Don’t let the cute little trailhead sign pictured above fool you. Sure, Perinton NY’s Crescent Trail is absolutely beautiful! It’s also brutal. Yesterday I trail ran the entire thing – 40 miles / 65 kilometers – out-and-back from my home in Fairport. All by myself.
Before yesterday the only remaining goal on my list for 2011 had been an offroad trail ultra; basically anything longer than a marathon. I’ve had a few races/ideas on my radar, but since I’ve been trail running a lot on sections of the Crescent Trail, somewhere back over the summer I concocted the idea of trail running the whole thing, out-and-back + the 3 miles of extension trail running near my house. (17 miles of main trail + 3 miles of extension trail) x 2 out and back = 40 miles total. 65 kilometers. I’d identified my ultra.
Up until a year ago I’d never run further than 6 miles at one time. So yesterday was the culmination of a LOT of hard work and training. And, I don’t mind bragging, it felt GREAT!
Marathons are long. Do them off road on trail and they become a lot more demanding (my rule of thumb is that trail running is usually at least 33% harder than road). Make it 40 miles instead of 26.2 and add in somewhere around 4,000 feet of climbing and you’ve got yourself a doozy of a challenge to knock off in one day. Especially when you do it solo and self-supported. Solo means there’s no one cheering you on. No water stations (hence the 15-20 pound camelbak hydration/day pack I wore for the whole run), no medical teams in case of emergency, no pace runners… it’s just you and your brain against whatever challenge you’ve immersed yourself in.
That was my experience yesterday. 12 hours and 50 minutes (including breaks) of me, myself and I -vs- dirt, rocks, roots, and leaves. It was awesome.
When I left my house in the Village of Fairport before 6am on Saturday, it was still well before sunrise. Starting out under the clear cool (temps in the low 30’s) sky with stars and moon was beautiful! Wearing my headlamp, I took the yellow-blazed Fairport extension trail from the village headed the 3 miles East to meet up with the main orange-blazed Crescent Trail. I then headed North and cruised through the next 3 miles as the sun rose; then made the turnaround at the northern terminus of the trail before heading back South for the next 18 miles…
The northern end of the Crescent is relatively flat, snaking through wetland, along the canal, and through the woods and fields… but as you get around the town of Egypt the terrain changes radically… the Southern 2/3 of the Crescent is brutal. Unbelievably beautiful, but brutal! Lots of ups and downs, lots of switchbacks, lots of roots, rock and dirt as the trail threads through hilly forest almost all the way to Bushnell’s Basin. Somewhere around 2,000 feet of vertical packed into 11 miles or so. To put it into perspective, I spoke with a guy who had the goal of mountain biking the whole Crescent. He came to the conclusion that one could run it faster. Add a thick layer of newly fallen leaves to the equation and the trail becomes pretty daunting.
If you’re from the Rochester, NY area than you are probably familiar with the Woodcliff hotel sitting up on the hill overlooking Victor/Bushnell’s Basin; the Crescent threads through the woods near Woodcliff and actually pops out right near the hotel giving you a beautiful view Southwest to the horizon. From there the trail continues to drop and climb through the woods all the way to the village of Bushnell’s Basin.
I stopped in Bushnell’s (mile 24 of my run) at the Three Beagle’s Cafe for a quick lunch – fresh, hot soup never tasted so good! A BIG thank you to Karin and Terry at Three Beagles for their hospitality!
From there it was a short, lovely section along the historic Erie Canal and than back into the woods for the 16 miles home to Fairport. By that point in the day the temps had climbed up into the 50’s and I realized I’d lucked out on the weather. Clear, blue sky and perfect fall running weather – really couldn’t have asked for anything better!
My marathon split for the day came in a little under 8 hours; with my 50k split coming in a tad over 9 hours. Unfortunately my Garmin battery didn’t make it past 9 hours, so I had to go by my map mileage from there to the end.
The sun started dipping below the trees as I got into the woods through the Indian Hills Section and back into Egypt. Back on with the headlamp and trail running in the dark (yes, that’s as safe as it sounds) the last 5 miles or so to my house.
All-in-all an epic day that will stay with me for a long time! I’m definitely sore a day later, but I really can’t complain. I thought I’d feel a lot worse than I do. Just takin’ it easy, laying low, enjoying the time with my family.
I’ve done some digging around online and, as far as I know, I’m the only person to knock out the entire Crescent in one go; let alone in one day; let alone out-and-back. I could be missing something, but it’s nice to own a first, even if it is a small one.
What’s next? Well, I’m definitely going to solo the Crescent this winter (I’ll cut out the extension trail and just do the main trail out and back for 34 miles / 55 kilometers). I’m also planning to solo the Bristol Hills Trail down in the Finger Lakes this winter as well (52 miles in length; not sure yet if I’m tackling a one-way trip or an out-and-back). I’m already planning to establish a 55k ultra on the Crescent Trail next year for folks to enter. There aren’t a lot of offroad ultras right around Rochester and it would be cool to promote awareness of the trail in this way. Stay tuned.
I’m a firm believer that adventure is not dead and that, quite frequently, it exists right outside our own back doors. So I’m always taken by hidden gems like the Crescent Trail. Here lies 17 miles of beautiful, challenging trail (+ I-don’t-know-how-many miles of branch trail) that snakes deep through the woods right near houses and malls outside of suburban Rochester… and almost no one has heard of it.
Get out there, get exploring, get making your own adventures!
LINK: Perinton Crescent Trail