Tag Archives: ultramarathon

NYRR NYC 60K Race Recap

by PaFoua Hang
Nov 18, 2017

On November 18, 2017, PPTC ultrarunners toed the NYRR NYC 60K Ultra-Marathon in Central Park. There were 11 registered PPTC finishers. PPTC won the team award with its top five men finishers, followed by Front Runners in second place, and the Dashing Whippets in third place. Etan Levavi came in fourth overall for his ultra debut. Other outstanding ultra debuts include Ben Collier in eight overall and Andrei Fluerasu in 20th for men overall. For women overall, PaFoua Hang came in 18th. Captain Adam Devine came in 25th overall and was able to knock off a hefty PR margin. Both Etan and Frank Deleo came in second for each of their respective age groups.

The following pages are race recaps from the runners in alphabetical order by first name. Recaps not captured: Kamen Yotov and Manuel Quintanilla.

(L-R: Shan Haq, Brian Schwartz, Manuel Quintanilla, PaFoua Hang, Adam Devine, Kamen Yotov, Sam Smullen, and Andrei Fluerasu. Not pictured: Etan Levavi, Ben Collier, Frank Deleo, and Eric Levenstein. PC: Sara Devine)

Adam Devine

(PC: Jose Baizan)

This is by far my favorite race of the year, because it always feels like more of a team effort than any race, save for maybe the team champs. A bunch of us made it a little more of a to-do this year, and it really paid off. I started with Andrei, and he and I ran the first 18 miles or so together, then he sped up and I slowed a bit. The group run cheer squad met us for a bit and provided some much-needed support, and Rosalba was ON POINT with Sherpa duties. She ran with me right when things started getting rough and helped keep me going when I needed it (and I didn’t realize until after that she ran more than 33 miles in support of us!). I passed several teammates along the way on the course and on the sidelines, and the constant flow of “team” made the whole thing feel like more of a group effort. After finishing I rang my cowbell until my body started to shut down, and then headed home. I feel bad I didn’t stay until the whole team was finished, but I was so proud of everyone, especially the first-timers. I can’t wait to do it again next year. Go, Team!

Andrei Fluerasu

(PC NYRR)

I started running with Adam Devine (see photo) somewhere just below 8min/mi (5 min/km) with the occasional faster mile when we were pushed faster by the overall excitement. Around mile 12, we were joined by the most amazing support crew one can imagine who had run there all the way from Brooklyn – Thanks, Noah, Jana, Matteo, Sarah R, Adam I, Crystal, Anh-Tuan, Rosalba (and I hope I didn’t forget others). It was fun trying to organize a triangular-shaped pace group like in the sub-2 attempt. It definitely made us feel good and miles passed faster. Kept my pace for the first 5 loops (21 miles) but with the 6th loop, after a quick refueling stop, the unavoidable started to happen. With the low mileage a mange to put in this cycle and probably not really fully recovered after the NYC marathon, I started to feel increasingly stiff (same darn glutes) and to slow-down. My goal on the last two laps was simple: just keep running and don’t care about the pace. In the meantime, Rosalba was doing her own crazy run. She ran many loops in opposite direction and then joined many of our PPTC teammates for small sections. I was myself joined by Scott for a mile or so at some point. The last 10k was just a struggle for survival. I knew that if I keep running, I’ll finish in under 5:30, perhaps even 5:20, which was a good goal. Rosalba joined me for those last 6 mi and together we forgot a bit about the suffering. She was approaching the 50km mark herself which makes her a clear winner in the spectator-cheerleader-runners category 🙂

My final time was approximately 5:19:30.

All in all, this was a long, interesting day. The suffering was non-negligible but the overall joy shadows it and only a few hours after the race I’m thinking already that I should do what I need to do to keep the 8 min pace for the whole darn race next year 🙂 Thanks again to all the PPTC teammates, and cheering groups and, of course, a big thank you to all the volunteers.

Ben Collier

(PC Dave Leslie)

Thoughts were that it was such a fun race. I like that it was small, there was great sense of camaraderie and there was a huge PPTC showing. I’d forgotten how hard it was to run the longer distances. My legs were dead for the last 10 miles. NYCM really took its toll. Also, could not have finished without PPTC support.  Scott Edgerton ran the whole of the last lap, I think he really sensed I was fading and took it upon himself to drag me home. He’d probably run some miles himself at that point so even more grateful.

What a club!

Brian Schwartz

(PC Carmen Cramer)

I can’t believe I just completed my first ultra! This was not something that was even on my radar until hearing PPTC members (such as, ahem, Adam) talk about how “fun” they were. So I decided I wanted to give it a try! As far as training goes, I really want to thank the MTG group, Coach Tony/Charlene Speed Training sessions and everyone in PPTC for the support along the way!

And then on to the race: it was really amazing to see such a big group of fellow PPTC runners when I got there. To know that so many teammates were gonna be out in the course with me helped to calm my nerves! The team support was also critical to my finishing as I learned a lot in real time from PaFoua – who I got to run with for the first half. She helped me keep going even through a stomach bug, which I had gotten earlier in the week and plagued me the first couple loops, she helped me figure out my nutrition and she helped to take my mind off what was coming up by chatting about other races we have run. (Thanks!)Toward the end of the run I surprised myself by keeping at it-even when running became more of a shuffle. (Especially on the hills!) Before the 60k, I wondered what it would be like to run cat hill on that ninth loop and though it’s a blur to me now, I remember one thing: it was PAINFUL but not IMPOSSIBLE.

I have to thank all the PPTC-ers who came to cheer and, of course, my wife, Carmen who I thought was crazier than me to stand out in the cold for 6+ hours as my crew!

Eric Levenstein

(PC Dave Leslie)

I never thought that I’d run this race! About a month before the NYC Marathon, after a long training run, I was speaking with a friend about how I think anyone can complete a marathon with proper training. My friend adamantly disagreed, and as an example asked me if I could ever run an Ultramarathon… “NO! I can NEVER run an Ultra!” But, a few minutes later, I thought, “Why not?” I spoke with Adam Devine the next day to get his thoughts, and he was very encouraging (is anyone surprised?) so I signed up right after our conversation.

