Manitou's Revenge 56M - Phoenicia, New York 5,5

Elevation Gain: 17,000+' - High Point: 3940' - Low Point: 600' - RESULTS

Scrolling Photos of the Path and the People

June 22, 2013 - When first introduced to a new ultra named Manitou's Revenge
I was intrigued at first, then perhaps intimidated a bit once I learned what it
entailed. It was a rock runner's dream with a degree of difficulty I had never
approached before. After sampling the most challenging part of the course on
the Devil's Path the previous month I enlisted myself to pace my friend Amy Hanlon
through the second half during the night and put off my own entry until next year.
But after assessing my training condition and finally concluding I didn't want to
miss this incredible challenge, I jumped in with both feet and decided to go the
whole distance with Amy and learn just how tough it would be.

The escarpment of the Catskill Mountains of eastern New York is also referred to
as the Wall of Manitou. The escarpment is a range of mountains that rise
abruptly above the Hudson River to heights of nearly 4000 feet, with lower
plateaus to the south and west. Manitou was the Native American Algonquin
nation's term for spirit beings that inhabit all things, even the plants and stones.
Race creator Charlie Gadol's use of the word Revenge to name this event
manifested diabolical prospects in my imagination. An ultra designed with such
intrigue just had to have conditions that would be out of the box and off the
boards, in other words, tougher than one could imagine. I had to be there.

After a long, hot drive to pick up my race packet in the town of Phoenicia, I had
a short, fitful repose in my car in the pharmacy parking lot before arising at 0230
to be ready to catch the bus at 0330 for the one-hour ride to the start. After an
hour and a half of sleep Amy seemed perkier than me, so I didn't have the nerve to
whine about being tired. On the way to the start, we tied down our strategies
and shared our anxieties about what lay ahead.

The morning air was crisp, in the high 50's, and heavy with humidity as about
sixty of us milled around at the start in the ambient morning light of early morning.
Amy was busy counting the number of other women, making sure she wasn't
the only woman in the field. Finding six other girls settled that concern. We took
up at the outset with a woman from Calgary named Fanny Barrette. As it would turn
out we would spend much of the day together and were still together at the finish.

The first three miles of the event were a gradual clmb up Big Hollow Road to where
we would first enter the woods on single track. I was sluggish from the get go,
finding it took considerable effort to maintain pace, and conversation, with those
I took up with. As Amy gradually moved away I had initial concerns about holding
her back on a day that I was supposed to be running in support of her. The
weight of my back and waist packs seemed cumbersome, but the real reason
was as much inadequate recovery from the previous week's 40-mile race in West
Virginia as it was lack of sleep. My concerns about being able to do back-to-back
ultras were rising up to haunt me. But you do what you have to do, so I just stepped
it up a notch to catch Amy as we hit the start of the Black Dome Trail to follow red
blazes up a mile before intersecting with the blue-blazed Escarpment Trail / Long
Path, which we would follow most of the day. By four miles into the effort we
summited our first thousand-foot climb over Acra Point. The sun was well up
over the Hudson to the east so we stopped for a photo-op at the overlook.

Steve and Amy along with Fanny and Peter flanking a Canadian who later dropped

Spirits and enthusiasm were running high. While soaked already from the effort
and high humidity, we were having a great time. On this and the subsequent
climb up another thousand feet to the top of Blackhead Mountain, Amy, Fanny, and
I took up with Peter Preston, an Aussie ex-pat who I had previously met in the
Cascade Mountains in Washington in 2008. I had also been attempting to catch
Pete while running on the Devil's Path in May, but could never close the half-mile
interval between us. What a pleasure catching up with an old acquaintance of the
same age, living the same lifestyle and cut from the same mold as me. We also
took up with two guys from Toronto early on, one of whom - Steve Beach -
would spend most of the night with us before the finish. I was also able to run a
bit with David Hollenbaugh whom I had previously met on the DP before he moved
ahead of the rest of us. Very social start to a great day.

