< ntstephens

I feel like $100. My Eastern States 100 race report.

ntstephens

Let me take you back to the early fall of 2017. A successful spring and summer racing season saw me complete Breakneck Point, Cayuga Trails 50, Twisted Branch 100k, and a majority of Many on the Genny. I wanted more ultra running agony. I wanted the 2018 Eastern States 100.

I researched it studiously. Physically, mentally, and logistically I was ready. The race sold out fast last year so when registration opened I would be prepared to sign up. On a whim while waiting to pick up kiddos from school, I hurriedly filled out an application for a TrailsRoc scholarship for my “dream race.” One month later I was in Rochester receiving a cash award from them to help me reach my goal. All I had to do was update them on my training, wear their logo, and write a race report. Perfect.

To say I was excited would be an understatement. I told everyone about my new plan, read tons of articles on the race, researched the area and I even wrote up a “pre-race report”, highlighting some of the things going through my brain 6 months before this race. After 4 years of ultra running, I was ready for 100 miles. Then about 2 weeks after I started to amp up my training I get an email, the race had been cancelled.

The race being cancelled really sucked. But honestly, I was more concerned about having to find another race that could fill my responsibilities to TrailsRoc. My options for a 100miler were limited to say the least, especially on a tight budget with huge time constraints. Feeling my pain, two of my favorite race directors came through and offered me free spots in their races. So, I signed up for those 2, then added the Cayuga Trails 50, and I would reluctantly adjust mine and my family’s whole summer schedule to attempt the Empire State triad, again. Only problem was that the first race, Many on the Genny was in 8 days, and I wasn’t really ready.

I ran it and finished. It was fine. The race was amazingly organized. Everything about it was top notch. For anyone considering it, please do. You won’t be disappointed. For me personally, I ran slow, chatted with friends, and enjoyed the scenery. But while going down some slick stone steps and being distracted picking a song, I slipped, fell, and slammed my lower back hard. Embarrassed, I jumped up and kept moving. It wasn’t until 2-3 days later that I realized my back was in bad shape and I had less than 3-4 weeks until the next race, Cayuga Trails 50. A race that I had ran the previous 4 years in a row. A race that was more difficult than the first. A race that I really didn’t plan on doing or really even want to do. I had all ready finished it twice, it’s a great race, but I was ready for something new. So when race weekend came and I hadn’t been able to run all month, I had to accept a DNS, and forfeit my chance at the Triad.

I hobbled through some light training in attempt to get myself ready for the last race, Twisted Branch 100k. My back eventually started to feel a bit better. Of course I never had X-rays or went to a doctor/chiropractor for it. Although I knew I was behind with my training, I persevered with the intention of giving it a try anyhow. Then 3 weeks before the race, I stepped on some broken glass while camping and cut my foot badly in 3 places. Training was put back on hold and I was left scratching my head thinking I can’t get a break this season.

Although I had no business being there, I found myself at the starting line of Twisted Branch. The race kicked off and I was on my way. Between aid station 1 and aid station 2 it poured nonstop. I slipped up one hill then down the next. I wasn’t in good shape, my attitude was quickly spiraling downward, and I had all ready finished this race once. Why was I even out here? So at mile 12 or 13, I pulled out. Another DNF at Twisted Branch. Meatloaf says “2 out of 3 ain’t bad”, well after finishing Twisted once, I’m happy to say 1 out of 4 ain’t bad for that race!

So I found myself finally feeling healthier albeit out of ultra shape. So I decided since I failed at theTriad, I would run Water Gap 50k to sort of reaffirm my identity as a trail runner, and give some props to the TrailsRoc for my scholarship. The race was in the second week of October and I had about 6 weeks to get ready. Well, with all busyness that life presents, I managed just 6 active days and 51 miles of training during the course of that 6 weeks. Perfect.

The race is flat. Very flat. And out of the 31 miles you run about 90% on a groomed gravel track. It seemed like a road run through some woods and along fields. I ran it, I finished. It was fine. My run was nothing spectacular but somehow I did manage a personal best in the 50k. Mostly because of its flatness I guess. I wore the TrailsRoc colors, and was happy to finally finish my first race since June.

As I’m writing this race report today, it is normally during a time I would be running the trails at my favorite place, Pinnacle State Park. But today, I just don’t feel like it. I feel a sense of ambivalence creeping into my ultra running career. There was very little thrill and excitement about doing Water Gap and now I wonder if I really want to put the training hours in that will be required to finish a 100 miler.

Running 6+ hours in the woods was no problem when I was a single dad and the kiddos were with their mom. What else was I gonna do? Now things have changed. I’m no longer a single dad, I have a wonderful girlfriend and my family size went from 3 to 7. However, in the last 2 years, out of 10 mini vacations or camping trips, 7 have involved me running in a race. I’m not so sure I like that anymore.

Priorities change. People change. What you might enjoy doing for the last 5 years, you may get sick of and never want to do again. I used to travel around and see Phish shows. I’ve seen well over 100 but I could care less if I ever see one again. I don’t think I’m gonna give up trail running. I really enjoy my early Friday am runs with my two buddies, but maybe I’m done running races for a while. Maybe it’s time to shift to volunteer mode. Who knows.

I am extremely thankful for the scholarship that the TrailsRoc organization awarded me. They were very patient and understanding to my situation this year. I’ll continue to wear their gear proudly, tag them in my runs, and help volunteer for their races whenever possible. This day and age it is refreshing to find a group of people who are so welcoming, understanding, supportive, and downright fun. Thanks again TrailsRoc.

I’d also like to thank two of my high school buddies whom also help sponsor my ultra running adventures. Jason VanGorden whom owns and operates VanGorden Builders, and Jesse Balliett with Early Bird Antiques. Thanks guys again this year for your financial backing and continued commitment to excellence.