After my first 50K race a short time ago, I knew I wanted another chance to make some improvements in my race execution. I hit up google and found a number of potential races, finally settling on the Mendon Trail Run that had a 50K option (along with 5/10/20K races). It seemed to be on a perfect date which gave me about a month to recover from my first race and continue training. The race was held in Mendon Ponds Park just outside of Rochester, NY. It was a 10K loop that we would go 5 times around. The race website made it abundantly clear that the hills on this course did not make it conducive for a PB so I wasn’t expecting a super fast time. In fact, one of the lessons I had learned from my first 50K was to ditch the idea of a time based goal and run more on feel. I wanted to run at a pace that felt comfortable and sustainable for the full 50K – I wanted to enjoy the race and feel good about my effort at the end.
The month between races went by quickly and before I knew it I was getting my running gear organized in a Super 8 motel outside Rochester, a few minutes from the park. The weather during the week leading up to the race had consisted of a whole lot of rain so I was ready to run, but nervous about how the trails would have held up. The good news was that the forecast for race day was cloudy but no precipitation. For what my choice of accomodations lacked in luxury, it was perfect for location: next to a Tim Hortons for some pre-race fuel, and just down the road from the park which made for a short morning drive. At the park the race organizers had a nice little registration area set up complete with a fire going in the wood stove. I grabbed my number and timing chip and headed down to the start area to place my drop bag and start getting changed into what I thought would be enough running clothes to keep me warm, but not too warm! I was glad I brought lots of options because as daylight (in a lighter form of grey) came up, it remained cool and snowflakes were falling.
The 10K loop through the park was great. The first km of the route was on road, but once we made the right hander into the woods, it was all trails from there. It was a very hilly course, with little flat ground to be seen. There was a real mix of trail types – some singletrack with rocks and roots, some wider paths, and a few sections of grass. The ground was in much better shape than I was expecting given all the recent rain. The few muddy sections got a bit worse over the course of 5 laps from all the traffic, but these areas were limited. Most of the fall leaves had blown off the trees, but I kept thinking that this course would have been beautiful a few weeks earlier! There was a water station at about the 5.5 km point – it was well stocked with your typical ultra aid station fare and run by very nice volunteers.
In general my race was very uneventful (which is a good thing when racing!) I started off towards the middle of pack to avoid getting caught up in the expected speed of the leaders. I ran a slow pace on the beginning road section, chatting to Eric who I knew from Twitter but had just met, and a couple fellow Canucks who drove down from Ottawa. Once onto the trails things started to thin quickly and I ended up running behind 2 others, and then one other runner joined behind me. This group of 4 stuck together until the end of the lap (at the time I didn’t realize we were the second place group). I made the decision to allow the first 2 to head off ahead as I was worried I was pushing a bit too fast and it sounded like they planned to pick things up. The 4th member of our group stopped for a quick clothing change – he passed me later in lap 2 and I never saw him again. During Laps 2&3 traffic on the trails increased and I passed a number of folks who were running the shorter distance races that had started later that morning. On the 4th and 5th lap the crowds had dispersed again as the other races were finished but I came upon a few who were at the back of the 50K pack. As the race wore on I was good in terms of my energy level, but I could definitely feel the hill climbing in the back of my legs. My lack of hill training definitely caught up to me towards the end of the race. Just after the aid station on the last lap I passed one of the 2 runners that I had been following on lap 1. When I caught and passed him he said he bonked hard this lap – I felt bad for him, knowing he was in the same boat I was in my first 50K but it made me feel good that I had let those guys go and it was paying off at this late point in the race. As I pulled away from him I was driven to get enough of a gap to not be the motivation for him to pick up his pace!
Finally I made it to the grassy finishing chute for the 5th and last time. I finished in 4:45 which I was happy with. Even more so I was happy that I had given a fairly consistent effort, and hadn’t given up physically or mentally. I would have guessed I was somewhere around 10th place (since I had paid absolutely no attention to who was ahead of me at the start of the race) so I was pleasantly surprised to have ended up in 5th overall and 3rd in the 30-39 age group. Good enough for a white ribbon!
I started getting cold as soon as I finished so I headed over to the car to change. While in the car I turned on the heat to help warm me up. While in the heat I fell asleep. After a quick nap I woke up and decided to head up to the lodge where they had a fire going in the woodstove and the promise of bagels, soup, and beverages. This was when I checked the results and found out that my age group third made me eligible for a ribbon! I grabbed a bagel, and skipped the beer even though it was tempting. I knew after my unplanned nap and the need to drive 2 hours home I didn’t need anything else weighing my eyelids down. I chatted with a few folks and met a couple from Toronto that have done the race a number of times. As much as I was enjoying the conversation and fire, I knew I had to get going so I hit the road.
One other item of note (possibly too much information for some, but most runners will understand) was that when I stopped for a coffee on the way out of town I headed to the men’s room. My pee was the darkest I have ever seen (like coffee or coke dark) which really scared me for a second, then I realized I hadn’t drank very much during the race. I ended up only drinking my bottle (20 oz) and 4 part cups of water at the aid station. This is not very much for me – I hadn’t noticed any detrimental effects but this was something to remember for next time. The cold temperatures definitely didn’t keep hydration at the top of my mind as it would have been in a warm summer race.
I went into this race wanting to do a better job on nutrition and pacing. In terms of nutrition I decided to stick to water and gels. This definitely worked out much better for me. I had hoped to get in a gel every 30 minutes but that wasn’t happening. I likely managed one every 45 minutes or so – it was basically one per lap, plus an extra before the race for a total of 6 gels. With the low heart rate I was pushing this seemed to be adequate – I never felt like I was anywhere close to bonking. I’ve already explained the hydration side – the water was a good choice, but I probably could have used a bit more.
In terms of pacing I feel like I made significant improvements. Obviously I didn’t get even splits, but the drop between the start and finish was much less drastic than at Run for the Toad. My splits were 51-53-55-61-63. The first lap was a but shorter (due to the start location) and didn’t include a stop at the aid stations so the first two laps were probably paced very close to the same time. Given that I had never seen this course before, I am happy with this improvement. I was definitely super conservative the whole time, but still had to mentally remind myself to push it on the last 2 laps so I wouldn’t end up in a mental hole like last time.
I want to thank the race organizers (Rochester Orienteering Club) for putting on such a great race at such a low price. There was much more provided than I was even expecting, and all for $25. From the stocked aid station and chip timing, to the food and drinks provided at the end it was really great and an amazing race value. They also had someone on the course (Tom Perry) taking photos (hundreds of them) who had them all posted by Monday after the race. All of the race photos on this post are compliments of him. I will definitely be back to this race in the future.
As always, thanks for reading. I am going to log off and go register for my next goal – a 50 miler in the spring!