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!“.


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 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!!!


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!




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.


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

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.


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.

Coastal Run New Year’s Eve One Day


Dec 31, 2016.

Mike picked me up from my hotel in the morning and we drove to Crissy Field. We picked up our bibs and souvenir fleece shirt, pitched the tent, and waited for the 9AM start. The weather was sunny with some cloud and wind (oh wait… this is the San Francisco Bay Area – being windy is the norm). I had my Mizuno merino wool shirt + a light running tights. 10 minutes before 9AM, we all lined up at the start, the 24hr runners and a mix of 6/12hr runners. More 6/12hr runners would start later. I’d be doing the 12 hrs and Mike the 6 hrs.

Mike and I jogged at a leisure pace around the course, a 1.065mi lap around the lagoon at Crissy Field. What’s new this year is that runners can go in either direction, clockwise or counter-clockwise as they please, as long as they pass the timing mat each time they finish a lap. A good change to combat the monotony of a uni-directional lap. Runners also get the chance to greet the other runners going the opposite way.

Tailwind was my main source of nutrition, which I took sip every lap. Mike and I would also take a bite of whatever’s available at the pit area. And every hour, I would take a salt pill to prevent cramping later. This would be the routine for the next 12 hours.

I’m thankful to have Mike on the 1st 6 hours of the event. Having some company to chat with made the lap quick and easy. Mike’s family came before his run ended at 3PM. Quick hi and hello, and I proceeded on with my 12hr monotonous adventure.

It started to get dark before 5PM. With the sun gone, it felt colder too. I changed clothes – a polar fleece shirt, a windbreaker, and a heavier and warmer tights. I felt fine the whole time, enjoying the experience, doing more jogs and walk breaks on the last 3 hours. I finished my last lap 5 minutes before 9PM. I’ve covered 55 laps for a total of 58.6 miles. My target was to at least cover 50 laps.

I suddenly felt the cold breeze the moment I stopped. I went to my tent and changed to warm and dry clothes. I was shivering even with layers of warm clothes. 9PM in SFO = 12MN in NJ. I called home and spoke with my daughter – greeted them a Happy New Year. I decided to stay inside the tent until my body has gained some warmth. I tried to get some nap but my legs were twitching. I came out before 12 midnight to join the mini-festivity to welcome the new year. We just had a glimpse of the fireworks, which was most visible from the other side of the town. After the toast and cheer, I headed back to the tent for warmth.

I managed to get some short but very much needed sleep. When I woke up, the 24hr runners were still on the course. 9AM would be the official finish time for them. The overall winner for the 24hr event covered 100 laps for a total of 106.5 miles. A question I asked then, and I still ask now… How the heck do you run for 24 hrs???

This is another experience I’d remember. My 1st 50+ miles. A good way to end the year and welcome the new one.  Happy New Year!

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.


TNF Endurance Challenge – Bear Mountain

tnf ecs bm bib

Saturday – April 30, 2016.

Synopsis.  I’ve done this last year.  I’ve forgotten how difficult it was.  Now, I remember.

The Event – Overview.  The TNF ECS Bear Mountain is one of the events in The North Face Endurance Challenge Series.  It is ranked as one that has the most difficult and technically challenging course.  There are 4 races in today’s event – the 50M (which started at 5am), the 50K (this event), the Marathon and Marathon-Relay (which starts at a later time).

Weather.  Saturday’s weather was pleasant and comfortable – cool temps, calm winds, and not a single drop of rain.  It would be a perfect day to ‘hike’ up and ‘fly’ down the hills of Bear Mountain.

Goal.  The goal this year was more aggressive than last year’s.  I wanted to beat my previous time on the same course.  By how much? – By a big margin.  This is not bragging, BTW.  Mentally and physically, I was better prepared this year.  Only the official results would tell whether this would be true or not.

Gear.  Nothing special.  Shorts and last year’s NJMarathon long sleeves shirt, Drymax Max Trail socks, plus Hoka Speedgoat.  And the Ultimate Direction hydration vest with 2 bottles.

Nutrition.  I have been using Tailwind for quite sometime now, both on my runs and bike rides.  2 scoops of Tailwind per bottle, which is about 200cal.  However, on long runs and rides, I get hungry with just this.  So I added a scoop of CarboPro per bottle, making it about 300cal per bottle.  I have tested this mixture and it seemed to work.  Today, I have 2 bottles with Tailwind+CarboPro mix, plus 3/bottle pre-measured mix in Lansinoh Breastmilk storage bags.  Jumping to the post-event experience, this worked.  I only took small bites of potatoes and pbj sandwiches plus water at the aid stations.  No gels, no chews, no salt pills.  Finished the event with no upset stomach, no bloating, no cramps.

