Can Lake 50
I thought I would never make it to Rochester NY airport, thence to Canandaigua on Friday evening. I was waiting at the gate at La Guardia NY airport, enduring the same, daily torment of the past week, keeping everything crossed that my pre-booked-and-paid-for seat still existed. I’d been lucky up to now but my run of luck was about to run out. I had become used to hearing the daily calls, barked out over the tinny, squawky PA systems that sound as if they are based on first-generation telephones, for volunteers to give up their seats due to the routine overbooking that curses internal air travel in USA. (Apparently the government allows it. The government should be BANNING it.) This time the airline had gone too far. Even with the volunteers, passengers were denied travel on the flights they had booked. I was one of the chosen few (one who didn't shout in protest or threaten the use of lawyers). I was about to be stranded and I felt sick. However, by some miracle the overworked, overstressed yet surprisingly calm man at the podium was able to find two alternative flights to replace our one flight and get us to our destination several hours late, but still before midnight. Deep joy. We felt so privileged. Armed with my compensatory voucher for $125, useful only to American nationals, I made my way to the new gate where, you guessed it, the flight was delayed, but fortunately not so much that I missed the next flight to my final destination. US air travel is the pits.
The Can Lake 50 Ultras are 50-mile and 50k road runs from Canandaigua in the Finger Lakes region of northern New York State. I’d normally go for the long option, but logistics meant that I would have to be content with the 50k to prevent me from seizing up completely on my two-week business tour of the States. It had been a toss-up between New York and Tampa, Florida, where I had to be by Sunday evening. Consultation of the UltraRunning calendar meant that I would be spending my weekend in New York and getting to see those much talked about autumn colours.
I walked down to the Finger Lakes Community College from my accommodation close by, but unfortunately I just missed the 7am start of the 50-mile race. We 50k runners would later get taken by school bus with its 12” leg room part way around the course until just 31 miles of it remained, at which point we would offload to our starting area beside the lake. The sun shone brightly, the sky was a vivid blue and the air was cool – perfect for running. We cheered a few passing 50-milers running through their 19-mile point before we were set off on our way at just gone 10am. We all wore a timing chip on our ankles for second-perfect recording several hours later at the finish.
Compared to the rough terrain I’m used to, the undulating roads provided easy running – too easy, meaning speed was up, meaning leg trashing would be accelerated. Leg trashing was brought even further forward by my lack of fitness, thanks to a week of sitting down with no exercise, late arrivals at hotels and surviving on junk food grabbed whenever the opportunity presented itself. (Picture if you will a midnight dinner of two bags of crisps and a pack of cakes from the hotel kiosk.)
I was enjoying the autumnal views, the pleasant conditions, the friendliness of runners and supporters and the excellent race support as I shuffled my way along, but I was not enjoying how slow it was feeling. Still, I wasn’t in a hurry. It would take as long as it took as I tried to find my stride while chatting with 50-milers and 50k-ers along the way. I ran with fellow 50k-er David Weiss for a good while, during which we had an interesting conversation about the specialist glass industry as we ran past the vineyards (I never knew they had vineyards there).
My experience was made a pleasurable one by the fantastic support and attention to detail given by Race Director Tom Perry and his team of volunteers. Everything is covered with nothing left to chance. Not only is there good support along the route, there are pre-race refreshments and a post-race sit-down buffet meal. Taking into account the wealth of detail on the website as well, it is the perfect event for the Ultra first-timer. It’s pretty good for the Ultra veterans too. Our swag included a finisher's medal and a useful technical T-shirt of fluorescent yellow colour, which is perfect for running in the gloaming while remaining visible. It might get its first airing on next weekend's Round Rotherham.
After the finish, my heart rate monitor told me that my pace was a little slower than, and my heart rate much higher than it was for the much more rugged 32-mile Wuthering Hike in 2009. The ministry of funny walks over the following 4 days from my trashed legs confirmed my lack of fitness. Still, I had another week of sedentary existence, cramped for hours in cattle class airline seats (provided my bookings are honoured) to regain full racing fitness for next week's Round Rotherham 50-miler. I live in cloud cuckoo land, you know.
I took a few hazy pictures through my contaminated lens (but at least the camera functions now after its wash).