2015 – Summer/Fall time Part 2


After learning the hard way from the 2014 NYC Marathon that putting all your eggs in one basket can be risky and somewhat disappointing – especially when external factors like weather, etc. impact the event – for 2015 I planned on having a major marathon combo at my disposal to make sure I could attempt my best effort at least at one of two.
Last spring, in fact, I signed up for the Chicago Marathon an the NYC Marathon again.
The build up to Chicago was described already here, and the final 10 days leading up to the race were particularly sweet.

First I hit a great couple of workouts, a solid 8 mile tempo run in Norwalk followed by a strong endurance run the next day, and then – as usual – I tried to sabotage myself volunteering at the Cat’s Tail Trail Marathon a week before the race. I would have loved to run the Cat’s tail, first because RD Charlie got me involved when he was planning the race and he surely arranges for ultra tough courses and well rewarding finish line parties, second because it is in the Catskills, third because Mountain Peak Fitness and Red Newt were heavily supporting the event (one of the races of the RNT calendar) and I could catch up with some teammates, and lastly because I had the chance to camp with Michelle for one night after the race thanks to Elizabeth’s support providing us with the equipment to do so.

The volunteering part was not too demanding, even if done in not so perfect conditions: hiking to Slide Mt and Cornell Mt from the aid station under a persistent constant rain required me and Michelle approx. 5 1/2 hrs for a total of 13-14 miles. Next day after a good breakfast at Phoenicia Diner Michelle and I spent a little bit of time in Woodstock to get the final workout in pre Chicago: an intense 3x2miles repetition with a good amount of uphill running put me in a good place mentally for the marathon.

Fast forward a few days, and here we are: Michelle and I landed in Chicago, resting in the hotel room, hitting the local Native Food join downtown basically for every meal and trying to inspect small sections of the course near the start line.

The day before the race I had the opportunity to meet Antony Scott, another runner from the City who made the trip to attempt a PR on the fast course of the wind city. We did an easy run together with just a few strides at the end to move the legs and stimulate the appetite. Antony told me his troubled months prior to the race, the limited amount of miles he could get in due to injuries, and the surprising performances that sometimes happened with his limited training regiment. We also took a picture together, and I still remember now how I was feeling so sleepy that morning. When they say a picture is worth 1,000 words…well…no comment…

Wake up Carlo

Wake up Carlo

After lunch and a relaxing afternoon spent in the hotel bedroom sleeping and resting, in the evening Michelle and I walked across the street and hit Vapiano for some pasta. The place was crowded, but we still managed to order and eat in a reasonable amount of time.
Back in the hotel I began feeling a little nervous, as it should be the night before an event you prepare for a long time.
I managed to waste some time massaging the Achilles, then I looked at past results, how other runners in the previous years managed to cover the course and the splits they had at the 5k intermediate checkpoints.
I tried to workout a chart with my predicted splits considering I would have run conservatively the first 15-20 miles, and I would have used some extra energy especially in the last bump of the course at mile 26. (Sebastien, who set his PR in Chicago, warned me about a little uphill with just 1/4 mile to go, so I checked it out the days before the race and realized that despite the innocent easy incline, the tricky bridge on Roosevelt Rd can make you loose quite a few seconds if unprepared for it).
Then, while Michelle was shopping for some bread, water and breakfast items, I prepared my Bolts for the race, as usual neatly packed in small bags that I could easily insert inside the arm-warmers or a little fuel belt.
On TV Gran Torino was broadcasted and that movie kept us in front of the screen for a while, just in time to feel tired and ready to snooze.

The morning of the race we got up really early and walked towards Millennium Park way early, anticipating the usual big chaos you can expect for a huge event like this. Clearly I was biased by the NYCM experiences since Chicago offered me the most pleasant pre race experience I could have possibly imagined.
I was there early, checked my drop bag for the finish line in no time, walked towards the corral and did some strides before entering it, assuming I would have spent the next 90 minutes standing in a crowded pool of people pushing, elbowing, peeing around, well…you get it…again…NYCM style.

None of that: I found a porta potty that was ready to be used without issues, I took care of business, found Antony warming up, entered the corral and found it surprisingly empty, with a small grass area runners used to lay down and stretch before the start. I wish NYRR could learn some of this from BoA Chicago M.

The pros and elites were announced and ran to the area in front of us from the right side; this time I got the chance to even see these semi-gods just a few feet away. When the race was about to take off, we were no more that 3-4 feet apart. Incredible.

The race started fast and due to some GPS issues under the tunnel and around city blocks for the first few miles, I could not check well the pace on my watch. Also the pack was still full of “jumpers” (those usual suspects/hero wannabes that take off at 5 min/mile and end up the race with a 9 min/mile or more last mile) and navigating through the twisty turns of the course was not an easy feat, especially when you try to cut the tangents and negotiate a few inches of space with raised elbows around you.

At this point I realized the work I did the night before checking the 5k splits was going to pay off. Ideally I planned on hitting 18:30 at each checkpoint to keep the math simple to remember, but ideally I would have preferred to go faster.


Early miles in the pack

The first 10k went by quickly, trading spots with other runners, and keeping myself as covered as I could trailing behind others. I stayed focused on my mission and despite feeling the pace was not taking a toll on me, I did not increase the effort but rather paid attention to eating and drinking regularly. Just after the 6 mile mark I felt some pain in the belly and began to feel nervous that once again a big event was going to be compromise by stomach or intestine problems.
I relaxed a little bit and ran an 18:36 3rd 5k (from 10k to 15k) with some headwind hitting the little group we formed. A couple of runners lead our group and were laboring heavily to break through sudden gusts. It was helpful to find someone else working for you.

Just after mile mark 8, I realized my gps watch was off from the official markers and began trusting the 18:30 avg splits even more, instead of relying on the avg pace displayed on the watch. The second surprise came when fellow runner Mac Schneider showed up unexpectedly.

Mac ran with me the first 18 miles of the 2014 NYC marathon and finished that race in an incredible 2:36 despite the constant headwinds we faced. He dropped me on 1st ave when I stopped for my bathroom break, but I realized from the half point I could not keep up with him, cause he was moving too well.

Seeing Mac again brought up some bad memories and I started feeling that bad luck was going to hit me again. So instead of taking the initiative for the group, I exchanged a few words with him and then remained covered among the others, helping out with pacing duties only for short periods.

with Mac 4

When Mac comes by, you don’t want to miss his train

with Mac 5

Holding onto Mac’s lead

Mac was not particularly worried about the pace either at this point so he joined forces with the little group of 6-7 that formed along the way back down into downtown Chicago.

The good thing is that for a mile or two I got distracted from my little stomach problem and suddenly it disappeared.

