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Manitou’s Revenge Race Report

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This race report was originally published on TrailsROC! Co-Founder Ben Murphy’s website.

Well, that was one hell of an adventure. This past weekend’s Manitou’s Revenge Ultramarathon more than lived up to its brutal reputation, and I had an absolute blast. This was easily the most fun I’ve ever had in a race due to the beautiful setting, the amazing racers and volunteers, and the sheer ridiculousness of the course and the conditions. It was also probably the worst time I’ve ever had in a race due to circumstances out of my control that, ultimately, ended up costing me the chance to finish – exiting the race at mile 44, scratching my head on what had become a pretty bizarre situation.

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To say I was intimidated by Manitou’s going into the race would be an understatement. 54 miles of super technical mountain “running” with 17,000’ of climb (and possibly 18,000’ of descent) over more than a dozen mountains should give anyone pause. As far as I’m aware, this is the only 50 miler on the planet that has earned a coveted 4 point rating from UTMB’s qualifying system. Enough said. My head space was a jumble going into this one as the reality of what I was about to bite off set in (course profile above).

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I drove down to the Catskills the day before the race, setup camp at Devil’s Tombstone, and popped down to the beautiful little mountain town of Phoenicia for packet pickup (image above). It was still early in the afternoon, so I headed over to North South Lake for a brief mosey on the Escarpment Trail to shakeout my legs and clear my head. Which was exactly what I needed, the views instantly reminding me of why I do all this (below image of NS Lake from Sunset Rock). I hit the sack pretty early given the 2:30am alarm and slept well falling asleep to the sounds of owls up in the mountains.

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I woke up early, had some food and coffee, geared up, and headed down the road to catch the 3:30am bus to the start line. Made some new friends, connected with some facebook friends, and enjoyed chatting with folks from, literally, all around the world as we waited for our wave starts gunning off every five minutes starting at 5:00am. It was cold at the start (in the high 40’s) with a beautiful sunrise, and it seemed everyone was happy that the day’s high temps wouldn’t climb out of the 70’s. I certainly was. Also, there were storms forecast for later in the day; something that would make the race interesting for everyone but the winners.

My wave gunned off at 5:15am, and we settled in down the back road from the Maplecrest, NY recreation area. After an easy 5k of rolling pavement transitioning into dirt, we made a turn onto the trail and started the first climb of the day up to Acra Point. An easy ascent, topping out on the ridge before hitting the first sizable climb of the race up Blackhead. It’s a testament to the difficulty of this race that Blackhead – which gains 1,000’ in under a mile, requiring hands-on climbing – is merely considered an “easy” warm-up climb for the rest of the race. I made the top of Blackhead around the 2ish hour mark and began the long descent down into the Dutcher’s Notch Aid Station. Checked in, said hello, grabbed some fruit and then headed out for the long, but not-too-steep climb up to Stopple Point. Saw the plane wreck (image below) and knew I was near the top. Another 4ish miles of descent brought me into the North South Lake Aid Station in 4:45, right on target at a very comfortable pace. I checked in, restocked on water, grabbed some eats, said hello to the great volunteers from Mountain Peak Fitness and headed out for the long descent into the Palenville Aid Station on fairly runnable trails, making it there at just over 6 the hour mark, right on target.

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At some point I inquired how many people were still behind me. Not many. 6 or 7. I wouldn’t see any of them until later, but it speaks to the toughness of this race that there really aren’t any of your typical back-of-packers on this course. Certainly, the entry process is designed to weed out anyone who shouldn’t be out there (it’s the only race I’ve entered that asked me to list my mountaineering experience), but even the “slow” folks are individuals who have completed races like MMT100, Hardrock 100, and Grindstone. This is an elite field.

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I was shooting to take the front portion of the race into Palenville at a comfortable, but steady 15-17ish minute/mile average pace. I figured that would leave something in the tank for the back half of the race, which I knew would be infinitely harder than the front half. Which is really saying something, because when you run the infamous Escarpment Trail (image above of one of the flat, easy parts just before North South Lake) as the warm-up? Well, that’s just crazinesss. This course is absolutely unforgiving, rocky, rooty, steep, unpredictable, and gets exponentially harder the further you go.

And now, we bring you, “things you can do, but shouldn’t do, when mountain running with poles”:*

1.) Don’t do a snot rocket when moving, because if the tip of your pole hits a rock you could get punched in the face with the handle of the pole, resulting in a bloody lip.

2.) If you’re making switchback turns, don’t straddle the pole as a shortcut because it could catch on a rock or a root and hit you in the balls. Hard.

(*I may or may not have done any of these things. I’m pleading the 5th.)

Herein ends this segment of “things you can do, but shouldn’t do when mountain running with poles.”

