2017 Manitou’s Revenge Ultra

Surprisingly, this weekend was the first time we really got to explore parts of the Catskill Mountains of New York. Debbie ran the Manitou’s Revenge Ultra, a 54 mile trail race with nearly 15,000 feet of elevation gain in the rugged Catskills.

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She continues to amaze me with her running exploits. I know. I’m biased. Still, it was only six days ago that she dragged me around the northwest hills of Connecticut for a 34 mile “training run” on the Mohawk and Appalachian Trails. That was the third big run we have done together in 2017. I joined her for Promise Land in Virginia; and over Memorial Day Weekend, we did a big training day in the Green Mountains of Vermont.

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Manitou’s was her last big ultra in her buildup to the Hardrock Endurance Run. In December, she scored a waitlist spot (#7) and on 01 June, she was thrilled to accept an official spot for the start of the race on 14 July. It will take a collective effort to get her to the finish line (and to kiss the Hardrock), but its her legs that will play the biggest role in her San Juan Mountains adventure.

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In the meantime, Saturday’s adventure was intense enough. On Friday afternoon, we drove to Phoenicia, New York to get her bib number and race packet, for this 5th edition of the race. Race Director, Charlie Gadol, was there along with fellow runner, Mike Siudy, who we saw at Hellgate last year. We got there at 6:35 P.M., just five minutes past the pickup window, but they were kind enough to help her out. Afterwards, we headed straight to our campground at Devil’s Tombstone. It was only 15 minutes up the road.

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The point to point Manitou’s course is shaped like a reverse “C.” It starts in Windham and finishes at the St. Francis de Sales Parish Hall. It traverses parts of the Escarpment Trail, the Long Path, and the Devil’s Path. All three are crazy hard “rocky and rooty” Northeastern style trails with lots of elevation change. Debbie has been wanting to run this race since it started five years ago. The course includes sections of the famous  Escarpment Trail Run, which she raced only one time, back in 2000, when she was still Debbie Schieffer. She finished 2nd to the legendary Nikki Kimball. The two of them started racing trails together in Vermont in the late-1990’s. It’s been a long time since she was back in the Catskills. The steep ups and downs are tough. The wet spring left these trails damp and very slippery. This past weekend, the weather was overcast with fog, drizzle, and high humidity, though the temperature was mild.

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Debbie got a ride to the 5:00 A.M. start from a fellow racer and campsite neighbor. We were kept awake most of Friday night because of some other campsite neighbors who were rowdy. They were in town for the Mountain Jam concert festival at Hunter Mountain. The same thing happened on Saturday night after the race. That was a bummer, but when you camp out, you take these risks.

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The kids and I got up a bit later and met up with Debbie at Aid Station #3 (17.5 miles), at North-South Campground in Tannersville. It was a sweet spot. After we saw Debbie come through, we went for a mountain bike ride around the lakes. At the aid station, it was great to see so many friends from the Northeast ultrarunning community. There were quite a few runners from the Mountain Peak Fitness – Red Newt Racing Running Team. The team includes old friends, Joe and Elizabeth Azze, Julian Vicente, Ben Nephew, and others. We also saw Scott Berkley, a friend from the Appalachian Mountain Club Hut Croo, who we have seen on a few White Mountain trips, as well as at other trail races. We even met a new friend, Matt Turek, who is also coached by Al Lyman, from Pursuit Fitness. He was there to crew for one of his friends. We also saw Scott and Sarah Slater, who also hail from Connecticut. One other Shenipsit Striders friend, Gaston Fiore, was at the race. He did a two person relay with his friend, Caitlin Cunningham. She ran the first 20 miles and he ran the last 34.

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After we saw Debbie at AS3, we drove to Aid Station #5 (31.5 miles) at Platte Clove. This was a busy spot and we parked on the side of the road. We had our Volkswagen Eurovan and our trailer, so we couldn’t maneuver into tight spots without a little extra effort. Debbie was in good spirits when we saw her. She didn’t have a low point all day long, which was remarkable given how much running she has done lately. The training is paying off. We weren’t supposed to see her again until Aid Station #7 at Silver Hollow (43.5 miles), but we surprised her by showing up at Aid Station #6 (38.5 miles) at Mink Hollow.

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After we left Platt Clove, we had some time to kill, so we grabbed lunch at Pancho Villa  in Tannersville. After lunch, we drove to the Mink Hollow trailhead. Getting to the aid station required a steep climb on a rocky and wet trail. The kids enjoyed it and we got there about 10 minutes before Debbie arrived. She was running strongly at the time, about 50 minutes behind Kehr Davis, the past-winner.

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After she came through, we waited for Gaston, who wasn’t far behind. Then, we descended. We drove to Silver Hollow, which took a bit longer than planned. When we got there, I realized that we would never get to the aid station in time. It was another mile-plus climb up to the ridge. The kids stayed back and played a board game in the van, which I parked at the trailhead. I ran/hiked to the aid station.

