Thursday, October 23, 2014

2014 Hambletonian Marathon Race Report

I pulled into the parking lot at 7:20 AM and quickly realized how unprepared I was for this marathon.

The sun had just come up and the thermometer in my car said 52 degrees, the overcast-clouds were grey (with even darker bottoms) and the flags was blown straight out from their poles.

I looked around the car and didn't see my "race bag".

I had just realized that under my fleece I was only wearing a short sleeve shirt, the first pules of panic began to circulate through my chest. This could be a very long, cold day.

My race bag, which for some reason I left at home is usually stuffed with couple of different shirt options, arm-warmers, hats, maybe another pair of shoes, nipple bandages, food, gloves, powdered drink-mix, extra socks, you name it, it's ALL in that bag.

I was, however, lucky enough to have put a couple of energy bars and my favorite pair of painter's gloves into a small bag I usually just put my phone and wallet in.

Today, the painter's gloves were going to have to do.

I zipped up my fleece got out of the car and walked a few hundred yards over to the starting area to use the porta-potties. As I crossed main street, which was now closed to traffic, the  leaves were blowing across my path like tumbleweeds in an old western.

My stomach felt nervous and very unsettled and seemed to be draining the energy from me. It took me and uncomfortably long time to emerge from the blue plastic bathroom, and when I did i felt weaker than when I went in like it was some energy-sucking, phantom  toll booth.

I tried to compose myself and started to head-back to the car to try to stay warm till it was race time, which fortunately wouldn't be long.

As I was approaching the parking lot I saw a colleague from work. We spoke a few minutes and he accompanied me back to my car where I ditched the fleece and we headed to the starting area where we huddled between the buildings and other runners shielding ourselves from the wind.

I chatted with a few people I know, and before too long the winds seemed to have calmed and we  shared a moment of silence for Carlos Santory, held our hands over our hearts for the National Anthem and we were off.

26.2 here we come!

Times Herald Record
The Hambletonian Marathon is a small town race only in its second year. The course features picturesque farmland, scenic vistas, hard-packed trails, fall foliage, a bike trail and The Historic Trotter Track in Goshen, NY.

Being local and living only 20 minutes from the race start I was regretting having never trained on the course -- there would be many places I would be familiar with, but for the most part I never did any real preparation on this course. -- Even more shameful, is that the race organizers hold weekly training runs right here on the actual course -- I did not attend a single one.

Heading down main street I was pretty happy to be warming up, there was a slight head-wind, but nothing as serious as it looked earlier.

We found our respective spots in the pack as we headed down main street onto the first 11.5 mile loop of the figure eight course.

The first loop was beautiful, within a mile we had crested the 1st hill and at just over 8 miles we entered onto the unpaved portion of The Heritage Trail. I had never been here before and really enjoyed the beauty of the woodland trail running alongside a nature preserve.

Emerging from the trail and back into Goshen, I figure that I had been running at just under 9:00 minute miles for the first 10.5 miles and was feeling that I was going to need something more than just water and gels to support that effort. I normally don't like to drink Gatorade, but it is what was available so I decided I was going to have to go for it.

My colleague caught up with me at just about 10.5 miles and we ran together through the town of Goshen and left town together for the second loop of the figure eight course.

As we passed through town, we saw the race director Kathleen Rifkin who shouted a few words of encouragement to us and almost under hear breath said "Now for the hills", with a smile.

So here we go, the second loop with the majority of the hills. We climb up and over the Victoria Street hill to get out of town again and continued onto the roller-coaster of hills that is Sarah Wells Trail.

As hilly as Sarah Wells is, the vistas are spectacular. The clouds were lifting, it was not nearly as dark, the winds were strong but didn't seem to be really impacting forward progress and the fall foliage was beautiful.

At 14.5 miles we take a right onto the aptly named Purgatory Road, home of the dreaded Purgatory Hill. The base of the hill resides at just over mile 15 and climbs about 200 feet in a half mile. -- Brutal stuff, and yes, it would have been nice to have run this once or twice, but whatever... I pushed my way to the top.

Following Purgatory there's about 3 miles of recovery in which I felt like I was running pretty well along the beautiful Ridge Road and onto Craigville Road. Occasionally a relay runner would pass me, but I was pretty solid into my pace and fairly well distanced from any other runners for the moment.

Turning onto Johnson Road at about mile 19 was another moment to collect myself and prepare for Cow Bell Hill. I stopped at the aid station, had a gel and some water and psyched myself up to take on this final beast.