The Event – Actual.  At 7am, the 50K race started.  I was at the back of the pack, the last wave, with some friends.  This is a typical scenario for us in almost all events we do – starting at the back of the pack.  It’s a more relaxed position to start the race.  Your chip time is not going to change anyway whether you start first or you start last.  With a more aggressive goal this time, however, I started to pick up the pace early, weaving between runners, until the string of runners ahead became thin.  The course, true to its ranking on the TNF ECS website, is very technical.  I’ll try to breakdown the course from what and how I remember it.

tnf ecs bm elev chart

TNF ECS BM 50K Elevation Chart

The first 4 miles leading to the 1st aid station, I’d call the ‘Introduction to Trail Running’.  Not so technical, but mostly going uphill, with some wide sections to pass runners.  I tried to pass as many runners as I could to avoid the crowd in the single track and technical sections up ahead.  Btw, this is the Anthony Wayne aid station, the same aid station @ Mile 21 for the 50K, and @ Mile 41 for the 50M runners.  This is also the parking area for the shuttle pickup in the morning.  There’s a huge crowd of supporters here – big moral boost to runners especially on the way back to the finish later.

Some single track and technical sections followed the aid station.  I don’t remember much until the aid station @ Mile 14 – Arden Valley AS #3.  But I do know that we started to hit some hiking sections of the course, some ankle-twisting descents, and more technical ascents.  It was also a steep climb on road surface to the Mile 14 aid station.  Saw some friends doing volunteer work in this aid station.  The aid station was followed by a big dip downhill on road surface, where I blurted out loud ‘Woohoo, 16 miles of downhill‘, which got some laughter from fellow runners.  The reality was, this downhill dip was immediately followed by the opposite dip uphill, then a turn back to the woods and technical trail.  We got a breather on mile 16 with a nice trail downhill for what seemed like I was finally running the course.  And as I passed a runner I was with on that Mile 14 downhill, I said ‘So it’s not 16 miles of downhill.  It’s Mile 16 IS downhill‘.  He laughed.  I did not get his bib number, but he was one of the runners that kept yoyo-ing with me.  I would pass him, and he would pass me – again and again.  He looked like a badass trail runner, with lean body, long hair, and rugged beard.

Just a little over 4hrs of running, I was back at the Anthony Wayne aid station – AS #5.  Last year, I got a false impression when I reached this aid station, thinking that the last 10 miles would be a smooth way back to the finish.  Just 10 miles back to the finish, I remember saying then.  This time, I knew better.  The next aid station was at Mile 25+, which was mostly going back up the forest trail.  This, however, was not the course killer.  At the Mile 25 aid station – Queensboro AS #6, the volunteers would give you the most encouraging words, ‘Just 5+ miles to go‘ and the most discouraging words at the same time, ‘Steep and rocky section up ahead‘.  There was another aid station just about 2+ miles away.  From that, someone would sense that something gnarly is up ahead.  Why would there be an aid station 2+ miles apart so close to the finish?  And then, there it was – the ‘Crawl If You Must’ ascent-to-Mt-Doom, followed by the ‘Ouch, Ouch, Ouch’ rocky descent-back-to-sanity.  I brought my smartphone with me and stashed in my hydration vest’s back compartment, hoping to capture one picture to best describe the course.  While walking on this steep climb, I said ‘This is it’.  I took the phone out to snap a picture of the steep climb, only to find out the phone WAS DEAD!  Darn!  That would have been an interesting FB Cover Page!

There was a sigh of relief upon reaching the last aid station at Mile 28 – 1777 AS #7, with only 2.8 miles to go, according to the volunteers.  I was hiking up and jogging down the remaining miles.  The mantra I had all this time was asking myself and responding in return – ‘All Systems Go’.  At this point, the response was ‘All Systems Go – legs are tired, but functional’.  This section was also the section I saw the Marathon and Marathon-Relay runners, as they passed me like I was just standing still.  And I asked another question – How could they run that fast?

Finally, I heard the festivities at the finish.  I was almost home.  I never felt more alive when I saw the Finish Line arch.  One final kick and I was done.  TNF ECS BM 50K done.  Thank You.

Results.  Last Year = 6:56:29.  This Year = 6:15:06.  Goal achieved.

Post-Event.  The atmosphere at the finish was a big picnic.  Runners, volunteers, supporters, friends were all having a blast.  There were lots of picnic tables and wide grassy area to hang out and rest.  Free beers for the runners, of course.  I stayed and hang out with friends after I finished.  Saw those who finished before me, grabbed our free beers, and waited.  Finally, happy to see the others who crossed the line after me.  And at the end of the day, I was already planning to come back next year.  TNF ECS BM 50M, you say?


Drymax Trail Maximum Protection

drymax trail max protection

I have never written a review on the products I use, but I believe this one deserves it.  This is for the Drymax Trail – Maximum Protection socks.  It’s $29.70 – the MOST EXPENSIVE pair of socks I have bought to date.  I bought these socks based on the reviews, and the people who have been using them.  Heck, if these socks survive the toughest ultras out there, they must really be good.  My feet are prone to hotspots and blisters no matter what socks I put on.  So days before my trip to VA for the TNF ECS, Washington DC, I bought a pair from

Feel.  These are thick, not soft, with very little stretch.  A little harder to put on compared to the others socks I’ve owned, but not an issue.  Fit is tight but not compressing.

