Every winter we award scholarships to runners to tackle the race of their choosing. We support them financially, training, and with encouragement and energy. In return they wear our shirt, and write us a post race recap. Join us as we traverse Laura Howard’s report.
Inaugural Many on the Genny 40 mile Ultra Race Report 2017
Why am I here? Why 40 miles?!
Most people who do not run, or don’t run trails probably don’t understand, and I usually tell them I don’t either. But I feel it, and it makes me happy and that is all that really matters. I have been running consistently for about 12 years, trails for about 5. So this 40 mile thing has been building, I took YEARS of hard work, mistakes, injuries and faith in myself to get me here. After running a trail marathon (OSTR by Goose Adventure Racing, I am looking at you!) I was just a few tiny miles away from a 50k which in my book counts as an ultra. To up the ante, I chose a mountainous 50k, Table Rock, in North Carolina. I was quite sure that was the furthest I would ever run, but then Eric and Sheila Eagan had this brilliant idea of a 40 mile trail race in one of the best parks in our area. This made the gap between a 50k and a 50 miler so much more sane in an insane amount of mileage. So, there I went signing up and training my butt off to make this my best race to date. I learned enough in the past 12 years from the people I have been lucky enough to surround myself with, that I finally figure out what worked for me. I came to race day healthy and ready to roll. I break down my experience below between course report and runner experience so hopefully every type of brain will get something out of it.
Start at North West Dam to Aid 1 at High Banks
Course Report: The RDs added a short ~1.5 mile loop at the start, so runners run away from the start line and looped back by it before hitting the original design of the course. The first few miles are flat and non-technical compared to what the day had in store. There were a few muddy sections and a couple gullies, but nothing new to individuals who run trails regularly. One of the best sections on this part is a water crossing with the first waterfall of many to come through the day. Only 1 little mile on the road in this section. This section of the course was well marked and many of the runners remained clustered together.
Runner Experience: The added on loop in the beginning was a nice warm up, and everyone went out at a consistent yet reserved pace, which was a good start. I thought this may be hard, to run the opposite direction of the course and go back by the start, but it turned out to be great, especially because we all got to run back by the start and see all of the awesome people who were volunteering and crewing through the day. Just the boost we all needed! The excited chatter was prevalent, but a welcome distraction from what was ahead of us all. The first aid station had BATHROOMS (holla! I am not afraid of doing my business in the woods, but if there happens to be a clean restroom, I will take full advantage.) The aid station was full of energy and smiling faces happy to help. I didn’t need water at this point, as I was carrying my Nathan Vapor Airess and it was still cool with the sun low in the sky. I chose to ditch my shirt and run in my sports bra to keep cool and rock it for #SportsBraSquad. Jeff Young was nice enough to hang on to my sweaty shirt for me, what a friend! I grabbed a PB&J quarter and hiked out quick, knowing that the moto for the day was to keep moving.
[Passing back by the start with Zack Phillips; Photo by Amy Lopata]
Aid 1 at High Banks to Aid 2 at St. Helena
Course Report: This section is really cool and quite unique because most people probably don’t use this trail, but you dip down from High Banks right to the base of the gorge and run along the river. A welcome down to digest from the aid station. Even the waterproof and rip-proof map provided states this trail is not marked and feels extremely remote. There is a section full of tree debris that the river deposited after being really full at some point. This has the first big climb roughly at mile 8/9,
it is extended but you pop out on the park road and cruise on that for a bit until you cross over the road to the other side of the park and run one extended up and an extended down.
Runner Experience: It does not feel like you are anywhere in Western New York in this section. River Gorge in the PNW? Maybe! Jungle somewhere with overgrown greenery? Possible! I was excited for this section because I know my legs can climb. I am not a running climber for the big ones, I hike them out as strong as I can and that has served me well. I really got into the zone here. After the big climb there was a bit of road and then we crossed over the street and this section was a great respite for me, I could hike/run the extended gradual up and then kick it into recover and go mode down the backside. This part got pretty muddy from the rain that came through overnight, but I ran right through it (not around, right Eric?!) and didn’t let it stop my rhythm. My La Sportiva Mutants handled the mud, gullies, slate and rock all day long. Coming into St. Helena was awesome, as they put up some funny signs (see below). If you were not looking around a little you would not have caught them. Again, another energized and excited group led by Lisa Valone. I grabbed more PB&J, filled my water and downed a cup of tailwind and headed out.
[Jokes on the trees to entertain runners; Photo and sign by Kimberly Jenkins]
Aid 2 at St. Helena to Aid 3 at Lower Falls
Course Report: This section rolls a lot in the first half and it’s the first encounter with stairs, but not too many. Some were stone, others were slippery wood. You almost don’t notice them with all of the scenery to look at. The second half of this section flattens out and starts heading down toward Lower Falls. You run right along the rim of the gorge in the most iconic sections of the park.
