Cayuga 50 – In Pursue of Happiness

Cayuga 50 was one of my two race nemesis. I had been in this race twice before and I DNF-ed on both of them. One from a rhabdo symptoms and the other one was from falling to a rock on my busted pelvis. But this time I came in smarter and stronger, I was ready what might come. The question was, would I  have the will power to face the stairways to heaven out and back twice.
General Description From The RD
Cayuga Trails uses an out-back C-shape course configuration w/ a lollipop loop on the far end. The out-back configuration was chosen secondary to the FLT extending onto road and fairly unremarkable sections beyond each terminus. The result has allowed entrants to have the opportunity to see the race shaking out ahead and behind them in several points. It starts and ends in Robert H. Treman State Park where it ascends the gorge trail, passing through the Lucifer Fall’s area in the upper gorge and the Finger Lakes Runner’s Club’s Old Mill AS, before wrapping out/connecting with/descending on the Rim Trail. Both sections are double/triple track trail which was intentionally chosen to allow the field to accommodate packs while minimizing potential impact to more sensitive surrounding single-track. Once clearing IronHeart Racing’s Underpass AS runners will cross a creek and ascend single-track through and beyond the Finger Lake Land Trust’s Lick Brook Gorge. From there it feeds through to Buttermilk Falls State Park where it begins the lollipop loop, traversing the upper old reservoir, merging w/ a scenic park road and descending on the old Burma Rd to Trails Roc’s Buttermilk AS. From there it ascends the Buttermilk Gorge Trail on its way back to the start. Fifty milers complete two circuits, 40k’rs one.
The elevation gain is most likely somewhere around 9,000 though GPS devices have recorded as much as 11k+. It’s tough to get a handle on an accurate read given the nature of the tight gorges and inaccurate signals. There are creek crossings around mile 4, 7.5, and 11.5…hit again on the return so the feet will stay wet.
The Escalator’s Belt Still Broken
I dragged myself into the starting line around 5am, an hour before the starting line. This race was an USTAF championship, and also the winner would get into the US team for IAU World Trail Championship 2016 in October at Portugal. So there were so many fast people’s toes on the front line  that I could see. I also met a plenty of friendly faces, it was kinda of like a little reunion.
I lined myself with Chang in the middle of the pack. The plan was, first finished, and second was having fun. So I started it with an easy jog on and just went out with the crowds flow. Then the first stairs of the day started to soon. I started to power hike it and take a small jog for a breather on the flat and ran on the downhill. Every single downhill I got myself a little closer to the front. It was such a perfect day, not too cold and not too hot either, a bit humid maybe. After passing the first gorges stairs by the stream and a small waterfall, I arrived at the first aid station. After I grabbed some of the oranges and bananas, I quickly kept going on my quest.
There was our first stream crossing, I didn’t remember this section had calves deep stream, so I am curious how deep would it be for the river crossing. I still stick with my plan, jogged – hiked – ran on the downhill. On the rolling hills it became like a catch and go game with the other runners, so I got a chance to brain-farting with people. And I arrived at the stairs that was build next to a hundred feet high water fall, Lucifer Waterfall. Literally, we were running down the waterfall through the stairs. I put a side my thought of running it up on the way back twice. I kept going on the single trail switch back and rolling hills. I passed the small creek where I busted my pelvis last year, I recognized the culprit stone. But funny enough this stream was pretty dry compare to last year.
After I got into the underpass I arrived at the aid station 2, Underpass. Again I just made a quick stop to grabbed oranges, banana and topped off my bottle. I couldn’t wait to get to the river crossing which was coming next. Ian (the RD) changed it a little bit. Instead we ran over the train track, we ran underneath the train bridge, over the sandy banks, and jump into the water. The water was a waist deep and it was a nice chill temperature. I wished I could just lay back there, but I couldn’t. The next section probably one of my favorite section, the steep ascent-switch back trail of Lick Brook Hill. Finally I could get a break from stairs. From here to the 3rd aid station, the Buttermilk, seemed a little different from my memory. Although it had the amounts of stairs, but it had a longer road section somehow. After I crossed the dam, everything was downhill and I reached the aid station, Buttermilk aid station. Oh I forgot to mention, this race was a cup free event. Instead wasting a thousand plastic cup, Ian gave us a reusable collapse-able silicon cup, that we carried throughout the race. LOVE IT!
Then I started to climb the longest stairs section off the course. I didn’t want to jog it, I prefer to power hike it while I ate my banana breakfast. There I saw my coach from Mountain Peak Fitness, Elizabeth, who was doing a live coverage of the race. She checked on how did I feel and do, and thanks to her, everything went great.
I looked my watch and I realized that I was running too fast, since this was my longest run for the last past year probably. So I started to do more hiking more often and running down only the downhill. I think in one of the trail before the road crossing, I saw Mike Daigeaun ran like a ghost from the opposing direction for Marathon distance.
After we passed the single track trail on the open trail, the one that remind me of Gladiator opening scene, we started to running down the Lick Brook Hill on the other side, before we jumped into the river and got into the Underpass aid station. I took a couple of salt cab here, since I was out of Tailwind in my bottle. And I moved on and could not wait to climb the Lucifer Fall’s stairs. And my wished shortly came true. I was huffing puffing climb up the stairs, and I swore to myself that I would not allow the stairs took my spirit away. After I got to the top, it took me awhile to get my legs and lungs recovered before I started to jog-run-hike again. Somewhere in between these section, around the broken wooden escalator, I saw Tyler sprinting on the trail creating distance from Jared. When I got into the Old Mill aid station, I grabbed some coke, banana and oranges, where I saw Mathew coming into the aid station. And I started to continue with my run again since it was mostly down hill.
