Pacing adventures @ Eastern States

Volunteers Excited at the start

Volunteers Excited at the start

Thanks to all my Steel City Road Runners for this fantastic week-end in Waterville, PA. Having the honor and the opportunity to pace for a couple of miles in the dark was a unique experience. This reminded me going up and down the 37000 feet of ascent/descent in Corsica while discovering the nature along the GR20. Congratulations to all the participants, this is a though and technical course with narrow and rocky trails. Definitively not designed for all runners.

Pacer up and Ready!

Pacer up and Ready!

Thanks to all for this experience: runners, crew, non-runners, volunteers: this has been a great experience!

Pacing @ Eastern States 100

This week-end, I am heading to Waterville, PA in order to participate with some friends in the inaugural year of the Eastern States 100. This is an ultra-marathon, a 100 miles race that goes along the trails around Grand Canyon, PA (and many others cities in the area). I am planning to rest during this week-end and have a nice jog/hike/run with a fellow Steel City Road Runner that will attempt to finish it. Assuming he survives to the first 60 miles, I will have the pleasure to pace him, meaning that I will do my best to keep him awake, make sure he stays on his feet, eats his veggies peanut-butter sandwiches and is on time to arrive before the end of the race. Any trick is accepted except to carry him to the finish line.

 

Around mile 80 of the race, when I will stop my pacing duties

Around mile 80 of the race, when I will stop my pacing duties

 

This is a big deal, especially considering the elevation profile (see below). The big up/down hills are similar to the 8 first miles of the Laurel Highlands Ultra. I am planning to pace for 18 miles, from mile 60 (around 1200am – midnight) to miles 78 (probably around 0600am). This means staying 6 hours on my feet going mostly up and downhills. Sounds easy; you just have to keep a pace of 20 min per mile. But running the same elevation once some weeks ago pushed me out of my comfort zone and it asked more than two weeks to fully recover.

Elevation Profile for the Eastern 100

Elevation Profile for the Eastern 100

But this run will be a come back to the roots, the trails, the adventure in Corsica on the GR20 I completed some years ago. Exploring the nature during the day or at night. Listening to the nature, seeing things that became unusual in our so-well organized daily life in the city. Pushing your limits, being out of your comfort zone, rediscover yourself and at the finish, sharing our experience and enjoy the company of existing or new friends. Just rediscover simple things, things we are not no longer used to.

It is going to be a fantastic experience.

Run for Gold 2014 (race report)

Every race comes a story, an experience, an adventure. My experience for run for gold is very personal and, after a first good experience overall, brought me to sign up again this year. This is a metric marathon, 16.28 miles on the Great Allegheny Passage, from Meyersdale in Pennsylvania to Frostburg in Maryland. Yup, you get the chance to cross two different states on your feet within 2 hours!

This is a very cheap race: $16 per person. For this price, no bag filled with goodies but a water stop at mid-way with pretzel, water, a bus trip from the finish to the start and a finisher medal. Obviously, it is difficult to beat such a good deal. Being in August, this is a great time to discover this part of the trail at a very reasonable price!

 

What you see in the last hill - if you see that after 16 miles, you are on the right way!

What you see in the last hill – if you see that after 16 miles, you are on the right way!

 

Where to stay

I stayed at the Trail Inn in Frostburg. Very convenient, this is located next to the finish line and where the bus pick you in the morning. The Inn has a lot of bedrooms for different budgets: shared beds (for about $35) , private rooms (about $100) or bunk beds (about $120 for a room with 4 bunk beds). It includes breakfast as well. While I had a good experience from the previous year, I have mixed feelings on this one. The Inn is pretty good and the owner very accommodating. On the other hand, the staff from the Cafe (Olive Cafe) is terrible. But it turns out that the cafe is operated by a different company than the Inn. In fact, we asked before coming if having breakfast was possible in the morning and we had confirmation that is was totally possible. In addition, the documents from the Inn states that you can request to have a breakfast basket if you are planning to have your breakfast outside the regular hours. However, the Cafe staff complained about us for asking too much and, the morning of the race, complained that we were too demanding (reason invoked: “This was too early”). That sounded just inappropriate and rude considering that the request that (1) made weeks ago before coming and (2) the Inn documentation insisted that having early breakfast was feasible on request.

