Run Report: Finger Lakes Trail M1 & M3

 

This past weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to partake in the Medved Endurance Project, as they took on the Allegheny section of the Finger Lakes Trail. There would be only a handful of us going, but it would be fun despite the group size.

The Players

Mike & Kristin Ryan – a pretty cool couple from the area, Kristin is a kick ass runner and Mike is no slouch himself.

Dennis, Kate and Simeon – The hardcore group, not only runners, they bike hardcore too. Kate is a freshly minted ultra runner

Mort Nace – The King. Mort is the man, tons of experience and a rather jovial guy to be around. Someone compared him to the Jolly Green Giant… fair assessment, but he’s not green, he’s a very experienced trail runner/hiker ultra guy.

Heidi – Aside from Kate and Simeon I didn’t know Heidi at all before hand. She is a really cool free spirit. Lots of time on the trails and running ultras, she was a joy to be around

The Setup

The night before we headed out we all met up at Medved after the group trail run to discuss the logistics of the following couple days. We loosely made some plans and arranged to meet at the shop the next day at 4.

Day 1 – Friday July 6

Due to having a pretty awesome boss I was able to get into work super early to get out early to finish what I couldn’t get ready at 5:30am. So at 2pm I set out to finish my own personal preparations for the weekend. I picked up a portable USB charger, in hopes that it would get me through the weekend and charge both phone and Garmin, from Radio Shack. Made some last minute food pickups, then hit home to load up, say my goodbyes. My wife was going with the girls to Camp Seven Hills for the weekend so it was weird to be goign in different directions. Got over to Medved a little early to pickup some Gu, Injini Socks and a bandana.

4:00 We all slowly made our ways into the store and picked up various items. The only person who didn’t show up was Heidi who said she would meet us there.

4:20 We all piled into our separate cars and began the trip. Mort rode with me and I enjoyed a very good conversation with him mostly about trails, races and Pikes Peak Marathon. It was nice to be able to spend sometime with the guy and get to know him a bit better.

5:30 We make a stop outside of Dansville for the gang to fill up gas, I grabbed a Red Bull, Mango Juice and a snickers ice cream bar. As we were leaving, we watched Mike bottom out on this huge hole in the gas station. We were told they didn’t speak to each other for 20 minutes.

7:00 The ride down was absolutely stunning. If I have ever been down to Allegheny I sure don’t remember it. The views were something to behold. We pulled into camp and noticed that the campground was slightly more busy than we anticipated it being. Apparently this state campground was quite popular. We quickly unloaded, I got the tent set up and I was ready to go for a run. Heidi offered to join me. Before we did, there must be a picture.

Mike, Kristin, Kate, Mort, Dennis, Me, Heidi

Run #1 – Conservation Trail

Plan was to go for a nice easy run. We looked on the map and found a trail that led from Red house and connected to the FLT that we would run the next day. We figured that would be a good one to run. About a mile in, I was regretting choosing this trail BUT I was enjoying it. The trail was a mile or so uphill with fallen trees almost every 50-100m, once it leveled off after about 2 miles there were less trees and the trail reminded me of running on the trails you see in Cali. Nice big trees, wide trail, cool. I ran to the point where the FLT meets up then turned around. Saw the leanto up there that looks like a tree fell on it. Big hole right in the top. By this point I had pulled ahead of Heidi and we were each enjoying the trail, as I turned around I caught back up with her and we headed back. It got really dark in the woods very quickly.

By the time we made it back to camp I was pretty soaked from the humidity, and dinner was on.

Total Time: 1:05
Total Distance: 5.5 miles
Garmin Track: MEP Run #1 – Easy Run

Evening

Dinner was burgers, salads, baked potato salad and some other stuff. I ended up having two burgers which I think affected me pretty bad the next day. After dinner we stroked up the fire and set to work discussing what we were doing the next day. Heidi expressed interest in running M1 (21 miles) with me, Mort and the Ryans would tackle M2 (15 miles) and Dennis would do the 2nd half of M1. Kate and Simeon would do some biking, hardcore biking, and Dennis would later join them.

10:30I set off to bed a little later than I liked but I figured with a camp it would be harder to go to sleep early anyways. I had a pretty miserable sleep and woke up constantly whether it was my back, knees or some stupid cartoons playing in someones tent. Not a good night sleep.