While crossing the bridge to downtown at around mile 12 the group started disintegrating: maybe the support of the crowd made us increase the pace (not according to the 5k split at this point), maybe some runners just fell apart, but as we crossed the bridge Mac and I basically found ourselves a little more alone than 5 minutes earlier.

with Mac 1

Heading south back into the city and looking around for Michelle waiting for me at 20k

with Mac 2

with Mac 3

Mac is looking around, I am wondering where everyone else went

We both looked at each other when we crossed the half way point and a runner went by at incredible speed leaving us speechless. I remember he was wearing a pink singlet, and after wishing him good luck, Mac and I kept plugging along at our pace.

The half marathon time was 1:18:04. A little too slow that what I felt comfortable with, since I usually tend to gain some seconds in the first half and eventually lose them in the second part. With a sub 2:36 goal, now I was all set to race, and I had a partner in crime with me: Mac.

At this point Mac took the lead and pushed hard for the next 10k. We hit some 5:59 and 5:57 splits and despite the pace was basically the same than before, I was producing more effort. I tried to help Mac a few times leading him, but he was more brilliant than me at this point.

I kept focusing on the final 10k, the fact that I needed to make sure I had enough energy to run them well, maybe alone. In the meanwhile we were picking up runners slowing down left and right.

group fell apart - with Mac

with Mac’s lead we picked and dropped another duo

Just after mile 20 on Halsted Street I started to feel a bit crappy. The discomfort was coming out, and generally this is the moment the distance takes you down. I was planning on increasing the effort only after mile 21, even if in pain, but now I was a little skeptical.

Two runners – I remember one of them being particularly tall – came by just before mile 21 and gapped us by 15-20 meters in just a minute. I could not understand if it was me falling off the pace or them just having a great day. A quick glimpse to the watch and I saw we were at 6 min/mile even. that was not great, since I wanted to pick up that little deficit from the first half, and instead I was falling behind a little more.

Mac pushed and began closing the gap; I lost a few meters and thoughts of another bad outcome clouded instantly my head; my reaction was a small surge, that desire and willingness to suffer a bit more to hang onto someone figure floating in front of you.
It wasn’t painful to switch gears, it was actually rewarding and satisfying. I felt stronger and then, just as we turned right before the 35k mark, I found myself running alone. I picked a different trajectory than the rest of the group, stayed closer to the inside, ran alone for a quarter of a mile and found myself in my familiar conditions.

I’ve spent months and months running 20, 30, 45 and even 60 minutes repetitions solo. I have embraced the solitude and quietness of those long moments spent listening to my lungs breathing and my mind thinking, isolating myself from the world; this was my ideal scenario. With just about 7-8k to finish I found my ideal running set up.

Is it my time, yet?

Is it my time, yet?

I knew I was a bit behind, not sure how much, but all I could do was running as fast as I could towards that last hill that Sebastien warned me about.
“Was I ready to do it all alone?” I remember thinking while checking the time and distance at the 35k mark.

Approaching 35k

Approaching 35k

The final part: solo from here on

The final part: solo from here on

going alone 4

just after 35k, my mind was made up


going alone 3

And still alone, after mile 22. more relaxed and ready

After mile 23 I headed north on Michigan Ave shooting straight to mile 26. No turns, no obstacles just a flat road. The headwind now became tail wind. The split from 35 to 40k became faster with a 5:56 average and now my head was too clouded to do the math and figure out if I was ahead or behind the 2:36 projection.
I kept doing what I was doing, suffering internally, but picking up runners around me.

Final 5k effort

Final 5k effort

going alone 5

It wasn’t that easy, I promise

going alone 6

going alone 7

going alone 8

Lonely Effort 2

Lonely Effort

Funny thing with about 1.5k to go I saw the runner with the pink shirt that blasted through the half marathon mark. He was now barely jogging; this gave me some selfish satisfaction and pushed me even further to go faster. As I approached the right turn for the final hill I saw Michelle encouraging me with all her voice just behind the fence.
I laid out everything I could in that uphill, I sprinted towards the finish line, ready to dive, because I did not know how many more times I have the chance to break 2:36.

Sprinting to the Finish Line

Sprinting to the Finish Line

Crossing the Line...and it's over

Crossing the Line…and it’s over

Caught off guard

Caught off guard

Cooling Down

Cooling Down

Happy after finishing

Happy after finishing

Finish Line Satisfied 2

Satisfied face

Satisfied face



With a week of recovery post Chicago, and not really felling too springy with my legs I took on the challenge or running my third Red Newt Race with MPF-RNR Team: the Watergap 50k.

I was not super happy of getting into a race so quickly, but for once the course was not that challenging with just a hill at the beginning and a couple of little inclines at the end. It was also a good chance to catch up with Elizabeth and Ian Golden who have relentlessly worked hard for the team all year long.

The goal was to finish on the podium possibly running under 4hrs. The first few miles – like the rest of the day – were very enjoyable. I got to spend some time with Silas and Justin chatting and enjoying finally being able to run fairly smoothly after a week of tired legs.

As the miles went by the effort increased and Silas and I hit several miles on the 6:30 opening a gap on Justin who happened to have started just a little too fast than his ideal pace.

While I had no intention to race Silas, we pushed each other to keep the race honest till the finish line, when we just went on to complete the race as teammates.

Jason Friedman completed a masterpiece race, starting with a easy effort and coming back strong for the second part of the race. I had the chance to talk to him at the end, and his energy level was still high. A clear sign that he had margin to even do better.

Overall this was a very enjoyable day spent in the company of many people like Elizabeth, Jason, Silas, Ian, etc. that I would love to share more adventures, races, and parties with.

Read more about the race from Jason and Silas reports and enjoy a few photos of the race below. Big Thank You to Mountain Peak Fitness and Joe Azze for covering extensively the course

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Ready to go Start Line

Next one is November…another busy month of running non stop



Breakneck Point Trail Marathon

The trail season coincidentally began with the first real day of spring in the area.

Since Warren Street’s friend Sebastien introduced me to the Breakneck Ridge Trail last summer, I’ve visited the trail a half dozen times, enjoyed it with dry, humid and icy/snowy conditions. I even loved to initiate a wonderful chase (I only started it, then the big dogs came to claim the territory) for the Breakneck/Beacon FKT because there are sections of trail here that are not the common runnable Central Park Bridal Path.
Sections of the ridge involve plenty of hand and arm work, as well as some ass action to slide on some rocks while going down.

When I heard that Ian Golden was putting up a race in the woods between Cold Spring and Beacon, I felt excited right away. After joining the Mountain Peak Fitnes Red Newt Team, this was the first opportunity to meet the whole crew after our initial get together in February on the same trail, just covered with an extra 2 feet of snow.

