Sunday, June 22, 2014

Manitous' Revenge Ultra-Marathon… "Chasing the Sun"

I had no idea what I was getting myself into…

I felt that I have also had solid uphill strength for long races and was intrigued with the challenge that Manitous' Revenge could pose.

Little did I know, that this race would break me.

It would challenge myself beyond anything I have ever encountered with running in my entire life.

And as I write this to you, I am pleased to document my journey from a top 5 hopeful position to a matter of praying I finish and do not die from exhaustion.

This is my story.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you--The Devil's Path and the mountains that we were tasked to summit in succession.

I also give you what I thought the Catskills actually were!  Note the large cat!

This image was used from Charlie Gadol-Race Director
On Paper, this race looks hard but for a strong athlete, it seems doable and offers a unique challenge. Truly, this race is INSANE! What it boasts is elevation gain and loss like nothing around with rock-hoping, cliff jumping, loose stones, soggy feet and scaling eroded rock walls and roots that with one misstep, you fall type of experience. Do many places have all this stuff? Probably not!

As we can see the first 20 miles of the race to N/S Lake is the famous Escarpment Run. 
After the Escarpment which you summit Blackhead and Stopple Point, with a long downhill into Pallenville, the race begins with insane summits of some of the most intense mountain trail around: The Red Trail---Devil's Path with 4 of the Catskill High Peaks summited in succession followed by Edgewood and then the death descent where I injured myself and suffered the last 14 miles of the run. The Devil's Path gets its claim to fame from the fact that it is rated as being one of the most-difficult hiking trails in the Country!  And imagine we were to run the course…run/hike very fast.  I soon found that this race was a true mountain event.

So why do I label my title: "Chasing the Sun"? Well, my story will trace the events through my eyes over the mountains, hopping along the rocks, slipping, sliding, crawling and falling through terrain that is beyond challenging. This is Manitou's Revenge.

I begin my journey loading up my car after work on a Friday afternoon behind the schedule I wanted to have to make it to Phoenicia around 5-6 pm but with a hectic day, I did not leave until 4pm. The three-hour drive did not take long at all and before I knew it, I was in Catskill Country. The mountains of the Catskills remind me of a mixture of the Green Mountains of Vermont and the White Mountains in New Hampshire. The lush greenery and seeing all the cool restaurants, bars, shops you name it gave it this laid-back appeal. Really cool stuff. I was excited to be in the Catskills for the first time ready to take in all of the sights and sounds. I got out of my car, changed into some running gear and met some other awesome New Jersians. I then ran a shake-out run to loosen-up the legs to prepare for the action tomorrow morning.

After the shake-out run, it was time for some grub.  I wanted to explore out of the small strip of town so I headed out looking for some good food and cell service. Just pass the Phoenicia Diner, I saw a strip mall with a pizza place. I love pizza as my pre-race meal. Something about bread, cheese, and Italian herbs that gets me in the mood to run fast.  The family-owned business had amazing pizza. New York makes the best pizza. I cannot remember the name of the pizza place but I did snap some photos of their artwork.

Photo time:

The view of the mountains around the area was incredible seeing the different places we would be running up and down the next day. The town of Phoencia is small and quaint but has some awesome little shops and a nice Pharmacy where I would station my car for the early morning pick-up. I went over to the next town since I had no cell service, called my family and also stopped at the nearest gas station to load up on Arctic Freeze (White Powerade) and some water for my Nathan Firecatcher vest and handheld. I was going to be wearing more gear than I have ever worn before in a race. I was going to be wearing 40 oz of fluid on me plus my Ultimate Direction Essential belt starting with 4 gels so that I had my fuel source ready to rock and roll. I found my sweet campsite outside of town, pitched my tent and grabbed some zzzzzzs after some delicious Black Forest Gummi Bears  (Hint: Black Forest makes AMAZING CANDY)  That's right, you better try it!

I hydrated grabbed some zzzzzzzs and awaited the 3am wake-up call to catch the bus to the starting line.