Another people reported that the Cafe staff complained when the train came at 8pm the night before and discussed about closing their space. In fact, this place is close to an old train station, so, old trains sometimes show up (and bring people and potential business). Very confusing to see business owners complaining for having potential customers. It sounds like this place is not very friendly and does not welcome new business. You would probably better walk away and go somewhere else.

The takeaway: go to the hotel but do not give your business to the Cafe! The owners of the Inn are definitively nice persons and accommodating (thanks for the late checkout!) but the Cafe staff is just not worth it!

The race

The race itself starts around 0730am but you have to take a bus to go to the starting line. The bus leaves at 0640am in the morning from Frostburg to go to the start at Meyersdale. The commute takes about 40 minutes and the race starts right after the bus drops everybody. We started the race at 0740am. Then, you go along the Great Allegheny Passage, part of the trail that goes from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC. For information, there is some bathrooms at the start if you need. There are some also along the course but I do not remember how many.

As last year, the race is wonderful. If the weather is collaborative, it is a great experience to run through the bridges and the trails in the morning, see the sun shining and continue your journey to the finish.

At mile 8 (half way), there is a water stop where you will find water, snacks (pretzels) and the usual stuff you can expect at a aid-station. Pretty simple but efficient. When stopping, I was chocked to see the Race Director. As there were no volunteer, the guy did the water stop himself.

Then, you continue and go through several tunnels. One does not have any light which can be confusing after a couple of miles. But nothing really important.

 

The race map (yes, this is a point to point)

The race map (yes, this is a point to point)

 

The elevation profile is not terrible. In fact, you have to be prepared to go mostly uphills for the first eight miles and have a more easy race for the second part. So, you have to push a little bit more in the first part of the race and finally keep the same pace on the downhill (which is more easy for most people).

Something that might help: the aid station/water stop is just at the end of the up-hill section. So, you can push, rest for a sec and head to the finish without any stress and/or need for food!

 

Elevation Profile

Elevation Profile

 

To go to the finish line, you have to make a turn and go uphill. There as a big discussion last year because there was no sign to turn. In fact, it turned out that I missed the turn last year, which was unfortunate because it cost me a place in the results (bummer!). Hopefully, the race director, Kevin, took into consideration our proposition to put a sign to alert runners to turn and there was a simple sign so that nobody can get lost.

When you finish, you have a nice wood medal. That was requested by other runners last year and the race director followed the runners recommendation! Last year, there was only awards for people that placed in their age group, which can be frustrated for slower runners, especially for a race like this where the emphasis is more on the training. This year, no matter your pace, you got a medal, no matter how you did.

Also, at the finish line, there is food (pretzel, bananas, apple) and beverages (water and Gatorade). Definitively enough to refuel and come back home happy with a nice training in your running log!

 

Hi buddy, I am almost there!

Hi buddy, I am almost there!

 

Pictures

Several volunteers took pictures over the course. Some before the long tunnel, other (like the Race Director) at the finish. The pictures are posted for free on the race website. So, even with such a cheap event, you do not have to purchase expensive pictures! You can for sure purchase the high definition of the pictures but the Potomac Highlands Distance Club lets you use the low-def at no price. And they do not add any copyright or noise on the preview so that you can use them. This sounds very fair: you can get a picture of you to post on social media or your website and, in case you really want to make a poster or a print version, you can still pay a reasonable price. If other races could do the same, it would be really appreciated …

If you are looking for the links for the pictures, you can access them here:

 

Special Thanks

To my Steel City Road Runners for being part of this journey. Also, special thanks to the race director, Kevin. The guy took into consideration all the concerns expressed by the participants of last year. He made everything possible to make a good race at a very affordable price. He improved the race, without him, this race would not have been the same.

 

Run for Gold 2015?