A few days before the race, I went to an NYRR RUNtalk about Ultras where I met a guy that Adam works with (Christopher), and we chatted for a few minutes and wished each other a good race. A few days later, the race started off great! Lots of encouragement from volunteers and obviously from PPTC members, I brought tons of food which I quickly realized was pointless since it was SO well-supported by NYRR, and Sara Devine and Andy Wong were kind enough to run the 2nd loop with me, offering great conversation and encouragement. They made the 2nd loop so joyous and easy that the 3rd loop really dragged on in comparison! At the end of #3 (approximately a half marathon), I was honestly beginning to get a bit dreary at the thought of so many more repeating loops since I was getting tired, when suddenly I noticed Christopher. We spoke about our expected pace, and decided to run together a little bit.

We had a fine loop #4, getting to know each other better since we were still effectively strangers. We also ran with Melissa Lee, who was kind enough to tell me in advance that she might come out, and I was overjoyed that she made it and offered company/encouragement, which really helped loop #5 pass by effortlessly! Christopher and I then kept going together while the conversation kept flowing. We spoke about work, the PPTC, phones, politics, candy, and plenty of other random things, because we had plenty of time since we wound up finishing six loops (24 miles) together after previously having spoken for only a few minutes!!! It was so much easier to bear through with company during nearly the whole race!

There was plenty of walking, stopping to eat, and hugs from the incredible PPTC cheer sections (thank you, Heather, Katie, Robert, Joelle, Nick, Dave, and anyone else I missed). Everyone was super encouraging, the PPTC members who lapped me made sure to be congratulatory and uplifting, and the rest stops were basically delicious snack buffets. At the end of the day (I finished after the sun went down) I proved myself wrong by finishing, got to know a stranger really well, got to know some incredible PPTC members better, and found another race which I can’t imagine missing next year! If you’re like me and never thought that you’d be able to run this, then I hope to see you there next year when you prove yourself wrong.

And, seriously, thank you SO MUCH Adam, Sara, Andy, and Melissa!!!

Etan Levavi

(PC: Robert DeMasco)

One thing I love about running is that, in terms of performance measures, it is a simple function of time and distance. My goal going into the race was to finish in under 5 hours, which would require about an 8:00/mi average pace. But above all, I wanted to go by feel and was willing to take a chance with this race. As with distance cycling, I love ultra running for the fact that it gives the runner an excuse to run for extended durations of time and be enveloped in the cheers and support of friends and spectators.

Thanks to peer pressure and the intrigue of increasing my distance PR, I found myself registered for the 60K. I have only run for more than 3 hours duration a handful of times. Just a few weeks ago I ran 50K on a treadmill at the NYC Marathon Expo, in 5 hours. It went really well and was the confidence boost that opened me up to the idea of running the 60K at a race effort. My thought was that I have already run for 5 hours – now I just have to do it at a harder effort.

Yes, there is pain – both during the race and much in the 8-10 hours following the race. It’s subsiding rapidly, thanks to compression pants, gentle stretching, sleep, and water. But as masochistic as 9 CP loops may seem, it is not the pain that is the draw, but the elation. Throttling up CP’s hills, and the freedom of rolling down the other side, seeing friends on the course and cheering, seeing the Achilles athletes out there. The high point of the race for me came on the third-to-final loop. About a quarter of a mile past the aid station, I became overwhelmed by emotion. That moment was everything running is to me. I could barely breathe, as I was on the brink of breaking down and bawling my eyes out. For this single experience, it was all worth it. But of course, there was so much more. Knowing that my friends running were putting in the same work that I was, and knowing that my friends who came out to support us were never more than a few miles away.

After the race, it took a few days for NYRR to post the race results. I was proud to see that I placed 4th overall with a time of 4:38:48, average pace 7:29/mi. Congrats to everyone who did the work and put in the miles! This is the best team!

Frank Deleo

(PC: Jose Baizan)

First of all, big thanks to PaFoua for being the primary mover in creating this group. Hey, is it me, or did the PPTC presence at this venerable event reach a tipping point this year? (According to the initial NYRR results, we were the only team that had double-digit participants! Can that be right? Yes!!!) I was both gratified and tickled to see all the club folks who either ran the race or provided some incredible support along the course, up to and including pizza and free hugs. Not to mention the flood of photos pouring in afterward! I’m sure we’ll see many of those who cheered us on from the sidelines wearing race numbers next year.

It was good to see Broadway Ultra Society’s Richie Innamorato still helping out at this race. He founded this race in 1978, collaborating with Fred Lebow and the NYRR, and also gave it the name that many of us old-timers know it as the Knickerbocker 60K (or simply “the Knick”). Fred was secretly a big booster (and occasional participant) of ultras, in spite of the fact that they didn’t bring in a lot of revenue, what with fewer participants back then. Central Park was also a lot less congested, and in its early years the race (then held in March) was six full loops of the park in a clockwise direction, finishing near the Dakota along the West 72nd St exit.

Much of my ultra history has been running these road courses on repeating loops. Unlike point-to-point runs and trail races, the limited scenery might make it harder to stay motivated, but I think there are definite advantages. The camaraderie is great. You pass through “race central” and gatherings of the “ultra-curious” on a regular basis. You get inspired (or discouraged, if you’re one of those glass-half-empty types) by the faster runners lapping you, and you, in turn, can get a chance to encourage the runners you happen to pass.

And I gotta say NYRR provided a great spread this year, with bagels, potatoes, a variety of sweet and salty snacks, and lots of fluids both hot and cold. Thank you, volunteers!

Finally, thanks to whichever geoengineers are responsible for keeping the rain at bay for the better part of the race, even for the slower runners. My preferred ultra conditions skew toward summer days, but I guess that’s just me.