I awoke at 12:30, packed up my gear and headed to the bus section at the Pharmacy. I took my sleeping back, crashed in the back of my car and reset my phone alarm for 2:45. It was tough sleeping with all the excitement of the day building. I was nervous but excited about having the chance to do something totally out of my element.

I do run trails and perform well on technical terrain. But….I have always run on courses that are runnable. This course….Runnable?  Not really. I hiked more than ran for sure and rock hopped as best as I could down the steep rocky ravines and cliff drops. I know that my strength runs in pacing. I hope one day to run Comrades as I feel my ability to run by feel and to hit solid mile splits all day long favor a successful Comrades performance. This race was a first of many for me:  1. Summiting more than one  mountain above 3k, 2. Running on sharp rocks for more than 10 miles, 3. Running over 8 hours in one sitting, 4. Having to eat solid food for sustenance, 5. Drinking 40 oz X every aid station, 6. Power-walking at 12 minute pace like my life depended on it, 6. Not falling off a cliff or getting too lost.

Anyway, my alarm goes off at 2:45, I stretch and check-out the cars beginning to enter the parking lot. It is early.  I get all my running gear ready, meet Charlie, the RD and get my gear and get all ready to rock and roll. Having a sponsor like Mammut is great for a race like this. Our products are designed for RUGGED and I was very happy to put on my Mammut MTR 201 Pro Lows that I raced in Virgil with as well as the Reco-fit calf sleeves that powered me to the Can-Lake 50 record which has been my crowning achievement to date and my new Fits Socks made of merino and Cool Max…which are the best socks I have ever tried and trust me I have a sock fetish and love high quality socks….Fits absolutely kills it with these new Coolmax blended socks debuting this Fall 2014.    I talk with some of the race participants, get myself ready mentally for the task at hand and then board the bus.

Off we go!!!!!!!

I am talking with Brian Rusecki, a stud of technical ultra running and Vermont 50 crusher. This guy represents East Coast Trail Running like no other. And as once a Pearl Izumi Athlete, now under Patagonia, he is representing us Outdoor Brands in style. (Good Pick-up Patagonia!)  Anyway, we chat about the race as I have Ben Nephew as my pick to win it all just because of Ben's experience with Escarpment and the Catskills but if anyone could upset him, it would be Brian. What an honor to be in the same conversation as some of these guys. It floors me to have that sense of being respected by such talented ultra runners that have accomplished so much in their careers. We talk about how Cayuga went which we both had tough days but still hung tough and talked about what to expect for this race. We also catch a little nap time and then time flies as we make the start of  the race.

Bathroom break followed by a meet-up with Ben Nephew, Brian R., and Ryan Welts and Kristina Folcik-Welts who are fellow Acidotic Team Members. We talk about the event as I shiver in the cold go the morning. Race start is 5am and we are 45 minutes from go time.

We begin our pre-race checks and then it is call to race.

Our "Wave 0" lines up, we get the pre-race briefing, and then like a bat out of hell, we are off. The pace is relaxed as we all know that this race is going to be a toughie and running anything too quick to start would be a rookie mistake. We run as a large pack of 12 as we are chatting and relaxing. I am taking in the views and gauging how we are going to survive this thing we call Manitous. I am up with Brian chatting with the crew, talking with Ryan and Ben and our squad of mountain goats.

It is always fun running with such men so accomplished in mountain running to pick their brains. Talking with Ben Nephew, I hope that my performances this fall can get me to run on the USA 50k-100k team. I think with a solid Fall 50 and/or JFK 50 run, I can be in the mix to make a USA squad.

