Escarpment Trail – DNS

July 30, 2017. Escarpment Trail Run. I was registered to run. DNS (Did Not Start). But no regrets.

I sprained my left ankle last Saturday, July 22. It’s healing well, so far. Applying cold treatment and ankle brace daily. Doing regular walks for a week, hobbling at first and getting better each day. Hoping to become a-ok for the race. Undecided to do the race until the very last minute.

My friend, Jun, and I still went to the North-South Lake Campground on Saturday, July 29, for an overnight stay. We hiked on Saturday, testing my foot if it can handle the rough trail condition. The ankle did not have the full flexibility and agility it had before the sprain. Landing on steep and technical sections was still awkward and with some difficulty. There was still some swelling after the hike. When we got back to the campsite, I made the decision to skip the event. After a few beers, I’ve accepted my decision.

Sunday, we did another hike. We did 3 major peaks in the Blackhead Wilderness area  – Thomas Cole Mtn, Black Dome Mtn, and Blackhead Mtn, all members of the Catskill 3500 Peaks. The trail was technical, but the ankle managed well. And since it was not a race, there was no pressure on how fast or slow we had to go, stopping and resting at every vista. We had some wonderful views, the best one was the view of the Devil”s Path’s peaks from Black Dome Mtn.

view_from_black_dome

Devil’s Path Peaks – View From Black Dome Mtn

Escarpment Trail is a very tough and technical race. And I know I needed to be 100% ok to do it, which I wasn’t. Doing the alternate plan of a pleasure hike was the right decision. And at the end of the day, there were no regrets.  And perhaps, more beers.

Whiteface Sky Race

whiteface skyrace muddy gear

which is more difficult?
the heart pounding and lung busting steep ascent?
where you will stop. more than once. to catch your breath.
or the toe killing and quad trashing slippery descent?
where you will slide. more than once. and you have to make sure it’s butt first.

July 9, 2017. Whiteface Sky Race. 15.2 miles. 8000 feet vertical gain.

The course description from the event website accurately describes this race.   And it’s worth repeating that most of the ascent comes from the 2.3 mile climb to the summit in the Alpine loop.

The climb itself was not technically challenging.  But it was devilishly steep.  Followed by, yes, a devilishly steep descent.  This covers the 1st 5 miles of the course.  AND we had to do it again after what is described as a ‘runnable’ recovery section in the Flume loop.

Two things I was so glad I brought and used in this race – my hiking poles and my gloves.  The poles came in handy on the ascent, and on sections of the steep and slippery descent, in the Alpine loop.  At times, I was just depending on the poles to support my weight.  Big respect to those who did the race without poles.  The gloves protected my hands when I was slipping and sliding on the muddy descent.

It was a difficult race.  But also one with a very rewarding view at the summit in the Alpine loop.  I still feel sorry I did not have my camera/smartphone during the race.  I even thought of riding the Gondola back to the top after the race to take pictures, but (1) it was not free, and (2) it does not go all the way to the summit of the race.  Now, I have a good reason to come back and hike Whiteface Mountain again.

If you want a short but challenging race, count this one in.   Plus, Lake Placid is just nearby – a town worth visiting by itself.

 

 

 

Manitou’s Revenge Ultramarathon

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!“.

Prologue.  

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.

elevation_profile_with_aid_stations

Elevation Profile, with Aid Stations added.

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!!!

Epilogue.

manitous tshirt

To borrow a phrase, and change some wordings, from a good 1997 movie, The Game. “I suffered and survived the Manitous’ Revenge, and all I got was this stupid t- shirt!” 🙂

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!

 

Addendum.

gloves

Home Depot Gloves. 3-pack for < $10

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.

Weekends of April 15 and April 22

2 Fridays of experimental and sleepless car camping – checked.
2 Saturdays of exhilarating mountain trail running hiking – checked.
2 Weekends of therapeutic bliss and inner peace – checked.

Breakneck Point Marathon.
The pessimist in me:  A marathon 1 hour slower than my 50k.

Hyner View Challenge 50k.
The optimist in me:  A 50k 1 hour faster than my marathon.

 

April 15 – Breakneck Point Marathon.

IMG_20170416_080517_01

Friday.  My first car camping experience.  Sleepless, but I still would have preferred this rather than waking up very early Saturday morning and driving ~2hrs to get to the event.  Dinner was Chinese take-out. Philip, also doing the marathon, did car camping as well.  His car setup was much better than mine, though.  We had beer before settling in for the night.

“It was a sleepless night not in Seattle, and I was thinking of Meg Ryan. Tossing and turning all night, I wish I could have what she’s having.”

Saturday.  I woke up at 5:15AM.  Participants started to arrive for the 6:30AM start.  Did my morning ritual, ate my muffin breakfast cold, and prepared for the event.  Oh how I missed my morning coffee.

There were 2 events today, the marathon, with 9k+ of elevation gain, and the half-marathon, with 5k+ of elevation gain.  With these elevation gains for these distances, you’d get the idea that this is not your typical trail marathon, and half-marathon.  Indeed, it was a roller coaster of ups and downs – on very rocky terrain.  The ascents were steep, and the descents felt steeper, where confidence and focus were important.  Both included the signature climb to Breakneck Ridge Trail, rated as one of the best destination day hikes in the country by Trails.com.

