the escarpment trail run has been on top of my list of "unfinished business" since the 2006 edition - when i ran the course with relatively zero trail experience (and easily made every trail running mistake i can catalog - including not having wore trail shoes). with the passage of time and, presumably, the experience gained from many trail miles logged since that summer of 2006, i'd have a fair shot at finishing faster the second time around. remarkably, with (or, despite) all those hard lessons learned - i managed to finish 23 minutes slower on the return visit.
now, once again, escarpment will occupy that infamous spot on top of my "unfinished business" list (which it only shares with the umstead 100 mile endurance run... but that's another story). it means that i'll be back for a 3rd run (and, unintentionally, inch my way toward that 100 mile shirt - earned after 6 finishes - yikes!). there are a few mitigating factors to consider. the one that stands out as the season's biggest questionable call was running the norwalk summers series 9 miler the day before.
okay, enough moans, groans, and whines. instead of heading up the day before, emmy and i drove to windham race morning. she picked me up at 6:30 and we had an easy trip. we arrived at the trail head just before the buses did! on the downside, driving to the start meant we'd need a ride back to the car after the race. pre-race crowd was filled with so many familiar faces - and i ran into john and doug right off in the parking lot.
john tore thru the course and notched a sub 4 hour finish (after pacing 30 miles in vermont the previous week). doug worked the finish line (after having knocked off the 100k in vermont). doug had some stone arrogant bastards in his trunk, but there were none left by the time i rolled into the campground. luckily, ian and jim spotted me a "vacationland" to rehydrate with at the finish. what a great moniker for a post-race beverage - but i get ahead of myself (ignore that ridiculous pun).
before dick vincent finished the attendance and started the race, i managed to say hi to kim, todd, ken, and barbara. it had rained straight through the night making trail conditions wet and extremely muddy. it was almost silly to avoid the puddles as we crossed the foot bridge and began our assent of windham! it took 1:07 to reach the peak (a 3.3 mile climb). that conservative start (almost 20 minutes slower than 2006) set the tone for my day.
i carried a full fluid belt, with four small water bottles, and a fanny pack with my camera and some expresso gu. despite the wet, muddy conditions - humidity was the byword of the day. i was constantly drinking - and sweating it back out again. thankfully, at most aid stations the volunteers let us refill our bottles. coming down into the second aid station, i was pleasantly surprised to see it manned by members of the wolfpit running club!
after the climb up windham, the next two peaks (burnt knob and acra) seemed eminently reasonable - especially with blackhead looming in the horizon. i happily forged my way through the muddy slop at what i thought was a conservative pace. i reached the base of blackhead in relatively good condition. but half-way up the 1,200 foot assent, which quickly became hand over hand rock climbing, i suddenly found myself exhausted and started to wonder how i'd deal with the last two peaks if i felt this way now!
at the top of blackhead, i had half a pb & j sandwich and immediately set off, thinking - somewhat insanely in retrospect - that i could recover the descent! i had conveniently forgotten, or blocked out, that the descent to dutchers notch was the most intimidating part of the course. to worsen matters, my calves started to cramp up! a couple of nasty butt slides later, a fluid bottle of gatorade, and expresso gu, i was temporarily back in business. when i reached the base of stoppel, the first thing i begged for was an s cap!
s cap ingested, and a couple of peanut butter crackers for good measure, i set off on the 1,200 foot climb to stoppel point. as a result of the extra fluid, food, and the s cap, this climb seemed much more manageable that blackhead did. i reached the peak in fine spirits, and stopped to take a picture of the plane wreckage. i also somehow left one of my fluid bottles at the aid station (finishing with one fewer than i started with). but at that point i didn't care - only 4 miles to go.
again, i conveniently forgot 2006 - and the last 2.5 miles of boulder hopping! but i had gotten a second wind by this point. i was running (jogging) as much as possible. i really paid the price here for the 9 miler because i had no leg pick-up whatsoever. even so, i was more than pleased with my forward progress. it began to rain just before the final aid station, so the boulder hopping stretch got a bit iffy in the rain. luckily, the only injury of note was a scrapped up pinky finger when i jammed it against a rock.
i hooked up with a middle school teacher from rockland during the last mile or so - and we, in turn hooked up with a husband wife team in the last mile. the four of us pretty much crossed the finish line one after another. i said hi to doug, who was calling out finish times (5:40:20 for me), and was met by ian and todd as i headed into the campground. while i was done, there would be a bit more excitement around the corner as we waited for emmy.
emmy told me before the race that she planned power hike much of the course and take some pictures along the way. when 6+ hours came and went, i asked doug if i had somehow missed her finish? no she hadn't. another 15 minutes passed and, then, we told by a course official that she had missed a time cut-off at mile 12.9! that, in turn, began a separate adventure for emmy - just exiting the course involved a 3 mile hike (on which she was accompanied by the aid station volunteers).
if that wasn't enough for one day (but not race-related), on drive home we encountered delays on the taconic state parkway - and eventually learned that both the north and south bound lanes had been shut down. tragically, eight people had died (4 of them children) in a head on collision when one driver mistakenly drove against traffic on the northbound side)! not something that will easily be forgotten!
check out the 2009 escarpment photos.