Saturday, October 31, 2020
Trailhead: off of Rt 3 in Cranberry Lake
Elevation gain: 3828′
After staying the night at a motel in Tupper Lake, I was at the trailhead prepping by 5:15am. It was a very cold night, being 16 degrees when I started running at 5:25am. Early in my run, as I was still settling into running on dark unknown trails in deep leaves by headlamp, I missed a trail turn and didn’t realize I was on the wrong trail until ~0.75mi later, when I hit a trailhead. I immediately turned around and started back the way I’d come, completely overwhelmed by the mistake so early in my run. I knew that for the course time to count towards an FKT or even a fully comparable comparison from my last Cranberry50, I would basically have to go back to my car and start again.
As my thoughts raced and my emotions surged, my numb feet stumbled on some rocks and down I went, twisting and falling directly onto my right knee in the leaves, which were covering a cabbage-sized rock. The impact went directly into my patellar tendon, banging against the top of my lower leg bones. I cried out, sobbing in pain as I hobbled back to my feet and and started limping down the trail, trying to assess the damage. It seemed like it had only affected soft tissue, so I decided to keep going, and just file this as a 50 miler. It took me perhaps half an hour to realize that my knee had been bleeding, when my leggings started pulling on the scab.
I tried to pace myself, going easier on the relentless ups and downs in the first 25-30 miles of the course. The cold hindered my speed, as all of my muscles and joints struggled to warm up and stay loose. My water flasks kept trying to freeze shut, and the leaves pilled up on the trail made it hard to assess the terrain quickly. The cold was enough to freeze the top layer of water, but not enough to solidify any ice or mud; as a result, I broke through and got my feet wet multiple times as I navigated the beaver dammed areas.
As I pushed my speed, I also realized that my long training runs hadn’t been long enough – I found myself hitting the edges of my hip flexor endurance around 25 miles. I pushed beyond it, but there was only so much speed my body could give me, as I continued to hike and run with my swollen and stiff right knee. Around mile 20-25, my right arm muscles spasmed and seized up, making it very painful to bend my arm in a natural running position. As a result, I ended up holding it straight and swinging it, which lead to underarm chaffing in later miles. Despite the sunshine, the daytime temperature never got over 38 degrees.
It was such a relief to get to the long carriage road leading into Wanakena; the easier terrain was welcome, even if it was fairly boring. I was so relieved to hit the road near Wanakena, knowing that I was through the most challenging and wet sections. I pushed on the road walk as much as I could, though I was tired enough that I pushed past the ranger school without stopping to filter water on their dock like I’d originally planned. Thankfully, I was lucky enough to hit a stream a few miles later, and since the sun was setting, I stopped to get out my lights again and filter one last liter for my final push. I navigated through that endless ~8 miles on the cross country ski trails mostly in the dark, until I emerged at the final road walk back to my original trailhead. Because of the double-back early on, I decided to stop the track at the 50-mile mark for that time, and then record a second GPS track for the final bit back to my car.
Once I got back to my car, I quickly changed out of my wet clothes, because I was already starting to get horribly chilled as the temperature dropped back to 30 degrees. In my brain fog, I placed the iphone I use for music and audio books on top of my car, along with my headphones. I didn’t realize that I’d left it on the roof of my car until I got back to the motel 30 minutes away. I quickly showered and then headed back out; I found them on the ground, cold but unharmed. I drove back to the hotel, ate a backpacker dinner, and then passed out.
Overall, my nutrition was spot on; I didn’t have any digestive issues and I felt strong. I didn’t drink enough water (4 liters), because I loathed the time it took to filter water and with the cold, I quickly became chilled when I stopped. My clothing was well dialed in; I was warm enough provided that I kept moving, and I brought a second pair of dry gloves and socks which were quite useful. Prior to the run, I bought magnetic clip-on lights (200 lumens) and they supplemented my headlamp very well, making running in the woods at night more comfortable.