PaFoua Hang

(PC: Sara Devine)

This was my fourth time fun-running the NYC 60K. I was thrilled to see a strong PPTC turn-out this year. Andy Wong graciously offered to drive a few of us to the start line so I felt refreshed and calm when I got to Central Park. Shan Haq warmed up with me and we ran the first mile or so together. Then I started running with Brian Schwartz and Christy, and soon we were joined by Anh-Tuan Tran who ran with us for two loops. By the end of the fourth loop, I found myself alone and at the mercy of the noise in my head. On the sixth loop, I started fading and was relieved when Scott Edgerton joined me for a loop. We saw Joe Lyons and Bobbie DeMasco cheering around mile 25 and it was rejuvenating to see them after fighting against the rolling hills. Captain Adam Devine passed us shortly afterward and it was inspiring to see his energy—he was heading towards a big PR and I was really excited for him.

I ran the last three loops alone. Etan Levavi passed me during the seventh loop and gave me encouraging words as he continued on like a fresh gazelle galloping into the horizon of the rolling sister hills. I pushed onward against the angry hills and was greeted again by the most enthusiastic cheering squad of Joe and Bobbie. I continued to see both of them during another painful lap. On the ninth lap, most spectators have left because it started drizzling, but I was overcome with pressure and guilt that Joe and Bobbie might still be out on the course cheering. As much as I would rather have walked, I felt compelled to at least jog my way towards them JUST IN CASE they were still there and I was selfishly keeping them out longer in the cold just to wait for my hobby jogger’s victory lap. During mile 36, from 100 meters away, I can hear Joe screaming my name and cheering alone. It was incredibly uplifting.

I ran this ultra on a dangerously low mileage training cycle thanks to having fallen out of love with running after getting piriformis syndrome during the NJM training cycle. With the poor mileage, I ran NYCM as a fun touristy run and I also toed the 60K with the same nonchalant mindset. Thanks to everyone who came out to run, cheer, and offer moral support, I unexpectedly PR’d by 15 minutes during this fun run and came in 18 for overall women (WHAT?). Thank you, PPTC! Thank you, Sara Devine, for your encouragement at the end of EVERY LOOP. And Joe – this PR was really because of you since I would have gladly strolled the last loop if I didn’t expect you to still be out there. 🙂

Sam Smullen

(PC: Dave Leslie)

My first 60K felt like my very first marathon, except that for my first marathon the longest run I did was 10K. For the 60K, I ran 7 marathons and after a couple of those marathons, I felt good enough to run another half marathon. However, for the 60K I didn’t have a strategy like I did for my first marathon. My strategy for my first marathon was to do four 10K loops plus 1.4 miles. With each 10K, I reset my mind by saying to myself, “Groundhog Day”.

I was ill-prepared for the 60K and made frequent pit stops, which could have been avoided if I took the 60K seriously. I was toast after mile 30 but kept going because I have never DNF (“did not finish”) in any of the races that I’ve run before. I’ll do the 60K again, but with a strategy next time and be better prepared both mentally and physically.

S.U.H.

(PC: Jose Baizan)

Let me tell you about two pizza deliveries that really meant something to me. The first and most remarkable one was in the mid-80s, Pakistan. I was maybe six, hated my grandma’s cooking, and the food didn’t stick to my ribs the same as it did back home.

Dad was coming to visit a week later to join mom, my sister, and me. I still remember the phone call with him, “Anything you want from America that you miss from home?”

“Dad, I want a pizza.”

A week later my father arrives in Islamabad, opened the suitcase and pulled out a pizza box. For a hungry kid who hated the food in Pakistan pooping his guts out every day, I can’t tell you how grateful I was to get that box of pizza.

Well, the second such instance of pizza delivery gratitude happened to me five hours into the race last Saturday, in Central Park NY. One of my favorite running buddies was waiting for me before the final loop of Central Park. She had a box of freshly made, piping hot pizza.

Special thanks to Sarah working the aid station for looking me in the eyes and firmly encouraging me to keep running.

Lastly, thanks for the pizza delivery, Jana.

Dirty German Endurance Fest Race Report from Captain Adam

Sara, Jana, Shan, & Adam

by Adam Devine

Race: Dirty German Endurance Fest

When: May 13, 2017

Where: Pennypack Park, Philadelphia, PA

So this may be a long recap, but it was also a long race, so bear with me.

I did the North Face Endurance Challenge at Bear Mountain last year, but wanted something not quite so challenging course-wise this year, so at the suggestion of Jana and Shan, I signed up for the Dirty German Endurance Fest 50 mile race. It is in Pennypack Park in Philadelphia, and has a lot fewer climbs and rocky bits, so I thought it would be a slightly saner endeavor. I was wrong.

In the 10 days or so before the race, the forecast went from mostly sunny with highs in the mid 60’s to downpour and low 50’s. Sara and I went down to Wilmington, DE and were graciously hosted by Shan and his parents. We went shopping the day before to stock up on supplies and then relaxed and watched the Avengers with Shan’s dad (a definite highlight of the trip).

We got up at 4:15 am, packed up the car, and headed out after only one small freak out where I couldn’t find my wallet. The rain had started in earnest, but I kept hoping that I was perceiving it letting up a little, even as Shan kept changing the wipers to higher and higher settings. We drove up to Philadelphia with minimal fuss and used the flush toilets at a Wawa near the park as a luxury, where we ran into our first fellow participants.

Once we got to the start area we ran into Jana and Anh-Tuan, but only had a little time to get our bibs, set our drop bags, and take a second to appreciate how miserable the conditions were. I was running in my normal shorts and singlet with a handheld water bottle, and as I scanned my fellow runners with their Camelbaks, ponchos, packs and hats and gloves and compression socks, I commented that I felt underdressed. “That’s because you are!” chuckled a gentleman with 15 lbs of extra gear. I usually feel very intimidated at the start of a race, like everyone else is going to fly by me, but for the first time ever I had a sense that I belonged among those other runners, that I had trained as well as possible and fit in, even if I wasn’t wearing as much as they were.

