Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Escarpment Trail Run 30K

Just a quick post - no photos unless I come across any later.  Last weekend we drove down to the Catskills to run along the Escarpment Trail in the annual 30K race.  I had done it once before, 2 years ago when I decided that it was a fun race and that John would likely really enjoy it.  We were both skeptical when it was pouring rain during the bus ride to the start, but it turned out we both really enjoyed the day.

John nabbed a prime spot under the U-Haul van to stay mostly dry during the pre-race briefing, then we were off with the crowds funneling onto the singletrack trail.  John started near the front and I was content to find my place mid-pack for the long climb up to Windham High Peak.  The rain mostly stopped and it turned into simply a lovely day for running - cool and wet, occasional drops of water from either rain or wind blowing rain down from leaves.

The main challenge was the slickness of some of the rocks.  The dirt actually held up pretty well, more tacky than slippery for the most part, and the occasional mud puddle was nothing compared to what I've seen so far this summer.  I determined I would focus on the climbs and take it easy on the downhills.  Normally I pass a lot of people on the technical downhills but today I was content to follow and pick my way down.

John had a blast on the descents, I was happy to hear later.

It was the greenest tunnel of a trail I have ever seen in that area.  For having been there multiple times in various seasons, I still lost track of where I was.  Just green trees and vegetation, rocks and roots at my feet, a few shorts climbs and descents, and absolutely no view through the fog.  We really have had a lot of rain this summer.

I was happy because running felt good.  The woods smelled good (I don't often have a sense of smell).  Some really pretty birds were singing away.  Sometimes the wind would blow a little.  I wasn't stuck behind long trains of runners when there was runnable trail, so I could just lope along and enjoy the day.

I saved some climbing energy for the big haul up to Black Head Peak.  Yep, still a doozy!  It was steep but my legs and lungs handled it well.  Not far from the top there was a guy ringing a cowbell and cheering people on.  Slightly distracted, I moved over to the right side of the trail and stepped up to bang the top of my head into an overhanging rock.  Dang it, I'm supposed to be more careful than that.  Oh well, I guess I have a hard head because it hurt only for a moment.

Yay, there's the top!  The drop off the nose of the peak has several steep rocky sections.  I'm slowly learning the best way down each of them, mostly with help from my hands.  I expected a whole herd of runners to come flying past me here but only a couple did.  The switchbacks down to Dutcher Notch were fun and I started singing "Mambo Number 5" in my head to get my feet dancing.

Oh yeah, I can dance down these things!  It has been too long since I remembered how to do that.  Short steps, quick strides, pick up my feet.  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, everybody in the car so come on let's ride...  joyful stepping through rock gardens and having a blast.

One last big climb to focus on - the 3-step process for getting up to Stoppel Point.  My quick cadence was helping on the uphill too, and I started passing other runners a bit here and there.  The flat sections in between each ascent were fun and I loved having legs that wanted to keep going.  Then there was the airplane wreckage, almost to the top.  Just about there my muscles started getting a bit tired, nice timing.

The aid station on top was rocking with streamers and music and happy volunteers.  Funny!

I knew it was a lot of rocks and work to get to North Point, but at least the last several miles were generally downhill.  They also take longer than you might think, but I was having such a great time that I didn't mind.  Then there was the open field and rocks slabs, making progress.

I stepped on one rounded rock that was more slippery than expected and ended up sliding off that step-down.  I put my hands down to stop myself, and mostly landed on my new Camelbak bottle.  It absorbed the brunt of the fall and as I was appreciating that I was also listening to a jet of water "SQUIRT" out in front of me.  I paused to make sure nothing was hurting, just a tiny scrape on the other hand.  All the little post-race pokies are above my waist, that's new.

I didn't intend to stop at the final aid station at North Point but I told them my story about falling on my water bottle and how I could use more water as a result.  Oh yes, I'm fine, just a little short on water!  Normally there would be a great view from here but all we got on Sunday was more fog.

A couple more miles, familiar trail and rocks, more fun down-climbs, "Bad Man's Cave", a couple more viewpoints without views.  Still able to run the occasional flat stretch but the really technical stuff slowed me down.  However, only a couple guys caught and passed me through here so I guess I wasn't doing too badly.  I was just happy my legs weren't cramping like in 2011 - that had made some of these clambers way more difficult than they needed to be.  Much better this time.

And I still broke the 5-hour mark, so yay for that!  I came through the finish line all smiles declaring, "that was FUN!" and John grinned at me and agreed.

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