A first 5k on the roads, we all can't feel our hands. I have a handheld that has melded to my hand and we all joke before the race takes the turn for the RUGGED.  We hit aid station 1 at the turn to Escarpment and so it begins. I am behind Ryan Welts as we are running UP UP UP UP UP UP at a relaxing pace. 20 mins in, I ask Ryan if this is the Escarpment Trail that is famous amongst our trail culture of the East, and he confirms that it is indeed the Escarpment. I am baffled that it is no-where as difficult as I initially thought, as of yet. Yes, the Escarpment has rocks and sharp rocks scattered all over the trail, but I was thinking more of a wild jungle run right off the bat.  The tough stuff did not begin until the ascent to Blackhead. It is still early and I am chatting with Ryan. After climbing for a century, I see my first view. WHOA! We did get somewhere. I could see the early morning clouds hundreds of feet below us.  Time to get tough!  We fly off the boulders like rock-hoppers (the New Hampshire version of grass hoppers) as we descend a little which Ryan gains some ground on me as I surge to keep contact. Brian and Ben are chatting it up behind us. Ryan Welts ladies and gentlemen, has some moves on the rocks. This guys dances the tango on boulders better than anyone on any season of Dancing with the Stars, I promise.

I try to keep up and then, the scrambling begins. I am sweating like a pig as we huff and puff up Blackhead. Steady does it.  It does not feel too crazy but yeah we are climbing on jagged boulders. Soon I can see we are almost above tree-line. I follow Ryan's moves and cadence and soon the view comes……HOLY SH#$%!  That view, took my breath away!
Photo credit: mirolka

Summiting Blackhead was something else. Then began the descent.  These guys began flying on the descent which had rock shelves that were loose and dangerous. With my weak ankle, I was nervous of how I could hang. After the first big descent off of Blackhead as I let Brian, Ben and company pass me, I could tell my descent skills were not able to compete. I was now in like 5th-7th place. I soon began to run my own race. I realized that these guys meant business. I surged on the rocky flats to catch the group. After a nice descent section, I was back in eye-sight of the main crew. We hit an aid station. I grabbed water and then off we went. 

I soon felt that running my own pace would play big later on.  This was the easiest part of this race!  CMON PEOPLE!  I soon lost the group and then hit another climb to Stopple Point.  Once atop Stopple, myself and Carlo got lost together on the summit. "Where are the blue markers?" I thought as I could not find where the trail would meet up. We went all to the right and then realized after maybe 5-10 minutes of confusion we found the trail.  As we hit the trail, Carlo wanted to move on the down-hill and I let him go. My ankle was suffering a little bit and wanted to still relax on those descents. 

I was now alone………….

Come from behind victory…not so much. 

I came into N/S lake with a low 3 hour time which would place well at any Escarpment run. I fueled up and off I went. Every aid station gave me that jolt of energy needed to hang tough.  This race's curve goes hard to harder to stupid hard to still hard to kinda hard then 1 mile of road (YES!).  

Time to play the chasing game. Now came a rocky downhill 6 + mile section into the low point of the race at Pallenville. I flew into there after struggling on the downhill only being 15 minutes behind the leaders!  Not too shabby. I talk to Charlie hearing about the runner's who have dropped and then fueled up, got those dreaded rocks out of my shoe and then off I went. I hit the road like a man re-born. Now begins the hard stuff. We hit the dreaded climb out of the valley on what seemed to me as a season access road.  I have great energy levels and have the hopes of catching to top guys. I surge like no other up the dreaded 2k-2 mile climb. I run the majority of the climb with brief walking stints to rest the quads only lasting mere seconds. I was going for broke. I was climbing like a champ and as the heat of the day began to set-in, I was getting my second wind. 

I finished the climb then hit my rough patch. I struggled to fuel at the top after sweating it out and then hit the mud pit. Miles of mud drained me. I lost so much time here. Oh and we have another hands on knee climb---Kaaterskill High Peak.

The climb went for days. I made it and was feeling my first low-point. Gels all the way to save me. 10 minutes later, I felt the resurgence of energy.  
My first battle of weakness began here. The descent I was careful not to hurt myself. I began to fuel more and more and with the mud, I lost so much energy.  Then the gels kicked-in and soon I was flying down the descent to the next aid station.  Whoa, who am I?  I felt brand new. From slogging through mud where I lost my shoe like 3 times, to flying down the hill like Batman in the Batmobile, I was there.  I hit the aid station in need to a re-charge. I got all of my gels, bottles refilled and talked with Charlie about the make-up of the race. I was off again on the heels of the top group.