“That’s because you are!” chuckled a gentleman with 15 lbs of extra gear. I usually feel very intimidated at the start of a race, like everyone else is going to fly by me, but for the first time ever I had a sense that I belonged among those other runners — that I had trained as well as possible and fit in, even if I wasn’t wearing as much as they were.

Before I knew it, they were shuffling Shan and me into the herd, and we were off for the first of three 16.5 mile loops in the park. We fell in toward the back of the pack, and just sort of settled into a rhythm. The conditions weren’t too terrible, some puddles and mud, but nothing too bad. I was happy to have serious trail shoes with what amounted to cleat treads on the bottom. Shan was obviously struggling to keep his footing in his AB2s, but we slowly moved up through the pack.

We almost went off course at one point, but were hollered at by two women and realized our mistake. I think Shan and I decided it was best to stick with them for a little longer and let them lead the way, content to be safe in a pack. We stayed there for most of the first loop until speeding up a bit towards the end. The course was really well marked, the aid stations were evenly spaced and well stocked, and the volunteers were all super cheerful and helpful. I can’t say enough about how well this event was organized and executed in really terrible conditions.

At the start of the second loop I quickly noticed two things:  1) we were probably a little quick on our first loop and 2) an extra 2.5 hours of rain and a couple hundred runners worth of footfalls hadn’t done the course any favors. What used to be small puddles were now like the world’s worst kiddie pools, and they rerouted us across a condemned bridge instead of one of the stream crossings because it was safer.

The extra mud was playing havoc with my footing, and I was really feeling for Shan, but was also approaching what I consider to be the hardest part of a 50-mile race — miles 20-30. That is where my survival instinct kicks in and my brain starts telling me it is better to stop. Along a particularly muddy section, Shan dropped back and I had to make the conscious decision to stay on pace because if I slowed I didn’t know if I would be able to finish.

I figured I was in the top 20 or so, and was just focused on keeping moving as fast as I could. The lead woman passed me, and we chatted a bit, mainly my letting her regale me with tales of her 100-mile races as I panted and tried to keep up. I was happy for the company, but she soon left me behind.

At this point, I was running by myself, but I was not alone. I had read that positive self-talk helps other runners, so I started talking to myself, telling myself that I could do this, that I had trained hard, that I had been through worse. I also started thinking of all the people that I had the opportunity to train with over the last few months, even if we only shared a few miles, and I began to thank them out loud for helping me along this journey. Knowing that I had a whole team with me helped immensely.

My second lap was about 20 minutes slower than the first, but I still had a slight hope of averaging a 10 min mile by doing the last loop in three hours flat. This turned out to be a false hope. I have never run a Tough Mudder, but that is the only thing that came to mind while traversing the last 16 miles. It was nothing but puddles, mud, and slogging, accompanied by the squelching of my shoes and my increasingly labored breathing.

Fatigue had set in, but I knew I was doing well overall. I had seen the lead woman drop out after taking a tumble, and was passed by Chris Scarpetti, a very accomplished ultra runner, with about 12 miles to go. I was feeling alternately bone weary and giddy, finding myself laughing at the absurdity of what we were doing. The last few miles ticked away, and my goals kept getting pushed back, but I had no doubts about finishing now; it was merely a question of how much more suffering was in store. I consciously didn’t press the pace too much, knowing I wanted to cross the finish line strong and not sobbing. I also made sure to thank all of the volunteers on the last lap, knowing that they were the real rock stars on that day, standing in the cold for hours on end just so a bunch of crazy runners could gallivant through the woods.

As I headed out of the woods for the last time I started going at a pace that could be considered “running” and saw Shan scrambling out of his car to join me. He was shoeless and chasing me like a crazed animal, shouting what I thought was an encouragement. Sara and Jana were there at the finish cheering too, and I ran through the finish arch just relieved it was over.

At that point, I saw a volunteer approach me and say, “Third overall!” while attempting to hand me a jug, a hat, and a box. I was slightly confused, as I had no idea I was in third, and had never even considered the possibility of a podium finish. The box contained a little cuckoo clock that says “3rd Place Dirty German,” a really cool and unique award. I wanted to hug and high five everyone and tell them I loved them, so I did. We took a bunch of pictures and ate some AMAZING bratwurst and sauerkraut.

Within minutes of finishing my body started to revolt: shivering, cramping, and pain, oh so much pain. Hips, feet, and ankles were especially bad, but it was just general pain. We piled into Shan’s mom’s car, trying our best not to destroy its interior too thoroughly, and headed to a post race feast of Five Guys and frozen yogurt, which tasted amazing after months of low carb training. More hugs and high fives were exchanged, and Shan and Jana dropped us off at the train station to head home.

Forty hours or so later I feel moderately human again. I managed four miles at a decent pace this morning, and I don’t seem to have done any lasting damage. I continue to be amazed at what I am capable of, but also know that I am only capable of doing this with the love and support of those around me. If you are reading this, I am truly grateful to have you as a teammate and in my life. You all continually inspire me to become the best possible version of myself. Special thanks to Jana and Sara for sticking around in the cold rain at the finish after kicking butt in their own races and to Shan for joining me on this crazy journey and providing accommodations, chauffeuring, coaching, and inspiration. Finally, thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Haq for allowing us to stay in their home and for letting us trash their car. I hope the smell comes out soon.

