Finger Lakes 50-Miler: A Muddy Mess

The Finger Lakes 50-Miler was on Saturday. Let me preface this post by saying it did not go well. The course was “underwater” earlier in the week, and it did not get a chance to dry out. On race morning, there was a chance of rain – but it ended up pouring buckets.

The race started a few minutes late but it wasn’t a big deal. After a short road section, the race turned onto trails. They were muddy, but pretty much what I expected. It was the kind of mud that we have all run in at one point or another. You watch your step, you get a little dirty and life goes on. A little over a mile into the race, we turned into a pasture. The mud got deeper, a lot deeper.

A short while later, the mud nearly sucked my left shoe off. I had to stop and slip my heel back in, which was no easy task considering I was standing in ankle deep mud in the middle of a race (during a downpour). I took a deep breath and tried to regroup. I started running again and – F*CK – there goes my shoe. It got sucked completely off my foot and was buried in the mud. There you have it – I was 1.6 miles into a 50-mile race and I was NOT having fun. There wasn’t any solid ground to put my shoe back on so I ran about ten yards in the mud in my sock. I tried to undo the laces but they were soaking wet and caked in mud. It was hopeless. I managed to jam my foot back into the shoe and I started running again. By this point, I had fallen back to 10th place or so. I was trying to stay calm – I knew the front group went out too fast.

Since I was unable to adjust my shoe, I made a slight modification to the way my foot was hitting the ground. I found that toe-striking in the deep mud was much more effective at keeping my shoes on. This was a much-needed modification since the mud got much, much deeper. The sections of the course that were shared with cows and horses had parts where the mud nearly reached your knees. Sadly, I’m not exaggerating.

As the race went on, I was slowly but surely picking people off. The 50k and 50-mile races started together – and you had the option of going up or down in distance – so there was no way to know for certain what place you were in. With that being said, in retrospect, I was in 1st place in the 50-mile race somewhere around mile 15 or so. Around that time, I was passed by Jack Bailey – he went on to win the race in 7:53:47.

I completed the first loop in approximately 2:18 (the race consists of three large loops and one baby loop). I switched out my bottles and started on the second loop. I felt terrible. My legs hurt and I smelled like shit (more on that later). Right around 17 miles, at a road crossing, I spotted Megan and Norah who were looking for a (dry) spot to spectate. I stopped in the middle of the road and did a quick assessment:

1) I smelled like shit. This was the inevitable result of running through cow pastures and horse trails in a downpour. I smelled like shit because I was covered in shit – or as my friend Michele called it, “cow and horse poop mush”

2) My legs hurt – they didn’t hurt from running. They hurt from getting twisted and turned in the mud at strange angles.

3) I wasn’t having fun. I like to run. I like to run challenging races. I do not like to run in cow and horse poop mush.

I said “fuck it” and got in the car – I was done. I was sad – and I still am. I really wanted this race. I had registered on New Year’s Day and I had been looking forward to it for months. With that being said, I don’t want to get hurt and I don’t want to run when it’s not fun. What can I say? Shit happens.