My little health issues during the first part of the year kept me doubtful about my preparation for the race. I did not know if I wanted to run the 25k or the full marathon. Looking at it in perspective, I thought the marathon distance would have been a great training tool for Cayuga, which would serve as a great training run for the LUT in Italy.
Then I saw on ultrasignup the list of Running Gods that was signing up and I had second thoughts: “maybe I should avoid the marathon”, “I don’t have endurance to run the whole thing”, etc. Eventually I decided it was time to get a nice bath into the pool of humbleness and face reality: sign up for the marathon and try to learn from Ben, Iain, Ryan, Glen, Jim, Steve, and whomever signed up; get my ass kicked brutally and find more motivation to train more and better.

Having had the chance to check the course twice the two weeks prior to the event, I was glad that the snow and ice were all gone. The only two unknown variables were the amount of mud along some sections near the creeks and whether or not the rocks paving the trails were going to be slippery or dry after the forecasted rain the day prior.

I was very nervous for the race, mostly because I feared I was going to have a bad day and my subpar preparation was going to show. I tried to rationally convince myself that pretty much everyone had a less than idea preparation, given the winter we had, but – as usual – it is not that easy to trick our own mind…especially because when thinking that nobody was running mountains with the snow, I immediately thought about Ben Nephew’s video at Mt Tammany, running like an unstoppable wild cat.

A huge improvement in the self esteem levels came a week before the race when – while exploring the second part of the race – I met Steve H. and he told me his bet for the race. I told him my goal was to sneak under 6 hours, and he thought Ben could go under 5. Well, if Ben can get under 5, he will be long gone, so I can just focus on my race.

The adrenaline started building up again when I received from Elizabeth the Mountain Peak Fitness Red Newt Racing Team uniform. I tired it and it looked really cool. My only doubt, being just a bit superstitious, was whether or not the uniform had good or bad luck. Ahahaha…I am so dumb sometimes.
More importantly, I generally do not wear things that are not tested a few times before, so I was not sure about using or not the shorts that came with the singlets.
They were a bit longer than what I am generally used to, but they had the wonderful perk of having 4 nice open pockets around the waist and one zipped pocket on the back. These features were certainly appealing and perfect to keep my car keys safe and extra bolts for energy without making the handheld too heavy.

I exchanged a few messages with Ben the days leading up to the race, and he told me to keep an eye on the registration list because more names could pop out last minute.
Sure enough he was right and out of nowhere the list grew longer and the field a bit deeper, especially with the Russian Fruitarian joining the massacre.

I’ve heard a lot about this guy, many people talk about him, and I really never had a chance to run against him. At the Febapple two years ago he was running the 50 mile, and dropped to the 50k (which I was racing) and finished virtually behind me, even if he was doing another race basically. In Cayuga 2013 he got lost after tasting Sage and Matt’s dust and I found him wondering around the woods going the opposite direction. I dropped too, at the 25 mile, to preserve a bad ankle, and after that we never crossed paths again.

I did run against the other main contenders – Ben N., Ryan W., Iain R,. Cole (who did not race Breakneck) – in Cayuga 2014 and/or Manitou’s Revenge. Running against is a strong word. Let’s say I was just using the same trails way about an hour or more behind them.
I knew there was no competition with them, I knew they are on a different scale, but still it is nice to admire somebody and try to do your best aiming at their performances.

Going back to registration – and I shared this thought with a few folks after the race – I was hoping to see more people participating and supporting Ian for putting up this incredible race.
I heard for the longest time people in NYC complaining that there are no races around the area, except Bear Mountain, that if you want to line up for a challenging race you need to go out west, or travel far. And now? Now they have one just outside their door and…they prefer to go to DC and run The North Face DC. I wonder why. I thought they wanted to demonstrate some toughness, I thought they wanted to take on real challenges, I was hoping…that’s all. Not judging here. Just hoping that we all support better those people that are helping our “sport”.

Race day came and Michelle and I drove to Beacon early in the morning.
Enough time to park, pick up our bibs, get dressed, meet the new trail adept Fabio, and then get a couple of strides to break the first sweat and line up for the start. Of course, after taking a group photo with the team to bless the new adventure together.

 Mountain Peak Fitness Red Newt Racing Team at the Start

Mountain Peak Fitness Red Newt Racing Team at the Start

As soon as we started Iain, Ben, Ryan and the Russian lined up in the front and tackled the trailhead with great momentum. The good thing is that here nobody tried to do anything stupid and we all ran together for a mile or two. Then something weird happen. Another runner that was in the group with us tried to push the pace and missed a turn on the trail, losing about 50 feet. The guy started swearing and sprinted back pretty upset reconnecting with us. Then he faded back, and we saw him only hours later at the finish.
Knowing Denis’ fame I was expecting his infamous early race fast pace, but even he was controlling his effort. I think that only going up sugarloaf he pushed a little the pace and forced the effort going down towards Route9. I think that Ben tried to close the gap with him immediately, and the two of them took a little lead from me Iain and Ryan, probably 10-15 seconds.
Here I also dropped my bottle while trying to eat, drink and run all at the same time. No big deal Iain passed me, then a couple of hundred meters after he missed a right turn and I called him back immediately. At this point we all got together at the base of Breakneck.

Denis and Ben ran straight to the trail after a very quick pit stop at the aid station, while I decided to avoid stopping, knowing that AS 2 was not that far.
Iain and Ryan were close by and reconnected immediately. We hiked Breakneck Ridge together, and I sensed that Ben was not pushing as much as he could have, after seeing him running up with the snow in February.

Knowing a little more the routes, I could pick the easier way up sometimes

Knowing a little more the routes, I could pick the easier way up sometimes

Up Breakneck Ridge Trail.

Up Breakneck Ridge Trail.

After taking the right turn on yellow we headed down towards Cold Springs and here Ian Golden joined us for the run. The pace was not super fast, and I was enjoying the moment because I finally found people that run in a smart way and are aware of the overall difficulty of the race. Once we hit AS 2 Ryan had a little incident tripping on a rock, but got up immediately and ran it off immediately. Those four started clicking a couple of mile at 6 minute per mile. I was not too happy about that. It was still too early to push and destroy my legs, so I let them go, and while keeping a good pace, I maintained a more balanced effort. I followed probably 20-30 seconds behind and made up the gap at the beginning of the Washburn after the abandoned mining area.

I tried to stay back, letting the veterans dictate the pace, falling back a few seconds whenever they were pushing a little more. We basically all continued in a group, but the lead kept changing randomly.
After the stretch on the yellow Undercliff trail we got to AS 3 (same as AS2) and got my perks from Amy who was volunteering and kindly kept some extra things for me. Here I think someone tried to pull a fast one and take off. I did not realize if it was Denis or someone else, but the group got a little stretched out on the flat section going up to the ruins.