It seems that the Race Director will not continue this race but some folks are planning to continue it. So, if you want to run this race, I recommend it. For less than $20, having a timed course over the Great Allegheny Passage with a finished medal: you cannot beat that.

 

Misc

Fundraising update – August 2014

I recently joined a bike ride that will happen on October, 12 and which goal is to raise money for research on melanoma and pancreatic cancer. The event request that you raise at least $50 and I tried to raise a little bit more, $500. Well, after a couple of weeks, I am happy to see that the initial goal is already met. I am very thankful to my friends and family that helped me to reach my goal. That means a lot to me and this is definitively a wonderful gift, probably one of the best I got since the last couple of months.

 

321event

 

But we can also do better and raise more. So, if you are interested to support me in that effort and help research against melanoma and pancreatic cancer, you can still donate! Please follow the link below and just donate whatever you want. Also, if you prefer to ride with us, please contact me so that you can join our team “In Memory of Beth. Finally, for each person that gives more than $20, I will offer a beer when we have the opportunity to hang out! Hope that, we can share the willingness to fight cancer but also good moments around a beer!

Also, if you donate, please put your name or a nickname so that I can know who donated. The donation system does not send any notification and does not indicate the identity of the donator if they do not put a name of the donation page. As for now, there are two anonymous donations and, even if I cannot put a name on them, I want to let them know that I am very grateful for their support.

 

Cheers!

 

Access to the donation page

How to sh*t your pants during a race: Grand Canyon PA Half-Marathon and Marathon – race report

The beginning

The Grand Canyon, PA half-marathon and marathon races were held on July, 26 and July, 27. You can do the half, the full or decided to “rock the canyon” which basically means you are doing both races. I decided to “rock the canyon” and signed up for both! The races are not very expensive considering what you get: about $80 for the full, $45 for the half and $110 for both. Considering the price of some events, this is definitively worth it: you can enjoy the fresh air of the mountain and have some space to run. Nothing to compare with events like Disney which charges you more than anybody else to run on roads open to traffic packed with people stopping every two steps without going on the right side of the road!

My partner in crime and I drove to Wellsboro, PA on Friday, the day before the race. As we wanted to support the event sponsors, we stayed to the hotel that sponsored the race, the Penn Wells Lodge (which was a huge mistake, more on that later). The drive was 4 hours from Pittsburgh, not too bad at all. The  hotel has a swimming pool, a hot tube and other facilities you will enjoy. But, as the Walt Disney Marathon, this hotel was a mess, but I will discuss that later. After getting there lately, we decided to go for dinner early. Most of the places were closed and we ended up in a Steakhouse in Main Street. Our experience was almost as good as the one with the hotel: I would get better service and food at McDonalds. If you are looking for a good place, I would rather recommend the Wellsboro House, not too far from the hotel (if you are willing to book in that place …). They have a great service, are accommodating with special diets and very friendly!

Heading back to the hotel, I asked if this was possible to get a late breakfast on Saturday. The race started at 07am and after completing, we had to come back with a shuttle, which might take about one hour total. After all, if they are the official hotel for the event, they should be “runner compliant” and accommodating? However, the staff reported they had no intention for doing such a favor and the service will end at 10am no matter what. I asked also if it was possible to extend the hours a little bit and explained why (the half marathon started at 7am but you need to take a bus to go to the starting line and come back) but again, they were not willing to do so. Apparently, “customer service” is not something well known in that place. About the hotel itself and the rooms: the walls are so thin that you hear your neighbor pretty well and surprise, the bathroom have mold! Not the best place to stay.

Packet Pick up

Packet pick up was held on a School, where the shuttle to the race started. It was well organized with a swag that contains all the necessary information to go to the starting line and visit the area. There was not so many vendors but anyway, do you really shop a lot during race expos? On the other hand, there was a nice local chocolate/candy vendor. I was not able to refrain myself from buying some of them, pretending I cannot go there without trying the local specialties.

