Race Report: Manitou's Revenge Take 3!!! by Mike Siudy

Manitou’s Revenge is the best race in the world for me. Tough terrain, tons of climbing (+/- 16,000 ft) and a long enough distance (54 miles) to be able to go slow and steady. In other words, very little running. After last years time of 13:14, I was excited to see what I could do with very dry trails and the forecasted low humidity.

Helping at Friday's packet pick-up.

Helping at Friday's packet pick-up.

I had a little trouble getting to sleep on Friday night after I helped Charlie with packet pick-up and having a nice broccoli and pineapple pizza dinner at Brio’s. First it was the bright moon, then it was the dude in the campsite next to me wailing Tom Petty songs on his guitar at 11:15 pm. After managing a couple of hours of shuteye, I woke up at 3 am to catch the bus. The ride up to Batavia Kill Rec Center where the race starts was uneventful and when we arrived I got a good spot in the bathroom line to ready my body for the day. Things were looking good.

My wave (#2) started around 5:09 am. I always take the first three miles of flat road nice and easy, last year someone from the wave 5 minutes behind me actually passed me on the road.  Fortunately, experience has taught me to do my own thing no matter what. Running 9 min miles put me on the trail in about 27 minutes where I shuffled and hiked uphill to the Escarpment Trail. I spent some time in the first few miles warming up running with Guillermo Ayala, Marc Gravatt, Chris Gallo, and Henry Pratt as we climbed up and over Blackhead Mt. I wanted to be conservative early on but also beat last years time so I tried to whittle away at my splits from 2015. When I hit aid station 2 manned by Karl Loops, Nick Kirk, and Manny Hernandez, I was right on schedule. I kept cruising as I ran a few miles to North/South Lake with Sheryl Wheeler and Tom DeHaan.

Leaving Aid #3, I hooked in with Hyun Chang Chung and Michael Chu and we cruised down to Palenville together. I had a minute or so on my previous attempt and was feeling good, that is until I started to climb up Kaaterskill. I was overcome by severe stomach cramps. I made a pit stop in the woods which gave little relief. I was feeling overheated and the cramps prevented me from eating, drinking enough, and getting full breaths. The climb was much more of a slog than normal. Laying in one of the streams up top helped a bit but it was short lived, I had lost Michael and Hyun and did not see them again. A slow shuffle down to Platte Clove put me around 13 min behind pace and I knew any chance of a fast day was gone.

It was now all about taking it easy to feel better and try to finish strong. The only obstacles in my way were the Devil’s Path and 24 miles, no problem. I have summitted each of the DP peaks over 20 times so I know them well, inside and out, and having a strong traverse of them is always difficult. During last years race I hit my stride and had a really fast split to Mink Hollow, but due to the fact that I could hardly run any of it, I lost another 26 minutes in just 7.5 miles. It was taking rest breaks at overlooks and even sitting down on large rocks for quick breathers, this was not going well. The climb up Plateau is always a beast, and at mile 39 it is pure torture. Eventually I made it and shuffled down the very runnable trail section to the Silver Hollow aid station. I was really tired because I still wasn’t eating enough so I sat on a rock and tried to let things settle down.

After 5 minutes or so in the aid station I managed to eat a couple things and decided to move. I hadn’t seen any runners besides Steve Hawkins, who was going through his own stomach situation, in a couple of hours. As I was leaving the aid, Sheryl Wheeler came in looking as strong as ever. Sheryl is one of seven people that have run all four Manitou’s and she has the fastest average time of that group. Finishing near her means you are having a solid day so I was determined to do make it as hard as possible for her to catch me. I hiked fast and steady up the 650 ft. ascent to Edgewood Mountain.

As I began the descent into Warner Creek my stomach finally started to feel better. I got really hungry and started eating all of my food that I had been carrying for most of the day. I love to eat kids apple sauce (and other fruits) packets on these long runs. They taste great, are easy to digest, and are natural sugars as opposed to whatever gels are made of. I ate three of them climbing up to the Willow aid station after laying down in the creek for a minute. My stomach was good, my legs came back to life and I was able to run well on sections, even uphill. I came into the aid to see Steve looking pretty terrible. He hadn’t eaten since mile 20 and was doing everything just to keep going. I chatted with my friends Joe Brown, Stewart Dutfield, and John Holt who were manning the station, grabs some food and filled my water bottles. As I was leaving my friend Mendy Gallo who was running the relay came in. I told her I’d talk to her when she caught me and took off. I reached the Mt. Tremper fire tower quicker than expected and let out a jubilant howl. From here it is 4.5 miles to the finish with no more climbing. As I was packing away my trekking poles for the descent Mendy caught me.

We began to fly downhill together, both ready to end a very long day. Mendy had “only” run the last 24 miles but was up as early as anyone, shuttling her husband Chris and friend Andrew Zalewski, who were her relay partners, around the course all day. We told each other the days events, complained about the trail underfoot, and before we knew it were on the road with only 1.3 miles to go. I really dislike running on road and each time I’ve done Manitou’s, the road at the end was torture. Last year I was even passed by Jonathan Cornibe 1/2 mile from the finish.  Having Mendy to run in with made me forget about the pavement and it flew by.

My time of 14:13 was just under an hour slower than last year but still good enough for 10th male, 11th overall. I’ll take it considering the 25 miles of cramping.