At the ruins we all got reconnected because…only Ben and I knew where we were headed and the others did not know exactly how to interpreter the directions of a sign. From that moment on we kept going together till the 25k mark at Settlement Camp. During the descent to the camp I briefly talked to Ben and I saw he was slowing down just a bit compared to the others. I asked him what his impression was about Denis, the only one of the group that was not part of the team. He told me he had no idea, so we approached quickly the aid station. Here I did not need to get too many things. Refilled the bottle, got some cold water on my face and neck to cool down (the sun now started cooking us well with temps going up to the mind 70s) and took off.

A quick sip of water to cool down at Settlement Camp.

A quick sip of water to cool down at Settlement Camp.

I feared that someone was going to run the hill like a maniac, so I wanted to get a little advantage at the beginning and basically do an easier effort climbing up.

Taking a quick look back to check on Denis after the 25k mark. Photo Credit MPF

Taking a quick look back to check on Denis after the 25k mark. Photo Credit MPF

I saw that Denis quickly lined up behind me, but it did not bother me. He was about 1-200 ft behind, and I checked the gap when making turns. Sometimes it was getting bigger, sometimes smaller.
I had a few minutes to think about the race and tactics. I thought it was very cool to be there with the big dogs of the north east. How could I have imagined this scenario, when only less than 3 years ago I lined up for my first trail race, a half marathon in Bear Mountain? And only 2 years ago I did my second trail race? I was experiencing joy that was propelling my run. However, I realized quickly that it was still too early in the race; I began thinking that I could have pushed and gain a little lead to be wasted in the Fishkill section of the race (which I knew was going to be long and boring for me).

Not sure where this photo was taken, but it must be early on, cause I am still smiling

Not sure where this photo was taken, but it must be early on, cause I am still smiling

Then, after a couple of miles from Settlement Camp, I heard some quick steps and someone breathing heavily coming up fast on my left. It was like a train locomotive coming up. I thought it was the Russian Fruitarian – at first – but when I got passed I realized it was Iain.

Glimpsing back I noticed that Ben and Ryan were close, while Denis started losing some ground.
I did lose my advantage on the climb, true, but my effort was not as intense as the one they were producing. When we took the left turn on the white trail heading to Beacon Fire Tower, Iain had just a couple of seconds on me and Ben was not far behind.
We kept pretty much the same gap from there through the Casino Trail and the yellow Wilkinson trail, till almost the Fishkill trail, where I started feeling tired of all those little ups and downs. The sun also started to hit us more directly in those sections where trees gave room to short bushes.

Ben gained on me and passed me decisively. I tried to follow for a couple of minutes, but I needed to stay focused on my effort, not his or Iain’s.

When I hit the section near the Bulldozer (I think it is called Dozer Junction), I realized the two of them were gone. Behind me I had no idea what was going on and in my mind there was the vivid fear of seeing Denis popping up. I also knew that sooner or later Ryan would make his appearance and claim his territory. He was going to be a main character on Beacon hill, that was a fact.

The steep downhill section was tricky and I started feeling a bit exhausted. My next goal was to make it to the bottom of the trail where the week before I found a good size creek with plenty of cold fresh water. Hot and steaming I dragged myself for another 5-10 minutes and when I got to the creek I threw to the side my handheld and dipped my legs, arms and face onto the creek.

I think I almost looked like a bear coming out from the cold waters of an Alaskan river after hunting for fish, and even if it costed me valuable time, the minute I spent there was very much needed to cool off and put myself together again.

The remaining smooth portion downhill was very runnable, and even if I was not hitting impressive splits, it gave me the chance to recover the legs moving steadily, without breaking the pace. Almost at the intersection with the red Casino trail I ran into Scotie who was following Joe A. taking photos and footage of the race. He told me I was only three minutes behind Ben and Iain.

It was not a bad gap, overall. Given I lost about a minute on the creek, that means they probably gained just about a minute a mile since I last saw them. That was quite an incentive to keep up the effort without falling off the pace in “lazy territory”.

Just moments later I ran into Joe A. and he confirmed that Ben and Iain were just ahead at the Aid Station.

Last few steps up before hitting AS 5 at Beacon base

Last few steps up before hitting AS 5 at Beacon base

While running down trying to miss the mass of hikers that was coming up and down the trail making it almost an obstacle course, I decided to avoid the trail for the last section and use the metal stairs. Definitely this was a slower route, but at least I could save just a bit more my legs.

No sign of the leading duo, yet, so I thought they were already making their way up to South Beacon Mountain. Then, all of a sudden after the stairs, they appeared.

They were so close. Immediately I thought I could have made the effort to try and catch up with them. I knew the hill, and I knew I could run it even with tired legs. At the aid station I got a lot of help refilling the bottle, getting ice, and washing my face with ice cold water. I remember in particular Ian G being very helpful.

I headed back up where I came from and Ryan came out from the trail, in the same spot I saw Ben and Iain before. He was hot on my heels. I told him to hurry up and catch me, knowing his proverbial climbing strengths. Having a companion would have helped in those last 4 miles, even if knowing he was catching me put me down a little bit. Still, we were probably both tempted to reconnect with the lead.
I entered the stairs again and as soon as the trail opened up I gave my best climbing effort for about 10 seconds. For 10 seconds I believed I could get to the front. Then I had my first cramp.

From there on I just shuffled up, a bit disappointed, but still glad of how the race was coming out. At this point the race became a journey to the finish line, there was no victory waiting for me, and there never was one. I knew it from the beginning, I was just reminded of my limits by those powerful and painful cramps that stopped me in a couple of spots.

Beacon Hill, a gentle endless torture that reminds us we compete against the terrain and ourselves

Beacon Hill, a gentle endless torture that reminds us we compete against the terrain and ourselves

After the first mile up (and 1,000ft up) I got a better momentum going towards the fire tower. I could not see Ryan behind me, yet, so I felt refreshed that I was not a total loser. Also, no sign of Denis. Worst case I could have finished fourth at that point. That was remarkable for me.

Before the fire tower I got totally confused with the course. I did not bring the directions with me so I was not sure where I had to go. I could not see flags anywhere (till this point the course was marked perfectly and I had no issue navigating through), so I started climbing up the white trail, the same way Steve did when I saw him the week before practicing on the course.
I couldn’t see flags so I thought something was a bit off and I ran off trail about 100 ft towards the section we used on the outback course. I saw a flag and reconnected with the trail, disappointed for losing some valuable time and climbing some extra ground that was really not accounted for in the plan.

Well, at least at this point the hard part was over, at least I thought. With left and right hamstrings cramping it was going to be a smooth transition to the finish line where a sunny afternoon would have comforted my rest and the wait for Michelle.

Instead I forgot that there was another couple of little hurdles to go by: the rocky and technical section on the white trail, and hikers making it a tough going the trail.

Sure enough to make it even funnier my left hip flexor started cramping while trying to slide down a rock with an elder asian woman right down below me.
She did not even realize I was on top of her, did not see me going by rolling down the rocks on my butt (a huge hat covered her face), and probably realized that something must have happened cause she must have heard me swearing in Italian.