 

The book that should be provided in the goodie bag

The book that should be provided in the goodie bag

 

The Half-Marathon

The race started at 07am but you have to take a shuttle to get there. The last shuttle leaves at 0545am and it is really better to be there before to avoid congestion. By taking this last one, you are on the course at the latest by 0630am. There is a lot of port-o-potty when you exit the buses but … none next to the starting line. Which is a big issue because people had to go back and forth between the pick up location and the starting line.

The race started on time with a friendly weather. Part of it is on the road but most on dirty road. Elevation is not too steep, but, having trained in Pittsburgh, this might not be the best reference. The course go through the Grand Canyon and you have one or two great views (see below).

Type of view you can expect

Type of view you can expect during the race

 

There are water stops every 2 miles or so, so, you will not be dehydrated as long as you keep taking a sip at every stop. There was no “real food” at the water stops, only gels but nothing else. On the other hand, this is not a big issue on a half-marathon, as such a distance can be completed without food. On the other hand, this might be an issue for the marathon (more on that later).

The big issue was the port-o-potty: there was almost none on the course. While I do not really care because my GI system is made of titanium, this can be a big issue for other runners who are more sensible. I have seen only one port-o-potty on the half-marathon course while there was 10+ of them at the starting line. This is a real downside for the half. Some might argue that you can go in the nature but this is clearly not an option for others. The elevation profile is not too difficult. There is no steep hill but no “flat part” at all. So, you just alternate up and down hills. Just have to be used to this type of course, which is not an issue when you come from Pittsburgh.

Elevation profile of the half marathon

Elevation profile of the half marathon

 

Once you finished, you received a medal. The results are updated regularly during the party on a board. You get a nice box for food, extra fruits (apple, banana) and pretzels are also available. But not having a port-o-potty at the finish (they are at 0.5 mile so you need to walk) is really inconvenient. This is very unfortunate because all the rest (transportation, course, schedule, results) is well executed and makes this event a great one!

Once you are done and if you did not shit your pant, a bus service takes you from the race to the parking lot so that you can bring your car. It takes about 30 minutes to come back.

In between

We came back to the hotel at 10:02. Fortunately, the hotel staff was wrapping up the breakfast area. Just on time to try to grab some stuff to take as a post-race refuel. At that time, I had no t-shirt, I took it off after the race because if the heat and having blood on my chest (you know, this runner issue …). While I thanked the staff for letting the breakfast a little bit lately, I got the following friendly reply: “put a shirt: no shirt, no service, this is the law”. I was just amazed how unfriendly with their customers.

Conquer the Canyon!

Conquer the Canyon!

The afternoon was the opportunity to visit the area around Wellsboro, rest and prepare for the Marathon the next day. The bib, t-shirt and other stuff were included in the packet I took on Friday, so, no need to come back to the expo. To sum up, the area is great and this is definitively worth to drive around and look at great lookouts. If you planned to go there, consider to take a GPS or a map: you have no cell service at all the the directions are not clearly mentioned. So, this is easy to get lost quickly.

On race day, after waking up at 0430, I saw the hotel staff preparing the breakfast area and asked if I can get a bagel as I was preparing for the day (coffee, breakfast, etc.). The staff told me that: “breakfast will be served in 20 minutes” (in other words, when the shuttle was leaving … so convenient when racing!) and that it is not the rule to serve breakfast before the time. The staff also mentioned that if they give me something, they have to give to all hotel customers. Surprisingly, this does not seem obvious for the hotel to give to their customers what they paid for. I can understand such a service from a normal hotel that is not prepared to accommodate needs for customers with special constraints. But considering they sponsored the event and claimed they were runner friendly, I do not know why they were not more accommodating. The manager might be french or just rude and unfriendly.

The Marathon

As for the half, the marathon starts at 0700am. You have to get a shuttle as well to go to the starting line. As being said before, the main issue is the port-o-potty that are not next to the starting line. There are 10 next to the buses but this is 0.5 mile from the starting line to that, if you want to make a break, you have to come back and forth. Definitively not convenient.

The marathon route go through the same area as the half. Basically, the first part covers the half marathon (except the road part) and go further. There are some hills, while they are not too steep: the biggest elevation is 200 feet, which is not to difficult. What might turn you down is that there is almost no flat area. So, you will constantly go either up or down. Just have to deal with it.

