With the trail running niche of mountain running seeing a lot of growth lately, thought I’d chime in with my [unsolicited] two cents regarding the sport. I’m certainly no expert, but I’ve spent a considerable amount of time training and racing in the mountains over the past two years, so I thought it might be worth sharing some of the lessons learned that have served me well.
(Cover Image: Remote Glacial Moraine, Cranberry Lake 50 Trail, Five Ponds Wilderness Area.)
Back in August I attempted to become the first person to run the entire Cranberry Lake 50 mile trail loop (solo and self-supported) through the Five Ponds Wilderness region of the Adirondack mountains. It was going to be awesome. I was going to knock it out in under 12 hours. A “First Known Time” and a great way to cap off (if not redeem) my race season.
As I reflect on my 2015 race season, it was… a strange one. I lumped my entire year’s effort into 3 ultras across 8 weeks. It came and went in a flash. I’ve never trained harder and delivered more than this year. I accomplished more in those eight weeks from June-August than I would have ever dreamt possible several years ago, tackling some legitimately hard races/runs, but – in one way or another – failing at each of them. Spectacular failures, though, so there’s that at least. I’ve never gained so much from, or been so proud of, accomplishing so ‘little’.
Back in 2013, Jamie Hobbs was kind enough to show Ron and I The Devil’s Path out in New York’s Catskills Mountains. Repeatedly ranked as one of the hardest/most dangerous trails on the planet, Devil’s packs somewhere around +/-19,000′ of climb/descent across 6 mountains (and 8 peaks) in its 25 miles of highly technical trail. It’s rated as a highly strenuous, three-day hike. In 2014 I was able to run the whole thing (along with my friends Ron and Ryan) in 12 hours (for comparison, the fastest known time is just under the 5 hour mark). In addition lots of climb and descent (there are no ridges in between the peaks), the trail is highly technical, riddled with roots, rocks, and cliff bands. If you’ve heard absurd descriptions of this trail? Don’t write it off as hyperbole. It’s almost impossible to overstate how challenging this trail can be.
WHAT: On Saturday, August 15th I’ll be attempting a solo, self-supported run of the Cranberry Lake 50 Mile trail loop through the Five Ponds Wilderness Area in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. Many have thru hiked and fast packed the trail since its completion in 2009, but, to the very best of my knowledge, no one has run the whole thing in daylight. So, if all goes well on Saturday it will be a ‘First Known Time.’ (Image: Cranberry Lake, and the Five Ponds Wilderness beyond, as seen from the top of Bear Mountain.)
Well, my 2nd Escarpment Trail Run is in the books. Barely. Had my ass unceremoniously handed to me by the infamous wall of Manitou this weekend. Which… is basically what makes Escarpment the race that it is. With 10k’ of climb/descent over 6 mountains in just 30k, this race will make you work for it even on the best of days. On a bad day you’ll be happy just finishing.