The Catharine Valley half marathon takes center stage on a portion of the former Pennsylvania Railroad “Elmira Branch” roadbed. Long before walkers, runners & cyclist were plying this trail, the railroad moved loaded coal trains from central Pennsylvania to the massive docks situated along the shores of Lake Ontario at Sodus Point, NY. Here the coal would be off loaded onto waiting Great Lake ships for the rest of its journey.
My race weekend began early on Saturday August 15th. How early you ask, 1AM early as I had to be at work by 2AM. I managed to get out of work relatively quick making a beeline home for a three hour nap before packing my car and heading west to the quaint Finger Lake town of Watkins Glen, NY.
I had plans to meet my good friend and running accomplice Diana that afternoon as we were sharing a campsite at Clute Park on the southern shore of Seneca Lake. I arrived at the campground around 3PM to find Diana had already set up her tent. Several minutes later I had mine ready to go as well. A cold dip of the hand into our coolers and the first pre-race celebratory beers were cracked open. A few beverages later we decided to walk into Watkins Glen for food and maybe another beer or two. Shortly after our walk began the skies opened up and I was drenched! Diana had the wisdom to bring an umbrella.
After some delicious pizza and a quick trip to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream for dessert we made our way back to the campground. Tired and full we turned in for the night as we had a big day ahead of us on Sunday.
Race morning was foggy and cool and we were excited. We did a mile and a half warm up run from our campsite to where the race would begin. Eventually the fog and coolness would burn off and the blazing summer sun was upon us. A few more warm up laps around the track at Watkins Glen High School and it was race time.
The Catherine Valley trail is mostly shaded and is of hard packed cinder. The trail is flat for the first several miles and then begins a gradual climb to the turn around point. I was making great time and was at 6.5 miles in 45 minutes. I’ll admit I was looking forward to that gradual decline on the way back. The heat and humidity really got to me and I just couldn’t get the speed I wanted on the return. At mile 10 I began to fade a bit from the heat and some strength issues. By mile 11 I was really starting to feel it.
I crossed the finish line at 1:43:54 75th out of 409 runners and I couldn’t have been prouder. Yeah it wasn’t my best performance but it wasn’t my worst either, you can’t win them all. This was my first experience with this race and I have to say it is one of my favorites to date. I’m not a big fan of summer racing but Red Newt Racing and all the volunteers did a wonderful job. Especially with the post race food!