Thanks to all of the runners I shared to trail with on this wonderful day. Much respect to all finishers, especially Steve Hawkins and Mike Dixon who both gutted out solid times after being on the verge of dropping. A huge thank you goes out to the volunteers at the start and finish, the aid stations, the sweeps, and anyone that hauled many gallons of water uphill in the prior few days. You are too numerous to list by without each of you, this race cannot happen. Thanks to Mountain Peak Fitness/Red Newt Racing for the support of myself and this race. Of course the biggest thanks goes to RD Charlie Gadol for having the vision to develop this insane race out of nothing and create one of the most amazing and toughest 50 milers in the country. I’m unbelievably fortunate to have completed it 3 times.

Race Report: Amy Hanlon vs the 2016 Manitou’s Revenge 54 Mile Ultra!

Mile 32ish. Somewhere near the top of Indian Head Mountain…lying down on a rock, calling my mommy…texting 2 possible pacers that I wouldn’t be needing any pacing at Mink Hollow since I would be dropping out there. “I will probably drop at mink unless a miracle happens. So don't go to any trouble to get anyone. I am resting at Indian Head and will be a long time getting to mink. Flies are swarming me like I'm dead. ☹” I was 100% sure I wouldn’t be able to achieve a fourth finish at Manitou’s Revenge. From about mile 26 to mile 37, I told anyone who would listen I was going to quit at mile 40. I did get up from that rock. But I sat on many more rocks and whined to many other runners. All of them were encouraging and supportive, but I was steadfast in my plans to quit.

I had had an injury to my rib cartilage (costochronditis) several weeks before Manitou’s. The first week was bad, but after that (and a lot of Aleve) the pain was improving. I had logged some long runs, including the Cayuga Trail Marathon and about 24 or so miles at Mt. Greylock the preceding week. The rib pain affected both outings—it hurt to use my arms for support and my breathing was labored, but it wasn’t enough to make me regret participating.

MPF RNR Teammates that joined me for the adventure!

MPF RNR Teammates that joined me for the adventure!

The first 21 miles at Manitou were wonderful. My body felt good. It was warm but the heat wasn’t bothering me. I was moving at a decent pace (so I thought…I didn’t wear a watch) and I was joyful to be back on trails I love with so many awesome runners and volunteers. I was happy to catch up to Elizabeth Azze and Kathy Hoegler. At the aid station in Palenville I decided to use trekking poles up my least favorite section of the race, Kaaterskill Mountain. I was slow on the ascent and leaned heavily on the poles. My breathing was labored and uncomfortable but I was in good spirits. I got to the top still feeling decent and then my chest wall really started hurting. Although the top of Kaaterskill is pretty gnarly, muddy and rooty and rocky, it is usually a spot I am able to run a little. But I began to struggle with any pace except a virtual crawl. And while the descent is something I have barreled down in the past, now I could only walk and every step and every breath hurt.

My theory is the poles aggravated the costochronditis. I had some conversations with myself. I love the Devils Path section of the trail and even if I was uncomfortable, I could hike it at the slowest pace and just drop at mile 40 at Mink Hollow. I didn’t like the idea of dropping but I started to get used to it. I pictured myself unpinning my bib with tears in my eyes. I pictured myself wistfully watching other runners continue on up Plateau Mountain to finish their 54-mile journey. I even started looking at the bright side--I would be rested for a hike with my coworkers the next day and get to see some of the faster runners finish.

I arrived at Platte Clove at mile 31 feeling very defeated. Even with my grouchy mood - it was good to see my friend Peter Preston and the other volunteers. I felt sorry for Elizabeth who had to drop after a fall injuring her ankle. I told her and Julian and Karl from MPF about my plan of dropping at Mink. But that little part of me that wanted to finish the race hinted at the idea of getting Julian or Karl to pace me for the last 15 miles. Right away, Karl offered.

So after an extended break at Platte Clove, I pressed on towards the Devil's Path portion of the course. It is by far the most challenging section--8 or so miles with nothing but gnarly roots and rocks and ledges and brutal ups and downs and very little opportunity to get into a steady groove. While this is typically my favorite type of trail, today I was truly struggling and found myself having to stop and rest, sit and even lie down many times. My negativity increased to levels I haven’t experienced in a while and that is when I found myself on the top of Indian Head in a pathetic heap. I even gave all of my water to other struggling runners, knowing that I would never finish the race so I was fine to dehydrate myself.

Fortunately other runners on the trail really helped me through this section…getting me out of the “poor Amy” state of mind I had gotten myself into. And things steadily improved after Indian Head. While neither my body or mind were in a perfect place, they both improved and continued to improve until I found myself smiling climbing down Sugarloaf’s technical descent, knowing I felt better.  I couldn’t drop out. And I would finish my fourth consecutive Manitou’s. 

The volunteers and runners at Mink Hollow fed and encouraged me. So onward I traveled, picking up the pace when I could. I felt much more like my usual self.  I had an extra moral boost on Tremper when I discovered that even though I had texted Elizabeth not to send Karl to pace me, she had confidence that I would end up finishing. Karl got into Mink Hollow an hour after I did, chased after me, and finally caught up with me a little after the stream crossing at Warner Creek. His company made the last miles fly by. Seeing my good friends Stewart and Joe at Willow, and Dick at the road junction boosted me even more! We even had a bear sighting during the last mile on the road into Phoenicia!

I was elated to finish my fourth Manitou’s revenge in one piece with a smile on my face. I faced pain and self doubt which made ultimately succeeding all the sweeter. 

