They say you must be partially, if not fully, insane to do this race. And whatever sanity you have had before the race, the devil would have taken it when you traversed its path. By the time you have finished the 4 summits of the Devil’s Path, you would be totally numb and void of sanity to finish the last 10+ miles of the course.
June 17, 2017. Manitou’s Revenge Ultramarathon. And from the event’s website, in all caps. “THIS IS NOT LIKE ANY OTHER ULTRA YOU’VE RUN BEFORE!“.
This was the reason why I chose to defer my Quassy Rev3 70.3 triathlon. Quassy Rev3 was on June 4, Manitou’s Revenge was on June 17 – 2 weeks apart. There was also an organized night run of the last 15 miles of the Manitou’s course on May 27, which I was so glad I did. I was still on the wait list when we did the night run, but Charlie (Manitou’s Race Director) told me that there was a big chance I would be able to get in. Three days later, I received an email from him telling me I got accepted to do the event. Wooohooo!
Days before the event, I was both excited and nervous. Actually, more on the nervous-like-shit side. Honestly. Reading stories written by those who have done the event in the prior years gave me crappy thoughts. Some of those who have done this and 100-milers said that this was more difficult than the 100-milers they have done. “Am I ready for this?!”
The day after the night run, I hiked half of the Devil’s Path, from Prediger’s Trailhead, doing Indian Head and Twin Mtn, out-and-back. I came back the week after to cover the other half, from Devil’s Tomb/Rt 214 Trailhead, doing Plateau Mtn and Sugarloaf Mtn, out-and-back. Doing the Devil’s Path with fresh legs was difficult and strenuous enough. Imagine doing these 4 summits after 31 miles of the already difficult course, including part of the Escarpment Trail! Yes, this was the 2nd half of the Manitou’s Revenge course.
I drove to Phoenicia Friday afternoon for the packet pickup. Lodging was at Kenneth Wilson Campground for 2 nights. I had all my gear ready before I left home. Tailwind + Carbopro would be my main source of nutrition, 18 pre-packed servings! Final gear check after dinner and tried to get some sleep for tomorrow’s big day.
I woke up at 2AM. I was happy to have my campsite near the camp toilets so I did not have to walk far or drive for my morning ritual. The parking lot behind the pharmacy was almost full, but I was able to manage to get a spot. The shuttle to the start was about an hour away. Manitou’s Revenge is a 54.3 mile point-to-point race starting from CD Lane Park in Windham township and ending at the Parish Hall in Phoenicia.
The official race start was at 5AM, with wave starts. I was on wave 5. And at 5:20AM, the longest time I’ve spent on the trail started. Oh, I have to mention, unlike other runners who would survive with just few sips of water on the course, I have to drink A LOT. My gear was a UD vest with 50oz bladder plus 2 26oz bottles – plus the pre-packed tailwind+carbopro servings for refill! Weather forecast was cloudy, humid, with scattered t-storms in the afternoon. I stuffed my rain gear, just in case.
Below is the AS-to-AS details with the time from my Garmin.
To AS #1 @ Big Hollow Rd Trailhead, 3.0mi. The 1st 3 miles was on the road leading to the trailhead, easy warm-up before heading UP to the mountain trails.
To AS #2 @ Dutcher’s Notch, 10.3mi (2:26hrs). The course turns left after AS #1, entering the trail. A short climb to the 1st summit, Acra Point, followed by the highest point on the course, Blackhead Mtn. Then a ‘runnable’ descent to AS #2 @ Dutcher’s Notch.
To AS #3 @ North/South Lake, 17.5mi (4:15hrs). The course goes up to Stoppel Point, and with the cloudy weather, it was so cool to see everything covered with clouds below you (yes, clouds below you!!!). Along the trail was the wreckage of a piper plane that crashed in 1983. A runner asked to have his picture taken which I gladly obliged. Reached the aid station still feeling fresh.
To AS #4 @ Palenville/Rt23A, 21.5mi (5:15hrs). This was a ‘relaxed’ section with some ridgeline and boulder running at the top, which reminds me of Schunemunk Mtn. Saw and glad to have joined Joe Limone and Charlotte Dequeker on this section of the course. A good downhill to the aid station for food and refill.