I felt like a million bucks and now I was gearing for the dreaded DEVIL's PATH!  THis of course is the toughest hiking trail around and the big challenge of the race with 4 3500+ summits in less then 10 miles followed by a treacherous descent and another mountain summit. Running the trail, I was awaiting the tough stuff.  It started out no problem then once we switched from Green to Red Blazes, it began.  UP UP UP UP UP UP UP UP….UP UP UP…UMMMM. This trail just keeps going up. I can see above tree-line now and we are still climbing. I am sweating buckets and breathing like I am in labor.  I eventually make it to the summit of Indian Head and yes the Devil's Path is INSANE but I was expecting deathly. This was no joke climbing the rock cliffs and roots to hoist myself onward and upward. Once the flats came, I shuffled my feet. I was beginning to hurt pretty bad.

The Descents killed me.

I hit one of these rock cliff descents scooting my butt against the cold rock and shuffling down the wall of death to the next shelf and on the descent of Sugarloaf, missed a ledge and slammed down popping my ankle.  "GAHHHHHH" as my handheld and running pack caught my fall. It hurt! Bruised knee and tons of aches and I knew I had to go careful.  Welcome to 50 minute miles. I knew I was losing time here but I kept saying… (Don't Die).  Near the bottom towards Plateau, I was caught by Ashley Lister.  She let me go on the ascent and I knew she would get me on the descent. At this point, my body was destroyed and mangled from my fall. I was really feeling weak.  The descent came and Ashley flew by me with ease. 

What was once a race to place tops with the group, I just wanted to finish. I had run a solid Devil's Path and now 14 miles stood between myself and a finish. I forgot to consume enough calories and by the entrance to Warner Creek, I was done. My body was shutting down and soon I realized, I could not come out of this. My race was done. 
Now began the power hike phase.

I could climb pretty well but I hobbled the descents with many times re-hurting my ankle.  I felt broken.  On the descent to Warner Creek something crazy happened.

???????????? (Photo Credits:

If you guessed Fisher------YOU WIN!!!!!!
I heard this hissing.  I am walking on the trail, post 9+ hours, never running this far before. The run of Devil's Path  sapped all my energy and hit me once I came off of the section. The last 14 miles were supposed to be easier than the last 10 but it still had its tough climbs and descents.  ANd some DAMN FISHER CAT is taunting me. It is right along the trail on some rock den.  I say many profanities at this badger-weasel thing I thought was a hallucination. I am power walking on the trail in the Hurt Locker and see this odd creature. What happens next?  It charges me. I pick up a Catskill boulder and fling it near the creature like a frisbee. Yup it scared the creature as it was zipping back and forth like a squirrel chasing its tail. It then heads back on the rock Hissing AWAY. I yell " YEAH (BLEEP)! WHAT YOU GOT"! I know, kind of mean but how I felt, no animal was going to make my hurt even worse. I was  not going to have it.  Along the trail I continue.

I am probably walking 30 minute miles.  I feel so down, depressed, you name it and even thoughts of death cross my mind. At this point the race changes for me.

It is as much a race of survival as a race of chasing the sun.

I am not the type to drop from a race. I rather show resolve and finish even if it is not where I hope to be. I had the thought of dropping but I had just ran 40+ miles and all this stuff was the hardest parts of the race so dropping out now I thought would show weakness in my character. I dug deep and walked faster than I have ever walked before in my life.  At Warner Creek, I was being passed by all kinds of people but I just wanted to make it before it was dark. If I had to run this trail at night, I would drop out for fear of being attacked by other Fisher Cats. 