Actual Test – The North Face Endurance Challenge, Washington, DC – 50K.  The course was wet and muddy, with stream crossings.  And did I say MUDDY?  On the get go, my shoes and socks were already wet.  The socks are not waterproof (and there is no claim that they are).  My feet felt wet, but surprisingly not uncomfortable and squishy.  The tight fit has not changed.  No ‘play’ or rubbing from any part of the feet.  As I kept going, the socks started to feel just damp, not wet, without any change in the fit.  And when we got to the dry section of the course, the socks felt dry.  And after going through mud after mud, puddle after puddle, and stream crossings, the socks felt dry and comfortable. And I am not exaggerating.

After the event, no hotspots, no blisters on both feet.  My legs were tired, but my feet were fresh.  This is why I wrote this review.

$29.70 for a pair of socks?  Yup.  Although I wish they’d come cheaper…

TNF Endurance Challenge – Washington, DC


April 9, 2016.

Mudfest. A one-word epilogue of this book called The North Face Endurance Challenge, Washington DC, 2016 Edition.

It’s April. But the weather, days prior and up to the day of the event, was closer to winter than it was to spring. I was unsure what gear to wear on the event so I packed a backup, and a backup of the backup, to handle the wet, windy, low temps condition looming on the forecast.

The grand plan was to do the event, stay an extra night somewhere on the way home, get some beers and crabs, and enjoy the experience. And yes, I was more excited with the crabs and beers than with the event itself.

Friday. Left NJ after lunch and drove to VA, stopping by the North Face store at Tysons Corner Center to pick up my bib. Friday night’s accommodation was at Candlewood Suites at Herndon, VA. Stopped by a local supermarket hoping to find some hand warmers with no success. BUT, they have beers. Bought a pack, and some noodle soup to-go from a Vietnamese restaurant next to the supermarket. Dinner – checked! Beers – checked!

Forecast for Saturday was not very promising – rain/cold/strong winds/dropping temps. Prepared my gear, the backup gear, some changing clothes, and stuffed everything in my gear bag. Ate my dinner, plus a bottle of beer, and went to bed. Sleep did not come easy, however, as the guest on the floor above me kept banging the floor until the wee hours. Either there was a Zumba session or a UFC take down happening above.

Saturday. Drove to the event pick up area and took the shuttle to the staging area. The whole area was wet, with rain still pouring in. Had my ever-reliable Costco rain jacket over a warm running jersey + windproof shell.

The Event. The rain subsided just about when the 50k started at 7am. It was wet and muddy from the start. Not even a mile on the course yet, my shoes and socks were already soaking wet. Thanks to my new pair of $30 Drymax socks, my feet were not complaining (more on this later). Took off my rain jacket after about 4 miles on the course. The course itself was not that technically challenging, with stream crossings, and the usual ascents and descents typical on a trail course. But it was so MUDDY difficult! We were all slippin’ and slidin’ because of the mud. This was an out-and-back course, with the first (and last) 10 miles going through the forest and secluded flood plain (secluded flood plain – exact words from the event description). It was a total and non-stop mudfest going out. We got a little break from this muddy condition upon reaching the Great Falls aid station at mile 13. This would also start the scenic section of the course, with views of the Potomac River, the Great Falls, and beautiful gorges. Didn’t get the chance to snap pictures of the scenic views, although some runners literally stopped to enjoy the views and took pictures. At mile 19, we were back at the Great Falls aid station, and on our way back to the start/finish area. The last 10 miles would be the same first 10 miles, only a lot worse. The trail condition has really deteriorated, that it felt like having weights on the shoes because of the sticky mud. The last 8 miles I just walked the trail, going through mud after mud after mud. Have I said MUD a lot already? I even told myself to take some pictures of the shoes after to show what mud-coated shoes looked like. This would not happen anyway. On the last stream crossing before the final mile to the finish, I ran and soaked my feet on the flowing stream. The cold and clean water felt soooo good and refreshing. And if my shoes could talk, they would have totally agreed. So no pictures of the mud-coated shoes.

I crossed the finish line after 6:46 on my garmin (official time was 6:41). I was totally exhausted that I couldn’t do the customary finish-line-jump. It took me 2+ hrs to do the last 8 miles. I was under 4hrs on mile 21 and feeling great. No excuses – the sticky mud beat me.

The sun never showed up. The temp was dropping. Took my gear bag and changed clothes. Even with fresh warm clothes, it felt cold. Quickly ate my post event food, and decided to leave. The line was long for the shuttle back to the pick up area. Not many runners stayed for the post race festivities because of the weather condition.

Stopped at Five Guys for a good burger before driving to Springhill Suites in Maryland for my Saturday accommodation. It was already late, no steamed crabs, but the beers would do just fine.

Another reason for staying somewhere in Maryland was to explore a trail in Havre de Grace area on Sunday. This was part of the weekend plan. Next stop – Susquehanna Trail.