The course is an out and back, so, one you get to the 13-ish miles point, you just turn and hope that your pants are still clean. For an obvious reason: there are no more port-o-potty than for the half! On the marathon, there is only 2 places you can get some rest! So, if you ate the fettuccine alfredo the night before, pray for the best. Otherwise, pack some toilet paper and prepare yourself for a great experience with mother nature.

Elevation Profile, not so hilly!

Elevation Profile, not so hilly!

 

There are water stops every two miles as well, so, the race is doable without an hydration pack. On the other hand, the food available at the water stop is really limited (same as the half): gels at miles 4-ish, gels + banana at mile 14-ish. I am glad that I packed energy bars and asked my partner in crime to bring some extra! This is also definitively a big downside and could be easily fixed (get a costco card and buy some packs of candy or pretzels would be more than enough!). If having limited food for a half is not a big issue, this can be inconvenient for a full.

Once you finish, you receive the medal and, if you completed the half the day before, get an extra-medal for completing both races. On my side, I received an additional reward for having finished 3rd in my age group in the marathon. As for the half, you get a box with food when you arrived and the selection is actually very good as well.

The Medals

The Medals

As for the half, a shuttle gives you a ride back to the parking lot (it takes 30 minutes). But be quick: the hotel that sponsored the race allowed a late checkout at 1pm instead of originally … 12pm! In other words, if you completed your marathon in 4:30 or 5:00 (which is common for many runners), this is almost impossible to check out on time! And do not even think about taking a shower!

Many runners asked before to get a late checkout 2/3pm and the hotel previously acknowledged. But upon arrival, they distribute a paper indicating they changed their mind and asked for a checkout at 1pm. This issues with the hotel also impacts the overall week-end experience. Considering that you pay almost $130/night for a room with mold, no breakfast and rude and unfriendly staff, you just feel that these folks just make fun of you.

 

The Takeaway

Highlights

  • Course well organized: timing was available, results posted quickly
  • Schedule on time: at the latest during the afternoon
  • Bus shuttle from the start to the parking lot: lots of shuttle, pretty quick to get there
  • Packet pick up and expo was simple with just what we need!
  • No car, scenic and offer the opportunity to discover a scenic area: this is a unique opportunity to race in this region.
Next Sponsor for the PA Grand Canyon

Next Sponsor for the PA Grand Canyon

Suggestions for Improvements

  • Put several port-o-potty at least every 5 miles: Having limited space for them is understandable. On the other hand, having only 2 for 26.2 miles is definitively not sufficient. Having at least 3 every 5 miles would be more than appreciated.
  • Sponsor the course by Scott: is the organizers cannot put more port-o-potty, I suggest we replace an existing shitty sponsor (Penn Wells Hotel) by an appropriate one.
  • Have a real runner-friendly hotel: the Penn Wells Lodge was everything but friendly and accommodating for runners.
  • Having a Rock the Canyon results: for those who completed the rock the canyon, having some specific rankings would be useful. Making the half or the full is though but completing both is another story and knowing there you placed among the participants could be useful.
  • More food option on the road: the food at the finish is more than enough (the package is great!). But having more options on the road (especially for people who do not like gels) will be greatly appreciated. This might be easily fixed by making a trip to costco and buy candies, pretzels and other high-carb food for runners.
  • Provide a copy of the well-known book How to shit in the Woods(great reference by the way)

 

Summary

This race is definitively a great one. Not having portable toilets might be an issue for some but most of runners would not have any issue at all. I would just recommend to be prepared (wither not to eat anything heavy and/or take baby wipes with you). But this is a minor issue considering the race, the nice lookout and the unique opportunity to run in these mountains with adequate support. If you like the nature and are looking for a great race, I definitively recommend it. Just do not stay at the Penn Wells, there are better and cheaper places in the area!

