Manitou’s Revenge is the best race in the world for me. Tough terrain, tons of climbing (+/- 16,000 ft) and a long enough distance (54 miles) to be able to go slow and steady. In other words, very little running. After last years time of 13:14, I was excited to see what I could do with very dry trails and the forecast low humidity.
I had a little trouble getting to sleep on Friday night after I helped Charlie with packet pick-up and having a nice broccoli and pineapple pizza dinner at Brio’s. First it was the bright moon, then it was the dude in the campsite next to me wailing Tom Petty songs on his guitar at 11:15 pm. After managing a couple of hours of shuteye, I woke up at 3 am to catch the bus. The ride up to Batavia Kill Rec Center where the race starts was uneventful and when we arrived I got a good spot in the bathroom line to ready my body for the day. Things were looking good.
My wave (#2) started around 5:09 am. I always take the first three miles of flat road nice and easy, last year someone from the wave 5 minutes behind me actually passed me on the road. Fortunately, experience has taught me to do my own thing no matter what. Running 9 min miles put me on the trail in about 27 minutes where I shuffled and hiked uphill to the escarpment trail. I spent some time in the first few miles warming up running with Guillermo Ayala, Marc Gravatt, Chris Gallo, and Henry Pratt as we climbed up and over Blackhead Mt. I wanted to be conservative early on but also beat last years time so I tried to whittle away at my splits from 2015. When I hit aid station 2 manned by Karl Loops, Nick Kirk, and Manny Hernandez, I was right on schedule. I kept cruising as I ran a few miles to North/South Lake with Sheryl Wheller and Tom DeHaan.
Leaving Aid #3, I hooked in with Hyun Chang Chung and Michael Chu and we cruised down to Palenville together. I had a minute or so on my previous attempt and was feeling good, that is until I started to climb up Kaaterskill. I was overcome by severe stomach cramps. I made a pit stop in the woods which gave little relief. I was feeling overheated and the cramps prevented me from eating, drinking enough, and getting full breaths. The climb was much more of a slog than normal. Laying in one of the streams up top helped a bit but it was short lived, I had lost Michael and Hyun and did not see then again. A slow shuffle down to Platte Clove put me around 13 min behind pace and I knew any chance of a fast day was gone.
It was now all about taking it easy to feel better and try to finish strong, The only obstacles in my way were the Devil’s Path and 24 miles, no problem. I have summitted each of the DP peaks over 20 times so I know them well, inside and out, and having a strong traverse of them is always difficult. During last years race I hit my stride and had a really fast split to Mink Hollow, but due to the fact that I could hardly run any of it, I lost another 26 minutes in just 7.5 miles. It was taking rest breaks at overlooks and even siting down on large rocks for quick breathers, this was not going well. The climb up Plateau is always a beast, and at mile 39 it is pure torture. Eventually I made it and shuffled down the very runnable trail section to the Silver Hollow aid station. I was really tired because I still wasn’t eating enough so I sat on a rock and tried to let things settle down.
After 5 minutes or so in the aid station I managed to eat a couple things and decided to move. I hadn’t seen any runners besides Steve Hawkins, who was going through his own stomach situation, in a couple of hours. As I was leaving the aid, Sheryl Wheeler came in looking as strong as ever. Sheryl is one of seven people that have run all four Manitou’s and she has the fastest average time of that group. Finishing near her means you are having a solid day so I was determined to do make it as hard as possible for her to catch me. I hiked fast and steady up the 650 ft. ascent to Edgewood Mountain.
As I began the descent into Warner Creek my stomach finally started to feel better. I got really hungry and started eating all of my food that I had been carrying for most of the day. I love to eat kids apple sauce (and other fruits) packets on these long runs. They taste great, are easy to digest, and are natural sugars as opposed to whatever gels are made of. I ate three of them climbing up to the Willow aid station after laying down in the creek for a minute. My stomach was good, my legs came back to life and I was able to run well on sections, even uphill. I came into the aid to see Steve looking pretty terrible. He hadn’t eaten since mile 20 and was doing everything just to keep going. I chatted with my friends Joe Brown, Stewart Dutfield, and John Holt who were manning the station, grabs some food and filled my water bottles. As I was leaving my friend Mendy Gallo who was running the relay came in. I told her I’d talk to her when she caught me and took off. I reached the Mt. Tremper fire tower quicker than expected and let out a jubilant howl. From here it is 4.5 miles to the finish with no more climbing. As I was packing away my trekking poles for the descent Mendy caught me.
We began to fly downhill together, both ready to end a very long day. Mendy had “only” run the last 24 miles but was up as early as anyone, shuttling her husband Chris and friend Andrew Zalewski, who were her relay partners, around the course all day. We told each other the days events, complained about the trail underfoot, and before we knew it were on the road with only 1.3 miles to go. I really dislike running on road and each time I’ve done Manitou’s, the road at the end was torture. Last year I was even passed by Jonathan Cornibe 1/2 mile from the finish. Having Mendy to run in with made me forget about the pavement and it flew by.
My time of 14:13 was just under an hour slower than last year but still good enough for 10th male, 11th overall. I’ll take it considering the 25 miles of cramping.
Thanks to all of the runners I shared to trail with on this wonderful day. Much respect to all finishers, especially Steve Hawkins and Mike Dixon who both gutted out solid times after being of the verge of dropping. A huge thank you goes out to the volunteers at the start and finish, the aid stations, the sweeps, and anyone that hauled many gallons of water uphill in the prior few days. You are too numerous to list by without each of you, this race cannot happen. Thanks to Mountain Peak Fitness/Red Newt Racing for the support of myself and this race.
Of course the biggest thanks goes to RD Charlie Gadol for having the vision to develop this insane race out of nothing and create one of the most amazing and toughest 50 milers in the country. I’m unbelievably fortunate to have completed it 3 times.
Photos by Lars Blackmore, Katharine Varn Hawkins, and Eric Dalimarta