2015 – Summer/Fall Part 3

TCS NEW YORK CITY MARATHON

With Chicago’s performance in the bank I felt fairly accomplished for the season, but rather than just sitting on the couch a NYCM entry in the pockets was enough motivation to shortly rest and prepare for a decent performance after two weeks.
The goal was helping Warren Street secure a few club points in one of the events that generally we fall short on, due to lack of participation.

This year we had Sebastien and Alex lining up, plus Aaron and Fabio pacing the faster groups that NYRR organizes. This would have guaranteed us at least a 4th or 5th team finish, enough to make the Ted Corbitt 15k in December worth the trip.
I knew Seb was getting back to his running glory, since he ran two fast 1:13 half marathons leading up to the race, despite his always limited training/sleeping regiment, while Pascal told me that Alex was coming to the race really fit and trained.
My goal was to avoid blowing up like I generally did the previous years when I PRed despite slowing down considerably in the second part.

The week before the marathon brought some unexpected bad surprises after a great 8mile workout 9 days prior to the event: first a pulled hamstring that got back in working conditions only 2 days before the race after extensive treatments and application of tape, then the fact that I had to work multiple shifts day and night up to Friday before the race, and possibly also Saturday day. When could I possibly rest?

The forecast this time was not as ugly as 2014, when headwind had been our companion from start to end.

My strategy was to try and run evenly, with no particular goals, but at least avoid a death march on 5th Ave.

As usual I get angry during the race start up procedures, when dozens, actually, hundreds of people from corrals behind us try to pass us on the way to the start. The result is always the same: a mess in the first 45 seconds. I’ve always started the race in the local competitive area, reserved for those local runners who supposedly have a certain qualifying time, hence the perk of lining up at the very front. Instead, after making the left turn out of the gates, people of any ability and from every country engage in a “pre-race” race to start in front of each other and appear on TV.

This year I did not get penalized too much, since after the start I revived my elbowing skills from my early football days. Maybe 10 seconds lost at best? I’m sure some not so kind words were addressed to me in those first 300 meters.

Back to the race: I was hoping to pop out at the 5k mark together with teammate Seb and hopefully run together since he started from a different corral.

When I turned into 4th Ave in Brooklyn I did not see Seb so I believed I was probably just a little ahead of him. I continued with a conservative pace looking behind me when I could to see if I could spot him. Brooklyn, Williamsburg and Greenpoint went by relatively quickly. Here I had the chance to pick up some fluids from a private aid station set up by my helpful Michelle who had a bottle of lucky water for me.

In the process I picked up some Italians runners who started way too fast. It is pretty entertaining to observe the difference in attire between European runners and American runners: despite the standardization of the top athletes uniforms the mass is still diversified. I noticed Europeans, especially Italians, the French, and some Eastern European runners, are big into compression: socks, shorts, Tshirts, tight singlet on top of compression shirts, BANDANAs (or buffs as they are now called), possibly aerodynamic gloves and brand new shine shoes. Americans – on the other hand – don’t care too much, but they generally prefer to mix and match some pretty ugly color combinations carefully picked from a base array of neon-yellow and bright fluorescent orange or pink/fuchsia.

While crossing the Pulaski Bridge I realized I was even going a bit faster than the splits I had in Chicago; I figured that was a positive, since I would have lost precious time on the Queensboro Bridge. Clearly I knew I was not going to best my 2:35 from the Wind City, but I could have easily got a sub 2:40 that all considered was not going to be a bad deal after a marathon and a 50k just three and two weeks prior.

I was really concern about keeping myself prepared to master 1st ave, and avoid the inconvenience of a 9 min/mile with bathroom stop and intestine troubles like the previous year, so I took things a bit easy on the Queensboro and tried not to get too engaged emotionally by the crowd on 1st ave. I tried to spot the MPF crew that was along 1st ave, but did not make it to see them. Just before reaching the Warren Street cheering station I recognized the first familiar face of the pack: flying by went Hector Rivera, moving well and fast. He would go along to close in 2:36, with an impressive second half.

Everything went well till mile 19, when I had a glimpse of another runner ahead of me moving with a style that was familiar.

It was Sebastien, crossing the Willis Ave Br into the Bronx. Shortly after, on 135th St I caught up with him and I saw he was struggling a little. At that point I was still feeling good and was running strong. He encouraged me to go ahead and not spend time with him.

I felt bad for not sticking around, but we had to give it our best to get some points for the team, so I slowly pulled away from him. However, not too long after that, I sensed that I was getting depleted quickly. I tried to drink some of the water I had with me after the Madison Ave Br, but I could not make it to eat some of the bolts. That is usually a bad sign. I noticed my body was getting tenser and tenser. More than holding the water bottle in my hand I was strangling it.

5th ave for me started to become another slow march towards Central Park. I tried to dose the energy and run as solid as I could without slowing down or accelerating too much.

Despite the unfavorable course profile of the last 4 miles of the race (with quite some climbing late in the race for a marathon) my pace did not get affected dramatically and I made it to loose just a couple of minutes.

I got passed by a few runners, and I passed others and pretty much maintained the same position till Engineer Gate. From here on I envisioned to be able to run more efficiently and steadily than 5th Ave, and I tried to save some energies to at least look good for a nice picture along the final stretch of the finish line.

Everything went ok till I merged on Central Park South. Right turn, slightly uphill stretch that I have run over and over and over even with city traffic, and here I see a small group of runners ahead of me. The desire to catch them was too big and so I did try to increase the effort. I heard someone calling my name, but I could not see clearly who it was. I got close to the group and once caught the tail end my right leg decided to give up.

I ran the whole race after three sessions of treatment with Dr Stu who applied a tape on my right hamstring to reduce a little the tension generated by a small tear on the muscle 8 days before the race during a short recovery run in Norwalk.

All of a sudden I was stuck in the middle of the road limping. I stopped. I felt something got pulled. I waited about 10 seconds and realized I was actually having a cramp. I was about to start swearing left and right to unleash my disappointment, but I remained calm. I walked it off for a few feet, while Michelle popped out of the crowd on the left side of CPS.

I kept walking, then jogging and running again. I tried to catch up those 6-8 runners that had passed me while getting my leg back in working order, but the best I could do was maintain that position.

I finished crossing the line basically walking “on eggs” the last 3-4 feet with cramps ready to come out again…see a video of the finish line here at minute 19:55. Peter Ciaccia came over and shook hands and basically closed the deal for another NYC Marathon that left me fairly happy in terms of performance: squeezed out my PR on the course despite my cramps and slow final 5 miles; but fairly disappointed in terms of placing, since till half a mile to go I was comfortably navigating  on the high 80th position, and finished 90th male, and 102nd overall. Such a disappointment to give up a top 100 finish in a major race like this.

Well… then there is a reason to sign up for 2016

N.B.: After receiving hints from fellow teammates I decided to leave the photo gallery from marathon photo out of the equation this time and avoid problems of image rights bla bla bla

 

NYRR 60k

Two weeks after NYCM and with a lot going on at work with an important deadline to meet before Thanksgiving that put training a little bit on the side, the NYRR 60k represented the perfect scenario to revamp the fitness I gained before Chicago and get ready for the North Face Championship in San Francisco.

I signed up almost last minute when the race was near capacity; I asked around a few runners and inquired if they were participating. I gathered that Stephen England (former 3rd finisher) and Adolfo Munguia (former winner) were both participating. Not that I dislike a little bit of competition, but this time I was not looking forward to set my mind into competition mode. I wanted to experience a few relaxing laps of the Park with friends, maybe a little bit of chatting, and then see if we had it to put up an honest “fight” towards the end.

