Ellenville Mountain Running Festival – I think I still can run on a mountain race

After my health issue about a month ago, I had not done any running, probably only 2 times on the road. Mainly, because of traveling with my family. But just a few weeks from Trans Rockies, I got a little bit nervous. So I thought it would be a good idea to put my legs into a test, a little mountain race.
Ellenville Mountain Running Festival, a day of adventurous running events taking place in some of the most spectacular, rugged, and remote sections of the Shawangunk Mountains. The Marathon is an epic “double traverse” of the ridgeline and totals approximately 5,000 feet in elevation gain. This division heads out toward beautiful Stony Kill Falls on un-maintained carriage roads that may be wet or overgrown, passes two sky lakes, Lake Awosting and Mud Pond, crosses High Point, and descends to the start/finish. Because of the remote locations and limited checkpoints, this division is by invitation only.

I arrived there a little bit too early, but I was surprised that I saw a few fast people from Mountain Peak Fitness, included Ben and Ian. I thought this would be a low-key event. So, I guessed this would be an interesting race. Also the bonus challenge of this race was, there would be no aid station and no course mark. We needed to navigate by ourselves, and prepared for our own logistics. I decided to run with my Orange Mud HQ Vest Pack 2, a sawyer water filter, and my own version of course map (above) + NYNJT maps, since the race map has no blaze information.

The Golden Hours
I lined up on the starting line with Ben Nephew and Ian Ridgeway, I did not know what I was thinking for standing with these beasts. But I got a chance to do a small chat with them. Being out of NY and not in the running world for a month, I was out of the latest gossip, and I just found out Ben won the Escarpment Trail last weekend, again, and of course.
The gun was off (no real gun at all actually). I was barely keep up with them on the first mile and lost them just before the first junction on mile 2-3. It was a good 2 – 3 miles of uphill, I was surprised that I was still able to run on those, so I gained a little confident. I kept continue on the trail on the left, until Emmanuel caught up with me. I was stopping at that moment since I had another doubt on another junction. He had the track points on his watch, I too had the track on my Garmin, but it was useless. I really hate my fenix2 at that point. So I kept following him till we got into the checkpoint 1. It was a turn left, a few miles after the junction, the aid station just in front of the Stony Kills Fall. We made a u-turn at the check point and ran back to the main trail, at this point, we started to share with the other runners who went down to the check point, and I lost Emmanuel on these trail exchanges.
I kept my run till I got into the familiar area that I knew it should take me towards the Lake Awosting, where I needed to find the junction to checkpoint 2. I found a few of traffic cones on the trail, somehow I thought they were part of the race to follow, and I made a wrong turn to the hill slope’s edges. When I ran back, I saw Emmanuel just coming to the trail too, he also made a wrong turn, so I guess technology would not help at this point, good old map would do. But the day was still young and I felt great, I was just happy that I could be there, running and enjoying the view.

Lost in Paradise
After a half loop, we found the left turn to Aumick Road Parking lot. At this point, it was an easy down hill for a good 3 miles-ish. And when I got closer to the parking lot to check in, I was started to think that it would be suck to retrace it back up again. I wished they had water supply at this parking lot, I wished I had filled it up at the lake. But I remembered on the map there was a stream in between of parking lot and the junction that went to the Mud Pond Trail. I started to do my power hike on those long curvy hill. I started to catch up with Emanuel, we both started to feel the tolls on our legs. Oh by the way, I saw a mother was hiking while carrying a baby on her backpack. She was my hero that day, the real bad ass.
After a sharp turn, when the hill become more less intimidating, I found the stream underneath the bridge. I told Emmanuel and the other runner that I would catch them later, and started to filled up my bottles. After a few miles I found the junction that supposed to go to the Mud Pond trail, it s a trail with lilac trail blaze color. When I got into one of the small rocky hill, I made a left when I met with Emmanuel and the other runner. They said they lost the trail mark. So we tried to follow the trail mark, but after a while we were back into the Aumick Road trail. Bummer, unneccessary loop run. There, we met another female runner that had also been running on the loop. So we decided to go back to the main trail by the lake and picked up the Mud Pond trail from there. I slowed down my pace while reading the map, I was afraid that I would missed the turn. I ended up ran all the way on the back of the group, when I found the trail junction. I could still catch to that lady, but Emmanuel and the other runner did not hear my yelling call, they were too far ahead. Luckily there was a biker came to us, and I asked him to pass the message to those runners, to go back and to run into this trail. When we ran up along the Lilac trail, I could see Emmanuel and the other runner below, they were running around the lake. I tried to yell at them but, again, they seems could not hear us, despite they were not that far from us. In my mind, I thought they might planned to go back to the trail where we came from and ran back to the start/finish line. In that case they should be ok, so we kept on the course trail.