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I felt good heading out of Palenville, making the easy road crossing over the river, and looking for the next turn up KHP (Kaaterskill High Peak), which, while not a technical climb, is the fourth most prominent peak in the Catskills, making for a nice little 2,500’ grind up from Palenville. Which broke me. I was good for the first 1,000’ feet or so as it was basically steep access road, very reminiscent of some of the steeper Hi-Tor climbs back home. But it kept going. And going. And I had forgotten to fuel. And… boom. Stopped. Regrouped. Kept plodding. Noticed some hikers easily keeping pace. Starting pushing harder and refueling. As I hit the plateau in the middle of the climb the refueling kicked in and a few stops at ice cold river crossings (image below from the top of the falls, plunging over 100’ into the valley below) helped me refresh and get moving back on pace. I made the final push through the unbelievable amount of mud and roots, speed hiking at an easy 4mph clip headed down into the 50k mark at Platte Clove on target in 9:48 – feeling really good, ready to grab my drop bag, restock, and head out for the back portion of the race trying to book as much daylight time as possible before the forecast rain and thunderstorms rolled in.

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Except that when I arrived at Platte Clove Aid Station my drop bag wasn’t there. The labeled bag I had personally handed to the race director early that morning and watched him put it in his car with all the others… was nowhere to be found. Nowhere. How could that even happen in a race this well organized?!? Really?!? Talk about a sucker punch. I was speechless.

I was running on my own with no crew or pacer, so every single thing I needed for the back 23 miles of the race (which are waaaaay harder than the front 31) was in that bag. Carefully planned out, calculated, and packed ahead of time. Headlamp, backup headlamp, backup batteries (all required items in order to even leave this aid station), all my nutrition for the next 10+ hours, rain gear, dry socks… Totally missing in action. I thought for sure there had been some mistake, that my drop bag had been misplaced under a chair or a tarp, but the volunteers turned the place upside down trying to help me out. Nope. The thing had vanished. I was livid.

I tried really hard to keep the words in my head from coming out of my mouth, but I could tell the volunteers were picking up on my frustration. Clearly, I was pissed. I tried to retain some semblance of politeness (and I was told afterward that I did, in fact, manage that), but… I was beyond angry. How could I possibly not be? I hadn’t worked that hard to get to this point in the race, set up right where I wanted to be, and then have to throw in the towel because some bonehead didn’t compare the bag # with the race checklist.

The storm blew in. Misting rain quickly turned into a downpour. I watched as all the racers I’d been ahead of checked through the aid station one by one and went on their way. I stood there, totally helpless as calls were made. No cell phone reception. This is the Catskills, after all. Volunteers drove out to nearby houses multiple times to use landlines and try to send texts from where a cell signal could be received. I did manage to get a call out to the race director. Voicemail was full. Nothing.

The volunteers, to their credit, went all out. Let me borrow jackets to keep warm in the rain, made sure I refueled while I was waiting. I didn’t sit down, which I think helped keep my legs feeling fresh – did some yoga to loosen up and just kept pacing until I got an answer. I definitely knew two things: 1.) I wasn’t dropping there unless I was absolutely forced to; 2.) I’m asking for a refund. Finally, after over an hour, word came through that my drop bag had been located. It had been picked up and taken to the finish line prematurely. Problem is, the finish was a 45 minute drive away. One way. There was no way they could get it to me before the sweeps arrived and the aid station closed down.

And, right on cue, the sweeps arrived. They heard what had happened, and – confirming that I was indeed crazy enough to continue given the circumstances – pulled extra gear from their packs – headlamps, rain shell, extra nutrition – and offered it without hesitation. They also informed the volunteer in no uncertain terms that my drop bag had better be waiting for me at the next Aid Station – regardless of who had to hike how long through what to get it there. And off I went.

I left Platte Clove in dead last, having lost an hour and thirteen minutes as a result of this whole fiasco. I arrived 9:48 into the race. I left 11:01 into the race, technically already behind cutoff. I’ll never know for sure, but the whole clusterfuck may have cost me a finish. It was, at the very least, a major factor.

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I pushed through the remainder of the Platte Clove Preserve, making good time as the rain came down harder, and harder, and harder. I’d run Devil’s Path twice before and it’s tough in perfect conditions (google “toughest most dangerous hikes in the world.” Devil’s Path will be on the list). Toss in high winds, driving rain, dropping temps, and waning daylight and it becomes a bit more challenging. Scary as shit, actually. Easily one of the more frightening things I’ve ever done. (Right up there with scrambling down off the summit ridge of Katahdin in a lightening storm.) Clearly, I’m not an especially risk averse person, but… I really wouldn’t recommend doing Devil’s Path in these conditions. The climb up Indian Head helped remind me just how tricky these ascents and descents were (see above image from the Platte Clove Aid Station – stolen from Dick Vincent – you can do the math). Hand over fist. Up. And up. And up. There were no sweeping views of the mountains around me. Just wind, rain, and fog. I wish I’d taken pictures, but… it was raining hard enough that I thought better of it not wanting to destroy my phone. Plus, I was trying to make the Mink Hollow Aid Station before a cutoff that I was, technically, already behind of. I managed to bank 30 minutes through Devil’s Path making it from Platte Clove Preserve to Mink Hollow in 4.5 hours. It was dicey. Downright terrifying in places. The rocks, roots, mud… everything was slick and this is a trail where you simply cannot afford to fall. Implementing a “measure twice, cut once” philosophy, I tried to make it through as quickly as caution would allow. Made it through Indian Head, up and down Twin, and up and down Sugarloaf (always a bear), only taking a few minor falls. The sweeps kept a good pace and caught up with me coming down off of Sugarloaf and I actually welcomed the company. Great guys, and great conversation helped pass the time on a pretty ludicrous descent into Mink Hollow. Made good time and only needed the headlamp for the last ten minutes or so before hitting the Mink Hollow Aid Station.