About 3/4 of the way up I stopped to walk a bit, remembering the trail runner mantra of "If you can't see the top, you should be walking".

I reached Rt 94, crossed over, passed the 20 mile marker and headed on the Meadow Rd which runs
along side the black dirt fields. A tough stretch of road that seems to go on for quite some time while your totally exposed to the winds coming off the fields -- Remarkably, this is one of the few places that I actually felt cold.

I reached 20 miles at just over 3 hours and was hoping I could do the final 10k in under an hour. That would get me in around 4:05 for the marathon.

At mile 21.5, I rounded the final relay transition and onto the paved portion of The Heritage Trail for the final leg back into Goshen. Just over 4.5 miles to go.

My legs waved in and out through the final leg, at times they felt strong and able to hold onto the pace and then like a lapse in concentration they were shuffling along, unable to pick up the pace.

I passed mile marker 24, seeing my friends Todd and Catherine, who cheered my name and encouraged me that there was only 2 and a quarter to go -- I departed with "You got it!" ringing in my head.

I was struggling more mentally than physically, I wasn't going to do that last 10k in an hour and all I could think of was how much I wanted to be off this bike path and get into town!

And finally there it was... a right-hand turn, up a hill and around a left corner and I would be finishing on the track in Goshen.

I entered the track and was flabbergasted at how big this final loop was. It seemed to take forever to make the final turn and push to the finish.

I looked up and saw 4:13 and pushed hard enough not to see the clock flip to 4:14

I crossed the line, got my medal, wrapped myself in a foil blanket and found my wife.
It so cold and windy on the track, all I wanted to was go home and warm up.

So yeah, although I didn't really prepare too well for this day, I didn't do too badly.

Distance: 26.2 Miles
Time: 4:13:52
Elevation Gain: 1,411 ft

Finish line Video:

2014 Pfalz Point Trail Challenge Race Report

Just a week after running the grueling 35 miles on the SRT, I was scheduled to run The Pfalz Point Trail Challenge. Again on The Shawungunk Ridge, but this one would be entirely within the Mohonk Preserve.

After running the SRTRun/Hike just the week before I was  looking forward to getting back out on the trails. I had lived a week with "my demons" that I picked up on the SRT.

I arrived at the Spring Farm Trail-head with ample time to check-in, use the bathrooms, double-check my gear/attire, lock the car, etc.

As a photo drone hovered overhead, I mingled with some familiar faces from both Rock the ridge and last weekends SRT. It was a beautiful morning with a crystal clear skies and a "Million Dollar View".

I was told by folks who have run this in previous years that it's critical to find a place in the start where you're not too far back where you get stuck behind the first-time trail runners looking down at the roots and rocks and yet not being too far in the front to block the "real racers" or burn yourself out trying to keep from getting run over by the faster runners behind you (on the single-track).

When the gun went off, I felt like I was in just the right spot. I clicked along well, with only a little difficulty seeing the trail beyond the feet of the runner in front of me.

I moved out to the edge of the trail and ran along the edge of the trail where I could see the ground again and waited for the pack to thin.

After a sprint through one field and through a wet meadow, we turned up and into the woods on the Blue Trail.

My eyes quickly adjusted to the shadows as I focused in on the rocks and roots along the trail as we hit the first climb of the day.

Turning right to the yellow Ski Loop Trail I found a moment to catch my breath as the the foot steps from behind were thinning.

A slight down grade and across Table Rock Trail we emerge briefly from the woods back and crossed the Spring Farm fields to a winding climb on The Northwest Trail (part of the SRT).

I walked the steeper portion of the single-track climb and resumed my run as I turned left onto the wide Cedar Drive carriage path, where again I was able to catch my breath and  get my heart-rate under-control as I prepped for the next long climb.

Turning right, I settled in with a small group of runners as we pushed our way up the 1 mile Spring Farm road climb. The climb finishes at the Mohonk Golf Course and it's just a brief moment to recover before the Guyot Hill climb.

Guyot Hill is part of Rock the Ridge and I've done several training runs through this part of the course and I knew there was still some deceptive little hills as we wind our way to the highest point 5 miles into the 10 mile run.

I felt really great, so I picked up the pace as I wound my way along the relatively flat  Bonticou Road carriage path and back across the Old Bonticou path which revealed the most amazing view of the Bontcou Crag.

Then came the final climb, a lot of power hiking back up to Bonticou Road. Knowing this was the last climb I pushed hard but couldn't seem to catch anyone above me.