We Are Water Creature Afterall
We started our run on this Lilac blaze. My plan, the Mud Pond would be my second place where I gonna filled up my water. But after run for a while I could not find the pond, it should be somewhere after the small bridges on the trail. I kept pushing my run till I got into the junction where I saw the red trail blaze. I remembered exactly where I was at that time. Once, I made a wrong turn here on the Springletrack Race a few months back, I went all the way down to the Vanderkill waterfall. It was not a fun way to go back up. So I sat down on the edge of the rock waited there, since I lost that female runner. She had no idea how to navigate the trail blazer color, she did not have the real map with trail blazer marks, and that would be bad for her to missed the turn. After a few minutes, she showed up with another female runner with an ankle brace, and I told them the right direction. I checked my water situation, and it was not pretty, I drank too much because I thought I would able to refill at the Mud Pond. So I started to regulate my water intake, till the next water source, which would be all the way back to the Smiley Carriage Road trail, pretty far. I let the ankle brace girl went ahead of me, I needed to run on idling mode pace, so I would not overwork my cardio or heart-rate.
Soon, we got into the boulders area that was pretty expose. I was really in big trouble. I had only a quarter of my bottle and I started to feel the cramps creeping on me. The ankle brace lady was long gone in front of me, and the other one was way behind. At this point, she would not get lost, the trail mark would be pretty obvious. I needed to move fast yet not too fast, so I could not wait for her. I love boulders, I love run over boulders, but after too many climbs over boulder, I started to get weary.

What Friends For
When I got into the High Point checkpoint, I asked them a little water that just enough to get though to the Smiley. They volunteer said there would be a water-drop about a half mile away. So I aimed for that. I started to run again with a new destination, water-drop area.
Then from far away I saw 3 familiar figures, they were Miriam, Kenneth, and Christine. I told them I was kinda in a trouble situation where I had been out of water for a while. They gave their water supply, since they were heading back from the volunteer location to the finish area. After a few gulped, and 2 bottles full with precious water, I was reborned and was able to start to run down the hill.
When I got into the bottom of this rocky road, I saw there was the water-drop area. But I ignored those lovely water gallons, and kept continue with running. Before I got into the Smiley Road, I got a little confused with the worker/engineering trail mark. I spent a good 5 minutes to make sure where would be the right way. After I figured it out, actually the junction was only a few hundreds meters away. What a waste of time. I just kept running and tried to get into my pace, I just wanted to get done with it, I was starving too. After a mile or so, I passed another runner. I recognized him from the beginning of the race, he was with the front-runners. I wonder how far were they now, I bet they had finished at least an hour ago. I lost too many times in between looking for the right trail and water issue. But oh well, it is what it is, that was part of the fun from an adventure races. Got lost and overcame the obstacles, and made the best of it.
Oh by the way, there were some random things on the trail that kinda entertained me a bit, like abandon RV and a rusty old car with plenty bullet’s holes. What was the story behind them?
When I got into the finished line, I saw some of the runners there, Kenneth Posner and Todd Jennings, and the TWA crews. I was a little worry when I did not see Emmanuel, and his friend told me that he had not heard anything back from him and could not reach him. But after a few minutes, he and the other runner came in, it was a relief.

So at the end it was a good day. It was a fun race. It was good to know that I could still do some running, and maybe, just maybe, I could wing it on the Trans Rockies. Do this race for 6 days in a row, pancake! Yeah right!

Distance : 26-27 miles-ish
Elevation : 5514 ft Elevation Gain, who care what s the lost.
Finish : 6:17:00
Rank : #8 (overall)

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