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!
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
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.
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
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
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.