Plan was to start at Finger Lakes National Forest and work from West to East. The lone exception being to end back at Ludlowville due to how far North it is and continue on home from there. I targeted to stay in heart rate zone 2, or at least 150bpm and below. I was also targeting an overall pace of 10min miles for the 100k.
Blueberry patch went by smooth and quick at 144bpm. I was annoyed that the GPS didn’t pick up my track and gave me no map. Still, it did have the expected elevation profile of the course. I wasn’t too worried because I backed it up with RunGo knowing this was a possibility. My watch has always struggled at FLNF.
Lake Front Loops was also a breeze at 143bpm. This was the first I had run this course since the corrections made to the directions.
I have had diarrhea for near a full month to this point as a result of the week I spent in Mexico, so I pretty much had to find and use a bathroom between every course. This also added additional challenge to both hydration and nutrition.
Black Diamond went quite smooth as well, but found myself running a little hotter than planned. Average HR for this one ended up around 151bpm for just under a 9min/mi pace. I think I saw Amy driving by at the finish on her way to pick up Scott who appeared to be doing a North to South Black Diamond speed run.
Six Mile Creek was a little less smooth. I elected to keep my road shoes on and just take it slow through the single track. And I was definitely slow on the single track. I was able to make up the lost time on the rail trail and still stay comfortably under 10 minute mile pace for the course, but I again burned a little hot at 151bpm. At this point I resigned to being content in the lower 150s and it felt sustainable when considering the breaks between courses.
Cornel Scenic Circuit was the first glitch I ran into. It never dawned on me that it was Cornell’s commencement, so I got stuck in heavy traffic on the way to the start point. The paths, particularly around campus, were very crowded and navigating people was a challenge. I was also now in heavy sun exposure in the middle of the day and the sweat was starting to flow. I ended up just a hair over 10m/mile on this one and again at 151bpm.
Ellis Hollow became a recovery run from the previous five. I went slow, took off my shirt for some extra cooling, and enjoyed the protection from the intense sun of the afternoon. My wife and kids showed up just as I was about to head out with the intent on hiking it themselves. I waited until they finished and we all went for Ice Cream in Freeville. I ended up around 14min/mile on this one at 138bpm. Still on aggregate comfortably under 10min/mile for the day but with an extended rest to set up for the final courses.
Lime Hollow got bumped up sooner into the que. The sun was getting quite intense, I already had my trail shoes on, and I was going to have to come back close to Freeville anyhow to get to Ludlowville. I also wanted to put anything remotely technical behind me so that I didn’t have to be concerned with tripping and falling while fatigued. The family visit and ice cream also shifted my schedule to late enough in the day that i figured the sun might be low enough on the Dryden trail by then that I could favor the west side of it for some sun protection. These ended up all being accurate, and the decision proved to be wise. I was feeling quite good to this point and the extended break had me invigorated for this course. I was able to once again keep the course under 10min/mi, but at the cost of 152bpm. I took advantage of the cool bathrooms there to do a full change of clothes and put my road shoes back on for the final courses. I dawdled just a little as the sun was getting lower and the thought of running Dryden in the sun was weighing on me.
Dryden Lake was now the only course left I had not run this year. The RunGo directions were surprisingly useful as it wasn’t the typical straight shot you expect on a rail trail. I head out with an eye on just trying to be steady and easy. About 1.5 miles in I noticed that my mouth felt really dry. It was the first sign that I was starting to have a hydration problem. All I had was my 16oz belt bottle and I knew if I drank most of it now I would be in trouble about halfway through. In hindsight, I wish I had just turned back at this point, spent about 30 minutes at the car re-hydrating, and just restart the course, but in the moment I decided to plug ahead and just get it done. For a while, I was fine. I was still chugging away at sub 10minute miles, my legs were feeling fine, and my HR was stable in the 140s. Just as I was finishing mile 9, things started unraveling quickly. I had rationed my water as best I could to this point. I noticed that I had stopped sweating, and that every time I took a mouthful of water in I would sweat for a little more and then stop again. I was pretty much depleted. In the back of my head I knew I only had about 5k left to go, which seems like such a short distance. Then my ears popped and I started hearing my breath through my ears. At this point I knew I was in trouble because this only happens to me when I am severely dehydrated. I have about two miles left now and I am in limbo between Dryden and Freeville. I started getting cramps in my legs and began alternating between a walk and a jog. Soon, the cramps intensified and I had to stop and wait several times for them to subside so that I could continue. The final two miles took over 30 minutes and I walked to the sign to get it scanned in to put an end to it.