While trying to survive the easier final descent moving my legs very gently to avoid further cramps I ran into Michelle at about 5 hours and change, which was a very good time and well ahead of the plan she made.

Solid run for Michelle who enjoyed a nice day as well

Solid run for Michelle who enjoyed a nice day as well

Proof that we can have a good time in Cortina, maybe?

My face transpire some hurting, but I felt very happy at this point, almost at the finish line. Photo Credit Katherine

My face transpire some hurting, but I felt very happy at this point, almost at the finish line. Photo Credit Katherine

Feeling content that the day was going well for both, I dragged myself to the finish, incredibly satisfied for a day in which the race taught me a lot, the other runners taught me a lot and I even got to spend a bunch of time with several people at the finish line

Finish Line 42k (or more) celebration

Finish Line 42k (or more) celebration

Excellent footage of the race: check out these links by Joe Azze and Mountain Peak Fitness

and if you want to know who won the race, see the video of the incredible finish between Ben and Iain here:

and here

A huge thank you to Ian Golden for this incredible race and event. A huge thank you to Mountain Peak Fitness and Red Newt Racing Team for welcoming me in a team of talented, fast, and tough athletes who are exquisite persons to talk to and a great enjoyable company before, during and after the race.

A honorable mention to Michelle for finishing her adventure light years ahead of schedule, which means San Francisco was not an accident, and also for putting up with my stupid training plans.

Thumbs up again to MPT for providing the team with wonderful, useful and very helpful apparel for the race. Thank you also to Ryan, Kristina, Eric and Steve for sharing your race stories with me at the end of race, as well as your life adventures.


Singlet: Mountain Peak Fitness Red Newt Racing Team by Patagonia – M’s Air Flow Singlet
Shorts: Mountain Peak Fitness Red Newt Racing Team by Patagonia – M’s Striders Short/5″ (wonderful for trail running)
Socks: Feetures Ultra Light
Shoes: Salomon S-Lab Sense 4
Hydration: Amphipod Hydraform 20oz bottle
Watch/GPS: Garmin 910XT
Fuel Belt:

Manitou’s Revenge Ultra

So apparently I got beaten by a few guys in Manitou’s…and I got beaten by Ben, Cole, Jan and a few others also writing the race report. I still have a lot of work to do to increase my speed, especially typing.

I admit I have slacked a little these days, but writing something about Manitou’s Revenge and the Catskills is something that requires some thoughts, because this race deserves a lot of respect even on paper.
During the race around mile 48, while going up towards the Fire Tower I had thoughts about how to start this report and I came up with the following:

Q: What is Manitou’s Revenge and how would I describe it?
A: Manitou’s is a 54 mile race in the Catskills that can be described with different adjectives depending on you social status:
If you were a polite refined gentlemen (not my case), you would say it is a technical and difficult ultramarathon
If you were an educated roadrunner, you would say it is a gnarly tough ultra
If you are a truck driver, you would say this is literally a son ob a b*%#h!

Yes it is. It is a son of a b*%#h, and that’s why I liked it more than any other race this year.

I have heard about the Catkills for the first time sometimes in July last year, when someone mentioned the Escarpment Trail run. While researching the Escarpment, Michelle and I ran into the Manitou’s website and the idea of doing it sounded very appealing. We made up our minds sometime in late December when all the other more known ultras in the North East were sold out.
The descriptions in Ryan Welts’s and others’ blogs and the videos posted by MPF increased our curiosity about the event and I ended up contacting the race director Charlie about the application process. By the end of January we sent all our paperwork in and after a few weeks we were signed up.

February and March were very intense everytime we were thinking about the race. We could not hit the trails during the winter or the early spring due to the snow that covered the area, so our training was going to be limited. Michelle recovering from the stress fracture and myself having to stop a few weeks in April caused our fitness level to be very low the first time that we decided to explore the course.

We decided to spend the weekend up there trying to do two long runs in two days to see as much as we could. Obviously the first time out meant navigating around with a map and a few stops here and there to make sure we were on course.
Day 1 was dedicated to the first 13-15 miles of the course, avoiding the road section and picking up the trail right away aiming to reach North/South Lake parking lot. Day 2 was supposed to be along the Kaaterskill climb and descent towards Palenville.
What happened is that the first day was so brutal that we had to cut it short and instead of following the Escarpment Trail after North Point, we took the Red Trail through Badman Cave to the lakes. It took us about 6 hours and change to do the run/hike. Granted that the ascent to Bleackhead Mtn was covered with black ice and we proceeded very slowly there, our effort was pathetic at most.
The night did not go any better. Apparently I had a fever and next morning I woke up burning like fire. After resting an extra couple of hours and getting pancakes from the Maggie’s Kroocked Cafe’, we made our way to Palenville to at least attempt the climb up the Kaaterskill forest.
I was still weak and tired, the fever was not gone, but still the day was slightly better.
We went back home and got really worried about the chances of finishing the event within the cut off time. Probably Michelle was slightly more worried than I was, but it was clear that we needed to do more homework to get a hold of this thing.

We spend another weekend up there exploring the Devils Path from Platte Clove to Mink Hollow going through Indian Head, Twin, and Sugarloaf. We did not try the ascent to Plateau, but instead we went back and next day ran again the ascent to Kaaterskill which I thought was runnable but difficult to run after 20 miles into the race.
We also used the Mt Beacon to train the uphill rhythm, in an attempt to get some more climbing in our legs without driving that far every weekend.
I signed up to Cayuga months prior and wanted to use Cayuga as a training run for this event. Even if the experience in Cayuga was great and I would not trade it for anything else, I could have probably got more benefits from another weekend in the Catskills exploring the course.
Instead Michelle and I went to Ithaca, and were left only with one last chance to see the course the following weekend.
Incredibly the recovery after Cayuga proceeded pretty fast and next weekend we joined the training run/hike that Charlie set up to explore the last 15 miles of the course with a combination of day and night running.

It was a great opportunity and we took full advantage of it.

We had a lot of fun and learned a lot from this run. I think it really gave me more confidence that I could run well in these trails and I am sure that even Michelle was secretly plotting to make it to the finish line well ahead of her original goal.
Unfortunately not everything went perfectly during that run: given I am as dumb as a donkey in certain moments, I decided it was a great idea not to get my feet wet when crossing the Warner Creek. I stood on the last dry rock for a minute or so while everyone else was resting and drinking/eating something. It was getting dark by the minute and I figured a dry path across the creek but it required jumping from where I stood to the next rock. I debated internally whether it was safe or not to do it and then I told myself: “What a sissy you are; just jump and get over”. And so did I.

