On a whim
In the spring of this year, Scott and I decided to sign up for the Mazamas Mountain Running Camp in July. It is held at Mt. Hood, Oregon and my sister is in charge of the camp. It has been 3 years since I ran the Green Lakes 50K with Jenny, and while I still run trail quite a bit, I certainly don't consider myself an avid trail runner.
As such, I needed some good motivation to hit the trails regularly to get prepared for the running camp. Elizabeth has several summer golf matches near Green Lakes, so I'd get at least a couple of chances to run the course over the summer too! I posted something about it on Facebook to see if anyone wanted to sign up with me. No friends were able to, but Scott was on board!! He had just run Cayuga Trails 50 and was pretty excited to give the Green Lakes 50K a go. We signed up before we could change our minds. Interested in another race report? Check out Scott's. He had a GREAT race! Plus you can see all the food we had after the race! We had 2 free drink coupons for Starbucks and then we HAD to hit Viva for some nachos on our return trip home.
Training has been odd for me this summer. My baking business was very busy, the kids were very busy and while I kept up with a lot of exercise, it was much less planned than in prior years. Scott was much more regimented, putting his workouts in the calendar and actually doing what the calendar said. We both trained for the Olympic Distance version of the Cayuga Lake Triathlon, so we took care to get solid biking and some swim practice in. At this point in my life the running just seems to happen no matter what. I'm so conditioned to want to run that I make time for it even if a plan isn't saying, "you have to do this."
However, when we got back from running camp, I did try to emulate Scott. I put the last 3 weeks of Krissy Moehl's training plan from her ultra book into my calendar and mostly followed it. I added a bunch of cross training, lifting etc but I tried to hit the running she called for. Scott had used her book to successfully train for his recent Cayuga Trails 50 race. As a bonus, we got to see her at our running camp in Oregon!!
I'm typically really disciplined, but for this cycle, Scott was the one who would say, "You have repeats on your calendar today." I replied, "Oh I do?" Then I'd get out there and do them ... some of the time. Other times a friend would text asking me to run and I opted to take the social run over the hard training.
Early to race
It was a COLD start forecasted for race day, for summer!! We knew the high was going to be 76 and the humidity was low so conditions were pretty ideal for running. Scott and I got up at 4:15 and headed out the door a bit before 5 to make it up to Green Lakes by 6:30 a.m. We left the kids home sleeping with a million post-it notes of things they could or should do while we were gone.
On the way, we stopped at a rest stop to go to the bathroom and I suddenly realized it was 45 degrees outside. I was wearing capris and a short sleeved shirt; perfect attire for the 50-70 ish degrees I thought we'd be running in. However, when the temperature dips below 50, I really need gloves or a long sleeved shirt to keep my hands warm. Scott was thrilled with the starting temperature, and I was just a bit worried. Oddly, I had thrown in my Syracuse Half long sleeved zip pullover for after the race in case I was cold. At no time had it crossed my mind to run with it on, but now I knew I'd be doing loop one wearing it. I was super grateful to myself for throwing it in!
With Scott before the race. Thanks to Ellie Pell for the picture!!
My bladder is leaking
We arrived and saw our friend Ellie and our friend John. We said hello to them both and then after checking in we struck up a conversation with Ellie and her dad. I had just picked up my pack and saw it was drenched. I came over to them and said, "my bladder is leaking." We went on to talk about how I could handle this. Scott went to get a bag to wrap around it. Ellie said the most helpful thing I heard all day. "What if you just aid station it?" Meanwhile her dad had a moment of realization. He thought I was sharing about my actual bodily functions. We had a good laugh!
The ironic thing was that my original plan was to just use the aid stations for water and fuel. You are never more than 3.75 miles from one and they are well stocked with friendly volunteers and supplies. However, when I did my last long run on a day when it was 90 degrees and humid I decided that having access to water all the time was required. Ellie's statement made me realize that today was not like that. Yes, I could just use the aid stations.
But my podcasts!!
I had saved a month of Tim Ferriss podcasts to listen to on this race!! I was so excited to catch up (and it took great self control to save them in the first place). I had considered wearing my new Lulu Lemon bra that has a back pocket for my phone, but I knew I'd have my pack with me and I hadn't run more than 12 miles with it yet. I also briefly considered bringing my running belt, but again, knew I'd have my pack. So the decision to leave the pack behind also meant leaving my podcasts behind.