My drop bag was, indeed, waiting for me at Mink Hollow. Checked in, restocked everything, returned the borrowed gear (except for the shell, which the sweeps graciously allowed me to hang on to for however long I needed it) while I grabbed my own gear, repacked and headed on out ready to hammer out the last 15 miles. Which… I thought at the time would take me roughly 7 hours and I’d still be able to finish under the 24 hour cutoff. I felt good leaving Mink Hollow.

And then Plateau destroyed me. I didn’t realize until part way up that I hadn’t been fueling/hydrating properly having been so focused on the hand and foot work necessary to traverse Devils safely. It’s hard to eat and drink when your hands are occupied trying not to fall off a mountain. And, as dumb as it sounds, you don’t want to stop to eat/drink because, well, it’s a race.

As I climbed, in the dark, headlamp piercing the blowing rain and fog trying to locate trail markers above me, I was falling apart. Heartbeat was spiking. Core temp noticeably dropping. My memory of Plateau as being “not as bad as the other peaks on Devil’s” was clearly wrong.

A thousand feet into the climb up the side of Plateau Mountain (w/ 500′ more to go) balled up by the side of the trail in the dark alone in the middle of a storm dry heaving and trying not to pass out as my core temperature dropped, it occurred to me that I might want to spend some time weighing the pros and cons of pulling out of the race regardless of the whole drop bag fiasco thing costing me significant time. Exposure in the mountains can have dire consequences, and I was not in a good place. Not that I’d have the option of dropping out in the near future. Down climbing super steep/technical terrain in the pouring rain back to an aid station that was most likely packed up and gone wasn’t an option. I knew if I hit the top I’d have 4 miles of flat/downhill to the next checkpoint. It took me something like 2.5 hours to cover those four miles of mud, roots, and rocks in the fog and driving rain. I tried to refuel, and slowly felt it kicking in, hoping I’d be ok by Silver Hollow Notch to swap out some warmer clothes, and successfully regroup like I’d done earlier in the race. And knowing the sweeps were behind me was a good margin of safety; I could see their headlamps behind me.

But I was flagging. I knew, objectively in the back of my mind, that the right call was to safely get to the aid station and be done even though I didn’t want to be. This race isn’t going anywhere. I can come back. I was freezing; I’ve done enough sub-zero winter running to know the early signs of hypothermia and how hard it is to reverse it when you’re away from civilization. Mountain running requires a high level of self-sufficiency, it’s not like there was an EMT crew around the corner if something went wrong. I’d be looking at hours in a dire situation (at best). I also had two more big climbs (and descents) and a river crossing ahead of me. And I was behind the cutoff pace. True, that part wasn’t my fault, but… it was the reality I was faced with and my health wasn’t worth the gamble. My family is more important.

So, as we hit the Silver Hollow Notch Aid Station just under 19 hours into the race (17:45 in adjusted time), I pulled the plug. It was definitely the right call. But it still irks me. Did the delay cost me the race? Who knows? I think that it did. It certainly reduced my odds considerably. Without the delay I would have banked more time on dry trail, and would have topped Plateau in daylight – which had been my goal. I’m fairly certain I could have slogged it out from there, but I’ll never know. It was such a major blow to be dealt that deep into a big race where mental game is everything. I’m certainly proud of myself for sticking it out when most folks would have just thrown in the towel. But it pushed me to dead last when, in fact, I hadn’t been. I made good time through Devil’s Path, even in the rain, and would have had a :90 cushion from the sweeps if the whole fiasco hadn’t happened. That’s an extra 2-3 miles, which is almost exactly the margin I was behind 24 hour pace by the time I exited. It’s frustrating.

I do know that I’ll be back out there next year and will knock this thing out.

THE AFTERMATH

As the sweeps proceeded onward and the volunteers tore down the aid station and we hiked down to the cars, the thunder and lightening rolled in making things even crazier. It rained so hard that my waterproof headlamp filled with water and the lens looks like an aquarium (although… it still works). My emergency lighter – double wrapped in two plastic ziplocs – bit the dust.

We made it back into town. Back to the finish. Changed into dryer clothes, grabbed some food, hung out for a bit, headed back to camp. It was raining so hard I didn’t even bother getting out of the car. Just went to sleep in my seat. Woke up when the rain died down and crawled into my dry tent and warm down mummy bag. Woke up late Sunday morning, the sun had come out. I cleaned up, ate (food below; I don’t skimp on eating even when camping), packed up, hit the road home.

