Trails

Running With The Devil

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This post originally appeared on RonHeerkensJr.com

Devils Path Take 2 8-16-2014, ElevationLast year…I had grand plans….

50 mile.

Devils Path.

100 mile.

In that order.

Funny how things worked out. The Devil tamed me mercilessly last year. I was a week out of wrapping up the Tarc 50 and was feeling pretty strong. I was a bit over confident and thought I would be able to get a decent time in on what was regarded as one of the toughest trails in America. I walked away, defeated and bailed out at 18 miles and decided not to even write a report. My legs were shot, my confidence smashed. In retrospect I believe that my attempt at Devils Path had a big part of my failure at Vermont 100 last year. However, I vowed I’d be back and try it again.

I contacted Jamie and Ben to see who would be up for it again, and Ben was. So after trying to wrangle some more people we set a date that worked for us and ran with it. This year I would run a 50 miler on a whim bu allow myself the time to recover to put the attention on it that it deserved. My training this year hadn’t been great, the mileage was down but more importantly the climbing was down. By a lot. The Devil was going to be rough.

Friday

I took Friday off work and Ben picked me up after lunch and we made our way down on the 4hr trek to our campsite at Devils Tombstone Campground. A quaint little site that is perched right in the middle of the Devil’s Path. We met Ryan down there, the only other soul to join us,  shuttled his car down to the finish area, then came back to wrap things up for the evening and eat some food.

My sleep the night before was disturbed by our drunken neighbors who don’t know what quiet hours are between 9pm an 7am. I ensured to return the favor at 5am when we woke the next morning.

Saturday

I really have gotten used to performing on some level with inadequate sleep. It seems to be my thing. I was itching to go and after the short trek over to the start we set off shortly after 6am, luckily enough light on the trail to not need headlamps. The weather was right on the verge of being cold for me but I still decided to head out in sleeveless and shorts. I ran with my trusty SLAB pack and Tailwind nutrition. figuring this would hold me over till we got to the mid point where I had stashed a Coke and would refill the Tailwind.

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Devilskitchen

Devils Kitchen 21:11 (1.23)

2013: 23:18

Originally we had talked about staying together thru Shermans Lookout to catch the sunrise, I was kind of moving ok and just kept with it. I didn’t realize how much I had separated myself that by the time I had reached Devils Kitchen I had no longer heard them. Again I figured well, they will catch up by Sherman.

sherman

Sherman Lookout 45:37 (2.73)

2013: 54:04

Once I reached the lookout after 1000ft in 1.2mile , I knew I was on my own. Snapped to take a few pics texted them and then put myself to work. I wasn’t going for an FKT…because 5:07 is insane. I was going for my own FKT of sub 8. Something I felt was realistic if things clicked. So far they were. I felt like I was goign slower on the climbs this year but just kept pushing ahead. The thing I first noticed was that a few of the initial climbs that were so daunting last year, didn’t phase me as much.

indian

Indian Head 1hr11 (3.85)

2013: 1hr20

Upon reaching Indian Head in under 1:30 I knew it was game on. Despite some initial soreness in the legs I was moving rather efficiently up and down.

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twin

1st Twin 1hr41 (4.7)

2013: 1hr41

A 400ft climb in about a half mile greets me as  I go up Twin. Indian and Twin have some of the best views of the day and its pretty bad that it happens so early. But still glad I get to see them at all. The clear weather on the day made the views pretty awesome.

2nd Twin 1hr43 (5.3)

2013: 1hr57

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Jimmy Dolan Notch 2h02 (6.1)

2013: 2hr19

Coming down off Twin is the first time you begin to laugh at Devils Path descents. Although not one of the worst it is pretty laughable that someone put a trail thru here.

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sugarloaf

SugarLoaf 2hr31 (7.2)

2013: 2hr48

Another 1000ft climb in about a mile. Some really steep sections that end up gradually petering out towards the top. I was making good time with 3 peaks under my belt in 2.5 hours. I was feeling pretty good.