Emerging at the top on Bonticou Road, I skipped the water stop where I finally passed the runners I was trying to catch on the hill and I started the final leg of the run.

I pushed the pace and took advantage of the downhill. Turning right onto Cedar Drive I was still feeling good and was pushing it hard. I passed a few runners and felt like I was really making up some ground.

One last right hand turn returning on Spring Farm Road, blasting into the sun and as the photographers, volunteers and earlier finishers cheer me on through the final stretch onto the finish.

Being careful to keep the rubber on the road on the downhill finish, I could see the pavilion and the finish line I pushed hard and blew past the finish at full speed.

Distance: 10 Miles
Time: 1:40:56

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

2014 SRT Run/Hike Race Report (32 Miles)

Last night I tossed and turned as I tried to fall asleep. My mind kept flipping back and forth between recent runs and my performance. And I admit it, I’m well past due on updating the blog, so I hope to expel some of my demons and put up a few updates. The first of which will be The Shawungunk Ridge Trail Run/Hike.

As the event website states, “The Shawangunk Ridge Trail (SRT) is a 74-mile hiking trail that crosses High Point State Park in New Jersey, where the SRT intersects the Appalachian Trail, all the way to the town of Rosendale, New York, where the trail ends at a restored railroad trestle high above the Rondout Creek.

The run/hike event featured a weekend of three different distances all ending in Rosendale. The first event that started on Friday (September 19th) was a 74 mile event traversing the entire length of the trail. I think there were only six hearty soles/registrants, only one of which successfully completed the distance. The Saturday (September 20th) event was the one I registered for which was slated as a 32 mile unsupported run/hike from Sam’s Point Nature Preserve to Rosendale. And the Sunday (September 21st) event was a 20 mile version that I volunteered for starting at Peters Kill in Minnewaska State Park Preserve and again finishing in Rosendale.

I arrived at the Binnewater parking area in Rosendale,  to catch a shuttle-bus to Sam's Point Preserve.  Binnewater was the finish line so having my car at the finish was the idea, rather than shuttling back to the start after running the 32 miles. I got out of my car and was greeted by Todd Jennings one of the co-race directors and a running friend. We made small talk as my friend and co-founder of Trail Whipass (the 1st running club I ever joined), Dylan Armajani and other runners began to arrive; many had obviously far more experience running ultras than I did.

For some reason, I started to get a bit nervous and I felt like I couldn’t control the way I was feeling. I hid it as much as possible as we finally boarded the yellow school bus bound for Sam’s Pont. After what seemed like an endless bus ride through Ellenville and up to the Sam’s Point parking area we departed the bus to temperatures that felt like some 20 degrees cooler than the lower elevation Binnewater parking area, it was now about 8:00am, It was cloudy, cool, and the air was damp with a foggy mist, the temperature was now in the low 50s.

The Race didn’t start till 9:00 so we shuffled into the Sam’s Point Conservation Center to stay warm and get to know each other. My nerves were starting to get the best of me. I made numerous trips to the bathroom and started to feel weak, I could feel the energy leaving my body with each visit to the bathroom. I couldn’t wait to get going, hopefully I could run through this and it was just nerves about a 32 mile unsupported run on some of the toughest single-track trail running in the area.

Photo Credit: Tom Bushey
Ken Posner (co-race director) finally called us out for some final instructions and a playing of the National Anthem. Soon after, we lined up in two waves of 15 runners. Feeling the way I did, I decided to sit back in the second group. Before long we were off and running. Within 100 yards we’re climbing about 200 feet to Lake Maratanza at 2,245 feet above sea level.

Passing through the fog and watching the footing we enter into the vast fields of blueberry bushes of the Verkeerder Kill Falls Trail.  The bushes glowing in the haze were beautiful, but only the foolish would look too long. This trail is pocked with rocks securely lodged and point out of the middle of the trail. A stumble here could certainly break and arm or severely bruise a knee or shin.

The pace was brisk as the group ran single-file and burned off the nervous energy of race day. We emerged from the blueberries and dwarf pitch pines into the deciduous forest that crosses over the Verkeerder Kill Falls and on to Mud Pond.

The trail to Mud Pond features a rocky scramble and levels out on the backbone of the ridge and reminiscent of a western movie with the expanses of white rock and emerging vistas of the Hudson Valley.

At this point, glad to still be moving, I’m thinking I might need to stop pushing so hard, so early, but I was looking to find a comfortable cushion between runners I could hear behind me and the runners I could see ahead of me. I didn't want to get dropped – which happened soon enough.