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I ran for 19 hours on Saturday. I’ve never done that before (previous longest was 12). So that’s really cool. Opens up all sorts of possibilities. There are two bruises on my forehead, I’m not sure why. I vaguely remember smacking my head off a tree climbing up Plateau in the dark. I must have hit harder than I thought.

My body feels remarkably good sitting here 48 hours after. I’m certainly tired. Definitely beat. But, my legs never felt spent during the race. I have a few aches, pains, and sore spots, but I’m not stiff, and I went for a 3+ mile walk today. It didn’t suck. Ready to get moving again and go have fun racing Escarpment in July.

All in all? An amazing experience. And, despite the frustrations, I did have a blast. Loved it. Can’t wait to come back and knock it out. Congratulations to everyone who finished this year! Brian Rusiecki and Sheryl Wheeler killed it for the win (in absurdly fast times), and anyone who stuck it out through the storm is to be heartily commended!

Should you sign up? Depends what floats your boat. If you like hard races, mountains, and are comfortably self-sufficient in remote settings? You can’t beat Manitou’s Revenge. Despite my experience, I really was impressed with the overall organization and attention to detail of this race. Can’t say enough good things about it. The course speaks for itself. You aren’t going to find a harder 50 miler anywhere apart from Barkley’s fun run. This race is a beast and then some.

SPLITS (Approximate):
– NS Lake, 16 miles: 4:45
– Palenville, 21 miles: 6:06
– Platte Clove, 31 miles: arrived 9:48
– Platte Clove, 31 miles: didn’t get to leave until 11:01
– Mink Hollow, 39 miles: 15:36 (14:23, adjusted)
– Silver Notch Hollow, 44 miles (just under +/-30k’), 18:58 (17:45, adjusted), DNF

GEAR: Altra Lone Peak 2.0, UD Hydration Vest with 70ounce bladder, Easton ATR-70 Poles, Princeton Tec EOS Headlamp, Garmin Forerunner 310XT

MORE INFORMATION:
Manitou’s Revenge Ultra – Official Site
Mountain Peak Fitness Photo Gallery (Incredible!!)
Official Manitou’s Revenge Ultramarathon & Relay 2015 Results

UPDATE: In follow-up to what happened, the race director reached out, apologized profusely, is issuing me a refund, and already has me entered for 2016’s race. I said it was a well-run event. I also found out that he personally hiked my drop bag up to Mink Hollow, in the rain, meaning he had to miss the winners coming through. Stand-up guy. Thank you, Charlie!

I’ve also been featured in two running media outlets as a result of my Manitou’s experience. Pretty cool!

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RUNNING INSIDE OUT PODCAST: Episode 4 – A Pretty Dicey Situation (available on iTunes)

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ULTRARUNNING MAGAZINE: Meet Ben Murphy – a 2015 Participant in Manitou’s Revenge (available in the July 2015 issue, as well as online)

Unless otherwise noted, all images Copyright Ben Murphy, 2015, All Rights Reserved.

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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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.

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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.

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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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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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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 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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Short Film: The Beast of Winter

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NOTE: This was reblogged from Ron’s blog http://ronheerkensjr.com/blog/2014/01/24/short-film-the-beast-of-winter/

In 2010, Ben Murphy began his journey. 5’9″ 220lbs, 70lbs overweight by medical definitions. Ben set about to change his life and began a journey that saw him get into running, triathlons and take on adventures most people never even think of. Just a few short years ago, Ben could barely make it thru a mile. One of the first adventures Ben did was a double traverse of the Crescent Trail, one that would take him 42 miles.

At 10am, on January 18th 2014, he lined up with a group of people that were just slightly as crazy as him. With temperatures in the teens and windchill pushing into the single and negative digits, runners set off for their own journeys. Some running 50 miles, other 100. All runners would face the same course. An out and back of 25 miles (12.5 one way) along the canal path starting in Lockport, NY and running to the turnaround point in Middleport, NY.

I had offered my services to Ben as crew and pacer (for the final 12.5 mile return) and he took me up on that. I recruited Lisa Murphy ,fellows #TrailsRoc runner and ultra runner, and her husband Tom, driver and crew chief extraordinaire. This enabled me to split my duties and be able to film as much as I could.

It was an amazing day to watch a friend set out and —— ….what you think I’m going to spoil the ending?