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When I got there, I was winded after pushing the whole way. At first, it appeared that I got there in time, but after a brief discussion with the volunteers, and a little confusion, it appeared that she had passed through, three or four minutes earlier. I dropped one of the two bags I was carrying, and ran after her. “Run” is in quotes because it was straight uphill and it took me more than a 20 minutes to catch her. She never slowed down. At this point, she was using her poles. I was soaked to the bone with sweat. She said she was fine, I snapped a few photos, shot a short video, and watched her run off. I worked my way back to the aid station, passing Gaston again, and then descended to the van. It was quite an effort and it turned out that she didn’t need any help, but that is what crews do for their runners!

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The remaining aid stations were even harder to get to, so we skipped them. We had time to kill, but we drove to Phoenicia and grabbed a spot on the lawn in front of the parish hall. When we got there, about 10 people (individuals and relay teams) had finished. Due to the start on the narrow Escarpment Trail, the race had been split into eight waves, each five minutes apart. Debbie was in the first wave. So was Kehr.

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It took some calculating to figure out who was in what place, but by the end of the day, the gaps were so large, that it didn’t really matter. Also in the first wave, was Ben Nephew, who won the race, in a tight finish with Andy Vermilyea, who was only 116 seconds behind Ben, who finished in 10:57:49. Third was Adam Russell, in 12:02:16.

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We watched as the sun went down and the runners dribbled in. Kehr Davis was the first woman to finish, in 13:30:07. The last 1.2 miles of the course were on road, which Debbie called, “cruel.” Even still, she hammered the last stretch and finished second behind Kehr in 14:41:32. She gave up a little ground in the last 10 miles, but it was still a very successful day for her. She finished strongly and felt good all day long. She only fell once, and it was a mild fall. Her stomach was good all day long. Her fueling plan was effective.

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The kids and I were pretty tired, but we were having fun, so we hung around for a few more hours, cheering for other runners as they arrived. By the time we left, it was dark, and the runners were arriving at the finish with their headlamps. They were also wearing reflective vests, which were issued to them at the last aid station.

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The volunteers were awesome. We felt welcome at all of the aid stations. Ultras are always a blast when fellow runners take great care in producing an event for their running friends. Other than the Vermont 50, Debbie hasn’t repeated too many of her ultras, but she said that Manitou’s was definitely a race that she would do again. With all of the rocks, roots, and steep downhills, she said, “You would hate it.” I’ll stick to crewing this race and I’ll leave the running to her.

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Race Results

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Start of the @root66raceseries #DomnarskiFarm Junior 12-18 year old race. #root66raceseries #teamhorstsports #teamhorstjuniorsquad #mountainbiking #mountainbike Beautiful June day in #Massachusetts For me, the #westrocksuperprestige highlight is always the youngest junior girls and boys. Here is the start of last night's Junior 9-11 year old Short Track #mountainbike race. This is the next generation of #cycling enthusiasts. @the_ccap #teamhorstsports #teamhorstjuniorsquad #horstspikes #mountainbiking 🚵‍♀️🏆❤️ Not bad. Third place in the series for #singlespeed division after doing two of the four #westrocksuperprestige #mountainbike races. Fun just to ride strongly. #teamhorstsports #horstspikes @horsteng #mountainbiking @seven_cycles #sevencycles Incredible June night. One day after the #solstice for the #westrocksuperprestige finale. @the_ccap @horsteng #teamhorstsports #teamhorstjuniorsquad #mountainbiking #solstice #railtrail ride:  #teamhorstjuniorsquad #teamhorstsports #hopriverstateparktrail #mountainbike The second (our first) #windingtrails Summer Off-Road #Triathlon Series race of the year was a big success. Three Livingston's raced including @trailrunningmom and the first "Grand Feast" of the season with the Schulz Clan helped us refuel. #teamhorstsports #mountainbiking #trailrunning I ran the #greylocktrailrace on #fathersday and @trailrunningmom loosened her legs after #manitousrevenge by running the 5K with Little D. Shep took 5+ minutes off of last year's time. #mountgreylock The Western Massachusetts Athletic Club had to share #greylockglen with the #harrypotter festival, which was kind of crazy. It was a weird combination of people. I'm sticking with he  #trailrunning community. @trailrunningmom finished #manitousrevenge 54 miles in 14:41:32. Fantastic! She is pumped and primed for #hardrock100 next month. #teamhorstsports #shenipsitstriders #pursuitstrong #pursuitfitness #trailrunning @ultraspire #ultraspire @altrarunning #altrarunning #ultrarunning #catskillsmountains 🏃🏻⛰ Ben Nephew took the 54 rugged mile #manitousrevenge in 10 hours and 57 minutes. He said it was super slippery. @mountainpeakfitness #mountainpeakfitness #trailrunning #ultrarunning #catskillsmountains

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