Harry Hamilton's 2013 Manitou's Revenge 54 Mile Ultra Race Report "Look Ma no Headlamp!"

Manitou’s Revenge is a 56 mile gnarly, grueling, nasty, sick mountain climbing ultra-beast in the Catskills of New York.  If it was a dog it would be an abused, starving, ill-tempered pit-bull.  There are roots and rocks everywhere on the course and it seems like they reach out of the ground and bite your ankles at every opportunity.  This course has more roots than the Rocky Raccoon 100 and that says a lot.

The field for this race was incredible.   Some of the toughest athletes were lining up at the start to test their endurance, technical running skill and will.      

The MPF team had just done a 43 mile training run on the course two weeks prior to race day (see video below) and I was fairly confident that I would not have any navigation issues for most of the race.  

I wasn’t really sure if I should go all out at this race, race conservatively, or use it as a training run.   By the time that I got to the start and contemplated my final decision I decided that I would go out hard for the first 40 miles and use my power hiking and climbing skills to get to the finish.

I started Manitou’s Revenge carrying a 60 ounce Camelback Ultravest and wearing a pair of Inov8 318 trail running shoes.  I started off just behind the leaders.  We were running at a 7:30 pace on the road during the first 3 miles of the race before it turned on to the trails.  I was not concerned about the pace and I felt good, so I went with it. 

I had blown through the first aid station at Dutcher’s Notch at 10.3 miles.  I had packed enough fluids and nutrition to take me to the MPfit sponsored aid station at North Lake, which was at mile 17.5.      

I was cruising along nicely.  I was running the flats and whatever I could of the descents, but mostly power hiking the climbs.  As far as time the race was passing swiftly.  I had to stop and check my bearings at a couple of turns, but never lost any time or made any wrong turns.  The team training run was so valuable for this on this race day.  The terrain was so technical that you really had to keep your concentration at all times.  I was so focused that I do not remember a lot of this race.  I just kept my eyes on the trail and the trail markers, and kept moving forward as fast as I could for as long as I could. 

I arrived at the North Lake aid station in under three and a half hours.  Iliana, Kate and Lenny from the team were volunteering at that aid station and helped me get out of there quickly.  It was a fast well planned stop.  

Prior to arriving at the Platte Cove aid station my feet began to blister.  I had a bag dropped here at mile 31.5 which contained all night gear and provisions.  To save time getting in and out of the aid station I had pre packed enough nutrition to get me to the Mink Hollow aid station at mile 40.5.  Before continuing on I tended to my blisters by globbing on some more Hydropel.  Thanks to volunteer Liz who was very helpful! 

Thankfully I did not see any bears during the race.  I did manage to cross the path of a couple of snakes without incident.  Man did my heart rate jump!  I don’t like being hissed at...  Speaking of heart rate, my readings were elevated all day long.  They were consistently more than 10 beats per minute of my usual range.  Can someone say climbs?

On the trail towards Mink Hollow I was really slowing down on my climbs, but there was no way I was giving in to the temptation to take a pause or standing beak during these climbs.  My Garmin was not registering any mph on my watch face even though I was moving forward.

Once I got to the aid station at Mink Hollow I couldn’t remember how many miles that it was to the next aid station so I asked a volunteer.  He said it was 5 miles.  Instead of filling my Camelbak Ultravest completely, which I had planned and done all day, I asked for a half gallon of Gatorade.  This should have been enough to get me down the trail 5 miles.

Around mile 45 I was looking for the aid station because I had just ran out of water.  I thought that the aid station should be coming up soon and continued on past the stream crossing at Warner Creek and started to climb Mt. Tremble.  When I got past mile 47 on my Garmin I knew that something was wrong.  I stopped to check my map and tried to determine if I missed the aid station supposedly at mile 45.  I tried to confirm the destination of the next aid station by looking at the race web site on my phone, but I did not receive any service.  I yelled out loud to see if there were any other runner’s close that could help me get my bearings, but I received no response.  I did not know it at the time, but I was in fifth place and had a 20 minute lead on the sixth place runner.

I had already wasted about 10 minutes and all that I could think of at this point was my friend Glen Redpath’s experience at the Vermont 100 a couple of years ago where he missed an aid station and was disqualified.  I had missed an aid station at Bear Mountain in 2010, but I went back to where I went off course and finished the race.  I knew that my course time would suffer for this.  

I remember thinking at the time what do I do now?  Go forward and risk being DQ’d for missing an aid station or do I go back?  I didn’t come this far not to get a finish, but I couldn’t fathom how I could have missed an aid station either but I decided to go back.   I had returned about 2 miles when I came across two runners coming towards me.  I asked if they just came from an aid station and they said no.  One runner (Jesse Johnson) was told by a volunteer at the last aid station that that the next aid station was 5 miles from the last one as well, but the other runner (Mike Dixon) knew better that it was actually 10 miles ahead.  Once I realized what had happened and I had just wasted time and effort and had been caught by the runners behind me I felt sorry for the poor woodland creatures that had to hear a few choice obscenities.  Dixon had enough fluids and continued down the trail while Jesse and I, who were both out of water, went down to Warner Creek to fill up on water.    

I filled up with 20 ounces of water and tried to chase down Dixon.  I power hiked like a demon and caught him within 15 minutes, but now my legs were starting to cramp from the fast pace.  I decided to slow up a bit and try to get him on the next climbs.  I did not want to blow up and get passed by the competitors behind me.  I came to within a few minutes of Dixon at the Jessup/Willow trail aid station at mile 50, but I was running out of gas.  Teammate Iliana and Kate were there volunteering and got me out of the aid station as fast as I could fill up my pack and drank 3 or 4 cokes.   

When I started to descend I could barely run 9 minute miles and I knew that I was not going to catch Dixon.  He was a fast marathoner and was still running strong.  I settled back into my own pace and started to think about the day.  If you told me at the start of this beast of a race that I would finish in the daylight I might not have believed you.  It was still a great race even though I lost a place in the standings.

I stopped for another three cokes at the last aid station which was 1.25 miles from the finish.  I was ready for the final push.  As I left the aid station I yelled out “Look Ma no headlamp!”  Man that was a good feeling to finish this race in the daylight!

I crossed the line and you guessed it, went for more cups of Coke.  I talked to Dixon who I had never had a conversation with before.  I also chatted briefly with Ashley Moyer and her crew as well as a couple of other finishers.  I sat down and watched runners come in and received updates on my team mates on the course for a while before I hitched a ride back to the campsite from Joe Azze.    

I had managed to come in 6th in 14:29:37.  Not bad considering I am least 20 years older than each of the runners who finished ahead of me.  This was a tough course and I hope that they do not change a thing (except for giving better details and course info at the aid stations).  This was definitely the hardest race that I have done so far.  My hardest race before this one was the Leadville 100.  Similar opinions came from other competitors.  Garry Harrington said that this was tougher than the Hardrock 100.   I hope that I get that opportunity one day to find out for sure.   

I sincerely hope that this race turns into the Beast of the East.  It probably already is.

WB - Harry Hamilton