Day 2 – Saturday July 7

5:30 After a pretty bad night sleep, 5:30 came quick but I was up rather painlessly. I like waking to the birds during camping, lets you know you’re alive. However I think they woke at 4am. Plan was to eat breakfast and then head out. My stomach felt a little off and I think it had something to do with the burgers but not quite sure. Everyone else slowly got up out and ready and ate their breakfasts. We talked about the annoying neighbors from night number 1. I ate a protein bar a bagel and PB.

7:30 Head out. By this time on a usual long run I would have been out for a couple hours by now. Instead we were now driving to PA to catch the 1st part of the FLT trail on M1.

8:06We hit the trail.

Start of the M1 of the FLT

Run #2 – FLT M1

I have to say…that is a pretty poor way to mark the beginning of the FLT. I honestly thought there would be something…bigger.

As we started out the humidity was pretty evident and we began our climb to the 1.1 mile mark which was the NY State line.

Welcome to NY!

Looking at the trail ahead…easiest trail of the day

Heidi and I began our journey thru the humid and ever increasing heat in the forest. Certain areas of the trail were filled with low ground coverage that made the trail small and cut up legs and arms in the process. Other areas were just stunning and made you want to sit down and take it all in. If I was running by myself I would be approaching this run a lot different, but as it was, I was running with Heidi and made a deal to not get too far ahead and would wait every mile or every major intersection. I felt it was important that we stay as close as we could together. This allowed us to enjoy the trail and catch up with each other every now and then.

Along the trail, nature was out in force. Tons of these bright orange lizards (like NEON orange). I came upon something screaming at me on the trail only to find a mother raccoon leading her family up a tree. The creaming was caused by one of her children about 5 feet away from me howling. tried to get a pic but it booked to fast. Cute little guy. Thru this section — we split the M1 into 2 and had Dennis drop my car off at the 10.5 mile spot for refueling purposes — there were many bridges and creek crossings that if the water was flowing would’ve been amazing.

Around mile 9 I started noticing my stomach was feeling funny and I was having an awful lot of indigestion. As we made it out of the 1st half I was glad to refill and have an apple. Thought it would settle the stomach. At this point Hedi was obviously not feeling too well, and she decided to call it a day. I stayed at the car a little longer than I would’ve like but it gave me time to refuel and make sure she was ok before taking off on the 2nd half.

It took us 2.5 hours to get the first half done and even though there was a lot of “un-runnable” sections — long uphills, rocks, roots, trees down — I thought I could do better on the 2nd section and still finish under 5 hours. I made my way up the next climb and tried running several times, each time feeling like I was running with a baseball in my stomach, very uncomfortable.

I resorted to a speed-hike at a pace that I found pretty consistent with the run/walking I was already doing over much of the section already. I don’t remember much of anything for the next 6 miles. I was focused on gutting thru whatever was going on with me stomach. About the time I reached the Conservation trail that I had ran on on Friday I started to hear distant thunder. By now my cell service had come back and my wife informed me she had just had their 2nd thunderstorm. She was not too far away and I knew it was coming for us.

Thunder. Mountain. Trees. Nope didn’t want to be up there. I picked up the pace until I found myself running. The first big crack of lighting in the woods had me at a sprint. Then it all went downhill. Aside from a brief peak at 19.5, It was a downhill sprint to make it out of the woods. I wanted to be done. As the thunder grew louder I went faster.

Then I caught a rock. Or a root. And I went straight in to the ground slicing my knee open on a rock. Or a root.

It hurt, there was blood everywhere, but I didn’t want to get fried so I got up and took off. Then the rain drops came.

There was a lot of blood before I wiped it off

I could hear the highway so I figured I was close to the end, I got out in an open field and the lighting and thunder was loud. The storm was right on top of me. I caught sight of the road and the moment I stepped on it, the heavens opened and it began to pour. I could see down the road where they parked my Jeep and I watched as lighting struck the mountain in its background. I bolted to the car and stripped my pack off and my shoes and socks.

I jumped back out into the road and enjoyed the cool shower, it was just as good as jumping in the lake at the end. I didn’t realize later until I checked my weather track that it had hit a peak of 102 on the heat index.

Total Time: 5:28
Total Distance: 21.5miles
Garmin Track: MEP Run #2 – FLT M1

2:00By the time I made it back to camp the rain had stopped, the sun was out and the Mike, Kristin and Mort were just making it back. We swapped some stories about our experiences on the trail and then just chilled in the afternoon under a tree for a couple hours waiting on the rest of the gang.

