Inaugural Cayuga Trails 50: Race and Giveaway

Cayuga Trails 50The Cayuga Trails 50 is a spankin’-new 50-mile ultramarathon scheduled for June 8, 2013. The race takes place on the trails surrounding Ithaca, New York and offers up rocky climbs, digger descents, 6,500 feet of vertical gain, thick hardwood forests, waterfalls, views of the Finger Lakes region, a whopping 11 aid stations, and…

[Keep reading, there’s a sweet contest below!]

Prize Money

…prize money totaling $12,000 plus gear from sponsors. Check it:

  • The first male and female will claim $2,500.
  • 2nd male and female: $1,500
  • 3rd male and female: $500
  • 4th male and female: $250
  • male/female age-division winners: sponsor awards
  • $500 to the first top 10 finishing male or female who can also return to finish in the top 5 at either the Finger Lakes Fifties 50 mile or the Virgil Crest 50/100 mile.
  • Elite prem* prizes: $1000
  • Non-elite prem* prizes: $1,000 worth of gear, food, cash, and more

*Race officials will be planted on the course in certain spots. Entrants approaching will be notified of a given performance incentive (like ‘$250 to the first racer to the top of this climb’ or ‘an apple pie to the first of your group to make it across the creek’). Prems are designed to encourage entrants to push their pace/effort and to just plain make the race fun.

Elite Field

Some top trail and ultrarunners have already entered the Cayuga Trails 50. Here’s the current high-level who’s who:

  • Sage Canaday
  • Yassine Diboun
  • Matt Flaherty
  • Dave James
  • Nikki Kimball
  • Dave Mackey
  • Jordan McDougal
  • Krissy Moehl
  • Ben Nephew
  • Jacqueline Palmer
  • Ragan Petrie
  • Leigh Schmidt

Any other speedsters out there jonesing for a June 50-miler in upstate New York? I mean, the RD is offering on-course apple pie!

Sponsors and More

All of this is coming together under the race directorship of Ian Golden, a long-time upstate New York trail runner and owner of the Finger Lakes Running and Triathlon Company, a brick-and-mortar Ithaca running store; a grant from the Tompkins County Tourism Program; and the following sponsors:


We’re hosting a contest to celebrate this new, competitive, and well-prized race’s arrival onto the ultrarunning scene. We’re giving away three prize packs containing the following:

  • Entry into the 2013 Cayuga Trails 50
  • Your choice of an UltrAspire Spry, Surge, or Revolution pack
  • A pair of Scott Kinabalus, and
  • An shirt from Atayne.

To enter the contest, post your answer to the following question as a comment to this post by March 2, noon MST: Why do you want to run the inaugural Cayuga Trails 50? [Editor’s Note, March 17: The contest is now closed; winners have been chosen and will be/have been contacted. See RD Ian Golden’s comment below for details on who’s taking away this contest’s schwag. Thanks for your enthusiasm!]

Meghan Hicks

is's Managing Editor, the author of 'Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running,' and a Contributing Editor at Trail Runner magazine. The converted road runner finished her first trail ultramarathon in 2006 and loves using running to visit the world's wildest places.

There are 163 comments

  1. Tim Millen

    140 bucks for a first year race that caters to the elites, and not to other 90% of runners. I guess this is the new world of ultrarunning we live in. Sad.

    1. Bryon Powell

      I'm guessing the entry fee is directly related to the cost of putting on this particular race. The same RD puts on a 100 miler you can get into for $160… with a 50 mile that costs all of $60! :-)

    2. Ian Golden

      Tim (and to those sharing this viewpoint),

      Thanks for weighing in.

      The issue at hand no doubt with somewhat of a polarized audience. To be accurate, baseline entry is $100. A rough outline of expenses: 3k park fees, 2k potential for tent rentals if inclament weather, 2k supplies, 1k food/nutrition, $250 insurance, $5k advert, 2.5k contribution to local history center to work on historical relavance of trails we'll use, 1.5k donation to local land trust whose land we'll use,$500 to give something back to volunteers. If 200 entrants, total would need to be $90 to break-even. Hopefully we'll go over that toward 300 and hopefully expense-wise we'll be just fine, but I can't bank on that, especially year 1.

      Amount dedicated to elites: $13,000, to non-elite $1,500. Grant amount from Tompkins County: $15,000. Intention of grant: to promote Ithaca to a national audience, bring people into town preferably for a couple day stay, and to patronize local lodging, restaurants, artisans, stores, etc… Covered the elite focus. Without the elite focus and national draw/press angle, we could put on a lower-key event but that wouldn't use the tourism grant dollars as they're really intended, it wouldn't change our expenses that much as advertising dollars spent would be offset by less worth/funding from sponsors. Take the prize money and reaching-out-to-elites away and you pretty much still have the same race. Maybe though, as Jim S. commented below…potentially, a little less awesome!