And we're off
Following the pre race meeting and the national anthem we were off. As is typical for trail races, it was a quick start with not too much fanfare. This is one great thing about trail races. Runners chat with each other before the start and the vibe is super low key. Scott lined up toward the front near Ellie and our friend John lined up behind me a bit. I didn't know anyone else at the race which felt a little bit weird.
The first portion of this race is around the beautiful Green Lakes in Fayetteville Manlius, NY. These are two of my most favorite lakes in the world along with Green Lakes in the 3 Sisters Wilderness, Oregon and Walden Pond in Massachusetts. (Walden Pond is one of my favorite places solely because of my 10th grade English teacher. When he spoke about this amazing place, the world came alive for me. When I finally saw it I was already in love from his stories!) Back to these green lakes though; they are beautiful, clear and the most gorgeous color you can imagine, it is a lovely way to start a race. By the time we hit the forest less than 2 miles into the race I was almost completely alone. This event had fewer than 100 participants, and we spread out quickly.
Making deals with myself
There are 4 hills on this course. I made a deal with myself that I'd run the first one, walk the 2nd one and then run the last two. I would do this on each of the 4 loops. It would give me something to look forward to (the walking hill) and I'd feel accomplished and proud of myself for running 3 of the 4.
The hills are not long and they are not challenging. If you are an Ithaca native and know Taughannock Falls State Park, the hills are comparable with the hill from the overlook parking lot to the top of the trail; some longer, some shorter. Still, hills are the hardest thing for me on a race, and when Jenny and I did this, I only remember running hills 1-3 on the first loop. I believe we ran the last one on most of the loops. This year I didn't have Jenny to motivate me, so I was worried I'd walk them all for all loops - hence the bargain. This plan paid off and I was able to stick with the deal except for the 2nd half of both hill 1 and 2 on the last loop.
On the 2nd hill I had a crew of people pass me. It was a little weird because at first one of them settled on my right side just a half step behind me. I thought for a bit that the group was going to pass on the right, but then they eventually passed on the left. Shortly after the 3rd hill a man settled in on my right side just a step or two behind me. I didn't think much of it, figuring he'd linger just long enough to decide to pass me on the left. Only he didn't. He stayed right there. Soon we hit 3.1 miles and I said, "yay we hit the 5K mark." Nothing. He didn't reply. I thought maybe he had headphones on but didn't look back enough to see. Because I had no music or podcast I could hear every footfall and I felt like I had to outrun him somehow. I was worried I was slowing him down, even though he could pass at any point.
Soon we hit the aid station and I purposely lingered to head out behind him. However, he dropped back immediately behind me, settling on my right side a half step behind me. When we hit the blissful downhill portion of the course a couple miles later we chatted about how enjoyable this race is, how much we liked the course, the aid stations (he's done it several times and there used to be more aid stations) and more. Before long we hit the main lake and he saw some of his friends at the lake. There was a lot of encouragement and he picked up his pace and beat me to the end of loop one. I later passed him on loop 2 at the top of hill 3. I thought we might repeat our whole loop one process but he was a little bit slower by this point, so I stayed ahead of him. He was the last person I ended up running near for any significant length of time.
How are you feeling?
On lap two, a man and a teen passed by me. They were chatting along happily as we ran through the Serengeti. I will take this opportunity to talk a little bit about this portion of the course. It is called the Serengeti because of the cracked earth, and the dreadful heat you can feel up here on a hot sunny day. It is vast and open and has a feel like it is an African safari. I have run this in the heat only in training. Both times I've run the race I've been fortunate with the weather. With Jenny we had humidity but clouds and cool air, and today we had beautiful sun, but comfortable temperatures and low humidity. As they passed me I was thinking, "this is so lovely. I am grateful to be able to run this race." Right when they passed, the guy asked the teen how he was feeling. I responded, "Great!" thinking that he was talking to me. I kind of laughed in my head as I realized he hadn't been talking to me at all. The teenager went on to say he was ok, but he didn't expect to finish until 1:30 or 2.
