Over a year ago I wanted to run the inaugural Many on the Genny (aka MOTG), but I was just getting back on the running scene and hadn’t yet done my first ultra. Being older and wiser (for the most part), I knew I wasn’t ready for 40 miles at the time; but after all the positive things I heard about this race it was a sure thing to be on my calendar for 2018. It’s local, it’s on some of my most favorite trails in the area, and I hadn’t yet been on over half the trails of the course.
Many on the Genny takes the runner through 40 miles around the east and west sides of Letchworth State Park, often referred to as the Grand Canyon of the East. This race and just about everything about the day did not disappoint. From the weather, the amazing views, the course, the aid stations and awesome volunteers, to the ever memorable last 50 meters to the finish (sit tight, that comes later).
This race followed 7 weeks after my 50k (see my Chasing Ponies race report) and was planned as a ‘training run’ for my 100k A race in August – practice pacing, nutrition, hydration, gear, mental attitude, etc. Leading up to MOTG, I was feeling super strong and healthy, and excited to explore my longest distance ever run. I toed the line for me, to see what 40 miles would be like, to enjoy the day and have fun.
My husband was also running MOTG and we didn’t have any crew or support for the race, so we figured we would hop the shuttle to the start so our car would be waiting at the finish (race is a point to point). Whoops – we registered so long ago I forgot about that optional ‘ticket purchase’ during sign-up and thankfully one of the several race emails that week reminded us “tickets must have previously been purchased”. On to Plan B! Lucky for us, my parents planned to cheer us at the finish and agreed to pick up our car from the start area (yes mom and dad, just one more reason you rock!).
All week the weather forecasted pretty much a rainy day with thunderstorms. Alas, once again we lucked out on the weather. We awoke to no rain and the T-storms must have re-routed elsewhere. We parked about a quarter mile or so down the road and walked up to the start, a nice way to get the legs moving. Everyone was mingling about, setting the stage for a relaxed and low key, no fuss event. The RD called everyone to the start and at “Runners Go”, we took off downhill, yes, in the opposite direction. There was a nice short mile and a halfish ‘loop’ out and back around to the start area to spread out the racers, and to get in our 40 mile distance. I quickly fell into a relaxed pace, ignoring many people who passed me, remembering that this is my race, my pace, run smart. I told myself I would see some of them in about 30 miles or so – and I did.
The first half of the race was relatively ‘easy’ compared to the second half and it certainly was tempting to take off and enjoy the many downhills, flats, and faster road section. Being a newbie to this distance, but not endurance sports, and familiar with most of the course, I knew I needed to keep a steady pace to conserve energy (both physically and mentally) for the more hilly and secluded second half. My husband and I did a training run on the first 15 miles last month and the trails were pretty much covered with spring growth, downed trees and branches everywhere. Having done that and then to run the same trails on race day on not only cleared, but also mowed trails was AMAZING! We could truly appreciate all the work and hours invested by the RDs and volunteers to make that happen, so thank you!
There was only one water crossing (nice series capture above thanks to RD E. Eagan). I was cracking myself up recalling the RD telling us at the start to “cross where indicated because we know it is safe”…and conveniently the deepest! Haha! I enjoyed the many beautiful views along the way and was surrounded by more racers than is typical for me in a race (yay!). I had fun on the single track and trails that I hadn’t explored before today. The miles were ticking by and I got to AS1 just for a quick refill of bottles and off I went. The trail then drops racers down into the gorge and as you emerge up onto Trail #15, you seriously feel like you are on the set of Jurassic Park. It is a completely different, Amazonian-like environment (never been to the Amazon, but it’s what I picture in my mind). You just want to look around in awe of this expansive space, but meanwhile, not trip on a root or hole in the ground. After the long climb back out of the gorge there are a few miles along the road. While the break from trail is sometimes nice, I’m not much of a road fan and these miles did drag a bit. I was no longer distracted by super fun single track or views over the gorge, but I knew after this section, it was back to the good stuff. After turning off the road, we entered a nice double track path and I began passing racers. I still felt relaxed, kept my pace, and knew that AS2 wasn’t too far off.
At AS2 I refilled bottles again, grabbed some PBJ and oranges (yes, getting hungry), and hit the trail again. It didn’t seem very long until I was approaching the halfway point and I was very excited to be entering AS3. I was feeling great, in high spirits, and was greeted by my friend Laura (quick hugs). I am just so impressed with these aid station set ups (way more than I expected) and the volunteers are so friendly. Their positivity and willingness to help out made me feel so good and definitely gave me a happy mood boost! Those volunteers were on it – grabbed my drop bag, refilled bottles, took trash for me, asked me if I needed anything….really, THANK YOU to all the volunteers.
