Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Trail Diary: Finger Lakes Trail - Allegany County

In the March 2010 Ultrarunning, Gary Dudney wrote "...you shouldn't be doing long runs only in optimal conditions if you truly want to be prepared." He also said "Time spent on your feet, not miles covered, is what is important" in ultra training. Great--because my run Sunday (7.25.10) met both those conditions!

My plan was to run the Finger Lakes Trail in Allegany County, NY from Peet Hill Rd. to Huyck Rd. and return, about 14 miles total.  If all was still good at that point, I'd go west on the trail to Kingsbury Hill Rd and back, another 6 roundtrip.  The topography here is pretty flat, couple hundred feet of elevation change max, so this seemed like a reasonable Sunday-morning-have-to-finish-before-11am run.

As I drove to the trailhead, the rain started.  You can guess where this is going.  But it wasn't a hard rain, and it was 68 degrees, so no problem.

First hundred feet of trail was through tall grass, and my shoes were soaked in 30 seconds.  But it was 68 degrees, so no problem.

Next mile featured lots of ankle-high Rubus (raspberry).  My gaiters were...not on my ankles.  But it was 68 degrees, so...wait, no, that doesn't work here.  Try running a gauntlet of razor blades to perk up your Sunday morning.  But this was life, not death, by a thousand cuts.  Nothing like running a trail to make you feel alive.  Groove & flow...(and curse as needed...)

There was some decent running at times in this stretch, including a nice pine stand with a soft carpet.  The trail changes direction a lot, and isn't always obvious, so I was mentally thanking the volunteers who did such a great job freshening up the markers.

Next came some switchbacks, dropping about 250 feet of elevation into a valley bottom with an easy hop across a peaceful little stream.  Remember, it was raining.  Have you guessed where this is going yet?

About 4.5 miles and some mixed dirt/paved road running from the Peet Rd. trailhead lies the West Branch Rd. trailhead.  This is where the real fun began.  As I entered the woods here, I wished I had my headlamp.  Kidding.  Not.

The rain picked up.  A lot.  Ok, more than a lot.  The trail was extremely runnable here, which was good because as the thunder started and it got cold and windy, I needed to move fast to stay warm.  Didn't feel like 68 degrees any more.

I made it to Hess Rd., just short of Huyck Rd.  A  little voice suggested I head back to the car and run (or maybe swim) west on the trail from there.  Good little voice.  Back down into the valley bottom.  Remember the little stream I hopped across on my way out?  It was now about 12 feet wide, chocolate brown, boiling, wicked fast.  I found a stout balance stick and waded in.  Knee deep.  Living on the edge here.  Had I been even 20 minutes later getting back to this spot, I wouldn't have been able to cross the stream.

From this point back to the car was, simply, a slog.  The trail was either a stream or a suck-your-shoes-off mud pit.  There was flow here, but it wasn't the groove type!  And, oh yeah--the Rubus was all still there, waiting patiently for my return.

Back at the car, drinking my Hammer Recoverite before heading back onto the trail westbound, a pickup truck stopped.  "You need some help?"  "No thanks, I was just running the trail."  Silence.  Blank stare.  My guess is he was thinking he misunderstood what I just said, because no one would be...what?...running?...the trail?...in a downpour? (not to mention smiling about it!!)

If you go to this trailhead, don't run west.  At least, no time soon.  I tried it.  Fail.  There's a huge amount of blowdown going this way, though it appeared salvage ops were underway.  After climbing over, under, and through trees for 25 minutes trying to find and follow the trail, I called it a day.  About 13 miles in 3:20.  Remember, it's not the miles covered, but time spent on your feet...

Great test for the new Cascadias.  Passed with flying colors.  The socks, on the other hand.....

Bottom line: decent trail (though certainly not my favorite), especially the section north from West Branch Rd.  But any time on a trail is time well spent.  So....go run in the woods!

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