Well…that’s always wishful thinking, till you toe the line and, as usual for this even, there is the novice runner who decide to gun the first part of the race.

This year the course was slightly different from previous editions and we tackled the 5mile loop of CP starting from Engineer Gate and then switch for the mentally grueling 8 laps of the 4 mile loop counter clockwise.

Despite my preference for the counter clock direction, the idea of doing Cathill 9 times is not so appealing.

So, back to the race, we all started packed with a conservative pace and we exchanged a few words, while one of the usual warriors, white long sleeve t-shirt, blond long hair, gloves and fancy colorful socks, decided to have his 45 minutes of glory 10 minutes into the race and took off with an improbable pace. I learned at this point that Adolfo was not in good shape and was coming back from an injury. I was particularly intrigued by another young guy that was talking to Stephen and was moving his legs quite well (Eric).

After the end of the first lap we formed a small group of 5-6 runners chasing the lonely guy in the breakaway.

Early stages of the race: the chasing group up Cathill looking for #278

Early stages of the race: the chasing group up Cathill looking for #278

While we talked a little, I tried to focus on eating something and drinking regularly at least in this initial phase; soon the pace became more sustained and by the end of the second lap we made some ground and quickly closed the gap: once we had the sprinter in our sight, we relaxed a little, but at that point the pace became very unstable: one minute we were going at 7 min/mile and 200 yards after we were pushing low 6 min/mile. I did not need that type of stress: I can take a constant beating but I did not want to try out an erratic pace for another 3 hours or more, so towards the end of the third lap I started pushing a little the pace, and went constant around 6min/mile or under trying to create a gap. The only other runner that stayed with me was Eric, who not only followed me, but at times was pushing the pace and making me go harder than I wanted.

3rd or 4th lap, still in good company

3rd or 4th lap, still in good company

At one point on the west side of the park he asked me if I thought we were going too fast. “Of course” I told him. I knew we could not keep that up forever, but he also confessed he never ran more than 20 miles, and he did that the weekend before.

“Oh boy” – I thought – “He is going to suffer later on”. If you have not experienced running for more than 20 miles, and you are in the initial phases of a 37 mile run at this pace, only one thing is guaranteed: you will suffer and you will want to quit.

At this point I wondered if I was stepping on the gas pedal too much, but I really wanted to remain alone and run at my pace; I was expecting Adolfo to catch up at one point or another, so I tried to save some energy to keep up with him.

In little to no time I crossed EG again and I saw that Adolfo was instead, unfortunately, sidelined and getting some help from his friends. I found out that his injury came out again and he did not want to make it worse than what it was.

A little messed up by Adolfo’s injury, I kept running; I gave a glance to the watch and saw that the pace was around 6:30. I tried t do some math and see if I was still in time to close it under 4 hours, but it seemed a little hard at that point.

With a couple of laps to go I was joined by teammate Alex who gave me a needed refreshing change of mood. He was biking in the park and followed me for a few minutes talking to me, distracting me and…then he got schooled by the marshal that was following me at the front of the race.

The marshal was threatening to disqualify me since Alex tried to exchange a few words…ridiculous. She told him to disappear and not come close anymore. Now I want to understand why on earth you are trying to threaten people like that.

First, Alex was not offering any help, he was only cheering me. He was not providing support with food, water, nor was he pacing me, so….why are you so nasty? And is there a rule that allows male runners not to be paced while female runners can be paced along the course (heard the same bike marshal saying hi to some of the female runners she knew and asking how they were doing and they answered “great, such and such are pacing me, it’s great”)

Anyway…the result was that Alex stepped on the side and got separated. I finished my dreadful last lap a bit tired and while I took it easy up Cathill, I tried to sprint towards the finish line to finish in under 4:04.

Last turn into 72nd transverse. Visually tired at the idea of doing Cathill once more

Last turn into 72nd transverse. Visually tired at the idea of doing Cathill once more

Mission accomplished with 4:03:59, a slight improvement from the year before, despite the easy pace and the race course changes.

2015 RACE TO DELIVER

This is going to be one of the most enjoyable, yet disappointing races I’ve run. I’ve signed up to this race in an attempt to run more events with NYRR under the new age group (35-39) than what I did as a 30-34 (which is an incredibly competitive group).
I had little expectations, knowing that in 2014 the whole NYAC Team showed up to sweep the top 5 spots, but knowing Sebastien was coming, I wanted to at least try and run with him for as much as I could.
The morning of the race I remember warming up and doing a few strides, but I quickly realized that there was no PR for me ready to happen, and there was not a lot of joy along the course waiting for me. As Sebastien and I lined up near the front at the start we realized that actually only one NYAC guy showed up, and he did not look as harmful as others of his teammates.
Jokingly I told Seb he was going to win the race.

We started and the chasing game began.

While Seb pulled away and was quickly followed by Sebastian (the NYAC guy), I struggled to remain in their proximity the whole time. They alternated taking the lead of the race from each other, and I was hoping that the hills of the west side could help me pick up some of the deficit I had on them.
However, Just before the transverse on 102nd, we were all pretty much regrouped. But not for long: my Sebastien opened up a gap quickly. While I really could not do anything that try to hold my pace, I was hoping he could gain enough to get the win. At one point he was well ahead of me and the NYAC guy, and I got excited dreaming of Sebastien winning the race.

Along the west side hills Sebastian (NYAC) did not run particularly fast, but once the rolling terrain was over, he ran a really fast last mile and a half and despite Seb’s effort, he caught up and left both of us behind. I was the silent witness of their battle, with little to say or add to their rivalry, since I was already gassed out.

As we approached the left turn on 72nd street Seb looked back to check if I was going to be a threat, but a glimpse at my face probably gave him enough comfort.
Seb finished 9 seconds ahead of me, only 5 behind the winner, but we did an incredible run. I was a bit disappointed for not hitting a decent time on the clock, but obviously satisfied for a podium.

After the race we got treated with VIP measures, enjoyed some food at the finish line tend and then proceeded to the award ceremony where we were pictured in an image that I could only dream of three years before when joining him, Paul, Charlie, Fabio, Aaron and Pascal with Warren Street. Often we can find pride, joy and enthusiasm in sharing these moments with people that you look up to, not just obtaining a nice result or a good performance.

Second Place: Sebastien Baret and me with a big smile from one ear to the other

Second Place: Sebastien Baret and me with a big smile from one ear to the other

Lavaredo Ultra Trail 2015 – The race

… see previous post [here]…

After a few brief introductions of the elites international athletes lining up at the very front of the field, the music of Ecstasy of Gold escorted us at the beginning of this adventure.
I was worried about my body reaction starting a race at 11pm, since it was a first for me, but I have to say everything was going well at the beginning. I pushed a little in the first few kilometers going out of the town to make sure I was not getting caught behind a big pack of slower runner when entering the single track trail.
I did not struggle to find my rhythm at all. I hiked when I felt that the effort was increasing and ran when the terrain allowed. I knew the race was long and I needed to be prepared with fresh legs for the last 20k.
The first climb went by quickly and already runners were dropping back after an initial effort that was too intense. I looked at my intermediate time at the top and found myself a little ahead of schedule.
This allowed me to run more relaxed the next downhill section made of several switchbacks and a few tricky spots with roots and rocks.

Despite my attempt to slow down the pace, I actually gained more time on my plan. Still, people were flying all over, passing each other like crazy as soon as the trail was les technical but still downhill (including a Spanish dude that ended up face down on a left turn after tripping on some rocks).