Manitou’s Revenge is one heck of a race. Thanks to Charlie Gadol for creating this masterpiece. I feel lucky to be a part of it. Thanks to Mountain Peak Fitness for their support and passion and love for the trail running community, especially Elizabeth and Karl who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. Thanks to all of the volunteers and runners who make this race unbelievably special and amazing. I’ll be back for number 5 nextyear!

Recommended 

Amy's Athlete Page (race reports, photos, videos)
More Manitou race reports, photos & videos

Quick Recap from the 2016 Manitou's Revenge 54 Mile Ultra

Race day is when you plan for all of your hard work and preparation to come together. It takes a lot of courage and commitment to even get to the starting line of any ultra endurance event. Some days you have the race of your life, while others don’t go quite as planned. This weekend was a perfect example of that at the extremely challenging Manitou's Revenge Ultramarathon & Relay, one of the toughest trail races anywhere in the world! MPF RNR Athlete Carlo Agostinetto crossed the line in 1st place! Check out some of the race footage below from his day in the rugged Catskill Mountains of New York! 

Huge congratulations to Kehr Davis and Carlo Agostinetto for their stellar performances on this years Manitou’s Revenge!!  They battled warm conditions but fortunately had dry trails and low humidity as Kehr ran to victory in 13:47:14 and Carlo in 11:16:40.  Congrats to the rest of the runners as well!  Full results below:

Not only was Manitou happening this weekend but MPF RNR athletes & clients were at the The Big Horn 100, Mount Washington Road Race, Gorges Ithaca Half Marathon & the Tanglefoot Tail Run. A shout out to Amy Jennifer HanlonCat SkillEric AdityaHarry HamiltonJay LemosMatthias LipshitzJayson Kolb & Scotie Jacobs! Congratulations to everyone who toed the line this weekend and thank you to all the volunteers who without, these races would never be possible.

A big thanks to our MPF RNR Team sponsors, MerrellUltimate DirectionGU Energy LabsRed Newt Racing & Run On Hudson Valley!

Race Report: The 2016 Cayuga Trails 50 by Ben Nephew “On Being Social”

For the first three years of this event, I had placed 7th, 5th, and 5th, with progressively faster times on the varying versions of the course. For this year’s event, the training had been going well, although slightly different with more hills than most years, and I was hoping to run in the low 7 hour range, improving on my 7:28 from last year. In terms of place, the field this year was incredibly deep, even deeper than the vast majority of people realized due to the wide variety of runners. While it was common knowledge that guys like Matt Flaherty, Jared Burdick, and Tyler Sigl would be up front and other guys like Brian Rusiecki and my teammates Jan, Cole, Silas, and Iain chasing, there were also many more strong runners such as Adam Russell, who I had chased most of the day at Breakneck, and Robert Bond, a GBTC runner that was 3rd at JFK last year.

I decided to sleep in a tent instead of a cabin this year, and ended up getting 5 solid hours of sleep, which is about two nights for me. The weather forecast had looked promising, with a forecast high of 78, and I thought maybe we would get a cool year at Cayuga. After a short warm up, the race was off at 6am, with Tyler heading out on his own. It didn’t seem like an insane pace, and I was almost tempted to run ahead to catch up with him. The rest of field seemed to be closely watching Dylan Bowman’s pace, and it was nice not to have a suicidal speed right from the gun. Brian Rusiecki and I ran these early miles together with a large pile of competitors close behind. My legs felt good, and, the air was still nice and cool.  

From our Facebook Live Video Coverage. http://bit.ly/1Ukz7zN

I was still in 5th or 6th place at the Underpass aid at 7 miles. As I stopped to grab some Coke for my bottle, things suddenly got crazy. I was handed an unopened bottle which absolutely exploded all over me. It then took a while to fill my bottle, and by the time I got back on course, I must have been passed by 8 runners. Not just passed, but dropped, everyone was gone. The only person I could see was Matt Flaherty, and he was a good ways up the trail. It was far too early to be racing, so I just settled into my own pace. I have always found the practice of surging around aid stations early in ultras strange, as I don’t see the point getting 30 seconds on someone so you can run alone for another 6 hours. I run alone enough in training, and one of my motivations for running races is to actually see another human runner.  Some of the surging in this race was more due to a few runners not carrying anything with them, which I was impressed with.

While I have had carbonated Coke at plenty of races, it wasn’t quite sitting right in my stomach, which was making it harder to maintain my pace. Cole and a couple other runners caught up with me, and I latched on as they went past. I didn’t feel awful, but I certainly wasn’t 100%. Things did not improve heading up the Buttermilk stairs, and I began to wonder if running another 5 hours like this was worth it.  Cole was holding a good pace, and I just latched on and hoped that I would feel better at some point. It didn’t help that a runner heading the other direction counted 14th, 15th, and 16th place for Cole, another runner between us, and myself. That was not what I was looking for.

As we descended to Lick Brook, the trail wove through an incredible field of wildflowers that boosted my spirits a bit. Cole began to struggle, and Aaron Saft, a runner that I have known for quite a while but rarely see, caught up with us. We had a nice chat, and I started to feel stronger as we approached the 22 mile aid station to run back through the northern part of the gorge to the start. I decided to try and see if I could handle a little more speed, partially because I enjoy running through the gorge trails.

It was shocking how far ahead Tyler was as I made my way to the halfway turn around, and I was encouraged when I realized that most of the other runners ahead of me were closer than expected. I made up some ground over the last mile to the turn, quickly refilled, and headed back into the gorge.  While there is always quite a bit of carnage at Cayuga, I was surprised at how early on a number of runners were struggling. It was certainly getting hot, but I tried not to dwell on that, as I don’t enjoy running in the heat myself. I passed Amy Rusiecki heading the other way, who instructed me to work together with Brian, who was just ahead. It is always smart to listen to wives, even when they are not your own. I did as Amy instructed and caught up with Brian after passing Zach Ornelas, my third pass of the first 3 miles of the second half, at around 28 miles.  