      Desire for elites? A combination of inherant genetic inclination paired with exceptional devotion to logging miles, inspiring individuals, and running amazingly hard. Most have full times jobs, are parents and end up devoting all of their remaining time and energy to the sport. Some have set careers aside to have a go at training and racing as the focus, not unlike Olympians, trying to make enough to get by. If adding an additional purse race to the calendar may help at least a couple of them make it work financially, well, I'm all for it as an RD, and not opposed to it as an entrant. I am inspired by them.

      Are they unlike the rest of us in those regards? No, not really. If you knew me, or most directors who stage events with prize purses, you'd know that we care just as much about the last finisher, and everybody in between. I think finishers in other races that I've put on could back that up. But, like most, I'm also inspired by those that run the fastest, raise the bar, show us what's possible, and live/breath being ambasadors to the sport. A reality is that they also receive more attention, coverage, and followings than a non-elite runner.

      State of the sport…no, as Brad was quick to point out below, Cayuga Trails, for better or worse, is a very small percentage of the sport. It's one that many appreciate and are into. Some, sharing your perspective are not. That's great, good thing there are events catering to both. The Finger Lakes Fifties is a wonderful long-established event in our backyard. Entry fee, I think around $50-$60? Camping night before, good foot after, grass roots, great RD's, a good number of return entrants. Sold out this year in 9 days and in my opinion, it should have. Maybe in 8 days. The sport is plenty healthy. Alternatively, I also direct the Virgil Crest Ultras in September. Cost isn't much different but not elite focused by any means, uses some great trails, is one of the more challenging courses in the country, gives back to the community, and hasn't sought any sponsors. Grass roots. Haven't seen your registration come through yet. $100 for a 50 I don't believe is off the norm for ultra, road, or trail if you consider the length and production costs.

      If you're upset because you really want to run the amazingly beautiful trails that I've chosen for the course and can't afford it, send me an email off the list and I'll see what I can do. If you just aren't in to supporting an event seemingly catering to elites, no worries, come visit anytime outside of the event. I've got room for you to crash in my house free of charge and I'd be happy to take you for a run on the course as it's just down the street from me. That would be free as well, it would be great to meet you and head out for a run.

      If you're not really wanting to make a trip or run the trails in Ithaca and are merely highlighting what you feel is a true threat to the sport, I think you can reassess, relax, and rest easy that the sport as you see it is doing just fine. I'll be sure to look for your name on the Finger Lakes Fifties entrants list for next year, just be sure to get your registration in in the first 5 days as it's an excellent event and sells out quickly.



      1. Kristin Z

        awesome, Ian… would be great to come out and see you and Sheri and the littles someday! this race sounds fabulous! thanks for all you (and your fam) do!

        Kristin Z (former bendite)

      2. Jay kelly

        Ian, I think it is a testament to the sport that you took the time to address the replies so quickly! While I have been drawn to ultra running and in particular trail running in part because of the low cost of races, I understand your reasons for having the entry fee at the price point you set. I do think you may be in a bit of a catch 21 however, as a higher fee will discourage some from running, especially if travel is involved which will further increase the cost. A lower race fee would entice more runners to sign up so you would be looking at a higher number of entries, thus more money. Tough call, but thank you for addressing the concerns.


      3. kristina folcik

        Ian, you do care about all of your runners! When i first ran Virgil several years ago and i was impressed by how well you put on the race! Being a new race director this year i am amazed at the cost and effort that goes into a race and i hope i do as well as you do with . making every runner have fun and feel special

  2. Greg Veayo

    I don't want to run the Cayuga Trails 50, since I don't have to. I want to fly over it with a hot air balloon and watch what appears to be ants marching through sinuous trails of gold amongst the green. I'll be smiling and than….. damn, wishing I was an ant.

  3. kristina folcik

    So i can blow myself up trying to hang with Ben nephew and then push him in the stream and get the apple pie. :) just kidding ben! Virgil crest is one of my favorites and i will miss it this year so it would be fun to do this one!

  4. Jim

    Shoot, I already registered the day it opened online since I have been injured a wee bit of time. It has been a year and a half since I raced and I miss that community involved. I love that it is 3 hrs from me and some great runners of all levels will be there. It's also great to show some of that east coast love. The atmosphere of ultras itself is enough for the registration. And since I already registered, the swag is plenty:)

  5. Teresa Smith

    I would love to return to the area. I was stationed at Seneca Army Base in the 1990's what a awesome way to show my family the beauty than with a race.