For filming I brought along my GoPro HD Hero 3 Black and my Sony DSC-WX100. I had the GoPro mounted to a stick the whole day, everything else was filmed hand held. GoPro was recorded in 2.7K and the Sony was recording in 1080p. I’m still impressed at the quality that Sony gets for video. Around mile 49 the batteries in the GoPro ran out resulting in some very shaky handheld footage from the iPhone. For a later mental note, I am not impressed with the nigh-time on the GoPro, but LOVE the results of the Sony at night. The result of the film is lacking in areas. If I had to do it again I would’ve brought my steadicam mount for the GoPro and filmed a lot of the static shots that eventually became the photos, and decide on some sort of narrative before hand.  This was one of the most footage I’ve ever had to edit down. 11+ hours worth of video with a goal to trim it under 10minutes. After several rough cuts I got it to where I was happy. Found some music on the Creative Commons on Soundcloud that seemed to fit well then went to work editing it down to its final form.

It feels good again to get back to film and editing. Putting something together with some meaning. It has always been one of my greatest joys in life, and to combine it with running feels natural. So…here is The Beast of Winter (available in 1080p as well)

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From ZERO to 100K in 20 Months: Oil Creek 100 Race Report

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The following is from #TrailsRoc co-founder Ron Heerkens Jr (aka @gfmedia) detailing his adventure tackling his first 100K, his first ultra. Originally this appeared on his blog at: www:ronheerkensjr.com but since he spent most of his time preparing for this race on the proving grounds of trails around Rochester, we felt it appropriate to post.

Really, I don’t know where to even begin.

A Bit of Background

It’s taken me a couple day’s to process what I’ve experienced. If you’ve had any interest in what’s been going on in my life, your familiar that I only started back running in February 2011, and last September completed my first road Marathon. I lost 50-60lbs on the journey, and grew to love running again as it gave me an outlet to put energy into. Around this time last year I ran my first “trail race”, an obstacle race called the Mudslog. Shortly after I reached 1000 miles of running, and started to run more and more on trails.

As I started out my year I had some plans, they changed and then I got interested in running an ultra. So I signed up for one, the Oil Creek 100K. I have written about all this and my training leading up to it, so I’m not going to waste time with this further, so now on to the 100K weekend.

The Night Before

Originally we were going to drive separate and I was going to camp out at the school in Titusville the night before but when weather called for 23 degrees we changed plans. Drove down with my family and stayed overnight in the hotel. The drive down was gorgeous with the changing colors all the way down.

We arrived at the school a bit early, and went to grab my packet. When I picked up the packet I was given the wrong number, 656, not 606. my number and 656 were swapped and the volunteer made a crack about it being a good omen. I just laughed it off. I turned around and found that I got a door prize, and since I was early I was able to snag a sweatshirt so I wouldn’t have to buy one. I also grabbed a copy of UltraRunning Magazine (something I really want). When I was leaving I noticed the tear-off strip on my bib said 656! It didn’t match the bib, after talking with the organizers, I was basically told DONT DROP, or else it would screw things up…hopefully they told the other competitor the same thing.

We made our way into the cafeteria for the pre race buffet, and I bought a hat. I must say OC has some nice looking race gear, and very friendly volunteers. We ate then decided to head over to the hotel and get some rest. One note I must say, I think more sponsors need to show up for their prerace expo, it would be nice to interact with more vendors, and Oil Creek deserves it.

Photo by Michael Henderson ( Recorded Light)

At the hotel I hit bed at 8 but had 2 children that were bouncing off the walls in Grandmas room and kept me up till almost 11. With 4am approaching, I woke up no less than 4 times and was very jittery when the alarm went off.

Race Day

My wife and I got up at 4 while everyone else got some sleep. We made the dark trek from Oil City to Titusville and made it there around 5am, and started the process of gearing up and getting ready. 5:30, I was ready to go, but my stomach was going insane. After a brief race meeting by awesome RD Tom Jennings, we were out the back door and at the start line.

The first thing to notice about the morning was how cold it was. 25 degrees at start time. I also had to put on tights to help deal with the cold. I hadn’t trained with them and worried about overheating (yes despite the cold).

At exactly 6am, the race started.

Loop 1 Start to AS1 – 7.1/7.1 miles

Photo by Michael Henderson (Recorded Light)

We started out on the pavement…I hate pavement in trail shoes. A lead pack of 10 took off and I decided to just hang back and find a comfortable rhythm. It amazed me that after only 1.5 miles we were spread out so thin. finally it made its way onto the trail, where I subsequently slipped on the first bridge. I tucked in behind one of the lead women, and watched her trip and slip and have a pretty poor headlamp. She slowed down and I went on by. Steady rhythm.

Till I rolled the ankle.

Then tripped.

Then after coming down Wolfkiel descent I tripped and slammed both knees into the ground. By the time I picked myself up, we are at AS1 an awesomely decorated zombie/witch affair. I was surprised at how fast the AS came up, then I realized I was cruising along a little faster than I should. The light had started to come up and the cold was still there. Press on, keep warm.

Leg time: 1:17:40 (10:56)
Aid Station time: ??
Overall Place: 15/82

Loop 1 AS1 to AS2 – 6.8/13.9 miles

Upon heading out of the AS and back onto the course, I learned something about this course I didn’t know. After EVERY AS you have a hill, and not just a little hill, but a climb. You leave the comfort of the AS just to be slapped back to the reality of the harshness of this course. As I climbed what is affectionately known as sWITCHback mountain (with aptly marked graves as you ascend) the woman was catching back up to me. As I hiked, she..ran. I don’t know how, but she did.

