Finger Lakes Trail | 22 Mile Training Run
I haven’t written much about my training or running this year. This run however was a little bit of a different experience so I thought I would take a minute to write about it.
My training plan was calling for a 22 mile long run on trails. This is good because my biggest races are all on trail and I really have not spent much time running on trails this year. What I really wanted to do was run a one way point to point run on a section of the Finger Lakes Trail I am fairly familiar with.
I wanted to pick up the Finger Lakes Trail near the beginning of the Connecticut Hill Wildlife Management Area. This is one of my favorite sections of the trail. A perfect place to start out the day.
Then I would run on the Finger Lakes Trail until it passed through Robert Treman State Park and intersected Route 13. That would get me pretty close and I could just tack on a few miles as needed.
As the day of my run approached the forecast became for hotter and hotter weather. I do not do well in the heat. The forecast was for highs in the mid 80’s. No matter what time I started I would likely be out in the mid-day heat.
I decided to change my plans. The last thing I wanted was to get stuck out on the trail in the heat with no real good alternative other than to push on in the heat even if it would be ill advised. I altered my plan to run an out and back of 11 miles for the total of 22 miles. That way if the weather or other factors began to get the best of me I could turn back at whatever point was needed.
In addition to try to beat the heat I decided to get up at 5 AM and leave immediately for the trail to start as early as possible. Hopefully I would be on the trail and running by around 6 AM.
What Actually Happened
Long run day arrived. I got up at 5 AM. I did all the things one does to get ready for a long run. Then I got dressed. Grabbed my water and my hydration pack. And I was out the door all in pretty good time.
As I was driving and almost to the trail head thoughts of my gear popped into my head. Did I have everything? The answer was immediately NO!! I had forgotten my Picky Bars, which I was using for nutrition during the run. This was really ironic considering I had grabbed a Picky Bar to eat on the car on the way to the trail head. Never realizing for a moment that I did not grab the nutrition for during the run. I had even put the bars right next to my water in the fridge SO THAT I WOULD NOT FORGET THEM!!! And as they say about best laid plans.
For the briefest of moments the thought of just running anyway without my nutrition jumped into my head. But that is just pure lunacy for me. I will be out there for a long time. Nutrition was a necessity for me. I squashed that idea quickly.
I texted my wife to tell her I forgot my nutrition and I was headed home to get them. I was so mad at myself. It was so frustrating to plan this out and then screw it up. Especially on a day that was less than ideal for a long run to begin with. Any other day and it’s not such a big deal. Now I was going to be starting this long run an hour to an hour and a half later than I had planned for.
Then of course, my wife jumps into action. She texts me back. She tells me she can bring me the bars and meet me somewhere on the way back. My wife is my biggest supporter in all this nonsense that I do. I am not sure why she tolerates it let alone actively supports it like this. But she is amazing and I could not accomplish half the things I do without her support. She meets me on the highway with my nutrition. I thank her and give her a kiss and get on my way. Back to the trail head.
On The FLT
I got back to the trail head and was able to get started just after 7 AM. Not too bad considering all my missteps so far. Kind of an ominous beginning for a long day out on the trails. That beginning was about to get a little more ominous.
The beginning 1.5 miles of this section of trail is one of my favorite sections to run anywhere. It is relatively flat but has beautiful scenery . There is steep forest hillside on one side of the trail and on the other side of the trail is a gorgeous stream. This section ends as you cross the stream you have previously been running alongside.
This streamside section of trail was wetter and muddier than I had expected. We had rain not too long ago, but we had also had several days of warm temperatures. I expected, wrongly, that the trails would be mostly dried up. They were not. And this section was just the beginning.
After this nice flattish 1.5 miles is a long steep climb. Probably the worst of the whole section. I knew this and was expecting it. I don’t love climbing. It is the weakest part of my trail running. But I can manage.