Everyone heard the splash I made into the water after slipping on the rock I landed, going belly up and landing on my back on two feet of cold running water. All good, except that somehow I banged my right knee and my bruised my right leg agains some rocks. The next day I could barely walk and had to force myself to “run” to try and gain more mobility the following days.
Great attempt to sabotage myself.
At least we walked away knowing some new trails, and some new cool people we met that night for the first time (Charly, Amy, etc.)

Race day came up quickly; Michelle and I spent a lot of time during the week to prepare all the logistical aspects of the trip, of the race, the after race, etc. It was a bit hectic to include also Bud’s plan since it changed a few times and this was making Michelle a bit nervous and not much confident on her brother-pacer.
I had a discussion with my friend Jason on Wednesday about the race and shared with him my strategy for nutrition and what problems I had in the previous races (especially Cayuga, when for the first time I had to stop for a pit stop at the porta potty losing a few minutes that could have meant an extra spot at the finish line). Jason suggested me one and only change; he told me we will introduce more of them through trainig in the future, but for now one adjustment was going to be crucial: find Bolt and have that for nutrition. Eliminate completely gels and avoid at all costs sodas. Real food was going to be good as well. He also suggested me to carry a second handheld bottle since I explained how a backpack impacts my breathing and my running.
We did not have a strategy; he told me to just go out and enjoy out there. I was trying to come up with a plan for the race and the only logic thing I had in mind was to hold off as much as I could during the first 40 miles. A little bit of freedom was allowed during the first 5-10 miles, but there was no need to push early on. This was basically my theory.
Friday afternoon, after dropping Jeff at JFK I drove to Michelle and had a late lunch. Bud was there early and after loading the car we took off to Phoenicia.

After picking up the race package from Charlie behind the pharmacy and settling into our little room at the Phoenicia Lodge and checking in for Bud at the Weyside Inn, we started preparing some essential things for next day, like drop bag, shoes, tshirts, maps, water, etc. The evening came in quickly and we decided to get some pasta from one of the local restaurants in Phoenicia, even if we were tempted to hit the Krooked Cafe’ to get some breakfast for the next morning.
While having a salad and some overcooked pasta we discussed with Bud the plan and we gave him maps, charts and estimated time of arrival at the main points where he was going to meet us. We went over the routes, his duties and what we needed from him. During the discussion we saw someone blazing by the restaurant with what it seemed like a Cayuga shirt. There was no doubt in my mind: that figure was one of the guys that chewed me just a couple of weeks before in Ithaca. I did not remember his name, but I knew how he ran there. It was Cole Crosby. I got scared to be honest, cause I was not expecting someone to run so fast just a few hours before the start.

Many doubts came to my mind: if there are so many strong runners, can I really fit in with them? Can I try and hang in there and finish near Ashley?
Ashley was kind of a reference point for me: after passing me half way through Bear Mountain 50 a year ago, she went on to win that same race, establish a CR, and leaving me about 40-50 minutes behind, if I remember correctly (maybe even more). Then she finished third overall in Manitou’s taking the entire women field by daylight.
Knowing a year ago she was much stronger than me, I was hoping that I had made some progress and got closer to her standards.

So many doubts. So much confusion, so much unsecurity. Who cared! The goal was to have fun and this type of punishing course was going to be fun.

Early morning we joined a bunch of other people in the parking lot behind the pharmacy in Phoenicia and got transported with a bus to the start. Immediately I spotted Ben Nephew in the bus and he was sitting next to a russian guy who was telling him any type of story and experience from his previous races. It was too early for me too even get my brain to work and follow the conversation: I was just hoping for a break of the story telling to catch a few more minutes of sleep.
Once at the lot everyone hit the bathroom for a pre-race pit stop. I hung in there for a while just to stay a little warm. I brought with me only a singlet expecting warmer temps during the day, and I did not want to carry anything that was unecessary weight.
Michelle spent the next 45 minutes inside the women bathroom enjoying the hot atmosphere inside those walls.
After a quick speech by Charlie we started lining up for the first wave to take off. I am so grateful and honored that Charlie put me in that wave (damn permits and authorities; the wave start was completely useless in my opinion, and it just penalized more people in the mid pack that used 30 minutes less of daylight): this was my chance to start with people that I usually don’t even attempt to get close by 🙂

I counted and figured there was 14 of us. One was missing and apparently it was the fruitarian Denis who won last year. Charlie got a phone call just as we were walking up together and I have overheard someone saying to be late, getting lost while driving, etc. I kind of figured it was Denis; yet, the hope of him not being part of the race was huge, since – I was told – he usually takes off like a rabbit and often drops after a few miles.
We ran the first few miles on paved road and we were all together keeping a comfortable pace in what was going to be the easiest part of the course.
I felt excited: at one point I was in 4th place overall. I was already feeling accomplished; maybe I should have sprinted and could have said that for a few hundred feet I was in the lead? Ahahahaha
By mile 3 we made a left turn and after crossing a brand new wooden bridge, we hooked up with the Range trail that led us to the Escarpment Trail.
See a video from MPF of us going through the bridge:


Mindful of the experience with Michelle on the Escarpment months before, I did not want to overdo it at the beginning and I was really glad to see Ryan taking the lead and guiding us through the course without pushing the pace too hard. At the end of the day…he was the one that knew the course better than everyone else!!
After Acra Point we headed towards Blackhead Mountain and I noticed that the big dogs were coming up strong: behind me was Ben, and on his heels Brian; both hiking strongly and I felt I should have yielded and give them the room to pass.
In a couple of spots I noticed that a small gap was created between them and Cole and I. Cole was actually the fast guy that was running through Phoenicia the night before. So Ryan was steady in front of us (Cole and me) while Ben and Brian were quiet and tucked in behind ready to make their move at the right time.
Everything was going smooth until the unexpected happened.
That’s when Denis came through at caught up with us and passed us at double the speed. It was clear to everyone that he would not have lasted at that pace, but still, would could have been Ben, Brian and Ryan’s reaction?
Ben and Brian, followed by Adam took the initiative and started chasing Denis almost right away. I thought for a moment of passing Cole and join the chase, since I noticed that Cole was not as comfortable as Ryan and the others on some rocks.
Still…I was way out of my place there, and in my mind I kept thinking that with other 40+ miles to go, chasing the speedy fruitarian was just suicide; this way me and Cole kept going together and a small gap was opened. After a minute or so even Jan came by but a more steady and reasonable pace; Brian and Ben told us that he lost a little bit of time at the first aid station where he was supposed to pick up his belt with fluids, but there was no sign of the belt there.
Thinking back maybe I should have pushed a little more in this section and kept contact with the lead, since the first mistake of the day was around the corner: Cole and me reached a little open area in the woods and could not figure out where the trail was. We looked around for the blue marks on the rocks, for the Long Path blue markers on the trees, but nothing. We went around for probably a couple of minutes and after retriving our path back to where we came from we understood we just needed to make a left turn. Guesstimating from the map this seems an extra quarter of a mile not included in the course.
Here is an extract of our wanderings (my first one of the race):

Wandering around the course, because 54 is not enough

Wandering around the course, because 54 is not enough

After that point we proceeded towards the North/South Lake and Cole let me pass just before the aid station. I did not feel like pushing the pace, and was more focused on checking out the trail markers not to get lost again but I found myself alone at the aid station.
The volunteers were very organized, and refilled my bottle quickly. I got some of my special bolts in and someone at the aid station recognized me and asked me if I ran in Ithaca a few weeks earlier. They recognized the shirt. Good think that Warren Street gets recognized outside the city…not too good that I get into other people’s radars. It’s better to stay undetected!!

