Main image for Danby Down and Dirty 2021 Time to Read: ~4 min

Wow, it's been a while since I wrote a race report. Pandemic, you know? We've been doing plenty of running in the meantime. I haven't written (yet) about the FLRC Challenge and how that's been a godsend during this relative drought in racing opportunities. The Danby Down and Dirty course is also part of the 10-course challenge. One of the things Amy and I love most about the challenge is that it gets us out of our well-traveled running routes and into some new places. Danby is no exception.

Baby trees?

Baby trees?

We did a reconnaissance run in mid-August on the course. It was more of a run/hike, given our lack of familiarity with the course, the copious mud, and the steepness of the climbs. The course is in the Danby State forest and covers ground on the Finger Lakes Trail and Abbott Loop. That day, we encountered plenty of mud in the Michigan Hollow ravine, but I was grateful for the slower pace so we could take in the sights on this beautiful trail. Along the way, we saw baby trees (I think?) on the upper flanks of the climb, a picturesque view of the valley from the summit (we sat on the picnic table and enjoyed some nutrition), and snakes on the bridge before the parking lot. This last feature of our recon run starred a quartet of Northern Water Snakes.

Snakes on a bridge!

Snakes on a bridge!

I grabbed a long stick from nearby brush and coaxed them back under the bridge before we sprinted to the safety of our car.

After that day, we admitted that we much preferred the other courses. We wanted to get a faster Danby effort in, though, and promptly signed up for the race. A loop of the 10K course would count as a challenge effort, and it'd be wonderful to have a lot of company on the course. We wagered that the snakes would stay safely under the bridge if enough runners made a ruckus on race morning.

Race start was set for 9 a.m. on Saturday, October 2. Sunny skies overhead and brisk-yet-tolerable temperatures foretold a fun day on the trails. As we encountered the tail of a long train of parked cars, at least a quarter mile from the race start, Gerrit Van Loon ran by warming up. He helpfully stopped and told us there were at least a dozen spots near the start. What a good omen, to be directed to VIP parking! We slowly navigated the remaining distance to the start line and backed into one of the vacant spaces nearby. Oh, the luck! Bib pickup was fast and I enjoyed catching up with a few friends before we all lined up for pre-race instructions from race director Pete Kresock.

Soon we were off, hurtling down the 1.6 mile expanse of road before turning into the forest trails. I set a brisk pace of 6:30 during this initial stretch, reasoning that every stride counted in the final summation. Later on, the elevation of this course would result in far slower splits. As we turned into the forest on ascending singletrack, I was grateful to have pre-opened my sleeve of Stingerita-Lime Honey Stinger chews. I was carrying a soft Nathan handheld in one hand, so the other hand was able to deftly eject the gooey treats as I fast-hiked up the first ascent.

The ground leveled off here and there and I was able to pick up the pace. As we ran along, I was grateful for the proximity of other runners. The first time we'd been here, I clapped my hands, snapped my fingers, and generally made a ruckus to warn wildlife - specifically, bears - of my presence. Today, I didn't have to do that. I also was really grateful to Pete for doing such a great job with course marking. I was able to run as fast as I could without the pressure of wayfinding. Soon we were splashing through the pockets of water and mud that covered the floor of the Michigan Hollow ravine. It was much less pronounced than the last time we were here, and my post-race discussion with Pete confirmed that. He agreed that, yes, the ravine was far muddier in mid-August. Still, I got properly dirtied, and was grateful to be wearing a pair of gaiters I'd bought for ultra running many years prior.

No stopping at the vista today

No stopping at the vista today

As the race unfolded, I found myself running comfortably with Kenny Makosch and Jean-Luc Jannink, both of whom I've run with during Mithacal Milers workouts in Barton Hall. The downhill stretches were particularly delightful, and Kenny and I had some dramatic place-trading during the final miles. One happened at the next-to-last road crossing: there was a trough of mud that Kenny sidestepped but I ran straight through it and got ahead of him by a few paces. We were on each others' heels for the duration, though. As we crossed the final bridge, I noted with relief that the snakes were hiding. As I crossed the road toward the final ascent, I noted the time on my watch to record my challenge effort, but Kenny beat me to the punch getting to the singletrack rise that marked the remaining few tenths of a mile in the race.

Muddy legs

Muddy legs

Finishing never felt so good. The footing on the final stretch was rocky and I was grateful not to fall. My quads were torched from the effort. I enjoyed talking to other runners after the race, enjoyed some delicious donuts and cider (fantastic post-race food!), and headed home after cheering Amy to the finish line.

By the Numbers

  • Time 53:24.1 (results)
  • 3/11 in the M40-49 age group
  • 10/92 overall

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