I worried little, I just kept my pace and kept my rhythm and tried not to think about the cold. I don’t remember much about this leg, other than a sharp descent and a couple of climbs. As we neared AS2 we passed the Oil Derricks, and the temperature seemed to get even colder. I picked up the pace to try and warm my self up some more, but as we dropped into the AS valley there was so much frost it looked like winter.

Photo via Oil Creek Trail Runs

The plan was to lose the tights and switch to my normal gear, but I was so cold that I decided I would have to go at least 50K in them today. Got to see my wife at this one, who quickly informed me I was ahead of pace. I knew that but I was feeling good. After I would tackle the back half of the course, I would see my pacer, and then catch him when I returned to this spot. All was good. Got some hydration, nutrition/ refill and then made my way.

Leg time: 1:19;31 (11:41)
Aid Station time: 8:58
Overall Place: Top 20/82

Loop 1 AS2 to AS3 – 8.8/22.7 miles

Left the AS and made my way up another descent, Heisman Trophy Hill. By this point I had begun to not only pass some 100K but several 100milers as well. I was feeling pretty good. However, that was about to change. Once you make the climb you are pretty much on some nice easy double track for a while, a place where you can “make up time”. The back side has longer sections before you hit the AS, something I didn’t enjoy. As I hit the first water stop where the Boy scouts were I asked how much longer to the AS, and I was told 5miles. something I didn’t want to hear. It was in this area around mile 18 when I started to have issues. MY stomach cramps under my ribs decided they wanted to make a return, I tried to massage them out but nothing worked. I slowly trudged on and made my way to AS3

Photo via Oil Creek Trail Runs

Leg time: 1:51:51 (12:42)
Aid Station time: 8:15
Overall Place: 21/82

Loop 1 AS3 to AS4 – 8.4/31.1 miles

I wasn’t ready to leave AS 3, it was warm, they had a fire, and I was hurting…at 22 miles! I got up and began the Death March Hill ascent passing an old pioneer cemetery and continued my internal battle. My nice steady pace that I had gained and banked so much time, had turned into an 18:00/mi pace. A death crawl I couldn’t get out of. Around mile 25 I got a text from my pacer Jamie, letting me know he was hear and prepared to run 50K if needed.

I felt bad, I was ready to call it at that point, my body was not ready for the fight, it let me down and my training had failed me. At mile 28 I sat down. defeated. I found a rock and just tried to breathe, get my head right.

I would continue, at least to the 50K mark and then decide from there. One foot in front of the other, and suddenly I was running again. I caught up to a group and hung with them for a mile or so but felt good enough to continue on past them. I was back in a rhythm, a slow one, but I was going forward and that’s what counted.

The trail spits you out onto a road and grass loop (which felt like hell) 2.2 miles back to Titusville Middle School.

Walk, Run, Walk…run some more. just get back to the AS.

I did, I saw Jamie come out and cheer me in, and then began the longest AS stop in history. I hadn’t been staying on top of everything and it was wearing on me. I was force fed some nutrition then changed my clothes talked with Jamie about the plan and saw my family.

After coming in at 6:45 (1 hour lost to a really bad 10 mile stretch), it took me 17 minutes to get out. 15 hours was looking like a long shot even with almost 8 hours to get it in.

The plan: waterstop to waterstop. One foot in front of the other.

Leg time: 1:58:09 (14:04)
Aid Station time: 17:30
Overall Place: 34/82

Loop 2 AS4 to AS 1 – 6.9/38 miles

The changing point for me in this race was two fold. After I passed my longest training run in terms of both time and distance, the distance on my feet became a moot point. The real changing point was knowing I had a pacer who sacrificed his weekend to be out there for me, I couldn’t let him down.

Nor the family who came to cheer me on, and give me support. Nor the friends and family cheering on back home.

I was resigned to giving up on myself, but Jamie didn’t. As we began to cover water stop to water stop, I began to feel different, I began to feel better. I detest loops with a passion, but today it would prove a mental help. I knew what to expect and some key points along our way that would ultimately make this race manageable.

Leg time: 1:52:18 (16:16)
Aid Station time: 7:19
Overall Place: 26/82

Loop 2 AS1 to AS2 – 6.8/44.8 miles

In and out of of my favorite (mainly just because of the themed AS) AS. I started having Ramen Noodles and cola at every AS from this point on. The cola made for some hilarious gas issues, but the caffeine really helped. Back up the climb and on our way. As we came back down to AS2 I told Jamie how I was feeling a lot better but wanted to really take a bit of time at this next AS to make sure I was good.

Once again got to see my wife and family, but this would be last time till I finished, if I finished. We took a little longer, rolled out my hamstring ate up, fueled up grabbed out headlamps and took off. We would right up against the 15 hour mark if we didn’t hurry out.