Rent a car in Orlando: forget AAA offers

Recently, my partner in crime and I took some time in Orlando. Good occasion to grill your skin, run some flat roads and visit the some theme parks (better than racing them)! But getting around is difficult, so, we needed a car. So, I decided to search for the best deal. I used to take enterprise to rent a car. Easy and convenient, it also worked and never tried to screw me with any special deal. But as a member of the American Auto Association, I looked at the potential opportunities and found out that they offer good deals for renting a car with Hertz.

Let’s compare the deal: for a basic car (Kia Forte), Enterprise charged about $25/day whereas the AAA/Hertz deal proposed $16/day. So, why not give a try to take advantage of my membership? I booked the car online, the total for renting the car for 3 days was about $85 with taxes, insurance and all the additional costs. I never received any confirmation by e-mail. Never mind I thought they will find my reservation when I pick up the car. And worst-case scenario: I can always show up the Enterprise office at the airport.

Once I got to the airport, I was received by a screen when an operator guide you through the renting process using a camera. No “real human”, just a camera. This makes the process not really human-friendly and weird. But after all, why not taking advantage of the new technologies? Once I got there, the guy asked me some questions and showed me the quote. Total: $250.

I said this was not what I got and it turned out that the agent upgraded me from a Kia Forte to a sport/muscle car (Dodge Charger). Needless to say, it increased the price significantly. He also automatically add the insurance and the gas refill because “it is for your best interest”. In other words, the agent took the freedom to replace the complete quote I made online. Of course, I asked to stick to the quote but told me he was not able to find the quote (even if he got all my personal details using my credit card number). After changing the car type, the quote went down to $150. After wondering why I still have the gas refill even if I did not ask for it, he argued that “it was for my best interest”. Loving all the consideration I got for me, I asked to remove it and the quote was finally $100. Not the initial quote but a good discount considering the first one.

After signing the documents and waiting for the instructions, I was finally able to get the car. Once on board and driving my Kia Forte, I was not sure if I made the right choice for not taking the muscle car. On the other hand, I was sure about two things:

  1. stop to use Hertz and the aaa discount and stick to what used to work.
  2. report the issue to consumer association (such as consumer reports) and potentially to aaa, that might be interested to know that their partners do not honor their offers

 

System to communicate with an Hertz Agent

System to communicate with an Hertz Agent

Why running short-distance is as exciting as dating a 19 year-old girl

Since several months, there is a lot of excitement about short-distance races. 5K or 1 mile distances: runners seem to be excited about these short shakeout. Even running websites join the general excitement and declare short-distance as “freaking awesome”. Short-distance races seems to be the new trend.

As a stupid french contrarian and trail-enthusiast, I do not understand this new trend and what makes short-distances races so appealing. In fact, after thinking about it, it appears that short races sounds like dating young girl. But as racing, dating can also have it lot of issues (as shown in the following picture). There are a few reasons.

Common issue during a race or a date

Common issue during a race or a date

 

You do not go outside your comfort zone

As dating a 19 year old girl, running a 5K is easy. You have no time to feel any exhaustion or real effort, this is just too easy.

Do not be stupid, go for a race when you will experience and face a real challenge.

comfortzone

 

This is so quick that you have to do several of them

As dating a 19 years-old girl, running a 5K is quick. No matter if you are an experienced runner or not, you are done within a few minutes. It is so quick that you are trying several of them.

Do not be stupid, go for longer races and sign up for at least a half marathon.

waitfinishline

 

The return on investment is just not worth it

As dating a 19 years-old girl, running a 5K is expensive, especially when you consider how long it last. At first, it seems to be cheap: you are paying $20 for going on a race. But let’s face it, there is nothing special about such a distance: you do not need any support, water or anything else! In addition, as the place is most of the time pretty packed, you have to pay for parking and other extra.

And as dating 19 years-old girls, you are doing several of them regularly. But let’s think about it: when adding up the prices of all these events, it makes the cost per mile pretty expensive, especially for something you usually do in the morning before breakfast.

Do not be stupid, sign up for a long distance run, the one when you will mean support, port-o-potty, water stops and snacks on the course.

