I've run the Finger Lakes Fifties three times. But this year is a little different. This will be my first attempt at the 50K distance in Upstate New York. My three previous finishes (2007, 2008, 2010) were the 25K race - only one lap around the course. Each year I think that the next time will be the time I finally step up to the 50K, but for one reason or another, I've always gone back to the 25K.
But now that I'm attempting the 50K distance, I'm wondering if I chose the wrong year to go for it.
The forecast for Saturday isn't great. The high on Friday will be 90, so the low will only be 67. Then on Saturday, the forecasted high is 86 - since I expect to finish between 12:30 and 1:30, the temperature at the finish will only be a few degrees cooler than that. And if the moist tropical air from Tropical Storm Debby moves into the area on that day, it could be a brutal six to seven hours (or more?) out on the course.
I'm certainly familiar enough with the course to have a good plan going in. The first three miles are generally downhill as you head towards the first aid station, "The Morgue." It's so named because the aid station is essentially in the basement of the course, after a half mile of steep downhill running. I know I need to be cautious in this initial stretch of trail. The early race energy combined with the downhill running is a formula for completely destroying your finish time in the first three miles. I feel like if I average between nine- and ten-minute miles I should be in good shape.
A long, slow uphill almost immediately revokes the time cushion you get in that early stretch. After that uphill I can start looking at my watch and gauge my effort based on average pace. With the weather expected to be so warm, a negative split is pretty much out of the question. My initial plan was to finish the first lap in under 3 hours, then hang on as best as I can for the second lap and hopefully finish around 6 hours. But I think going under 3 hours could require too much energy, sweat and electrolytes. I think maybe something closer to 3:10 may be in order. So I'll be looking at an 11:00-11:30 per mile pace for the first lap.
The second lap will be about controlling my pace on the downhill (lest I completely trash my quads), controlling my calories, controlling my hydration and controlling my electrolytes. If it's as warm as they expect, I'll need to get myself to the Outback aid station in the best shape possible for the final run to the finish.
My time goals will likely change daily and probably mid-run.
The best-case scenario is 5:59:59 - this is based on high temperature in the low seventies and cloudy skies. This will not be happening.
Best-case is now maybe sub-6:15, but I will be thrilled with anything under 6:30. And really, anything under 7:00 is still okay.
But if I can cross the finish without a splitting headache and an upset stomach that will trump any time goal on a day as hot as they're expecting.