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Mink Hollow 2hr59 (8.2)

2013: 3hr28

In what has to be the worst descent out of all of the Devils Path, the descent off SugarLoaf and down into Minks Hollow. 1200ft drop in 1 mile, and its mostly over large boulders. The good thing is you do it realitivly on fresh legs at this point early on. I got down to Minks Hollow and finally encountered my first sign of life with a couple campers sleeping. Shortly after I ran by, I heard them moving around. Must’ve thought I was a bear at this early in the am.

plateu

Plateau 3hr35 (9.4)

2013: 4hr10

Your mind has a funny way of blocking certain things out. Half way up Plateau I realized that my mind had done this to me. Adding in the drop from Sugar Loaf, you  are immediately thrust back up a 1200+ climb in a mile. The trail seems to go on forever, over rough route that just seemed relentless. I was looking forward to reaching the top as I knew this was the most runnable section coming up for the day. When I did, I sent out a text and then tried to run.

Nothing.

Ok…I’ll walk and let the legs reset then try again.

Nothing.

I couldn’t turn the legs over to a run at all. My year of bad was about to continue. My lack of climbing had caught up to me. and no…I couldn’t run. And I was getting really cold.

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I picked up my hike as fast as it would allow me and prepared myself from what I believe to be the hardest descent on the path, the one down the halfway point.

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Stoney Clove 4hr48 (12.7)

2013: 5hr15

Last year coming down from Plateau my knees gave out and made the rest of the day very hard. I had anticipated this descent all day, and I still hated every moment of it. 1600ft in just over 1 mile. On rocks that move. I started to hit a dark point. I was resigned to wait at the bottom to see how the other guys were doing, but I was on the verge of giving up and calling it a day as well.

WAIT AT STONEY CLOVE 4hr48 to 5hr53

2013: 5hr15 – 5hr28

I stumbled past some day hikers and made my way to my Coke. Downed it quickly, refilled my gear and Tailwind and waited. I was cold, the sun peeked out and I threw my shirt in the sun to warm it up. With the poor reception I was getting I wanted to make sure the other guys were doing ok be fore I carried on. This meant I spent an hour plus not moving but also gave me a rest to get my head back on. When they came down, I said hello put on my headphones and began my way up Hunter.

hunterback

Hunter Junction 6hr39 (15.5)

2013: 6hr21

Well…almost up Hunter, this route kind of goes around the back side. a 1400ft climb in just over a mile again. This one feels steep at first then just goes on…and on.  By the time I reached the top I felt some life back in my legs and decided to try running again.

Diamond Notch 7hr23 (18.1)

2013: 7hr41 – We bailed out here

I was actually starting to move as best a clip I could. My feet and legs were a  bit drunken sailor at this point but I was making it down the 2mile 1000ft drop to the Falls fairly ok. I passed a bunch of people thru this section.

westkill

Westkill 8hr39 (21)

This was it. This was the turning point. I had made it to the falls. The place where Ben and I called it a day last year. I took a quick splash in the falls and turned my attention to the last* climb of the day. KILL WestKill. That was my thought. make it up and you are done. Its long, its hard but that’s it! 3.5 miles, 1400ft piece of cake. About 5-6 groups I just went cruising by, I was making good time. And Bam! I’m at the summit…time for some downhill to the car.

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st annes

St Annes 9hr23 (22.9)

What the hell was I thinking.

I read the map wrong and completely forgot about an entire section. After going down for 600 feet in a mile, I encountered a wall. For some reason I never saw this or anticipated it and this felt like my own version of hell…

“just one more hill”

Yep. 200 ft wall in a 1/4 mile.

Spruceton Rd Trailhead 10hr20 (25.6)

Ok…climbing HAS to be done….please let me go down.

Oh.

1500ft over the next 1.5 miles.

My legs had had enough.

By the time I reached the sign saying 1.5 miles left I was letting out curse words as loud as I could.

I was beyond being done.

