Thursday, July 12, 2012


Hector, NY July 30, 2012

Thweekend of June 30th I returned to run the Finger Lakes 50 Mile Trail Run.  A race I discovered by accident in 2007 and have been returning ever since.  The RD Chris Reynolds and her husband Joe put on a fabulous race every year.  This year it was held a bit earlier than usual, on June 30, 2012 which was right on for my summer racing schedule.

Joe and Chris at the Start Line

This year for the first time I was on the waiting list for the Finger Lakes 50.  The sign of the times, register early and plan ahead.  Not so easy to do in the middle of the winter but a necessity these days.  With about a month to go, I finally made the list of runners.  As usual, this 50 miler is a trainer for an upcoming 100 miler 2-3 weeks later.  This year it's a prep for the Tahoe Rim 100 to be held on July 21st.

Preparation for the race this year was not the best.  Yes I had the running miles in but sometimes I take for granted the 50 mile distance.  For the 2 weeks leading up to the race I was involved in some remodeling doing roof demolition and installation in the 90 degree hot temps.  Thursday before the race I was on a roof for 8 hours in the hot sun and limped off the roof, only to go home to try to get some miles in.  So it goes.  Friday was the long drive (6 hours) to the Finger Lakes which got me there by nightfall.  Plenty of time to sleep although I chatted with some of the other racers and volunteers until late into the night as I was still wired from the drive.  I had a great night sleep although short, sleeping in Hotel Ford and was up by 5:00 AM to appreciate the fine dining at race registration.  I quickly got my race gear ready, my drop bag organized for the loop and before you knew it, it was time to run.

The Start
At the start line I didn't recognize too many runners but figured I would meet them as we dashed down the road.  And so I did.  By the time we entered the trail, I was in front with Jeff Powers and Mark Manz following along.  Shortly into the trail section I stumbled and Jeff and Mark took over the  lead which was fine with me.  I much rather follow than lead at this point in the race.  So for most of the first lap it was the three of us cruising along.  The trails were in great shape, dryer than usual.  The single track was fun to run, nothing that technical.  No issues with cows either this year with most of the field gates wide open so no issues with opening and closing of the gates or herds of bulls running through the fields.

Running behind Jeff and Mark in one of the cow meadows.
I would let Jeff and Mark get away on the wide open stretches but would catch them on more technical downhills or at aid stations as I had enough provisions to bypass the aid stations.  Near the end of the first loop I was looking at the times and figured we were going out way too fast for a 50 miler, especially with the heat, and decided to back off a bit.  In my mind I knew each lap would get slower with the day getting warmer and in order to get in at a reasonable time, it was time to back off.  Arriving back at the start/finish after lap one, I was about 2 minutes behind Jeff and Mark.  I was fine with that and was now just running my own race.  The second lap I was pretty much on my own.  I refueled at the beginning of the Loop with fresh GU Brew, GU gels and a refreshing of Body Glide and electrolyte pills and continued on.  Lap 2 was starting to heat up some but not too bad.  In trying to keep up on my electrolytes, I was having a hard time swallowing my electrolyte pills.  I was trying a new kind which were much larger.  As it was, I usually develop a gag reflex at some point with the smaller pills but with these new larger pills I was developing the gag reflex much earlier.  By the middle of the second lap, I was in serious trouble swallowing the electrolyte pills.  And by attempting to swallow them, I had become nauseous.  Not a good thing.  I was still able to hold down some coke at the aid stations and gels but the stomach was really starting to swell and hurt.

A quiet day for the cows.

I made it through the second lap way slower than lap one not feeling good and was seriously thinking about bailing out after the 50K distance, which is perfectly legal in this race.  I had even justified running more miles on Sunday to get in my weekly miles but then thought, how can I run a 100 miler 3 weeks later if I can't even run a 50 miler now??  Plus the other 2 guys ahead of me had dropped at 50K leaving me in the lead.  So no way could I just quit now.  I had to keep moving forward hoping no one else would pursue and push ahead.

The Trails were in great shape this year.  Zsuzsanna running along.