From this aid station the race turned into a lonely effort between me, the course and myself. I was looking forward for these moments, I was craving for time with myself, I wanted to let go the competitive aspects and only focus on my feelings, my internal dialogue, my emotions.

The next section was not so challenging, and I tried to run very very effortlessly the descent to AS 4 in Palenville where Bud was tasked with hauling in the bolts refill, the second handheld and some ice before attacking Kaaterskill.
I only saw Kristina at the actual aid station and I was told I was 6 minutes behind 5th place and the others were 12 minutes ahead. With no sight of Bud around I figured it was not a big deal to just make it to the next station where I could find my drop bag with an extra handheld (just in case Bud was still sleeping).
After leaving Platteville with no other runner in the station I ran into Bud driving like a maniac down RT 23. He pulled a U and stopped just where the road turns into the trail again. I got my refill, a little bit of ice and the second bottle. Lost a bit too much time maybe, but I was not too concern with positions and time at this point. I was focused on Kaaterskill.
With Michelle’s company, we did this climb a few times in the previous months and I had been able to run it all the way up with no issue. A runner can make up a lot of time here compared to a hiker, so I promised myself that I would have tried to jog this portion. The reality is that after a quarter of a mile up I realized that jogging here might have meant destroying the entire day because steam started coming off my head.
I settled for a more comfortable hike up, occasionally running the flat stretches inbetween climbs and then again tried to save gas in the downhill leading to Platte Clove where I made it 9 minutes behind 5th place and about 18 to the leaders. I had no idea who was in front of me, but in my mind I kept envisioning it was Ryan.

Not sure where this was taken, but I believe it was by Katherine ( Adam's wife who missed him at Silver Hollow AS by 1 minute and a half like I did)

Not sure where this was taken, but I believe it was by Katherine ( Adam’s wife who missed him at Silver Hollow AS by 1 minute and a half like I did)

At Platte Clove the real race was going to begin with the Devil’s Path standing still in front of us. Even if I tried to save my legs as much as I could previously, I found myself unable to really run up towards Indian Head. Even if I explored once this section of the course, I felt that I was lost in the section leading up to Indian Head. The course was not that steep or anything, but I remember that I had about a mile on the Long Path before making a sharp right into the red marks of the Devil’s. I checked the mileage on the watch and was totally confused cause I passed the 1 mile mark, and there were no flags, tape or arrows signaling where the course was.
I stopped a couple of times, looked back searching for a clue, and actually hoped for the first time to spot other runners picking me up, but nothing. I was alone and I had to do it alone. After another few minutes I spotted a red tape hanging from a tree and that made me feel much much better.
I was now thrilled to reach those vertical sections that I enjoyed watching on MPF video from the previous race. I was hoping someone would take pictures of me climbing and hiking the toughest part of the course.
In the end it happened and MPF was there and took some video footage of my effort.
Follow the link and see me at approx 3:20 in the video below:

Maybe the trick was the 2 fingers per hand support on those rocks? I would have gladly used all 10 fingers if it was not for those bottles.

I am not a big fan of carrying bottles during a race, and would rather deplete myself and dehydrate myself rather than carrying a bottle. After the experience in UROC, when I felt comfortable carrying one bottle with me, I have picked up the habit of carrying one handheld device if the race is longer than 50k. In Cayuga I did use the regular NF bottle, and it helped me keep the body cool during the hot hours of the day.
In the Catskills I felt that one bottle would be enough, but while discussing with Jason my problems using a backpack, he encouraged me to use a second bottle. As I said here and multiple times in other posts, I think that drinking during a race is overrated. If you don’t drink…you won’t die. You will only have a decrease in performances, till you drink again. This means that at the next station you’ll get some water and you’ll move on.
On the other hand if you drink too much, you may have serious consequences…see Dr Noakes’s books. My philosophy: drink only if you are really thirsty, not just because you have water with you.
The 8-9 mile section on the Devil’s Path was the one I was more worried about. Not that I felt I needed water to stay hydrated, but I wanted water to refresh my head and my face here and there. At the end of the day I made it to Mink Hollow after Indian, Twin and Sugarloaf with almost both bottles empty.

Back to the race, the race got longer for me near Pecoy Notch, where I followed the wrong trail of stones and got off course again.

Lost again, this time just before Sugarloaf

Lost again, this time just before Sugarloaf

Another couple of minutes lost and some swearing against myself for not keeping my head up enough and missing the trail in such a stupid way..
Regardless of this little mishappening I had a lot of fun in this section, and to my surprise I cleared it much faster than expected. I knew that Denis and Ryan last year took just under 3 hours (2:50 and 2:40 respectively), but my split here was around 2:35 (given we had a shorter course since a section of road was eliminated this year) and while descending the nasty boulders of Sugarloaf I thought I made some ground on 5th place – which, in my imagination, was held by Ryan.
While approaching the last part of the downhill I saw a man climbing up the trail in the opposite direction. I recognized his face from somewhere, and I believed I saw him in some races with Ashley. I was not sure if he was her father, a supporter, a friend, but his presence gave me a little kick in the butt, cause it meant she was not too far behind.
He was climbing like an animal. He was intense and passionate and he was doing it in Jeans and sneakers. Loved the guy, the passion and attitude he had. 2 thumbs up. He asked me if I saw a woman just behind and I told him I had no idea, since I have not seen anyone for the last 5 hours and change.

He kept climbing, I kept descending, taking a little break at Mink Hollow, where I was told I was 10 minutes behind 5th place. For the entire race I was surprised to find myself in 6th place and several times I thought that I could even give up a few spots to more solid runners coming from behind and still finish top 10. A very respectable result.

While a 10 minute gap is not that much in these races (less than a mile) and even if I was a little tired, my feet were not beaten as in other rocky races. My legs were still holding it together and the feeling of making it back to 5th started to populate my mind while I was getting my bottles refilled.
I knew I needed to reset for a minute and clear my thoughts before just going out and chase other runners.
I sat down in a chair at Mink Hollow and had a glass of Ginger Ale, tried to have a cookie, but it was too dry in my mouth. Grabbed the gallon of water that Bud brought up there and poured some cold water on my head. My plan was to push a little in the next climb up to Plateau, then go harder in the next downhill towards Silver Hollow and see if I could gain anything.