I figured I should have been more conservative so for the next section leading to Ospitale I slowed down even further. Here we passed the first point where my family was waiting for. I felt very proud of holding a good position, considering my conservative approach, and running with my family witnessing me.
They do not get to see me much during the year, and when they do, I like to share with them my running passion, so it is very rewarding to show them how much progress I have done in this field in recent years.

Just about a mile and a half was left to get into the first aid station at Ospitale; the wide dirt road gave me the chance to focus and review on my eating and drinking plan, to make sure I was not falling behind on this aspect. My plan had me there 1hr and 55 minutes after the start, but I made it a little earlier, around 1:45. At that point I was in good shape with fuel and liquids, so I quickly refilled one flask, grabbed a piece of chocolate from the aid station and took off right away to attack Val Padeon towards the Tre Croci Pass.

Getting the flask ready

Getting the flask ready

how long does it take to pour 0.5 liters of water??

how long does it take to pour 0.5 liters of water??

I felt very well, maybe too well, during this section and the pace along the 4 mile climb was steady and strong. Having memories from two years prior that were not too pleasant, I was glad to replace them with a more encouraging experience. At the top of the climb I still maintained a 5 minutes lead on my plan and now the tricky downhill to the Tre Croci Pass was going to be the first test.
In 2013 I probably blew my legs in this steep stony trail and this time I was not going to trash myself the same way. Maintaining the usual 5 minutes lead on my projections I cleared the Pass and now I was heading to Federavecchia where I knew I could see Gigi again.

Quick Flask Refill

Quick Flask Refill

Just before getting to the aid station I was passed by a couple of folks anxious to show off their downhill abilities. I gladly gave them the right of way while I opened up the cap of the flask I needed to refill and refueled with the leftovers of what I had in the pockets trying to minimize the stand-by time at the station.
The feelings were good, the time was slightly faster than my original plan and – while I was supposed to be there after 3hrs and 45 minutes – the 19 minutes lead I opened at Federavecchia did not worried me too much as I knew I would have used more time later during the day to easy the effort in the most challenging spots.

The section from Albergo Cristallo to Misurina Lake proved to be challenging: the climb along the muddy trail marked 1120 and the never ending asphalt road brought me to the switchback of “I Ciampete” a little out of breath. Here the more runnable part was ahead, but instead of switching gears immediately as I was able to do the week before during the recon, this time my legs needed about 10 minutes of fast hiking to get going and be ready for a different pace. My vision was also a bit confused since the woods were retaining some humidity trapped among the trees and the light from my headlamp was getting reflected blinding me partially.

I went on rest mode till the lake, knowing that the climb to Tre Cime was going to require a good effort no matter what pace I was going to maintain. In my mind I began thinking about the possible need for more fluids along the next climb so I figured it was a good idea to pick up the water bottle from Gigi who was waiting for me in Misurina, rather than waiting for Cimabanche later on in the morning.
Right after Misurina I joined a little group of three runners, obviously overexerted from the effort they maintained that far. One of them was Italians, two were French and they all had low bibs. Together we ran the first half mile and ran through a herd of cows at the bottom of the incline.
These poor animals were so scared from our headlamps that they were running around confused making almost a concert with their bells. One of them also charged us, but more than aiming at us she was just trying to run away from us except she kept getting closer and closer.

Slowly I made it to Rifugio Auronzo and my body started to feel a bit tired. I ran into the Rifugio that served as Aid Station at km 48 still a few minutes ahead of the plan, so I decided to spend a few more minutes refueling properly and resting a bit more before taking off again. Here I noticed how having a crew, like most of the elites had, that was allowed to prepare a customized little aid station could save several minutes.
Fernanda Maciel, in fact, checked into the rifugio a few minutes after I did but she had 3-4 people ready to swap her gears, change the bottles she had gone through with new ones already full, had food items just for her laid out on a small table and a spare Tshirt and a small jacket ready for her to put on.
Basically a 5 star service ready at her convenience.

Bottom line she got in and got out leaving me behind.

I wonder if it is even fair to provide this advantage to elites only…but that is a different topic to deal with.

I had a small additional effort to make before enjoying the downhill to Cimabanche; after leaving the aid station I just needed to clear the flat mile to the Alpini Chapel and then the short incline to the Lavaredo Pass by the Tre Cime.
The flat part was not as pleasant as I was expecting and I was not able to move effortlessly as I hoped. A cold strong wind was blowing sideways and my sweat-drenched singlet was not the perfect attire for the occasion. While running I was able to pull out the long sleeve shirt I had with me and put it on as I was reaching the top of the climb. Here the first few rays of sunlight started to hit the mountains and I was pleased not only with astonishing views but also with the fact that I was getting into the downhill capable of seeing where I was placing my feet.

The long 8k trail down to Cimabanche (for approx a 3,400ft drop) is mainly non-technical and not too steep to run comfortably at a good relaxed pace. However, if one pushes the pace at this point, I believe he will realize soon after that he made a big mistake: this trail is just a link between the first climbs of the race to the second hilly part of the race.

From my point of view I had a nice descent, picked up one or two runners and got passed by two or three that were going to regret it later on.
While going around the Landro Lake, I realized the course here was different than what I anticipated. It did not bother me too much, but journey to the aid station at 66k was really longer than expected and a bit boring. Long stretches of dirt road, slightly uphill along the Rienz River on trail 102, surrounded by tall pines made the journey a bit painful and I started noticing my body was running a little low on energy. I checked the fluid consumption up to that point and at least on that department I was doing well.
I threw down a few bolts getting close to the aid station knowing that Gigi was going to be there and could restock my supply to make sure that I kept processing food on a regular basis.

As soon as I arrived to the aid station I realized I needed to eat more, but I was not able to ingest anything at that point; I took my time, I spoke with Gigi and told him I was going to rest a couple of minutes while resting hoping to be able to eat some of the items they had in display.
I found very appealing the toasted slices of bread with nutella or jam, so I had one each and then asked for a bit of hot coffee since I wanted to wake up from the “night running” mode that I was stuck to.
I must say the coffee was terrible and I’ll explain why in a bit.
I sat on the bench for a few minutes, finally regained some confidence and took off while looking at some other runners getting in and out of the station much more quickly than I did.

I was going to enter one of the few sections that I was not able to explore a week prior so I did not want to approach the climb too vigorously.

When the trail crosses Route 51 the incline up to Lerosa Fork started immediately. I caught up with a three/four runners that took off a few seconds before me from Cimabanche; we started the climb together and worked together going up. After half a mile we passed one dude that was having a very bad time and was refilling his bottles from a stream of water coming down from the rocks by the trail, while our group started to stretch out. I was hanging second to last at the tail of the train, and started to feel not as strong as I was a couple of hours before, despite my legs kept moving well and had no signs of cramps or other problems.
I started regretting having that small espresso at the aid station poured into my flask: despite cleaning it, the sour taste of coffee contaminated my OSMO powder dissolved in water and literally every time I tried to sip it, I felt it was putting warm puke in my mouth. Disgusting.
Having plenty of fluids in other containers allowed me to continue with no particular issues, just a bit ticked off, but soon I realized that my energy levels were going down, and I assumed it was because my body was still digesting what I got from the aid station.

Wrong.

The climb to Lerosa went overall ok, got caught by another runner and passed one, so the overall standing did not change; but I spent more than what I put in and the balance of my left over probably started to get into reserve. The next few miles down to Malga Ra Stua proved to be rough only in some spots with hard edgy rocks that were beating up one’s feet; the trail was fairly comfortable and runnable in most point.

