Hi FLRC friends: Here’s my unforgivably long account as posted to High Noon…
Over the past weekend I swooped into the Ithaca area with six friends from greater Boston to participate in the one-year-delayed fourteenth running of the triennial trail relay. Our team, New England Track’n’Trail, could also have been named “Six Fast Guys and an old slug” but happily the fast guys were fast enough to overcome the old slug (slowest on my leg by 10 minutes after handicap) and grab first place among the six teams. Plus, the old slug has a minivan that is very comfortable for long drives and tooling around the back roads of Schuyler County!
For me, I was very aware that the race was held two years and five days after the fall that ruptured my quad tendon and it was rewarding to be able to do a non-virtual race for the first time since May 2019. At one point during the race I thought of a nice training run I did in Amherst in the fall of 1978, when I was 22 and just starting graduate school. I was with four friends who were also math grad students, an amazing stroke of luck that I went from being the second fastest guy on a decent Division III College cross country team to the third fastest guy in the Math Department grad group. Of the four runners I was with that day: One has had a stroke and lost most of his speech and the right side of his body is weak. Another has had terrible luck with his back and had to stop running years ago; he needs a walker to get around. A third just had a hip replacement and has other maladies, his running career almost certainly over. I am not in touch with the fourth, but mutual friends have told me that he stopped running. This made me feel very fortunate to be out there at all and grateful to the NETT squad for dragging me along.
Other general notes on the event:
-Frist, thanks to Karen Ingall and friends for organizing! It was a very low key event and a nice way to phase back into live racing while still making it easy to be Covid-safe. There weren’t as many teams as sometimes (I think just six) but that’s still 42 runners, plus some support personnel, and a lot of high spirits.
-This year’s edition started and finished at the Schuyler County Veteran’s Memorial near Odessa. As in 2017, when the race was centered in Dryden and used all trail east of Ithaca, this year’s course was arranged so that teams started two runners at once; one going east toward Connecticut Hill/Upper Treman and the other tracking west toward Texas Hollow and the twin cities of Bennetsburg and Burdett. Then eventually teammates ran the same section back the other way. You can see leg details at Triennial Finger Lakes Trail Relay XIV - DATE TBD0 (Personal connection: The staging area at the Veteran’s Memorial is just about a mile down route 228 from the Fountainbleu Inn where Ann and I were married in 1999.)
-Our 2017 NETT team did not finish as one of our first west bound runner got hopelessly lost off Star Stanton Road and came out on Route 13 between Dryden and Ithaca instead of on Route 79 in Caroline. This time our team had only a couple of brief wrong turns. The fact that five us were returning and the two we picked up were trail veterans was a great help; and we did a good job of going out Friday and inspecting all of the road crossings and turns.
And on my own race:
-This was my ninth triennial. I missed the first five but I’ve done them all since 1996. Truck Rossiter is the only person to have competed in all 14, and there may be some others who have more than I do, but I’ve covered almost every step of Finger Lakes Trail from Watkins Glen State park to Greek Peak. Missing only a little piece near Connecticut Hill, the chunk in Danby west of Coddington Road, and a bit between Dryden and Caroline.
-Since my quad tendon ruptured during a fall on trails two years ago, I have been sort of scared to do any trail runs. Knowing that my relay segment, the last one on the west side, was pretty rugged for the first three miles from Texas Hollow to Steam Mill Road, I decided to enlist a caddie to keep me company. My son Joe was eager to do it, but he and his family had longstanding plans to be away last weekend. HighNoon veteran, friend and co-author Ken Mann was going to come down from Syracuse to join me, but he hurt his back and had to back off. Fortunately Ilya Bass, one of my many super strong teammates, volunteered to first do his own rugged leg of about nine miles from Burdett to Texas Hollow, but then to continue with me as a training ‘run’.
-For first three miles I didn’t run much, though. I sort of speed hiked at about 19 minutes/mile through some long climbs, treacherous footing, side hill trails and sections of shoe sucking mud. I was just careful not to fall, and made it without any stumbles. Once we came out at Steam Mill Road at 5K, the remaining three miles of the course was on dirt road and farm lane, though there was a lot of uphill left. (My GPS watch suggests the leg had over 1000’ elevation gain.)
-Just as I emerged from the woods, old friend Truck Rossiter, whose “Hold My Cane” team was in second place, caught me and got slightly ahead on the long climb up Steam Mill road. I surged back in front of him with a flying sub-12 minute fourth mile. But with about 1.8 miles left, he passed me and he worked hard on the long downhill to the finish. I am still not practiced at opening up my stride on my apparently recovered but still untested knee. I was very tentative on the bumpy farm lane … better than trail in the woods but still rugged … and truck, at age 72, put me away comfortably. I was delighted to finish in one piece.
-It was great to see so many old friends (Karen, Truck, Kim Snedden, Lorrie Tily, Bob Talda, Steve Ryan, Bob Congdon … ) and to meet a few others I knew only from the list, especially Mike Stewart whose posts I enjoy. I was also encouraged by the number of people who said they look forward to my posts; though of course it doesn’t take much to encourage me in that regard!
Now that I’m 65 and gaining some faith in my knee, I hope to start training and racing a little more. I hope to see a HighNoon …several even … at Triennial XV in 2023. There seems to be consensus that two years off is enough to get us back on pace.