The climb up Plateau started with a negative note since my left quad started to shake a little bit as a premonition for cramps. I needed to back off to make sure not to overdo it. The climb started to be annoying and I was just wishing for it to be over. I found a few hikers half way through and they informed me that the previous runner on the climb was only 7 minutes up.
With some added encouragement I tried to push a little more, and when I reached Plateau I got into a good running mode and never stopped till I reached Silver Hollow. On the descent another couple of hikers informed me that the other runner ahead was about 5 minutes ahead. Given the margin of error that people have when estimating time, I figured we were pretty much at the same pace.

When I got into Silver Hollow I did not see other runners ahead leaving the station, but was told he was only 1.5 minutes ahead. That was surprising, or at least it meant the info from the hikers were accurate. Now I knew that I had the downhill undercontrol; the legs were moving well, I just needed to be careful climbing. The little section up towards Edgewood Mtn is one of those stretches where my mind starts to zone out from the race. Again, like it happened in previous stages of the race, running alone brings me in close contact with my breathing, my heart beat, my mind. Nothing else around counts. I can’t remember if I was pushing, or just resting. I knew I had to make it to the top and then nail the downhill to close the gap to the other runner.

I feel I am writing a long report, and transporting many details about how the race went and how fast or slow I was running each section, how the other runners were doing, etc. – while the reality is that my goal is to try and define these moments of complete loneliness when my mind, my thoughts, my body and my physiological perceptions melt together. I said it in other posts: it is almost exploring something inside me. I see it, I live it, I experience it, but I do not have the words to define it here; and I am disappointed for this lack of words on my end.

I guess many other runners in these moments of the race find themselves in the middle of nature and – with such great landscapes around – stop and enjoy the view, contemplating nature and its mystery around us.
That is not my thing. Even if I like nature, I do not take part to these races to have a chance to experience nature and be in close contact with it.
I am lucky enough that I was raised in it. I lived it daily, fully, until I moved to the US and – call me spoiled – I cannot see the same beauty, and the same powerful majesty of my Dolomites and my Alps back at home when I run on trails here. However, the Devil’s Path has something rough and edgy that is intriguing.

I hope in the future I can use more words to express what happens in these moments and how I can draw satisfaction for going through this physical punishment that does not feel punishment at all. Stay tuned!

On the descent to Warner Brook I came back to conscious mode and felt that if I wanted to have a chance to do something more than 6th place and avoid getting a 7th, 8th or worst overall, then I needed to do something about it. The conscious and unconscious selves brought me back to the race and they wanted me to leave behind the feelings of accomplishment and explore that mysterious land where I attempt to translate what I can do, I wish to do, but sometimes do not want to do into action.
I figured that if I had only a couple of minutes from 5th, I had to keep him in sight and have him about 30 seconds in front of me before the creek and to do that I had to work harder the downhill.

The problem is that I may have worked too hard, too soon, because after less than a mile the two of us were together.
He politely yielded and told me to proceed. His name was Adam, I learned, and at that point I was feeling very satisfied. I asked him how he was feeling, and we proceeded together for a few minutes. I let him lead to see if he was really done for the day and he seemed still functioning well.
I proposed him to run together and cross the finish line together, but I was not sure that was a great idea. I noticed in a few rocks some footprints of shoes and they seemed pretty fresh, maybe no more than 10 minutes old. I asked him if he had any idea where Ryan was, and the other guys and he told me that Ryan was probably 40 minutes ahead.
That was a bummer. We could not make up 40 minutes on Ryan, no way.

Still…that footprint…we had another half a mile or so to reach the creek and I pushed a little the pace to get a little gap and dip into the cold water for a few instants. After soaking myself for a few seconds I noticed that Adam was a little behind and moving not so fast. I got out of the creek where I fell two weeks before, and then proceeded on the trail to see more footprints (or shoeprints).

Maybe Ryan had a bad patch and was just ahead of us? With only one big climb and one ugly descent at the end, I wanted to give everything I could in an attempt to catch that 4th spot in case someone in front of me was bleeding 🙂

I passed a volunteer that was clearing some bushes near the trail and he told me the guy in front was only 4 minutes ahead. 4 minutes? You kidding me! I gave one final push to try to run some portions of the uphill leading to the fire tower, got more bolts in me to have enough energy to push the downhill, but realized I did not have a whole lot to spend at this point. I had to hike long stretches and that is always something that feels conflictual inside, because I strive to be able to run everything, even at the end of the race.

Eventually I made it to the fire tower (this is where I had the thoughts about how to describe Manitou’s to a person, see the beginning of this post) and the aid station and I was told Ryan was 35 minutes ahead.

Damn it. it was not 4…it was 40!! with 4 miles to go and 40 minutes behind, that meant that the top 4 were all done, sitting on a chair and celebrating with some food.

Well..what can I say…the guys in front of me were too good, too prepared, too strong. I was now in 5th and happy. I left behind the demons of other runners coming from behind Adam and catching up with me. I wanted to finish the race the same way I did in Cayuga: throwing water from the bottle on my face/head. So I spent some extra time at the aid station refilling both bottles.
While descending I did not want to run fast and destroy my decently preserved feet, so I kept just an honest effort and even the final mile on the road was just a simple jog towards that finish line that brought more than just a 5th place, it brought the awakening of peace inside me during the race.

At the end I laid down on the grass by the finish line, rested for a few moments and then after taking a quick shower I spent the entire afternoon, evening and night waiting for Michelle.

Go to minute 5:03 and see my water splash and me resting at the finish line.

Ryan sitting on his chair relaxing and enjoying the other runners completing the epic event

Ryan sitting on his chair relaxing and enjoying the other runners completing the epic event

She finished well ahead of what was planned, almost two hours ahead, completing a race for some ways even more difficult than the LUT (her previous hardest effort), only 6 months after returning to run and with a conservative approach to avoid injuries.
What an accomplishment and what a feeling of pride I have for this woman that never stops to surprise herself as much as myself.

Michelle approaching the finish line with Mr Bud as "reliable" pace

Michelle approaching the finish line with Mr Bud as “reliable” pace

Closer to the finish

Closer to the finish

Shelly jumping across the finish line

Shelly jumping across the finish line

and the END!

and the END!

And now let’s celebrate for more and more of these!

A sincere and deep thank you goes to all the people involved in the race, that supported it, spectate it and made it happen with hard work. Charlie, volunteers, all the sponsors that helped the event. I have never had a better experience in a race. Also the food at the end was phenomenal!

Charlie, if you can, make it even harder next year. I loved every step of it