It had been about six or seven months after I left Uncle Sam land. And I had been trying to find an excuse to go back to NY. Not only that I missed this #beastcoast trail, but I also missed my extended family from trail running. So this summer, I got a chance to come to NY, and it about the same time with Cayuga Trail race event, one day before my flight back to Indonesia to be precise. So I emailed Ian Golden, the race director, and asked him if I could sneak into the race. And here where this story was started.
I drove from JFK with my rental car before dawn, since it s cheaper from NY airports compare to anywhere in five boroughs. The drive was not so bad that I arrived in Ithaca downtown around noon. I went straight to the Finger Lake Running Company to pick up my race package. I had some quick-lunch before I drove to Robert Treman State Park to check in. I actually crashed at Chang’s site, although he would not be arrived till late in the evening. He would run the 50 miles distance at sun up. Crazy guy. I was too lazy to build my tent, so I ended up setting up my back seat and trunk become my sleeping quarter. I knocked out right away, since I had been up since three in the morning.
I supposed to meet up with Devang and other folks at the Ithaca fair, but I woke up too late. I went to the fair anyway to have dinner, enjoy the music and atmosphere till sunset, before I drove back to the campsite. In the campsite I hung out with Jay, Jayson and Devang for a bit before we called the night
I woke up before the sun up. I did ask Chang to wake me up, I wanted to see the 50 miles starting line, plenty of my trail family were in that race. I wished I had the legs and time to do the 50 miles race. There were so many familiar faces, and too many to catch up with. I met my former coach from Mountain Peak Fitness, Elizabeth Azze. Last year, she had transformed me became a new person (runner). I wished I could afford to have her wisdom these days, but my new life and having my own company, made my hands (or toes) tight. I also met the other Mountain Peak Fitness Athletes, exchanged stories, races stories and such.
After the race started, I went back to my sleeping quarter, and slept an extra hour in the parking lot. I woke up from the noises and commotions outside. I just realized that I was like an hour away from the starting time, so I started to put on my costume. I used my Orange Mud Endurance Pack, which probably was overrated for this marathon distance, but this pack was good for all my adventure plans in this US trip, stories for another time. I had run this race since their second year, and I love this race for many reasons. First, somehow this race was my nemesis for a couple of years. Then, so many fast runners in this race. The 50 miles distance, was a USTAF championship sanction, where the winners would qualified to enter US 100k Team for World Championship. So, on the out and back, I got to see their action.
On the starting line, to be honest, I had no business to line up at the front line, but all people who I knew were there. Mike, Lauren, Natalie, Mendy, Chris, Jay, Devang, and Amy. When the gun off, they were running like no joke. I was trying to keep up with them that my heart was beating out from my mouth. I thought I could hold it since we were still on the flat. I tried to continue our conversation with Mike Siudy, but after a few words, the noise that came out from my mouth, sounded like jibrish, I barely said a single letter. I focused my mind on keeping myself breathing and alive eventually. After the right turn and forked to the left, we went up to the trail where there was a boulder as the gate-keeper. I was like shit, they kept this effing pace. After the left turn at the gate, I told Mike that I backed down, I had no business to keep up with these guys.
New Course, Original Course, More Climb, More Fun. Yeah Right
The RD , Ian Golden, mentioned that this year he would bring back the original course. Supposedly less stairs, more climbs. When I read it, I was like, heck yea, bring it on. Well we’d see about that. I had done this race three times already,so basically I kinda knew the race course and section like the back of my hands.
So back to the race. On that first uphill, it had a decent kinda uphill, not too crazy that still a run-able, but enough incline to keep me humble. After the little switch back, it became a rolling hills, then we hit out first stairs. four years in a row, I had asked Ian to fix the escalator, and he kept refusing my suggestions. In a couple of miles, we hit a stone path with river on the left side and stony cliff wall on the right, with a few stairs steps in between. This beautiful section last for a few hundreds meters before we climb up and cross a stony bridge. Just before the first aid station, we made a right turn, to the new section that I had not done it before. It was a pretty small loop, it had everything that a trail runner could ask for a good run. I ran across the field to the trees section, where the course was going up-hill for a moment before it went to a descent. I think there was a sharp u-turn-ish in the middle on the down hill, before I got back to the grassy field. I made a right turn, crossing the same bridge and went to the right on to the previous trail to the first aid station, the Old Mill aid station. I made a quick stop for water and banana, which I ate them on the hike to the next section.
