I haven’t posted in quite awhile. Not sure why. Nothing is amiss. In fact, life has been pretty amazing! Just, needed a break I guess? 2014 was truly an epic year of racing for me. Knocked out Beast of Burden Winter 50, Rothrock Trail Challenge , Escarpment Trail Run , the Devil’s Path and CanLake50 last year. And then enjoyed a very low key November and December letting my body heal and recover and enjoying family life without the mental preoccupation of training.
Finished off 2014 with 216,000’ of climb/descent on the year over the course of 1,045 miles. For a busy year that was full of multiple life transitions (a new baby, a new job)? I’ll take it. I learned a lot about myself last year, and that’s always invaluable. In terms of racing, I learned that I simply adore mountain running (I’m thoroughly and hopelessly hooked) and am prepared to push myself further and harder then I ever have before both in training and in racing some pretty incredible events held on amazing terrain.
Cue 2015. I dove back into training hard in January. Doesn’t look that way on paper (“only” 300 miles and 77,000′ of elevation change for the first three months). But every single one of those miles and every foot of climb and descent was earned outdoors, on trails, through one of the coldest and snowiest winters on record for upstate, New York. Sustained sub-zero temps, multiple feet of snow, high winds/brutal windchills, and having to break trail on most runs have been the norm since the New Year. When I finally got to run on actual dirt last week, it was a near-religious experience. And, other then managing to procure some fairly seriously frostbitten big toes (I’ll spare you pictures. Maybe in a separate post. Don’t worry, they’re healed… Mostly.) while training at Hi-Tor (image above) at the end of February, my body has been feeling strong. Which is good. Because 2015 is going to push me hard. I only have three (yup, “just” three) races on the radar this year, but they’re doozies. Should be a good time.
APRIL 18th: BREAKNECK POINT TRAIL MARATHON – this is the first year for this event which will, likely, play out as one of the toughest marathons on the planet; certainly in North America. With 20,000’ of climb/descent (yes, in 26.2 miles) up and over the mountains of the Hudson Valley, Race Director Ian Golden sure has created one helluva course. (Image above of Breakneck Ridge, shot by Joe Azze.) There are only about 50 of us signed up (and another 40 or so for the 25k), so it’s going to be a pretty small field of guinea pigs for this one. A few elites (you can get a feel for the terrain from this video of Ben Nephew’s recent FKT on the trail) and a few crazies. I’m guessing the winning time will be around the 5 hour mark with the rest of us working hard to beat the 10 hour cutoff. My goal is to git ‘er done in under 9 hours. With more vertical change/mile than Devil’s Path , it’s going to be an adventure for sure! And, naturally, Breakneck is a training race for something harder.
Update: I came down with the Flu AND a Sinus/Bronchial infection 10 days before Breakneck. Which sucked. A lot. Deeply disappointed doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt missing this race. If it was just the sinus thing I would’ve raced anyway, but that flu knocked me down for close to 2 weeks. (That’s me running Breakneck in the above pic.) Plus, there’s the whole “runners having heart attacks and dying when racing too soon after having the flu” thing. So, played it safe. I do have a family, after all. The race will be there next year. Thankfully, my wife is pretty amazing, understood my disappointment, and I’ll be running Escarpment Trail Run again this year instead, which I am incredibly stoked about – by all accounts Breakneck was a monstrous success, so I definitely plan to be in for 2016!
JUNE 20th/21st: MANITOU’S REVENGE ULTRAMARATHON – I’ve been morbidly fascinated with this race ever since its inception in 2013. Folks who know trail running know that the Catskills of NY are deceivingly “little” mountains. They’re all rocks and roots and steeps with no switchbacks. Truly some of the most demanding terrain I’ve ever been on. The infamous “Mountain Goats Only” Escarpment Trail Run as well as the Devil’s Path (consistently on multiple ‘hardest/most dangerous hikes in the world’ lists) are both located in the Catskills. The Manitou’s course takes in both of these trails and then tacks on a few additional mountains to make for a monster of a 54 mile mountain race… with a 24 hour cutoff. Nearly double the time limit for most 50 milers. Based on what I’ve heard from others, most need every ounce of that time allotment to make it through. It took me over a year to qualify for, enter, and complete qualifying races in order to simply apply for Manitou’s entry. I got in. So far, it’s the only race application I’ve filled out that asked me to list my mountaineering experience alongside my race history. And with 34,000’ of climb/descent in only 54 miles (elevation profile pictured above), this course is certainly no joke. I can’t wait. Hence my training this year being measured in elevation and time more than in miles.
JULY 2015: ESCARPMENT TRAIL RUN – What can I say? This race is a classic. Gorgeous course (view above from mile 12ish of the course on the climb up Stoppel Point). Brutal terrain (+/-10,000′ EC in 18.6 miles over multiple Catskill peaks). Amazing people. No frills. Just, a classic trail race. Easily one of the most venerable in the Country. I ran it for the first time last year and cannot wait to run it again! Escarpment is probably one of the stupider ways one could choose for recovery from Manitou’s Revenge, but… I couldn’t resist. I’m in, accepted, registered. Should be fun!
AUGUST 2015: FKT – I’ll be running the CRANBERRY LAKE 50 wilderness trail loop up in the Adirondacks. 50 miles on the dot, around Cranberry Lake, which is an absolutely gorgeous part of the 5 Ponds area of the Daks (panorama above from CNYhiking)! Fairly flat (only 3500′ gain + another 3500′ in descent over those miles), but very remote (no road crossings for 38 miles of that). To my knowledge no one has run it, although a few fast-packers have knocked it out in under 24 hours. I’m shooting for the 10-12 hour range, solo, self-supported. Should be fun! Will be cool to be one of the first individuals to have run it.
After that? We’ll see. I have lots of ideas I’m itching to tackle for 2016, but still have to filter them through the reality of life. I’ve definitely been bitten by the 100 miler bug, so we’ll see where that leads… Mostly I’m just thankful to get to do this crazy stuff. That it’s even an option for me. That I have the health and the life situation to make it possible. I know that I’m fortunate. Trying not to forget that.
Cover Image: Horizon Hill/Woodcliff Trails, Fairport, NY. Trail Running. Sunset. 14 below zero. (Murphy)