Race Report: Manitou’s Revenge

By Matthew Imberman

Race: Manitou’s Revenge

Where: Catskills, New York

When: June 17, 2017

This is the description from the Race Director:
“THIS IS NOT LIKE ANY OTHER ULTRA YOU’VE RUN BEFORE!
This is a grueling, gnarly, nasty course with approximately 15,000 ft. of climbing, much of it rocky and precipitous.  To be sure, there are some runnable sections, but you will more often find yourself hiking uphill or down, sometimes hand over hand.  Expect this course to take you much longer than your average 50 miler. That’s why we are allowing 24 hrs. to complete this monster. Because of its remote and difficult nature, there will of necessity be a limited number of aid stations, 8 or 9, and runners should be prepared to spend up to 3 or 4 hrs between aid stations. You will have to be reasonably self-sufficient. To make matters worse, the course gets progressively more difficult as you go along! And to top it all off, the average runner will have to tackle this hardest terrain in the dark.”
Back story: I don’t know exactly why I ended up choosing Manitou’s as my goal race for spring/summer ultra season, but whatever it was, I’m thankful for it. There are race formats (5k, 10k, 26.2, etc.) that create and sustain meaningful product and process goals: breaking three hours in the marathon, or going sub 24 hours in a 100 miler, I imagine. Then there are races that because of their historical importance, the challenging nature of their terrain, their location the weather, or a combination thereof–become a life’s work, with rewards that come not just from achieving a specific time, but from starting and (hopefully) finishing the journey. Manitou’s Revenge is one of these races.
This was my second time running and finishing the course. I ran it in 2015 in just over 18 hours, recovering from a hip flexor injury, and on the edge of being overtrained from a long marathon to ultra season, with lots of work pressure to boot. I don’t add this in to apologize for my less-than-stellar result: 1) just finishing Manitou’s within cutoffs is something to be proud of and 2) Everyone who trains for this race a little or a lot probably has their own “niggle” that they could use to handicap themselves. It’s more to remind myself that you can’t expect results that you don’t plan for. This time around I had fewer miles on my legs, and fewer days out on the trail; however, I had a clearer idea of the course, I had arguably trained more specifically and somewhat more intelligent given how I had to be creative with my training to make it fit around family and work. I thought if I had the best day ever, the weather was great, and everything went perfectly I could finish ~16 hours. Given that the weather was far less from perfect I’m thrilled with my results; however, there are some things I could have done in-race to scrape away at least 30 mins, but I’ll get to that. Anyways…
Training for Manitou’s was extremely non-linear, which is to be expected given the whole circus of two kids and two jobs. Throw in planning a move that happened two days after the race and it gives an idea of the creativity with which I’ve had to approach training: running mostly to and/or from work, long runs on a Sunday night, taking off a few Fridays to get some trail time in. This sport is a labor of love, so none of this seems like a sacrifice to me. This season I relished every run I got, and constantly felt appreciative of being able to get a run in, and, at times, anxious that I wasn’t getting enough mileage in.
Plans for the race only jelled in the final week. I was hoping to stay closer to the start and sleeping in until at least 4 am for the 5 am start; however, a lot of that hinged on my friend, Brennan’s plan, as he was trying to decide between pacing me for the last half of the race, or running the full length himself. He decided to run the race and with everything going on I had neglected to line up any alternative crew to help with logistics for the point-to-point format of the course, so I decided to make peace with staying close to the finish and waking up at 2:15, so we could get to the buses that left at 3:30 to transport us to the start.
Brennan and I left the city midday on Friday and got up to Phoenicia at around 2, had some lunch, and went to our motel in Big Indian to get our start kit, drop bags, and finish bags ready. I had packed a week out from the race because I knew there would be too much going on week off to not be a total spaz. I had some PB&J on the way up so I wasn’t really hungry for lunch. We got settled at the Starlite Motel in Big Indian, which was actually pretty awesome, and headed into Phoenicia to pick up our packets. We had dinner at Brio’s (chicken fajitas, latkes, and beers) and the headed back to finalize our bags for the big day.
Weather for race day was all over the place: 70 and sunny to 85 and thunderstorms. After 3+ rainy hours my first year, I decided to play it safe and plan for rain which never arrived but would have been most welcome. The entire day was incredibly humid and I kept wishing for rain. It had been insanely hot earlier in the week, and then rainy followed by humidity, which meant the very rocky course was made even slicker. And then the mud. But I digress.
Here’s what I ended up using or packing for the race:
Breakfast
Peanut Butter on wheat bread
2 scoops of Ucan in 10 oz of water, 1 hour before start
Start kit:
Salomon Half-zip t-shirt
Salomon Exo short tight
Salomon S-Lab Advanced Skin3 5 Set Pack (2015 model)
Naked Running band waist pack
Raidlight 600ml soft-flasks with straws x2, filled with water
Hydrapak 24 oz. soft flask, empty
Scott Kinablu SuperTrac shoes
Injinji trail mini-crew socks (changed at Platte Clove—too thick)
Half buff
Black Diamond Ultra Distance Z-Poles
8 gels
2 bag of pro-bar chews (1 with caffeine)
1 bag of honey stinger grapefruit chews
Black Diamond Storm headlight (2017 version) plus 4 extra AAA batteries
2Toms anti-chafe stick (applied, not carried)
Med kit: SCaps x 7, Pepto x 2, Tums x 5, tincture of benzene, mole skin pre-cut, safety pin, anti-septic gel, tiny lighter (in hindsight probably not needed)
iPod shuffle
Drop bag for Platte clove (31.5):
La Sportiva Helios SR shoes
Injinji Original mini-crew socks
Patagonia t-shirt
Inov-8 shorts (not used: Salomon’s were awesome)
Salomon S-Lab Advanced Skin 3 Belt Set
8 gels
3 bags of honey stinger chews (1 w/caffeine)
Black Diamond spot headlamp (not used; leant to a runner who forgot to pick up his lamp at platte clove)
Hydrapak 2L bladder
Arcteryx packable rain jacket (not used)
Finish:
Some kind of IPA from Other half courtesy of Brennan that I couldn’t finish
A bagel and cream cheese plus a bag of combos because I forgot to get food from the post-race buffet because I wanted to let Clara know I wasn’t dying somewhere along the Devil’s Path.
Race:
I was in Wave 5 which meant I had an extra 25 minutes to wait in the musty men’s room hoping, in vain, to be able to crap. As opposed to my first Manitou’s, I managed to make it a ways into the race before the lack of bathroom magic caught up with me. Like with most of my ultra-distance races above 50k, though, the lack of said bathroom magic caught up to me later in the race.