From Mud Pond, we head traversed the ridge to Castle Point within the fabulous Minnewaska State Park.  Another climb and a very brief stint on a carriage trail and we entered the woods and climbed up to Castle Point.

There was a squeeze which I chose to go around and a hand over hand scramble that challenged my still fluttering stomach.

Emerging at the top of the scramble the view is stellar. Looking to the South we could see Sam's Point (where we started), and to the south-west the beautiful Lake Awosting lays out before you like a mirror in a mossy thicket.

I stopped to soak it in knowing that this was the first milestone of the day at only 7.5 miles.

Departing Castle Point is a mix of carriage trail, rock face and single track that meanders throughout the cliffs of Minnewaska. After what feels like endless weaving across the top of the ridge we started to descend into a set of Pine Barrens with some much needed softer ground.

Eventually crossing Upper Awosting carriage road I swiftly shot down a set of stairs and continued through the shaded woods. At just about 10 miles I reached Rainbow Falls. Pretty much the first sign of water, but I wasn’t yet in need – but it was definitely on my mind!

A grueling climb to the top of the falls and a moment to check the maps to be sure I was on the right track to the next milestone, Jenny Lane. The Jenny Lane trail is fairly flat but can’t be underestimated.

Similar to the Verkeerder Kill Falls Trail, Jenny Lane is littered with tripping hazards. At a moment’s notice and fortunately where it was most convenient to go down, I did, and a stick jabbed my knee drawing some blood. Hey, it’s trail run isn't it?

After assessing that it wasn't serious, I got up shook it off and carried on. Within a  few hundred yards off my fall, I came come across another set of runners (the ones who dropped me earlier), one of which tripped over one rock and fell into the next.

The fall split open her knee cap and sprained her ankle, injuries bad enough to require her to drop out after walking the .6 miles to the Jenny Lane-Route 44/55 checkpoint (just about 13 miles).

At this point, It’s getting warmer and I’m starting to need to drink more and feel like need to be very conservative since I haven’t seen any water since Rainbow Falls. I tried to eat but I made the mistake of trying to eat a peanut chip Mojo bar. My throat collapsed around it, the moisture left my mouth and it was completely impossible for me to swallow. I was beginning to struggle with nutrition as well as hydration. I was headed to the bad place.

It was pretty warm heading over to the Peter's Kill area of Minnewaska State Park. The trail is very challenging with lots of cliffs with picturesque views.  

The trail is full of ups and down and tricky footing – not a good place when you’re starting to feel weak.

Finally getting to Peter's Kill, the first sign of water, I pulled my remaining bottle (I had saved for so long) and sucked it down in virtually one gulp.  We went down to the rocks and straddled the flowing water to fill our bottles and bladders. The cold spring water in the bladder felt great on my back.  Knowing I was able to refill, one less worry (for now).

Climbing out of here was a bitch, my weakness was showing it’s true colors, the rock crown was in the sun and my body temperature skyrocketed as soon as I started the climb. I could feel the sweat streaming down my back and I felt fluttery. I slowed way down trying to control my body temperature while trying to keep moving and struggled to the top.

The cool  descent was strewn with  some nasty rocks. It was very tough to keep it together as I tried to collect myself on the descent to the Coxing Kill Check Point (17.5 miles) -- I would later volunteer at this checkpoint on the following day.

After crossing Clove Road, I cross the wooden bridge over the Coxing Creek to the Old Minnewaska Carriage trail.  Soon, too soon, the trail turns to an eroded path that looks like a dry riverbed. I pretty much mix this with slow trotted running and power hiking. At one point I decided it would probably be a good idea to just sit down and work on my nutrition.

I found a rock and took off my backpack and squeezed down a couple of fruit/veggie baby food packets and fig bars. As bad as I felt, the views from here were stunning, looking northwest to the Catskills.

Knowing I had a bit of nutrient in my body I was hoping I could push through this thing. Turning into the woods, I thought I might be heading downhill to Chapel Hill but alas that was not to be (yet).

Instead I found myself at the base of yet another rock scramble. I couldn't believe this insult… I’m trying to do this and I can’t believe this climb. Suck it up and get over it. -- Once at the top, running was possible again,  the  slight downhill helped me run all the way to Old Clove Road and to the Chapel Trail (at just over 22.5 miles).

This was an important place for me to get to. I know this part of Mohonk from my Rock the Ridge training runs. Although I wasn't feeling very strong I was much more confident knowing that I knew where I was.

