Escarpment Trail 2014 – A Bless To Get High

Distance : 18 miles
Finish : 4:29:03
Rank : #72 (overall)

This was my second year to run this year. The same trail, the same thunderstorm rain, and the same motto, “Mountain Goat Only”. It still fresh in my mind how was those words spoken for itself.

This race was my training race for my upcoming TDS race; actually this would be my first mountain run training after a couple of weeks of vacation from running. I planned to run it nice and easy, try to find the best pace and strategy that I wanted to apply in TDS. Also I had a bruised on my left knee, I fell on the subway train on Friday night. Doing a parkour after midnight on the stairs was not a brilliant idea, I was not even drunk at that moment. Slow and easy seemed the right mantra that day.

Thunder, Lightning, and Pouring
I drove with Joe to the car pool area (the finish line area) to get a bus ride to the starting line. I stayed with Delano’s family the night before and got a chance to hang out with Dylan, which was awesome.

When we got into the starting line, I met many familiar faces, especially the runners from Manitou Revenge that I did a couple of weeks earlier. It was kind of funny how I always see these same people in all of my races these years; I guessed we shared the same flavor of trail running on the mountain, technical terrain and torturing ourselves.
The new thing with this year Escarpment Trail Race was we started in waves, since the park regulated a new rule, they only allowed a certain number of people on the trail at the same time. The first wave was mostly the male elites. I saw a few familiar faces in that wave, Ben Nephew who has been dominating Escarpment trail for years, Ian Golden the RD from Cayuga 50 miles, and Ryan Wellts. On the second wave, mostly were elites female, I saw Kristina Folcik and Sheryl Wheeler.
Like last year, it was pouring again this year, but we had a bonus this time. We got a few paparazzi from the sky, who flashing lightning and thunder from its dark sky.
I was cold and wet, so when I stood on the starting line in my wave with Joe Delano, I could not wait to start and got warm.

Slow Was The Mantra
When we started, I felt like everyone was running pretty fast. For a second, I thought I just wanted to turn around and call a day.
The run started with a flat single trail, pretty muddy, before the never end uphill started. When we got into the uphill section, I started to catch up with all the runners. After a minute or two, I just realize that my goal in this race was to find my comfortable pace that I would apply in my upcoming TDS race. So I slowed down tremendously, started to do my power hike on the steep section and jogged on the mellow section. On the other hand, Joe was kept going with his pace, left me behind in a blink of eyes. After a few miles I started to catch up with the more runners, at the same time I tried hard to keep my pace in a very sustainable rate. Then I saw the first aid station on the first hill-top, Windham Peak, where the terrain was started a bit rocky, before a sharp right then left turn. I remembered, a year ago, I made an eyes contact with a snake at this section on my training run, so I was really alert at that moment. After sip a cup of water and some snacks, I started the first decent of the race.
Again I trained to run as effective as I could. I did not want to slow down, yet not trashing my legs too hard. I am pretty good on running on technical down hill, but I really had to be careful that I didn’t want to overdo my body or get injured. I think in some point I caught up with Joe. Joe was a much much faster runner then me, but he just started to do trail runner this year, so I think I had more experience at running on a technical downhill.

Blackhead Is The New Black
On the next aid station, I just skipped it, since I knew the next hill would be The Blackhead Mountain, I had enough water and there would be another aid station at the top. The Blackhead Mountain is highest peak of the course, the most relenting technical up hill of the course, and the most unforgiving downhill of the course.
I had run this section for a few times, yet it could still eat my soul on my every step. I started my canine style jutsu on my ascent. I heard my shoulder popped couple of times from the weight and pressure that I put on my hands so I could conserve my legs energy for the running.
Last year, I remembered there was an older man who rang a cow bell on the top of The Blackhead Mountain. I think from what Dick said on the pre race briefing on the starting line, unfortunately, this legendary cow bell man had passed away a few months earlier.
I ate a few snacks, sip a bit of water, and grabbed bananas before I continued my run, there would be more hills ahead of me.

Plane Crash From The Past
The hills would continue until we passed the Stoppel Point, it would be marked by a plane crash that happened on 1983 ( On the way to this point, I met with Paul Kentor, like me, this was his second year of doing Escarpment Trail. He also shared the same pain from this torturing uphill, and moved forward what could we do to relieve it. When I took pictures of the plane crash site, Paul passed me. I forgot to take a picture of this plane on my previous year of Escarpment Trail and this year Manitou Revenge, so I got to have this time. I caught up with Paul again before I stopped again since I had dirt or pebbles in side my insoles. I thought it would be better to lost a few minutes than suffer a blister for a week and could not run. The next section would be downhill anyway, so I would able to make up my time.


Blind To The Finish Line
After the crazy downhill from that point, I remembered I got a cramp on my legs.  I had to stop again just to calm down my muscles, drink more from my Tailwind bottle and got a shot block. Probably it was only a 2-3 miles more, so after a minute I kept continue. After the last rocky stone junction, I knew It was about another mile. At that point I saw Paul couple hundreds meters in front of me, and he started to run like a pack of coyotes chased him. I got to the finish line with almost running out of breath and probably ready to pass out. As what I felt last year, I was so happy to get into the finish line.

Run For Dylan
Please bare with me on this one. I promise it will be much less relenting than Blackhead Mountain.
This couple of years, I had been in the running too much that sometime I forgot what happened surround me.  At the same time, I felt I had been blessed with my health, strong legs, and good friends,  they allowed me to run far and high, bring me to beautiful places and witness the joy of free life. So I decided that  I wanted to share my joy and happiness from running into other benefit. Ironically it was a selfish way to make me feel better.
Than I met Joe Delano, we did a short run for a few hours at the Blue Mountain. And I got to know about his daughter, Dylan Delano, who suffered a rare disease. She could not store the nutrition in her body that she would need to be fed every 3-4 hours. It just occurred to me that how lucky I am, I am allowed to do what I do. On the other hand, Dylan or any other kids with that rare disease, they are limited on their happy life activities.
Since July, I started my own charity. I collected a fund by running and donate the whole fund to University Florida that is working on the research for the cure. In return? I run a mile for every 10 dollars, so more running for me.