This past Saturday was the annual Thom B. Trail Race, the opening race of the Finger Lakes Running Club‘s trail series. Fittingly, this race embodied most FLRC trail races I’ve encountered: simple, supportive, and fun. While the Finger Lake’s races aren’t glamorous, they take you through beautiful and technical terrain; there are no cheering crowds or loud music, but the runners themselves are an inspiration to run with. For those who may be jaded with running’s recent turn to gimmicky color runs/mud runs, the
FLRC races offer a return to simple origins.
This year’s Thom B race had an understated excitement, as it was the inaugural addition of the 52k addition to the usual 13k and 26k. While there were only 14 of us running the longer distance, the 120+ racers running the 13/26k were amazingly supportive, as were the various check point workers and the occasional surprise volunteers at the “un-staffed” aid stations.
Conditions were hot–mid 70’s and up–and humid like you could not believe, leaving many racers feeling they couldn’t stay hydrated no matter how hard they tried. For me, it took guzzling 3-4 full water bottles per lap to stay even remotely hydrated. With the 52k distance starting earlier in the day, the trails were 50% mud, letting my Inov8 Bare-Grips do what they do best. By the time the 13/26K started, it was sunny any dry (dry being a subjective term here) enough to switch to my Vivobarefoot Breathos.
The trail is up-and-down consistently, with a few flat runs to give your some hope and to let you get some steam. The running got a little technical (read: crazy) on some sections of the notoriously half-track Finger Lakes Trail, but this is definitely a race doable by any runner–for experienced trail runners, it’s a fun mix between tough and doable, and for newer runners, it’ll be a great race to test your skills.
I bonked hard partway through my third lap, feeling the combined effects of the humidity, mild dehydration, and an IT-Band that decided it didn’t want to run down hills anymore. This race was a particularly lonely one: once the director yelled “Go!” us ultra runners were by ourselves for a solid 2 laps, spreading ourselves all through Hammond. What killed me was when the 13/26K runners came onto the course: their encouragement was much needed, but I foolishly got caught up in staying with them, forgetting that not only had I just run double their distance, but would continue running after they’re done. The moral of the story: keep your pace.
My saving grace was a runner named Tania, who was running the shorter 26K distance. After her first lap in (my third), she was having a tough time, so we paired up together, chatting to take our minds off of the discomfort. We told each other funny race stories and funny life stories; we talked about our families, friends, our jobs and our future race plans. It was hard thinking of upcoming races as I limped my way to the end. My race essentially ended on that third lap, but talking with Tania and getting to make a new running friend made it all worth it.
In spite of me going out with a whimper instead of a bang, the race was great, and crossing the finish line race directors Joel Cisne and Shelly Marino were there to wish me and the few remaining limpers smiles and congratulations, their spirits high and raising ours. If you’ve never gotten to run a
race directed by them, or run a race with them, you should–they’re both wonderful, talented people who bring a lot of good energy to whatever they do.
So, if you’re ever in Ithaca for the Spring, start out your race season with this race!
Written by Chris “Mediocrity is My Middle Name” Accardo