University of Scranton athletics communications manager Randy Shemanski is accustomed to publicizing the accomplishments of Royals' student-athletes and teams, ranging from games and championships won to All-Conference, All-Region, and All-American awards. Recently though, Shemanski achieved a remarkable feat of his own, winning his age group at the USA Track & Field (USATF) 50 Mile Trail national championship.
At the Cayuga Trails 50 on July 21, Shemanski, who is a member of the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA), completed the 50-mile course in Ithaca, New York in 11 hours, 19 minutes, and 51 seconds to finish first in his age bracket and 54th out of 126 runners to complete the ultramarathon.
The Cayuga Trails 50, which is one of the most competitive 50-mile races in the country, was Shemanski's third ultramarathon, which is defined as any footrace longer than the 26.2 miles in a traditional marathon.
A former Division III student athlete who pitched for Farleigh Dickinson University-Madison's (now Farleigh Dickinson University-Florham) baseball team, Shemanski started running about five or six years ago, just once or twice a week to try to stay in shape.
Over the next few years, his fitness route morphed into something much greater as he found himself competing in his first ultramarathon in the summer of 2017.
Shemanski says he stumbled upon a video of the Cayuga Trails race a few years ago and immediately became interested in competing in it. Knowing he wasn't nearly ready to run a 50-mile race at that point, he started competing in some longer races, including a few trail races, to test his potential at partaking in the event.
Shemanski increased his running frequency, distances, and terrain over the next year or two and began his actual training plan for the Cayuga race in the beginning of April. To stay true to his rigorous training regime, Shemanski would get up at 5:00 a.m. every morning, including on weekends, to get his runs in. These challenging workouts, particularly throughout April and early May, were often followed by long days and nights in the office and at the fields covering the Royals' athletic contests before turning around and repeating the routine again the next day.
When race day arrived, Shemanski was well-prepared from his training and having run the course in two previous trail marathons. While running 50 miles of trails through various types of terrain is no easy feat, Shemanski was able to enjoy numerous aspects of the event, which included the scenery of Ithaca's famous gorges in Robert Treman State Park and Buttermilk Falls State Park, a fellow runner who ran the entire race in a long kilt and sandals, and the encouragement and camaraderie of all the competitors.
"The thing that always stands out to me at races like this is the community feel and the support from both volunteers and runners. In trail races, almost everybody tells everyone else that they're doing great or offers some word of encouragement. The way the course is set up, you run certain parts of the trail in both directions during the race, so you often pass runners going in the other direction. Even when I came across the leaders – guys who are running these rugged, hilly trails at really fast paces – they would have something encouraging to say which you don't get that in a road race."
Aid stations were available every three to six miles to provide food and hydration for the competitors, along with a place to rest during the race, which started at 6:00 a.m.
After 50 miles and more than 11 hours, Shemanski was very glad to complete the race. "The IT band in my left knee was really hurting over the last six to seven miles, so I was ready for a break," he said.
Along with a relief of finishing and the sense of accomplishment from completing a 50-mile run, Shemanski experienced another unexpected reward after he crossed the finish line as he was a crowned a national champion in his age group.
"The national championship was a surprise because I didn't hit my goal time and I was firmly in the middle of the pack of finishers, but I guess you never know how the age group results are going to shake out in a race like that. I'm glad I had the USATF membership to qualify for the awards," stated Shemanski.
While he's now enjoying some well-deserved rest and recovery, Shemanski will continue to run and plans to compete in more ultramarathons in the future. For now, he is just going to enjoy not waking up at 5:00 a.m. every day.
For complete results from the 2018 Cayuga Trails 50 Mile Race, visit: https://ultrasignup.com/results_event.aspx?did=53495