Once I hit the climbs things leveled out for me. If there is one thing I can still do it
is climb. As temps quickly moved above eighty degrees by mid morning we moved
up over the highest point of the course after passing the wreckage of a small
air craft - not something you witness on every course.

After a rocky and often steep down climb of nearly 1500 feet we reached the
second aid station at Dutcher's Notch. Everyone was good, with no bad falls and
no injuries. After refueling we climbed another thousand feet up over Stopple
Point before another gradual 1500 feet of descent to the aid station at North-
South Lake. Here, Amy and I shared a very robust cold India Pale Ale and dined
on chilled watermelon slices. I couldn't imagine how life could get any better.
After weaving through many hikers and families out for a weekend jaunt in the
mountains, we climbed away from the lake with Fanny and Pete before separating
on the four-mile descent to Palenville, watching closely for several directional
changes. Pete blazed ahead, followed by Amy in chase, while Fanny and I
brought up the rear. After Fanny turned an ankle and slowed to walk, she and I
became separated. After waiting for her a bit, I was concerned she may have
done egregious damage to her ankle and had to stop, so I took off after Amy and
Pete on an extremely rocky descent as fast as my get-away sticks would carry me.

By this time, after most of twenty miles of rock running, I was humming on all
cylinders and doing what I do best. Amy was trying to get a head start on the
next climb so that no one would have to wait on her. Finally catching up to both
Amy and Pete at the bottom we refueled heavily for the next ten-mile section
that would take us up a two-thousand-foot climb, followed immediately with
another thousand-foot climb - in the heat of the day. After meeting Pete's
delightful girlfriend Deidre, we moved forward wondering all the while about Fanny.
The cameraderie you develop in these things often quickly becomes

We ground up over the two climbs and came down the other side of the
Kaaterskill High Peak to finally roll into the Platte Clove aid station at mile 31.5
in a time of 9 hours and 20 minutes - slowest 50K of my career - a testament to
the severity of the challenge of the terrain. Throughout the first half of the
event we several times attempted to gauge how far we would be able to go
before darkness required the use of headlamps. Our aim was to get beyond the
rocky climbs of the Devil's Path and be on our descent of Plateau Mountain.
Despite best early estimates and best efforts our time window was closing
quicker than hoped for. This meager narrative to describe the day's events
will never come close to conveying the difficulty of participating in Manitou's
Revenge, no matter how emphatic or repetitive I become. Let it simply be stated
that, by consensus, all those who were there agreed that there has never been
a tougher fifty-miler staged anywhere in North America. It was taking far
longer to cover this course than anybody anticipated.

With Pete bringing up the rear, Amy and I headed up the road to reach the
Devil's Path trailhead at the end of Prediger Road, running as much as we could
to balance all the walking and climbing we had before us, trying to stay in the
shade and out of the high-eighty-degree temps of the brilliant sunshine. The
Devil's Path is the most challenging part of the event, climbing four peaks over
3500 feet, with sharp descents into the cols between them. Feeling the fatigue
of the miles already covered and carrying extra water weight for the arduous
journey of nine miles to the next aid station at Mink Hollow, Amy and I both were
feeling fragged. As we slowed we watched as Peter moved away from us on the
first climb up Indian Head. The brain starts to cloud with exhaustion, so we were
both not sure we were on the right trail even though we had both been there
before. We managed to avoid going off trail and getting lost and did what
we had to do to reach the first of the four summits.