At Malga Ra Stua I started having the first signals that something was not working too well. The legs were fine, they brought me up and down till that point and they were not burning; the initial cramps I felt on the first climb were not there anymore, a sign that I was not pushing the pace and the feeling of my feet been a little beat up was just the norm.
It was just my overall concentration level and my energy that were low.

I refueled with some solid food at Ra Stua giving up a spot to another runner that was quicker than me to get his nutrition and water in; I took a relaxing couple of minutes sitting on the bench and stretching my legs, knowing that after a few miles of downhill the real show was going to start.

I knew in my mind that I was going to attach an invisible target the back of those runners in front of me and one by one pick them up. I knew I had in me the determination of persevering and push myself, because I wanted to see the happiness pictured in my brother’s face, my parents’ faces and Gigi’s face once I crossed the finish line.

After a mile or so of unexpected painful technical downhill where I moved fairly well, the trail opened up becoming more of a stone road and I felt somewhat better mentally; I thought the first low point was overcome and now I could expect a bit of fun. Here I shared a few words with fellow runner Edward Melbourne from the UK. He was having some troubles on the downhill due to the technicality, but I could witness just minutes before how strong he was on the climbs, so instead of forcing the pace, I rather locked into his. I am not generally a talkative person on the trail. I prefer to listen. Listen to my breath, listen to my mind, listen to the noises of the mountains. I do not like talking during a race: you lose energy, concentration, and focus on what I am doing. However, the cool accent of this guy and his unique style were so peculiar that I did not mind chatting for a bit, knowing he was going to ditch me for sure in Val Travenanzes.

While the road started to change profile switching from downs to ups, I saw on my watch that I was about half a mile from completing 50 miles. Feeling good I mentally challenged myself to run from that moment until the 50.01 mark regardless of the terrain I had to face.
This is one of my usual tricks I generally adopt to try and break the hiking momentum that inevitably gets dialed in when going up long inclines during a race. Forcing myself into this bet to prove myself I can “run” or “jog” for a little section generally helps getting some motivation back, make some progress along the course and overall feel better about getting to the end quickly.

As often happens, the trick worked as I entered trail 401 opening up the climb for Val Travenanzes.

As I was making the right turn into 401 and crossing a little stream of water (same spot where I miss read the 407 trail a week prior and ended up completely off course) I noticed two crazy runners coming down toward us down like rockets from trail 408. It took me a few seconds to realize their speed was way off from my pace and after seeing the different Bibs they were wearing, I realized those were the leaders of the 47km race.

In no time the trail got flooded with runners from this race and I must admit that it was quite painful to constantly having to pull on the side of the trail to let go these people that were just at the 10km mark, therefore still very fresh and energetic. Maybe this would be one thing the organizers can look into for next year race and avoid this huge congestion along Val Travenanzes.

Feeling a little better than what I experienced an hour before, and knowing that I made some ground passing two runners in the first kilometer of the climb, I felt pumped and hooked into some slower Cortina Trail runners that had a pace similar to mine at that point.
Now I was in hiking mode again and I was glad that I was slowly but constantly closing on the guy that passed me at Malga Ra Stua and wearing a tight spandex red Salomon shirt. I named it “the Salomon guy” and for the next half hour or so I kept repeating myself “Catch the Salomon guy, catch the Salomon guy”.

When I finally closed the gap I followed some of the Cortina Trail runners along the trail picking up their pace to gain quickly some distance on him. After this short lived effort I began feeling tired and empty; my breathing went off the chart even when hiking slowly and the only way to bring it back to normal was to rest for a few moments by the side of the trail.

This is when my race mode was wiped out and the positive momentum I had built up to that point started to spiral down.

After a few hundred meters I was passed again by the Salomon guy. We switch position another couple of times while my breathing kept getting unsustainably unnatural. I tried to eat something again, and while the hydration was still very good, I kept chewing and chewing my bolts without being able to swallow them.
The realization that I was doomed came pretty quickly. Upset because physically I felt still pretty good, I tried a few things before calling it a day: I sat for another couple of minutes by the side of the trail, I dipped my legs into the river cold water twice, I tried again to eat other things I was carrying with me.
Nothing worked.
Stubbornly I kept hiking making some short frequent stops to keep the breathing in control, hoping to make it quickly to the top of the valley and then, maybe, turn around the day in the next downhill section.
All of a sudden I was not even able to walk straight along the trail and threw myself to the side, laying belly up on the grass surrounded by bushes. There I laid down for what seemed a long period of time, probably 15 to 20 minutes.

Several runners passed me, probably 3-400, at least, but only two of them were competing in the LUT. The others were all Cortina Trail runners.
They all asked me if I was ok, just one of them was really concerned and encouraged me to make it to the water station that was just 400 meters ahead.
I got up and hiked behind him following his footsteps. I stopped once and he waited for me. Then when I stopped a second time, he told me he was going to proceed and inform the personnel at the station.
After a few minutes two volunteers came to my rescue but instead of giving up totally, I simply walked with them to the little hat they were manning. This process took another 30 minutes, for approximately 45-60 minutes to cover 1/4 of a mile.

Since 2015 for me has been a year of PRs, this will be included in my Hall of Fame: 60 min quarter mile dash. (I’ll submit to an anti-doping test to make sure it gets officially recognized)

At the aid station I totally recognized I had to drop out from the race. I laid down on the couch that was prepared for me, I took off my shoes and my socks to dry them out, I tried to eat a cookie, and had some hot Italian tea.
I tried to rest, sleep and recharge. I stayed inside for approximately two hours and asked the volunteer that was checking on me what options I had.

His answer was clear:
Option 1 – Call the helicopter and get transported to the finish line in Cortina
Option 2 – Hike another 3k up to the pass, jump into the Carabinieri Jeep and get hauled to Col Gallina Aid Station where I could get with my parents and drop out of the event.

I thought that getting helicoptered out was going to be a bit dramatic, however, I realized I could not fool myself and my conditions: doing 3kms in the Alps is not going for a brisk job in Central Park and given how my last 3 hours were spent, I decided to try and rest more before making up my mind.

Once I gained a bit of confidence, I got dressed again and took off towards the pass. A little sad I continued my march uphill, knowing the goal for the race was blown and that it was going to be even difficult to reach the location where I could drop out.
Little by little I climbed to the pass and finally saw the Carabinieri Jeep; I got close to it and…big surprise…nobody there!
Maybe they were taking a break or maybe they were assisting someone else. Bottom line at this point I could only proceed towards Col Gallina and reach my family.

This was not an easy task since the downhill was a torture for my body and pretty soon I noticed that another steep climb was ahead just before the Rifugio.
My energy was completely depleted to the point that even walking slowly required me to stop for a few seconds every minute since I was feeling dizzy and even my eyes were not able to focus on the road ahead.
The final short descent with a few technical spots was challenging me like never before. I reached the parking lot with some relief and began looking around for my parents, my brother and Serena or possibly Gigi and just drop out of the race; I think I might have been smiling at this point, cause somehow I felt I accomplished something pushing through those 4 miles from Val Travenanzes to Col Gallina.

I jogged through the parking lot, and reached the aid station set up on the other side of the road bringing to Falzarego Pass; the bad news were not finished.

No sight of any familiar face in the area. I had no idea where everyone else was, so I just got some food and liquids from the aid station. I stopped again for 10-15 minutes and tried to regain some sort of energy because the maintain atmosphere was getting more chilly.
After a few sips of the magical Italian hot tea I spotted a woman with a cell phone and I asked if I could make a phone call to my parents.
She kindly agreed, seeing desperation pictured on my face and that allowed me to get in touch with my mother. We spoke briefly and learned she was down in Cortina waiting for news about me since nobody knew what could have happened to me.
I explained I was not doing too well and she agreed to pick me up immediately; just a 45 minutes drive up to Passo Falzarego.