 

Everybody want to go be part of it

As dating a 19 years-old girl, short-distance races are easy and give you a shot of adrenaline so that everybody want to be part of it. You end up by having too many competitors that try to battle to get the prize. But it does not really matter: it will not last and you will have to do it again soon.

Do not be stupid, sign up for a nice trail race, enjoy a wonderful course in the nature with friends!

5ksheeps

“Hello, I have to go to the finish line”

They all look the same

As 19-years old girls, short-distance race all look the same. There is no attraction to do them! In fact, this is a side effect of being short and quick: you do not have the time to experience something special and/or go to unusual places! It usually starts and ends in a big area: in between, you have 3 miles that gives you the opportunity to share out and try to get some space.

Do not be stupid, go for a long trail. Enjoy the nature, the difficult of running hills and experience nice views!

 

Pre-5K meal - carb-load is the key!

Pre-5K meal – carb-load is the key!

 

To be attractive, they have to cheat!

As single 19 years-old girls, there are so many short-distance races that they have to have something special to be attractive. The color run, the ice cream race, any obstacle race, <insert-your-theme-here>: there is also a list of them. But there is nothing better than being naturally attractive!

Do not be stupid, experience the beauty of nature and sign up for a good trail race in the country side that will show you areas you never see, even you live there since several years.

5khydration

 

This is a newbie thing

As dating 19-years old girls, short-distance runs are mostly a newbie thing. Sure, some experienced and smart runner might accidentally crash into these events. But this is in short-distance races that you will see people wearing hydration races packed with four bottles: two with water and two with gatorade. This is in short-distance races that you will see folks eating more than what you take as your regular daily food intake as their post-race meal. And this is the same folks that will complain during all the post-race festival about this knee/hamstring/foot injury they developed during this great 30 minutes endeavor. It does not matter if you just want to enjoy some time with your friend, they cannot stop talking about it and put their frustration and stress on you.

Do not be stupid, go for a trail race, packed with nice folks that offers a friendly post-race barbecue with local beer! Sharing a good meal with other runners is just priceless!

 

Hydration is the key: example with the Finger Lakes 50s – 25km

The week of July, 4 is a special week-end in America. This year (2014), it happened that it was on a Friday and a good friend of mine celebrated his wedding on this special day around the Finger Lakes in Lodi, New-York. I love to travel and discover new areas. But among everything else, I love to race when traveling so I can see things usual touristic tours do not show you (basically, area/spots that require a lot of walking/hiking/running). For that reason, I looked for potential races around the area of the wonderful area of the Finger Lakes.

It turned out that I found the Finger Lakes 50s, an event where you can do either 25K, 50K or 50 miles. The registration was closed when I wanted to sign up and go on the waiting list. Hopefully, I was able to register before the event! Being here mostly for a personal reason, I did not want to commit for a long distance and registered for the 25K option. Note that if you sign up for 50K or 50M, you can decide to change the distance on race day (so, you just do the complete 50M if you feel ok).

I arrived in the area two days before race to celebrate my friend’s wedding. As for preparing the race, my partner in crime and I decided to hydrate early by making several wine tasting through the day. In addition, the beverages from the party help us to stay hydrated until lately at night. In other words, we were well prepared for this race, overcharged with heavy food (“peanut butter brownie? Sure, give me 4 of them!”) and alcoholic beverages (“Red wine at every course? Sure!”) . The best recipe to feel miserable during a race.

On race day, thanks to my GPS, we hopefully made it to the packer pick up and the starting line on time. The 25k race started at 800am, so, it gives you some time to wake up and eventually realize that, even if you feel miserable, you paid for that and that it will be good to go, even you will not call it a race but a nice hike. And no matter what, a nice 25K jog will be refreshing.

If you do not want to stay in a hotel and prefer to stay next to the starting line before race day, a bunch of guys camped around. I assume this can be very friendly to stay around, discuss with other ultra-runners while drinking beers the night before the race. If camping is something that does not bother you at all, I would recommend to to it, I am pretty sure you can have a very great pre-race night!

