Trail 10k | Tortoise and Hare | Finger Lakes Running Club

Will I be the tortoise or will I be the hare? Pretty sure I won’t be the hare, but I am feeling a little swifter than a tortoise these days. It’s time for the next Finger Lakes Running Club trail race. This event is the Tortoise & Hare Trail Run, which has a distance of apx 10k. You know trail distances. It’ll be kinda close. This is the fourth race in the FLRC Trail Circuit.

Pre- Race

This race is held at another one of our beautiful state parks. This time at Buttermilk Falls State Park. I wanted to arrive a little early to have a chance to stretch my legs. And what better way to do that then hiking a little ways up the gorge and photographing one of the amazing waterfalls that this state park features.

Butter Milk Falls State Park


I have run this race two time before. Way back in 2016 and 2017. So it has been 5 years since I was last here. I am familiar with the course and I had some idea of what to expect. There was the one beast of a climb after the one mile loop around the fields and woods of the lower park. I was really hoping to just be a little bit faster than the last time I was here. Then at the pre race meeting they made an announcement that the course had to be rerouted due to a bridge we would normally cross being out. This year the race would run all the way around Lake Treman at the upper portion of the state park. And the RD said on of my least favorite words when in the setting of a trail race, STAIRS. WE would have to navigate some stairs. I didn’t know if that meant going up or going down or how many but for me stairs in general make a race course more difficult.

Time Warp footage of first half of Tortoise and Hare 10k

Run the race you’re in

And then it was time to race. I knew the first mile was essentially flat as we ran across the field and looped around through the woods. My goal was to run that at a pretty fast pace so I could try to get a little separation before staring the big climb to the upper part of the park. knowing myself, the climb is where I would struggle the most so getting out to a quick start was going to be a great help.

I finished the first mile in 8:31 and it actually felt pretty good. I was pushing, but not too hard. An 8:31 pace is good for me and is quite fast for me on trails. I was feeling pretty strong. And I was ready to take on the climb.

The climb

I am not a climber. When it comes to trail running large chunks of elevation game are me weakness. This is where I am most often passed by people. Then the big climbs leave me feeling sapped for energy even after finishing them and it takes a while for me to get my feet back under me.

I was really hoping to perform better on this climb than I did, but considering my volume of running has been pretty low for the past month I will take what I can get. I power hiked up the climb the best that I could. 515 feet of elevation gain over the second mile and that didn’t even complete the full climb. It ended up being another 10th of a mile to finish off the climb.

Then the course flattened out for the next mile.

2nd half of the Tortoise and Hare 10k

Upper Buttermilk Falls

The portion of the race run in the upper part of Buttermilk Falls State Park is not as flat as the first mile, but is much flatter than the second mile was. It is actually a nice section of trail. Mostly single track trails. A lot of mostly small elevation changes. And it is a nice scenic jaunt through the woods.

At the far end of the course that trail reaches the farthest part of Buttermilk Falls State Park. And that is also the highest elevation point of the race. So, thats good right.

Normally the course for the race is like a reverse4 lollipop setup. The runners run the loop through the field in the beginning then up to the farthest out point of the park with just a small loop at the top before retracing their steps back down the gorge the same way they had come.

Usually I see a lot of the lead runners pass by me on their way back down. But due to the change in the course this year causing us to run around the lake at the top of the park I only saw the race leader as he completed his loop of the lake and headed back down the gorge.

Running around the lake

I really wasn’t sure what to make of having to run around the lake this year. I had hiked the trail around the lake once before but I really could not remember anything about it. But, apparently, according to the race director there would be stairs.

The part of the loop that took us around the lake for the most part was a fun run. There was actually a good bit of downhill running, which is what I like. Unfortunately, the nice runnable sections were punctuated with a few steep stair climbs.

When I reached the first of these stair climbs I cursed under my breath. These stairs really slowed me down and that is where I began to lose ground. At each new stair climb I was passed by more people. But eventually that was over. I survived it and I still had gas in the tank.

I knew what was next. Descending that steep climb we had in the beginning. Time to see what I had left.

The final descent

After completing the circuit around the lake it was essentially all downhill from here. That included a steep decent that covered almost all of what turned out to be the final 3/4 of a mile.

This is where I was hoping to have a chance to put some speed on. I like downhill running and I am not afraid to try to go as fast as my legs can handle.

I was slowly picking up the pace. But I was also trying to pace myself and not push too hard too soon. I wanted to have something left to go hard on the long descent and push through the flat to the finish line. Going hard all the way down was going to put a pounding on my legs and tire them out so I had to conserve them a little bit leading into this final drop down to the finish.

Then the moment arrived. Down hill we go. This is what the whole race is about for me. A chance to run this very runnable and steep descent. Downhill running is my favorite especially on runs where I have enough left in the tank to try and go fast. And this race did not let me down. I was actually able to catch and pass a couple of people who had passed me previously.

Then I was down the hill and across the finish line.

I grabbed a bagel and some Gatorade and walked back towards the area directly preceding the finish line to wait and cheer on my friends who were also running the race. They both finished shortly after I did. And we celebrated a well run race together.

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