2018 MT. TAMMANY 10

Yesterday, Debbie ran the MT. TAMMANY 10 in New Jersey, for the first time in its five-year history. She learned about the race from our friends at Mountain Peak Fitness, who have a page on their website dedicated to this difficult trail ultra.

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This was her first ultra since last August’s Cascade Crest 100. She did great. The format is unique. The start/finish and only aid station is at the Kittatinny Point Visitors Center in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The aid station is at a pavilion about 1/3 mile (on road) from the trail head at the Dunnfield Parking Area on the other side of Interstate 80, which also cuts through the Gap. There is a 3.5 mile counter-clockwise loop. You take the Red Dot trail to the 1,526 foot summit of Mt. Tammany,. Then you connect to the Blue-Blazed Trail for most of the descent. You parallel beautiful Dunnfield Creek and then you briefly connect with the Appalachian Trail, before entering the back side of the parking lot. You do 10 loops of the course, including the 1,200 foot ascent of Mt. Tammany. On every even loop (laps 2, 4, 6, 8, 10) you return to the start/finish to check in. The race relies on the honor system. You have to count your own laps.

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The total mileage ends up being between 38+/- with 12,000 feet of elevation gain and 12,000 feet of descent. That’s substantial for a race of this distance and the per mile gain puts it up there with some of the more hilly ultras in the country, and certainly on the east coast. The trails are rugged with lots of rocks, requiring some scrambling. The snow and ice from three weeks of Nor’easters just added to the challenge, though some veterans said that the presence of deeper snow on the descent permitted faster running. Some folks opted to use traction devices on their feet, but Debbie went without. She also started the race without her poles, but during the second half, she used them on the uphill section of the course.

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The goal is to complete the race in 10 hours or less. Well, the real goal is just to finish. It took Debbie 10:21:13, which is still a great time. There were 35 official finishers. 22 people didn’t finish, or missed the time cut. The race is meant to be small, partly because this is a popular hiking trail, and it was crowded with visitors. More runners would have only added to the traffic. It was cold and breezy, but the sky was clear and bright sunshine helped the morale. That sun is what drew many visitors to the park on a (very) early spring day. The views from Mt. Tammany, especially on the climb, are spectacular and another reason for all of the hikers.

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We have always been friendly with members of the New York/New Jersey trail running community, and frequently venture beyond New England to do races in their region. Last year, Debbie ran Manitou’s Revenge, and that’s where she first heard about this race from Ben Nephew, a veteran of both events. The highlands of northwestern New Jersey on the Pennsylvania border, have fantastic terrain and trails. We have explored it some, but need to visit here more. Six years ago, we went to the AMC’s Mohican Outdoor Center, and passed through the Gap. When I was in the Boy Scouts, I did a 50 mile canoe trip on the Delaware River.  I recall that our guide hailed from nearby from Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.

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After such a long layoff, Debbie needed to get back in the game. This early season race will help build her fitness as she looks to tackle half a dozen ultras in 2018. This will be more quiet year for her. 2017 was a big year with Manitou’s, Hardrock, Cascade Crest, and several other ultras. She is planning a series of races in the 50K to 100K distance, but likely no 100 milers. She gave her body and mind a long rest after last year. Over the last six months, she has mixed in more cycling, and more cross-training.

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On Thursday 24 May, our entire family will be at the REI store in West Hartford, Connecticut, for a presentation on the Hardrock adventure. If you want to hear about this amazing race, join us. Debbie, the kids, and I will all be speaking and sharing our excitement for trail running. We will have Hardrock photos, gear, and memorabilia to show and discuss.

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This week was really busy. It was our first full week back after our Hong Kong/Singapore trip. It culminated with our daughter’s participation in the Bolton Center School Variety Show on Friday night. After the show, the four of us piled into my car, and drove to Debbie’s parents house. The kids stayed with them because there was a second show on Saturday afternoon. Debbie and I got up at 3:00 A.M. and drove the 2 hours and 45 minutes to the race.

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The start was at 6:30 A.M., just as the sun was coming up. Some people used headlamps, but she didn’t bother. I walked one lap, taking photos of the runners and the views. Then, I went for a bike ride on Old Mine Road, which parallels the Delaware River on the New Jersey side. It goes north for about 35 miles through the National Recreation Area and adjacent Worthington State Forest. After a few hectic weeks at work, I needed some time in the saddle, and also in the woods, so this trip was perfect. I took the road north for about 13 miles. I didn’t go too far because I wanted to make it back in time to catch her at the finish of lap eight. I’m taking it slow in my comeback since breaking my leg in January. After I helped her in the aid station, I rode around some more, including a trip across the bridge to the Pennsylvania side of the gap. I explored a bit more through the Gap, before returning to the trailhead to see her finish her 9th lap.

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After that, I changed up, and waited for her to finish. She was in good spirits, got to catch up with several friends, and make some new friends too. Garry Harrington came down from New Hampshire, though in recent years, he has spent a lot of time on the road out west, traveling from race to race. We saw him at Hardrock and Cascade Crest, so that’s three in a row! Kehr Davis (who won Manitou’s in 2017) had a fantastic run, taking first among the women. She was followed by Kathleen Cusick. On the men’s side, Jay Lemos and Steven Lange had a race-long battle, with Steven prevailing.

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It was great to see Julian Vicente and Elizabeth Azze from Mountain Peak Fitness. These trails are in their backyard. Both hail from nearby New Jersey communities. Alex Papadopoulos is the passionate Race Director who hosts the race. His organization, Athletic Equation, Inc., based in Virginia, promotes several ultras that are part of a series, hosts trail running travel adventures, offers coaching, and sells gear. We invited Alex to come run the Soapstone Mountain Trail Race, the Shenipsit Striders race that Debbie has directed for 15 years. I think we can convince him to visit and run it in the future. We told him to bring his whole family.

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One nice touch was that each finisher received a rock mounted on a wood trophy. The rock is symbolic of these rugged trails. The fun part was that Alex had plaques pre-printed with each runner’s name. So, she got to choose the rock that appealed to her, and he mounted the customized plaque on the spot. That was cool. It’s not our only rock trophy. I’m pretty sure that the Shenipsit Striders started that “trend” nearly 30 years ago.

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We were in the car and on the road by 6:00 P.M. After a few stops for gas and to stretch our legs, we were back at her parents’ house by 8:30 P.M., in time to visit with the kids. We were both famished, and after eating a late supper, it was lights out for me. Apparently, Mt. Tammany was tough on both the runners and the crew! Next up for Debbie is the Traprock 50K, the first race in the 2018 Blue-Blazed Trail Running Series.

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Race Results

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