There were 4 aid stations for the marathon, the 1st at the base of Breakneck Ridge Trail, the 2nd at the base of Washburn Trail, the 3rd and 4th somewhere at the Mt Beacon area.

The first 5+ miles from start to the 1st aid station were runnable ups and downs (on trail running standards).  The next 4+ miles from the 1st to the 2nd aid station started with the steep ascent to Breakneck Ridge Trail followed by a long descent to the base of Washburn Trail.  I had no problem reaching the 1st and 2nd aid stations.  I filled up my 2 bottles with Tailwind at the 2nd aid station and continued the run/jog/walk to the 3rd aid station, which was 6+ miles.  Even with 2 full bottles, I still ran out and had to get some water from the stream before reaching the 3rd aid station.  Again, I filled up my 2 bottles upon reaching the 3rd station.  From the course guide, the distance from the 3rd to the 4th aid station was ~8 miles.  However, one of the volunteers said that it was actually just 6 miles.  It was a relief hearing this.  However, this would turn out to be totally inaccurate.  With more climbs on this leg, I ran out of water 4 miles out.  Without any streams nearby, I said I’d survived the next 2 miles from my reserves thinking it was just 6 miles.  Beep, my watch sounded, indicating a mile.  And then another beep – another mile.  And then another climb, and another.   Where the heck is the aid station???  A fellow runner mentioned that it was actually 8+ miles between the 3rd-4th aid stations.  What??? But the volunteer said it was just 6 miles???  After hearing this, I sensed problem.  I needed water.  Luckily, there was a family of hikers who offered some water. It wasn’t just me who really needed water.  I split the bottle of water with the runner behind me.  Big, big thanks to these hikers.  When I finally reached the 4th aid station, the volunteer confirmed it was closer to 9 miles from the 3rd to the 4th aid station!  ***** At the end of the race, runners said they ran out of water between aid stations 3 and 4.

The last 3+ mile would be a gradual descent to the finish.  Finally, no more climbs!  It was the final push to the finish with trashed legs and hurting feet.   Beer awaits at the finish.

 

April 22 – Hyner View Challenge 50k.

IMG_20170423_085657

Friday.  Another car camping experience.  This time, someone decided to join me in my car to keep me company.   With constant buzzing to my ear, I was not able to stop and smash this lone mosquito that kept me awake all night!

Saturday.  The event started at 8AM, with a little shower blessing.  The course offers steep climbs with rewarding views at the top (if you have time to take pictures).  The course was not as technical and rocky as the Breakneck Marathon.  But it does not mean easier either.  The climbs were really steep.  Some of the climbs were really steep and slippery, which at times forces you to grab onto whatever support you could to avoid sliding back. The 2 really steep climbs were at the start and at the end, the Hyner View and the SOB climbs.  With the steep climbs come the steep downhills.  I enjoyed my time on the downhills, just letting gravity take control not thinking about falls and face-plants.   Thank you, Mt Tammany Blue Trail!

There was also this stream crossing part on the course that I find unusual.  Unusual in the sense that you are crossing the same stream going from left to right only to cross again and come back to the left side after just a few steps.  And you have to do this many times.  Why not just make the trail on one side of the stream?

The thing I remember the most about the event was at the end.  The big crowd at the finish.  It was a party!   With lots of food – pizza, donuts, chicken bbq cooked on the spot (really!), home-made pastries, and beer.  And everyone is welcome!  Anyone can get food – not just the runners – free.  No bands, no tickets, no stubs, to show.  This is perhaps the reason why this event sells out quickly.  It’s worth doing this event again because of this kind of support from the people.

And it’s hard not to mention the generous swag – hat, shirt, and socks.  And the cold shower at the finish, if you decide to have one.

NJTrail Series Wildcat Ridge 50K

20160813 NJTrailSeries Wildcat Ridge Shirt

Saturday, Aug 13, 2016.  Heat Index of 106 degrees.

50k in almost 8 hours.  In a day when the temp was over 90 degrees, with a heat index of over 100.  And the course was no joke either.

A 10+ mile loop within the Wildcat Ridge Wildlife Management Area, the course is mixture of rocky towpath trails and blazed single track trails.  There’s a fully stocked aid station at the Start/Finish, and at the 4 and 9 mile mark (same station).  An unmanned water station was added at the 7mi mark because of the excessive heat condition.

The 50k promptly started at 7am.  I had a cycling undershirt, and I was already drenched with sweat even before reaching the 4mi aid station.  I took it off and ran shirtless from there on. It was extremely hot and humid.  Good thing I had extra pairs of socks in the car.  I changed socks every loop. I was carrying a single water bottle on the first loop, but decided to wear my hydration vest, with 2 water bottles, going in to the second (and third) loop.  It was a good decision because a single water bottle was not even enough to get from one aid station to the next.

I did a combination of jog and hike the whole time.  And when I was getting too comfortable with the hike, I’d tell myself, “A slow jog is faster than a fast hike“, forcing me to jog the runnable parts.  From my calculation, it took me under 2:30hrs per loop, taking extra time to rest and refill at the Start/Finish before the second and third loops.

Big thanks to Rick and Jen for hosting this no-frill event.  And to that kid at the 4/9mi aid station, who single-handedly provided support to the crazy runners in a day like this.