A Staten Island triathlete and endurance coach ventures into the ultramarathon realm where there are seemingly no limits to human endurance. In 2013, he successfully finished the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning (picture of 2013 Grand Slam finishers above; I'm second from right), becoming only the 282nd person (since its beginnings in 1986) and only the fourth New Yorker to finish four of the oldest and most prestigious 100 mile ultramarathons in the U.S. in only 10 weeks.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

My weekend in the Hudson Valley! Wow, what an experience!!!

With the weather not getting out of winter mode, I decided in the last minute not to run along with some friends in the White Mountains of New Hampshire since the Wind Chill was about -30F near Tuckerman's Ravine. The running was just not practical there, so I decided to take a little field trip closer to home.

The plan was simple. First, the person in NJ who is also doing the Grand Slam has mentioned about doing the mountain repeats at Mt. Beacon. So I took her advice and went with it. :-)


The picture above is the main trail of the Mt. Beacon climb, and it climbs close to 1 mile and up 1000 feet from the city of Beacon to the lookout at top.

I planned to do 5 of these repeats up and down this trail and see how I fare.

I then sleep at a nearby shelter at the Appalachian Trail, then head on over to Katonah to meet with people from the Leatherman's Harriers and the NY Trail and Ultrarunning Meetup Group to do the Leatherman's 10k course, plus a more difficult 10k course in case the 10k was not enough.


 The official Leatherman's Loop. All I can say was I loved it!!!

The 2nd, more difficult 10k loop, the Fire Tower Loop. The HUGE hills here really kicked my butt, in a good way. :-)

All I can say was, wow, what a rush! Everything turned out to be much better than in my wildest dreams. :-)

First, Mt. Beacon. The main route up to the top is am unrelenting climb to the top, with one very steep section in the lower section after the switchbacks and one really, really steep section closer to the top. Each lap started from the trailhead, up the steps in the lower end, then the rest of the way on this rocky trail to the top. On the uphills I power-hiked this thing to the top without stopping at all.When I finally got to the top I soaked in the scenery (wow!) of the lower Hudson Valley. I also thought to myself that it was going to be insane to do another 4 of these since the first power-hike sapped a lot of energy out of me!

The run down was also quite treacherous, but doable. As a matter of fact, I wanted the downhills to be punishing on my legs since I will be running down some major mountains in all of the Grand Slam races. So I kept the pace pretty quick getting down the hill.

When I got to the trailhead on the bottom, I took a quick drink, then started up again, power-hiking, of course.

And again, I did quite well! There were a lot of hikers on this trail that had to stop frequently as they were going uphill and were starting to notice what I was doing. With comments like "you're a machine" and "keep it going", I started to really have fun with these mountain repeats.

Got to the top again, turned around, ran down, and now my legs were starting to get trashed. Perfect! That's what I want to do. Trash the legs now so that they will be more trash resistant in the races that count.

On my third climb, one of the hikers looked at me and said, "what is this, third time?" I nodded yes, and said, "wow, God bless you!" Despite my legs getting more tired, I was still power-hiking with conviction!

The 4th and 5th times were the tough ones. Still, I did well with the last two and I was just impressed at my climbing ability at this point; my legs were much better at climbing than when I did Vermont! And I still had 12 weeks to go before the first Grand Slam ultra, so I'm am so stoked that my fitness is this exceptional!

The next day, I ride on down to do the Leatherman's Loop course with easily around 40 people. After some obligatory group camera shots before the run, we started soon after 8AM on the first part of the course. I went out quickly with the first group and maintained a near race-pace on this course. The course itself was challenging. Steep hills, 3 waist-high water crossings, lots of mud, and I was having fun here! I quickly fell in love with the course it was so challenging. With my legs trashed from the mountain repeats the day before, I still had a lot of energy left to climb the steep hills at a quick pace without any let up.

A "before" shot with the group.


A cool video of the actual Leatherman's Loop course.

My legs were thoroughly trashed after the first loop. And I was ready for the second, more difficult loop. After we gathered, about 15 of us decided to tackle the Fire Tower loop. I went with the lead group and quickly found myself climbing one heck of a long hill into the ridge. My legs were hurting, but I sill maintained an aggressive pace as I kept with the group. Once on top, the trails turned real technical and rocky as I was slowed going downhill on a scree field. About halfway through the loop, we finally turned toward the site of the Fire Tower; it was here that we encountered two HUGE, STEEP hills that forced us to climb on all fours to get to the top. I had to let up a little on these climbs, but the people in front of me stopped periodically to take in the sights and to allow the group to reform. After finally getting to the top, the trail descended mostly downhill as we were closing in on the parking lot. There were still some small but significant climbs that had to be negotiated, but they were done with little problem.

By the time I got back to the parking lot, my legs were thoroughly trashed. And I had a huge smile on my face. My goal for this weekend was fulfilled in such a great way; I would definitely love to come back here and actually do the Leatherman's Loop 10k race one of these years. It's such a kick-ass course that I would love to see how well I fare with the challenges the course deals out.

One thing about running with the people here is that, even though I run trails well, there were a lot of other people in this group that can run the trails better. And I'm glad to have people on this course that can really challenge me to run farther and faster than I would normally do. 

As for my prognosis with the Grand Slam, my fitness is probably the best it's ever been in regards to ultras. I'm super-light (180 pounds) and I'm very strong on hills, which gives me a much better chance at actually completing the Grand Slam this year. 12 weeks to go until Western States; I can't wait!



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