Alarm bells went off in my head. My outer bound finish time was 1 pm. They were currently PASSING me. What was I missing? Based on a 7 am start 1 pm was a 6 hour finish. These guys were saying they were going to finish in 6.5-7 hours and they were getting ahead of me in lap 2. I spent much of the next mile calculating different paces in my head before realizing they must just be planning on positive splits. Or perhaps it was their first 50K and they really didn't know what to expect. Or like me, maybe they were just becoming comfortable with a worst case scenario but secretly hoping for faster. I did pass them later and I'm happy to report that they finished faster than this verbal prediction in lap 2. I remember seeing them just a bit after me when Scott and I were hanging around the finish area.
This is easy
I recently listened to a Tim Ferriss podcast where he interviewed a famous poker player. The man said he had to learn not to listen to the negative feedback and not to get hung up in the positive either. Neither is reality and neither is helpful and perception changes all the time. Racing is much like this. One mile you are breezing along thinking, "this is easy" and just minutes later the world can crash down and your thoughts spiral negative. Because of this I try to let thoughts just enter through my head, I acknowledge them and then let them pass without letting them take up too much space.
On loop three I found this thought looping in my head, "this is easy" and I couldn't get it out. I was having fun, the day was beautiful and I wasn't even bumming about not having podcasts. It was on this loop that I decided a 5:30 finish was feasible. Last time Jenny and I did the race in just over 6 hours. I was super excited about the idea of finishing in 5:30. I started telling myself that even though I was 3 years older I was wiser and stronger and I could do this. All good things, but I ALWAYS know that when I get into a positive feedback loop like this that there will be a negative one coming, it is just a matter of when.
And just like that it is loop 4
As I came into the timing area at the end of loop 3 I considered treating myself to media for the last loop. I figured I could have the phone in my bra or between my waist band and be ok. But, I was proud that I'd run 24 miles without it and wanted to be able to say to myself that I hadn't relied on anything for motivation so I opted against it.
Each loop I'd lost about 10-20 seconds on my average pace. I opted to not stop my watch so I'd have 100% certainty on how long I'd been on the course. When Jenny and I ran, we stopped the watch at aid stations, so we never realized we were 3 minutes off from a 6 hour finish. I know we could have hit it if we had realized it, and today I did feel compelled to have a sub 6, even if it was just by seconds.
As I finished loop three I was suddenly exhausted. The candy that I had easily ignored on loops 1-3 suddenly called to me for this last loop. I grabbed a handful of m&ms and a pecan cookie along with a bunch of watermelon at the aid station before I headed out. My average pace was just under 11 minute miles at this point. I'd spent a 90 seconds to 3 minutes at each aid station so far, and I had only one aid station left. Negative thoughts started to creep in. Suddenly I was thirsty even though I'd just left the aid station 5 minutes ago. The thought, "you'll be lucky if you are sub 6" creeped in (I was still on track for slightly over 5:30 at this point) and then I quickly justified, "well you aren't as well trained as you were with Jenny. Of course you can't expect to be faster." I knew it was dangerous to let such thoughts stick and worked to let them pass by. My job now was to hold the best pace I could and finish strong.
And about poles
The day before the race, I mentioned to Scott that I might bring my new Leki poles that we got from running camp. They were awesome for our Ramona Falls run and I thought they could help me on the one downhill pitch into the park. Scott suggested that bringing them might invite laughs, after all the course is really not hilly. "But when I ran it with Jenny I almost fell a few times," I said. I decided that I'd bring them to stash at the start to pick up on loop 4. However, by the morning of the race, I realized it was probably not the best plan. Scott was right. Still, just like the first time I ran this, I almost fell on loop 4 on the downhill back to the lakes. And just like last time I caught myself so the crisis was averted.
Finishing thoughts and stats
Each time we "entered civilization" coming into the main Green Lake, people would cheer participants on and encourage them. This was my favorite part - watching people hang out at the beach, enjoying picnics and time with friends and family. They took the time to say, "Good job!" Their encouragement helped me a lot, especially on this last lap!
Soon I was nearing the finish line and Scott was there to welcome me in!! I wandered into the finish area and enjoyed some m&ms and water. Race director Tim Hardy came over with a medal, pint glass and a magnet for me.