This gave me the time to rest and think more about the decision of dropping out.
Mentally I could rationally explain myself that there was not a safe way to continue the race (what I originally called a race, because at this point it was just a fun hike in the mountains). I had many reasons to stop, first and foremost because wondering around alpine territory in non ideal physical conditions is risky and irresponsible and stupid (the risk of getting a rescue team looking for you in the Alps is not a pleasurable option to consider).
Second, it was kind of stinky to continue the event, exert myself walking for another 5, 6, 7 or 10 hrs, and get no satisfaction with my performance.
I started off with the goal of finishing in the first 25-30 spots so finishing so far back into the field was a testament of failure.
Third, stopping at that point would have allowed for a quick physical recovery and be ready to target a new goal race relatively soon.

However, not finishing also sucks. This was my last DNF two years prior, and having a repeat was going to be mentally terrible. Almost like an obstacle you can’t overtake.
While contemplating all scenarios I realized that by the time my parents could pick me up from the aid station, I would have been freezing, or maybe I could have turned things around.
Feeling a little more alive after having a cup of hot soup, I called back my mother and asked her to drive to the next aid station so I could enjoy a little more the course without leaving with a sour taste of defeat in my mouth, while covering a longer distance. She agreed, so I figured that another 8-9k through the Averau peak and the not so steep but rocky and “bitchy” trail to Giau Pass was going to be my next mission.

The hike was hard, especially the climbing: every few steps my heart beat was increasing with no control and I began feeling dizzy again. I took my time resting and catching my breath every time I needed. It was still horrendous and clearly I was not recovered, but the idea of persevering well outside the initial competitive approach was somehow appealing.

Somehow I believed that there was something there for me to learn, had I continued the hike.

I arrived at Passo Giau jogging down a short descent with another couple of runners. My parents were there waiting for me with Gigi; their faces appeared worried, despite my attempt to show some sort of smile to give them some relief and reassurance I was doing fine overall; but it did not work. I really looked spent and deprived. I got some hot tea and a couple of cookies. I rested on a bench for a good 15-20 minutes with their company.

My morale improved, even though there were other participants constantly taking off from the aid station and leaving me behind; at least I could exchange some decent conversation with my parents. I tried to get some more food with me, in the event that my body could accept it later on and then took off again.

I knew at this point there were only two obstacles to get to the end: the first was the extremely steep but short incline to Forcella Giau, and the second was the technical descent along trail 431 that bothered me a lot  during the last training run on the course a week prior. At a minimum I was going to enjoy a great easy runnable part from Forcella Giau to Forcella Ambrizzola, where the trailed was “paved” with a soft layer of smooth dirt and plenty of grass that was going to give my feet a little break.

The ascent to Forcella Giau proved to be challenging, and I really had to labor through it: once again even an “easy” walk up the climb was the perfect occasion to throw my heart rate off the roof. The need to stop, rest and breath became frequent and very frustrating mentally. To aggravate the psychological status, the easy runnable section between Forcella Giau and Forcella Ambrizzola was another painful hiking exercise. Once I reached Croda da Lago I literally threw myself on top of one of the dining tables outside the Rifugio.

I laid there for a while to the point that I was getting cold, due to dark clouds gathering on the peaks and covering the sun. The intestine had not improved, yet, and I waited a little bit more to use the bathroom facilities of the rifugio. With the weather quickly changing I proceeded towards the trail head and began the last 10k of the course.

The first drops of rain and the roaring overwhelming thunders approaching gave me an incentive to get moving a bit faster. The trees with their leaves and branches were shielding us from the rain, but as soon as the storm picked up its intensity I quickly got drenched. The only way to remain warm was running.

Yes, I finally re-started running.

While other participants around me were getting their waterproof gears out, I did not bother. I was drenched and wanted to run, now that I finally gained some inertia.

The positive thing is that the rocky steep and slippery downhill that bothered me and Michelle so much the week before became almost easy. I was surprised on how my legs regained their springy movements and allowed me to “dance” around the trail and off trail as well. Never did I run so well in the last 8 hours. Probably I never ran so well on a downhill full of wet slippery rocks and muddy trails, ever.

I was not averaging great speed, but mostly because of the difficulty of the terrain. My energy was still not good, I was running on fumes of fumes. I knew that it was not going to be pretty, but the idea of finishing as early as possible pushed me through the last few miles.

As the trail became more runnable and turned into a gravel road and finally the asphalt streets of the town of Cortina, I picked up a few positions but it was irrelevant at that point.

I finished with a time of 19 hours, 3 minutes and a few seconds. A personal worst in terms of performances, but also a personal best if I look at how much time I spent out in the elements.
Longest run and longest time spent on my feet of my entire life. There is something positive about this experience. Despite the feeling of partial failure for not achieving the performance I aimed at – especially in the motherland – I was left with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
In this race I struggled, true, but even a bit stupidly in certain moments, I continued the fight to complete my experience.
There is a saying stating that there is no improvement without bad moments or failures, and that is partially true.

I’ve had a good year to date, and I have to put my head down and go back to work, harder and with the usual dedication. There are other six months in 2015 and many events filling up the calendar. Shorter distances, probably, but still training for the next mountain adventure.

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 – New pair
Hydration: Salomon Men S-Lab Hybrid Jacket MD Blk/Red and Amphipod Hydraform 20oz bottle
Watch/GPS: Garmin 910XT
Mandatory Gears:
Waterproof Jacket: Salomon S-LAB Hybrid Jacket
Waterproof Pants: Salomon S-LAB Hybrid WP Pants

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.

Gears:

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:

The RUT VK and 50k – a Montana Adventure

At the beginning of 2014 Michelle and I were looking around the west coast for a trail race that could satisfy our desire for adventure and the desire to visit a new part of the Country.
We long thought that it was time to step up the mileage in the ultra world, and maybe tackle 100 miles, but then ran into Mike Foote posts about the RUT.
Together with Bud we agreed that this race in Montana was the logical balanced compromise to combined vacation, racing (a 50k is not too long, not too short), relaxing time, and exploration. So we signed up in February knowing that this was not going to be a goal race for the year, but a special event that would have built memories for years to come.
As usual I wanted to overdo it and signed up for the Vertical Kilometer on Friday and the 50k on Saturday, while Michelle and Bud went for the 50k only.
Fast forward a few months and after my experience in Italy with the Dolomites Skyrace, I convinced Michelle to sign up for the VK as well.

Bud, unfortunately, opted out of the whole trip thing, leaving us alone against the challenging Lone Peak on top of Big Sky

During the week we spent in Montana we had the chance to explore the course for a few days. A funny episode happened on Sunday, when – after returning to the Lodge – we met Toru Miyahara, Japanese La Sportiva runner specializing in short distances, who saw us with his manager finishing our recon of the course. They approached us and asked if we were with the Salomon Team…ahahah…what a funny situation…we laughed for days thinking about this misunderstanding. After a few days in Big Sky we drove to Yellowstone and got to know something more about buffalos and hot springs.

Below are a few photos showing the course exploration and parts of Yellowstone:

Bone Crusher Beginning

The beginning of Bone Crusher does not seem so intimidating. Just wait

 

From the top of the first part of the climb a short flat section advises you of what is coming

From the top of the first part of the climb a short flat section advises you of what is coming

A view from Lone Peak looking down at the long dinosaur spine shape of the ridge

A view from Lone Peak looking down at the long dinosaur spine shape of the ridge

Complete view of the area below with Big Sky right at the far bottom

Enjoying the chilly breeze

Enjoying the breeze as well

Never imagined we could have shared a training run with some mountain goats

Never imagined we could have shared a training run with some mountain goats

Nasty descent. No...I do not like this

Nasty descent. No…I do not like this

Damn it, how can we run here?