To make matters worse…the last 1.5 miles was actually runnable.

Except I couldn’t run. I was hobbling to be done.

I finally reached the end 10hr20 mins after starting the Damned Devils Path. I have done several ultras now and the Devil still ranks as THE HARDEST THING I have ever done in my life.  Do I think sub 8 is possible for me? Yes, but I will have to do lots of work to get there, and it would help to have someone pulling me along during the lowpoints.

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I’m tempted to try and run it next year…in reverse.

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Are the trails too crowded? What do you think.

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This is an opinion piece – It is not meant to speak for all members of#TrailsRoc – Leave us a comment – let us know what you think – let’s start the discussion.

The Blog Symposium topic in September for TrailRunner Magazine brings up a conversation that we just spent considerable time here at #TrailsRoc discussing. The Rochester Area Trail and Ultra Runner connect group hosted by #TrailsRoc had this exact same conversation last week when a member posted the following question:
Question. Given the debacle for the mid-back packers at Leadville (aid stations running out of food and water) and recent overcrowding and course markings incidents locally… has trail running gotten too big for it’s own good?
We had every response from “absolutely not the sport needs to grow” to “absolutely there are too many people on the trails over crowding them and acting in a way that is not sustainable“. We also had people pointing out that trail running to them is not about racing – it’s more like a religion and they will do everything they can to avoid the big crowds and the heavily registered races because they turn to the trails to escape that exact environment.
A bevy of race directors also chimed in – One technique talked about is wave starting similar to corals at road races to open up the trails during the race – One technique is to cap races to ensure that trails don’t jam up and don’t suffer environmental damage – One even pointed out sometimes the solution is to not race and put everything in perspective.
The issue we never did get around to talking about though is what can our trails sustain? When we planned and executed the 0 SPF Trail 1/2 Marathon , we were asked to complete an environmental assessment for use of the Crescent Trail. We were also asked to come up with a number to cap our event at – 125 was the number they suggested for the trail – That is the number we went with. The trail association felt that too many runners would NOT be a good thing – They built and maintain the trail – We think we should trust that judgement.
When we decided to work with the town of Victor for Ready Set Glow – There was no cap given to us – and no assessment -The same for an event we are planning in the Monroe County Parks. I had to admit I was a bit surprised by this – For the 0 SPF we planned a pre race clean up day and a post race clean up to make certain the trails were better than when we found them.
No one is requiring us to do this so that means it is up to the Race Directors to make sure that:
1. Your runners have not left trash all over – GU packets – hydration leftovers – tissues – shirts – whatever it may be.
2. If the weather was poor (muddy) or you had too many runners, you have a plan in place to repair the damage. Did you track 200+ folks through shin deep mud making the trail potted and likely wider than when you got there? What was the plan to fix that asap?
3. Will you somehow in your race promote sustainability ? 0 SPF was a mandatory water carry race – We had fill stations – not water stations – No cups allowed = less garbage = more sustainability.
To get to the questions though we will break them down.
1. How should races adapt to limit entrants and prevent overcrowding on the trails – First realize this is a good problem to have – The boom in running has exploded and is now invading the trails – I can still run miles at a time and see no one, but racing is a different story  – At #TrailsRoc we have gone with a cap. We are a small homegrown, grassroots organization. It makes sense for a number of reasons for us. The biggest being we care about the trails and don’t want to see them ruined by overuse on one time events. Smaller races have less impact – We also like and have participated in wave starts which certainly helps the overcrowding and allows more people to experience certain races.
2. Have you run trail races that felt overcrowded? Rochester has an amazing trail running scene – The one and only downside to this is races get packed – Single track trails with big climbs, creek crossings, and tight turns do not lend themselves to racing with 300 people. What seems to happen is the fast runners get out ahead and race – The folks in the back settle in and push on through – Those mid packers – the ones who are always passing and being passed who have good days and then horrible days – They get stuck – Or they become the block. I can yell on your left all I want – but if there is no where for the runner in front of me to go – I am there waiting for a chance to pass. Passing off trail is not responsible – waiting is no fun – Rochester has run into this problem and we welcome open and valuable discussion to figure out how to solve it. Even MASSIVE marathons cap entries (Think Chicago – NYC) Why should trails that have an actual environmental impact not do the same?