As soon as I approached Brian, he let loose with an impressive ode to the course that was something of a cross between Debbie Downer and Donald Trump. He was also having a less than stellar day, and apparently it was all the course’s fault. He had some good points, but it is just a tough course that is hard to get right and can really beat you up, especially for guys like us that don’t put many miles on the roads.  Even with the flood of negativity, Brian was running as steady as a metronome, and I appreciated having him there to run with. The two of us could be exhibits of how negative energy can be used effectively to improve your race. Everyone always talks about smiling their way through ultras, which I think is the result of too many viewings of The Sound of Music. We were not smiling much, and I’ll take this opportunity to thank the 9 million runners who enthusiastically greeted me by name during the race and apologize for only nodding or grunting in return. Cayuga trails, where everybody knows your name.

We passed a few more runners on our way back to Buttermilk. While each of us would have a short low occasionally, we were making decent time considering the heat. It wasn’t the pace I had been hoping for, but I felt much better than during miles 7-22. The Coke at the aid stations was all flat now, which helped, and one station had even loaded it into a dispenser jug. We moved through the Buttermilk station quickly and Brian was strong heading back up the stairs. He started to pull away at one point, but I caught back up once we headed back into the trails at the top. The open fields were rough as the sun beat down on us, and we were hitting the fluids pretty hard. Brian, being the amateur that he is, did not put his salt tabs in a container, and they were all stuck together from the river crossings so he had no salt. On our last run together in VT, all his water froze solid for the entire run. I’m sure he’ll figure out these details with a few more years of ultra running and racing under his belt.   

FB Live video, MPF RNR Athlete Jan Wellford crossing Enfield Creek.

The heat was affecting me most on the uphills, but my legs were in good shape no cramping at all, which Brian was struggling with at times. Submerging in the river was a life-saver during the second half. In cramping desperation, Brian grabbed a pile of 5 S-Caps stuck together and tried to swallow all of them about 5 miles from the finish. It almost killed him. He started choking, stopped makings sounds, and just as I was ready to drop kick him in the stomach, the conglomerate fired out of his throat onto the ground. It was honestly scary for a few seconds, but he was back to speed within seconds of the episode. We were hurting heading up the last stair climb, which is followed by a rude hill, and it was a relief to reach the final aid station with a mostly downhill stretch to the finish. At about 2 miles from the finish, I asked him if he wanted to run it in together, or duke it out. He told me his dukes were shot, and I was perfectly fine with finishing together.  

With Brian at the finish!

With Brian at the finish!

We ended up tying for 6th in 7:40, which I was certainly happy with considering how I felt earlier in the race and my placing at that time. I would have liked a better time, but I couldn’t have expected to do much better than 5th even with a very good race. It was great to see Jan and Silas finish a few minutes later to get 3 MPF RNR runners in the top 10. They both ran really smart, and without Brian to pull me along, they might have run me down. In terms of the heat, despite drinking about 140 ounces of Coke during the race, I never had to make a single pit stop, where in the past years I’ve always stopped once or twice. It was hot. In contrast to past years where I have spent massive periods of time running by myself, it was really enjoyable to run with Brian. I could have put time on him at some aid stations, and he probably could have dropped me on a few hills, but it would have resulted in us running a minute or so apart for 10-20 miles. This would not have helped either of us, and most likely hurt our performances if any sort of surge was involved. Apparently this is becoming a trend for me this year; running with Jay Lemos at Tammany, with Iain for the entire race at Rock the Ridge, and now with Brian. For two guys that run and race alone most of the time; it was amusing how much we both appreciated the company.

In contrast to Brian’s steady pacing, the surging tactics common at ultras are often associated with massive positive splits, which are not always a bad thing. This came up in the discussion of Tyler’s impressive run, where he took advantage of the cooler temps during the first half of the race. The trick is that you have to be able to tolerate the demands of an aggressive pace, which require ideal fitness and fueling. Given Tyler’s performance, I think he could have won using just about any race strategy one could think of. His halfway split of 3:05 was ridiculous, as well as running 6:43 in that heat. Jared’s attempt at running him down to finish in 6:55 was also impressive, but even he acknowledges that Tyler was not going to be caught. While the hard early miles worked for Tyler, there were at least 8 guys ahead of me where the fast early pace did not work out, and I had an unhealthy positive split myself.

Congratulations to all the runners who survived that beast of a course that is always harder than it seems and never gets easier! Having so many MPF RNR teammates out on the course, both running and supporting the race, made it feel like we had a home field advantage. While I hope to have a stronger race next year, my main goal will be to enjoy the course more. I got a bit too caught up in the racing to enjoy the scenery as much as I have in the past, and that is unacceptable at Cayuga. Thanks to the Red Newt Racing crew and all the volunteers for putting on such a spectacular event, we are lucky to be able to race through such unique terrain!

Recommended

    

 

Facebook Live! The 2016 Cayuga Trails 50 Mile USATF Championships!

Facebook Live Videos from the 2016 Cayuga Trails 50! MPF's Elizabeth Azze was posting throughout the day with live footage and updates! If you missed any of the live video feeds, you can re-capture the day here! This was all live footage and it is unedited. This page is best viewed from a desktop or laptop. You can also visit our Facebook Video Page for the 2016 Cayuga Playlist for a better viewing experience. 

