until the weather report on saturday forecast thunderstorms, i had looked forward to the trip to the catskills for my 4th go at the escarpment trail run. dealing with rain and mud wasn't too bad, but the thought of dodging lightning on the mountain tops was enough to cool my enthusiasm. luckily, while it did rain on the drive to bedford to meet emmy - and it picked up in intensity as we approached windham - there was no thunder and lightning! wet, slick rocks would be the hazard of the day.
i had hoped to finally run a sub-5 hour race. but given the weather, i reset my sights on a more realistic sub-5:30 finish (w/out injury). in 2011 i ran a 5:23 - and in 2006 i finished in 5:20 - but i didn't expect to beat those times. i would be more than happy with a solid finish - which would bring me one more run closer to the 6 needed for the 100 mile shirt :D
i had purchased a new pair of brooks cascadia 7's the prior weekend - a big change from the new balance trail shoes i normally wear. i would soon come to miss those new balance. whatever the reason - and maybe it was just the lousy weather - the cascadia's didn't give me any meaningful traction. i slipped on way too many slick rocks to walk away with a favorable impression.
because of the rain, i had been wearing my windbreaker. i made a huge mistake not taking it off before the start. even though i knew better, part of me wanted it in case the weather turned ugly and i got stuck out on the trail. after windham high peak, i had it tied around my waist for the rest of the run. still, while it was dead weight - there were a couple of instances when it got chilly enough that i thought about putting it back on!
i reached windham high peak in 54 minutes - same as 2011. but the run down off windham reminded me that the danger at escarpment lurked in the downhills. giving back all the elevation gain on that first compressed vertical drop really spooked me - because that's when i noticed the cascadia's weren't providing the needed traction. even so, i still managed to keep pace with my 2011 splits - and reached the base of blackhead in 2:12, just 3 minutes off 2011. the 31 minutes it took to reach the peak of blackhead was another 3 minutes off my 2011 split.
given the wet conditions and my less than ideal running shoes, at 2:44 i was barely 6 minutes behind my 2011 time - that was great news! it was all the more so because my least favorite stretch of the trail, the descent down to dutcher's notch was up next. i took an s cap at the blackhead aid station to forestall any calf cramping. as for food, all i took at the aid stations were a few handful of chips and/or pretzels - mostly for the salt. i also ate two gels during the second half (just before dutcher's notch and again just before stoppel point).
for the next two stretches, i pretty much kept pace with my 2011 times. it took 45 minutes to reach dutcher's notch and another 44 minutes to climb up to stoppel point. remarkably, at 14.4 miles, i was only 5 minutes off my 2011 pace. but pride always gets in the way. with 4 miles left to go i was confident i could make up that 5 minutes! maybe in a road race - but within minutes of my newfound determination, i took my first fall of the day - and bruised my left shoulder when it banged into a rock.
once i reached north point i should have taken heed of the omen that befell me. i slipped on the boulder and landed on my butt - while i stood there waiting for a volunteer to top off my water bottle! who would have though i'd be at risk standing at the aid station! amazingly, the volunteer told me that half a dozen runners took that same spill! with only 2 miles left to go, and 4:44 on my watch - i was still determined to push the pace to the finish.
even with that slip at the aid station, my mind refused to remember how technical that last 2 mile stretch is (and not just the bolder hopping). it took me a solid 44 minutes to finish that last stretch - and i had my second (and most painful) fall. again i slipped on a rock and landed on my right kneecap - argh. then, when i saw the clearing to finish line, i quickly forget the scrapes and bruises! in one last twist, it turned out that i had pinned by bib scoring tag - which joe, mercifully, took the time to unpin for me at the finish line!
all in all, i squeaked in just under 5:30 (5:28:11) - 5 minutes slower than 2011. and, it's good enough to qualify for the 2014 edition :D
here are my 2013 race photos.
here is my 2011 race report.