Cayuga Trails 50 Mile Preview

Cayuga Trails 50On Saturday, June 8 at 6 a.m. EDT, the Cayuga Trails 50 will launch its inaugural race in upstate New York, and we will cover the race live. With major rain forecast for today and more showers Friday and Saturday, the trails may be as wet as the super-humid air on race day.

Runners will be treated to singletrack that combs the rocks, creeks, waterfalls, and deciduous forests of the Finger Lakes region, adding up to about 10,000 feet of combined climb and descent. In addition to offering up a sweet course, race director Ian Golden, with the help of local sponsors, is also fronting a load of cash to top finishers and the winners of various within-race competitions, a total of $12,000!

Women’s Cayuga Trails 50 Preview

Cassie Scallon of Colorado is the easy favorite for this weekend’s race. While she was sidelined with a pelvic stress fracture from spring of 2012 through early 2013, she’s now back and on a racing frenzy. Since February, she took second at the Moab Red Hot 55k, fourth at Chuckanut 50k, and she’s won both the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile (post-race interview) and the Ice Age 50 Mile. This all sounds awesome, but it’s even awesome-er because the fields at Moab, Chuckanut, and Sonoma were super-stacked and because, at Ice Age, Cassie broke an ancient and tough course record. While I’m not sure the woman isn’t anything but stellar at any distance she races, 50 miles might be the distance at which she’s previously dominated by the most.

Amy Rusiecki (née Lane) is a standout New England region ultrarunner and I think there’s a good chance we’ll see her on the women’s podium. Some of Amy’s best, recent finishes include a 7.5-hour second place at the 2012 Pineland Farms 50 Mile and second place in 18:53 at last year’s Vermont 100. Amy just raced to another second place at this year’s Pineland Farms 50 two weeks ago, but I think she’ll be recovered and rearing to go this weekend.

The money goes four deep this weekend, and I think Sandi Nypaver might be in the running for some of it. Sandi’s been just inside and outside the top 10 at some recent, high-level US races, including a 10th place at the 2012 Pikes Peak Marathon and and 11th at 2012 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-Mile Championship. Most recently, she won the Desert Rats Trail Running Festival 52 Mile.

Rachel Nypaver (Sandi’s twin sister) might also be looking for a little of that prize-money love this weekend. Rachel hasn’t tested herself at the higher-level races like her sister, but she does seem to clean up pretty well at the regional races she runs. And last fall, Rachel won the Virgil Crest 100 in upstate New York, so she knows well the terrain over which she’ll run this weekend.

Debbie Livingston of Connecticut likes to kick butt at New England-area races. She just won the gnarly Wapack and Back Trail Races 50 Mile a few weekends ago and she was third at last year’s Vermont 100 (behind second-place Amy Rusiecki). She has more than 60 entries on UltraSignup, and more than 50 of them are podium finishes.

I expect that we’ll see Jacqueline Palmer’s name just outside the top five this weekend. She was fourth place at last year’s UROC 100k and 10th at the 2012 JFK 50 Mile. In the last year, she’s also run to second place at the uber-tough Hellgate 100k.

Kristina Folcik is a New Hampshire-based ultrarunner who, in the last year, has won the 2012 Wapack and Back Trail Races 50 Mile, the Superior Sawtooth 100, and the NipMuck Trail Marathon, among other races. She recently traveled out west and ran to third place at the 2013 Leona Divide 50 Mile.

We previously mentioned, in our Cayuga Trails giveaway post, that Krissy Moehl, Nikki Kimball, and Ragan Petrie planned to race. Each of them had to pull out, Krissy so that she could finish recovering from her win at the Ultra Trail Mount Fuji, Nikki so that she could take care of a pesky knee issue, and Ragan due to work.

Men’s Cayuga Trails 50 Preview

Sage Canaday, what can I say about his prolific year of ultrarunning that started with the 2012 Chuckanut 50k? He broke the famed White River 50 Mile course record, came second at the 2012 UROC 100k (post-race interview), won the Bandera 100k (race report) this January, won the Tarawera Ultramarathon (post-race interview) in March, and cleaned house again at April’s Lake Sonoma 5o Mile (post-race interview). And he’s only recently back from his third-place finish at the 2013 Transvulcania Ultramarathon (pre-race interview). Canaday’s had a couple hitches in his giddy-up this year outside of these results, but I think he’s on the straight-and-narrow now and unbeatable this weekend.