I suffered. I struggled, I grunted. Thank you to the volunteers that cheered for me at my lowest point and to the other competitors that gave me confidence. I cried on the trail, scared of not making it. I was walking through all this poison ivy which I have it all over me almost a week out from the race and am still sore. You powered me through. Simply, You got me through it. I was beginning to look like this:

I was pale white, hallucinating that tree logs looked like people as I mismanaged my hydration between Warner Creek and the next aid station.  I was told 5k, and it turned out to be 7 miles. We were still climbing. I became sick of this uphill stuff. I was on my death bed. I felt so bad and did not care. And so my death march continued. I met with a runner that took me through to the last aid station.  Once at the last aid station, I found my angels in disguise.  I now had 4 miles to go!  I took my time now knowing I would finish around 14 hours instead of 12 like I had hoped. I sat down ate Chips, Cookies, M&Ms, all kinds of goodies and fueled up.  I spent maybe 15 minutes fueling.  Thank you to everyone for getting me through this. 

I had some conversation with the aid station ontop of MT Temper and then off I went to the finish. All downhill. All that solid food after 13 hours of running began to turn me around. I was alive again. I could run and the soreness of my muscles and ankle was suddenly gone. I was heading back to civilization.  

Once I hit the road, I felt like I could split a sub 5 minute mile…It didn't happen but sub 6 works right. I hit the sprint home as soon as my feet hit the pavement. 
I sprinted home and as soon as I turned to the finish I knew I had survived.  


I was 12th and after struggling for what felt like days, I beat the sun setting with time to spare.  I cannot stress the technicality of this race. This is no joke. I was way-too unprepared.

I found out straight fluids and gels would not cut it for the amount of elevation gain and loss that occurred. I needed solid food to replenish my frail frame. Also, probably some extra muscle would have come in handy to climb up those summits. This race will always be a race to remember for me. I ran with the mountain men and women as best as I could and hung tough when everything went drastically wrong. I have never struggled this bad in an ultra. My body was beyond spent.  

I have gained an immense level of respect on what happened on June 21st. It was was race against the sun. As I started my journey on June 21st, I thought I could place top 5 and hold my own and never before had I felt so vulnerable in a race before as on that day.

Kudos to all the runners that took on this challenge! Even more kudos for finishing as I was this close from throwing in the towel.  

I would like to thank you sponsors: Mammut North America for making the best products and some rugged tough shoes, Acidotic Racing for being my amazing club team of choice, Fits Socks for keeping my feet protected all day long with no blisters ever and with the new Cool-max socks, Redfeather Elite Snowshoe, and Karhu and Craft for some of the best road-running apparel and shoes around.

Will I be back next year?

I am going to have to sleep on that one and get back to you.
To Ryan Welts, Acidotic Teammate: You are one crazy-rock hopping guy!  

Gear Used:

MTR 201 Pro Low---Best shoes ever! Kept my feet protected all day long and these are how they looked after being submerged in mud for hours! Where's the mud? Exactly!

This Firecatcher Vest from Nathan is too good to be true. 2 10oz bottles tons of storage space, and a fit system that makes the vest feel like it is not even on you. I have always loved Nathan minimal vests, this one is a grand slam.

Usually I use an Ultimate Direction handheld, this Nathan one is my new favorite. The valve I can open with my teeth and it does not hurt, the pocket is stretchy and holds all my wasted gel wrappers, and the hand strap allowed for me to be hands-free while still carrying the bottle. And the bottle caught my fall on Devil's Path and I lost no water in the process.

Mammut Hat, MTR 71 shoes which are my go-to trainers for the roads, trails, you name it and priced at $99 retail, this shoe is a steal. Mammut is just giving you the shoe!  Fits socks are always comfortable and need more respect as they are by far the best socks I have ever run in, and my Acidotic Racing Visor cause I have to show Chris Dunn CEO a little love.

Have a great summer everyone!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Cayuga Trails 50 Miler 2014---Last Man Standing

I want to begin by saying that this will not be your ordinary race recap post. This will be a discussion about how far the sport has come, the building interest in the East, and the potential for the sport in the future.
All the race gear!!!!!!

What will be discussed will be my vision that the Cayuga Trails 50 help to validate. And of course along the way I will recap how the race transpired because this year it was unlike any ultra that I have been apart of.  Here we Go.

