A Weekend at the Virgil Crest Ultras

A Weekend at the Virgil Crest Ultras
report submitted by Carrie Drummond

The Finger Lakes region boasts outstanding food and beer and excellent opportunities to justify both by exhausting yourself on the local trails. The Virgil Crest Ultras are well-coordinated and challenging races that put entrants through their paces…and then some. The race weekend offers individual runners 100-mile, 50-mile and 50km options as well as a 100-mile relay. This year’s runs were held on September 20-21.

Held in a small town 40 minutes northeast of Ithaca, Virgil Crest is directed by local running figure, Ian Golden. Golden slightly alters the courses each year, to give repeat runners variety in their experience and to highlight different views and trails in the local mountains. Every year Golden designs a course that combines very runnable single track with extreme hills. As the swag says, “It Ain’t for Sissies.”

My husband Eric and our good friend Scott participated in the 50-mile run held on Saturday, September 20. I ran the 50k on Sunday, September 21. Runners in the 100-miler began with the 50-mile participants on Saturday morning and faced a 36 hour time limit on the course, so all runners would be off the trails by 6 p.m. on Sunday night.

The out-and-back 50-mile course served as the base for all runners. Hundred milers ran the out-and-back twice, while the 50k participants ran to the third aid station at mile 16.7 refueled and headed back to the start-finish. The first 12 or so miles gave runners an excellent chance to enjoy the forest trails and early-morning views. One stretch along mile 9 offered a great downhill ending at the bottom of a cornfield and a gradual uphill with the morning sun behind.

Carrie Drummond on the closing mile of the Virgil Crest course

These first warm-up miles were critical because after the second aid station at mile 11, the real work began. From this point, runners crossed a highway and reached the foot of the ski slopes, and subsequent miles of extreme ascent and descent. I suspect that the RD hired someone to mow a five-foot-wide path directly up several ski slopes---and the runners had to make their way up and down those same slopes, passing the signs identifying at least one as a black diamond run. The aid station names tell it all: the Hurt Locker (third aid station at mile 16.7) and the Crux (fourth aid station at mile 20).

Thankfully, the work had its rewards. The top of each ascent provided excellent views of the valley and the start/finish location. The path up and down each slope was cut through a field of wildflowers with goldenrod as tall as the runners. The early fall oranges, purples and yellows surrounded us, making the trip beautiful, when you could catch your breath and take in the views.

At the Finish Line

The final mile or more was an easy stretch around a pond to the start/finish, but after the previous leg-pounding miles, there was nothing “easy” about the last mile. Virgil Crest offered fantastic views, great course support and a relaxed, enjoyable crew of fellow runners.

Virgil Crest 2014

100 Mile Race Results
50 Mile Race Results
50 km Race Results

[Carrie finished 28th out of 53 starters in the 50km, and she was 11th amongst the women, with a time of 9:20. Carrie's husband, Eric McGlinchey, was 42nd out of 104 starters in the 50 miler. Eric finished in a time of 12:13.  This served as a nice tune-up race for Eric's planned return to 100 mile racing in October at the inaugural Uwharrie 100 in North Carolina.]