My start group was pretty somber and we trudged through the first few miles on the road in eery silence. It was a mixture of all the ultra types ones come to expect: the over-eager bro who wants to talk about all the races they’ve run and their training, the quiet mice happy to trudge along unnoticed, the grizzled vets doling out (unasked for) advice about the course, life, etc.. I was probably all of these at various points during the race, but at the start I was just trying to wake the fuck up.
We hit the left turn for the Black Dome trail and the gradual climb towards the Escarpment Trail. I felt kinda sleepy but my legs were finally waking up. During the first stretch, everything felt fine except that I felt like I was slipping and sliding all over the place. This was worrisome as I had worn my Scotts in a rainy 7+ hour day in Hudson Highlands and felt very confident. The trouble was that the rocks had developed a slippery coating thanks to the humidity during the week. I fell like 3 times in the first 20 miles, including one really splashy fall that ripped open my right forearm, leaving me dripping blood through the end of the race. I’m not ever going to be confused with Killian on the trails; however, I’m generally pretty nimble so it was disconcerting, to say the least. I was running with a really nice biologist from Vermont named Palmer, and she actually said at one point she wished she could buy me new shoes. So…yeah. This, however, is why we plan ahead. I knew I had shoes at Platte Clove that had served me well at the same point in Manitou’s in 2015 (note to self: just start in the La Sportiva Helios SR—they’re perfect for this course), so I decided to not stress and just focus on getting to through the first 50k without falling too much. It meant I was a little more hesitant than I normally would have been, but at least this was the easiest part of the course.
I felt generally fine through the Escarpment trail, which in itself is no picnic. I used my poles more than I thought I would have, and after a few times of taking them out and them stowing them in the naked band, I decided to just run with them in my hand which was the right decision. At some point around Blackhead Peak, the high point on the course, I passed Amy Hanlon who reminded me not to let her beat me (words that would play out in my head later on) and then also Brennen, who was in the wave ahead of me. He had mentioned at the start that he was going to drop at Platte Clove (~31M). Manitou’s is definitely a race where you have to be fully committed mentally, even if you’re afraid of what you’re committed to, so I wasn’t surprised to hear him say he was planning on dropping at North/South Lake). I felt for him, as I know what it’s like to DNF, and I also know first-hand how hard the course is. Given that he was flirting all season with not running the race, I think he made the right decision and I’m sure it wasn’t easy. God knows he’s run plenty of tough races and if it was time to call it quits, that was the right call.
I made it to North/South Lake mostly running with Palmer and Adam Moody, who I’d later learn was the same guy Brennan had camped out next to for Twisted Branch 100k. The descent down from Stopple was unmemorable but I felt more confident with my footing than earlier in the race. At north south I showed off my dripping arm wound for Joe Azze who was taking pictures for MPF (must have seen him like 4 times on the course) waved off medical help, ate some watermelon, stuffed my empty zip lock with potato chips, downed some Coke, and left Palmer behind, picking up a guy named Scott, also from VT, who would eventually finish 30 minutes ahead of me (I think).
I ran the long downhill to Palenville pretty well, eventually catching and passing Adam on the final descent that must be an out-of-service jeep road. It was rock-hopping at its finest, but I enjoyed it for the most part and rolled into Pallenville pretty focused: fill up the empty 24 oz. bottle for the 10M stretch without any aid, down Coke, pack zip lock with potato chips and Swedish fish as I was down to a few gels, and get moving while stuffing my face.
I headed out with two full 600ml bottles and the spare 24 oz. in the rear, plus some extra food. The road section was uneventful but I burned 5 mins spacing out and then having to consult my map about location, all for no reason as it was clearly flagged and I had followed the turns. I hit the sketchy back yard section and was either caught or caught up with Adam (probably the former) and headed uphill with my poles at the ready. I was kinda zoned out and didn’t catch the right turn past off the street onto the long path, and ended up heading up a jeep road for about 1/2 mile with Adam (sorry!) until I realized we were off course and we backtracked and headed onto the long path for the long climb up to KHP. The climb was worlds better than two years ago, when I had to grab downed limbs off the trailside to aid my shitty ascent after having snapped a trekking pole over my head on a nasty fall in the escarpment section. The poles were definitely helpful in taking some strain off my legs, and the work in the gym this season meant my upper body was ready to pick up the extra load. Still, I think a goal this summer is to practice climbing sans poles, as I think that’s going to be part of how I get better at Manitous. Back to the story…
The climb up was fine, but as we approached the flat part before KHP shoulder, that’s when the course got muddy. At some points it was shoe-sucking mud that left my kicks nicely coated in red-clay mud. At other points it was just slickly mud that made for anxious foot placement. All-in-all not exactly what you want after a long grind uphill, but thems the breaks. I forgot how pace-killing the descent down to Platte Clove is in comparison to the one to Palenville. I would hit stretches where I was running reasonably well, and then all of a sudden be tip-toeing around streams, mud, rock slabs, and other obstacles. Not as runnable as I remembered, but fun nonetheless.
I rolled into Platte Clove at ~31M with a clear idea of what I needed to do, but maybe an unrealistic idea of when I might finish. I knew from the first 10 miles of the race that I was going to switch into my La Sportivas; however, it’s never as fast to swap shoes as you think it’s going to, so from now on I’m just wearing the Helios SRs for everything. This year I’ve used them for a pretty tunable 50k and the hardest part of Manitou’s and they’ve been great. I also took the time to change shirts as my first one was totally soaked, and swapped out my naked waist band for my Salomon waist pack as with all the sweating it started to bounce around a lot. I grabbed 7 Huma gels (3 caffeine and 4 regular) and the remaining three bags of honey stinger chews, plus filled up my zip lock with potato chips, pretzels, and some m&ms. I also grabbed my bladder for the long stretch in the Devil’s Path, and uncharacteristically filled up one of my bottles with Gatorade. While I may not have been able to crap in the morning, this was one of those days where my body was happy with whatever I ate (which makes sense as I only grabbed stuff that instantly felt appealing). I also drank some pickle juice and a PB&J wrap and then headed off for the gradual climb up to to the Devil’s Path, and Indian Head.
