was increasingly grateful as I started passing a few runners that were starting their third loop. The silver lining was that I was on my fourth loop. This was the last time I’d traverse this terrain today. Keep positive, Scott.
Now up on the Serengeti, I heard a biker come up on my left. He recognized me immediately. It was Tom Garby, a friend I’d made back when we were FLRTC ambassadors together. I asked if he would hang with me for a bit, trying not to appear too emotionally needy. He was biking with another guy and they slowed to talk to me. They asked how I was doing. “It’s f%$king hard!” I replied. I was so ready to be done, and they reassured me that I was looking good and would be done soon. They also said they’d just seen Amy on a descent, and that made me smile, knowing she was out there with me.
As I approached the Serengeti aid station, the volunteers asked if I needed anything. I said something like “I just want to be done.” They took it as I was dropping, saying incredulously that I was just 3 miles from the end. I said, “No! I mean I’m just tired.” I grabbed another half a banana, thanked them so much for volunteering, and resumed running. Along the next stretch, an older runner bounded by me, looking fresh as a daisy. I didn’t see a number on him, but I could have missed it. Was he really part of the field? Looking that good this far in? Couldn’t be. Turns out, he was. Had I been running more even splits, that could have been me!
I was so grateful to get down to base elevation. I could run on level ground for the remaining miles. I picked up the pace, going faster than a 10-minute mile for the first time on Loop 4. My last three split paces were 9:36, 9:38 and 8:49. I crossed the finish line. I was so grateful to be done. Tim Hardy, the race director, was there to greet me and talk to me about the race. He indulged me in a post-race photo. It was done.
I hung around the finish area for a bit, enjoying watching the awards ceremony and the wicked fast winners collecting their swag. I wandered down to a shady spot, bid John Donaldson adieu on his fourth loop, and unabashedly took a seat in his bag chair to watch for Amy coming around the waterfront. She was soon there and I got up to grab some photos of her finishing (read Amy’s race report). We were BOTH done!
Finish Line + Refueling
We were so happy with ourselves, and now it was time to recover (ahem, indulge). We both had grabbed some provisions from the finish line aid station after our respective finishes. I’d grabbed a few handfuls of M&Ms and had a glass of orange soda with ice, mostly for the refreshment factor (I’ve not had a full soda in many years after watching some frightening documentaries).
We had a few free rewards (don’t you love those?) on our Starbucks account, so after taking a few minutes to change our clothes, we headed to the closest caffeine dispensary to order the largest Frappuccinos we could find. Why is there not a SuperVenti for ultra runners? The Venti Frapps didn’t disappoint and we finished them before we were too far down I-81. As Amy reached the bottom of her drink with the telltale sound of slurping air and whipped cream, I said “Well, we could always get another one, right?” I don’t doubt we’d have stopped again if there was another Starbucks nearby.
By this point we were getting hungry (or it may have evolved into hangry as we exited 81 in Cortland) so we made a plan to stop by Viva Taqueria and get some Cheatin’ Vegan Nachos on the taqueria side. We placed our order and patiently waited outside in the partial shade, content to watch the world walk by as our stomachs protested the lack of further Frappuccinos. Nachos arrived late … but better late than never!
— Scott Dawson (@scottpdawson) August 27, 2017
We continued our evening at home with a beer while relaxing outside, and then with Mexican night (homemade quesadillas, guacamole with refried beans and corn) and a margarita. I’d say we replenished far enough!
My post-race food intake has not been unlike how I recall eating in college: Starbucks, nachos and beer. Up next: Mexican night! #CheatDay
— Scott Dawson (@scottpdawson) August 27, 2017
By the Numbers
GLER’s results page is SO cool. It helped me confirm what I already knew, albeit with more precision. My first two loops were too fast. The third loop was definitely where I started to give up ground, even if I did maintain my overall placement. The fourth loop was carnage, giving up four places along the way to the finish. Even pacing is my nemesis, especially when I go beyond 20 miles! I’m not sure if I’d be up for this again, given the looping format, but there is something to be said for knowing what’s ahead of you. Miles are miles, boss! I’ll give myself an attaboy, though, since I beat my prior 50K time by 55:31. I ran 5:40:22 during my only other 50K run several years ago at the Finger Lakes 50s. Gnarly course, and a separate one to be sure, but a PR is a PR any day of the week!
Time: 4:44:51 (results)
Overall: 16 of 82
M40-49: 2 of 12