TNF ECS Bear Mountain 50 miles – Smile the only thing was left in me

A hardy test for trail runners of any level, The North Face Endurance Challenge New York winds along the western shores of the Hudson River and through the craggy foothills of the Catskill Mountains. Expect enough rocks and challenging terrain along the course to keep you engaged, but not enough to prevent you from running the majority of the race.
Runners can expect terrain changes from packed dirt to loose rocks, from tree roots to leaf-covered trails. The Bear Mountain Endurance Challenge course cuts to the chase, with some trails heading steeply uphill rather than zig-zagging at a gentler grade. Descents end in wooded hollows before the next rapid climb ending with breathtaking views. Make no mistake: this will be a tough test of off-road endurance.

There Is No Miracle in Mountain Race
This was my 2nd TNF ECS Bear Mountain 50 miles. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, it would be technical and could be dangerous. I came into this race without as much training as I wanted to, I still had injuries to deal with. Although, I did a couple of mountain races marathon a few weeks prior to the race, so I had learned how to deal with my injuries on the race day, it would not be pretty but I believed I would manage the race and having fun. Also a bunch of my friends would run it and others would do volunteer, so I was eager to meet them on the course. Had been awhile we didn’t have a race party.

Hold Your Horse Buddy
It was early in the morning. The race would start at 5 am and I was in wave two, which would be a few minutes after the first wave. Juerg and I arrived probably 15 minutes earlier. I decided not to put any drop bag and carry all my fuel and necessity in my Orange Mud vest rear pouch.
It was pretty dark that we needed to use headlamp, and I couldn’t find any of my friend on the starting line. So I just line up, and could not manage any closer to the front.
The first couple miles were already started with a steady uphill that decorated with bumpy ankle roller rocks. I pushed it probably a little too hard because I wanted to break free from the crowds before I got into the single track. I saw Jerelyn and I might heard Jun or Louis voice next to her. I said hi and kept moving. After half a mile I met Chang, and I just realized that I had been running way too fast if I caught up with him. So I was tagging along with him. I also met Mike Bielik who was just zoom zooming through the darkness, I did not see him again till the next day when he did the half marathon race, crazy guy.
I should have not used my wind-shell, I started to get overheated, but I felt pretty good that I don’t want to stop and took it off. I tripped a lot though, more that I used to. Probably because I was using a new shoes, to have a little more protection for my PF.
Just before the Silvermine Lake aid station, I lost Chang who took a restroom break. He passed me later on the aid station, when I stowed away my shell. I didn’t see him again since, and I think he finished 20 something overall. I saw Yoshiko Jo and Elaine in this aid stations.

Tree Huger
I kept pushing a little harder than I should, probably because I knew this section and this was probably one of the scenic ones, especially around the shelter area.
My skin over my right shoulder-blade started to burn, I think I did something wrong with my vest, but I just ignored it. Just before Skananti aid station, my old pelvis problem started to flare up, so I dialed down my pace a little. And then kaboom, I fell face flat on the very flat surface.
When  I got into the Skananti aid station, I was immediately greeted by Kat and her daughter who were volunteering there. She reminded me to fuel well and didn’t get another body shutdown like last year. I asked them for salt tablet, but too bad they didn’t have it. This aid station probably the most scenic aid station. If you’re doing this race, please look around.
I continue my run. I knew I was not doing well at that moment, my muscles started to flare up here and there. Salt tablet where art tho.
After turning, twisting, falling and cursing into many stones and roots, I got into the second road section of the race. This road would lead me to jeep road that goes to the private cabins and dock. It was about a mile away. Salt salt salt. This aid station was a loop aid station, where we would pass it twice. On the fork, the 1st female just finished her loop and passed me. Ugh I was too slow that nothing I could do about it.
When I got into the Camp Lonowa aid station, again, I could not find the salt tablet. The volunteer gave me chicken broth and I took some potatoes with salt. The chicken broth was awesome, but the raw salt was awful, I tasted the sting in my mouth for a while.
On the rocky hill of the loop, I jinxed myself. I was remembering how I had a pretty bad cramp last year at this spot. And there there, I got cramp on my hip flexor that I could put weight on it. I ended up hugging and hang out with a tree for a while. Then I heard familiar voices down the hill, it was Jun Bermudez and Louis. I yelled at them and humored them that they were too slow. When they reached me, they gave me a few salt tablets. I think if not because of that, I would be still out there hugging that small tree. That’s the only technical hill of the loop, and from there was an easy ride that I was struggling with. Kaboom, I fell again. Pretty bad, a lot of tuck and roll over sharp stones and was that close to puncture my rib cage into a root that sticking out from the ground. All the three runners behind me stopped, helped me out and make sure I was not broken. And then, they just disappear into the woods like a teen wolves.