Leg time: 1:14:56 (14:59)
Aid Station time: 17:23
Overall Place: 20/82

Loop 2 AS2 to AS3 – 8.8/53.6 miles

Back up Heisman and onto the double track. I found my rhythm again, the run sections became a 4:1 pattern that kept up us moving forward. We figured out the avg pace I needed to maintain to get on track for the remainder. With the mix of climbs and the inevitable fatigue it was proving to be harder. This time as we hit the Boy Scouts we filled with water and I started feeling like myself again. I had found my groove. run run walk, run run hike. When we hit the dirt road that led to AS 3 I decided to open up my legs, much to my (and probably Jamie’s) surprise. My legs felt better than ever. I sued this dirt “sprint” (very loose term) to gain back a couple of my hill climb minutes.

I sat, I ate, we left. Nothing between us and the finish, except 8.4 miles in the dark on wet rocks and mud.

Leg time: 2:06:50 (14:24)
Aid Station time: 2:50
Overall Place: ?? they missed me??

Loop 2 AS3 to Finish – 8.4/62.2 miles

As we finished the climb of Death March Hill Jamie stopped to call my wife and let her know we were on our way and I would be pushing the time limit. As he called, I kept moving. I turned on some music and let it blare through the forest. All the sudden everything kicked in, and the next couple of miles would fly by as I found a gear I thought broke a long time ago. I passed several runners during this time and just kept going.

There was this wonderful little sign that said 1.6 miles to Drake Well museum, that was my goal. Get there as fast as I can. Jamie eventually found me and I just kept running as hard as much as I could. I stopped caring about pain and twisting anything, this was my chance and I had to go, I had to go know.

I have to really point out that I am glad Jamie was there. I honestly thought I had left him behind, but I had the confidence in how strong he was that he could catch back up. I don’t know if I could’ve done that with someone else.

We pushed hard, music blaring and my thoughts now muttering out of my mouth rather than my mind. At this point if you had seen me, I was probably a bit crazy.

Suddenly someone when whizzing by us, apparently I wasn’t the only one with a bit left in the tank.

When we hit the 2 mile grass/road stretch we had 25 minutes. A brief walk break would be my last.

Off we went, pushing my body through pain I have never felt before. a half mile to the school we saw 100 milers going back out and a runner ahead. Jamie said to catch him, we did. It was the runner who passed us on the trail, the 100 mile leader. I made a goal to finish before the 100 mile finished and I had achieved it, he still had a 7 mile loop to go, but he was the ONLY 100 mile to lap me, and that felt good.

With the school in sight, we crossed the bridge and picked up speed. Emma ran to the finish with me where 5 feet after crossing 14:56…I stood in a wave of pain. My wife and I hugged a long one. I had never been more happy of how things turned out and that I was able to do my original goal of sub 15 on a tough course.

I hobbled to the chair, grabbed my goods from RD Tom and tried to soak it in. I had just completed the hardest thing I have ever done.

Leg time: 1:45:36 (12:16)
Overall Place: 19/82

In The End

I had a wonderful time, despite the pain, and the pain that still lingers. Ready to quit by mile 20 I asked my body to do something I didn’t think it could do. From there on, it was a mental game. It amazes me that my dark point came so early for me, and the best I had was so late in the race. So much to learn from this race. I couldn’t have asked for a better pacer in Jamie, the guy was rock solid and kept me in this, I owe him a lot.

And without family and friends, I don’t think I would’ve gotten there either. A wife who never stopped believing in what I could do, a daughter who enjoyed watching her father despite being out there for so long. A mother in law who watched the other rug rat who didn’t have a good day, and friends who texted/facebooked so much encouragement to continue on. I was /am absolutely humbled by it all.

Now that I’ve got my time in, I’ll submit for the Western States lottery. I’ll make no decisions about next year until I find out if I’m in or not. But there are ultras in my future.

faster, tougher ones.

