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, May 19, 2013

Yikes! 44 Miles in 10 Hours on AT Too Ambitious

Well THAT didn't work!

My plan was to run the 44 miles of the Appalachian Trail. starting from the Manitou Train Station at 8:49, then run the 44 miles to the Appalachian Trail Train Station near Pawling, NY. I was supposed to get there by 6:39PM, when the last train leaves. It amounted to about a 14 minute mile pace. Certainly, it should be easy to get done, right?

Whoa, hold yer horses!

Um, methinks I forgot how technical the Appalachian Trail can be in that area!

Yesterday, the stretch of AT I ran yesterday, probably only 20% of the trail was runnable. The rest is a boulder strewn mess of steeps that involved mostly scrambling and walking.

In the beginning of the run, I met up with Chris and David who knew a lot more about the area than I did. Chris knew that my plan was a pretty ambitious one because he's run these trails and knew how difficult it was. Chris parked his car at the half-way point of the run and his wife drove him down to the start at Manitou.

Anyway, in the beginning, we settled into a pretty brisk pace on the trails. The first 5 miles of the trail were strewn with rocks, but was actually quite runnable. We emerged onto Rt. 9 and the convenience store there.

After going to the bathrooms and restocking our supplies, we started to push forward onto some of the hillier sections of the course. This was where the course started to get more difficult.

Chris and David were good people to have a conversation with. Chris knows the Leatherman's Loop in that really well. I told him that next year, I would love to do the race itself since the nature of that course was right up my alley. Along the way, I was also talking to David about my coaching theories and how both triathlon and ultrarunning gave me a unique perspective on training in general.

We ran to the road on the outskirts of Fahnstock State Park and rested as we replenished our water with a faucet found along the AT there. We ran a hard pace to that point, got 12.5 miles in; I found that the technicality of this course has slowed us down to the point where getting to the AT Train Station was in doubt.

So I tell Chris and David that the best thing to do at this moment is to turn back and make it back to Manitou in plenty of time to get the train back to Grand Central. Chris, who had his car at the mid-way point of the trail, offered to drive to the nearest Metro North train station once we got to his car in 10 miles or so. Since I was exploring these trails for the first time, I took him up on his offer and we pressed on into Fahnstock State Park.

This is where the trail REALLY got technical. The day was warming up a lot and both David and I were actually feeling the heat. It takes me two good hot weeks to get me used to heat training, and with this cool spring, I was definitely feeling it flush on my face. I was happy that I was finally getting exposed to the heat now because I need to be used to it by the time Western States rolls around.

Most of the trail in Fahnstock was mostly rocks and boulders; we had to scramble up and down these rock-strewn hills, slowing our pace down considerably. The drastic ups and downs on the course were also pretty much starting to take a toll on the legs with the hard pace we were pressing. I was secretly glad that Chris had a car parked 5 or so miles away.

About a half-mile away from that road was a nice overlook. We stopped and rested a little at the top for about 10 minutes before making the final descent towards the parking lot. By the time we got there it was already past 2:30PM. Making some quick calculations we traversed 22 miles of hard technical running in about 5.5 hours. With 22 miles left to go to the Appalachian Trail Train Station, there was very little chance that I would make it before 6:39PM.

So we got in the car and he drove me to the Cold Spring Train Station where a train back to NYC came. The ride home was pretty much uneventful.

Even though I failed to make it to the Appalachian Trail Train Station, it turned out to be a great day of running anyway. One can never beat exploring new trails or trying a new challenge. This was both, and getting to know some of the ultrarunners in the NYC area a little better was worth it.

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One little hiccup in yesterday's run was the travel there. And, of course, it involved government again.

I was replenishing my Metro-Card at a machine, adding $4.00 to the card. I slide the Metro-card into the machine, plunked in $4.00 when it asked for it, and waited until the machine spit out my card.

To my surprise, the screen says "failed to add to account", spit out my card, and didn't spit out my money! It also gave me a receipt saying that it failed to properly add value to the card.

So I did what any person would do and take the receipt to the clerk to get my money back. Instead of money, the clerk gives me an envelope, telling me to "mail the receipt" to this address and I'll get my money back!

I stared at him and said,"You have to be kidding me!"

He goes, "That's the policy"

I go, "Well, your policy sucks. How long is it going to take, 6 weeks to get my money back?"

He says, "I don't know".

Government bureaucracy. I can't stand it. I'm glad I didn't add $20.00 to the card. Jeez!


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