Finger Lakes Fifties 50K - Watkins Glen, NY  3.3
Elevation: 750'    Elevation Gain:  2600'
June 30, 2012 - The Finger Lakes Fifties events are run on a ridge nestled
between the Seneca and Cayuga lakes just north of Watkins Glen in New York
state's only national forest.  Navigating ravines, wetland root jungles, cow
pastures and bridle trails complete with "landmines", the mostly woodsy 
16.5-mile loop course with only 1300 feet of elevation gain per loop is
outstandingly scenic, beautiful and challenging. 

The weather forecast was for temperatures in the mid nineties, but I was all
in for racing since hot-weather running is one of my fortes.  After several 
days of hot and humid temps in the high eighties I knew what I was in for.
While I signed up to do the fifty-mile event I had an option to stop after 50K
if I chose as the race progressed.  Discretion overcame valor and the later
proved to be a better option on this day.

After a four-hour drive I arrived in steamy temps to pick up my number and
settle in for a warm evening in the car.  Things cooled off to the mid sixties,
so the race was comfortable for the 0630 start.  After milling about and
socializing a bit I began with a leisurely attitude and ran with a 26-year-old
guy - Jim Bahner - whom I had run with at Hyner in April.  We kicked back
and let the field run away from us for the first five miles or so.  Once the
conversation became thin and the up hills took on a steeper profile I became
impatient with the snail's pace uphill and so began to pass those who started
faster, quickly leaving my running partner behind and fully engaging in the race.

Starting very conservatively enables one to save strength and energy until the
muscles are fully awakened and warmed up.  Once the giant is awake there is
no holding back.  I quickly passed by dozens of runners through the balance of
the first loop.  All systems were go and temps and humidity were manageable
under the cover of the forest.  In open areas the sun was hot, but they were
brief enough that they presented little compromise.


A fellow about half my age caught up to and rolled past me somewhere most of
the way through the first loop.  This young Naval officer, named Brian Hays, was
clearly the better runner, but I stayed with him and we flew together for miles,
trading postion several times. One flat grassy stretch for over a mile had us
pushing probably at close to a 7-minute pace.  It just felt good to go fast, even if
it might cost us to motor like that.  It's still very satisfying to know my legs still
have sting in them.  Finally he slipped away from me, after I lingered too long  
mixing it up at an aid station, but I had confidence I'd catch him again - 
experience still trumps youthful enthusiasm in this sport of persistence and patience.

Despite losing contact with Bryan I was able to continue my upbeat tempo to 
complete the first loop in 2:53, slightly under my three-hour target.  All was good
as I continued.  The biggest measure of success in an event at this stage in my 
running life is that from the time I start passing people I continue to do so until the
finish with no one passing me.  Rarely does anyone come up from behind and best
me in a race, even at this point in my career.  To have someone come around me
in the later stages of a race is my greatest challenge.  To have many people pass
me would be abject failure, without excuse.  So, on the second loop I painted a
target on Bryan's back, though he was far out in front of me, and waited while
I did what I do best.

I continued to pick off runners who had started faster.  It is always surprising to 
me to see how many people get ahead of me.  At the second aid station an older 
fellow who seemed to be doing well at 20 miles grabbed my shoulder and said he
thought I was a guy in his age group that he already passed.  I asked what age
group he was referring to and he said 60-69, to which I replied that I was sixty.
His smile immediately turned to one of those "oh shit" looks before he quickly
followed me out of the aid station to maintain contact.  He obviously wanted to win
the age group award and perhaps thought he had it locked up until I came along.
I checked my rear view mirror after a few minutes and he was gone, at least
I couldn't see him through my dust.

Aside from falling seven times - hard - in the dirt - the race was smooth the second
time around.  No blood, just battered toes from kicking the roots and a muddy
T-shirt.  I fell right as I approached one of the aid stations - did a total flip and 
landed on my back in quite a show, losing my bottle.  Everyone jumped up, asking
if I was alright.  I just laid there, for effect, and proceeded to rip open and 
consume a gel as I told them, to their amusement, that I needed to take a break 
anyway. After about thirty seconds of needed repose, I declined a hand to help
me up and bounced up smoothly on my own.  One aid worker said that at least it 
was a graceful fall, to which I responded that if you fall often enough you get 
good at it... and I seem to be very good at it!!!!

Continuing, the increasing heat had another dozen contenders bent over attempting
to stave off heat exhaustion.  I rolled on, finally glimpsing Bryan in the distance,
gradually reeling him in.  He was fragged and having knee and hip pain.  We stayed
together for a couple miles - I offered him encouragement and pointers, but
ultimately I dropped him by most of ten minutes at the close of the second loop.

I opted to conclude my run after 50K - actually 33 miles - rather than continue on
to complete my original 50-mile objective.  I felt good and finished with good leg
turn, but temps would soon top 90 degrees and I saw no point in ruining an
otherwise great day.  A cooler day would have seen me shooting for 9 hours in the
50M.  My finishing time was 6:02:55, which would have been under six hours for 
50K.  I was awarded a nice wooden craft (right) for being first in my age group -
a silly little carved cow.  One of the major themes of this race is running through
cow pastures with the stipulation that as you run through the closed gates you
lock them behind you, which everyone did, thus the headliner on the T-shirt
 "Don't let the cows out".

Aid stations were placed at about every three miles which was very helpful in
getting enough fluids on such a balmy day.  The Finger Lakes people are great.
They know how to put on a quality event and know how to design a great course.
Can't offer enough accolades.  They made it a great experience for all, one worth
an encore appearance.  After washing my face, bagging my muddy shirt, and
grabbing a burger, I turned on the air conditioning and bolted home in the heat.