Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Breakneck Point Trail Marathon

Last Saturday (4/16) I traveled to Beacon, New York, on the Hudson River for the Breakneck Point Trail Marathon.  I wrote the following on Saturday night:

It’s hard to know exactly what to think and feel after my first Did Not Finish.  On one hand, my pride hurts.  On the other hand, I am proud to have gotten to mile 21 and to have tried hard for over nine hours and kept moving.  This race was way beyond me today.  I trained hard.  I raced wisely.  I made one minor tactical error in filling my bottles with tailwind at AS4.  It might not have even been a mistake, as it probably was better for me than water.  I just hated the taste and avoided drinking it as long as I could.  I still had finished it before I got to AS5.  I think it was just an accumulation of minor and major issues that added up to be more than I could overcome.  As far as course markings, I have no complaints.  It took intense focus to stay on track, but that kind of challenge is fun.

·        There are no hills in Indiana like those of Hudson Highlands state park.  Period.  Nothing of that steepness.  Nothing of that overall elevation.  Nothing that rocky.  That course had a greater elevation gain (~10,000’) than Rim2Rim in the Grand Canyon.
·        Recovering from a cold was a minor issue.  I had minor trouble breathing, and probably lacked top energy.
·        Temperature and sun.  It didn’t get as cold as forecasted, starting 10 degrees warmer.  From mile 6 on, the sun was intense, making water loss a larger issue.  It was wonderful weather for spectators and hikers.  I don’t handle heat as well.  I didn’t feel hot, but I know colder is better for me.
·        I started getting my first charlie horse around mile 6.  My quads charlied up regularly from then on, but I kept moving.  I even got a foot charlie horse, a new one for me.
·        The only aid between mile 13.3 and 21.0 was one water stop at 16.3.  Despite eating as much as I could, I still lost the fueling battle.  This was what stopped me in the end.  I didn’t have the energy to move, running out of energy on the downhill.
·        From AS5, at elevation 390’ it climbs uphill for 3 miles to 1634’.  There is no aid station in between, and there is absolutely no way to quit in the middle.  If I could have gotten to the top in a couple hours, a very dangerous technical descent awaited me in a weakened, cramping condition.
These are excuses.  There is probably some poster in a locker room that says something like ‘winners don’t accept excuses’.  I wanted to make the wise choice and ignore what anyone else would say.  I don’t run for them.  I guess, in that sense, I’ll have to see if I view this as a failure in the future.

·        Start to AS1 – I started at the back of the back and just fell in line.  We walked up the hills.  We walked the stupidly rugged.  I ran the downhills that were even moderately runnable.  A runner far in front of me made a wrong turn before Sugarloaf Mountain.  We all followed for several hundred feet on a trail uphill, before someone in front of me realized and we ran back down.  It didn’t seem to be a big deal. 
Starting out up the ridge

Typical trail terrain

Crazy, rocky descents

Bannerman's Castle

View of Stormking Mountain and the Hudson River from Sugarloaf Mountain

Descending Sugarloaf Mountain

·        AS1 to AS2 – This was the climb up Breakneck Ridge.  This was fun and gorgeous.  I put on my gloves for the rocks and kept them on for the rest of the run.  Everyone took it slow and there was waiting for especially difficult places.  The climbing was so vertical that I had to slide my waterbelt to the back so I could raise my legs high enough.  The bagpiper at the top was interesting.  The hash house runners had a beer station at the top.  I passed.  At the top, the halfers split off.  There was an incredibly difficult and technical decent.  After passing the middle of the figure 8, the trail got smoother and was downhill all the way to AS2.  Looking at my splits, I was starting to realize how the day was going to go.

The lower trail up Breakneck

Climbing a little more steeply, now

Waiting in line wasn't all bad

View downstream while climbing up the rock face

There were multiple options up some of the rocks

Just about to the top

The descent from Breakneck Point was pretty treacherous

·        AS2 to AS3 – This started out with a long climb to the top of Bull Hill.  We didn’t even get to the top, but I really started to hit the wall.  I ran a bit on the way down to the middle of the figure 8.  That was essentially the last time I ran.  We then climbed to the top of Breakneck Ridge.  Even though it was downhill to AS3, it was difficult enough that I could not run.  I got out my bandana after AS2 and put it on my head, wetting it down whenever I crossed a creek. 
Typical trail surface

Looking towards West Point, across the Hudson

I was hoping the trail headed down through the notch, but instead it went up to the right.

·        AS3 to AS4 – I took my time to eat as much as I could at AS3.  I stashed a bit of food in my belt, too.  This stretch started out with a climb back up Sugarloaf Mountain.  I started looking for a walking stick, and eventually found one that looked old and brittle, but was actually perfect, light, and strong.  This helped me incredibly, keeping the charlies to a manageable level.  It was all repeat of trail that we had traveled in the morning, but it was much longer somehow. 
A medic took my picture on South Beacon Mountain

Runners heading back down South Beacon Mountain

"Oh look, I have to run down this mountain and back up that one!"

The rocky descent down Lamb's Hill

·        AS4 to AS5 – This aid station only had water and tailwind, an energy drink.  The assistant had the pitcher of tailwind, and I just had her fill out the bottles with that.  I had a couple glasses, and didn’t mind it much then.  It soon left a very disagreeable taste or memory.  Maybe it was for the best, because that meant that I rationed the fluids better.  AS4 was at mile 16.3.  At that point, I could not imagine 10 more miles.  Especially with only one more aid station.  Leaving AS4, the trail went straight up to the top of South Beacon Mountain, in one of the most difficult rock climbing stretches.  Many runners were coming back down this stretch, on their way to finish up.  I can’t deny that that was dispiriting.  After the top, the ‘lolipop’ split off, sending us around counterclockwise.  Travelling along Scofield Ridge and later Lambs Hill, I could see South Beacon Mountain rising off in the distance.  That would be my fate if I were to continue.  The descent down into Dry Brook, which was flowing nicely, by the way, was very difficult.  I had to stop, even on the downhill.  Examining my status, I made the decision to stop at AS5.  I couldn’t imagine a way to finish under the 11 hour cutoff. 

Wednesday 4/20/16:

Looking back now, I think my feelings have clarified.  I’ll certainly remember this DNF for a long time, and it will be motivation.  I will have to be stronger in the future.  But I don’t regret the race or the attempt.  I went for the challenge, and I got challenged.  I went for the adventure, for the experience, for the beauty, to see that part of the country, and because I like trail running.  Maybe I’ll do that race in the future.  Maybe not.  Maybe I’ll do another New York race, but I don’t feel obligated.

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