Who Let The Benches Out
When I was back into the Camp Lonowa aid station, I saw Maria Campos. She had to DNFed due to her knee injury. But she gave me her salt tablets pouch that saved my race. I also met Otto Lam who yelled at me like a sergeant, ordering me to keep moving.
After a couple of rocky downhill and twisting trail, I was back on the last road section of the race. It was a long steady uphill that ate me alive, also the sun started to beat up my skin. After we turned right, I was back on the trail that was about a mile away from the Lake Tiorati aid station, where Kenneth Tom and his wife, Christine, volunteered and took care of me. When I was there, my cramps were pretty bad, so I took a 5 min breaks on the chair while dehydrate myself.
When I was back into the course, I stopped for a few minutes to take a little shower at the river by the aid station. I felt a little refresh and better that I could start running again. At the fork a couple of miles before the Owl Swamp aid station, the course started to merge with the 50 K. I started to pass some of the runners and met a bunch of them in the aid station. It was too crowded, so I just made a quick pit stop.
I continued my run. It started with small hill before I continued into a pretty flat single trail. Then the course turned right onto a small hill to go back to the Anthony Wayne aid station for the second time, this aid station was also the 1st aid station. I met Elaine and Yoshiko Jo again there. They were ready for their next gig, pacing a smelly runner.
I continued the course, walking, while I was eating, all my body were cramping out. I think this long pavement over the parking lot was the hardest part of the course. When I got into the trail, I tried to shuffle my way back to running mode, big time fail. My body refused to move. I sat down and tried to stretch. I was thinking to take a nap, thanks God I didn’t. After a few minutes, I didn’t feel any better, so I went back on my feet and stated to walk.


Some dude rocking on metal music that I got into that jam

Laughing Is The Best Medicine
For a good 2 miles, I failed to make my body moving. But it s better moving than sitting down. And then, there was a girl passing me, and I saw something was sticking out from her calf. I asked her if she was ok, and she said it was her phone that she put in the compression socks. If I was smart I should have known that she wouldn’t be walking if her bone sticking out from the calf. I was laughing heartily of my stupidity. Something with laughing that I found my strength again. Suddenly I could move. And I preserved that feeling. Running on the trail should be fun. I still could feel all the pain, specially my PFs, but I found away to make friends with them this time. Light and fluid. Light and fluid. Light and fluid. That was my mantra. I started to catch up with runners and in no time I got into Queensboro aid station. It was pack not only by the 50k runners, but also the marathon runners. One of the volunteers asked me to washed my face, I guessed it was full off nasty salt.
I didn’t stop that long, I continued with munching the upcoming uphill. And I knew what was next, the infamous Timp Pass climb. I was kinda looking towards it. It s a small nasty rocky hill. Personally, it was not a horrible one, but runner would get there when they were out of juice, so it felt last forever. In my case at that moment, I got my second wind, so I could power hike it pretty quick. A couple of army guys who were hiking, cheering on me.
After I passed the Timp Pass, I managed to keep running until I got into the last station, 1777. From far away, I saw Allison and Brittany. They started to yell my name and cheering me up. These girls were a bad-ass ultra marathon runner. As much as I wanted to chat and catch up with them, but I needed to be done with the race. I gulped a salt tablet with coke, not sure what was the chemical reaction would be, but whatever. I started to run again until their cheering voices disappear behind the woods. I think the course was a little different from last year for this section. I passed more marathon runners until I got into the rocky ankle roller little uphill, where I ran through it this morning. I made a fast power hike there and run again from there on. 10 minutes or less, I told my body. I passed the twin underpass, I saw the great lawn, people cheering on both sides, and I couldn’t hold my smile anymore. From far away I saw Maria and Violet at the finish line. It is done and done. I didn’t make PR, I got big holes on my socks, and awesome people to hang out at the post race festival.


Distance : 50 miles
Elevation : 6880 ft Elevation Gain, who care what s the lost.
Finish : 11:33:23
Rank : #126 (overall)