Editor’s Note: Tim “Mountain Goat” Connelly has been devouring trails in New England since before he could grow a beard. He likes his trails rocky, wooded, and as difficult as they come. Enjoy Mountain Goat’s account of Manitou’s Revenge, a 54-mile Ultra running adventure through the Catskill Mountains of New York State.
But, you and I know that there is wealth here in the Catskill Mountains. The treasures of the mountains are all around us. An accumulation of a great fortune is here for the taking, but you must look for it without greed. It is yours to keep forever and it belongs to those who can see the forest as well as the trees. ~ Gene Ligotti, The Treasure of the Catskills
I… planned to take the race as it came, listening to the terrain and my body and just trying to have a good day on the trails without blowing up. If this put me in position to win I would take advantage of it, but if I had a bad day and couldn’t compete I wouldn’t beat myself up. ~ Jan Wellford, Winner 2014 Manitou’s Revenge and Course Record holder
The race started in waves 5 minutes apart at 5 am. Elena and I camped out 25 minutes away at a “family” campground. Of course, our neighbours were up until 1 AM chattering away. With an alarm set for 3:30, this meant only a few anxious hours of sleep for both of us. When the alarm went off, we bundled up for the cool morning and set off for CD Lane Park. We arrived with 40 minutes until Wave 1 started (wave numbering started at 0). That left me little wiggle room to eat, finish putting my pack together and take care of business. With 20 minutes to start I headed to the men’s room for final race prep. Get 100 runners together for an all day run, give them two bathroom stalls and you get an enormous line. As starting time steadily approached I was sure I would not get back to the start line for my wave. At that moment a wonderful messenger informed the men’s room line that the women’s room was empty. Without second though, another fella and I joyously sprinted around the building. I arrived back at the car just as Wave 0 went off. Elena filled me in on the pre-race meeting as I picked up my pack and walked to the starting line.
With nerves high, no one talked much. An anti-climactic “go” from Charlie and we were off. Three miles of rolling road clicked away at an effortless 8 minutes per mile then we turned left onto singletrack. Another mile of gradual uphill and the course joined the infamous Escarpment Trail. I settled into a hike and started to eat some Honey Stinger gummies, a lesser of many evils in the sports food group. I would catch glimpses and conversations of other runners ahead and behind me. There started to be some movement – I caught and passed a few people, a few runners caught me. I distinctly recall a pair working much too hard on a climb and decided to let them go, knowing I would see them again before too long. Eventually, I found a good pace with two guys who knew each other, Jay Lemos and Mike Siudy. Jay and I would run together for the next 40 plus miles to Mount Tremper, only yo-yoing a bit when one of us hit a high or low spot. We lost Mike as he took it upon himself to fertilize some bushes. He would catch up to us later on the Devil’s Path from there the three of us pushed each other until the final climb up Tremper.
Jay and I cruised into North-South Lake at 3:15. Elena was there waiting for me with food, goops and anything else I needed. I grabbed some food, dropped off the long sleeve shirt I started in and filled my bottle with coke for the fast descent down to Palenville. These semi-technical, even graded descents have become a strength and I easily gapped Jay and an older strong looking runner. The only thing that prevented me from sneaking through the aid station unseen was a large black bear 50 meters down the trail from me. Remaining calm, I stopped and looked around for cubs. None in sight. I guessed this was a male based on size anyway. Smokey and I stared at each for a few moments, not really wanting to deal with one another. He lumbered off up into the woods, granting me passage down to Palenville aid station. With the bear delay, my gap was gone. Jay and the older strong looking runner came into the aid station as I was ready to leave.
We rejoined on the big climb up Katterskill High Peak. Jay put some distance on me but I kept him in sight while eating as much as I could and washing it down with coke. After topping out the climb we both seemed to decide it was time to stick together and push each other. I remembered reading that this next section was a rotten section of trail: roots and standing water. That’s exactly what we got. The only relief was a couple small kills where we could splash some cold water on ourselves. Eventually, we came down into Platte Clove, the last road-accessible aid station. Again Elena was waiting for me with supplies. We were both thankful to see each other. She had a tight schedule to go back to camp, break down the tent and get to Platte Clove. All while driving around mountain roads with a manual transmission, which she had about 30 minutes of practice in a parking lot two a week ago. I changed my socks and took all the gels and gummies I might need.
Jay and I rambled towards the Devil’s Path. I noticed a grouping of flags but no turn. Then we came upon a significant, well signed, intersection but no flags. Confused, I pulled up the gps track and Jay grabbed his map. Yes, we were supposed to turn. But why was there no flagging? We’d have plenty of time to think about that as we scrambled up the Devil’s Path.
Once we started up Twin Mountain we had a lot of movement in placing. We caught and passed two guys. At last Mike caught us after he darted off to the bushes 25 miles ago. Mike personally flagged the Devil’s Path and kept ranting about all the missing flags. We were soon surprised to catch Josh Burns, owner of the Devil’s Path FKT. Apparently having a bad day he hung on for a while then let us go.
Scrambling up and down, up and down, our threesome arrived atop Plateau Mountain. Mike climbed a tree. We re-flagged the critical turn off the Devil’s Path. Rain started somewhere near Silver Hollow after threatening for a few hours. On the fast descent to Warner Creek, for some reason I tried to push off on a smooth, wet log tilted at 30 degrees and went down hard, harder than I’ve ever fallen while trail running. Pumped full of adrenaline, I thought I might have broken my arm. I also felt like I might vomit. I gradually gathered myself, poked at my arm and determined it contused (ie. fancifully bruised). Jay gave me a compression sleeve to keep the swelling down and we continued the descent.
Warner Creek felt wonderful. I waded in up to my thighs and splashed the cold water over my head. Feeling reborn, we started the final climb up Tremper Mountain. Nausea soon returned and I hung on the back attempting to force in some food and watered down gatorade. One of the guys we passed back on the Devil’s Path ran passed us up the steep climb. We topped out the steepest section at the aid station and refueled. With only a mellow couple miles to the summit of Tremper and a fast descent spirits were high. Sensing the possibility of breaking 13 hours I took the lead and ran over Tremper and flew down the wet and rocky fire road. Mike and Jay didn’t follow. I only stopped at the final aid station for the required reflective vest and hit the road for the final 1.25 miles. My watch said 6 PM. I had 5 minutes to break 13 hours. 4 minute mile. I broke 5 minutes once 14 years ago.
I strode across the finish line in 13:04:37, good for 5th place. Jason Kolb was the guy that passed us going up Tremper. He finished several minutes ahead of me, but started in Wave 0 so our places swapped. Hyun Chang Chung finished another half minute back. So the final push moved me up two spots. Happy with the day’s effort and new friends, I went in the church to eat and revel in the adventure with Elena, Jay, Mike and the other runners. A doctor confirmed I did not break my arm.
A huge thank you to Charlie Gadol and all the race volunteers. And to Jay and Mike for making the miles so much more enjoyable. And finally, thank to my girlfriend Elena for actually supporting my adventures.
Gear and Nutrition:
I always give people the non-answer that they need to figure it out for themselves. I will rant about hydration. A bevy of science argues that we do not need to drink as much as we’ve been told. Forcing water down is not only unnecessary, but dangerous, far more dangerous than mild dehydration. Dr. Tim Noakes lays out the full argument in Waterlogged and in his broader tome The Lore of Running. In training and in this race I followed his advice “drink to thirst” and felt great. No excess fluid sloshing around my stomach. No bloating that seems to happen late in these races.