I expected a climb. What I did not expect was all the mud. All the standing water. And all the slipping and sliding. I started thinking, “This is not what I signed up for”. I had to take it slowly. The last thing I needed was a fall and an injury at the very beginning of a long day.
To give my wife an idea of how long it would take me on this run I did a rough estimate and determined it could take around 6 hours. I did not like how this mud was sowing me down. I began to doubt that I would actually be able to get done in 6 hours. What if all the rest of the trails ahead looked like this sloppy muddy mess? It would truly be a long day.
I made a decision. I am running one way for 3 hours. At that point no matter what mileage I am at I turn around and I run back to the car. I didn’t realize how much that would help put my mind at ease. Once I made that determination I felt much better.
Six hours of running no matter the pace or the mileage was an excellent day of training. Time on feet is what really matters for long endurance events.
Most of this story is really about everything leading up to the run. The run itself was actually pretty uneventful which is actually the best kind of run a runner can ask for. Especially after this point.
Fortunately the trails started to dry up after about 3 miles into the run. From there on out things went pretty well. I took my time. Keeping the effort level at an easy pace. I familiarized myself with a trail I enjoy.
Upon reaching certain sections and my brain would remember what it was like to be here on previous visits.
I don’t know if this section of the FLT holds so much value to me because it’s just that nice or it is more of a nostalgia because it is where as it turned out I would run my first ultra-distance run ever, 4 years ago. But I do really love it.
As I neared the half way point of my run I started trying to figure out when I would need to turn around. Shouldn’t have been too hard right. But I really had a hard time mathing on this run. For some reason I got it in my head that I need to turn around and mile 12.
And turn around at mile 12 was lodged in there good for some reason. Eventually around mile 10 I hit this road section for a bit. All I could think was, “This looks like it goes on forever”. I vaguely remembered it and I knew there was a longish section of road.
I trekked down the road. Trying to keep my spirits up even though I fully expected that I was going at least 2 miles on road until I reached mile 12 and could turn around. That was fully formed in my head.
Luckily at about mile 10.8 the short in my brain got rewired and I realized I could turn around at mile 11. Not mile 12. That might have been the best feeling ever in that moment.
To top things off I reached mile 11 at an intersection. If I had gone on to mile 12 on the road I would have turned and headed downhill. Down a very steep hill. A hill that I would have had to turn around and struggle back up after only a mile. A mile I would not have even needed to do. Thank goodness my brain came back on line when it did.
On The Way Back
The journey back to the car was not as fast as I would have liked but I made decent time. Multiple times I was slogging up some climb and that would be there very moment I would also be harassed by a horsefly trying relentlessly to bite me. Like really now. Now when I can’t run at all. This is the time I have to deal with the added irritation of a horsefly. But if a horsefly is the worst thing you have to deal with out on a trail you win the trail run.
I got back to that final 3 mile stretch. The section that was all mud and slop. And this time I had to go downhill. So now I had to go extra careful to make sure I didn’t lose my footing and fall down the hill.
And that is apparently when my brain broke again and I once again lost the ability to do math. I continuously thought I was closer to being done than I was. Somehow mentally I lost about a mile. I don’t know what was going on with me. But after 20 miles it is a bummer to repeatedly realize you have farther to go than you thought.
When I was less than A mile from being done my brain had an internal dialog about how my watch must be off and I should be getting back to the car any time now. This despite being nearly a mile away. It took a while before my brain realized, no, I am indeed not yet at mile 22 and my car is not imminently around the next bend in the trail.
I did eventually finish that last mile. Got done at mile 22. Preparation once corrected for operator error was good.. I had enough food and water. The heat did not affect me too badly. Fortunately most of this part of the trail is in the forest. The few times I was out in the sun were the worst. Getting done not too long after midday was also helpful. I was done by around 1 PM. That was faster than the 6 hours I estimated. I was done in about 5.5 hours.
I knew a lot of people were going to be spending long hot hours at Worlds End Ultra while I was out on this trail, and I could not imagine taking on that course in this heat.