The Stats

Cumulative distance for Running: 68.36 mi/7 days, 94.45 mi/14 days, 183.53 mi/28 days,
Heart Rate: Average=148, 99th Percentile=181, 62% HRR, max=185, 54% VO2max
TRIMP 3586, Weekly TRIMP 1371, Monotony 0.45, Training Strain 615
Fitness (CTL) 258, Fatigue (ATL) 339, Performance (Fitness-Fatigue) -81
Fitness (CTL/monotony) 324, Fatigue (ATL*monotony) 193, Performance (Fitness-Fatigue) 132
Average Cadence=66.8
Efficiency=71.7
stride length=32.7 in
+13669/-13670/27339 ft 8.3% [Smoothed: +8833/-8832/17665 ft 5.4%]
Weather: Partly Clouds, 7c/45f, 55%RH
Min./Max.: 26.6 ‘F/54.4 ‘F; Pressure: 1011.5 mbar; Humidity: 55.2%; Dew point: 28.0 ‘F; Wind Speed: 2.3 mph; Precipitation: 0.1mm
Rate This Run: 7, Training effect: 3.90000009536743, Course Score: Running: 221.012266538518
Lap 1, 01:17:40, 7.10 miles, 10:56 min/mi, Avg 167 BPM, 68% VO2max, Start to AS 1
Lap 2, 01:19:32, 6.80 miles, 11:42 min/mi, Avg 168 BPM, 69% VO2max, AS 1 to AS 2
Lap 3, 08:59, 0 miles, – min/mi, Avg 117 BPM, 31% VO2max, AS 2
Lap 4, 01:51:52, 8.80 miles, 12:43 min/mi, Avg 161 BPM, 64% VO2max, AS 2 to AS 3
Lap 5, 08:16, 0 miles, – min/mi, Avg 110 BPM, 26% VO2max, AS 3
Lap 6, 01:58:11, 8.40 miles, 14:04 min/mi, Avg 150 BPM, 55% VO2max, AS 3 to AS 4
Lap 7, 17:30, 0 miles, – min/mi, Avg 126 BPM, 37% VO2max, AS 4
Lap 8, 01:52:18, 6.90 miles, 16:17 min/mi, Avg 138 BPM, 46% VO2max
AS 4 (plus aid) to AS 1
Lap 9, 07:20, 0 miles, – min/mi, Avg 107 BPM, 23% VO2max, AS 1
Lap 10, 01:41:57, 6.80 miles, 15:00 min/mi, Avg 143 BPM, 50% VO2max, AS 1 to AS 2
Lap 11, 17:23, 0 miles, – min/mi, Avg 104 BPM, 21% VO2max, AS 2
Lap 12, 02:06:51, 8.80 miles, 14:25 min/mi, Avg 137 BPM, 46% VO2max, AS 2 to AS 3
Lap 13, 02:51, 0 miles, – min/mi, Avg 121 BPM, 33% VO2max, AS 3
Lap 14, 01:49:31, 8.60 miles, 12:44 min/mi, Avg 152 BPM, 57% VO2max
AS 3 to Finish

Medved Endurance Project

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As trail runners in and around the ROC we felt it was our duty,…no our PRIVILEGE, to let you know of quite possibly one of the coolest things to be going on this spring/summer in the Rochester Area. This year the folks over at Medved have put together an “Endurance Project”. The plan is to run the length of the Finger Lakes Trail, 560 miles on various weekends throughout this time. As an added bonus, participants will also be treated to a run and presentation by Ultrarunner Krissy Moehl. I signed up for it, because for the cost of $65 (which also gets you access into the Medved Madness 15 mile trail race in May) it simply is an experience to remarkable to pass up. The first meeting is April 5th at 6pm at Medved.

You can find out more information on the project by visiting this link.

About the Finger Lakes Trail:

 The Finger Lakes Trail System includes the main Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) from the Pennsylvania-New York border in Allegany State Park to the Long Path in the Catskill Forest Preserve. The main FLT is 558 miles long. There are six branch trails and 29 loop trails and spur trails that extend from the main FLT. These branch, loop and spur trails currently total 400 miles. Including the Main Trail and all branch, loop, and side trails, the Finger Lakes Trail System offers 958 miles of hiking.

-source: FLT Conference

About Krissy Moehl

Twitter: @krissymoehl
Blog: http://www.krissymoehl.com

HIGHLIGHTS

December 3, 2011 The North Face 50 mile Endurance Championships, 4th female 7:47
July 30, 2011 White River 50 mile, Crystal Mountain, WA, 2nd female, 8:35
June 11, 2011 San Diego 100, Camp Al Bahr, California, 1st female, 6th overall, 19:41:13!! (CR)
September 2010 – Shinetsu Five Mountains 110km, Madaro, Japan: 1st female, 14th overall. 13:31
August 2010 – Transrockies Stage Race, Buena Vista to Beaver Creek:
Vasque team with Bryan Dayton.  1st open mixed
April 2010 – Mad City 100 km, Madison, WI: 4th female, 11th overall. 8:33:55 (qualifying time for World 100k team
August 2009 – Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, Chamonix, France: 1st female, 11th overall. 24:56:01 (current CR)
June 2009 – Western States 100 mile, Auburn, CA: 2nd female, 13th overall. 19:26:02
July 2007 – Hardrock 100, Silverton, CO: 1st female, 3rd overall. 29:24:45
January 2007 – HURT 100, Oahu, HI: 1st female, tied for 2nd overall. 26:15
August 2006 – Where’s Waldo 100 km, Corvalis, OR: 1st female, 1st overall. 11:18
2005 – Grand Slam – youngest female and second fastest to complete the series
2004 – Wasatch 100, Kaysville, UT: 1st female, 7th overall. 23:49:47

AWARDS

January 2010 – Ultrarunning Magazine Ultrarunner of the Year, ranked 3rd female
January 2010 – iRunFar.com – Ultra Performance of the year, ranked 1st female (UTMB 2009)

-source: Krissy Moehl Blog