To AS #5 @ Platte Clove, 31.5mi (8:27hrs). The section with the longest distance between aid stations – 10miles from AS #4 to AS #5. At AS #4, I filled my bladder and my 2 bottles for this section. I was actually worried I’d run out of water on this section that I have a spare 500ml flask in my vest. It was a steep and felt-like-no-summit hike right after leaving AS #4. Not technical but just never-ending climb going up Kaaterskill Peak. I met Rachel on this section (we would be leap-frogging up and down until AS #7 where she’d finally drop me for good). Another good downhill section to the aid station, where I took a break. AS #5 is the aid station with drop bags. I sat down while refilling my bladder and bottles again for the hardest section on the course – The Devil’s Path. Made sure I have my headlamp and flashlight before I left the aid station.
To AS #6 @ Mink Hollow, 38.5mi (12:12hrs). The distance between AS #5 and AS #6 is under 8 miles, but it took me close to 4hrs to cover it! This distance covers the 3 summits of the Devil’s Path – Indian Head, Twin Mtn, and Sugarloaf Mtn – all members of the Catskill 3500 Peaks. Meaning – these 3 summits go over 3500ft! The ascents were technical and the descents MORE technical! Both ascents and descents required hands-first and body-twists maneuvers! My heart rate was going over the roof on the climbs I had to stop so many times to recover! Reaching the aid station without any fall was a relief – the gnarliest section over!
To AS #7 @ Silver Hollow Notch, 43.5mi (14:14hrs). AS #6 does not mean the end of the Devil’s Path! What follows next was the steepest climb of the 4 summits – Plateau Mtn – another member of the Catskill 3500 Peaks. I needed more breaks on the climb to the summit – my heart rate was just running too fast for me!!! There was a ‘runnable’ section at the summit but who could still run at this point??? It was at this section where it was time to say goodbye to Devil’s Path, turning left on the Long Path Trail to the next aid station. It was still daytime when I reached the aid station. I was tired but still with high spirits leaving AS #7. Just 2 more mountains to tackle.
To AS #8 @ Willow, 48.5mi (16:42hrs). It would be nighttime before I’d reach AS #8. There was a stream crossing and my target was to reach that before dark. There was still a glimpse of the cloudy sky when I crossed the stream. The cold water was so refreshing to the tired and swollen feet. One last mountain to tackle – Tremper Mtn. It became a really slow trek when it was dark. Even with both headlamp and flashlight on, and generously marked trails, it was still not easy navigating the twists and turns. Alone in the dark, it felt like forever getting to the aid station.
To Finish, 54.3mi (18:51hrs). AS #8 meant there was about 6 miles to the finish, with just 2 more miles of climbing to the Fire Tower, then 3 miles of rocky, steep, and slippery downhill to the trailhead/Rt 40, then 1.5 road miles on Rt 40 to the Finish. When I reached the tower, I had a sigh of relief knowing that the race was almost over – no more hills! On the 3 miles of downhill, my headlamp died but I did not bother putting on the spare batteries. The flashlight would be enough, I said. I tried to run on this section, then Bam! I slipped. It hurt. Walked gingerly for a few minutes and started walking/running again. Bam! Slipped again! Ok, let’s not jeopardize this race by getting injured on the last few miles to the finish, I told myself. So I just walked. THEN, THE FLASHLIGHT DIED! It was pitch black! I couldn’t see a thing! I stayed there, shaking and clicking the flashlight trying to make it turn back on. Luckily it turned back on! It might have malfunctioned momentarily when I slipped and fell. I decided to put the spare batteries on the headlamp right after! Walked the rest of the way to the last aid staion at the end of the trail and Rt 40. This aid station was unmanned, with water and reflector vests for us night runners. Quickly washed my face, put a vest on, and turned to Rt 40 for the last 1.5 miles to the finish. Crossed the Finish Line past midnight, with Charlie, some volunteers, and runners and friends hanging out waiting for their friends still on the course. 54 Miles. Almost 19hrs. Whole body numb and sore. WoooooHooooo!!!
Congratulations to all who participated in this event! Big thanks to all the supporters and volunteers, especially to those who unconditionally served and became our personal crews on the aid stations.
THANK YOU, Charlie Gadol, for this one of a kind event. And please, stop the madness and don’t entertain the idea of creating a 100miler on this course!
These gloves helped a lot on the big scrambles in Devil’s Path, giving me grip and saving my
well-manicured fingers on those slippery rocks, roots, and sharp edges.