My personal story begins 4 weeks prior when I twisted my ankle on a training run on a Thursday. It was nothing special just a stupid mistake as I approached the entrance to some trails. The ankle continued to get worse and for the Tom B trail run, I was a little on the weak-side with the ankle so I knew that I had to be cautious. I used the race as a training run and succeeded running 3 sub hour laps until the final lap. I hit a root and with already a marathon in my legs, I faltered and twisted the chocolate sauce out of the thing. I then continued to walk and kinda jog the last 8 miles. I finished in 4:15 crawling at sub 10 minute pace.

The next week was taken entirely off in hopes to heal my really severe medial ankle sprain which is about 5% of all ankle sprains and I am a pronator which means that I favor that side of my ankle. Luckily I had trained some big volume days leading up to the event and by 3 weeks time, would be feeling the gains. By the week of the race, I was back to running my 10-13 mile runs around the same pace I normally would without too much struggle.

I came into race weekend confident I could place well but knowing I had to run more conservative than I would like to because of my weakened ankle where I felt one false slip and I would have done permanent damage that would sideline my running for months on end.

7:46:02!!! 7th Place

Ian Golden has done such a great job with the Cayuga trails and I have been lucky enough to have him for a boss at the Finger Lakes Running Company. It is always great to see all the praise that everyone has given Ian, the volunteers and race management, sponsors for the race. This year had some amazing competition  and I was excited to finally have my name in the mix. I knew that I was not at full 100% but was still expecting a strong race with the solid training I have been able to put together.

The race had so many top prospects: Matt Flaherty--50 mile road champ extrodinare and a speedy guy to boot, not to forget mentioning the most legendary mustache in ultra running history, Chris Vargo---part of the Nike Trail Team and a guy that has run ridiculous times out West in Cali and Colorado, surprise Tristin Williams---- who smacked me at USA Mountain Running last year, Yassine, who is a 100 Mile specialist and Western States top 10 finisher, Ben Nephew the East Coast FTK specialist of the Catskills who is arguably the fastest runner on some of the ickiest terrain, Brian Rusecki who now runs for Patagonia and has run crazy times at Vermont 50, races in Virginia, a solid performer, Jordan McDougal---North Face Bear Mountain Multiple winner and super fast and top three last year, Zach Ornelas a fast mountain runner and young stud running his first 50miler which he could do some damage and SO MANY MORE!

As you can see the race was stacked. A top 10 finish would be lovely and a top 5 or 3 would be ideal.

To put into perspective, this course is one level more runnable than Virgil Crest or any crazy Catskill trail race, but has its fair share of elevation changes, creek crossings, roots, rocks, and crazy steps that make you feel like you are running the Great Wall of China Marathon!  This course had near 12k of vertical gain with the new Red Pine Trail which I have run and has a steep uphill section and the dreaded Lucifer Steps which has an amazing view but makes me feel like I am Lara Croft running away from some stone gargoyles or something of the sort. And I digress…

Back to the story… So I arrive with my father at the race, check in, say HI to Joe Viger, Ryan Welts, Amy Rusecki,  Kristina Folcik, and many others. It was a cool morning and I could feel the pre-race jitters. I hit up the bathroom as usual and hung around nice and relaxed ready to run 50 grueling miles. I had a Clif Bar for breakfast and some pre-race Honey Stinger Cherry Cola Energy Chews, yum. I had all my Mammut gear ready with my MTR 201 Pro Lows in the new icicle blue and my blue and green gear. I had my new Coolmax Fits Socks that are blended with Merino (SOOOO AMAZING) EVERYONE MUST BUY THIS FALL, and my Acidotic Racing Visor and little logo on my shirt!  With 10 minutes I lined-up with the top crew and was ready to roll. Never before have I felt like people know WHO I AM. I had people I have never met before wishing me luck, who have read my blog and have talked about my recent accolades. It feels surreal because I do not approach myself like a celebrity but for anyone that has supported me and looks up to me THANK YOU! Your support and admiration is a breath of fresh air. I have  been blessed to have such wonderful support and anyone that considers themselves a fan of myself Thank you. I will state here that IF I Ever Were to become famous, I will always remain humble and respectful of everyone that is awesome and cares about me. My goal in all of this is to inspire people that hard work pays off. That your dreams can become a reality if you wake up each and every day ready to fight for them. I spent my life being told I was never good enough for anything and here I am today. I am still on the cusp of big success but I attribute what I have achieved to believing and having people that have believed in me has given me the strength to keep on when I felt like calling it quits. Thank you again.