For everything Cayuga Trails 50, including videos, photos and race reports from 2015 & 2016, click here

Video: 2016 Breakneck Point Trail Runs

Here is our video of the 2nd running of the Breakneck Point Trail Runs in Hudson Highlands State Park, New York. This race is organized by Red Newt Racing and is the 1st of several awesome races on there schedule for 2016. Video by Joe Azze.

Race Report: 2016 Singlespeed-A-Palooza by MPF Athlete Evan Fineman

I was tempted to not do a write up as I felt that the disappointment that I had at my race result (and season so far) would be a big drag and all negative. But I think these write ups help me race and could be cathartic moving forward.

Single-Speed-A-Palooza 2016 was my first A race on my race calendar. So yes I have had some injuries and illness issues that have hampered my training this season so far but who hasn’t. I was finally feeling healthy and strong and put in a lot of work to get here. I decided that even though the course (one lap of 26.6 miles) was muddy due to all the rain we recently got I was going to run the hardest gear that I have ever pedaled- a 34x18 (2 gears harder than last year). So more gear inches should equal more speed on the fire roads and the ability to pedal more on the flats and downhills but is going to hurt bad on the punchy stuff- and if you are feeling a bit tired or your legs are heavy that day, you are going to be forced to use your second gear…walking…

Photo: Single-Speed-A-Palooza Facebook Page, click on the photo to visit. 

Photo: Single-Speed-A-Palooza Facebook Page, click on the photo to visit. 

I lined up 3rd row with 100+ of some of my closest Open/Pro friends and right away started to stress about being too far back. The mass start (with another 200 people coming 3 minutes later) is a real cluster f. as the road is pocked with big holes filled with water of who knows what depth. So while I’m trying to move up the field is trying to avoid holes and death. Right away a guy crashes on my right and I just make it by his front wheel. At this point we are at 25-28 mph and I’m picking up spots rubbing tires and elbows and riding dirty.

We hit the water/mud filled double track and I’m feeling good. We end up single file and cruising hard through slimy turns and railing it. And then the pace slows and my group is now stuck behind an MTBNJ rider who is just spinning like a hamster as people are yelling for him to get off the front and he just keeps at it. There are some aggressive moves to overtake us and that means going into the long grass (and who knows what) to make a strong pass. This is probably what I needed to do but the risk of me taking myself out in the first 5 miles was just too high. So I finally got by him and then ran my shoulder into a tree which bounced me off my bike. My remount in the mud sucked (I took some yelling at) and got passed by a strong local singlespeed racer on my left.

We hit the road and I just kept trying to move up, close gaps, and hold wheels- there was some passing back and forth but I picked up some spots but didn’t make the first group- I was relegated to the second group of 5-6. We all rode for a while together and traded spots- I had some tough times on a couple of the hills and had to catch back on but I held my own. As we got into the “climbs” the Finkraft guys in front of me just kept popping off late and running up the steeps and I just wasn’t able to get around them. I made one final last pass to retake the guy who passed me about 20 miles earlier. And I was gone- time trialed it 4 miles to the end.

I gave it my all and put up a whole bunch of PR’s ---and rode to a 21st place finish. The one bright side is that the top 20 were the who’s who of racing on the east coast scene. Lots of big names ahead of you is supposed to make you feel better...

I improved my overall placing by 3 spots, my overall time by 20 minutes and upped my average speed by 1.5mph to 13mph.

The Bearscat 50 is next-

Race Report: 2016 Rock the Ridge 50 by Iain Ridgway

This race was never on the schedule but first Ken then Ben contacted me to see if I would run. I’d never heard of the race until I joined MPF RNR Team but was really interested in a fast 50 mile ‘trail’ race. I use the inverted commas as it is generally a very fast course on the carriage roads of the Mohonk Preserve; however whilst fast it also contains a significant amount of elevation change, albeit very gradually. It certainly appealed but fell at a busy time of year.

However with an upcoming move and increased Daddy day care duties fast approaching, I’m racing far more than I typically do in the early part of 2016. With Ocean Drive Marathon, Naked Bavarian, Springle Track, Breakneck and now Rock the Ridge 50 this is my busiest start to a year for a long time.

Photo: Rock Hill Hayes 

Photo: Rock Hill Hayes 

Ben kindly invited Gwen, Meredith and I to stay at Steph’s mums house the night before the race so the logistics were all pretty much taken care of. All I had to do was run a solid 50 miler, hopefully stay close to Ben. Having been soundly dropped by Ben and the lead pack at Breakneck only two weeks previously I was far from confident I’d even make half way with Ben and I also haven’t run a runnable 50 miler since Cayuga back in 2014. I was disappointed with my Breakneck run, whilst I didn't expect to compete with Ben there this year I wasn’t happy to be almost 30 minutes behind him, after being with him 10 miles in. Injury issues affected winter training but since the new year I’ve been happy with my training, luckily my inherent selfishness (which my wife will testify to..) has meant having a newborn hasn’t overly affected training so I feel fitness is starting to return as we enter the main season.

My plan for the race was pretty simple.. hold on to Ben. We set off and I expected it to be just us but we had a relay runner and then another runner joined us who we thought was in the 50 miler too. Steadily we pulled away and I sat in behind Ben on the long first climb and Ben seemed strong, whilst the pace was a tad hard for me, I felt I wasn’t dipping into the red so just followed along, soon we dropped the other runner and it was just the relay runner and us on the long 3-4 mile climb to the first fluids station. Ben was obviously stronger early on but seemed happy to keep me along for company. Looking at recent results Ben has ran most of his previous 150 miles on this route solo.