Back onto the course I went, chowing my PBJ, re-settling into my pace and was soon crossing the stone bridge, over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s….oh wait…..crossed the bridge with a quick pause to take in the views, up some stairs, and onto the Finger Lakes Trail to begin the real grunt work. While I was surrounded at most times by racers, or at least those who were in view during the first half, I suddenly questioned – Where the hell did everyone go?!
I moved through the heavy dampness of the air with a heightened awareness of my breathe and feeling of seclusion – gosh it was getting a bit lonely out here and, moving much more slowly now, 7 miles was not ticking by. But, lo and behold, up ahead I could see….a racer! A female racer, even better! I was gaining ground, keeping up my power hiking pace, and eventually as I passed she said, “good effort”. Well, that was just the little bit of motivation I needed to push me another mile. I passed another male racer or two and AT LAST….Aid Station #4, a site for sore legs. But, as I approached AS4, I saw my friend Laura exiting the aid. What?! That can’t be?! I saw her in the first 1/2 mile and did not expect to see her before the finish line (she is strong and speedy). Maybe I am doing better than I thought? What place AM I in anyway? Turns out, I should have asked Laura, or maybe it was better I didn’t know.
Heading out of AS4 I was again motivated chasing down Laura. She was in sight, I caught her, we chatted a few words, and off I went. Then, I hit 50k and a rough patch of several miles. From AS4 to AS5 was the longest mileage between aid – nearly 8 miles. I hurt. I was at my most miles ever run and I was feeling it. I thought I didn’t grab enough fuel and was feeling low on calories. I power hiked. No, I walked – a lot. But, I also mustered up the energy to take advantage of “flats” and downhills when I could to jog, to keep up any pace faster than a plain ‘ol walk. I was determined. Clearing my absentmindedness, I finally reached in my pack and found some fuel and downed it. That energized me just enough until my ears heard the sweet sweet sound of “The Final Countdown” – yes, the song, blaring through the trees as I emerged on a long climb up from the previous gully. I couldn’t help but smile and laugh, at this point. Something to keep my mind off the grind and the hurt.
Oh wow, AS5 was bustling! With volunteers cooking up a storm, refilling bottles, offering food and packs of ice (wahoo for ice!), chatting about the weather and how we were all thankful the storms held off – and while I would love to stay and chat, I confirmed….”only” 4.5 miles to the finish. I am very familiar with these 4.5 miles. They are technically the easiest this side of the gorge and very runnable. Oh the irony! My body hurt all over and I had developed some sort of cramping/tightness in the outer part of my lower right leg. Hmmm….am I going to completely cramp up? What is going on here? Well, who knows, but I can’t WALK this damned easiest section of the trail that I absolutely love. So, off I shuffled. Yup, the ultra shuffle took me through those last miles, along with a lot of grit and focus and pushing away of pain. As I encountered the last half mile, I became flooded with all those emotions, finishing my longest run/race ever, proud of how I felt the first 50k, excited that my parents would be there to capture the moment. I was teary, I was elated, I was SO ZONED!
I emerged from those woods to the cheers of my mom and dad and others hanging around, and ran across that parking lot to the finish. I barely noticed the muted shouts of “there’s someone behind you”, “get going”….or something to that effect.
I glanced over my shoulder, but not far enough to realize it was a female, and as she came SPRINTING around me I realized who it was. I didn’t even care I was getting passed (again because in that moment I was clueless as to my overall placing). I was just so zoned and happy that the finish line was ahead. I turned, and as she whizzed by I half mumbled a, “Oh, hey Laura,” as I chuckled to myself, since I had no idea there was anyone that close behind me, let alone someone I had passed over 10 miles earlier. Seven seconds later, I crossed the finish, high fived the RD and picked up my swag.
I turned to find my mom and dad, the relief and emotions bubbling up into my eyes, tears starting to fall. My other friend Laura (who gave the hugs at AS3) proceeded to tell me I was 4th female. WHAT?! WHAT DID YOU SAY??!! No. Way. How can that be?! Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined a ‘training’ run would turn into a top 5 finish – which, I confirmed did turn out to be 5th female in the end, because yup, thanks to Laura’s last minute sprint she bumped me out of 4th (hahaha). See, she knew there were 3 females in front of her when I passed her after AS4. Well, it was all in good fun, made for lasting memories, and I’m happy for her she bounced back for 4th place.
This turned out to be such a fun day. Many on the Genny is a beautiful and challenging course, with fabulous aid stations packed with all sorts of food and wonderful supportive volunteers, and a delicious post race picnic style “garbage plate”. I will most certainly return next year to take on the 40 mile challenge around the “Grand Canyon of the East”!