The race director described this course as follows "An almost 40.0 mile run traversing one of the toughest sections of trails in the DWG area". This event is not for the faint of heart. Expect no PRs here! These will be the toughest and slowest miles most of you will ever cover! Mount Tammany is located on the Jersey side of the Delaware Water Gap and is situated on the West side of Route 80, right before the Delaware River. The mountain rises to 1,526 feet, spans 2 miles to the top and is all covered in rocks. The rocks on these trails are sharp, jagged and hard to hike through yet alone run on. This course was described to have some great mountain views along the climb and majestic waterfalls along with the sound of rushing water on the descent. The only problem I could imagine was that the ups and downs were repeated a total of ten times!
The Mt. Tammany 10 is 10 circles up and down the same 1200' mountain 10 times with a cut off of 10 hours prior to starting the 10th climb. I participated in the well known DWG fat ass 50k back in Nov 2011 and was familiar with the technical aspect of these trails. After taking the lead at the DWG and missing a checkpoint at 25 miles in, I learned a lesson to pay more attention during the pre race briefing, I was all ears this time for sure.
I arrived in the dark with gear bags and cooler packed like I was going on a week long adventure race. I met my fellow teammate Elizabeth, she was there to do a couple of loops for training, it was great to have the energy of another teammate out there on the trails. After a briefing of the course following by a trumpeted star spangled banner we were given the sign to go and we were off. All 20 or so of us headed down the road for 1/2 mile of the easiest running we would experience during our day long journey. Only a few minutes into the race everyone entered the woods on the Red trail and immediately starting the climb on to a set of randomly spaced wooden steps. My typical approach when racing a course I’m unfamiliar with would be to hang behind the lead pack of runners until I am comfortable enough to navigate on my own, but not today.
On the way up my legs felt solid and I was feeling strong so I took a deep breath and quickly broke from the pack. Suddenly the trail cut to the left, I hesitated and thought I was off course! I glanced over my shoulder to see if the other runners were following me and noticed that they were and I had a bit of a lead so I continued on. For the next 2 miles, it was all uphill on technical rocks of all sizes. I found myself running strong while scrambling over boulders anxiously searching for the blue trail to turn left on. After a short while I found myself on blue and soon after starting my descent. The downhill sections were all rocks but much smaller sized pieces then the climb. Studying the trail was a strategy I used to determine which side to run on all day so that I was familiar with the tough sections before they were under my feet. The loose rocks on the descent made for very unstable footing. This trail demanded complete concentration every step of the way which made the time pass by very quick. Not before long I approached a river, then a bridge and soon was sprinting down the white trail headed back to the Dunnfield parking area from where we started.
Back up the stairs I went, knowing what to expect made things much more manageable. Now I had a better idea which sections I could run, where I would power hike and when to pick it up. During the second loop there were many hikers starting to appear on the trails which added some charm to the familiar loop. Approaching the end of the second loop I hit the road and headed back to the start/finish aid station checkpoint which was about 1/2 mile away. This road section really helped in allowing my legs and feet to recharge. At the checkpoint I quickly refilled my water, grabbed a few oranges and took off wasting no time. Alex and Dennis (the race directors) seemed excited to see me come through and yelled out that I was in the lead and cheering me on. The third and fourth climbs and descents were pretty much the same routine. Back to the checkpoint I went after pounding out another grueling 8 miles. I was told that I was still in the lead and decided to turn the pace down a notch. Since no other runners were on the road as I headed back to the trail I stopped to change my shoes as my feet were becoming sore from all the sharp rocks. When out of the corner of my eye I saw Harry Hamilton dart out of the parking lot and onto the road heading straight to the checkpoint, the one I just left!
Knowing he was only 3/4 of a mile behind, I quickly laced up and darted up the stairs for my 7th climb. This time I started passing other runners on the trail. During my eighth climb pain started to set in. It was hard at times to lift my legs to clear the rocks. I managed to get myself to the top at a much slower pace and running at the top knowing that Harry and others were on my tail. Down the back side of the mountain and straight to checkpoint I went, quickly grabbing a coconut water, banana and onto the road. Half way down the road Harry appeared running towards me and some anxiety set in. Now he was only 1/4 mile behind me and I had 2 climbs to go. The party was over, it was now game on! I quickly downed an energy gel & banana and headed up the trail. Still managing to pass other runners as I power hiked I knew my legs had not much left in them to run these climbs. I made up some time on the descent and bombed down the technical parts feeling a new charge inside.
With only a ½ bottle of water, I headed up for the final 10th climb knowing that I had no time to spare.
The fact that was my last time up made things much easier to sort out. Down 1200' for the last time and out of the woods I ran and hit the road once again heading to the finish feeling strong as my endorphins took over my feelings of exhaustion. The finish line came too soon as this last 1/2 mile was such a rush. Final time: 8:45, Elevation change: 24,000’.