Lap 3 was really starting to heat up with temps nearing 90 degrees.  I was running alone and it wasn't long before the stomach fully erupted.  I had attempted to down another electrolyte pill and that was all that was needed.  It didn't go down and now I was in puke mode.  Not just dry heaves either but the full on AJ puke fest.  Lovely!  The only positive was afterwards I felt much better and could run again.  I thought about Jeff and Mark and cursed them out for bailing at 50K thinking I would have been happy to do that if they hadn't.  For lap 3 it became the run/walk/puke for 3 hours, almost an hour slower than lap one.  I tried many times to eat and drink but was unsuccessful.  And further attempts to swallow electrolyte pills only caused further eruptions.  So I was on my own, running in a fog.  I even tried to fool the brain by swishing liquid in my mouth and spitting it out but it didn't work.  

Zeke enjoying the trails.
Finally I arrived at the start finish after lap 3 and only had the 1/2 mile "baby loop" to run.  I even did the run/walk here.  I didn't see anyone nearby so figured why not.  I went by the pond again, thinking about a swim but managed to motivate myself to the finish line to end this misery.  As soon as I crossed the line, the stars had come out but it was still day light.  I quickly found a nice spot to lie down before I was involuntarily placed there.  This was good!  After a short rest and some liquid I went back to the pond for a cool down swim which felt great!  So the win this day was not pretty and came down to me outlasting the competition.  Not the best approach to take but for this year it seemed to work.

Dead body pose at the finish,  I do it well!
This was another good learning experience for me.  Don't take 50 milers for granted, especially when the temps are getting towards the 90's.  And get my electrolytes and nutrition back on track.

The heat of the day caused many 50 milers to drop down to 50K but there were still some great results especially for the women.  Laura Swift can in as first 50 mile woman of the day and 2nd overall setting a new course record on the newer course.  And 2nd woman, third overall was Jamie Kyei-Frimpong.  First master male was John Fegyveresi who will be running Badwater this year.  And first master woman was Nancy Kleinrock finishing 5th overall with a new masters course record as well.  Full results can be found  here.

Jack with Laura and Jamie.

There was a funny article in the Ithaca Journal regarding this race:
  Finger Lakes 50s: Running into all kinds of interesting people

Raramuri -- the Running People. Christopher McDougall's book,
"Born to Run" tells the fascinating story of Mexico's canyon dwellers
who run hundreds of miles as a way of life. I've never surpassed 26.2
miles and have only ventured as far into Mexico as the mountains of
Rumorosa. So why are the Raramuri dwelling in my mind?

Blame it on the Finger Lakes Fifties, held in Hector's National Forest.
Blame it on 54-year-old Jack Pilla from Vermont, whose 7:55 50-mile
championship has me ruminating. At the finish line, Pilla sprawled on
the ground with closed eyes and a smile. Crinkly lined blue eyes
opened as friends harassed him: "showing your age, Jack?" From the
ground he murmured, "That was an ugly win."

The 50 Mile Award and a Growler of Beer :)

My shoes and socks clearly outlasted me on this day.  
The Pearl Izumi Trail II's were awesome as well as the Drymax socks. 
The Headsweats Super Duty Cap was great for fending off those pesky deer flies.

The Gear
I was pretty much toast after the race, much more than usual.  Totally dehydrated and lacking other nutrients in my body.  It would take hours before I could get some solid food down and get my head back on straight.  While driving home after the race I discovered an ice cream shop that had lemonade slushies, excellent recovery drink!  Later on in Oneonta I was able to get down a couple of slices of plain cheese pizza.  A couple hours later, an ice cream shake was the ticket.  By the time I got home, all was feeling much better.

Next up, July 21st, Tahoe Rim 100 in Nevada :)

“Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on 
after others have let go.”


Joyce said...

Awesome post Jack!!

Metis said...

A few years later, but do you still live in Oneonta? I've been living here since 2011 and only know a couple trail runners. It'd be great to have more company albeit, you're a helluva lot faster than I am!

Unknown said...

Sorry but I live in VT. But there should be a lot of trail runners around the Finger Lakes region.