I had been leap-frogging with a few groups of runners leading up to this section that I would see throughout the rest of the race: Adam, Tommy, Bob, and a few others whose names escape me. We fell into a loosely formed group for a decent stretch of the Devil’s Path, which definitely helped.  In looking back at my splits from 2015, I ran the first 50k only like 10-15 minutes faster this year than I did in 2015; however, I ran the Devil’s Path about 45-50 minutes faster than in 2015, and part of that is from not having to go it alone this time. It’s a humbling and amazing stretch of trail and this time around I felt much more comfortable; although, the humidity was definitely getting to me. There’s very little runnable terrain at all during this 7-mile stretch, but in retrospect, there were times I would have benefitted from running even the short stretches that permitted it, as you can save enough small moments of time to add up to a decent accumulation of minutes. In fact, that’s the story of Manitou’s: you’re not going to shave a ton of time off any one section. Improvement in this race comes from not wasting any time (in aid stations or otherwise) and from running every stretch of trail where the terrain allows for it. During the Devil’s Path you are hiking so much that you get lulled into the belief that you won’t run. It’s hard to motivate yourself to run little patches of trail knowing that after 50 feet you’re just going to have to hike up, climb up/down, or butt-scoot down a rock face again; however, that’s what I need to do.
My trekking poles were both a gift and a curse during this section: more helpful on the non-scrambling sections of climbing than I would have thought, but a bit of a nuisance on some of the downhills and downright treacherous on any of the scrambling or butt-scooting sections. In looking at the faster race finishers it seems like one thing I need to do is just spend more time on technical ascents practicing hiking and running without poles. In general, ascending has never been my strength, so I’m making this summer’s trail focus ditching the cheating sticks. But I digress…
I took one decent spill on the Devil’s Path and managed to land with a point slab of rock directly between my ass-cheeks. Honestly, I have no words. It was just an amazing bit of shitty luck. My new-found running friends thought it funny enough, and who can blame them: it’s not every day someone loses their virginity to a rock. At this point Adam had moved ahead and I was running more with Tommy and his crew. I was definitely drinking enough–maybe too much–as I seemed to need to piss every 45 minutes.
I hit Mink Hollow after like 11 and a half hours of running (about 45 mins faster than in 2015) happy to see some familiar faces, including Lisa who was killing it running the aid station. I think I saw Mendy there, and Adam’s wife Jennie. I grabbed some Swedish fish, some more Gatorade (no Coke as they didn’t have any…rats!) and some more potato chips and maybe some more pickle juice and headed for the last climb on the Devil’s Path, up Plateau. In my mind and in reading up on this stretch, it seemed like it wasn’t as bad as the previous stretch I had just completed. Somehow, that wasn’t actually the case and I suffered a little on the climb and then again on the descent, but it could also have been that at this point I felt the need to heed the call of nature, so wasn’t eating as much, and thus flagged on energy. I spent part of the climb up and a descent down Plateau running with a guy and his pacer. I can see how a pacer in this section helps, as you’ve gone through the hardest part and you’re pretty beat up, but with the right encouragement you can start to establish a decent pace again. I hung with them, staying even or behind on the climb and then leapfrogging ahead on the descents until eventually the call of nature was loud enough that I veered off trail to dig a cat hole and TCB. Maybe TMI, but squatting after 12 hours of really technical trail running isn’t exactly easy on your legs. So yeah, lost more time here, but it was much better than the alternative. I was far enough off trail so as not to be noticed, but positioned in a way where I could see who was catching up to me. Eventually I’d regain the positions and time later in the race, picking up the last one on the final 3 miles descending down Tremper.
The distance between Mink Hollow and Silver Hollow Notch is much longer than I remembered it to be. At this point I was mentally feeling a bit checked out and frustrated by my pit-stop in the woods, so I put my headphones in one ear and hunted for music on my Shuffle until Jay Z’s “Dirt of Your Shoulder” came on, and cranked it on repeat until I hit the  Silver Hollow Notch aid station at around 43 miles. It was my favorite AS in 2015 and was again this time. They had cheese wrapped in salami, fruit, and Coca Cola with ice! Deliciously cold ice. They were kind enough to not only fill up one of my bottles with Coke, but throw ice in as well. I’m definitely doing a bottle of Coke from now on. I get why Ben Nephew uses it instead of water. Who cares if my teeth will probably fall out: that shit is amazing. I even sat in the chair for a few minutes while they filled up my bottles, luxuriating in the Euro vibe and sucking down cold pop.
With a newfound appreciated for refrigeration, I headed back out into the woods, for the short ascent up Edgewood Mt. and the descent down to Warner Brook. The climb felt like nothing after the Devil’s Path, and the descent is decently runnable. I didn’t move as quickly as I think I could have during this section, but I was also pretty spent from the previous 44 miles of humid fuckery. When I finally got to Willow Brook (which was pretty well overflowing by this point) I took a moment to plunge in, renewing my sprits and waking up my dog-tired legs before the climb up Tremper. Last year I had done the climb and ascent of Tremper in driving rain and in the dark. I was happy to hit the climb mostly in daylight this time, although I again got fooled by some of the false switchbacks and took a little too much time looking for blazes. The volunteers and RD do as good a job flagging a course like this as you can (definitely a good number of confidence flags for the stretch from Silver Hollow to the finish) but it’s not a race for people who need to know they’re on the right trail every 10 feet. I’m not exactly the best navigator, but still I made it through OK, and doing this in daylight gave me a much better appreciation for this stretch of trail, and I think I’ll remember it much better or next time (and there will be a next time!) It’s another climb that feels pretty easy in comparison to everything else you’ve been through already.