This race is just the perfect hybrid of road and trail, just miles and miles of slowly undulating crushed gravel wide trails, occasional sections of stony and slightly technical ground but it just winds around stunning vistas of the Mohonk Preserve. Having ran at Springle Track and the Ellenville Mountain Running Festival I’d seen small sections of the Mohonk Preserve but this was my first time really seeing all the carriage roads.

Ben was powering through the early miles and I just held on. The unspoken idea for me was we’d push to break his old record but with the recent fires in the area I’d expected a changed route and we then found out it was a slightly longer route. With not knowing the course I was happy to just sit in behind Ben. To be honest I was just wondering how far I could follow Ben for.. ‘Make the first aid station’.. then ‘Make 10’.. It wasn’t like a flat race where you can watch pace, so at the start I switched my watch data fields so I couldn’t see time, all I could see was average pace, lap pace and distance. Average pace would give me a rough idea but without knowing the course ahead I couldn’t predict anything. For the whole race I never once looked at my time nor asked Ben how we were going against his previous times.  

Photo: Stephanie Tenuto Nephew

Photo: Stephanie Tenuto Nephew

We climbed over skycap and enjoyed the views but as we approached 20 miles Ben was struggling with his stomach and didn’t seem as keen to push the pace. Still my view was 45 miles. Keep together if we could, just having someone to pace off, even the occasional words would help time pass but from miles 25 onwards I felt I was actually feeling better. Ben warned me there was a long 6 miles of climbing between miles 24 and 30 up to Castle point, which I doubted. How can they fit 6 miles of climbing? As we climbed past Awosting Falls, steeply but never steep enough to walk, the climb just went on and on, past the lake and then around and over point after point until we finally reached Castle Point. I was definitely feeling my hip flexors by now but Ben said he just felt empty. I did consider making a break around then but I had no real desire to run the last 20-25 miles in unless Ben’s pace really dropped. From there it's actually almost all downhill so I was keen to get the pace down into the 7’s which we did and Ben just sat behind me as we started the long run to the finish. On the way back in we were passing the runners heading out so received support from many which helped keep us going. I don’t think either of us said much in return as we were both feeling pretty bashed as we approached the last 10 miles. The consistent running in this race really destroys your legs and I was thankful to have Ben alongside to help keep the pace solid.

I’ve seen Ben produce some impressive runs but this probably ranked as one of the most impressive runs I’ve seen from him, he just sat next to or behind me, from being empty at 25 miles he just kept on going. I was keen to keep the pace high but never red line and see where that took us as we approached 45 miles, with a good few miles of flat running where we managed to hold our pace in the mid 7’s. The sun was well up in the sky now but it was probably only mid 60’s so about ideal temperatures for a long run.

Photo: Stephanie Tenuto Nephew

Photo: Stephanie Tenuto Nephew

The climbs over the last section are all small, rarely that steep until the climb at 45 miles but we still kept on a run going and climbed well before we started the long final descent. I decided with probably no climbs to go I’d attack the last 3-4 miles back to the tower. The descents are smooth and gradual so holding mid- low 6 minute miles over the last section wasn’t too hard, a quick glance back revealed Ben was still hanging on which worried me I’d gone too soon, but I managed to keep the pace up and hoped I’d managed to open up a few minute gap. There was one worrying section on a long grassy traverse that was quite out of place with the previous well maintained crushed dirt roads which had me worried I’d missed a turn but thankfully I spotted the barn Ben had pointed out on the way and it was just a final retracing on my steps. There is one sting in the tail, a short climb on the road but then a lovely run in down the tree lined grove to the tower. I finished in 6:12, Ben just two minutes back in 6:14. The last 3.5 miles I’d averaged under 6:30 minute miles which was pretty pleasing. Still a good chunk outside of Ben’s record of 5:56 but with the course being slightly longer a respectable enough first effort.

Photo: Rock Hill Hayes

Photo: Rock Hill Hayes

Overall a great final long training run for Cayuga Trails 50 and a bit of a confidence booster after not having a great run at Breakneck. Still work to do for the year ahead but the main thing was my body held up OK and I’m pretty running fit at the moment, but worry I will struggle on the steeper terrain at Cayuga. After two days off I was back running which is always a good sign that I’m finally getting some robustness back.

Gear wise I used the new Ultimate Direction Access 20 waist pack with its very accessible 20 oz water bottle and small pouch which meant I could carry the GU gels that I almost exclusively used, and on my feet I opted for the Hoka Clifton’s due to the hard packed nature of the course. These were perfect, I could feel the occasional stony section, but the cushioning seemed to protect the legs on the long descents.  

The course is very picturesque, very fast, undulating but still fast and it would be great to see it get a stronger field from runners. There are not many more scenic fast 50 milers. Thanks to Ben, Ken and Todd for the encouragement to enter and providing a great race and company. Thank you to our team sponsors, Mountain Peak Fitness, Red Newt Racing, Merrell, Run on Hudson Valley, Ultimate Direction & GU Energy. Next up is Cayuga Trails 50 miler, the USA Track and Field 50 mile trail championships.