When I think of Massachusetts’ Ben Nephew, the phrase “perpetual ferocity” comes to mind. The guy has been ripping up the trail, mountain, and shorter-distance ultrarunning scenes for years now. At the international level, Ben’s run to sixth place at the 2011 IAU World Trail Championship and 11th at the 2011 IAU World Road 50k. In the US, he was eighth at last year’s Caumsett 50k, where he ran 3:17 and change, and he won the Traprock 50k, the Big Brad Ultras 50 Mile, and the Rhode Island Six Hour, among other races. Also last summer, he re-set the FKT for the revered, rocky, and wicked tough Presidential Traverse in New Hampshire.

Jordan McDougal most recently won The North Face Endurance Challenge Bear Mountain 50 Mile about month ago. (By the way, you have to watch this video of him taking a nasty fall on his way to winning.) Last year, he also won the Nueces 50 Mile, The North Face Endurance Challenge Bear Mountain 50 Mile, the TNF EC DC 50 Mile, and the TNF EC Kansas 50k. The former collegiate cross-country and track-and-field star who has run 14:00.13 for the 5k has got some wheels he’ll surely bet putting to use this weekend.

Less than a month ago, Matt Flaherty (pre-race interview) of Illinois ran to fourth place in 6:10 at the Ice Age 50 Mile, and he just set a PR at the 10-mile distance by taking second at the Soldier’s Field 10 Mile in 51:11. And, a month before all this he won the American River 50 Mile. I’d say Matt’s got some serious momentum going on his 2013 season already and, so long as all this racing isn’t getting him down, he’s in-the-money material for Saturday.

In 2013, Brian Rusiecki (Amy Rusieki’s husband) has run to third place at the Nueces 50 Mile, a win at the Bull Run Run 50 Mile, and second place at TNF EC Bear Mountain (four minutes behind Jordan McDougal). Brian raced at least 12 ultras in 2012, and he won most of them. His 2012 wins include the Laurel Highlands 70 Mile, the Vermont 100, and the Mountain Masochist 50 Mile. I think Brian will run is way into the four-deep prize monies, and he’s got a decent shot at the podium, too.

Oregon’s Yassine Diboun lived for several years in Ithaca, the hub of the Cayuga Trails 50 Mile, so he might be the top runner with the best course knowledge this weekend. He’s what I’d call a prolific racer, having put away at least 11 trail races, almost all ultras, in 2012 and at least four already this year. Last summer, Yassine won the Peterson Ridge Rumble 20 Mile, was 12th at the Western States 100, third at the Pinhoti 100, and he won the Leona Divide 50k just a couple months ago. I expect a top-five finish from him.

Denis Mikhaylov is a Russian-born runner living in NYC, and he’s more than likely the only fruitarian running the Cayuga Trails 50. (He does eat raw veggies, too.) Besides a fascinating lifestyle, it seems that Denis is pretty speedy, too. He’ll also be pretty familiar with Cayuga’s trails, given that he won last year’s Virgil Crest 100. A month ago, he also won the The North Face Endurance Challenge Bear Mountain 50k. The only problem is that Denis also ran the Massanutten 100 on May 18, and three weeks is just not much time to recover from a 100 miles.

We previously mentioned, in our Cayuga Trails giveaway post, that Dave Mackey, Leigh Schmidt, and Dave James would be running, but all of them have pulled out from the race.

 Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • How do you think the podiums will turn out this weekend?
  • Did we miss anyone you think could run themselves amongst these predicted top runners? If so, let us know who they are and why you think we’ll see more of them this weekend.
Meghan Hicks

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

There are 29 comments

  1. Tom W

    Sage is also very familiar with Ithaca trail running from his time at Cornell. So I doubt Yassine has any edge in trail knowledge.

    Great preview, thank you.

    1. Dan

      I could be wrong, but I think much of Sage's training was road and track work at Cornell. Yassine ran with Finger Lakes Running Club for years and had some serious course records on most of the trail races in the region. I give Yassine the edge in knowing the terrain.

      That said, Sage will beat Yassine by over 20 minutes. He's really at the height of his game. I wonder if he's peaked to early in the season.

  2. eric

    us new englanders will be pulling for Samueal Jurek, whose name deserves mention here.

    looking forward to seeing how this one plays out!

