Elizabeth Azze's 2013 Mt. Tammany 10 Race Report

The Mt. Tammany 10 has 10 Climbs, that total over 12,000 ft of gain, within 10 hours!

A hearty group of runners gathered at the base of a looming giant that would later challenge our heart, will and desire in epic proportions.  I’m not saying its Mt. Denali or Everest but the terrain would challenge our ability to move forward as we chased the 10 hour cut off in Everest proportions.

Mt. Tammany is undoubtedly the most technical (extremely rocky) trail in the area, and has one of the largest differentials in New Jersey, the mountain rises 1,200 ft in less than 2 miles and due to a recent snowstorm some sections were covered in snow and Ice. Yup, now lets get ready for what a group of 14 of us call fun.

I met up with my fellow teammate Harry Hamilton and client Grace, each of us had different goals for the day, Harry's was to win or to better his time from last year, Graces was to complete 6 laps and I was there to test my current fitness level & mental strength with the ultimate goal of finishing the race. Last year I dropped on my 7th loop due to a nasty fall that left me with pretty bad abrasions and unable to bend my knee for a few days after.

27 degrees at the race start, I opted not to over dress or use a hydration pack. I wore 1 long sleeve under my team shirt, capris, ankle gaiters, gloves and a hat (I hate overheating). I carried one 20 oz water bottle and a tiny waist pack big enough to carry 4 sport gels and a bar, the goal was to be light and efficient for this one, especially since I would be running by my car once per hour or less so it would be easy to make adjustments.

As the race started I found myself in familiar company, Kathleen Daumer Cusick who is a longtime strong fellow ultra runner friend (last years female winner). We chatted about what our summer racing plans were, I congratulated her on her stellar performance and win at the Vermont 100 last year,  then boom before we knew it we were climbing. I saw Harry bolt off as if he was running a 5k. I was left wondering how much snow and ice we were about to encounter? I did have my microspikes in the car, I thought to myself I hope I can make it my first go around without them.  

Navigating a steep incline with rocks, snow, ice and later a snow covered steep descent, takes a different skill set than a typical trail running race.  I concentrated on my steps the first time around so it would be a little easier the next time. I took mental images of the trail of where I can run, where I will fast pace walk and where would Ifind that perfect rock to sit upon and enjoy the view, lol.  

I was right behind Kathleen during the beginning of the first loop, she seemed to have trouble navigating in the snow and ice in fear she would re-injure an old injury. So, I quietly passed with caution because I was well aware of making an early move and of her ability. Yes, we were racing, ultimately against the clock but you know we are still racing and I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t competitive when in shape or out of shape, who am I kidding...  I took the lead and heard others follow, we moved swiftly through the terrain to the first viewing point, the sun was just rising, the orange glow gave sign of a beautiful day ahead. At this point my best friend / enemy, my head, was feeling great, a couple of runners passed me and I was intrigued by their pace, great job I yelled! I continued on at a strong pace knowing I had to do this 9 more times. Finally I got to the top and saw 2 runners taking the time to take photos, I thought to myself, Oh how nice, I should have brought my camera but then I snapped myself out of it and said I’m not even wearing a watch.  

The reward for reaching the top was a great view followed by a not so great slanted technical trail that really offered not a step of unfocused running.  At that moment I promised myself I would run this section every loop until I got to the downhill. The downhill came and I felt an instant temperature change, my gloves came back on. This section was covered in snow and ice but who cares, I love running downhill, this was my reward.  I blazed down with nothing but joy! whoo hoo! 1,200 ft of downhill, some would say a time for rest, but we know better, the constant eccentric contraction of your quads, will fatigue you more if not properly trained, let it rip! I quickly got to what most people would call the nicest section of trail, a flat section free of snow that paralleled a beautiful waterfall and small creek. This section I nicknamed the yellow brick road. Due to the fact at the same tree every loop I found myself with the urge to urinate and it was close to the start / ending point of a new loop.

The 2nd loop went by in a flash, I was still feeling good! I had to remind myself at the end of this loop I have to return to the start / finish area, which was 10 miles down the road, no just kidding it was about a half a mile but as the day progressed it seemed like 10.  This little section gave us an opportunity to see the other runners. I saw Jason and another fellow runner leave the aid station, we smiled at each other and waived. I sprung up the steps to the pavilion to the aid station and quickly turned around. As I was headed back to start loop number 3,  I noticed Courtney was maybe 5 minutes behind me.

3rd and 4th lap is where other fellow outdoor enthusiast started to crowd the trail, completely unaware of a race going on until we started to loop them. According to trail info the expected time per loop is 3 hours, but we were trying to complete 10 laps in 10 hours!  It was entertaining to watch people try to navigate the terrain, some were wearing fashion street boots, jeans while others had full on gear.  Families with small children, dogs, really all walks of life were driven by the same goal, to get to the top of this mountain and down.

I Completed lap 3 & 4, when I went to the aid station I noticed we were all holding the same pace, Jason, Courtney and the friendly smile that I never met. 5th and 6 lap, I got to the aid station, stopped for a bit and talked to the RD’s, telling them how long the mountain seemed than prior. I fished for some meatless, dairy free items, ended up with some sport gels and s-caps. They hurried me out knowing someone was on my tail.  As I left 3 mins down the road I saw Courtney, waived, smiled and yelled great job!

7th and 8th lap,  I put on my music which offered a huge boost and allowed me to stop thinking about how challenging this was becoming and how loop 8, 9 and 10 seemed impossible. I was able to focus on the task. I only run with one ear piece in so I can hear other people and runners. What made my day is when the fellow hikers caught on to what we were doing and became our cheering section, one women said “wow you are so inspiring, if you can do this 10 times, then I can do it once!".

9 and 10, I caught up to Jason we talked a bit, it was nice to chat with someone after 8 hours of talking to myself. He stated how surprised he was that he wasn’t able to run all 10 loops, I laughed, and said, really!

My thoughts of my fellow teammates who were racing today Chris, Julian, Zsuzsanna, Grace  and Harry drove me to pick up the pace. Although our feet were in different places our hearts were probably in the same place. Finally the last lap came, I yelled out “profanities, lets get this thing done”, I don’t care if I ever step foot on this trail again, who cares about the view etc.. lol..   Jason took the lead at the top of the mountain but I didn’t care, I blazed down the last descent of the day which was now more like glissading due to all the foot traffic. I couldn’t resist my last pee stop then turned it on.  I threw my water bottle at my car and sprinted full tilt to the finish, happy and proud that I finished this amazing challenge. Congrats to everyone and especially to my fellow Mountain Peak Fitness/ Campmor teammate Harry Hamilton, who showed extreme strength, power and determination by winning and setting a new course record! Just amazing! Because of you I know I can go sub-10 next year.

Thank you to the Athletic Equation, Alex, Dennis and Volunteers and thank you to my amazing Mountain Peak Fitness / Campmor teammates, your support and true team spirit is what fuels me to push beyond my limits. I’m excited and looking forward to the rest of 2013.