By Jason Kelly
So it was a great fun race.
It had poured with rain earlier in the week, 3 or 4 inches in 24 hours which made sections of the course very wet and muddy. The day was beautiful, It got up to about 65 fahrenheit with a cool breeze which was perfect running weather.
I started out in Wave 3, I think there were about 450 starters. I found out after that about 240 people finished, this course eats people. My wave started at 5:05am just as the sun was coming up over the river behind us, the sky was turning pink in the east but looking ahead everything was very dark; remembering last year I took it easy for those miles in the dark from Bear Mountain to Anthony Wayne. Which was good, the trail was a cross between a waterfall and a mudslide. As we left the park and turned onto the trail we went under a bridge, from that point to the end of the race there was never more than a mile or so that didn’t involve water and mud to some extent. Coming up from the bridge we turned uphill, at first everyone was skipping to the left and right trying to stick to the edge of the trail and stay out of the mud. Afraid of blisters I thought this would be a good tactic. It didn’t matter. A mile in and my feet were soaked and my shoes and socks full of mud. As the sun came came up we were heading over the high point and down toward Anthony Wayne, this is the spot that did it for me last year so I took it easy. I was joking around with some Canadians when a young guy just flew by. As much as it tempted me I held back and ran carefully down and into the aid station. What a relief at that point I knew I was going to be OK.
The trail out of Anthony Wayne is a rocky mess, so more of a power hike up the hill to the “dry” river bed. It’s a mile to the road on this section of trail the sun was fully up and everyone was feeling good. We popped out of the trail onto a 1/2 mile section of road which gently climbs past rivers and trees, just coming into leaf then a quick turn back onto the trail which follows a rushing stream toward Silvermine Lake. At the lake shore the trail turns uphill again and climbs several hundred feet up the Appalachian trail to the top of Letterrock mountain, off the top of the mountain there is a steep drop, basically vertical with a couple of rocky stairs down to the trails back to Silvermine lake and aid station number two. This was a great section and I spent some time chatting with a very experienced runner who had just come off of a winning season and had lots of good info. (she was also in bright pink which made everyone running by say something funny)
From aid station 2 to 3 is about 5.5 miles this goes up then down into an alpine swamp. Once more I was running with the Canadians and we were grateful it was still early, 9 miles and a little under two hours feeling pretty good. Climbing out of the swamp on the Long Path is quite hard about 300′ vertical to the top of Stock Bridge mountain. The top of the mountain has spectacular views and there is only one spot that requires climbing up a cliff. Just before the summit we ran through a recent burn area at least a square mile of blackened stalks and new grass just beginning to poke through. Not sure how old the burn was but you could still smell the charred wood as you ran through. Coming down off the top I bumped into a running friend (Christopher) and we ran together for about 15 miles. This section ends as you run out along the trails to Arden Valley road and up the hill to aid station #3, 3 hours to this point 13.6 miles, slowest half marathon ever.
Coming out of the aid station we headed back down Arden valley road and onto a really pleasant section of trail fairly flat along the edges of beautiful wetlands and then up over Pine Swamp Mountain and back down to Lake Skannatati Aid Station, 18.6 miles and feeling good. We had to forge a stream coming out of the aid station, the stream was about 3 feet deep and really rushing along so everyone was looking for a different way to get across. I saw a couple of guys fall here and get pretty wet, but basically we all waited for everyone coming out of the aid station at about the same time to get across before hitting the next trail section for a nice paced run into aid station number 4 Camp Lanowa. From here there is a steep climb and a 4 mile loop back to Camp Lanowa. My legs where feeling pretty done in at this point and I was feeling a bit low, I hadn’t grabbed any supplies at the aid station figuring it was a quick loop and I would be back to meet a friend to push through the next 12 miles or so with. I was ahead of my planned pace at this point anyway so I choked down a couple of shot blocks and pushed through.
At mile 27 i stopped to change socks and grab some potatoes and top up on electrolytes in one of my water bottles. My friend Gary met me here and ran with me from mile 27 to mile 40. This is a really nice section of the run fairly flat and with a couple of uphill sections to break things up. Nice trails, nothing too technical and once the Blocks and Potatoes did their job my energy levels where back up and I was running pretty well. Gary pushed the pace through here and I was struggling to keep up but it was a good thing as it helped me make up a bunch of time. There were two aid stations on this section but I don’t remember them much, I just refilled water grabbed a coke and pushed through to mile 40.
Amy met me at mile 40, Anthony Wayne again. I was feeling pretty good by this point. A couple of cokes, fill up my water, and eat a couple of potatoes. Off we go. The last 10 miles of this course are HARD. There are two big climbs. The first is a 500′ hike up and over west mountain to another aid station and then along a flattish very wet section to the final aid station. This was at mile 47 and there was this great kid who was shouting encouragement to everyone and giving high fives and generally being awesome. Coming out of here we had to climb The Timp. This is a scramble up loose shale and rock. It is a smaller climb only about 200′ but it feels so much bigger. After that there it is pretty runnable all the way back to the Bear Mountain State Park. I have to say I felt great for the last 1/4 mile and managed a pretty good paced shamble all the way to the arch.
I managed to make it clear of the arch before simply lying down on the grass and allowing Amy and Genn to get me beer and drive me home.
All in all a great day of running.
Jason finished in 11 hours 25 minutes and 7 seconds; A 13:42 minute per mile pace.