Editor’s note: Gary Scarano was among the RRR club members who took part in the North Face Endurance Challenge New York 50-Miler at Bear Mountain on May 4. This is a rugged trail run with rocky, treacherous footing in many spots, and just finishing in less than the cutoff time of 14 hours is a major challenge. In fact, about half of the field of participants did not make the cutoff at various checkpoints and were pulled off the course, as stipulated in the event rules. Gary suffered two falls, at miles 7 and 14. On his second fall he sustained bruised ribs, a gash in his right leg, and considerable pain to his arms, legs and back. He continued on until mile 28 but the injuries forced him to retire from the race before mile 30. Club members John Mackenzie and Ayako Yamakazi completed the grueling race. Member Bruce Yang had planned to pace Gary the last 9.7 miles, but since Gary dropped out, Bruce accompanied Ayako on that final difficult stretch. Here is Bruce’s account of the race. – Jamie Kempton
By Bruce Yang
It was a great day to witness the Bear Mountain 50 miler. I would report some of the things I witnessed from the 50 mile ultramarathon in regard to our RRR participants.
First I want to thank Gary Scarano for giving me the opportunity and asking me the honor to pace the last 9.7 miles of the 50 miler for him. Unfortunately, I had to work part of the day that morning. But I did tell Gary that I would try to leave work early as soon as possible so I could make it to aid station #7 no later than 2:30 p.m. I was suggesting that Gary pace himself slowly so he could reach aid station #7 (mile 40.3) by 2:30 p.m. So it would be roughly 15 minutes/mile pace which is not too slow considering this was a 50 miler ultra in very rough and dangerous terrain.
That morning, I woke up prior to work and saw the text message from tracking that Gary had reached mile 13.9 in 2:57:26, which is 12:46 min/mile. I was a bit concerned that he may slow down drastically for the later stages since that was a pretty fast pace for this kind of course. But just in case he was able to keep up with that intensity, I decided to do everything I could to leave work early to get there by 2 p.m. so I would not miss him.
As I was driving to Anthony Wayne Recreation Area aid station #7, I still did not receive any more texts regarding Gary’s next position/time. So just in case there was a problem with my text, I sent out a message to the Outerloop group to see if anyone else got tracking of Gary. Paul Serra kindly replied right away and told me that he also received only one text, the same one I received this morning and no more after that. I was not too concerned since I know Gary is an experienced runner.
I was a bit concerned that he would run out of steam and slow down drastically due to his fast pace of the first 13.9 miles. I reached the Anthony Wayne Recreational Area (aid station #7, mile 40.3) at 1:50 p.m. and checked in and signed the waiver and got my pacer bib. I walked around to make sure I did not miss Gary. I also checked with the aid station organizer in charge about 50-mile runner No. 26’s (Gary’s) status. Unfortunately, the organizer was not very high tech yet and they told me there was no way for them to check where runner No. 26 was. So I walked around more to make sure I could see every runner who went by without missing Gary. I was pretty sure I did not miss him since the runners were coming in sparsely, not in a huge group. It was actually a lot of fun and it was inspiring to see and cheer for the runners who came down from the mountain into the road and heading to the aid station #7.
I think I saw John Mackenzie around 2:45 p.m. and I was hoping to see Gary a little bit after that. But there was still no sign of Gary and I was going to check my phone to see if there was any update from the Outerloop group. But I realized my cell phone had no service at Anthony Wayne Recreational Area. So I told myself to wait until 4 p.m. If Gary was still not out, I would assume he pulled out perhaps due to some difficulty, since there was no other text from tracking earlier. Then by 3:30 p.m., I saw another member of RRR, Ayako Yamakazi, who came down from the mountain. I asked her if she saw Gary earlier. Thankfully she said she did. But she also told me that she saw Gary at an aid station (probably shortly after mile 13.9) and that he had fallen. She was not sure if he could continue the course. I felt bad that he fell and probably could not continue the course. But at the same time, I was happy that at least he was seen by Ayako and he was “fine.” So I assumed that the medical aid station probably treated him and sent him home. I asked Ayako if it was OK for me to run with her for the last 9.7 miles. And thankfully she was kind enough to allow me to run with her. By that time, she was already 40.3 miles into the course. The last 9.7 miles are mostly up and down trails that are filled with rocks and very difficult and dangerous to run if not trained in that kind of condition. Ayako had paced herself very well for the first 40.3 miles at about 16 minute/mile pace. And she was extremely wise to take a very conservative approach during the last 9.7 miles to avoid hurting herself. She reached the finish line in 13:47:26. I was so proud of her and it was my honor to witness her finish. The last 9.7 miles of the course was very dangerous but beautiful. It was my first time going that deep into the trail of Bear Mountain.
My cell phone which I carried with me got some signal around mile 45 and I sent out a message to the Outerloop group quickly once I saw Gary’s e-mail which told me that he had fallen and had to pull out. Then my battery was gone from the no-service roaming. It was not until after the race when i got home, that I learned that Gary had fallen twice and had to pull out of the race. The medical staff was going to take him to the hospital emergency room due to possible cracked ribs. But he declined the offer and decided to wait and see. [Editor’s note: On Monday Gary visited a chiropractor, who said the ribs did not appear to be cracked.] The medical staff took him back to aid station #7 around 2:15-2:30 p.m.. it was a pity that I did not know he was there because there was no phone service and the aid station organizer could not give me the update of runner No. 26. I assume he was in the medical tent during that time while I was busy checking each runner that came by. I did walk around to make sure I did not miss him but the “low tech” nature of the race meant the staff was unable to give updates on the runners. Fortunately, I did get Gary’s e-mails afterward and I was glad he is semi-OK. I e-mailed him and told him to get well soon and stay healthy. There is always another race he can do once he heals.
It was truly an amazing thing to witness the 50-mile ultramarathon, at least in the last 10 miles. I think John Mackenzie finished in the low 13-hour range and I am not sure if I missed any other RRR members. [Note: Club member Jason Kelly also dropped out around 30 miles, according to Gary.] I hope for a speedy recovery to Gary, that is the main thing.