Recommended Links

Iain's Athlete Page
2016 Rock the Ridge 50 race results
Everything Rock the Ridge 50 (race reports, videos, photos)
2014 Rock the Ridge 50 Video
All Race Reports

Race Report: "Smoke Free Rock the Ridge 50" by Lisa Glick

This year I was fortunate to be able to participate in the Rock the Ridge 50 mile Endurance challenge at the Mohonk Preserve. In 2014 this was my first 50 miler. I registered in 2015 but had to defer because of Plantar Fasciitis. It was a long journey for my recovery so the word GRATITUDE can’t even describe my feelings being able to train and participate this year.

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One week before the event there was a brush fire at Sam’s Point. The fire escalated and burned almost 3000 acres before it was contained and stopped. Up to the day before the race we were not sure if we would be permitted to run the part of the course that used Minnewaska State Park. The night before the race we received word that all was well and the race would go on as planned. Minnewaska re-opened to the public on April 30 after being closed all week as a precaution.

I had the honor of being an ambassador for the race as I often do my training runs at Mohonk and have recruited several people to participate. I also had the pleasure of singing America the Beautiful at the start of the event. Singing and running- these are a few of my favorite things.

The weather on race day was made to order. Cool, dry, partly cloudy, with a slight breeze.  The race starts at 6 AM which means getting up at 3:30am for me. The check in is impeccably organized. This makes for a low stress start. Drop bags marked and dropped off, ankle bracelets for timing, a few announcements, a little singing and off we go.

Photo: JIm Bixler

Photo: JIm Bixler

There were plenty of aid stations. Some with just water and a few snacks and a main one at Lyons Road (that you hit twice) with hot food and some fanfare. This event is created specifically for runners and hikers of all levels. There is a generous cut off of 24 hours.

I had an amazing day. I had many months of excellent quality training runs progressing from   several 20 milers to a 32, 36 and a 40. My training consisted of hard/ easy weeks with lots of cross training. I was well rested. I was mentally and physically ready. I am a fat burner so I ate very little during the event.  A few pieces of summer sausage, a few pieces of cheese, some hot soup, lots of water. My boyfriend, Jim Porter crewed for me and brought me a hamburger, a few pieces of bacon, and hot coffee for later in the day. I know-I’m a lucky girl!

Photo: John  Mizel

Photo: John  Mizel

I started out slow averaging 14 minute miles for the first half. The second half went well and I was able to average 12- 13 minute miles. Jim joined me and ran with me for the last part. I finished in 11 hours and 13 minutes. My goal was to finish without injury, have fun, and enjoy the day on the trails. Mission accomplished.

I love living in the Hudson Valley and I treasure our local trails. I am delighted that I can support the Mohonk Preserve by participating in this event right in my own back yard.

Lisa Glick

Recommended Links

Everything Rock the Ridge 50 (race reports, photos, videos)
All Race Reports

Race Report: The 2016 Breakneck Point Trail Marathon by Ben Nephew "On Being a Coxswain"

After a year of running with the MPF RNR team, I was excited to return to the place where it all began, the one and only Breakneck Point Marathon. A local runner from NH, Lars Blackmore, posted a couple rowing pictures recently, and it got me to think about the similarities between running and crew teams. About 22 years ago I was recruited to help out the crew team at Hobart College as a coxswain, and it led to some of the best memories of college, and my wife. I was going to write something specific about running and being a coxswain, but I’m really busy right now, so I’ll just combine it with my race report.

For the sake of chronological order, we will start with my experience as a coxswain. I’m a competitive guy, so the initial thought of sitting idly while 8 men in front of me gave their all was not appealing; I thought I would hate it. In addition, I was still running road races in the spring (we had no track team), and a crew schedule is not conducive to doing anything else, including living. I didn’t like it at all, I loved it. While at times I wanted badly to grab an oar and try and rip my arms off, the opportunity to have a front row seat to the effort involved in intense crew practices and races was amazing. In addition to being able to witness such intense effort, I quickly felt that I could make a difference in terms of both motivation and technical coaching. It took me a while to really learn the technical aspects of the sport, but most coxswains are not athletes, and my teams seemed to appreciate my perspective as a fellow athlete. Finally, what I may miss most is the sensation of being in a skilled boat of 8 dedicated athletes that work as one. I cannot think of better definition of flow; the perfectly synchronized expression of power, and I have not come close to recreating it. Being that close to the surface of the water, the sensation of pure speed is intensified. At full speed, the hull ripping through the water sounds just like cooking bacon. At times I was privileged to be in boats that had such good balance that they could take 10 strokes and hold the oars up out of the water for over two minutes until the boat came to a complete stop, which seems impossible in a 60 foot long boat that is 16 inches wide. When that level of skill is combined with the fitness of years of 12 workout weeks, the type of bond that many families strive for, and an unhealthy degree of competitive intensity, well, it was extraordinary.             

Once you get out of college, running tends to be an individual sport. Moving to the Boston region, I was fortunate to be part of the Greater Boston Track Club and the Central Mass Striders for many years. As I grew away from the roads and shorter races, though, I missed the team aspects of running. With joining MPF RNR, I definitely have that back. Despite the geographical challenges, everyone makes efforts to get together for the RNR races or crazy training runs or weekends. In the past year, the vast majority of my races have involved a considerable amount of quality time running with teammates (sometimes too much time!). In some races, it has been like being in a boat, as one of us will take up the position of stroke and lead the way through a difficult section of trail while another will steer from behind and let the man in front know he blew a turn. Sometimes words of encouragement are shared, and at other times nothing needs to be said as we know we are in the same boat of pain.

