Manitou’s Revenge is a 54 mile ultramarathon through the Catskills beginning in Windham, N.Y. on the northern Black Dome Trail and then mostly following the Long Path from Acra Point all the way to downtown Phoenicia, N.Y.
This was my 2nd year of this annual madness mountain race. I still believe that this is the hardest 50 mile race in the North East, probably in US. Even though, this time, I came back with more experiences over the course and in ultra races, but I still struggled with injuries, especially from my nasty fall in Cayuga 3 weeks before.
Bright And Light
With 3-4 hours something of sleep we arrived at the finish line around 3 am to catch the shuttle bus to the starting line. I started on the wave 3, I think, with Brennen and Amy. It wasn’t as cold as last year, but we expecting some thunderstorms or heavy rain towards end of the day till late night, which would make everything twice harder. I had done escarpment trail section a bunch of time and also the last 15 miles of the course at least 3 times so far. So I remembered the course pretty good, except the section in between.
I ran with Brennen on a pace that a little faster that I should be on the first 3 miles road section, which I didn’t mind, because I would be slower than my comfortable pace on the upcoming slippery rocks and muds.
When I got into the trail section, I started to tune into my comfortable trail pace. There were a few falling trees that confused me a couple of times, where I stopped for a few seconds, looking out for direction.
After a couple of miles, I caught up with Chang and Matt, who had started on the earlier wave. I knew at that time I was running too fast if I caught up with Chang. So I hung out on their rear. Chang and I continued to move forward when Matt had to take care a huge business in the woods, and we caught up with Joe Delano. Joe was our host the night before. He was so kind that allowed us to crash at his house in Catskill for a quick nap before the race. At that time we started to assent the infamous Blackhead mountain, it was pretty gnarly and a bit technical, especially with the slippery rocks and roots. We made a wrong turn once, but only a few vertical meters away from the turn. Then we descent the mountain, which in any other day would be the best day of my life, but with slippery terrain plus discomfort on my lower back and pelvis, I became a whimpy ass. I was not as fluid as I should be, and spend too much energy from my counter reaction.
At the aid station in the valley, I grabbed a water and a little food before continued to the last climb of the escarpment trail section. The volunteers were also the Manitou race alumni, their faces were familiar. For the record, they had to haul the food and water to this section for us.
We started to fast hike this never end climb to Stopple Point. Actually I didn’t mind, I was kinda enjoying it. I was hooked into the motion that I just realized I got into the section where there was a ship wreck too fast. (http://chayden.net/Catskills/Notes/AircraftCrashes.html) From this plane wreckage site, the course pretty much downhill with a couple of technical drops. So it was pretty much run-able, yet, I was still struggling to run in fluid motion to bombing the downhill. I let Chang slipped away from me, he usually would be getting faster toward the end anyway.
I arrived at the North and South Lake aid station. I grabbed some food and drinks and tried not to linger too long like I did last year.
I continued my run to the next section. This section was not too crazy, pretty run-able. Pretty much a steady uphill and end up with a few miles of long down hill. The only issue that I had in this section, was miss-read the flagging. I thought, on the junction, the higher flag on the double flag turning sign should toward the turning direction. And it was the opposite way on this section. So I made a wrong turn to Boulder Rock. I just realized it after running for a few minutes without seeing any runners’ tracks, so I spent about 10 minutes running back and forth try to figure it out should I continued or not. Luckily my phone still had the direction open, and just found that I could continue on the track. After I got back on the track, I started to pick up my pace on the downhill to make up my time. And again I made a wrong turn, but this time I realized it quickly. When I got to the Palenville aid station, I topped up my water bottles and grabbed some food to go. I knew the next section would be the longest uphill.