The aid station volunteers were so friendly and it was nice to be done and able to talk to them for more than 90 seconds!! I thanked them for their time and we talked about how lucky we had gotten with this amazing weather.
The statistics were good this year. It was a competitive field in the front and records were broken in both the male and female overall category! The woman who broke the record had never run trail OR this far. Wow!! I was pleasantly surprised to be the 6th female and 2nd in my age group. That happiness waned quickly when I started chiding myself for letting the 5th place female catch me a mere 3.5 miles from the finish. I always try not to back seat drive, but of course I do go down that rabbit hole from time to time. If only I had treated myself to music for that last lap I could have held pace .. if only.
I had two notable thoughts about the race. The first was that it is TOTALLY different from the first time I ran this because they didn't offer the 100K distance. When Jenny and I ran, we were rarely alone. I had anticipated running with other people and talking a lot the way I had with Jenny. I never thought about the difference of having fewer people on the course and more similar paces (when you are offering a 100K, naturally the paces are slower for the distance). The 2nd was that it would be great to offer a 25K like the Finger Lakes 50s does. It would be a lot more work, but it is a great course to have new to trail runners get started on.
Official Results; Age group 2/12, Overall 35/82, Gender 6/34,
I LOVE how detailed the race results are for this event. Thank you Leone timing for the awesome job!! When I look at the splits I critique like this. The first lap was too fast. Largely this was because I was stressed out about being an accidental pacer. I felt pressure to be a good pacer for this guy who was right behind me. But, then, my 2nd lap wasn't far off that pace and I spent a fair amount of time at the aid station before starting that 2nd loop (that time is counted in loop 2s time). Loop 3 was pretty solid as well. It was a drop off of 9 minutes from the first loop, but all things considered I wasn't unhappy. For the last loop I'm mostly grateful that I didn't slow down more than I did. I got a blister on my 4th toe on my right foot halfway through loop 4 so each step was killing me. I considered walking more and then realized that just meant it would hurt longer. So, looking back I don't have any real regrets except that I broke my promise to myself and walked part of each of two hills I said I'd run all of no matter what.
You should do this race if
If when you read this you think, "maybe I could try this" or "this sounds reachable" definitely think about doing this 50K race! Here are some reasons I think that the Green Lakes 50K makes an especially good event for a first timer.
- It is a looped course. This way you know what to expect after you finish loop one. You can prepare yourself emotionally and physically for each of the coming loops.
- The course is BEAUTIFUL. As I said in my post these lakes make my top 3 of favorite lakes. If you are within driving distance, I think it is totally worth making it goal race just for the scenery.
- The course is runnable. The entire course is runnable - really. If you are new to trail it is nice to know that you won't encounter challenging terrain that you know you must walk. Of course the flip side is that there are not too many opportunities to give yourself permission to walk without feeling just a twinge of "I know I could run that but ..."
- The aid stations are reliable and the workers are friendly. I ran the entire race without additional anything, finding everything I needed at the aid stations. They are like your little oasis in the desert! Thank you Ellie Pell for this last minute suggestion. It was a great choice for me.
- The race has a nice low key vibe and it is easy to have spectators. They can hang at the lake and they get to see you at the start and finish and at the end of each of your loops. It is fun for spectators to have something to do while you are running.
With Race Director Tim Hardy getting my medal, glass and magnet. He did such a great job organizing!
Would you ever do a 100 miler?
Yesterday as I was finishing this post the UTMB was going on. 2 of our Mountain Running Camp instructors ran in it. Amy Sproston and Yassine Diboun were on track to do very well when we were following live coverage. Yassine ended up 89th overall and 60th in his age group. Amy was the 8th female and 96th overall. Wow!!
Naturally Scott and I were reminiscing about the camp and how cool it was to have learned from these elites. Then he looked at me and said, "do you ever want to run a 100?" We've talked about this before and agreed that not while we have kids living at home. I said, "I have to run a 50 miler first." He smiled and said, "hmmm probably a good idea." Then, he quickly calculated that we'd both be turning 49 when Xander graduates from High School. "Let's plan a 100 miler for our 50/50!!" he said. I admit that sounds like a super great goal. We went on to talk about how we really have to start training now for that. More focus on nutrition, more reading about long distance running and more practice. Something to think about for sure!