Escarpment Trail Run 2013 – 1st place

July 28th, Windham, NY.  224 runners at the start.

18.6 miles

http://escarpmenttrail.com/

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Here is a great video from the race: 

 

Had a great day on one of my favorite trails in Catskills mountains.

This is one of the toughest running courses in US. This epic race is being held every summer since 1977.

Result – 2h 51m (in the rain), 6 minutes short of the course record. Solid win and big improvement on my previous best of 3h 11m (3rd place, 2011).

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Here is the course description:

THE ESCARPMENT TRAIL RUN IS FOR MOUNTAIN GOATS ONLY!!! The Escarpment Trail is a very remote, rugged hiking trail in the Northern Catskill Mountains in New York State. This single track trail crosses no roads, has total elevation changes of nearly 10,000 feet, and requires all aid to be backpacked in by volunteers. This is not for your average runner but for the runner who trains 12 months a year, and has spent years building a base and gaining long distance experience. Therefore, qualifying standards are required to insure that all participants have experience with endurance events and have a reasonable chance of completing the course within 6 hours.

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THE TRAIL… is viewed by many as an exaggeration of the term. It is extremely rocky and a runner must expect to navigate over boulders, downed trees, gullies and hidden roots the entire distance. Contestants must be prepared to deal with any of the forest’s natural barriers, such as bees, slippery rocks, porcupines, black bears (not probable, but possible) and anything else that can be found in the forests of the Catskills. There are numerous places where runners must climb hand over fist to scale a rise, conversely, extremely steep downhill sections add not only challenge to the course, but also a high degree of unwelcome danger. There are sections of the course that travel along cliffs. If you’re not careful, you could fall to your death. Very few runners go the distance without taking at least one painful spill. Most runners take many. Believe me, you’re going to take a flop or two, or more. Bees!!! In 1987, we ran into lots of them. If you are allergic to bee stings, you MUST run with your own medication.

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THIS IS NOT A CARRIAGE TRAIL… it is a treacherous hiking trail. There won’t be a vehicle to fetch you if you if you should decide to quit and it is your responsibility to get to the finish line.This is not a Run-For-All and we are not trying to hype it or make it something it is not. There won’t be people telling you where the trail goes, doctors to wipe your blisters, or a bus to give you a ride to the finish if you decide you can’t continue. This is a wonderful run across wonderful country, a run in which we will share the experience and the friendship with those qualified runners who choose to participate. No awards, no age group categories. Just runners, mountains, and some refreshments at the finish line.

996550_703296679686272_1388012436_nBen Nephew, course record holder and 11 times winner of this race.

Not much to share really. I felt good but still wasn’t sure that I should do this race (due to higher risk of injury in the rain on highly technical trail). My season is far from being over.

Traditionally I race trails in road shoes (yes, even very technical trails, and yes, even in the rain) and this time I also decided to race without socks. It was a good decision in terms of reducing water weight on my feet, but at the same time I knew that by doing this I risk getting  very painful blisters on my feet. And indeed I got some of those. They didn’t slow me down much during the race, but next few days I was in pain while running… I do not recommend doing this unless you’re trying to defeat a National Team mountain ultra-runner and 11-times winner of the race…

As we started the race, Ben traditionally assumed the lead, with Jamie Julia (1:09 half-marathoner) and myself in tow. It took me a while to warm up and I was struggling to keep up with Ben as we climbed the first mountain. About 3-4 miles in, on the top of the mountain, I jumped from 3rd to 1st and broke away.

Rain turned rocky and mossy trail into a very slippery surface, and downhills were particularly dangerous, not letting me to run with my maximum racing speed. So, I was running conservatively with a goal to stay safe and keep my pace relatively constant (see, I’m finally growing up). This strategy worked and I never experienced any major issues, gradually building my lead to 7 minutes, and finishing in 2h 51m (course record is 2h 45m). No accidents except one “rolling” fall at low speed, and hitting a branch with my head less than a mile before finish. Nothing serious.

Very happy that despite wet and cold conditions I still decided to race. Huge respect to all 223 runners who shared with me this magical experience of enjoying Escarpment Trail under the rain. We  once again saw a pure beauty of nature.

This season is going great so far, my next stop – Leadville 100, stay tuned.

Great photos and video – by Mountain Peak Fitness. Thank you!

3 comments

  1. Congrats on an awesome performance!

  2. How was Leadville 100?

    1. Leadville 100 was an interesting experiment. Was hanging in top 5 until mile 30 or so, but lots of pavement and high altitude (without any acclimatization) beat the life out of my east-coast legs. Called it a day after 50 miles in 9:27. Lessons learned

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