Race packet

The packet contained a t-shirt, a pair of socks and … your bib! Nothing fancy, no bullshit, just what you need. As I registered lately and enter after being on the waiting list, the race director told me t-shirt was not guarantee. Fortunately, there was some leftover and I was able to get one! This is also a nice tech tee-shirt, better then most usual cotton shirt road race used to give.

Once you get your packet, you put your bib and head to the starting line …

About the route

The route is not very hilly (biggest hill is about 500 feet) and very easy if you are used to trail running. Nothing to compare with the hills you can experience in Pittsburgh (in case you train in this area). On the other hand, is is very muddy. You pass by several areas where only cows and horses go. Basically, this farming area can be very challenging. In the beginning of the race, one guy lost his shoe in the mud: the shoe was just stuck in the mud. So, in case it rained a couple of days ago, you have to be prepared to have a lot of mud on your shoes. This was the case of this 2014, the following picture can testify it!

 

Hoka Stinson Trail after the race

Hoka Stinson Trail after the race

 

When you go through the forest, you pass close to several water stream. The area is wonderful, pleasant and the run is very refreshing, especially after partying all night. Not too many rocks (as in other trails), just a lot of mud and sometimes clean soil. You pass by some road one in a while but nothing too concerning or difficult.

There are aid stations about every 3 miles so you do not need to bring your own water and you can just plan to use these stops to refuel. Also, plenty of options for food: pretzels, M&M’s, Peanut-Butter and Jelly sandwich, etc. So, if you are not too picky about the food you eat on the race, you will have everything you need and you will not have to wait too long to catch an aid station. As I was heavily hydrated, I did not take advantage of it but I am pretty sure I will like this on a normal race day.

Finisher Festival

Once you completed 16.5 miles, the finish line has water, soda, food and all the usual stuff you need to refuel. Winners of each age group get a special sign to testify their achievement but also get a growler of beer. The race organizers are very friendly and you feel they try to do their best to give you a great experience. There is also beer and barbecue for all runners and volunteer so, you can just stay at the finish with your friends, hang out and cheer friends. All finishers receive a glass once they finish so you can enjoy beer at the festival as soon as you are done!

 

Finish line Party

Finish line Party

 

On another note, the event states that the look is 25K. Unfortunately, this is not the case because the complete loop is 16.5 miles (what somebody at a aid station told me, which is confirmed by my GPS data). On my side, it does bother me at all but some folks are particularly interested in doing some specific distances. So, if you sign up for it, please consider that the distance is a little bit longer that what you can expect.

 

Waterfalls in the area

Waterfalls in the area

To sum up

This is a very nice race and I would encourage you to sign up and also visit the area (see the waterfall in the picture). This is a great event, the organizers do a great job to make a nice and friendly race. Yes, this is muddy and might be hard some times but many trail races are difficult. On the other hand, you will have a fantastic view of the country side and this is definitively worth it. The finish line was really friendly and fun – seeing so many folks camping and staying just for cheering was definitively nice.

On the downside, I do not know if I will be up to complete the 50K or the 50 miles: running the same loop several times can be mentally challenging. On the other hand, it can be a good training opportunity and you can choose to stop at 50K or continue and keep going for 50 miles. In addition, as you go through the same loop, you have aid stations every 3 miles or so, which can make it easy to take it as a training race and refuel regularly.

 

Useful links

Join us for Pedal Pittsburgh on August, 24

pedalpgh

Pedal Pittsburgh is an established event in the area. You can ride your bike on different distances: 12, 25 or 62 miles. Depending on your fitness level and your ability to keep your butt on a saddle, you can discover different parts of the city with your bicycle. My partner in crime and I signed up for the 62 miles, which pass by most neighborhood around the city. The event is really cheap (about $35) considering the support provided along the course and the festival at the finish area. Also, you can choose to sign up for a membership to BikePGH, the local association that promotes biking around the city. Definitively a good deal!

If you want to bike this day and be part of the crew, you can sign up and bike with us! I created a team, everybody is welcome to join! The name is “Swissvale Active” and everybody is welcome! Hope to see you there!