This is where the fun really began. There is a bench near the scan in sign that I went to sit on. As soon as by butt hit the seat, my legs went into full spasm and pain that is difficult to describe. I dropped to the ground and lay flat on my back to try and relax as much as possible. I watched the muscles in my legs and it looked like something out of science fiction, as if there were some creature underneath my skin crawling around. The muscles in my back, arms, and neck also started spasming. I just lied there writhing in pain for what felt like eternity. As the minutes went by, the spams slowly diminished and the pain slowly subsided. I attempted several times to get back on my feet, but each time was met with triggered cramps. My car was 100 feet away and full of refreshment but I could not reach it. My best guess is that I laid there on the grass for a good 15 minutes. I eventually was able to pull myself up on the seat with my elbows and sit upright for a bit. The sun was setting now and the time spent on the ground in wet clothes had now given me a chill. After a few minutes on the bench I was eventually able to get up on the feet again and stumble to my car.
Little did I know things were about to get worse.
At this point I started weighing my options. I still had 12 miles to finish in Ludlowville and a lot of time left to finish it. Worst case it was three hours of walking. I knew I needed at least a couple hours rest even for walking. I plugged Ludlowville into the GPS with the intent on getting there and re-assessing once I got there. I went to get something to drink and it became immediately obvious that despite being dehydrated my stomach was too ill to take anything on. I took a couple tiny sips just to wet my mouth. I then started driving. As I was approaching Lansing it was clear that I needed to find another bathroom. I remembered the gas station near the 2022 Lansing course and decided to stop there. Just over the short course of the drive I started feeling awful. Once I got back to the car I decided to just drive directly home. It is about 1hr for me from there. I figured at this point I was likely done, but there was an off chance I might feel better after a couple hours rest and drive back down. I forced a small gulp of water down and started driving north. Soon after I was pulling over to the shoulder and dry heaving. My stomach was trying to throw up the water but there wasn’t enough volume for it to push anything back up, so I sat there dry heaving for a minute. The stomach contractions then triggered more leg cramps, so I sat there in my car just trying to ride it out and stay calm. I made several more attempts of forward progress but had to keep pulling over every few minutes either from cramps or nausea. The dehydration at this point was really starting to make even small motions difficult and I was breathing heavy even though I was barely moving.
My wife began texting me as she had expected to see a live track from me by now in Ludlowville. After a few exchanges, it was clear I wasn’t going to make it home. She drove down and rescued me and I left my car on the side of the road. On the ride home, I occasionally sipped some water to try and get something in me. As the minutes passed, I was able to sip more and eventually reached a point where I could drink without convulsing. By the time we arrived home, I was able to drink a full glass of water and finally started feeling like things were turning around. I took a quick shower, crawled into bed, and just let go.
Weighing myself the next morning, I had lost about 12lbs. Nearly 7% of my body weight. Nearly identical to my weight loss in 2022 for all ten courses.
51.4 miles, 522.5 minutes (8h 43m), 10.17min/mile.
My best estimate is that I took in about 150oz of fluids (a little over a gallon), about half electrolyte, and half water accompanied by oral electrolyte tablets. Three gels (1400mg amino, 180mg Sodium each). A pack of Honey Stinger Chews.
Certainly there is disappointment in not getting it done. I went out even faster in the first 50 miles of 2022 at what amounted to a 9.5 min/mile pace (50.6 in 8 hrs). Although my fitness is behind where it was twelve months ago, I figured dialing back to 10min/mile and focusing on heart rate would provide enough margin. That said, it is also still an aggressive 100k pace for me and I knew I would be close to my limits. I chose to push the envelope. The only real way to find what your limits are is to occasionally go beyond them. Had I been wise enough to turn around at Dryden and just refresh and restart, my day likely would have gone a lot better.
Best of luck to anyone else who chooses to give this a go. This series of courses sets up for a much easier 100k than in the previous years in my opinion. My failure was mostly a result of running too close to my limits while making a few bad decisions and miscalculations. The great thing about this challenge is you get to choose just about everything (pace, sequence, when, etc.). It is as hard or as easy as you want to make it for yourself.