Damn it, how can we run here?

Mt Washburn hike in Yellowstone

Mt Washburn hike in Yellowstone

Ice Lake along Norris Canyon Road

Ice Lake along Norris Canyon Road

Buffalos

Buffalos

Norris Geyser

Norris Geyser

Gibbon Geyser Basin

Gibbon Geyser Basin

Race weekend started on Friday with the Vertical Kilometer.
The course was set up with approx. 3,600ft of elevation gain over 3.1 miles; the first 2 miles, however, covered approximately 1,600ft of climbing bringing us from the base area to the top of the Swift Current lift, while the last mile covered the remaining 2,000ft on terrain that was everything but smooth, stable and friendly from the top of the lift to the top of Lone Peak.

This was a different type of race from the treacherous slopes of Alba di Canazei when the VK brought me up 1k in just a mile and a half.

The “gentle” initial climb was mostly runnable and I chose to hike some short parts only to make sure I was not leaving my legs killed for next day 50k. From the Bone Crusher up the real effort began and very few sections could be run. The hiking along the exposed ridge was much quicker than expected and I was surprised to find myself in a decent overall position (around 20th or so). After the first rocky section of Bone Crusher the “trail” spans a couple of hundred feet towards the base of Lone Peak where the mountain is so steep that runners were scrambling on their feet and hands to keep their balance and push themselves quicker up the ridge. When I ran the short flatter portion before the final push, I looked up to check who was ahead of me and almost at the top I saw the white shirt of “His Climbness” – the usual suspect – Kilian, followed close by someone else (Rickey Gates). Then the field was pretty spread out along the stone field.

In front of me I saw three or four runners that where within reach and I started making some ground, while one of them opened up a gap on us (I later found out that this guy was Jamil Coury – race director of the Flagstaff skyrace).

Three of us climbed relentlessly together, alternating positions and selecting different paths along the talus slope. With about 2 minutes to go and at the end of the little train we created, I figured I could have sprinted and overtaken the other two runners; I produced a good effort for about a minute, pulling myself up using the electrical cables that were laying on the ground. The other two kept up with me following me close by.
With 100 meters to go I figured I already had my little moment of glory and very little would have changed had I finished 15th, 18th or 20th. What I could have lost (getting too tired for next day race) was more than what I could have gained (17th vs. 19th place), so I preferred to avoid a final hard sprint and just tagged along finishing 5 and 2 seconds behind the other two guys in 19th place overall.

Ready to sprint

Ready to sprint

Not so willing to sprint anymore

Not so willing to sprint anymore

See the following link for a complete video of the finish line with us popping out around minute x:xx (Michelle at minute x:xx):
http://www.ultrasportslive.tv/the-rut-skyrunner-world-series-ultra-final-vertical-k-finish/

Once on top, I waited to see Michelle’s finish and it did not take too long before she summited Lone Peak. In the meantime, I tried to get something to drink (impossible task since the water that Ellie Greenwood was pouring was freezing almost instantaneously) and I talked to some of the finishers noticing the Salomon Team and supporters (Emelie, Tom Owens, Kilian, Rickey, etc.) getting into the gondola to go back to the base with female winner Stephanie Jimenez.

Climbing last section of the VK

Climbing last section of the VK

Closer and closer

Closer and closer

Final jump, now it is 150ft flat

Final jump, now it is 150ft flat

Left, make a left

Left, make a left

Jump for the camera

Jump for the camera

When Michelle finished we quickly headed to the Gondola and then hiked to the Swift Current lift to bring us back to the Lodge. Quite interesting was the trip down with a much more senior runner sharing the bench with us that was shivering and suffering from hypothermia coming down because poorly dressed.
In the evening after dinner we met Nadir Maguet, wondering around the buildings probably looking for food. I learned a lot about this young runner that has been doing very well in the skyrunning circuit, especially in the VK specialty.

By the way, funny clip of the start at 10:56 in the following video (I promise it was not as cold as the woman was claiming):
http://www.ultrasportslive.tv/the-rut-skyrunner-world-series-ultra-final-vertical-k-start/
My start is at 14:25 (see me at 14:29); Michelle start is at 19:30 or so (green jacket and pink..unfortunately…gloves)


At 28:35 you can see a train of 3 guys coming up, I am the last one; Michelle finish at 1:08:45!!

In the evening, after a relaxing session in the hot pool of the Hotel we got a great dinner and went to bed early

Next morning we woke up early to tackle the 50k with really cold temperatures at the start.
Sage and Kilian were going to compete to win the Skyrunning World Championship so there was no holding back form them; same story on the female side with Emelie, Anna Frost, Ellie Greenwood and Kasie Enman. A long list of local Montana runners was there contending the top spots trying to upset other renown runners like Manuel Merillas, Tom Owens and Fulvio Dapit coming from Europe. My strategy was to start conservative for the first 2 miles up, and then increase progressively the effort till the Tram Dock Aid Station at mile 18. After that I figured it would have been an all out effort up Lone Peak (for the second time in less than 24 hours) and a nice easier ride to the end.

The cold air was quickly forgotten while we were running up the South Access dirt road and the Soul Hole. Even if the speed was conservative a few drops of sweat came out on my forehead. When at the top of the climb I caught up with Anna Frost, I wondered if I was pushing too hard. Well, too much thinking does not help, and while descending I joined a little group of solid runners that was behind Emelie F. She took advantage of the downhill and opened up a solid gap on the rest of the women, while our group of 5-6 kept running at a relaxed but solid pace downhill till the Madison Village Base Area Aid Station.
Here we ditched the headlamps that were used for the first half hour of the race and we proceeded climbing back to Moonlight Basin Trail Loop and up the Elkhorn trail. Right after the aid station I picked up the pace and lead our group as the trail was getting steeper. In about a mile or so I had a glimpse of someone ahead of me and realized it was a woman.
Once I got closer I noticed it was Emelie F. I said hi, without wasting too much oxygen, and I was glad to see she recognized me from UROC the year before. While debating if I was pushing too hard too soon, I found myself alone and decided to focus on keeping a somewhat hard pace while ascending the first really steep loose scree field of the day.
I was able to alternate a few seconds of running here and there with a solid hiking pace and that allowed me to pass a few runners along the climb and getting closer to others that obviously went out too fast on the first 8-9 miles of the course.
The first 10k peak of the day was reached and now from the top of Deadgoat Ridge (at 10,200ft) I had to face an interesting 50ft section of real skyrunning technical course that the race course description calls as “short and steep technical area on the ridge with the assistance of course marshals and a couple hand lines”. I did not use any rope or anything else. I took my time making the first step into the unstable ground and then I just dove down into the mountain. It was so refreshing and a feeling of childish pleasure was brought up – similar to what I experienced for most of the downhill part of the Dolomites Skyrace.

After this short 50ft steep section a sharp right put me into the Headwaters ridge trail, another downhill gnarly section – as these photos can prove – tested many of us:

Headwaters ridge

Headwaters ridge

Not an easy path to follow

Not an easy path to follow

Attention, attention

Attention, attention

En route to Moonlight Basin Ski Resort

En route to Moonlight Basin Ski Resort

Having tried this part of the course Wednesday during the little snow storm that covered the peaks, I knew this part needed to be run fairly hard to be in a good position before the hardest section of the race, so I had no second thoughts when I passed a few runners that were moving slowly through the loose rocks of Headwaters ridge and the grassy slopes of the downhill paths.

