Letchworth State Park Ultra-marathon Trip Report
On Thursday, July 16th, I ran 47.8 miles around Letchworth State Park. Previous to this run, the longest distance I had managed in a day was 28 miles in December of 2019. In preparation for this run I had been trail running 3-8 miles every other day for the past two months, I had scouted the majority of the 9 connecting trails, and planned where my crew would meet me to resupply my water and food.
I designed this route one day when I was looking over a map of the park. I had no idea that there were so many trails that I had not yet explored! I was hoping for a route that would be about 35 miles, or 50 Kilometers. But when I calculated the total distance, it was about 46 miles in length. I decided that I would prefer to complete the whole loop, from Mt. Morris dam down to Portageville and back up to the Mt. Morris dam entrance on the other side than cut out 11 miles of trail.
Once I had decided on the exact route I wanted to take and where I wanted to be resupplied by my crew, I invited everyone to come join me. Whether they wanted to just cheer me on, walk one of the three road sections, run a trail section, or meet me at the finish line, everyone was invited. The Bliss local community did not let me down, in fact, I had company on every section of the route. Even one of my friends with T1D walked 4 miles to the finish line with me. In retrospect, I never would have been able to complete the route without their support.
I started at 5:05am on Thursday morning and walked the first five miles in the dark with my dad. The sunrise over the canyon was surreal.
At mile five I was resupplied and Kelsy, an experienced distance runner, paced me to mile 12.
Then Rachel, my ever supportive girlfriend, paced me to mile 19.
At mile 19 Kelsy paced me again to mile 23. On this section my muscles and tendons started getting tight and needed to be stretched out frequently.
At mile 23 my support team grew as more members of the Bliss community joined us. This was the first road section and I was paced up a steep road section by Nicci, Kristin, and my loving mother and crew chief, Lori.
At mile 24 I took my first long break to refuel, stretch, and foam roll my tight muscles. Then Rachel and I took off down the steep Gorge Trail at 12:15pm. We moved faster on this section as I felt better after having some real food to eat and looser muscles.
At mile 28 Laurie joined Rachel and I to pace me the next 4 miles to Wolf Creek. Laurie had already done her morning work out at Crossfit, but still came to hike with me. I was struggling to stay optimistic as fatigue was setting in, but Laurie kept my mind off of my sore body and on other subjects. By the end of this section with her I was feeling better.
At mile 30, I had officially gone further than I had ever before in one day and it was only early afternoon. At this resupply point Chris and Kelsy joined Rachel and I. I was amazed that I was still able to jog at a fair 4 mph pace.
At mile 32 Sondra, Olivia, and my loving mother, Lori, joined me to hike a section. It felt great to be moving in a larger group. Somehow I began to catch a second wind.
Then at mile 34 I came to the long 3 mile road section. Meggan joined us as we walked the road due to my shin splints. It was on this section around mile 35 that my stomach began feeling ill. But I continued on.
At mile 37 Olivia, Kelsy, Rachel, and I took off down a difficult section of trail. Surprisingly, my legs felt better and I could maintain a stumbling jog. It was pouring hard and I wasn't feeling very well mentally. On the previous section my isulin infusion site had come off. Although I didn't know it yet, my blood glucose levels were rising due to the high glycemic index food I was consuming to offset the high activity level. Still, this turned out to be my favorite section, it was mentally and physically challenging, but we moved like a pack at a good pace and pushed through the mud without noticing it much.
Once we reached the resupply at mile 40 I put on a new infusion set with over tape to keep it on my soaked and sweaty skin. I was already at 300mg/dL blood glucose, so I injected a correction for the high blood glucose and made sure that I had enough sugar on hand to deal with a low blood glucose event in case I had over corrected. Meggan joined me again to walk the last mile of road with me. My stomach was clearly upset and my mind was fatigued.
Kelsy and Rachel pushed me through the last difficult section of trail. We had to hike a half mile long steep and muddy hill. I was extremely grateful to have them there with me struggling up the muddy slope. My legs were extremely fatigued but we managed the last section fueled by willpower alone.
At mile 43 my type 1 diabuddy Sara joined me to hike with me the last four miles to the finish line. It was incredible to have her with me. We talked about our different experiences, particularly the differences in how we were diagnosed and the amount of care we each received in the beginning. While I spent four days in a hospital being taught the intricacies of living with T1D, Sara was only kept overnight and given a prescription for insulin and syringes in the morning. Since I was diagnosed a year earlier and my mom and Sara are friends, she went to visit Sara and helped her learn some of the tricks to managing her diabetes. Sara's story amazed me and furthered my interest in becoming an endocrinologist so that I may give quality care to patients newly diagnosed with T1D.
Four and a half miles later we ran through the finish line together. My grandparents, parents, and friends were all there to help me celebrate 47.8 miles in one day from Mt. Morris dam back to Mt. Morris dam. My body was thoroughly exhausted, but my heart was thrilled to have completed the route and to have fund raised over $1,000 for JDRF during the event.
Although it wasn't a four month long trek from Canada to Mexico, 2,650 miles, on the PCT it was still an adventure that pushed my mind, body, and soul. I hope this Letchworth ultra-marathon adventure has inspired you to live your life on your own terms.
PCT Trail Map
Getting to the Northern Terminus, Canada!
As soon as we step foot on the trail on June 18th, the first challenge is upon us. Making our way from Hart’s Pass to the northern terminus involves hiking 32 miles from the pass north, at 6000’ elevation. Due to our early start date there is likely to be a fair amount of snow on the ridges. These 32 miles are surely not going to be easy.