Saturday’s inaugural Cayuga Trails 50 was a really good event. We made the trip to Ithaca, New York so that Debbie could run the 50 mile trail race. The start/finish was at Robert H. Treman State Park, which was our home for the weekend. We drove up on Friday afternoon and camped 1/4 mile from the finish line, which was about as convenient as it gets.
The race made use of the trails in the park and near the park. The course wound its way through several aid stations multiple times. The start/finish was blessed with an amazing playscape, so our kids and about a dozen other children were suitably entertained.
For a first time race, Cayuga was promoted and produced very well. In 2014, this race will be the USATF 50 Mile Trail Championships. Race Director Ian Golden also promotes the Virgil Crest Ultras, so he is no rookie when it comes to holding a big event. He and his team of volunteers did a fine job of putting on Cayuga. He brought in loads of sponsors, which permitted an uncharacteristically large prize list for an ultramarathon. It wasn’t all slick production. He instilled some character in the race and even started the runners by blowing through a ram’s horn.
That prize list attracted some top talent on both the men’s and women’s side. Part of the prize list was fueled by a grant from the local tourism board, which was a nice touch. It is great to see trail-blessed communities promoting trail running. Debbie wasn’t in the money, but I still support the prizes for those who were. The race still had the requisite apple pie prizes, but a little cash always helps a trail runner’s budget.
Debbie struggled mightily, but kept plugging along and got to the finish in just under 10 hours. It was an emotionally and physically draining day for me with responsibility for both of our kids and crewing duties. I love to see her run up front, but she and I are both learning that juggling family, work, community, and athletic responsibilities is a challenge. I hit my 40 last year and she is approaching hers in 18 months and the days of focusing solely on sports are long gone. No excuses for either of us…I’m really proud that she found her way to the finish line, though I know she was hoping for better legs on a big day.
The men’s race was very competitive with Sage Canaday winning in 6:47. He was followed by Matt Flaherty, Jordan McDougal, Brian Rusiecki, and Yassine Diboun. There were several other notables in the top 10, including long time friend and New England runner, Ben Nephew. In the women’s race, Kristina Folcik had yet another breakout performance, winning in 8:23 and finishing 12th overall. She was followed by Sandi Nypaver, Amy Rusiecki, Jessica Snyder, and Jacqueline Palmer.
I was really impressed with Kristina’ s effort. She pushed hard and took over the lead when Cassie Scallon slowed after suffering what appeared to be a hamstring injury. Overall, I was impressed with all of the runners. There were some awesome age group performances right on up to 60+.
The day dawned damp and muggy after heavy rain on Friday. It rained on and off throughout Saturday’s race and sections of the trails were waterlogged. The race had more than 10,000 feet of elevation gain and there was a mix of hard packed trail, rough paved trails, and rugged singletrack. Debbie said that the surface and terrain wasn’t as challenging as she expected, but it was still a tough course. The results show 133 of 164 runners finished.
In addition to seeing Debbie at the start/finish (North Shelter Aid Station), we saw her at the Underpass Aid Station, Buttermilk Falls Aid Station, and Old Mill Aid Station. The race was a good one to spectate and the scenery was beautiful. I didn’t get deep onto the trails during the race, but on Deb’s recommendation, I got up early yesterday morning and ran the section of trail between North Shelter and Old Mill. That section on the Gorge Trail took runners past the impressive Lucifer Falls. It was spectacular.
We saw a lot of friends this weekend and it was fun to hang out. Ryan Welts was crewing for Kristina, and we saw him at several aid stations. It was nice to catch up with him. Anthony Eisley was crewing for his wife, Carly, and it was nice talking to him. We hadn’t seen Amy and Brian Rusiecki in a while. Gary Hebert was there from the Shenipsit Striders. I got to meet Meghan Hicks in person. She was covering the event for www.irunfar.com. Last month, she spoke with Debbie and me via phone from her home in Utah as part of a project she is working on for Trail Runner Magazine.
Meghan is a native up upstate New York and she came out to support this event. She spoke on a panel of ultrarunners as part of pre-race festivities that started earlier last week. We also got to hang out with our friend, Kelly Wilson. She met us in downtown Ithaca on Friday night at the race check in, then joined us for dinner at the Moosewood Restaurant. We had only been there once before, on a previous trip to Ithaca for the Finger Lakes Fifties. We had another great vegan meal.
Yesterday morning, after my run, and more time at the playground, we took our kids back up to the Old Mill. We checked it out and learned all about the hydro-powered grain milling process from 150 years ago. Then, we did a loop that included the Rim Trail and Gorge Trail. We wanted to show the kids the mighty Lucifer Falls. They had a blast, and it helped that it was warm and sunny. After the hike, we loaded up the van and stopped back in downtown Ithaca. We had lunch and a monster dessert at Waffle Frolic, and then did some window shopping at a toy store. The road trip back to Connecticut was a relatively uneventful five-hour drive. All in all, it was another fun weekend.
Thanks again to all of the volunteers and congratulations to the runners who tamed a new and difficult course.