Breakneck this year was the 1 year celebration of the birth of our trail family, which continues to grow in terms of both the team and Breakneck race fields. After too much socializing and a lack of race prep, Ian got us started up the first long climb to the ridge. I was a little too cold and excited for the first half mile, but settled down to run with Iain and Ryan. I was jealous of all the half runners who could afford to be more aggressive with their pace. We made good time up the climb and were soon making our way to Sugarloaf Mountain, as Matt Lipsey roared by after missing a turn early on. Adam Russell went by on the descent to the base of Breakneck Ridge, and a whole pile of us were together on the climb. This is one of the most amazing trails anywhere, and never disappoints. There were 2-3 instances where I almost lost my grip (with my hands) and fell back onto Adam or Ryan. While Ryan wanted a faster pace up the scramble, I think we may have covered the climb faster than the half guys.

On the next descent, I guess I was feeling creative as I picked some very unorthodox lines down the broken shoulder of the ridge. We managed to mostly stay on trail, and Adam once again pulled away on the lower section. The old carriage road was covered at sub 6 minute pace, and the lead group was down to the three of us and Jed Sheckler. Adam was climbing strong, and it took a while for Ryan, Jed, and I to catch up to him, with Iain a few steps back. The pace was solid, so I felt no need to try and pace and force the issue, we climbed Bull Hill, descended, and climbed back up to Breakneck Ridge. Adam once again plunged downhill off the ridge at an impressive speed on some rugged terrain. I almost took a massive spill when my left foot got tangled up in a vine where I had to kick it free in mid-air before sacrificing myself on a pile of jagged rocks.

After the third aid station at the base of Sugarloaf, we had to jump across a brook and I felt my inner hamstring start to cramp. At 13.4 miles, it was way too early for that, not good. While some of it was due to over striding on the jump, I was still concerned. I hit the salt and tried to stay relaxed as Ryan and I chased Adam up the hill. Adam was running strong, and Ryan was not able to bridge the gap by the time we went up and over Sugarloaf. I hung on as Adam flew downhill and was surprised to hear a cheer from Steph off to the side as my eyes were glued to the trail. She seemed to be doing well, which was great to see considering she was still recovering from an ankle sprain.

I was sad that we had pulled away from Ryan and Iain, and at the same time wondered if I was going to pay for this pace later. It was sad to see our MPF RNR pair with coxswain break up, and I hoped that Ryan and Iain would be able to rejoin us. Adam finally backed off a bit, and we started to talk about our families and his farm, where he produces 2700 gallons of maple syrup. I think that requires about a billion gallons of sap. He mentioned that he does most of his running on dirt roads, and I thought that he does pretty well on technical downhills for a road runner! While we had just met, we soon turned into a team of two, where it was us versus the Breakneck course. Just as my confidence was building, we hit the 16 mile aid station, and there was no Coke. I tried not to panic, but I think Amy Hanlon could sense the fear in my voice, so she filled me up with Tailwind. I’ve never had Tailwind before, but it was getting hot and I likely needed the water and the calories. The Tailwind and Coke combo was not bad! The cramps in my hamstrings had started to return, so I grabbed another S cap, bit it, and rubbed salt all over my gums like an addict.

We both struggled up the steep mile up to Beacon and dove down into the undulating Fishkill Ridge. I really enjoy this section, and started to gradually pull away from Adam, mostly on the climbs. They are small climbs, but the trail is incessantly technical and the combination is tiring at this stage in the race. The downhill coming off of Fishkill is pretty vicious; steep, broken, tight singletrack covered in jagged rock. I blew a couple of tight turns, but managed not to maim myself despite a couple close calls. I was able to stride out on the way down to the last aid station where the trail travelled along a stream. Refilling with Coke was like seeing an old friend, and I set off on the 1400’ climb back up Beacon convinced I was going to crush. Things went well on the up and down initial section, which was encouraging. As I reached the main part of the climb, where I had been telling myself I could run, both quads started to cramp, so I hiked.

This course is a beast. I was a worried about Adam reeling me in, but everyone would probably be hurting in a similar fashion, so I trudged on. The worst part was the sad pace I ran on the flat section close to the summit. My legs were shot, and I became concerned about the ledges I would have to descend on the way to the finish. Thankfully, descending uses very different muscles, and my legs felt much better once the trail headed down. It was still a rough descent, but Tammany had certainly hardened up my quads in preparation for this race. Considering Adam’s cannon-like downhill speed, I was still worried about being caught through the 2.5 miles to the finish, which did not feel as downhill as I had hoped at times. Despite not having Iain there to chase me down, I was not able to crank the pace down to 3:21, but I did manage 4:13 into the finish at 5:04. Adam came storming in at 5:14, with Jed at 5:28 for third and Iain and Ryan in 4th and 5th in the low 5:30’s. The women’s race was won by Natalie Thompson in an impressive 5:54, and it was great to see my friend Sheryl Wheeler finish strongly for 2nd place.              

Another great Red Newt Racing event, thanks to the many volunteers that made it possible, including many of my MPF RNR teammates, our running crew! It was exciting to see the event double in size compared to last year, and a special treat was having many of my favorite RD’s on the course, Ian, Charlie Gadol, and Dick Vincent. Congratulations to everyone who survived such a wicked course!

Videos from The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Ultra, Bear Mountain NY!

Videos from The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Ultra, Bear Mountain NY!

These videos are from The North Face 50 Mile Endurance run in Bear Mountain, New York. This race takes place every May. The course is very technical and runs through Bear Mountain & Harriman State Park. This area is a great place to train & adventure. It is also just a 40 minute drive from the George Washington Bridge. Let us know if any questions about the area.