  6. Charlie M.

    I would like to look down on the Finger Lakes from the highest part of the course and I will take a picture (or draw) of my own fingers in the exact configuration of the lakes below me. And by the end of the race my whole body will be contorted in the same configuration.

  7. Andrew

    I'd love to run Cayuga because I've never run a trail ultra, it's in my neck of the woods, and I was among those who didn't realize the Finger Lakes Fifties was going to sell out in a week six months before the race, as Ian mentioned.

  8. John

    I would like to run this race because it has it all. It has some elites, some swag, it has scenery, is challenging, it is in a state where I've never ran and if I win the entry I can afford do it.

  9. Thelma

    I want to run this race to support the incredible trails and finger lake community! AND because I love apple pie and waterfalls (that's the real reason)! May need more apple pie perms ….

  10. Michael Vooris

    I used to live in Ithaca and have run these trails many times. A beautiful area with fantastic trails! Very excited about this race.

  11. Jim Arrow

    I want to run the Cayuga Trails 50m because its a year of 50's. Because I'm 53, it is near me, there is enough time for me to recover from TNF Bear Mt. 50m race, and enough time to recover for The Virgil 50m race.

  12. Tim Nelson

    I love running new trails and seeing what's to see. "rocky climbs, digger descents, 6,500 feet of vertical gain, thick hardwood forests, waterfalls, views of the Finger Lakes region," sounds nice. That's what I would run it for.

  13. Brian Hendricks

    This would be a great way to celebrate the end of another school year. I'm a high school teacher and my summer vacation begins June 6.

    A technical 50 mile race in June fits perfectly into my running calendar. So far, I'm running the 50k HAT Run in March and a technical 12 hour race in September where I hope to reach 100k.

    Most importantly, the Cayuga Trails race is near my wife's childhood home, making this a great vacation destination for her!

  14. Kristin Z

    I would love to run this to see a bit more of Ithaca trails… my first and only time there was for the Triennial Race… 2000-2001 maybe… "the golden spike"… all the fun… moosewood restaurant… and this was prior to ever meeting Ian and his fam and before they returned to open their awesome store. It would be a blast!


  15. Jared Hazen

    I would love to run the race because its going to be one of the most competitive ultras in the East. All the big one's seem to be out West. I love to follow guys like Sage Canaday and Dave Mackey and it would be sweet to run the same race as them.

  16. melinda

    I would like to run this race because apple pie is delicious, and running in a race with that many stellar athletes is always inspiring (as if the what sounds to be an amazing course isn't already enough)! Also – it might be the only time I can be a "first" finisher in an ultra. :o)

  17. Tracey

    I would love to run it because this would be my first 50 miler and looks like a beautiful course! Also, it would be a great excuse to spend some time with my sister and nieces.

  18. Paul

    I love the idea of the prems. Prems are something cycling has been doing for years in the crits to spark a bit more excitment. Hope the race goes well!

  19. Rob Rowlatt

    The Inaugural Cayuga Trails 50 will be my first ultra. I would like to run to inspire my children and show them anything is possible when you set your mind to it.

  20. Drew

    I've been waiting for the right 50-miler as my first 50 and I'm thinking this one might be it. No way I can afford it this year (unless I won entry) but hopefully next year I'll be there. It just sounds so cool with all the added incentives to run and push harder, sounds like more than just an Ultra :)

  21. Jeff Faulkner

    I want to run Cayuga Trails 50 because the trails in and around Ithaca are fantastic. And I know from experience that Ian is a top notch RD. I've participated in his other races as an aid station volunteer, a pacer. And as a racer. My boys worked two races all day and night as aid station volunteers. Ian takes care of everyone. You can't ask for better.

    Damn I hope I win one of these prize packs.

  22. Michael Crutchley

    I want to run the Cayuga Trails 50 because as a kid growing up in upstate New York, my grandparents had a cottage on the west side of Cayuga Lake that we'd spend weeks at a time staying at in the summer. Basically, the best times I can remember from my childhood were in the exact area where the race is taking place. Best part I remember about Ithaca? Coming up over the hill from the south of town and getting that first glimpse of the lake, and knowing we were almost there…then making the descent down into town…so cool. Love the whole Finger Lakes area, but especially the terrain. As a trail runner and recent first time Ultra runner, I'd love the chance to attempt this race. And apple pie. I love apple pie.

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