Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Rock the Ridge 50 Mile Challenge 2015 Race Report

Last year I ran my first 50 miler at Rock the Ridge finishing in 11 hours and 18 minutes and as much as I tried, my goal was not to have any expectations in terms of finishing times and focus on just having fun and succeeding in completing the task.

As any runner knows this is exceptionally difficult to do, there always some sense of time when it comes to running, so deep down my goal was to finish under 12 hours. I didn't know if that was going to be a good time or a bad time (for me) but I thought it would be a manageable goal.

As this year's Rock the Ridge approached I again tried not to focus on time and tried to prepare as best I could for the early spring Ultra. I quit drinking beer for 3 months and spent a lot of winter mornings on the treadmill burning through my Netflix queue, often coming home to do a double. On the weekends, I did some pretty tough solo training runs and I ran the Traprock 50k just 2 weeks before Rock the Ridge.

I knew that this year I was in much better shape and much more confident, having become very familiar with the course and  having a solid run last year, but I still had no real aspirations for a finishing time other than I was pretty determined to better last years effort.

As the date got closer I looked at my previous checkpoint times and realized that I could better my time if I ran the initial 3.5 mile uphill. Last year,  I chose to walk the hill, knowing there were another 46.5 miles after it. This year would be different. I would plan run the 3.5 miles of Lenape Lane which would take a chunk out of last year's time.

To avoid any unnecessary travel stress my wife and I rented one of the Clove Cottages, which were just minutes from the Gatehouse Starting Area. It was so simple that my wife did a drive-by of the starting area and dropped me off with my bag in sufficient time to take care of pre-race necessities.

I was amazed at how many people I knew this morning, as I entered the grounds I chatted a bit with co-race director Ken Posner and saw a bunch of my Trail WhippAss tribe, Pat (who I talked into this), Bob Harris (who I ran most of the day with) a smattering of other local runners, and Todd Jennings, Ken's partner and co-race director.

With so many friends around I almost didn't have enough time to use the facilities and check my drop-bag. I was so comfortable and somewhat distracted enough that before I knew it, we were on our way down Gatehouse Road.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day. The Ridge was lit in the morning sun and the air was crisp and cool. Perfect conditions for that initial climb that was going to set the tone for the rest of my day.

As we started the climb I bumped into another runner I met on a (Taste of) Rock the Ridge training run. Kristen was from PA. We talked quite a bit and managed to keep our minds off the climb and pushed our way through the enduring climb, past the Mohonk Golf course and into the woods.

We twisted our way through the paths of Guyot Hill and as started our descent, my friend Bob Harris caught up to us. A nice addition to the group conversation, together we finished the downhill portion into Spring Farm, the first Aid Station at mile 9.8.

I quickly took a bathroom break that I had been looking forward to for at least a mile maybe more. I came out refueled a bit and saw my wife for a quick hug and we were on our way again.

A quick time check and I was some 40 minutes ahead of last year's time - mission accomplished -- now if I can just keep it together and rock out another ~40 miles I'll be fine.

Heading out on Ceder Road Kristen and I realized Bob was a bit ahead of us. We didn't want to push it too hard, not knowing if Bob was gone or if we would catch up through the course of the run.

Well before long we were climbing up to Skytop Tower and Bob was within sight. We climbed to the tower and caught up to Bob.

We rounded Skytop  marveling at the beauty of the day, and descended down to Forest and Oakwood to Rhododendron Bridge Aid Station.

Somewhere Kristen put in a gap between Bob and I and we proceed through Upper Cliff past the mile 20 marker and on to the next segment crossing over 44/55 we started on Trapps Road.

We take Trapps Road into  the Minnewaska portion of the run and the path increases from a flat monotonous grade to just a slight uphill into an annoying little climb to the Lyons Road Aide station (mile 25.9). The volunteers here are enthusiastic and willing to get your drop-bag for you if you need it.

I was a little slow out of the station but I didn't spend a lot of time. I wanted to make sure to keep with the plan and hydrated and got something to eat. We continued the climb from Lyons road up to Awosting Falls, simply one of the most beautiful places on the course. We took it in and continued the 400 foot climb to Lake Minnewaska. We worked to keep our heart rates under control, stay hydrated and replenish on gels and chews, because we knew it was  long haul out to Castle point.

