GREAT ADIRONDACK TRAIL RUN – 11.5MI
Keene Valley, NY – June 1, 2019
2nd – 1:44:54
(written on 6-22-22)
The GATR is a historic mountain race held locally in Keene Valley (about 100ft away from the KV Lodge where I lived) each summer. The Mountaineer gear shop organizes it and brings in top-notch sponsors to create a competitive and exciting atmosphere. Folks congregate afterwards at the finish line party with a keg of local beer and Irma’s Tamales. Awards are given out from the sponsors. The men’s and women’s champions are required to chug a beer that has been poured into a shoe-shaped trophy. Historically, the GATR has attracted many of the local competitive trail runners but also U.S. Olympic biathletes who train in Lake Placid each summer. The competition is usually pretty stiff up front! The registration process is unique in itself, only allowing entry via landline phone call to the Mountaineer’s business number, which can only handle one or two calls at a time. The registrant must re-dial many times and hope their call goes through before the ~60 slots are filled. Luckily, I lived next door, so I was able to walk down and sign up in-person.
The 11.5-mile course is point-to-point and climbs about 3,000ft in totality. The Mountaineer provides a shuttle, dropping off runners at the starting line, the Owl Head Lookout on 9N towards Elizabethtown. Local legend, Jan Wellford, starts each runner 1-minute apart (usually the faster runners start last), so runners are generally unaware throughout the race of their current position.
I figured I had a great chance to win the race, as I’d been healthy for about six weeks leading up to it. I had gotten on the course a few times, although a ton of snow was still present at the time. I knew the course was muddy and technical. I had a soft goal of running under 1:40, as I knew I currently couldn’t break Josh Ferenc’s course record (now, Ryan Atkins’ 1:33) of 1:36.
The race began. I remember breathing pretty hard on the climb up towards the Owl Head Lookout spur trail. After that, it got pretty technical, wet, and muddy, as expected. The course was slow-going through this section. I started to get in a groove, however, and was running strong. Suddenly, on a slight downhill section, I got a little out of control and banged my left arm on a tree as I passed by. The jarring collision caused my Suunto watch strap to snap in half. My watch came off and fell into a creek. Luckily, the creek wasn’t deep, and I only took around 15 seconds to fish around for it. I then had to hold my watch in my right hand the rest of the race.
Nobody had passed me, as expected, and I enjoyed passing other runners who started ahead of me, offering and receiving words of encouragement. The toughest part of the course took us over Hopkins Mountain, which offers incredible views. After descending the technical, off-camber, leafy, wet, muddy north side of Spread Eagle, a 2.5-mile downhill dirt road lay between me and the finish. I was ready for this section, ready to unleash some speed and pound my quads.
Within the first 10 seconds of opening up my stride, my hat slipped off my head and I had to jam on the brakes and retrieve it. That cost me 10 seconds or so. Ugh, trail racing never goes 100% smoothly! Looking back now, I also chose a terrible pair of shoes to race in: the Altra Superior 3.5s, which offer awful grip and durability for the Adirondack’s rugged trails. You live and learn, I guess.
I ended up splitting a 4:57 mile somewhere along that dirt road descent, and was closing in on the finish. My time was solid, as I checked my watch and knew I’d be just under 1:45 if I kept the pace up. In my mind, I had won the race easily.
After crossing the finish line, I was approached by Jan, and he said it was a close race between myself and Matt Harrison, who had run a strong race himself. Some math was to be done to determine the winner. In the end, Matt had run about 30 seconds faster than I had. Crazy! I was shocked, but super happy for him. What a run! As I write this in 2022, my 1:44:54 is the 20th fastest GATR performance of all-time.
At the after-party, I met a good friend of mine, Eric LiPuma, who was in town after running a tempo run up the Whiteface Highway in preparation for the Mt. Washington Road Race. Eric also gave me a few Vermont beers.
LAKE PLACID MARATHON
Lake Placid, NY – June 9, 2019
9th – 2:58:52
(written on 6-9-22)
The LP Marathon was to be held in my backyard.
Wilmington, NY – July 20, 2019
18th – 50:52
Erie, PA – September 8, 2019
4th – 2:42:26
HURRICANE MOUNTAIN FKT (ROUND-TRIP)
Keene, NY – September 30, 2019
Overall FKT – 1:05:26
NORTH FACE ENDURANCE CHALLENGE – 50MI
San Francisco, CA – November 16, 2019
30th – 7:57:41
My friends at Foot Stuff Podcast invited me on their show to talk about my experience at TNF50. Listen below!