  3. Dan

    Heading down today! Can't wait to see what happens (had to pull out of running because of injury)

    I think Yassine is primed for a top spot after his recent performance at LD. It will be interesting to see how he stacks up against some the New Englanders.

    And Samuel Jurek also needs a mention here,according to ultrasignup this is his first race of the season. Could be a dark horse for the podium.

      1. Elena Makovskaya

        Denis is more into oranges.. He went through 80 of them in MMT!! Talking about "running on fruit"… :)

        1. olga

          I'll be rooting for CCCP! Although I can hardly imagine such sour fruit to pick as a choice…but what do I know? Denis, I need to talk to you about all this stuff, and give it a shot while I'll be off season!

    1. Keith Iskiw

      Took the words right out of my mouth, Adam has had a good block of training and could be pushed along with all the competition!

  4. JAH

    Not sure about the theory that experience at Virgil Crest provides familiarity with Cayuga Trails. The two races are relatively near each other but the courses don't overlap at all. Both courses do share some similarity in terms of their jagged elevation profiles, but the stone steps and pathways through the Cayuga Trails' gorges are quite different than the woodsy hill trails that make up Virgil Crest.

    1. Meghan Hicks


      Of course, the Virgil Crest and Cayuga race courses are unique. I meant these statements in a more general sense than I perhaps communicated. Folks who aren't local but who have run in the area before have an increased familiarity with the regional trail "feel" than those that haven't.

      1. JAH

        Fair enough. I do think the gorges at CT are a bit different than the VC trails. But being from around here, I may see the difference and overlook the similarity. Admittedly, it's not the like the difference between VC and, say, Moab.

  5. Mtegs

    It's great to see some of the New England runners highlighted here. They're pretty tough! Looking forward to the results!

  6. labs

    As the inaugural event, I was looking forward to more of a local crowd and the exciting prospect of many Ithacans/Cornellians/locals making the podium. I am honestly a little disappointed that the race directors brought in so many national elites. I understand the desire to turn a profit and make the race sustainable, but a hometown crowd, for just one year, seemed like a nice thought. Oh well. Still looking forward to it. Happy trails, all.

    1. Jeremy


      There is a great chance of Itacans/Cornellians making the podium at this race. If not, they can train on their course and come back next year.

      What's wrong with a few races that draw top competition?

    2. Dan

      Among the elites from out of town you have Sage Canaday who went to Cornell, Yassine Diboun who lived in Ithaca for years, and Ben Nephew who is a Hobart William-Smith alum. add to that the fact that is the Niagara USATF 50 mile championship this year and next year plus the national 50 mile championship next year, and i think the local regional scene is well represented. i think its a shame that Ian didn't get it to sell out this year.

  7. Brandon Baker

    GO Brian, Go Amy, Go Kristina! New England Ultra runners are on the RISE!!! :)

    AND having met (and run with) all of them, I can attest that they are also Awesome people and Great ambassadors of our sport!! Venga, Venga!!

  8. Pierre

    Look for Sophie Limoges in the top 5. She doesn't race much, but has good results. 1st – 50k Bear Mountain NY 2009 and 2010, 3rd in 2012, 2nd to Nikki Kimball in the 50M in 2011. 1st – 58k St-Donat QC, also completed twice the CCC Chamonix FR, and came 9th at the 120k TDS Chamonix 2011. In that race, she was leading by 15 minutes over Francesca Canepa (1st) at the 86k, but decided to wait (almost 4 hours) her boyfriend to finish together.

  9. Melissa

    Both fields look good. Jazzed that I'm starting to recognize names, esp in the women's field, even when the superelites aren't there – I'm learning so much and there are so many awesome athletes! Also nice to see an east coast race once in a while (since I live on this side of the country in VA…envy the Colorado, WA, CA runners!)

    Looking forward to the coverage.

    1. Dan

      I think Cassie Scallion can be considered super elite. Lake Sonoma, ice Age, and JFK wins don't just go to a second tier elite.

  10. Greg

    I'm pulling for Amy, Kristina, Debbie, Brian and Ben. All tough

    and smart New Englanders that are used to technical trails! I've never met Sam, but will cheer for him too! It's a bummer

    Leigh isn't running. GO NEW ENGLANDERS!!!

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