Despite my fourth Long Island Greenbelt 50k, it seems unlikely that I’ll finish this race without going off course at least once! My first time on the course (2007) set the high water mark of four missed trail blazes. In 2008, my trail navigation skills improved and I only went off course twice. And, in 2009, I got lost just once. It seemed that the progression was working in my favor. This weekend, however, I still missed a blaze and found myself off course during the first outbound leg. But I’ve gotten ahead of the story.
Last year I woke up to the sound of heavy rain outside the window. Luckily, it stopped on the drive down to Plainview. We had muddy conditions, but no more rain during the day. On Saturday, it hadn’t begun to rain yet - despite a forecast that rain would arrive overnight. I drove to Long Island with Emmy and Noonie. While there were occasional patches of sun, it seemed like the rain was never too far off. To me, it's always preferable - mentally - to kick off a race in dry conditions (even if the rain is only minutes behind). Luckily, no rain at the start - just humid conditions.
I had a sub-6:00 finish in mind when we set off at 7:30. The first part of the course is a 1.8 mile out and back on the roads, leading back to the trail head. It took me 15:44 and I was drenched in sweat as we entered the trail! I thought it would be less humid on the trail, but no such luck. The trail has a number of road crossings on the 7.8 mile stretch north to the Cold Spring Harbor turnaround. The bulk of is very runnable trail. However, the last 2+ miles, from the Route 108 to the turnaround is where all the serious elevation change lurks.
Including the brief out and back, I reached the Cold Spring Harbor in 1:34:47 - slightly off pace for a 6:00 finish. It included a half mile detour I took with 3 other guys, when we collectively missed a blaze! I got back on track (so to speak) for the inbound leg, with a 1:21:03 and first half split of 2:55:50. During the inbound leg the rain arrived. I felt a few drops just before Stillwell Field, and then the heavens opened (with some thunder too). The storm didn’t last long - just long enough to soak my shoes and socks. But, by the time I returned to the trail head, both had dried out.
On the outbound leg of the second loop, the rain made another appearance. This time it wasn’t as loud, or long - it was just long enough to get my feet wet again. Both storms knocked down the humidity, so running conditions improved in their wake. There were a couple of muddy patches during the second loop - messy but not dangerous. My second outbound leg took 1:26:19, for a cumulative split of 4:22:09 - well on target for a sub 6:00 finish. I just needed a 1:30 inbound leg back to the trail head and I’d make it back to the clubhouse in plenty of time.
But that outcome wasn’t in the cards. By the time I crossed Route 108 and had the gnarly climbs behind me, my time cushion had all but evaporated. I kept moving, but had no leg speed left to push the flats. I reached the trail head in 1:41:52 - a full 15 minutes slower than the outbound leg - and still had half a mile of roads, back to the finish. That small stretch took 3:22 and I crossed the finish in 6:07:36. Well off my target, but good enough under the circumstances!
Instead of baseball caps (as in years past), finishers each received a drawstring bag. Afterwards, there was plenty of food - in the way of six foot subs! And plenty of socializing too. By early afternoon, the sun had come out and it had warmed up considerably. Just a few of the familiar faces: Emmy, Noonie, Nick, Richie, Grant, Eliot (his first trail ultra), Marge, Susan, Alicja, Jay, Lydia, and Lucimar. And a couple of new ones too, Joel and Elik (his first ultra)!
Here are my race photos.
Here is Eliot's Race Report.