April 22, 2012 marked the 26th running of The Leatherman’s Loop, a historic trail race around the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in Cross River, NY. However, this year’s race proved to be very different from previous years loops. The recent dry weather conditions transformed the usually muddy course into a speedsters paradise, causing the course record to be shattered. Also, this year’s loop was run in memory of the late Caballo Blanco, who passed away from natural causes only a few weeks ago while out doing what he loved most, trail running. Caballo was an ambassador to this great sport who became known to many from the best-selling book, ‘Born to Run’. Runners were led out from the starting line by a white horse, to symbolize his ever presence at this event.
The Leatherman’s Loop is a true trail race and one of the largest in our Country, where you find yourself contending with nature’s obstacles throughout the course. This year’s Loop had 1,188 finishers. The Loop includes: many downed trees to hurdle, miles of single track trail, mud pits, multiple short, but steep climbs, and three major stream crossings. Basically, you are guaranteed to get wet and dirty at this race.
My goal for this race was to simply run a strong and even-paced race. For the whole of 2012, I have been focusing my training toward my ‘A Race’, The North Face Endurance Challenge Bear Mountain 50K on May 5th. The Leatherman’s Loop became my last hard workout of my training plan before beginning my taper for North Face. Since it is a mass start, I was told you had to go out fast, or else you will be caught in a bottleneck when entering the woods. I was slightly concerned to hear this, because I had not done much fast running in my training, and was not sure how my tendonitis would respond to the faster pace. I promised myself to hold back slightly, and reminded myself that this was not a goal race. With that said, I ran fast enough to beat most to the trail entrance in the woods, leaving the masses behind. Once in the woods, I quickly slowed my pace, found a comfortable rhythm, and clicked off a 7:03 for the first mile.
I decided to show up on race day, without knowing anything about the course. Normally, I research every twist, turn, and climb of a course before racing it, but since this was not a goal race I decided to keep it a surprise. Not knowing what lies ahead made the race even more exciting. As a competitive athlete, sometimes I feel that I get too caught up with the race plan, and don’t fully enjoy the experience of running in a new place. Making sure I have fun and enjoy the moment is the most important thing I can do while competing. If you are not having fun, then you have to stop and ask yourself, why am I here? Needless to say, I had a lot of fun at this race.
At about mile 4, I got a stitch in my right side, but was able to keep it in check by controlling my breathing. I actually surprised myself at how comfortable I felt holding a 7 minute-mile pace over 6.2 miles. I definitely held back slightly, because I was worried about my tendonitis acting up, but I can honestly say I gave it 95% out there and felt comfortable and strong doing so. I ended up finishing my first Leatherman’s Loop in a time of 44:19, which was good enough for 18th Place Overall. This race has reminded me why I love trail running, and my strong performance has left me brimming with confidence going into the Bear Mountain 50K.
A special thanks to the race organizers, volunteers, and the Legend of the Leatherman for putting on such a special event!
Thank you to my MPF Campmor Trail Running Teammates, and our sponsor, Campmor, Nathansports, Montrail and Mountain Hardwear for supporting my running.