“The Wagathon is a roughly 29 mile “fat-ass” run that starts at Sam’s Point in Ellenville, New York and runs along the Shawangunk Ridge through some of the most beautiful single track trails (16mi.) and carriage paths (13mi.) you can find, with unmatched views in all directions along the extent of the run. The running has ended at the Mountain Brauhaus in Gardiner and the Gilded Otter in New Paltz in the past, but lately it has been finishing at the Red Brick Tavern in Rosendale. The Wag has gone from a handful of people to several handfuls despite the complete lack of organization, the course changing each year, not really marking the course, and relying on word of mouth to advertise the Wagathon’s existence.”
– Wagathon WordPress –
When I did the Cat’s Tail race trial, I met the race director of Wagathon, Mike Siudy. And he suggested me to run his Fat Ass race, and he assured me that I would love it. Long story short, I was complaining about how the trail in Lake Minewaska – Shawangunks was a little too civilized, most of them are carriage road. And Mike promised me that I would find a lot of hidden gems on his race. And as I remembered, he said it would be a nice and easy run, which turned out far from easy.
This Fat Ass race was pretty unique. We could start whenever would work for us and would finish at a bar, which was awesome. Mike made a turn by turn documentation that was uber detail. Yet he did a pretty good job with the marking on the trail. Oh yeah, the way this race worked, each of us needed to find 5 cards along the course as our check point, then at the finish line, the bar, we needed to show those card to the RD to get the finisher sticker. Pretty entertaining
I met Steven Hawkins at the public parking lot behind the Red Brick Tavern before the race, and his wife drove us to the starting point at the Sam’s Point parking lot. Somehow, I did not realize that I have cross path with Seteve a couple of times from Manitou and Cat Tail race trail. He also just did the Grindstone 100 a month earlier.
It was a little cold that morning, my memory of suffering from hypothermia at Pinhoti the week earlier was still fresh in my mind. Steve knew the area about the first half way of the course. So I decided to tag along with him the whole run. We started the run on a jeep road for about a mile before we made left turn into a single trail. Some part of this section was pretty nasty, plenty sharp ankle twisting rocks spread out randomly in this very narrow trail with branches on both sides that were trying hard to stabbed my shoulders or eyes. But in a few minutes, we got into the point that the view was just breathtaking. And thanks God Steven stopped too, since I needed to take a breath, he ran pretty fast, and probably I had not fully recovered yet.
In a few minutes we got into another scenic view-point, the Vandeerder Kill Falls, before we started to climb a small hill to our first peak with an amazing view. From this point on, I would just stop mentioning any scenic point, since anywhere on this course was a non-stop amazing view in every single turn.
Anyway, after we ran down to the Lake Awosting, the section was a little flatter. A few hundreds meters before our first scrambling, we got a chance to meet the person who created the race, Felix. It always humbled me every time I get to meet a seasoned runner, specially those who are 2 generation ahead of me, but still running the same difficult distance trail race. So we and Felix’s group started to tackle our first scrambling to the Castle Point, at the same time needed to find our first checkpoint card deck. I found the card deck, hidden under a rock. The first card was a half part of a card that I needed to find its pair on the last check point.
We continued our run over a carriage way until we met the junction, where the summit on the left side of the Millbrook Carriageway. We swept the summit edge to find our second deck hidden under a small boulder.
Then we went back down to the trail and continue on the Milbrook Mountain trail, which was a red blazed trail on a pretty steep decent. When we got into a small opening where the trail less steep, we make a right into the blue blazed, the Coxing Trail. We were running on this trail for a couple of miles. Running at in the Fall was always lovely, but the problem was the leaves just covered all hidden holes and rocks.
Then we merged into the Trapps Road, and we were back on the carriage trail. We passed the Trapps Bridge when we met with a ranger there, who was cheering on us. A couple of hundreds meters after we passed the overlook fence, just before the crux started, there was a hidden entrance to a trail. This trail is used by the climbers to set up a top rope settings. The hike on this section was not that long but it was a little steep, it was fun tho. When we got into the end of the hike, we got into the clearing where we were running along the ridge of the crux. It was amazing, the whole view on my right was the upstate NY landscape with a hint of Catskills Mountain range, and the view that we were heading into was the next summit where the Skytop Tower stands. Although, running in this section was a bit tricky, since the terrain was an angle rock slab, so our left foot was always lower than our right. When we got into the highest peak along this ridge, where we directly facing the Skytop Tower, we found the third card, and we also took a lunch break there.
About a mile later, we turned left and ran down the rock slab into the Overcliff Road and headed to the Rhododendron Bridge. Just before the bridge, we took the left trail for the Laurel Ledge Road before we scrambled up through caves of The Giants Path. It was so much fun. Then after a dozen turns, we reached the Mohonk Lake, where we merged into the Spring Path. Just before the gazebo, we found the red blaze trail on our left to start our scramble over giants boulders and came out through The Lemon Squeeze ladders. The crevice was so narrow that my Orange Mud Hydra Quiver barely made it. But for Steve, since he was using a running pack, he had to do a free climb over the crevice’s rocks instead of using the ladders. When we got out we were welcome by another view of upstate NY landscape with the red-green-brown trees’ carpet covering the landscape. After a few more ladders, we got into the Skytop Tower. Here, we needed to climb up the stairs to find the fourth card that was hidden under the concrete bench just before the Skytop’s rooftop. We decided to go to the rooftop that we found the 360 degree view of the amazing landscape. I had been on this Skytop a dozen times, but the view was always amazed me.
Then we continued our run over the Skytop Road and kept following the main trail until we got into a shale pit. If there was no heavy-duty machine parked by the end of the pit, this area looked like a dragon lair, not sure why that what was crossed in my mind. Too bad I forgot to take a picture. After we survived the dragon, we arrived at the Mohonk Mountain House Gatehouse. From there we were running on and off between road and trail following the Northeast Trail.
A couple of miles later, we got into the foot of the Bonticou Summit and started to do our last rock scrambling of this race. We almost missed the fifth card deck. Luckily, Steven put his foot just next of the card deck, so when I scrambled up and follow his footstep, I accidentally spotted the card-deck. From this summit, we were running on a fun steep decent trail for a few minutes before we got into the opening. At this point Steven was running out of water, and my upper left calf was getting really sore. So when we ran over the swamp area, we started to slow down our pace.
After a few miles, we get out from the tree line and ran on the jeep/maintenance road, then arrive at the steel bridge over the Rondout River. Two things that you should do, if by any chance you run on this bridge. First stop at the middle and look over your left and right, it was a pretty neat view. Second, just before you get onto the end of the bridge, touch the railing, there would be a magical surprise for you. Also when we got into the other side of the bridge, there were a few creepy Halloween’s decorations that were hanging on the trees. From there we ran down the hill shortly before me make a left and run on the road for a couple a miles to the finish line, or finish bar.
We got to the bar pretty early. Immediately I order burger, coke and beers. I had been craving those since I passed the Bonticou Summit. Every minute passed, there were more runners came in and suddenly the bar was full. There was a plenty familiar faces that I had met from previous races, mostly from Manitou Revenge and Escarpment Trail. We submitted our cards to get our finisher sticker from Mike. Also I bought the official Wagathon X’s t-shirt.
Probably I should not run this race a week after my 100 miles race. (I found out later that my upper left calf was swollen for the next couple of days) But it was a great run, beautiful sceneries in every miles, a very diverse terrain over the course and all the runners there were treated me like I was part of a big family. I love these peeps. I would definitely come back and recommend it to everyone.