The downhill brought us at about 8,300ft and the hardest climbs of the day now were next.
The first one was an out and back wide service road about 1 mile long and 800ft of D+. The surface was really easy and runnable, but fairly steep and hiking mode got activated for many of us. A quick glimpse back and I saw Emelie charging full steam the climb, while ahead of me I noticed Rickey Gates, Fulvio Dapit, Jeremy Wolf and others coming back down after the aid station.
I must admit I was pleasantly surprised to find myself in such a good spot and felt very privileged to witness with my own eyes these runners going by me so closely.
By the time we reached the aid station I caught up with a few more runners, while Emelie was on my heels. We shared together the short downhill section and the hill up to the base of the Bone Crusher and she even made some funny jokes to me, asking to pull her uphill. I replied firmly that maybe it was the other way around.

The climb up to Lone Peak was longer than expected this time and I felt I was not able to really run effectively as I expected. I was always very close to Emelie for the whole climb, but now from behind I had also Philipp Reiter getting closer and closer. By the time we got to the summit the two of them lead our small group with me following about 20-30 seconds behind.

You can see a little video of Emelie getting to the summit of Lone Peak with me right behind her:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nu2K5jB4-Kw

At the top they took sometime to refill their bodies of very much needed calories, while I only got water in my bottle and continued straight ahead determined to hold onto the European duo knowing that the thought of following them through the rest of the race would have pushed me in the harder moments later on.
The downhill started immediately and my legs were somewhat still recovering from the climb. Philipp and Emelie were moving really fast, especially Emelie who slowly but steadily ran away ahead of us.

Coming down from Lone Peak trying to keep up with Emelie and Philipp

Coming down from Lone Peak trying to keep up with Emelie and Philipp

Hard effort balancing downhill

Hard effort balancing downhill

I was so focused on Philipp that for the entire downhill that I did not have a chance to get energies in me. I had a bolt while going up Lone Peak, but that is not quite enough to fuel someone with proper energy. I almost did a disaster here, running and pushing myself without caring about fueling.
By mile 22 I realized I was empty and I was hoping to cover the next section till the finish quickly. A few minor hills from mile 22 and 25 caused me to lose ground from Philipp and Emelie, and another 2 or three runners picked me up and passed me.
I felt miserable and stupid for such a rookie mistake, but I also rationally justified it getting caught in the excitement of racing elbow by elbow with those legends. At this point I was getting closer to the last hill of the race and I knew I had to do something to come back to life. I tried pushing through but I needed energy if I wanted a chance to recover some positions. At mile 25 I stopped along the Moose Tracks trail and forced myself to take a 1 minute break to eat something. I lost sometime, true, and I was going to have a terrible next 30 minutes – especially mentally – along the last hard hill of the day.

About 5-6 runners caught me in this section and it was depressing to think I was losing positions after such a great first half. I made it to the Andesite Summit Aid Station at mile 27. It was particularly mentally challenging to climb the steep section up to Pacifier Cat track, pulling myself up the slopes covered with wet dirt and slippery mud using the ropes that were so kindly installed by the race organizers. I promised myself that I was going to recover till the aid station, and then push all I had from there to the finish and pass again those guys that passed me in the last 2 miles.
And so did I. The single track East ridge and Elk Park Ridge trail were pretty smooth, not technical and DOWNHILL. It allowed me to catch quickly two runners, and another one a few minutes later. In one of the switchbacks I noticed a runner with a blue shirt running well about a minute behind me.

Next switchback I looked again and realized it was Kasie Enman, at that point second woman. It did not matter if she was a female or a male; it was a runner and I did not want to give up the spot I fought so hard for all day.

While descending we picked up all the runners that previously passed me before Andesite AS; the gap with Kasie remained basically the same, and I was trying to capitalize as much as I could the downhill knowing that the between me and the finish line there was only a little “bump” that I read about in the course map. I did not check this section before the race, but it was not pretty to find out that the little bump was actually a nice hill just over half a mile long and with 400ft of climbing on it.
Kasie closed the gap here and I gave it all to come out ahead of her on top. When we began the flat portion at the top of the climb we were only a few feet apart and I had no idea how to continue at this point.

In my mind I did not want to lose the position, but it could appear such a stupid and childish move to sprint ahead of a female runner. Many people, in fact, really feel bad about themselves when they get “chicked”. I do not care about this. If someone is better than me, great. If not, I’ll try hard and stay ahead of him/her. Still, I had several thoughts about what people and spectators, may perceive when witnessing my behavior. Kasie increased the speed but for the next 4-500 yards did not really gain on me. She passed me, but only to take a lead of a few feet. 5, 6, maybe 10 feet ahead of me.

By the time we had a visual of the finish line a couple of spectators or photographers tried to signal me to stay out of the way and let her finish alone; I was not sure why they were doing that; maybe a better photo shot? A better video image?
I did not want to let her go away and I did not want to have her take my spot, so I tried to follow her, now much further behind. I closed a few seconds after Kasie, true, but the chip said I was ahead of her. That means I kept my spot, and it made me really happy for the day.

At this point I tried to relax, checked the finish line situation and headed back to the hotel to take a shower before grabbing some food and waiting for Michelle, who bravely completed probably the hardest 50k we have both ever done. This all came after competing in the vertical k just 24 hrs prior.

Crossing the finish line

Crossing the finish line

Finish line is crossed

Finish line is crossed

You can see the close finish between me and Kasie at xx:xx here:

Michelle at the finish line

Michelle at the finish line

Speedy finish

Speedy finish

Percy Sutton Harlem 5k

After running this race in 2012 and having a positive experience (with near death feelings after the finish line), I never thought to include this event in the calendar for 2013, since it was not part of the team races.

Michelle decided to run it to collect an extra point in the 9+1, just in case for next year and was almost undecided whether to run it or not till last-minute, given her persistent leg problems that never went away this summer; I decided to tag along and try to help Warren Street collect a decent overall place and maybe bring home some money for the team budget. In fact, NYRR had a small prize money for the first few teams.
It was not ideal racing conditions for me since I did not want to modify the weekly training schedule and ended up running very hard tempo repetitions the evening before the race.

Quite tired Michelle and I drove to Harlem early in the morning for packet pick up and immediately spotted Paul. We started running along the course to warm up and refresh our memories of those steep hills that we would tackle in the first mile. Paul was wise enough to review the garmin data from his previous years and told me that my perception of the course been all up for one mile and then basically all down from there on was wrong: the highest point was going to be just after the 2 mile marker. Not fully convinced of his data, I still trusted Paul and revised my plan for the race.

First, I was not fresh, so I needed to start conservative. Second, with hills coming till the second mile, the conservative approach made sense.

As we took off I probably had almost 100 runners in front of me. They were sprinting like maniacs trying to make it in first place at the bottom of the first hill. I did not quite understand the reason, since after the turn they all disappeared back.
I saw Aaron just ahead of me and knowing he was in great shape, I tried to catch up to him slowly on the first hill. I did and I locked myself behind a tall tall dude from Central Park. He was great: large shoulder, maybe 6′-5″ and a great device to break the wind in front of us. A couple of other runners lined up with me behind him and together reached the northern point of the course to make the 180 degree turn onto St Nicholas.

