Fun Trail Race | Danby Down And Dirty | New York

My plan for my racing season is coming to the close. The final race in the Finger Lakes Running club’s Trail Circuit is Danby Down and Dirty. And Danby down and dirty was the final race on my schedule that I knew I was going to run this year.

Danby Down and Dirty

Danby Down and Dirty offers two race distances. This year the race features a 23k distance for the long course. I love this new odd distance and I will have to run it some time. But this year I am running the shorter more standard distance, a 10k.

This race is so named because it take place in Danby state forest. The course for the race runs in part on the Finger Lakes Trail system. This includes the Abbot Loop, which is a branch of the Finger Lakes Trail that I have run on in the past.

Danby Down and Dirty

I really enjoy the 10k distance. This is a distance that I run often enough to be confident in. I know it is a distance that I can get done.  It is short enough that I don’t really require any serious training to at least get out for a good run at a hard effort.

Planning for a race

I wanted to give this race a hard effort and just see how it would go. Running has not been super consistent this year due in part to a still lingering Achilles issue. But for the most part that hasn’t slowed me down at recent races. I was ready to go out and give this race a hard push.

Danby Down and Dirty

When I am going into a trail race I try to compare what I know about the course to other trails I am familiar with. This helps me to have a sense of what to expect from a given course. I knew this course would have right around 1,000 ft. of elevation gain. That is less elevation gain than two loops around my favorite trails at home that I am familiar with. So I was expecting the course to be less demanding that those trails. This meant that I could push my pace to be a bit faster.

I also knew that this course included nearly two miles of dirt road. I didn’t know what the conditions or elevation gain/loss along the road would be like, but I generally expect road to be a faster surface than a trail. So I expected this to help me have a faster race. Little did I know what part this was going to play later.

Starting the race

On race day it was nice and cool. Just the conditions I like. On a regular training run I might have dressed a little warmer, but I was planning to push myself hard on this course and I wanted to make sure I did not get too hot especially on the climbs. I kept my clothing light with just a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. And I wore my hydration pack so I wouldn’t have to worry about stopping for water and could just have some water whenever I needed it without having to break my momentum.

Danby Down and Dirty

The race started off on the nearly two miles of dirt road. Perfect for trying to build up some momentum before hitting the woods. I ran down the road at a pretty fast pace for me, especially considering how my year had been going so far. The farther along the road I got the more it began to sink in that this entire road had been essentially downhill.

While downhill was good for building speed it changed my calculations about what the rest of the course was going to feel like. Instead of 1,000 feet of elevation gain spread out over 6 miles it really mean that there was 1,000 feet of elevation gain over the next 4 miles of the course. That quickly became evident as we exited the road segment.

Immediately after turning onto the single track leading into the woods we began our first little climb. It wasn’t too bad but it was just a hint of what was to come.

Running hard

After that climb the course flattened out a bit again. I pushed myself to maintain a consistent fast trail pace for me. My body could feel I was running hard. Lungs puffing. Heat pumping. Legs pounding and getting tired. I really liked the pace and the feel of how I was running, but I would not be able to sustain it throughout the race especially once more climbing got mixed in.

Danby Down and Dirty

As I was in the process of running the third mile of the race I started to think that running half of the race at this accelerated pace was a good goal for me. Once I reached mile three I would take my foot off the gas a little bit to make sure I did not completely implode before the finish.

As it turns out that decision was going to be made for me anyway. Shortly before the conclusion of the third mile of the race the trail started going up and up and up. This was a sign. The time to stop running at maximum pace was obviously now. It was time to switch into power hiking mode. Climb the hill and then move on and go from there.


This climb was by far the largest climb of the race. More than twice as much elevation gain in this one section than any other climb in the course as it turns out. And climbing is not my strong suit. My goal is to move at a decent pace and then get back to running at whatever pace I can manage until my strength returns.

Danby Down and Dirty

After that big climb the rest of the race consisted of a series of four more climbs and descents of varying amounts. One decent was a nice long one. Over the course of that section of the race I fell into my normal race experience of leap frogging back and forth with fellow runners. I would get passed on the climb and then pass back on the descent.

On the last climb of the race a fellow runner passed me and she said “Don’t worry. You’ll pass me on the next downhill.” I was feeling completely spent at this point. And I responded “I don’t know about that. I am feeling pretty destroyed right now.”

Finishing the race

But as she had predicted I reached the top of the climb and started down. Finding more and more strength and energy as the descent continued. I did end up passing a few of the runners who had passed me on the way up.

Danby Down and Dirty

It felt really good to end that race on a mostly downhill segment. I was able to get my feet back under me and push towards the end. Approaching the end I was able to finish in a time I was happy with and still feeling strong.

I waited at the finish line to cheer on my friends who had been with me on this entire trail running experience this year.

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