Once the rams horn went off we were out.

I settled into the pack of top guys. We are like 15 deep as I can feel the excitement of a USA 50 mile trail championship. I know that many of the guys upfront will lose pace so remaining consistent would be the goal. I decided to remain mid-pack as I had no idea how the ankle would hold and the pace was hot from the get-go so I wanted to remain smart. I also knew that the weather would heat up later in the day so running a smart and consistent race would pay dividends in the later stages. I settled along with Ben Nephew, Yassine, and some other fast dudes as we meandered around the gorges. I began to run the uphills with ease so I knew all my vertical was paying off leading up to the race. With my ankle, I strained on the downhills but that was to be expected. The course was of course gorgeous and more importantly was the first race in a long time for the East Coast to bring this deep of competition to an ultra marathon. I have never run 12 miles into a race and still have a pack of guys to run with. I enjoyed the day with the race and up the steep Lick Brook Climb gained some ground on Yassine and company. At this point, it was the large main pack that I had to catch but the race was still early and I wanted to take it easy to ensure a stronger second half. Once we left Buttermilk and then headed on the fields that connect into the last section of the Gorge Trail, Yassine caught me. I was having the beginnings of fatigue and could feel myself losing pace 4 miles before this photo op.
Photo Credits to Ron Heerkins Jr.

We ran together for numerous miles as Yassine would crush the downhills and I would catch back up on the Uphill sections. It was fun to be back running with him again. I was following my gel and liquid nutrition plan getting ginger ale and water at the stations, downing at least a gel ever 45 mins and consuming 20 oz every aid station. I felt good.  Then Ben Nephew caught up to us a few miles from the turn around and we hit the Lucifier's Steps and I could not climb with them. My legs felt real tight from stressing the downhill sections and holding my body back and the heat of the day was starting to deplete my body quicker than what I could take down. I was beginning to become severely dehydrated.  I lost my edge and then the separation began. Once I lost ground on Yassine and Ben, I knew that I had to be smart. My ankle began throbbing and I had the thoughts of dropping. I hit a low point only 3 miles from the 25 mile turn-around. I walked up some of the hills and felt like I was trotting. I remember seeing all the top guys maybe a mile ahead of me and knew that if I could make due and improve my pace something could come of this but I felt exhausted. 
Ron Heerkins Jr with another solid photo! 
Loop 1 coming back to the Gorge Trail

As I came to the turn-around I saw that Jordan McDougal had dropped out and I talked to him about how he felt. He mentioned to me that the top guys were looking strained and that if I held it together, I could get into some of the carnage. I too was struggling now from the heat and beginning to feel its effects but I thought if I was in 8th now, I could pick up some spots and if guys are to drop then I would have a chance. I came out of the aid station like  person reborn. I won the coveted CLIMBER's JERSEY for the fastest section from the turn-around to the next aid station which has some solid climbs and Lucifer Step's again. I was still climbing like a champ and went for it. Once I got back into nearing Lick Brook, a Salomon Runner was with me now. It was hard to fight with this guy as physically by mile 30+, I felt hot!  I would be able to cool myself off at the creek crossings and aid stations, but truly, all the water and GU Brew that I could take down just was not enough to get myself back to feeling comfortable. I was able to pass him near entering the downhill to Buttermilk Falls. I came down to the Falls, and Ian mentioned that I looked like I had stopped sweating. I was cold and clammy and had no visible sweat on me. That was bad. No wonder I felt like I was roasting on this 80 degree day.