5:00 The rest of the crew came back at separate times and then we set off to Ellicotville to go for dinner. Prior to this I was trying to charge my Garmin using my new USB charger only to have it NOT CHARGE. I didn’t know what was going on but I had an idea that It might be draining itself like it has done before. So we left to find a Radio Shack, only to find it closed. We had an alternative way to charge it but it would require me to find an extension cord.

6pm Made it to Ellicotville Brewing Company and had a salad. I didn’t know what happened today but I didn’t want it to happen again, so I chose to eat a bit lighter. It was a nice restaurant for being in the middle of nowhere. I don’t know if it deserves “impeccable” in its description however. I’m picky.

After dinner they went to get ice cream while I went and found the smallest Tops I’ve ever seen, and grabbed an extension cord…and saw guys from the Rodeo.

Smallest Tops ever?

I kept playing with my Garmin to try and drain it completely and when we made it back to camp I was able to successfully get it to start charging again. The portable pack worked well and recharged it.

Evening

When we got back I was extremely tired and wanted to hit bed, we worked out some minor logistics regarding the next day then I hit bed. It took me and hour to fall asleep, then I was awoke by dumb ass drunk guys at 2:30. They continued to have their conversations well past 4:30 when I finally passed out again.

Day 3 – Sunday July 8

6am It took me a bit longer to get moving and I felt like crap. But I got up, packed everything away, and began to prepare for the next 21 miles today. As I was getting my pack ready it was at this time I noticed my headphones were missing. We ate breakfast, said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. Heidi and I headed out first as we had to drop her car off at the end of M3. As we got back to where my Jeep was the day before, I saw my headphones…on the ground. Smashed.

Jaybird headphones no more 🙁

This really upset me as I enjoy my music on the trail, and my phones audio was not working.

We took off and dropped her car on Fancy Tract Rd then headed back to the halfway point in Ellicotville where we would meet Dennis who would take us to the begining of M3.

Run #3 – FLT M3

9:17 We hit the trail MUCH later than I anticipated. Even though it was cooler than yesterday, the sun was out and you could feel it. There were lots of open spots on the road with no shade, one of the benefits of actually running on trails. If you know this section and you look at the map, you can see right away what happened. Shortly after following some roads and choosing right or left with no blazes we followed the one with Pink blazes and ended up following a gradual 3 mile uphill onto the logging roads. Adding significant mileage to our day. This day would be filled with lots of error in navigation and poor marking that had us turned around several times. On the bright side we went thru some pretty awesome sections of trails, Little Rock City made me feel like Indiana Jones and the ridge above Holiday Vally reminded me of Colorado Aspen trees. and Maine boulder fields. Again, much of this trail was just un-runnable. Lots of uphill, lots of wet rocks. We ran when we could.

By the time we got to the top of Holiday Valley we were running behind and already were at extra mileage. As we followed what we thought was the right trail we quickly discovered we were going down Holiday Valley and following their white trails for their mountain bikers. After descending halfway we turned around and back tracked to find our way back up to the the top and beside Spruce Lake.

At this point I knew I was dehydrated, I could feel it. We both jumped into the lake for a nice refreshing cool down then set off for the final two miles. We met a man who pointed us in the direction of where to go, but soon found he sent us down the old FLT section and we ended up lost again. But every now and then white markers would show up on trees and throw things off. By now…I wanted to be done. I found the road and just ran to the car. The hill from Holiday Valley and road decent crushed my legs and my spirit was mentally broken from the days excursion.

When I reached the car I drank as much as I could, I would not be continuing M3 today. The section that should have taken us under 10 miles and under 2.5 hours, took us 13.5 over 4 hours.

Total Time: 4:05
Total Distance: 13.63miles
Garmin Track: MEP Run #3 – FLT M3 1

I drove Heidi back to her car and set off home. My first experience as part of the Medved Endurance Project was done…but it wasn’t complete.

I now have to go back and finish off M3, and plan to find where that trail lead me astray. It was a great weekend with some great folks. I’m glad Heidi put up with me and didn’t throw me off a cliff.

This experience isn’t complete, there are more memories I take with me from this, but this is what I wanted to share.

For thoughts on how this played into my training and the effects from that see my training report.