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Trail Race With Friends | Fourth Time Is A Charm? | Finger Lakes 50s 25k

So here we are again. Time for the Finger Lakes 50’s trail races. This was my 4th time running in this event. My first time going in for the 25k version since 2017.

Back in 2017 the Finger Lakes 50s 25k was my first ever 25k distance. And this has been a wild and crazy ride to return back here for my second go at the 25k distance here at finger Lakes 50s. since 2017 my running escalated quickly from running my first 25k races in 2017 to running my first marathon and then ultras in 2018.

Now back here at the 25k after my last two runs here were 50 mile attempts. My first try I didn’t finish the 50 mile but came away with a 50k finish in 2019. Then in 2021 I finished the 50 mile distance as the very last runner to cross the finish line.

Finger Lakes 50s 25k

Trails with friends

This year myself and two friends are tackling the entire Finger Lakes Running Club Trail Series. And for the Finger Lakes 50s 25k we found even more friends to join us for this race. There were six of us that showed up together to run this race.

Weather always seems to be the biggest factor at this race. Sometimes it’s due to rain. Other times it is the heat. And Sometimes it is both rain and heat. I’ve run in torrential downpours for an entire 25k. I ran in oppressive heat that eventually broke into a steady rain. And the trails are usually wet and muddy.

This year the spring and summer have ben unusually dry. It seemed like it was going to be a relatively dry course and maybe that would lead to an opportunity for some fast times. And dry trails ended to be the case for almost the entire loop. The down side was that it was warm. Warmer than I would prefer. It was nearly 70 degrees at start time. And the forecast was for temps in the 80’s. Really not what I wanted for race day. I do not do well in the heat.

Starting the race

I have come to love the start of this race. You run downhill on a dirt road for a bit and then turn sharply into the woods and are immediately on single track trails. I encouraged all my friends to get up near the front of the pack for the start of the race and to start out running pretty hard. There is plenty of room for the fast people to go by as we run down the dirt road and this gives us the best shot at getting to the turn off into the woods in a good spot. Which can be important because as the field of runners has to turn and funnel into the woods and onto the single track it can be like traffic trying to merge in a construction site. And on a nice long race the las thing I wanted for us was to get hung up going slower than we really wanted to in the very beginning of the race when we felt fresh. There would be plenty of time for slowing down later if needed.

Finger Lakes 50s 25k

Most of my friends running this race were running it for the first time and really didn’t know what to expect. Before the race I told all my friends that everyone as going to finish in under 4 hours. And I encouraged my friend I had been doing the most running with to shoot for a sub 3 hour 30 minute finish. Getting out to a fast start was going to help with these goals.

As I tracked the weather leading into the race I knew it was going to be warm. So I really wanted to have cold water to drink during the race. I planned ahead and mixed up my hydration mix in advance and froze it in my hydration pack. I figured I could just drink it as it melted during the race.

This plan backfired on my a little bit. I was keeping our group of friends moving at a pretty good pace for the first 3-4 miles. The only problem for me was that I had no hydration to sip on during that time because my block of frozen hydration in my bladder was not melting as fast as I had thought it would. Not always a huge problem, but for me at a longer race in the heat it can be an issues. I sweat a ton and need to keep hydrated  and keep my electrolytes balanced. This was not going to happen with a frozen pack.

As we approached the first possible aid station stop I decided I would stop and get a glass of whatever hydration mix they had on store. I encouraged my friends that were running close to me to keep going up the only real climb of the race. They had hydration packs for hydration with water that was not frozen like mine, so they were fine. I told them that I would catch up after I got a drink.

Aid stations

Ha. What did I know?

I stopped at the aid station for a drink. My friends started climbing. As I left he aid station another of our friends reached the aid station.

I started my climb. Chatted with another runner for a little bit. Started to catch up to my friends ahead of me.

As I was running I could see my friends up ahead until we went around bends in the trail. I eventually got pretty close. I figured that I could catch them soon, but nature was calling. Always trying to stay hydrated I drank too much fluids prior to the race. I decided I was pretty close to catching up with my friends so now was a good time to stop and take care of business and then I would resume running and catch up with them in a few minutes.

Finger Lakes 50s 25k

After answering natures call I stepped back on the trail and began running. Shortly another of our friends that came on this journey with us was behind me and talking to me. We began to run together. Talking and sharing the fun on the trails.

I told her that our other friends were just a little bit farther ahead of us on the trail. We could probably catch them sooner or later.

I had no idea how this race was going to play out, but it was fun starting out running with one set of friends for the first several miles. Then just by chance ending up running with another friend for probably another third of the race.

As we ran together we would eventually reach an aid station and we would see out other friends just up ahead passing by the aid station. We decided to stop at each aid station and get some nutrition and hydration. None of the food I was planning to eat and had in my pack was appetizing at all. So I opted for some gels that were at the aid stations and resupplied at each station.

After each stop at aid station we fell back behind our friends again. This scenario replayed itself multiple times. Every time we came to a more open section or straight away we could see our friends just a little ways up ahead of us. But for that stretch we just couldn’t quite catch them. I don’t think they even knew that we were close behind them. I was happy to see that my friends were running strong and making it hard to catchup to them.

Weather

At one point during the race there was a brief rain. I was so thankful for that little dousing of water. I was really hoping it would continue, but no luck. Instead the heat and humidity continued. And it was wearing me out.

Finger Lakes 50s 25k

Eventually we reached a short road section that was a bit of an uphill. We could see our friends up ahead. But I was in no shape to speed up the climb to catch them. My friend on the other hand was feeling strong and surged up the hill. I on the other hand decided it was best to take a moment and walk this hill. Saving my strength for a more runnable section for me.

I did not catch up to my friends that were ahead of me until I finished the race. The heat was taking its toll on me. I was able to keep a decent pace for most of the final stretch of the race. Taking breaks to walk on sections that emerged into the sun. The shade of the woods was saving me.

As I approached the final aide station I finally gave in to the heat and walked the rest of the way to the aid station after it was in sight. The slow slightly uphill grade was combining with the heat to wear me down. It was also interesting to be in this section and be thinking back to prior experiences at this race and remembering how much I struggled here before as well.

I stopped at this aid station and took my time. I pour 3 cups of water over my head to cool down. Runners streamed past me. I regrouped. I headed back out on the trail. Slowly walking through the cow pasture to try to stay cool out in the sun.

The last few mile sin the heat was tough, but I was able to get through it. My slowest miles of the race by far. Mixing running with walking on and off. Just trying not to get overheated. Then I finally crossed the finish line and rejoined several of my friends.

Finish

Shortly after I finished the last person in our crew crossed the finish line. We all made it in under 4 hours. Several of us near the 3.5 hour mark.

Then we all sat and enjoyed the post-race festivities and food. I was starting to eat and trying to recover from the heat. It wasn’t a great feeling. I thought I might throw up.

Eventually I decided to get some medical attention just to be on the safe side. I decided that if I had a real negative outcome at the one race my wife wasn’t with me at she might never let me race again. So better to get checked out and be safe. It wasn’t anything too serious. A little heat exhaustion. I laid down in the shade with some ice and slowly recovered. But I started feeling better once I just sat still and tried to cool off. Eventually I was able to eat and drink.

My friends took good care of me. I got to have a ride in the medical cart back to our car. And we all enjoyed our ride back home after a fun day out on the trails with friends.

Every year at this race I have a new experience. That must be why I keep coming back. It was so much fun training for and running this race with my friends.


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