3. Have you ever not been able to run a race because it filled up too quickly? – 0 SPF sold out months in advance this year – We had a waiting list all the way through the event with folks hoping to gain entry. Muddy Sneaker sold out early this year- Other races do not cap. We have been the folks sitting at the computer at midnight on UltraSignUp waiting to click “register” as soon as it opened. It can be stressful for sure – yet in terms of growth for the sport, perhaps a little supply and demand won’t hurt.

4. Have you directed a race yourself and debated how to keep it environmentally sustainable? Early on this became our number one concern with 0 SPF. How can we share the trails, and share the value while also running an event on them. #TrailsRoc tries to make every event and every race we host a learning experience – We tell the history of the trails, we talk about being sustainable – We advise folks to go right down the middle if it’s muddy and not around and explain why erosion on a trail is a bad thing. We teach these topics in our weekly runs and we educate runners about the trails. We went with no cups, and biodegradable trail markings. We host trail days for every event before and after. So in essence we do everything we can to be sustainable, runners can help us by not dropping garbage, but we have done some great work at limiting the mess.

5. Which is better—lotteries or first-come-first-serve … or is there another way? We chose a first com first serve approach – It creates a bit of demand and it really helps spread the word for your event. Lotteries are tough to manage and add a step for both runners and organizers – They become complex, and from taking part in Twitter and Facebook they seem to build anxiety and create anger – Neither are feelings we want to create as trail lovers. One unique aspect that we held on to for our race was that each board member was allowed to let in 1 runner each past the sell out date. This gave us the ability to think about 6 people who wanted in but did not get in. It worked really well for us – We do not make this public knowledge but it works.

We need to start to have open discussions – I think it is obvious the trails are not too crowded – I just ran last night for miles and saw no one – literally no one. But the races crowd are trails. Let’s start to talk – Let’s start to answer the questions above from your opinion – Be civil, and let’s figure this out.

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Enjoy “National Trails Day” With A New Trail

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Many of us love and train on the Crescent Trail – Many of us love and train on the Victor Hiking Trails Seneca Trail.  It’s too bad there is no way to connect the two systems with a nifty little line of single track –

Well – There WAS no way to do that – There is now.

A long term vision with collaboration from the Victor Hiking Trails and the Crescent Trail Association with help and input from #TrailsRoc has allowed for a completed  connector piece of the Seneca Trail.

The construction began with the fine folks from the VHT in early May and ended with a trail clean up day organized by #TrailsRoc in which we picked up 14 bags of trash. Please see the maps and images and video and enjoy the new trail!

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The now open Seneca Trail Extension
The now open Seneca Trail Extension

 

The new extension begins at The North Face in Victor and heads up to High Point/ Constellation Brands- It offers huge climbing opportunities following the power lines up or down near Turk Hill Road – It  follows beautiful newly created single track  between Turk Hill Road and LaSalle Parkway which will connect you with ease to the Crescent Trail.

The new extension gives runners the chance to add lots of mileage to their long runs or new opportunities for Hill work, single track and exploration of new areas.

A big THANK YOU to VHT for making this a reality – The new section was vital in making the 0 SPF a much more trail friendly and sustainable trail race.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and get dirty on our new trails!

Enjoy a video of the new single track section running from LaSalle Parkway to Turk Hill Rd

Seneca Trail Connection

 

 

 

“The American Hiking Society’s National Trails Day® is the country’s largest celebration of trails. Mark your 2013 calendar for June 1 to make sure you don’t miss out on the thousands of NTD activities happening all over the country. Events include hikes, biking and horseback rides, paddling trips, bird watching, geocaching, gear demonstrations, stewardship projects and more.”

