Trail Running | Lucifer’s Crossing | Red Newt Racing
I am loving this race season. So many new experiences for me. And this one racks up one more. I toed the line at Lucifer’s Crossing.
Lucifer’s crossing is a race put on by Red Newt Racing. I have been aware of this race for some time. One year I went and spectated and photographed the race one year because a bunch of my friends were running it. I just never really had much desire to run it because I was familiar with the park where the race takes place and I knew that it would require a lot of climbing, which is not my favorite part of any trail race.
Lucifer’s crossing is a trail race held at Robert Treman State Park in New York. I have been to this park many times. I have hiked around the gorge and rim trail loop. And I often go there to photograph the beautiful falls and other natural scenery at the park. But usually when I go, especially for photography, I don’t hike the full length of the trails because as I mentioned before I don’t really like climbing. But the park is beautiful and if you have the opportunity to attend this event and don’t mind some climbing in your trail runs you should definitely check it out.
This year I had the proper motivation to run this event. I wanted to run the Finger Lakes Running Club trail circuit and Lucifer’s Crossing is one of the races included in the trail circuit. If I wanted to complete all the races I had to do Lucifer’s Crossing.
Starting the race
This race became instantly more interesting right of the back just by arrival at the park to get to the start/finish line. I had looked at the course map briefly but not really paid close enough attention and I just assumed that because I had been here before for the race I knew where the start finish line was going to be. Wrong Answer. We all know what happens when you assume. Luckily I arrived early enough to get to the right spot with plenty of time to get my bib and get ready for the race.
Based on my previous experience at the race I thought we would be starting at the bottom of the gorge which is the main attraction of this state park and essentially be running up one side of the gorge and then back down the other side to the bottom. Wrong. The start/finish seemed to be at about the midpoint of the climb up the gorge. Now I really had no idea what to expect. I just knew there would be a lot of climbing but I had no idea what other twists and turns were in store for the runners today.
Even though I wasn’t sure what to expect from the race course I was feeling pretty confident about what I could expect from myself on this day. I had been mostly resting. Very little running to try and recover from a nagging injury that was most likely some Achilles tendonitis. I was feeling well rested and fresh. Most importantly my Achilles was feeling really good. I was planning to go out strong and see how my Achilles and the rest of my body held up.
Trying for speed over endurance
For me most trail races are much more about endurance than speed. I am usually just trying to maintain a consistent pace over the long haul rather than trying to go fast. But given my prior experience I felt that this was the type of race that I could take a chance at right out of the box and try to run at a faster pace than me and if I ended up pushing too hard and had to really back off I would still be able to finish the race ok.
As the race started we exited the staging area and quickly turned and began to climb up the gorge. I ran this section pretty hard for me. Normally my philosophy is to power hike all the climbs, but I wanted to really test myself today. I was even passing people going up this first climb, which is not something I often am able to do in a trail race. This probably should have been a sign that I was taking an approach to this race that would not benefit me long term. The first mile of this race, which included mostly climbing was my fastest mile of the race. So maybe I should have held something back.
Then we reached the stairs.
The race started off ascending the Rim Trail at the park. I was ok with that because in my mind the Gorge Trail would be a harder ascent because there are a lot of stairs on that side. I would rather climb on a trail where I can make my stride as comfortable to me as possible rather than have to stride as dictated by the length and distance of the stairs. But I totally forgot that there is a daunting series of stairs on this side of the gorge on the Rim Trail. And when we reached them I had to ease off and take my time climbing them. There were at least 3 flights of stairs in succession. No breaks in between.
In the first 2 miles or so of the race there are two major climbs. Each climb was followed by a steep descent. I was really happy with how I was able to run on these descents. In my last race I really could not take full advantage of the descents because of my Achilles pain. During this race I could run just about as hard as I was capable of and there was no pain. Steep descents are not my favorite type of downhill running, but any descending is preferable to climbing in my book. And these descents although steep were not particularly technical.
The one tricky spot was right in the middle of one nice fast downhill there was a downed tree that was at about chest height. Really had to slow down to make sure I could duck under that one. Could have definitely taken a serious hi there if I was not paying attention.
I was really happy with how I felt running down the Gorge Trail section in the upper areas of the park that features most of the waterfalls. There are a lot of stairs and smooth stone walkways to navigate and I wasn’t sure how that would feel. I was able to make my way down the stairs better than expected. It feels so much more unnatural to be going fast down the stairs than on a normal dirt trail. I had to really keep my eyes down to make sure I didn’t miss any steps.
Shortly after the second steep descent there is a third climb and it is a beast. This was the section of the race where I struggled the most. Running hard from the gun left me with little energy for this third climb. And I really was not expecting this limb to be more challenging than what I had already climbed. It felt like it went on forever. I lost steam here. Finally emerging to a more level terrain but I was drained.
There was a good stretch of what could have been really runnable trail, but it was strewn with downed trees. I did not have the energy left to run and a reasonable pace and also engage the obstacles of going over trees in an efficient manner. The trees took a bit more off my pace.
On this course runners start out on one side of the gorge, climb that side of the gorge to the top. Then cross over to the other side of the gorge and descend about half way. And then the course swings out away from the main gorge climbing back up into the woods on the same side of the gorge. Then reaching the upper most part of the park runners cross back over to the side of the gorge where they started but run deeper into the woods rather than along the rim of the gorge.
Running the FLT
This takes us to the part of the course I was excited about. On this part of the course runners hit a two mile section of the Finger Lakes Trail. This is one of the few sections of the Finger Lakes Trail I have not been on in this area. This was a fun section of trail. It would have been more fun if I wasn’t so tired. This section of trail was full of ups and downs literally. None of the climbs were particularly long but they were all steep. Just a series of steep up and downs on the trails. Enough to break up any momentum built up on the downhill and tire me out a bit on the climb. And then there is a good little section of downhill running that takes the runners to the finish line.
Best of all after falling twice during my last race I did not fall at all during this race.
I am really glad I set this commitment for myself otherwise I would not have run this race and I would have missed out on a really fun race. This is a race that I will probably return to.