As the sound of the little voices in your head get louder and the total body ache
becomes dizzying, dark doubts enter your head. It is at this time you find out what
you are made of, just how tough your resolve is. You learn how to dig deep with
intent and do the seemingly impossible. The Devil's Path puts you up against it.
Appropriately named, it is the place where you confront your demons and either
succumb or overcome. With feigned smiles and resolve Amy and I did what we
came to do, proceeding over Indian Head, then Twin, and finally Sugarloaf
Mountains before reaching the Mink Hollow aid station at 40+ miles within an
hour of darkness. Tanked up at the aid station, we started up the 1400-foot
climb to the top of Plateau Mountain with less than an hour of daylight remaining.
We would make it, if we persisted. The demons challenged us both, but we
fought them off together and reached the turn off the DP to head south the last
fifteen miles over Carl and Tremper Mountains before darkness prevailed.
(Refer to my previous narrative of May 18 for photos and description of the
Devil's Path passage.)

Amy and I made good progress starting down the mountain in the final twenty
minutes of twilight. We were thrilled to have Canadians Steve and Fanny catch
us after nine o'clock, fourteen hours into the event. Fanny had been relegated
to walking early, but had bounced back from her ankle injury and caught up. The
more light from headlamps and company you have at night the better. It couldn't
have turned out better for us.

All you can do at night on shadowy trails is walk. Running is too dangerous. We
walked in queue, headlamps bobbing, accepting the fact that all we had left was
a 2+ mph pace to finish out the night on sore feet with weary bodies and minds.
Settling upon an estimate that we could reach the finish at the rate we were going
by around three a.m., we put it out of mind and focused on the moment, focused
on negotiating each step safely, not slipping, not falling, and not running out of
water or courage; and steering clear of any self examination of why we do this.

We picked up another lone runner named Jim who would keep us company through
to the end. He had sustained a bruising, bloody fall early and was suffering more
than the rest of us. Reaching the aid station at 50+ miles we enjoyed some
Lays potato chips and drinks and started our movement for the last ascent over
Tremper Mountain before the jarring rocky descent to the bottom. Steve and I
heard a deer snort on the ridge above us and then had an encounter with a
couple porcupines near the fire tower at the summit. There was quite a bit of
raucous noise in the underbrush on the way down, but we couldn't determine
what kind of wildlife would be making all the fuss in the bush that late, so
continued past without further concern or worry about lions, tigers, and bears.

As the beautiful bright full moon helped light our way to the end, each of us
settled into our own personal space of misery. There was nothing left to do but
zombie on. The descent lasted forever as anticipation grew. Reaching a small
aid station at the bottom we were directed to run on the road the final 1+ miles
to the finish at the Parish Hall back in Phoenicia. Amy had had enough, and took
off when she hit the road, full of emotion. I didn't attempt to catch her, but did
gladly stride it out on the road after so much weary walking. Fanny caught up to
me with Jim behind. Steve had left us at the top to blast down to meet friends.
Fanny and I finished together in front of the flashing camera of her sister Nancy
from Quebec.

Jim, Larry, Amy, and Fanny after the finish

The time was 3:38 a.m. It took 22 hours and 38 minutes to cover 56 miles and
climb some 17,000 feet. It was hard to grasp the day's achievement in a moment
of time. All you could do was smile for the group pictures, hug those you shared
the experience with, and be happy it was finally over. The race director and his
wife were still there after no sleep, and were probably just as weary as the rest
of us. They put out a spread of food in the hall that rivalled many a wedding
reception I have attended. Food for champions. Each of us cleaned up and ate a
bit, struggling to socialize and say anything coherent with those we spent the day
with. Anything heretofore is anti-climactic. You leave your "running family" behind
to find the quiet and solace your body and mind are so starved for.

Amy and I caught a ride with Fanny and her sister back to town where our vehicles
were parked. With quick adieu we parted ways to find a place to just close the eyes.
After a couple hours of comatose sleep I limped home, as I hope the others did
safely. Amy and I accomplished what we set out to do. I am so proud to call Amy
Jennifer Hanlon my friend. The girl can run. The girl is tough. She is the perfect
companion for such adventure. I look forward to the next time. And I look forward to
wild new adventures ahead with my new-found friends. Stories to tell, stories to tell.