Seneca Trail Report

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This past weekend a number of TrailsRoc runners met had a chance to see the new The North Face and run with Mike Wolfe on the Seneca Trail. We found this to be a perfect opportunity to share a run with our own Ben Murphy who ran the entire length of the trail!

Read below for more.

I’m always on the lookout for new trails I haven’t heard of yet. Just recently I stumbled across a gem called the SENECA TRAIL running 12 miles, one-way, all on trail just southeast of Rochester… How had I missed this?

So, last weekend (Saturday, August 11th) I filled up my hydration day pack and went for a 24 mile trail run. Soloed the whole thing – out and back – in just under 7 hours (6:45). And this run only reinforced for me that we make our own adventures… ones that are often just right outside our door.

I love long-distance solo pack-running. Self-contained, self-sufficient, no water stations, no cheering crowds, no pacer runners, no medical team, no finish line or post-race feast… just you, a map, the trail, and your own mental and physical ability. It is both unbelievably rewarding in its sense-of-accomplishment, and unbelievably challenging physically (running with ~15 pounds of hydration/nutrition/etc) and in terms of its mental aspects and demands for self-reliance and trail knowledge. I hadn’t undertaken a long solo in months so I was itching to get out – and the idea of exploring an entire unknown (to me) trail system was too much to resist.

The red-blazed SENECA TRAIL is exactly that, a portion of a historical footpath established by the Seneca Indians running from the Finger Lakes up to Lake Ontario. I got a fairly early start, parking behind the Valentown Historical Society building near Eastview Mall and hitting the trail around 6:30am. The entrance is right near Valentown down a gravel access road by the traffic light. There’s a small path ducking into the woods at the end of the gravel drive… that’s where it starts.

The first several miles were mostly grass path running behind strip malls and along the edges of farm fields. Not necessarily my cup of tea (I HATE grass running – sucks energy from your momentum and is impossible to read the terrain under the grass), but there were several beautiful, sweeping views of the surrounding area (like the sunrise pic below) as you gain some of the highest elevations of the run. (The entire run, by the way, is somewhere around 2400′ of elevation change. See elevation profile – from the VHT website – at the end of this report.)

As the trail crosses Route 96 and you head into and through Victor the trail becomes more and more singletrack. Beautiful singletrack. Which is what I live for… Rooty and rocky enough to keep you on your toes, but flowy enough to let you hit a good stride. Really enjoyable! A good portion of this section runs through damp/marshy drainage areas – so there are a considerable number of boardwalks (pic below) back through these sections. Props to the VICTOR HIKING TRAILS organization for the amazing trail maintenance they keep up with on this trail system! I was VERY impressed!

From Victor, the trail continues to drop South through the Dryer Road and Ganondaga area trails – absolutely beautiful, deep-woods single track (pic below). I will definitely be going back and running this section quite a bit from here on out. Thoroughly enjoyable – and since it links up with all the Dryer Road trails – endless loop possibilities! I did get a bit lost towards the end of Ganondaga section, but not for too long. The paper directions from VHT’s website were great, but some of the trail markings in this area were hard to follow.

South of this area the trail continues South all the way towards East Bloomfield through alternating sections of rolling singletrack and grasstrack along farm fields before ending up atBoughton Road Park. I took a short break at Boughton Park, 12 miles in, and than headed back North to return back to my starting point.

I was very impressed by my Seneca Trail experience! Again, the work that Victor Hiking Trails does to keep this trail intact is pretty incredible! The variety of terrain and landscapes I passed through while running were pretty cool and I saw lots of wildlife which I always love. Lots of white-tailed deer, wood grouse, and red-tailed hawks to name a few…

Victor Hiking Trails maintains great trail information and an interactive map on their website – if you’re going to try out the Seneca Trail I would definitely recommend reading through it all before heading out – and if you’re in the Rochester region you should DEFINITELY check out the Seneca Trail!

Links: VICTOR HIKING TRAILSSeneca Trail Map/Info