At this time, I was far far behind all of my friends, but I was never by myself. There were always some runners around me, who pushed me mentally to keep moving. This section between aid station 1 and 2 probably one of my favorite section. On this single trail, it had more than enough up and down, plenty turn and jumping around that kept me entertained. It also had beautiful natural “garden”, well more like trees and some occasional flowers on my left and right. There was also a few tiny creek crossings, but one of them was special. At that spot, a few years ago, I fell there and re-injured my pelvis from TDS and forced me to DNF. I would never forget that wicked spot.
Then we came to the second aid station, Underpass Aid Station. I did a quick drink, grabbed a banana and biscuits. My next favorite spot of this race was the next section. We got a chance to jump into a waist deep river and got refresh. After I got out, I hiked and ran on the rolling uphill till the next big climb that I had been waiting all day (or not). There was a little confusion, there was a branch, to the left that’s looked kinda flat and to the right one that’s going up. Of course the steep climb up must be the right one. Either I was out of shape or the climb was longer than I remember. Two third of the climb, I couldn’t keep up with my own pace. After I got out of the trail we got into the two back to back of high grass field sections. Last year, when I ran this section, we still had flowers, but not this year. I made a small road crossing to the gate, into a wide flat trail before I made left turn to get back into single track with a minor technical trail. Then I continued to a mile stretch on the road. Probably it was a good break to use different muscles. There was a cameraman following me. It was a little awkward since he didn’t explain what was he shooting for. He ran pretty well next to me tho, with a camera to look at. I left him about a few hundreds meters from the parking lot, before I entered the Buttermilk Waterfall area. After the park entrance, we got back to the trail, which I think mostly a downhill, before I saw the 3rd aid station, the Buttermilk.
Sometime We Are On The Top, Sometime At The Bottom
I stopped for tying up my shoes, it seems a bit loose, refilled my bottle with Tailwind, drank a gulp of coke, and both hands full of bananas slices. I knew the next climb would be a long one, so I was planning to eat my bananas while I hiked and not wasting my time in the aid station. The stairs climb was not steep, but it just had a long long never end steps. Luckily the view was amazing on our left, kind of like infinity waterfalls. Too bad I was really out of shape. Half way of the climb, I felt like loosing my legs out of my sockets and I did not bring extra legs.
After I passed the Buttermilk long climb, I crossed the street on the left hand and ran towards a field. There was a bench where I passed out a year ago from cramping up. The memory of taking a nap was a big temptation, I forced myself to pull my gaze away from the bench. The trail continued to the wooden area on the left side, and ran along the river where I could see runners on the other side, I could even hear what they were talking. This area was way too quite.
Next, I was running through a fun trail, part of it was a switch back single trail downhill. Before I got off to the road junction, where I met Adam Moody. I think I met him every year on the exact spot. I wished I could just stay and chat, but the race must go on. I ran tracing back the grass field, the river, the railroad and finally arrived at the Underpass Aid Station.
After I left the aid station, I saw Joe Azze, and off course with his camera. If you can find his video at Mountain Peak Fitness website, he does an amazing trail running video, go check it. He gave me an encouragement word to lift up my spirit. Again, I retraced my morning run through these lovely “garden” before I got into this steep tall stairs, it was not as long as Buttermilk, just the look of the heights, it was kind of intimidating. After I got to the top, I was 110% depleted, I had to walk my way for a minute or two before I could recover. From here to the Old Mill aid station was a nice stroll, but I was a total wreck. In one of the short hill, Mendy Gallo passed me. She asked how was I doing. I whined about lack of training and how hard to put a quality miles in Jakarta. She told me, “well sometime we are on the top but sometime we are at the bottom”. Ouch, the truth always hurt. Then she went zoom zoom. At this point I was like what the hell, just walked ran as much as I could.
I did a quick stop at the aid station, and continued to the loop. Surprisingly I managed to run again the whole loop. When I got to the stony path along the river, the sun started to heat up my skin. Even with my jungle skin that got a good relationship with sun, I could still feel the heat. I was fine running the decent, but on the steps and ascent, I slowed down tremendously. I kept pushing myself to run as much as I could, since I knew, soon it would be all downhill till the final stretch. I made it to the finish line just a few seconds sub five hours. Much much slower than my previous loop time in Cayuga. It just hit me how bad was my condition declined since I moved to Jakarta. I had homework to do then.