This year marked the 3rd running of the Cayuga Trails 50, a local 50 mile trail run put on by Ian Golden of Finger Lakes Running and Triathlon Company and Red Newt Racing. This year it also happened to be the 50 mile national championship race. Our family volunteered last year, and Scott decided then that he would run it in 2015.
His training went very well, right up until it didn’t! On May 1st, as he walked over from his office to my computer to help me. I needed help with a form for my then upcoming race that I co-direct. On his way, he ran into a coffee table with his foot. His little toe was broken! I felt terrible, as my race had been consuming most of our evening time as of late, and now it could potentially derail his big event of the season. He promptly saw our locally (and maybe nationally) famous Dr. Getzin who advised him to wait for it to heal (apx 4 weeks) before running. It wasn’t that he would really hurt the toe so much more, but that his stride could change to compensate for his broken toe and he could be injured. He said he could make up the cardio training on the elliptical as long as it didn’t aggravate his toe. His training was solid to this point, and he was due to taper in 2 weeks anyway so he’d just have an extended taper.
Scott ran his first marathon injured and it was a really bad experience for him. He knew he was injured, had been to a PT and was working on recovery, but he decided to run the marathon anyway. It made for a long, sad run when he realized he was just hurting himself more with each step he took. Because of this experience, he was willing to listen to Getzin’s advice.
The first weekend after the injury he spent hours and hours on the elliptical in our home gym. He simulated 26 miles on day one and then had another 7 or so miles on day two. It was 90+ degrees and humid, and he watched several movies! Unfortunately, his toe really swelled and hurt. He took the entire next week off, and then tried again. It still swelled, so he decided to just lay low completely, hoping the toe would heal.
Ian hosted several events for runners and volunteers the week before the race. We made it to one gathering; a Friday evening get together at Ithaca Beer. It was great fun to talk with so many of our fellow runners participating in the race. We also met some awesome people at this event that I looked forward to cheering on at the race. The group we sat with was a running group from South Jersey and they were just such fun! We chatted about their awesome 6 person cabin (they lost 3 participants due to injury/work etc so they had lots of space for the 3 of them), the lack of hills in their area, and more. It was a fun way to spend and evening!
The day before the race it was 85 degrees and extremely humid. We woke up on race morning to 58 degrees and rain. Scott was ready to go early and I drove him in at 5 a.m. and then went home to get the kids up and ready. He’ll have his own race report, so from here on out this report is about my experiences on the day of the race.
I arrived home and got all my favorite runners into the tracking system as soon as the race started. I enjoyed breakfast with the kids and then we headed out to the top of Treman State Park for our shift. On our way, both my parents and Scott’s parents texted that they were heading to watch Scott. They both headed to Buttermilk and planned to come to the Old Mill to see him at mile 22 and 28. My parents ended up watching both those mileages and Scott’s parents stayed for the entire race; heading back to Buttermilk after his mile 28 check in and then later to the finish line.
Upon arrival we saw our familiar crew from last year; Tim and Karen Ingall and their little boy, Eamon and we met another volunteer, Lorreen. This station is run by the Finger Lakes Runners Club We acclimated and we were ready to help when the first runners began to come through. We started checking the app for tracking and saw that the front runners were less than a mile way. Time to cut bananas, put out the warm food and be ready to fill bottles! Then, time continued to tick by and no runners. Elizabeth looked at the app and saw that they were now at mile 24 (our station was mile 22). They certainly hadn’t passed by us. Our conclusion; the tracking wasn’t working.
Soon, other volunteers arrived and the runners started arriving and shortly after that we received radio messaging from Ian that we should track the runners. This is something we did last year, but didn’t anticipate doing this year with the tracking. Truth be told, it was something we missed from last year so we weren’t unhappy to have the job added back in. I got the list, flipped it over to blank paper and started tracking. The only thing we wished was that we had blank paper, so that we could also use the list to figure out runner’s names. Prior to tracking the runners on paper, Xander had been holding the list and cross checking it against runners coming in so he could tell us each runner’s name. We couldn’t get everyone because sometimes they came in clusters, but it was so nice to be able to encourage someone by name.
We tracked, we filled bottles, we chatted and encouraged and cheered and we waited for Scott. He had made us a sheet with approximate times from a best case (10 min miles) to a worst case (14 min miles). I hadn’t anticipated needing this sheet with the tracking, and it stressed me out just as much as my sister’s sheet had during Western States. I think it is human nature to hope for the best case scenario, and to become really worried when that doesn’t happen. Soon, our friend Pete Kresok arrived (on the incorrect tracking he was shown as being behind Scott by a mile or more and while I knew this was unlikely I still started worrying a lot when Pete came through and said he hadn’t seen him on the trail). I saw friend Scott Ulrich come through looking great! Then Ian came on the radio saying, “are the Dawsons still at the Old Mill?” I answered, “yes, Amy here.” thinking oh my goodness, Scott dropped. Thankfully Ian’s next words were, “Scott’s 1/4 mile out from your stop.” The kids raced out to run him in. He was at around an 11 or 11:30 pace split but he didn’t look great. He said his muscles were worn out, and while he was cheery, I felt like he was acting for the sake of the kids. I bid him farewell and worried more.
We continued to help runners and this was when we saw most of the people we knew. We saw our South Jersey friends come through, Chris Reynolds, Joel Cisne, Jeff Holbrook, John Donaldson, Shane Eversfield, Jim Miner and more! It was great fun to see everyone as they made their way by us at mile 22. Things got really crazy when the front runners came back through our stop at mile 28 and we had people coming through for mile 22.