I knew I was going to have to climb my way up to the Mohonk Golf Course and that if the rest of the day was an indicator, the SRT was n't taking any prisoners and I’d be single-tracking it up and over the ridge.

The power walking mixed with slow shuffling trots up and over the ridge began. Once again I was struggling to manage my body temperature as best I could. I pushed on and continued the mantra of Relentless Forward Progress (RFP) – never stopping always moving, no matter how badly I felt.

Eventually topping the ridge and crossing the golf course I started the long awaited descent from the ridge. A few frustrating climbs and an earlier missed turn and I eventually made it to the Route 6 check point at just about 25.7 miles in just less than 8 hours.

The descent on the Route 6 was steep and brutal, the Saturday car traffic was humming up the sharply-curved road and hugging the inside of every turn. I felt like a speeding performance car was on the cusp of every turn just as I got there. The relentless downhill was battering my tired legs and yet, after what seemed like a maddening amount of time on the road a final left-hand turn (at 30 miles) and I was at the bottom and turning onto the Walkill Valley Rail Trail.

The rail trail is pancake flat which after 8 hours of climbs and descents, rocks and roots it made for some brutally mind-numbing miles to finish out this run.

Problem was… I've run and ridden my bike here before. I’m pretty damn sure that from the intersection of Springtown Road and The rail trail is more than 2 miles. The question was, how much more?

I had no choice but to find out for myself. I was running on the soft packed trail, granted not very fast, but I was able to move faster than a walk. Eventually It was starting to get darker, the sun hadn't set yet and it seemed like I could see a mile ahead of me and a mile behind me and there was nobody to be seen.

Occasionally, like a ghost a mountain biker would emerge from the distance and pass me without saying a word. I wonder if he could see my pain or knew what we were doing out here. I wanted to know how much further. In time and I came upon The Rail Trail Café folks cheered me on and said only 2 more miles to go!

I was stunned. My GPS was telling me I had already run 33 miles. I asked them again “How far”? Two miles, they shouted back.

Ufff… OK, keep going and then I could see the familiar rock outcropping and I knew I would soon cross the trestle to the finish. As I finally crossed the trestle, just as the streetlights were coming on, I could hear music from a street festival in Rosendale. It inspired me to push through and finish just as it was getting dark I was back at Binnewater parking lot.

As difficult a time as I had, I did it! And I enjoyed IT!...

The SRT is a tough run and I finished it and now have a time to beat

I vow to redeem myself – watch out SRT! I will be back!

Distance: 35.1 Miles
Time: 9:55:17
Elevation Gain: 4,354 ft 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sky High Flag: the Town | the People | the Race

On October 4, 2014 the Flagstaff Skyrace - the final race in the US Skyrunning series - presented by Aravaipa Running took place in the mountains of Flagstaff, AZ. With an ever increasing magnifying glass on the endurance community of Flagstaff, some of the locals share their thoughts on the town and trails they live and train in over race highlights of the tough, rugged and scenic terrain of the San Francisco Peaks. 

Interviews (in order of appearance): Rob Krar, Chris Vargo, Emily Harrison, Christina Bauer, Ian Torrence, Brian Tinder, Jamil Coury, Ian Sharman, Daniel Kraft, Alicia Shay

Film by: Billy Yang
Additional Footage: Jamil Coury

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Ingenuous Choice - Mountain Running with Anton Krupicka

The Ingenuous Choice - Mountain Running with Anton Krupicka from Outdoor Live on Vimeo.

"We can never have enough of nature". Discover how Anton Krupicka experiences mountain running and challenges himself running ultra distances on the trails. Summary: Why do we decide to explore mountains, trails and the wilderness? Perhaps because "we can never have enough of nature" as Henry David Thoreau once described. The Ingenuous Choice features mountain runner Anton Krupicka exploring the wilderness of the mountains, racing 100 miles and reflecting on what makes mountain running essential to him.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Jean-Paul The Marathon Runner

With marathon season approaching, a small bit of advice inspired by Seinfeld.

Set your own alarms and get to your race on time!

Jerry takes over the job, from Elaine, of making sure Jean-Paul gets up in time for the marathon. He missed the Olympics because he over slept once.

"SEINFELD S07E05 The Hot Tub - Season 7 - Episode 5" (

Monday, October 06, 2014

What Doesn't Kill You

On the way home from a recent ultra run this song came on the car radio and I could only think how appropriate a song for after completing an ultra.

Jake Bugg -- 'What Doesn't Kill You' -- out now on iTunes
Taken from the new album 'Shangri La' out now: iTunes -