Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Scoutin' Routes: Phelps 20k

The "folk art" official Phelps 20k course map (left) and another made using
Four weeks ago, my son, Jack, and I ran the 2016 Utica Boilermaker. I had been coming off a four month layoff from training, so prepared in 2 1/2 weeks with a goal of finishing the race by using a run-walk training plan and strategy for completing the 15k run. In training long runs  as well as the race itself, I adhered to a pattern of 3 minutes running followed by 1 minute walking and repeat until completed. Following this approach I did ultimately cross the finish line in 1:26.31 for a mile pace of 9:17. The following Tuesday, Jack and I registered for the Phelps Sauerkraut 20k. For Jack, Saturday's race is just another run building to what will be his first full marathon in mid-September and for me it provides the opportunity for me to both challenge myself and to (briefly) run with my son.

To train, I continued running four days a week (Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday), running complete shorter distances Tuesday and Thursday from 4-6 miles at a moderate pace, while committing to longer runs (7-10 miles) using a run-walk ratio of 5 minutes to 1 minute. Sundays were for easy 3-4 mile recoveries, often on a treadmill. On "off days" I would walk for 45-60 minutes early in the morning. While not the most rigorous training approach, given a variety of factors (aches, pains, wear-and-tear), I am hopeful it will be enough to put in me the position to finish the 20k in two hours.

As a runner, I rely on visualization to help me get through longer races... and for me at 48 with many miles under my belt, 20k is long. So, when possible, I travel to courses in advance of running hem to get a sense as to what to expect. Last week, Jack and I went on a short roadie to Phelps to scout the race route. At that point, the potential challenges became clear: not the course, but the weather conditions. Though it would be unfair to label the terrain as a whole "hilly," there are a few interesting features. In addition to a few manageable rolling hills, there are 2 extreme, short inclines. The primary possible challenge, just as was the case at Utica, will be the weather. The temps in July at the Boilermaker actually turned out to be fairly favorable this year, and the race organizers did a tremendous job having a myriad hydration stations along the course. The Phelps 20k course is also very open, with zero shading from the sunlight during the course of the race. With a start time of 8 a.m., barring a change in weather projections, the entire race will be run in direct (rising) sun, with a strong likelihood of high humidity.

Here's what Jack and I saw, with a few caveats: the picture quality is somewhat inconsistent as it is difficult to take shots from a (mostly) moving vehicle through the windshield, and distances noted in the captions are my estimates based on reviewing the maps.

Race starts at (roughly) the corner of Main St. and William St.,
in the image above, the start goes to the left.
Other than a quick pass through town, the first 2 miles is fairly flat and open road.
At m the 2.5 mile point the course continue straight, though you veer to the left in the
"fork" where Rt 96 turns to 13.
Flat country roads take you past Midlakes High School on the left.
The first turn, at 3.6 miles, comes after a pass through residential Clifton-Springs
at the corner of Main St. and Pearl.
Continue south, passing through the town of Hopewell, until Pearl ends. To the
right is Taylor Rd., but take the sharp turn right onto Waddell Rd. onto...
The first incline of the day at almost exactly the 5.5 mile mark.
The course flattens again following the ascent and one mile later the
course crosses 488 and Waddell becomes Railroad Ave. for less than a quarter mile.
Over half way to finish!
You'll pass a small-ish water tower on your left and shortly come to the end of Railroad
Ave. Turn left at County Road 23 and onto...
The second "major" hill of the race, starting exactly at the 7 mile mark.
Warning: this one is a long one.
At approximately the 7.3 mile mark, take a left onto Wheat Rd. where
you'll be for just about 2 miles.
Rollin', rollin', rollin'... on Wheat Rd. where you'll come across fields
with bales of... wheat. Really beautiful scenery throughout!

At Case Rd. take a right. This is nearly the 9 mile mark... it's all downhill from here!
Case Rd.
At Toll Rd. take a left, where you'll be on this road for a cup-of-coffee;
 you've made it 9.5 miles, hang in there!
Time for a right onto Griffith Rd. Halfway down, just past the
intersection with Melvin Hill Rd., you'll hit the 11 mile mark!
This left on Fort Hill Rd. means you have less than one mile to go;
you can probably hear the cheers!
Back into Phelps and a little downhill. Fort Hill Rd will turn into S. Wayne Street as
you move into the residential area...
You'll take one final left onto Park St. leaving only about 200 meters to go! 
As you approach the finish on Park St. the gazebo above will appear to the left.
The finish is parallel it on the street.
At the very least we'll be running through some beautiful, classic, Western New York country.
Ideally, the weather on Saturday will be very much like the day we went out to Phelps: overcast. At least in the morning. For the sake of the 50th Phelps Sauerkraut Festival, I hope it's super sunny and pleasant after the race for the remainder of the weekend.

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