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Chasing the prize purse through the remnants of Hurricane Ian

10/01/2022 | 50M Trail | 5:47:38

Ryan raced in the inaugural Hudson River 50, taking on some very stiff competition for a grand prize of $2,000. Despite twisting his ankle early on in the race, Clifford managed to get it taped up and continue his blistering pace through the surprisingly rocky trails of New Jersey.


Another Long Island ultra, and yet another day of fun. Rain was in the forecast the entirety of the day, but for the first hour or so, it held off. I knew from the start, I wanted to go for the course record, but from my research, the fastest time I was able to find was 4:21 and some change. That immediately shifted my goal to be sub 4 hours, which equates to 7:43 pace. On paper, it seems slow (for how I have been racing the last few months), but in all actuality was a good goal considering the unpredictability of the Cold Spring Harbor hills and technical roots.


The gun went off, and I went for it, but as we are following Bob Sherman up around Dupont Street, and around towards Sunnyside Blvd, he makes a left down the road/hill. Once I made the turn, he was out of sight, and for the 25K that I had done in the past, we never went this far. I decided it would be best to slow down my pace to run with the second-place runner, Aaron, just to make sure we were heading in the right direction. He wasn’t sure, but thought it seemed right. Eventually, we meandered to a point where Bob Sherman was by a cone and made a U turn. There we saw Jesse, and asked if we were going the right way, and he indeed confirmed that we were. Crisis averted, and I will gladly take a slower mile, then the extra distance of going the wrong way. Took off after that and began shredding up the trails.


Tailwind, water, and fruit snacks were the fuel of choice, for a relatively shorter ultra. That first mile after the turn around had a GAP of 5:38 and went along with my strategy of hitting the miles before Stillwell woods pretty hard. Cody on the crew checked in just north of Jericho Turnpike, and asked for the distance to recalculate predictions as per usual. Mid to low 7-minute miles for the next few, up until the first aid station. Exchanged my TW mix underneath the train tracks because hydration! The way out to CSH was actually not too terrible. But choosing to use trekking poles was a massive win, as it really helped me attack the hills. I decided not to activate them until the CSH section.  After crossing Lawrence Hill Road, I thought to myself, wow this isn’t actually too bad. That was when I was kindly reminded from the hills that this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. Got to CSH in just under 1:02 and figured that I was on pace to do something special if I was able to keep the foot on the gas.


Heading back up the stairs out of CSH was a doozy, and I just went with the terrain, and kept my HR under control. Had a few 8-9-minute miles which is actually pretty quick for this section and was accounted for in my pacing chart. Saw Chris in second place and Aaron right on his heels. Did some mental math and figured that they were only 1 mile behind me. Had to keep the pace hot and gap the field more. Swapped out water on Lawrence Hill Road, and then began seeing some more of the 50K people heading out to CSH. At this point my legs felt pretty good, but some of the hills I was attacking a bit slower. Made it out of the CSH section and put the poles back in the quiver. Picked up the pace again, and the rain really started to come down hard. It was more noticeable in the open field section in Stillwell. I also thought that heading back towards Plainview through Stillwell had a little bit more uphill than I remember and confirmed this thought on my last go around later in the race. Saw the leaders of the 25K in the open field section and began passing by the rest of the 25K field all the way up until Jericho Turnpike. As more and more people continued running on the trails, the traction became worse and worse. Still kept with my strategy and hammered out this section.


Eventually made it to Jericho Turnpike and saw that Papa John was now with Cody, which was nice because it gave me and extra little push. Cruised right past that aid station, crossed Woodbury Road, and worked my way through the snaking turns until Sunnyside Blvd. Now it was time for heading back for the last time. The infamous Michael Rohl Bon Jovi split. Made that section in about 52 minutes. At this point I thought why not throw in some music to pass the time. Ended up listening to Big Bootie Mix 17. A good power hour for sure. Saw Aaron who had now passed Chris in the standings for the 50K podium placing, but they were still very close to each other. I did the math when I saw them, and had only put 1.8 miles on them total, which at this point I thought was going to be a little bit farther. No brakes, all gas heading up into Stillwell. Mostly knocking high 6/low 7-minute miles. Did a tailwind swap at the train tracks, and continued to make my way up towards CSH. Nothing too spectacular in Stillwell minus the large amount of effort to chew and swallow cold fruit snacks. Happy to report I dropped off the wrapper in the garbage at the aid station. Activated the poles again, and put on my gloves, because they were beginning to look very pruny. Very similar to SpongeBob. This helped warm me up and made holding the wet poles a little less uncomfortable. Began passing the 25K people at this point, but every moved to their right when I gave enough notice. Saw the crew at Lawrence Hill Road, and powered through the last couple hills and massive stair downhill to the mat. That section was done around 54 minutes.


Now all I had to do was head back. The last section of trail through CSH was a little more slippery, and certainly had its fair share of sliding. Was in the mid 9-minute miles for the most part. Saw the crew at Lawrence Hill Road, passed my Dad as he was taking a picture, and exclaimed “proud Dad moment.” Eventually crossed paths with Aaron and saw that he was about 3 mile behind me at this point, plus he had to do the tougher trail sections, while I was able to cruise on the flatter parts giving me even more of a buffer. Kept passing people, and eventually made my way out the hillier section, and put my poles back in their quiver. At this point sections were very sloppy. Right past the aid station north of Stillwell was a complete river, and this was the first time in the entire race which I had to slosh through puddles. Confirmed that heading south from Stillwell was very much a mud fest, and hillier than heading north. Saw the crew at the train tracks, swapped out my gloves for some dry ones, and had about 5K left. Had a tough time getting around a group of people before the next road crossing, but this was more of a traction problem at this point. Felt a bit tired on the last few uphill’s but wasn’t able to really push the pace because of how slippery the single track had gotten. When I got to Jericho Turnpike for the last time, I saw Rick Secor, gave him a high five, an told my crew that I would see them in about 15 minutes. Between Jericho Turnpike, and Woodbury Road I passed a group of 3 people, and right after I got past the last person the second person in line fell on the super soaked mud. I looked back and continued for a few seconds until I also fell on my butt. Leave it to me to fall the last two miles of a race. After Woodbury Road I did my best to accelerate on the downhills, and maintain speed on the turns, being too afraid to push the envelope because of another potential fall. When I made it to Sunnyside Blvd, Bob Sherman asked if I went to the turnaround point at the start because he saw me way up ahead but could remember if I had gone around the cone. After a short 15 second explanation, I made my way down Sunnyside Blvd and onto Dupont Street. The wind was whipping in my face, so I wasn’t able to get into the high 5-minute mile range like I was hoping for at the end. Regardless I cruised into the finish with an official time of 3:44:42, setting a new course record of 35 minutes plus. Hit all my goals, and then some, but could probably take another 5 minutes off with better conditions. Course may be a bit short, but GPS always gets wonky in CSH, so who knows.


Shoutout to my crew of Cody, and my Dad for showing up and making sure I didn’t die, the volunteers for braving the conditions and giving up part of their Saturday, and all of GLIRC for putting on another great event. Thank you to everyone who reached out with the kind words. Was also able to walk away with a free pair of Salomon shoes courtesy of Runner’s Edge. Next up, Cayuga Trails 50 in Ithaca on June 4th! Time to train on the hills.

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