The following is what I can remember of Sean's account of his and Harve's weekend on the Finger Lakes Trails.Driving down towards the Hauck Hill campsite on a narrow logging road,Harve and Sean were struck by the solitude and the beauty of the area. Huge trees on either side of the road pretty much blocked out the sky above. It was probably 5:30 pm on Friday when they arrived. John,from the Finger Lakes Running Club, was there to meet them. They set up their tent on the mossy green,the coolers were stocked with only the bare essentials food-wise but they made sure the case of beer was on ice and secure.Sean later said that there were certain things he was not willing to deny himself in his quest to follow the Stotan way and beer was one of them.
After setting up camp, John took them on an easy 50 minute run down the roads and through some of the trails to give them a preview of what was to come. Sean and Harve liked what they saw.In the cool of the early evening they ran over trails covered with pine needles with occasional tree roots exposed,ferns were everywhere.They were again struck by the fact that the sky was obscured by the denseness and the enormity of the trees.
The evening was uneventful except for Sean saying that sometime in the middle of the night "weird" noises coming from "somewhere"led him to spend the remainder of the night sleeping in his car.The following morning John was there early stating they would be running about 17 miles over the original Virgil Mountain Madness course.Sean and Harve told me they smiled when they heard that the run was "only" going to be 17 miles because they were used to going at least that far on their long runs each weekend. Little did they know what awaited them.The run started unremarkably as they ran downhill away from their campsite,they soon cut onto the trails which were well marked with white blazes on the trees. It was 9am and the coolness of the morning was already changing to a steamy haze.For close to an hour their run went over trails,up and down fairly short hills,over shallow creeks and along narrow dirt roads.This relative ease soon gave way to longer,steeper hills interspersed with gradual,seemingly endless inclines.Despite the increasing difficulty,Sean and Harve described how they were both able to get into a rhythm as they ran. Sean later said," I don't know if I would call it effortless but I felt incredibly smooth and relaxed,my legs felt good,not like they would have after putting in the same amount of time on the roads.I thought at that moment I could have gone on forever,it was such a great feeling." Somewhere around the 2 hour mark they began a long climb up a dirt road,at the top they could see a lake below.Something else they noticed as they ran was that except for their foot strike and breathing, there was virtually no sound,Sean said, "we're cruising through this forest and I felt a combination of peace and otherworldliness,I really can't describe it adequately." As they returned down the hill the reality of the continuing effort began to let itself be known. Quads ached on the downhills and consequently they came to be dreaded more than the ascents. What a difference a few hours make.Interestingly,they then started to heed John's earlier instruction to walk the steeper inclines because little time was to be gained by trying to run up them. Anticipating finishing their run,Sean and Harve began repeatedly checking their watches as they made their way through a long slow climb called Rossiter's spur which turned onto Hauck Hill Rd and ended at their campsite.As they walked to the tent they each grabbed two waters and a beer,John informed them that they weren't finished yet. Leading them down the hill where they started, he led them to a pool of water fed by a creek. John told them they needed to get in and soak for at least 20 minutes or they wouldn't be able to walk Sunday,much less run."Your quads will be shot if you don't," he said. The water at first seemed way too cold but it soon gave way to a feeling of great relief. The next few hours were taken up with recounting the run,eating and drinking beer. After taking a short nap,they began a 45 minute easy run around 6pm. John took them through a different section of trails making it a point to avoid areas with steep inclines and declines.Sean said that night he didn't hear anything,"an M-80 could have gone off and I wouldn't have heard it,I was dead tired."
On Sunday morning,except for some stiffness that went away after a few minutes into their run,they overall reported feeling good. John told them that since they now knew the trails,it was their turn to lead the way. The run was for about an hour and a half,the pace was a little faster than the day before, but again,it felt easy and smooth.Upon finishing, it was time for another soak,this time they took the cooler with them and stayed in longer.
On looking back on their weekend the following Tuesday Harve had this to say,"the whole time I was there I saw no one else and heard only the sounds you hear in the forest,it was incredibly peaceful and calm,it was just like Cerutty described in the book.The runs,even though they were over tough terrain, I came away feeling strengthened,not beat up like I figured I would. On Monday we did our run at Delaware Park. I found myself feeling sort of bummed,I missed the quiet and the way my legs felt running on the trails.If I trained at Virgil on a regular basis there is no way I wouldn't become a better runner. Like Cerutty said,training shouldn't be like work,all regimented and lacking any spontaneity and that's the way it was becoming for me.
It came as no surprise when I heard that a few weeks later Harve,Sean and two other guys went back to the Finger Lakes Trails. What did surprise me though was when I learned that two or three months after that they rented a small rundown house near the edge of the trails in or near Dryden.There they trained extensively and raced occasionally, but that's a story that will be written about in a future post.