At the Minnewaska Aide station (mile 26.4) I grabbed a pack of chews and jammed them into an open pocket on my vest. From another pocket I took out a packet of Tailwind and as my sweaty hands fumbled with getting a grip the packet ripped open spraying a cloud of Tailwind into the air that LeBron would have been proud of.

I dumped the remaining powder int the bottle and was on my way up to Castle Point. This would be one of the warmest and grueling sections of the run. A slow steady 4 mile  climb gaining another 500 feet of elevation while predominantly out in the sun.

Bob and I exchanged stories keeping our minds off the heat. I kept up with my schedule of taking a salt/caffeine and electrolyte tablet every hour. Bob didn't seem to have any and I had enough to spare so I offered the tablets to Bob as well.

We rounded Castle Point again admiring the stellar views and saw Ian looking as fresh as anyone could at 30 miles into a run. Rounding off the high point at Castle Point we started a slow descent past Lake Awosting  and onto the Lower Awosting Carriage Trail.

I was feeling pretty good on Lower Awosting and encouraged Bob and knowingly pulled him along
through this long tough stretch to the Lower Awosting Aide Station (mile 35) where I saw my wife and our dog. We took some pictures, handed off some garbage, talked for a quick bit, got a kiss and were on our way to finish the final 15 miles of the day.

Bob and I relished the cooler temperatures as we descended into the shade and past Awosting falls and back to the Lyons Road Aide Station (mile 37.7). Again being careful to be sure to eat and get enough fluids I topped off my bottles with only water.

Continuing on the subtle downhill I saw my friend Pat and in my enthusiasm I stumbled and fell right in front of him. It didn't hurt as much as it was a classic case of letting your attention waiver and down you go. I was fine, but somewhat embarrassed as this is not a very technical course and yet I still managed to fall.

I shook it off and Bob and I pushed our way through the remaining miles on Trapps Road and crossed over 44/55 and onto Undercliff Road. Yet another milestone as we silently passed the 40 mile marker in the heat of the day just as the bigger bugs started to come out.

I asked Bob to pull a bug wipe from my bag, I handed him one and whipped myself and tucked the towel under my buff, which seemed to help deter the pest that was immediately at hand. I was feeling pretty gritty at this point but I was still feeling like I had some gas in the tank. I could tell Bob was starting to fade a little and as we pulled into the Rhododendron Bridge aide station (mile 42.2)

Again topping off my bottles I was back on the path rather quickly, Bob was ok to just let me go. I
pushed on and before long I caught up with friends Heidi and Ian. I was pretty proud of myself to be with these two as I respect their abilities quite a bit.

We pushed through as steady as we could but yo-yoed our way across the final ridge-line and down to Duck Pond (mile 48.3) where Ian was clearly feeling better than Heidi and I and jumped out to finish where he could.

Heidi and I encouraged each other as we rounded our way back onto Lenape Road were this long journey began. We pushed downhill past the farm house and back into the terrible climb up to Butterville Rd and onto the seemingly never ending Gatehouse Road.

Once on Gatehouse I could see the finish and Heidi and I exchanged words of encouragement pushing each other to the line.

I saw my friend Dylan cheering me on and high-fived him and Ken Posner as I beat last year’s time by an hour and forty minutes and finished in under ten hours.



Distance - 50 Miles
Time - 9:37:25
Elevation Gain - 4,400ft


Rock the Ridge 50 Mile Challenge - Course Map


Rock the Ridge 50 Mile Challenge - Elevation Profile











3 comments:

  1. WELL DONE! Huge Huge Huge PR for you. Congratulations! A friend from work ran this for his first 50 miler and couldn't say enough nice things about the race the people and the course. Well Don Bix!

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  2. Excellent :-) Huge congratulations in a great race :-) Great race write up too :-) Thanks so much for sharing Jim :-) -Lorraine

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  3. Excellent :-) Huge congratulations in a great race :-) Great race write up too :-) Thanks so much for sharing Jim :-) -Lorraine

    ReplyDelete