Crash and Burn
When I got into the Start/Finish area, I saw the clock was 4 something, maybe 14 ish or something. I had to run across the clock first before I could go to the aid station. I saw Scottie, one of the MPF RNR team, who was volunteering there, and he helped me with refill my bottle with a new pack of Tailwind, while I was eating and chugging water and coke. I tried to find bananas there but I could not find one. So I told them it s ok, I would grab it on the next aid station and I just went back to the trail. Just a few hundreds meters away from the start finish area, one of the volunteer guy ran to me, brought a banana to me, and asked me if I still wanted it. Man I wished I could remember his face, it was such a blur. So I took half of the banana and ate it on the first hike when we get off on the trail. I decided to take it even easier until I passed the Buttermilk stairs, and see how I would feel before I go zoom zoom. So I was pretty much power hike most of the ascent, and just jogging the flat and downhill. Just before the Old Mill aid station, at the stairs by the little creek and falls, I saw a drones drifting in the air. That’s pretty neat. I met Ian at this aid station and I complained that the escalators still broken. I grabbed some coke, oranges and bananas again. I started to feel the fatigue crept on me, but I didn’t want to spend too much time in the aid station. I kept going while eating the fruits. When I crossed the small creek I saw Keila was just behind me. So on the single trail I let her to pass me, and I had no desire to follow her pace. Telling myself to be patience. After we got off from the singe track, I ran with Karen for a few minutes, and again I let her passed me after the Lucifer Falls downstairs. Again me myself and I, with my turtle pace. When I got into the Underpass I got more salt and coke, and kept moving as quickly as I could. When I jumped into the water, I spent a good minute too cool off. I jinxed the weather probably. Before I climbed the Lick Brook hill, I saw Chang coming in from the turn, about the time I told myself. He passed me at the next hill, and he asked me how I felt and if I had everything, and I said all is good.
Then I grabbed my bottle, and I just realized that I forgot to refill my bottle at the Underpass aid station. Better yet, I left my other Tailwind sachet in the start/finish after race bag. When I thought I could have a perfect race, I kinda screwed it.  So I became more cautious about my fluid intake.  Not far from the Lick Brook, I saw Tyler was already on the way back, and I saw Jared flying a mile later in the open field section. By this time, I was completely out of water, right at the same time when someone switched the Sun on. When I crossed the road after the open fields, the volunteer asked me if I needed water, she had a couple of gallons there. So I filled my bottle about quarter or half, since I did not want to use up all of her water, and also the Buttermilk probably was only 2 miles away. On the downhill to the Buttermilk, I started to my muscles were at the brink of cramps.  So I grabbed 2 salt tabs, the volunteer filled up my bottle with ice water, and I grabbed more oranges and bananas. I pushed myself back to the stairs, just want to get over it. There was a guy who was using poles in front of me, ugh how I would love to have a pair of those. After I passed the stairs, my body felt whacko. If it was an airplane, all the needles would be jumping around like in Bermuda triangle. I ended up sit at the picnic benches and took a break. I sip the water a few times while try to calm my body down. After about 10-15 minutes, I started to move again, and now I was able to do run and hike much better then before, still way slower than what I wanted too. But I just need to finish, not to chase anything. I was pretty much walk the whole open fields section, I felt like overheated. When I got into the river, I took a bath there for a few minutes too cool down my body. Also, I saw Kevin Bartow there, my fellow Orange Mud, who had to DNF from injury.
When I got to the Underpass, I stopped for more salt tab and food. Also I met the volunteer who helped me to take me to the evacuation 2 years ago, when I DNFed from rhabdo symptom. He gave me a frozen pops. Like a kid, I was so happy that I was able to run again until I hit the bottom of Lucifer Falls stairs. Although it was painful, but it felt it was not as bad as my imagination. I was depleted, cramped, and huffing puffing when I got to the top, but I was so happy. I felt I was finishing the race already. Nothing would hold me back from here to the sweet finish line. Tho I was back to slow turtle mode between run and hike, and others started to pass me again. But it was mainly downhill, so I could take that. I got to the  Old Mill aid station, I was a little upset with my last 8 miles ish, I lost so many time and positions from walking. I gulped 2 cokes, refill my water and started to move again. I just kept it in my mind that it was only 3 miles, I could run this, I had done this distance millions of times. Although I could not catch up with the other 50 milers, but I was running as best as I could. Soon enough, I got into the campsite area road, I could see the runners in front of me were finishing. I tried to ramp up my pace. My body said no, I said yes. I said it was only like 10 blocks away to the house. Made a turn. I passed another runner, and tried to encourage him to run with me for the last hundreds meters. I saw Elizabeth and Kevin were taking video. I saw Ian on my left and gave him 3 fingers. It took me three attempts to finish this stairway to heaven race.
This might not be my best 50 miler race, but I gave it all, and I ran it with all my heart. Even I was cursing the stairs and cramping muscles, but I believed I was pretty cheer up the whole time. Somebody told me that happiness and smile were the best remedy in any ultra marathon problems, or live in general.
I pretty burned out on the post race, I had nothing left. My body was close to shutdown maybe. Thank you to Mike, Ryan, Chang, and Elizabeth who stayed with me and made sure I was ok, and brought me back to live.
Although I had a hydration issue because I forgot to refill my bottle in one of the aid station, but I would not have this amazing race, especially on the first loop, if not because of my Orange Mud VP1 and Tailwind nutrition. Also I did not get any blister after water, mud, dirt, and sand in my shoes for the whole race, thanks to TrailToes and Swiftwick for making my feet happy. Also again I owed this race to Elizabeth my coach from Mountain Peak Fitness, I would not make it this far without her wisdom.
I slipped my feet off the shoes and into my Gladsole sandals, hang out with the other runners and watching the awards ceremony. Thank you Cayuga Trail 50 miles, finally I bested you this day.