Iroquois Trails 100 Preview

I had long intended to write a long post outlining the course for the inaugural Iroquois Trails Ultras, which feature […]

By on September 19, 2008 | Comments

Iroquois Trails 100 poster Adam BatlinerI had long intended to write a long post outlining the course for the inaugural Iroquois Trails Ultras, which feature both 50 mile and 100 mile events. Well, that ain’t gonna happen. Instead I’ll just give you a few points regarding my racing, the competition, and the course. For a fun preview of the event check out Tony Portera’s (my crew at the IT 100) TWIR post this week or, of course, at the official Iroquois Trails Ultras website.

Last May, I pointed out the need for an autumn 100 miler on the East Coast (heck, I even suggested a 100 in the Finger Lakes in mid-September!) and a year later we’ve got the Iroquois Trails 100 and the Grindstone 100! I’ve signed up for and, more importantly, will be running the IT100. I’ve gone into all my previous 100s on the heels of a big training season (or training season and then race season). Not this time. However, as I learned at the GORE-TEX TransRockies Run and as my buddies Meissner and Hart have reaffirmed – I am fit. I will have to rely on this general notion of fitness rather than concrete training numbers as my source of strength and reassurance in the face of self-doubt while out on the course this weekend. Speaking of the course and this weekend, you can track me (and the Iroquois Trails 100 runners) on the web and via text message – how cool is that for a small, inaugural 100?! Be sure to track Yassine Diboun in the 100 and Adam Chase in the 50 – they are the men to beat.

Iroquois Trails 100 Finger Lakes Trail Tuller HillA nice stretch of Finger Lakes Trail in loop 2 of the IT 100 course

The main part of my planned IT100 preview post was going to be about the difficulty of the course. I suspect that it will be much more difficult than most people expect.

First off, while the course is not “in the mountains” it does have 18,000′ of climb. That’s the same amount of climb as Western States, except that unlike WS the last 40 miles aren’t flat. Instead, it’s just more of the same relentless rolling climbs. Here’s what RD Ian Golden had to say about the hills in his July 30 news update:

There are hills, lots of them. If you’re not already, be sure that you become comfortable with managing hills. They are fairly relentless in this area and should not be underestimated. Some of the wooded sections, particularly through the single track section of Tuller Hill State forest in loop 1, and on the out-back section to/from Daisy Hollow Rd. on Loop 3 can be slow. There are enough hills and technical terrain present to break your rhythm and enough up/downs to crush your legs if you over-run them early.

Personally, I’m more concerned with what Ian summarized later in same paragraph as “the trail does a good bit of zigging and zagging.” This is an understatement…. and in combination with the “technical terrain” this course has a chance of being one of the top-teir mentally brutal 100 mile courses like MMT or HURT. I’m not kidding either. The one section I ran this year (loop 2 through Tuller Hill) has miles long sections of relentless rooty zigging and zagging, dipping and rising, and even a bit of bobbing and weaving. To make a tough thing tougher, the whole section is heavily forested with little undergrowth so that it’s often damn hard to figure out where the trail is. The blazes are old enough and blend in with the trees enough that while they may be perfect for hiking, they are difficult to read when running down the labyrinthine trail.

Iroquois Trails 100 Greek PeakGreek Peak from the summit and far point of Loop 2 of the IT 100 course

Here’s what I wrote to one perspective entrant shortly after I ran part of the course in early July:

The IT100 will be more technical than Western States, but not as technical as Massanutten. On Sunday, I ran all the trails that make up the second loop on IT 100 course. In this stretch there are there is a 4 mile length of the Finger Lakes Trail that you will run in both directions. In short, this will be 8 hard miles, but none of it harder than say Short or Kearns Mountains at MMT. This FLT stretch is pretty much rock free, but there are many rooty sections. What will wear someone down more quickly than the footing is that the trail – particularly the first 2-3 miles of it in the outbound direction – is never straight for very long. There’s a ton of momentum shifting and restarting. This is complicated by the difficulties in finding the trail. The trail IS well blazed, but in many spots the forest floor is uniform… including the trail. The trail will be a mental challenge more than a physical challenge, but it’s not to be taken lightly as there will be 16 miles spent on it in total. The 8 miles of FLT in Loop 2 are balanced by 3 miles of paved road running and another 3-4 on dirt roads, including a significant break between the two times per loop that you’ll face the FLT.

Iroquois Trails 100One of the nice respite sections during Loop 2

Here’s what I wrote about my impression of the entire course to another prospective entrant a few weeks later:

Re the IT100, well you live in the mountains o
f New England, right? Given that, no section of the course should be overly challenging. I think I ran the toughest section (Loop 2) – it was twisty, moderately technical (mostly rooty), and difficult to follow. I’ve run lots of trail in my day and there were at least two or so miles of trail that were incredibly frustrating… Which means 8 plus miles during the race. (I skipped this section on the way back to my car.)

I think the three loops will be quite different. Loop 1 is up and down the Greek Peak slopes. Loop 2 is hilly and mixes the nasty technical stuff, a couple miles of more sedate trail, and 6-8 miles of road in four different stretches. Section 3 is an out-and-back on the Finger Lakes Trail, which is the same trail as the nasty sections of Loop 2. I ran some of Section 3 twice as part of the Mount Virgil Madness 30k – a race you should consider running MVM if you are running the IT100. Ian, the RD, says this section of FLT is easier than in section 2, but it’s still relatively slow single track.

The race will be an honest 100. Folks going in thinking it will be an “easy” 100 are in for a rude awakening. It will be significantly slower than Vermont and likely slower than Western States. Could be as challenging as Massanutten, if in a different way. It will wear a runner down slowly and will reward patience.

Ok, time for me to get on the road. Oh, my race place for tomorrow – don’t race; run smart; eat, drink, and be merry!

Iroquois Trails 100 Finger Lakes Trail Tuller HillMy soon to be nemesis – the Finger Lakes Trail on Tuller Hill
Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founding Editor of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.