It is 4:30am, Saturday, September 29th. I wake up and realize I am pretty nervous about the activity I am going to partake in today. It is my first trail race for the year and to make it even more nerve racking is it one of the toughest 50K’s in the Northeast. I am talking ROCKS and lots of them. North Jersey is famous for its technical trails and the Ramapo Mountains lives up to that reputation. I train on these trails since I live three miles from the park but it does not make it any easier. It is now 5:00 a.m. and time to get my breakfast shake into my belly and make the final adjustments to my nutrition and clothing options. My Crew Chief, and wife, Mara, gets up about 6:00 a.m. and starts lining up all the supplies she will need for the day. She is a professional organizer and expert in crewing. She has crewed for me for the past six years and I would never get the results without her. It is now 7:15 a.m. and it time to leave for Ringwood State Park. Mara always drives so that I can start to focus on my race, plus I hate to drive.
We get to Shepherd Lake and all the runners are starting to arrive. I sure have not been in the scene for a while but I actually am getting excited and looking forward to the long day ahead. My trail running team Mountain Peak Fitness / Campmor has five people running today. Julian Vicente, Lenny Huffman, Chris Focaccia, and Laura Swift will be joining me. They have had stellar results in 2012 and we hope to have a good showing today. The rest of my team, Joe, Elizabeth, Phil, Zsuzsanna, Harry, Tahir, and Iliana will be volunteering and cheering us on throughout the day. I am proud to be with a team that really supports each other.
It is now 8:45 a.m. and it is time to take a team photo and listen to the Race Director’s instructions. Rick McNulty and his wife Jennifer do a great job every year. This year they decided to mix it up. They decided to change the direction of the course as well as throw in some new trails. Many of us have been training on the new course and have mixed feelings whether is it going to be easier or harder. We will soon find out.
The countdown starts and precisely at 9:00am and Ricks yells “GO!” This year, we had about a ½ mile before we tackled the first big hill. My game plan was to power hike all of the major hills and conserve my energy for the last 7 mile loop. It looked like many of the other runners had a different idea about the hills. I smiled thinking they have no idea how difficult this race was going to be and I will be seeing them later.
Aid Station #1 is 5.6 miles and comes quickly. I was in and out in less than 10 seconds. AS#2 is at mile 9.1 and Mara and Harry would be meeting me there. I come in 12th place and I am feeling good. Mara hands me my new bottle and I don’t even break stride. On to AS#3 which is at mile 13. Through this section I come up on two runners who looked lost. We are near a Boy Scout camp and it looked like someone had vandalized the course markings. I told them the way to go and off they went. I soon caught with them and we ran together for a while. I knew a hill was coming up and I decided to use some extra energy and put some distance between us. It worked and the next thing I knew I was at AS#3.
Ramapo Reservation, AS#4 is at mile 16 and Mara would be there waiting for me. This section the 50K and 25K share the same trails. It was nice to see more runners and helped pass the miles. I rolled into the reservation and my Garmin said 2:45, right on schedule. This next section I decided to use my Nathan hydration pack because the next manned aid station would not be until mile 25. There are a couple of tough climbs on this section and I knew I would probably slow down but I had my secret weapon waiting for me at mile 21, 5 HOUR ENERGY!
By the time I came got back to Shepherd Lake (4:27 race clock) I was ready to ramp it up to the next level. Mara handed me my race bottle and told me she thought I was in 11th place. The next loop is not that difficult compared to the rest of the course but it is still very technical and has a few short climbs that feel harder than they are at this point in the race. Heck, everything feels harder at this point in the race. I manage to pass 5 runners in the next 6 miles. I had only one more mile to go and was looking forward to the finish line when all of a sudden a runner came flying by. Hey, that is my move I thought. I tried to speed up but he was gone so I just dug in and made sure no one else was coming up behind me.
I crossed the finish line in 5:29 in 7th place. I was very happy with the results and knew I had run the race to the best of my ability. This was my 4th time running this race and I look forward to giving it another try next year. I really want to thank my team, MpFit / Campmor for all their support at this race as well throughout the year. It has been a tough one dealing with my mother’s death as well as many injuries. They all stood by me when I was feeling depressed and encouraged me. I also want to thank my wife. I would not be able to get the extra few minutes off my race times if it were not for her skill at crewing. The volunteers were fantastic and Rick and Jen did a great job.