I cooled off and kept powering through. The race from this point with 13 miles to go was not good for me at all. I managed my body from going from Heat Exhaustion to Heat Stroke the last 13 by cooling myself off but I felt dizzy, cold, tired, my legs were cramped, I had a headache. It was not comfortable. Myself and Kristina Folcik-Welts experienced much of the same issues as did many of the competitors. Each aid station, I was told runners were dropping like flies and I kept hearing places opening up for myself as people were moving up slots because of the drops. 

With the vertical and the toughness of the course, I dug deep and pushed through. Once I hit the last two aid stations with 7 miles to go, my body was spent. I was walking more of the hills now if not all of them and of course could hardly even run the uphills. I just wanted to be done. 

What ultras teach you is to dig deep even when you are having a crappy day, because you never know what the day can bring. For Cayuga, I felt like my race was not good at all but was not terrible. I have trained hard since November and Snowshoe Running Season has given me a new level of fitness that I am very happy about. If my ankle was at 100%, I feel my performance would have been much different but that is what racing is all about: seeing what you have on the day.

I held things together and finished 7:46 which was much quicker than my 8 hour time last year on a harder course with both ankle issues again. 7th in a much deeper field from 9th I will take it as I struggled but the story of the day was to just hang on and hope the heat would not kill you. I was pleased with a solid day of hurt and struggling but it taught me to hang tough and good things can happen.  My summers I like to train hard to prepare for a fast fall. This Fall, I would like to run more of the Road Ultras as my Can-Lake 50 race was no fluke and I love that I have a real knack for the roads. I also thing as my ankle continues to heal and strengthen, running on the roads might not be a bad idea. Luckily in Cortland, I have plenty of tough ascents on road and gravel seasonal roads so I can achieve a lot of solid vertical up and down without stepping on the rocky and rooty trails.

1st place--Chris Vargo! Climbed well all day and hung tough

3rd Place--Matt Flaherty who had a tough day and hung in there.


Going for the Climber's Jersey

So what was learned from this race: *With a Cold Winter, Heat acclimatization was crucial for success.
* Do not give up
* Take in more calories and gels
* Strengthen the ankle since it is weak
*Keep Training Smart
*Reach for the Stars

The amount of interest in Trail Running and Ultra Marathoning has exploded in the East! This is a very exciting time as more and more top athletes are coming from the East rather than Colorado and the West. There are more and more races featuring prize money and I was amazed with how solid the competition was this year. I cannot even wait for JFK! I feel that my running is coming around and I look forward to getting myself out there more to market the companies that keep me going. I have an awesome bunch of sponsors and they deserve more media time and I hope I can get them there. More and more athletes are being sponsored which is great in the sport of trail and ultra running and people are really taking a liking to the sport. I am very pleased with the excitement that is being generated from the sport and cannot wait for Cayuga Trails 2015! We all learned from a tough day but it was a great day!  

Ready to Climb Buttermilk Falls

Thank you to my family, friends, people that want to support me, my sponsors: Mammut North America, Fits Socks for the most amazing new Cool-max socks, Acidotic Racing, Redfeather Snowshoes, Karhu/Craft and Confluence Running for the support. Thank you Ron Heerkins JR for the photos and Matt Gawors for the photos too. Thank you everyone and have a wonderful summer!

Gear Used: 
Mammut MTR 71 Shirt (Green)
Mammut MTR 201 Pro Low in Icicle Blue!
Mammut MTR 71 Run Shorts in BLue
Acidotic Racing Emblem and Visor
Fits Socks Brand New Cool Max socks in Green!!!!'
Ultimate Direction 20 oz handheld and Essential Belt
Lots of Gels (GU) (12 gels)
Lots of Fluids (11-13 20 oz)
Zensah Calf Sleeves

Next up is Manitous Revenge which is a crazy Catskill mountain race. I look forward to having fun and testing myself. Have a great summer and see everyone next year! 
This race is BURLY and not being much of a mountaineer, I have no idea how my climbing skills will be but at least it will be a fun experience and I can say I summited a bunch of high peaks in the Catskills.

Today's Greek Peak Training run for Manitous'