Trouble in The Jungle
I did a little jog on the next section, there were a little construction on the road by the bridge. Then I did a sharp turn into a road in some neighborhood that lead us to the trail head. One of the house put out some water for us, so nice of them. When I got into the trailhead, the long hike was begun. Instead of running it, I decided to do a fast power hike, I would love to safe my calf for more technical and the flat. After a mile or so, suddenly I felt a sharp pain inside my right chest. I tried to ignore it and kept moving but I ended up felt worse. It felt like my body was not sync into my breathing rhythm or my heart beat. It felt like I had an anxiety or panic attack from nothing. So I slowed down and tried to calm down. I walked for miles till I got into the muddy section. I remembered this section very well. Despite it s pretty much flat, but it was all mud with plenty slippery roots like they were a family frame decoration. I felt the Swamp-thing would come out and strangled me anytime. I managed to run a little bit, pushed it more, and ignore the discomfort aside. It did not last long. I stopped at one of the stream, took a little wash on my head and hat, tried to refresh myself. After a half of mile of running, I could not handle it anymore, I felt my hands were cold, and I felt like crap. Somehow I thought this section was longer then I remembered, maybe I was walking too much. When I got into the Plate Clove aid station, I was depleted. Not my muscles, it just I did not feel well. Jason Friedman came to me and check on me. I tried to explain to him as best as I could. Honestly I did not know how to explain it, it was so weird and I had never had that before. He checked on my heart and lungs, and he said they were normal. I sat down for 10 minutes. I decided to kept going and just try to survive aid station by aid station. Jason checked on my heart and lungs again before I left to make sure. And still the same, nothing was wrong with them. And there I went into the wilderness again.
Back Into The Darkness
After crossing the road, the course was going on the road for a little and got back into the trail head on the left. On the easy hike to Indian Head, Joe caught up with me, and we hike together for a bit. I felt really awful, my brain and my body was not in-sync, started to trip myself here and there. I told Joe he could carry on, and should not wait for me. I was beyond slow. Right at the junction where we should turned right to the Indian Head mountain, the trail marker flags were not exist. Either someone took them all out, or the deers thought they were a candy leaves. Luckily the trail signs showed the right direction to the Indian Head, and I also check on my phone as a confident. When we turned right, there was a small piece of orange flag on the stone, I guessed the front-runner tried their best to give us the signal.
When we got into the technical climb, I lost Joe. It was too weird. I was struggling and felt miserable, but I could not lie that I enjoyed this technical uphill and downhill. Specially when I was in Sugarloaf mountain. I swear that I cursed those roots and rocks on those vertical climb, some of them were taller than me. I believe I also screamed like a little girl on the downhill, where I slipped and was that close got into a nasty fall on those jungle of boulders. But still it was kinda fun and entertaining. For a short moment I forgot my health issue.
Moment of Truth
A couple of miles before the aid station, I felt really not well. Not sick per se, but it was like ultra marathon kinda sick. I was not able to put any cardio so I was pretty much walking the whole section, my hands got colder and colder, a little nausea, I was off my balance, I probably tripped every 5 minutes; so I was thinking that I should take a little break at the aid station, tried to calm my body down and maybe I could continue. I knew I had passed the hardest part of the course. The next 15 miles would not be that bad. There would be a few relentless hikes, probably about 4000-5000 feet elevation gain in 15 miles, so it would be still challenging.
When I got to the Mink Hollow aid station, the rain just got started. I took a seat, and asked the volunteer if I could take 15 minutes break. I tried to eat and get myself together. 30 minutes had passed, I still spaced out, not really able to eat solid food and kept loosing my body temperature. Dick Vincent, the race director of infamous Escarpment Trail was there, waiting for pacing Amy. He talked me out that I should not continue in my condition. Especially there would not be an easy escape for the 15 miles section. With cold raining and most likely I would be out there when it’s getting dark, it would not be pretty. I thought about it for a minute, I might survived, I know this section pretty well, but at the same time I was thinking would it be worth the cost. So I decided to drop out.
Some photos from Mountain Peak Fitness could summary the course
Still Lost In The Dark
I was upset. It was my 2nd DNF in a month, back to back after Cayuga. But at the same time I could accept it, since it s something that out of my control. I had never had this issue before. Although the last couple miles it could feel like rhabdo that I had last year, but the chest pain was something new. Elizabeth and Joe Azze told me, it could be from lack of sleeping before the race, I only slept 6-8 hours for the last 2 days, and I might had too much caffeine in my body.
The doctor at the finish line took a look at me, check my heart rate, lungs and pulse again, and everything was normal. Even until today I still have no clue, my checkup result and my blood test came out normal. I guessed time will tell eventually and hopefully I could be back on my track soon.