Runner Experience: I may have eaten my food too fast at St. Helena because my stomach felt off for about 2 miles, I did a lot of run/hiking knowing I could not afford to push it and ruin the rest of the day. Once that passed I got into a slow cruising speed and just focused on getting to Lower Falls where I knew I would be halfway, have access to my drop bag and be in good hands at another incredible aid station (McBeth Family!). I felt more exposed in this section since the density of the woods is much less and you run so close to the road and the views where there are park visitors. I was not disappointed, the aid station had friendly faces and great music. I was ahead of my estimated goal by 30 minutes and knew I had time on my side but I couldn’t rest too long. This was the first time I completely stopped, laid down and rested my legs up the trunk of a tree to get knew blood circulating. This trick has serviced me well as I have started doing ultra distances and efforts.
[Lower Falls Aid Station 3; Photo by Amy Lopata]
Aid 3 at Lower Falls to Aid 4 at Lean to
Course Report: Runners cruise right out of Lower Falls along the river again. And
turn left to cross over to the second half of the course. A few more stairs and a bit more gravel road then one may expect, but you are headed north again which is a huge mental boost. The forest sections here were lush and beautiful.
Runner Experience: I felt so good coming out of Lower Falls, having taken my first real break of the day among many friends and my drop bag! I knew if I could make it there, I could finish the day strong. I went into the race knowing that the first half was harder physically but the second half would take more mind and gut. In my excitement, I ran right by the turn to cross over the river to the other side. Which was fine, because there is not much further to go until you hit “DANGER” signs. My intuition kicked in pretty quick and I knew I was in the wrong place. If it hadn’t, I could have enjoyed a swim in the waterfall! I hadn’t taken into account the gravel road sections in this part, and was surprised at how good I felt on them given I am a single track lover and would love to throw out my road shoes. The Lean to aid station was AMAZING and let by Michael Meynadasy with an Aloha theme. Maybe because it was the first aid station remotely stashed in the woods, it felt like a mirage. There were a lot of people here that I have run many miles with, so hearing them yell my name was incredible. I was able to get good updates on other runners, and was so happy to hear that most people were having excellent days. I threw my feet up again, ate more PB&J and filled my pack up as much as possible, knowing the longest leg between aid stations was next.
[Crossing the river after Lower Falls aid; Photo by Heather HBO Ostrander]
Aid 4 at Lean to, to Aid 5 at the Final Countdown
Course Report: This section was remote and beautiful. Lots of gully crossings. I have been told that there are roughly 122 gullies on the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) in this section and I would believe it. Mile 30 had the most beautiful section of pine, that swayed in the breeze of the day. It is well blazed and therefore the RDs did not need to flag this section much. There were long sections I recall not seeing flags, and felt totally confident I was in the right place.
Runner Experience: I started out consistent, riding the high from aid at the Lean to. Thinking of all of my friends and the news of their days. I knew what was coming for me, the gully ups and downs that can end a running rhythm quickly. The 50k distance was not new to me, so I knew I could get there, but anything after that was new territory. This section quickly became the most demoralizing of the day, although not significantly so compared to lows I have had on other long runs or races. The mileage on my watch seemed off and I quickly started realizing that I was going to be over 40 miles total for the day. My watch read longer then I anticipated between aid 4 and aid 5. But I never ran out of food or water and just kept moving forward. The next aid station was led by Rochester Running Co., which was wonderful because they knew what was up. I don’t remember this aid station as well because I was so determined to keep moving.
[Jaime Peca and Danielle Feligno taking full advantage of the gully streams; Photo by Sherry Kessler]
Aid 5 at the Final Countdown to Finish Line at North East Dam:
Course Report: The last section. The gullies are fewer and the course becomes less technical as runners go. It is runnable, even after 35 miles of hard terrain. This half of the course is the most remote, and the views become available again in this section toward the end as the finish line nears.
Runner Experience: I have run this section so many times before and knew there was nothing that was going to stop me. I held on to thoughts of giving RD Eric a finish line high five, of hugging my husband Jon and of sitting down on the grass with so many of my favorite people to celebrate another day spent in the woods so I could hear their stories of the day. I cried in this section knowing that I had my strongest and longest race to date. It was proof that I figured out what I need to train and that I could accomplish anything as long as I believed. I felt so many things in the woods during this 10 hour 51 minutes (to be exact) effort, I could never possibly put them into words. The feelings and this race still bring me to tears. Tears of joy, of some pain, and but mostly in awe.
[The finish line!; Photos by Steven Dailey]
Thank you #TrailsROC for sponsoring me for this event. It really goes deeper then that, because this community got me here. I learned from so many of you over the past 5 years to get here. I am overwhelmed by all that 40+ miles in the woods and this community can hold. And to Eric and Sheila, the RDs and masterminds behind this event. Thank you for taking the time to dream a dream so big and even more the incredible amount of years planning and preparing to put this race on.
And of course for all of the volunteers that make something like this a reality. Thank
you also my family and trail family, for believing in me and letting me dream crazy dreams.
[The gorge; Photo by Amy Lopata]
This entry was posted in Race Recap.