I ended up getting caught by a guy named Morcin, and we agreed to run together to the Willow aid station, but I mentioned that if my legs felt good by the top of Tremper, I would push on the descent. It was getting dark by this point so I pulled out my headlamp, however, with the humidity we were now running in fog, so wearing the headlamp on my head made it almost harder to see. I decided to just carrie it in my hand, which worked reasonably well but was a bit annoying, Morcin hadn’t pulled out his headlight yet even though it was pretty dark, and I had started to regain some energy so pushed a bit on the climb up to Willow. I was surprised he still hadn’t pulled out his lamp as we neared the AS and I asked what was up and he explained that his headlamp didn’t seem to be working. I had grabbed my spare at Platte Clove in case I had a rough time on the Devil’s Path and wanted to use it in my hand or around my waste for depth perception. Willow was easy to spot with its tikka torches. I grabbed some broth and a little more coke and then took of with Morcin again. We split up for a bit as I stowed my poles and had to retie my shoe, but I caught him a bit later. I also passed Adam during this section, who I was sure was going to beat me as he was moving so constantly during the race. He’s a great guy and I hope to run with him again.
The descent down Tremper was much like I remembered it from 2015, minus the driving rain. I caught about 5-6 runners during this stretch, and it felt good to let my legs open up on the still rocky but decently runnable terrain. I felt like I was flying but was probably running like 10 minute miles. Still, after a long day I’ll take that. Even for someone who loves downhill running, I’ll say that a 3 mile descent after 50 miles feels kinda cruel. Still, I loved this part of the race as you can smell the barn at this point. I continued to push it until I hit the last aid station, grabbed my vest, said hello to the french-speaking pace I had run with during the Devil’s Path and let him know his runner was on the way. I was glad to hit the road, and passed one more runner on the way to the finish.
The approach to the finish wasn’t as surreal as the first time–in the rain, fairly delirious from never having spent that much time moving, and definitely out of calories–but it was special nonetheless. I was very happy to have shaved an hour off my previous year’s time, but also aware of how I could have made that gap even bigger. Still, I was ecstatic to have finished the race for a second time, with most of my body and pride in tact, and feeling pretty decent, all things considered. In any other race I’d feel let down knowing I could have finished faster if I made different choices, or had better weather, or any of the other things we tell ourselves to motivate us to return again and to handicap our own efforts. The real feeling I’m left with is one of accomplishment, as this is as much if not more so an epic adventure than a race.
Brennen was at the finish line and had brought my bag from the car. I sat for a bit and changed and then said goodbye to some friends and headed back to the motel so I could call Clara, have a beer, and eat the only food available: a bagel and cream cheese and a pack of combos–dinner of champions. I slept pretty fitfully but awoke feeling not totally destroyed and well enough to drive us home. I walked in the door a few hours after leaving Phoenicia and was greeted by my older daughter, Frankie, who immediately remarked on the large boo boo on my arm, and then demanded I read her books. Then we moved two days later–arguably harder than the racve.
Summary:
Things that went well:
-nutrition and hydration felt on point
-as opposed to 2015 when I went in a bit injured, I felt relatively strong on descents
-felt stronger on technical ascents than I have previously and all the repeats at Beacon and Tammany paid off
-Gear: alomon vest remains a workhorse; La Sportiva’s are great, Huma gels are still good, trekking poles were helpful, going with half-tights was key; new Garmin is great
-time spent reviewing race reports ahead of time paid off in terms of setting expectations during the race
-mindset much more focused and calm than two years prior: had strategies in place for how to get through the roughest stretches of trail, deal with the lows, and extend the strong parts. In general just felt much more positive
-I know that between work and family obligations my training would be compromised; still, I felt I trained specifically enough given my time constraints that it translated into a good results, even if I suffered from the weather
-Tammany training is probably the best thing I could have done for Manitou, and next time I need to spend more time there
-Aid station efficiency was pretty good, barring Platte Clove
-Slept reasonably well the night before thanks to doing my meditation. Side note for anyone who uses headspace: do English people’s voices make you mad sleepy now?
-I spent a lot of time running alone but was still able to push myself and focus
Things to improve on:
-find a way to take a crap before the race start: look at food week leading up to race
-do recce on escarpment section as this is more runnable than memory served me and with practice this could be a good way to make up time
-have crew, if only to sleep closer to start and not wake up at 2:15 AM
-Don’t change shoes: start in Helios and plan to finish in them—have a backup pair of helios at Platte Clove just in case
-Try to use AS’s more for food and not have as many gels; take coke in one bottle after Palenville; eat more real food
-Try pushing a bit harder in first 50k—nothing dramatic, but shaving off 20-30 mins here seems possible
-Try not using poles or saving them until Platte Clove to just have less weight on you and one less thing to worry about.
-Get out of Platte Clove faster…this is the one reason to have a crew here. Lost too much time sitting and sorting through shit, even though I didn’t overpack my drop bag and knew what I was going to get.
-Run each and every section of the course–especially on the Devil’s Path–that feels runnable, even if that means having to transition back to hiking quickly.
-Don’t use poles on Devils path as it makes you more hesitant. You know it’s hard but you also know the terrain by now. Use your body more and just get up and down as quickly as you can given the terrain
-Take Tremper harder: it’s shorter than you think and you can bomb the downhill off it
-Don’t second-guess your bearings as much: you’ll know if you’re seriously off course and by now you know the course so stop consulting your phone and just run.
-gear: Scott Kinabalu SuperTracs probably had too aggressive a lug height and pattern for this course and would be better for a soft ground race or something with less wet rock; take running band isn’t as good as the Salomon 3L (although it’s made much better); Injinji Trail socks are too thick and hot and soak up water; Probar chews taste like soap; Poles, while a net benefit, are annoying at times (still more helpful than hurtful).
Things not to do:
-Land ass-first on a rock
-Fall on the Escarpment trail
-Have that much sugar ever again
-Mix Swedish fish and potato chips
-Not eat dinner after a race
-Move the week after a race
FWIW I’ll probably be back next year.