First I must thank Ian Golden and my Red Newt Racing team for all their support and encouragement leading up to this race. I must thank Trail Methods, specifically Sheila and Eric Eagan, the RDs for putting on such a great event.
This past Saturday I was fortunate to run in the inaugural 40 mile race, Many on the Genny in Letchworth State Park. A few weekends ago, I was able to preview the course with the RDs, Sheila and Eric, and already I knew I was in for a great time.
The course boasts over 7,000 feet of elevation change in 40 miles. The first 20 follow the gorge trails up one side of the Genesee River and then back on the Finger Lakes Trail for the final 20.
[Photo: Many On The Genny Race Website]
I spent the weekend at my parent’s house, so I woke up at 2:30AM on Saturday to drive up and catch the shuttle to the race start. It rained a bit that morning, so it was nice and cool at the 6AM start. I saw a bunch of people I know including Pete Kresock, Chris O’Brian, Michael Valone and Katie O’Reagan. The race is capped to 125 runners, so it had a really great small town feel. I wasn’t nervous, mostly excited to start.
The race began with a yell from Eagan and Rich Heffron and Scottie Jacobs (two of my RNR/MPF teammates) took off. Pete, Katie and I started running together for the first few miles that included a loop around the park before getting into the gorge trails. Talking to Pete is always fun because he is so experienced. He just flies down hills, where I hobble and exhibit baby deer movements.
I missed a turn early, but realized my mistake after about 30 seconds, so it wasn’t too bad. We stayed together mostly until the first climb around mile 10. I started hiking and I heard them coming behind me. I remembered this from my preview a few weeks ago and stuck to my plan of hiking the hills even though I could have attempted to run. 40 miles is requires a lot of energy, I had to save it. Hiking also gave me time to eat and drink.
[Photo: Ron Heerkins Jr. Goat Factory Media]
After the first climb we we spit out onto a road section for 2.5 miles. This is where I saw a guy ahead of me and eventually caught up to him. He introduced himself as Rob (happily married with three kids) and we ran together for the next 10 miles. That part was a blast and definitely the high moments of the race. We were cruising and chatting (so much so I forget to hydrate as much as I should have) and the miles flew by.
We got to the halfway point together, refueled and set off promptly. Right after the aid station you were supposed to turn left and cross the bridge to get to the FLT. However…straight ahead of us was a rainbow. A rainbow you could RUN THROUGH! Not under it, but THROUGH IT! Caught in the amazement, we ran straight and missed that turn. Luckily I stopped us, checked the map and we turned around only wasting a few minutes.
No shame, that wrong turn was worth it. I would do it again in a heart beat.
A few miles later, Rob pulled ahead and I let him go, I needed to concentrate on my race. At mile 25 I remember thinking, “ok, I’m feeling good, I can run 15 more miles.”
Then…SPLAT! I took a fall and fell on my right rib (not the previously injured one). That began the mental downfall that plagued me from miles 30-35. My rib hurt almost like I had a nagging cramp. I also took a few hard downhills and my feet/ankles were getting sore. (Undertrained woot woot). I started getting in my head about tons of stuff.
My friend who passed away.
What I was doing.
How much I missed Ithaca.
How mad I was that I forgot to refill my water.
I was mad that I was crying.
Everything just came up and I was a dehydrated, emotional mess. It didn’t help that this was in the 8 mile stretch with no aid. That felt like FOREVER.
I told myself I could stop. 30 miles was enough. No shame in stopping.
But I wouldn’t let myself quit. I might have a death wish or something. But I told myself I could cry like a baby if I wanted, but I was not stopping unless a bear ate me (which I would have welcomed at that point). It was a pretty low few miles.
However, I made it to the aid station, ate a bunch, chomped on ice, got my pack refilled and just breathed. Seeing the people also helped. They were so supportive! All the aid stations were great, they really took care of me refilling my bladder, asking what they could get me, not overwhelming me. It was amazing.
I ate a bunch of PB&J and drank a bunch of Mt. Dew and set off again. Only 5 miles to go.
After another mile, I almost started to cry again, but I ate the best two gels ever (THANK YOU JASON!!!! I LOVE YOU!!!!) and, for some reason, I stopped feeling bad and started to enjoy things again. I think the hydration helped, but also, I just needed to feel that low moment and keep going. I needed to believe I would come out of it.
I did. I finished.
My first 40 miler was completed in around 7 hours and 7 minutes.
It was beautiful, terrifying and an experience I will find hard to replicate.
My reward? Eric is sick and give me entry to next year.