Soon, Maria and Gary came and said that the front runner was on track to beat last year’s time by over an hour. They were due to come through for mile 47 in less than 2 miles. We were all shocked but I added a column in my tracking for mile 47 and thought, “wow this is going to be CRAZY soon!” And then we learned that they were looking at the tracking. Of course. No records were being broken (or at least not by that much!) and we wouldn’t need that column for this half hour slot.
Jenny arrived just a little bit before Scott came through for mile 28.It was a great surprise to see her! During this time, a runner approached me and said, “here’s my chip. I’m dropping.” He looked fine and I said, “are you sure?” “Yes, I am sure,” he said. My parents are here and I want a hamburger. He was done. We were cooking burgers and he was thrilled. I’m sure it was the best burger he’s ever had!When Scott arrived, we chatted with him briefly before he headed up out of the Old Mill. He told us this was going to take him all day and to plan to go out to dinner later. It was 12:30 by then and the kids and I headed to Wegmans for lunch. I was freezing. We talked about our afternoon while we were eating. We’d do a couple quick errands and then maybe catch him at another station and then hit the Old Mill. Then, Elizabeth pulled up the radar and saw RAIN coming our way. Big green blobs of rain. As we made our way into the parking lot from Wegmans it started pouring. I looked at them and said, “you know, I could bring you home. I could just come back after bringing you home.” They responded, “are you sure Dad won’t be upset with us?” Followed by, “That will be 3 Ithaca trips for you today mom.” I said I was sure and off we went. They got to practice their music, enjoy a movie together and surprise their dad with signs and by making dinner for our arrival home.
I arrived back at the Old Mill by 2:30. I considered trying to catch him at other stations, but he hadn’t looked good at mile 28. I know that it is hard for Scott to see me when he’s struggling. He can stay stronger for strangers and friends than he can if I’m there. I decided I’d be more useful at the Old Mill even though I knew I’d be waiting 3 hours or more until I saw him again.
As I arrived a group of volunteers was heading out and some new volunteers arrived. A couple with a baby was helping and we all had fun interacting with the baby and with Eamon. It is always great fun to see families helping at races!
The afternoon went along well; we added hot chocolate (warmed up chocolate milk) to our offerings, heated lots of broth, and kept refreshing our potatoes and pierogies.
Time kind of jumbles at an Aid Station, but at some point in the afternoon a man came through and he was in AMAZING spirits. He had received Advil from an AS worker at another stop and it had really put the spring in his step. He practically danced into the station sharing how amazing this stuff was for him during the race. He sped off even faster than he arrived as he headed down for the last 3 miles.
Jessica Kern was there waiting for her husband, Joel Cisne. Joel is president of our Finger Lakes Runners Club and he and Jess are both full of great energy! Jess had beer for him (and any other runner who would like to partake) and soon she had a runner drinking beer. He took a sip or two and said he didn’t want to drink all her beer. “I have plenty!” she said, and he happily continued drinking it. Soon Joel arrived and drank pickle juice from the giant jar of pickles we had earlier. We all laughed and Jess nabbed a picture before he headed down into the gorge.
When Scott arrived he was tired but determined. He had been walk/running with another gentleman he’d met from Pennsylvania. I knew when I saw him that he would finish. He had this and his head was in a good place for finishing. Soon they were off for what they thought would be an hour (there were 2.9 miles left from this point). I told Karen and Tim (the only people left at the station at this point) that I’d hang for another half hour and then go to the finish. They said, “you should stay another 5 minutes and head down so you don’t miss him.” I recorded the next few runners, drove to the Underpass Station and grabbed his drop bag, and then went to the finish.
Upon arriving at the finish, it started to rain. Too lazy to grab my rain jacket, I grabbed an umbrella and walked over. As I walked, I stopped to talk to the guy who had taken Advil. He was just as exuberant as when I saw him last and he said that the last 15 miles of his race were fantastic! I saw another man and congratulated him. I had just seen my friend Michelle’s post saying that her husband was almost finished (she had posted it 47 minutes prior) and on a whim as he walked away I shouted, “Are you Keith by chance?” He was! I had seen him at Green Lakes 50K last year, but I hadn’t really met him so it was fun to talk with him and congratulate him on a race well run. Michelle also had her first half marathon that day! Their family was going to have a lot to celebrate that evening.
At the finish line I saw friends Pete Kresok and his wife Hayley, Maria and Gary, Ashley Schmidt, Joe Reynolds, my in-laws, Doreen Fanton, Ian and so many others. We waited for people to come through, cheering every runner though. I watched Joel finish, followed by Chris Reynolds and soon after I saw Scott finish. His dad got a great picture of him and then he was ready to go. He was exhausted, his feet hurt and he was freezing. We took 4 post race glasses and drove home with the heat blasting.
The kids were cheering as we entered the driveway. Elizabeth made peanut noodles for dinner and they’d hung a sign for him. It was an evening of sharing and reminiscing about the day. It wasn’t the time or the experience Scott had hoped he’d have; it was much more challenging than he thought it would be, and he really struggled. But he did it. I am so proud of him for sticking it out and so grateful for all those along the way who encouraged him and helped him in this journey. And, as is often the case with us, we forgot to take a single picture of ourselves during the day!! Thanks to my father in law, Ed Dawson, for taking this picture of the two of us at the finish line.