Here I could take a breath for a sec, since we went downhill slightly for a couple of blocks. I realized that I would have lost to all those guys next to me had we finished together in the final long stretch, so the only way to pull away was to wear them down slowly with a faster pace from that point.
I tried to get away, but Mr tall tall Dude kept following me and sprinting to catch up. Every time I glanced back he was responding to my “attacks”, so I stopped trying to open a gap and kept the pace more constant. I saw Aaron was following close, and I was happy to hang at that pace.
In this part of the race I also lost sight of Paul, a good sign that he was going to fight and be close to his sub 16 goal.

Around mile 2, I saw Sham that encouraged us and took some nice (even if I look like cr#p) shots. Now after a quarter of a mile downhill the race was all flat along the final long tricky straight stretch.
I say tricky because from far away you can see the start line. Problem is: the start line IS NOT the finish line. I knew that very well, because I did that mistake two years ago.

This time I kept myself in check and did not sprint after the last left turn, as other did. I let them go and caught up with them with just 100 meters to go: they were gassed out too early. I did not feel my sprint was anything fast, but it was effective. I passed just a few runners, and one two pulled away from me. Thankfully this time the chip system worked fine and those two runners that out-sprinted me, actually ended up behind since they started well ahead of me.

Of course Paul was just after the finish line, already grabbing some food, and he welcomed me and Aaron (just on my tail).
Paul told us he was feeling left out from the group since we all got a PR on the course that day, while he barely missed his sub 16 goal by mare seconds.

True, Aaron and I got PRs, (finally a decent one for me…still just a few decimals short of that 80% AG). However, how would I describe the magnificent race that Paul put together? 7th overall, once again beyond 90%, first master and more importantly the passion and the commitment that he put into training. That is the magic behind Paul: the dedication and the relationship he has with running. He simply inspires others to run more, better and harder.

But why would one run? why are we running? Why am I running?

That is the question that uncle Pascal asked me about a year ago during a long cold run in Central Park. That question never found an answer and I have focused more recently on finding an answer as well as learning why others do it.

One more thing: Paul beat me by half a minute in a race (yes, I am improving slightly) but I publish this more than a month after he published his report.
Total domination from his end.

Second thing: even Michelle had a good race, much better than expected given the initial conditions and our total lack of speedwork in the last 6 months.

Montana awaits for us, and we will be present and ready

2014 Team Champs

With little time to write about running these days, I must try to be concise to highlight a few thoughts about this race.

I’ve had the chance to talk to Paul and his brother Stephen then very next day and we were delighted to have experienced the Team Champs once more.
It is a race in a sort of puritan running spirit: it is a race for runners, for people that have the passion for running, and share a great deal of their time training with teammates.
It is not intended to be a fashion show with the latest and greatest gears such as watches, hydration belts, and compression bands, it is not a place to show off bright colorful and weird costumes, or where faces are smiling and displaying pleasure (at least not until a very few moments after the finish line).

Fancy Tshirts are replaced almost completely with team singlets, compressions shorts and tight shorts are generally MIA, while the short shorts are generally ruling the scene. Also, all the fancy shoes with support inserts, pronation aids, extra cushion foam layers, or five fingers shape are not going to be part of the event, because the vast majority of the runners will show up with their racing flats, or their regular trainers.

This is a form of running that probably connects more with the original spirit of the sport that boomed a few decades ago. Regardless of speed, this is a no frills event for runners that are giving their best effort and contribute to make their team shine. Hence, there is going to be a lot of sweat involved.

The level of competition is extremely high and the best of the best in NYC comes out to this event.

This year Warren Street suffered the “loss” of a great mate, Charlie, who moved from NYC just a few weeks prior to the race. Charlie certainly contributed very well in previous editions of the race, and could have brought us in a better spot had he been here. Charlie, you are and will be missed, not just for the results, but for the company and the spirit you brought during our long runs and the workouts. Also a strong runner like Emilio was not listed with us, because he finally joined his newly founded team. Rob unfortunately could not be at his best, Pascal was still trying to figure out what bit him on the plane going to France and attempting to climb Mt Blanc, and Fabio was still trying to get some workouts while working a crazy schedule.

A couple of good notes were 1) that Paul was back from a situation that a year before was totally different, and also 2) Sam was going to run and he was in great shape.

The race was short and quick; rain welcomed us when we were warming up and during the woman race that this year was scheduled before the men’s event. The few drops that came down were enough to soak us and keep an incredibly high level of humidity for the race.

I warmed up with Sebastian and Pascal, and even Paul was doing some strides along East Drive north of Engineer’s Gate; this way warming up meant also checking out the final phases of the women race and cheering for the WS team lead by Michelle this year.
We lined up near the start and knowing how aggressive the start of the race is, I decided to stay back quite a few rows and rather deal with people in front of me than going out too fast.
This seems to be a constant in my races: I am always afraid of going out too fast. Maybe one day I should really try to run with no mental barriers and see what happens.

Paul and I hanging out before the start. The smiles are just to cover up the tension

Paul and I hanging out before the start. The smiles are just to cover up the tension

I saw Paul, Seb, Aaron, Ryan Rob and Sam taking off quickly and I kept my effort fairly moderate for the first mile. Regardless of the weather conditions, I felt that mile one was fairly easy and it got me over a couple of the west side rolling hills. clock said 5:28, and I still had a few team mates around.
Mile 2 split was 10:50 and the gap between me and other runners in front kept shrinking. While crossing the Marathon finish I sneaked behind Aaron and Ryan was just around the same zone. I followed them on West drive till south end of the park, and here I had my doubts about passing Aaron: he was running strong and fast.
With the risk of burning myself out a bit too soon I increased a little the effort right at the bottom of the park and thought I could have maintained that to the finish. For the first mile or so it worked and then I had to deal with Cathill.

It is funny how a little bump on the road that generally I would not even consider worth mentioning in longer races, here it gets a lot of attention. Cathill is Cathill; it is not a difficult hill, it is not a climb, it is just a bump. The question is: “how fast can you run this 1/4 mile?”
The faster the better usually, therefore it always becomes a difficult spot for races in Central Park. I remember having my share of fatigue making my way to the top, but once over it, the legs were still moving with a good turnaround.

I picked up a few spots in the last 2.5 miles of the race and got closer to a small group of 5 just after the flat straight of EG. I did not save energy for the final sprint like the year before, when I did get a bit faster at the end; rather I kept an increasing sustained effort for the last half mile.

I was able to close the gap with the little group I was chasing, passed one runner and worked hard to overtake another NBR ahead of me.

Sham caught me on the final left turn trailing behind him just moments before completing the task:

IMG_0405

IMG_0404

I am not sure what happens with NYRR results lately, but I started behind this guy (I clearly saw him at the start, I know the guy cause he often wears a Ninja-Naruto headband in races and he was at least two seconds ahead of me under the start line), finished just in front of him, and ended up with a slower time. I cannot make this work in my head.
Also the time shown in the official results doesn’t make sense with my watch time, and I have heard of several other runners getting a “gun” time rather than the chip time. Mistery!!

Regardless, happy with my performance and my final time (about 1 minute and 10 secs better than the previous Champs), and about 30 secs behind teamate Sebastien (still tired from Mt Blanc).

Warren Street had a pretty good run, we finished 4th overall, with great runs by Paul (26:16 at 48), Sam, Rob, Aaron (just behind me) and Ryan.
Too bad Emilio did not run for us bacuse with his time we could have got third with a very big chance to take third overall for the entire year.

Instead now we are pretty much set in 4th place and it will be very difficult to change that given the fast races we are approaching (Autism Speak 4M and 5th Ave Mile) where Central Park has an edge on us given their track background.

Warren Street after the effort

Warren Street after the effort

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:

http://vimeo.com/99198369

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