2017 Manitou's Revenge by Amy Hanlon "My 5th Adventure with Manitou!"

  1. Year one at Manitou – so hard…took forever…longest time on my feet I had ever experienced.  22 hours 34 minutes
  2. Year two at Manitou – felt pretty decent all day. PR 17 hours 11 minutes
  3. Year three at Manitou – despite a hydration pack malfunction (video) at the start I felt good all day – the heavy rain slowed me down but had a great day for Amy out there. 17 hours 29 minutes.
  4. Year four at Manitou – felt great from mile 1-25ish and from 38 – finish. Bad times in the middle – but HEY – I finished despite being sure I wouldn’t. 18 hours 56 minutes
  5. Year five at Manitou’s – felt the most well prepared. I took care of myself the weeks leading up, eating well, stretching, resting. I had done a lot of hiking over the winter, and little running due to a bout with vertigo, but that issue really had passed on. I didn’t feel like I would be achieving a PR this year, but I expected a solid finish.

I was lucky enough to stay with friends in Haines Falls the night before the race and have a ride to the start with my pals Pete Preston and Joe Brown. Had a great meal and a solid 5 hours of sleep…really can’t ask for much more for Manitou’s eve. I woke up excited and feeling ready for a long, fun day on trails I love.

I awaited my fourth wave start enjoying the company of fellow runners. Always fun to catch up with this interesting bunch of folks who think this type of thing is a great way to spend a day. Time quickly passed and soon enough I was running on the road, excited for the adventure awaiting me. Thinking how thrilled I was to be lucky enough to be capable of completing this monster 4 times previously, and being the only woman in contention for a fifth consecutive finish, as the other female, the amazing Sheryl Wheeler was injured at the start of MMT earlier this year. She’ll be back next year! At the turn into the woods, she wished me well and I knew I had to finish…for the girls!

Very soon after that first turn into the woods I stopped to take off my long sleeved shirt, the humidity was heavy and I was already soaked with sweat. After stopping I struggled to start running again. I wasn’t too worried – as often it takes me a little while to get into the groove. Well that “little while” turned into 30 miles. Runners from waves 5, 6, 7, and 8 were passing me, many as early as Blackhead. When I arrived at North Lake I felt pretty spent. One of the volunteers, Ben Drew, a buddy of mine said “You look terrible.” Nothing hurt.  Nothing ached. I just felt sort of terrible.

I had opted to not wear a watch or bring my phone. I didn’t want any distractions. The way things were going for me – I regretted this as I started to seriously worry about cutoffs. I cared about finishing and was going to finish, but timing out became a real concern. And I started to get clumsy. Yes – the trails and rocks were as slippery as I’d experienced. But I was doing little more than the slowest walk over them and yet I continued to trip, slip, and slide even sometimes when there was nothing to trip, slip, and slide on.

Despite feeling much less than great, I still enjoyed the company of every runner I encountered and felt encouraged by the aid station volunteers. I was thankful for all of them. I dutifully continued eating and drinking regularly to not exacerbate my situation. Jean Kerr cared for me when I crawled into Palenville aid station and encouraged me as I crawled out. It was an endless slog up Kaaterskill which is relentless even in the best of conditions. I took up with a French runner named Eric, living in Brooklyn for many miles. Manitou’s Revenge was his first race in the US! He sure didn’t start small! We stayed together coming out of Platte Clove, which was a bit of a blur. I do remember seeing Sheryl Wheeler and company again which injected me with a small boost of energy. And I noticed I began to feel better. I started to feel like Amy again. I started to feel sure I would make the cutoffs and finish this race!

During the most technical (and my favorite) section of the race, the Devil’s Path, I found I was actually enjoying myself. I felt more confidence on the trails, stayed upright. I thought, “Wow 31 miles to warm up, but at least I warmed up!” Eric and I stayed together with a few others joining us for bits and pieces and when we arrived at Mink Hollow I felt tired but happy and felt another jolt of enthusiasm for the course. The lively aid station volunteers were awesome. They encouraged me and fed me and when I marched out of there I was filled with optimism for the rest of the adventure.

Partway up Plateau I had a sip from my freshly filled bladder of half water, half Gatorade. And for whatever reason my stomach didn’t want it. It immediately came back up. Hmm. I tried again after a few minutes. Same thing. And I began to feel dizzy and horrible, the worst I’d felt all day. The people who I’d been hiking with over the Devils Path had forged ahead and I was alone and scared my race was over. I thought about hiking back down to Mink Hollow and collapsing into Lisa Glick’s arms. But the thought of moving at all seemed comparable to climbing Everest. So I removed my pack and spread myself out onto a friendly moss covered boulder and I closed my eyes.

Suddenly, I was rudely awakened by my mother. How did she get up here on Plateau? Wait, no, I’m still dreaming a little, it’s George Hollerbach, awesome ultrarunner from Pennsylvania. I don’t know how long I had slept for and I awoke feeling better than I had pre nap, however I felt  being alone at this point wasn’t a brilliant idea for me. George and I made plans to stay together until the Tremper fire tower (all downhill from there). Darkness was descending upon us and I was in no mood to be alone! I thoroughly enjoyed George’s company. We hiked together for many hours, and I almost forgot I was at the back of the pack of a 54 mile ultramarathon called Manitou’s Revenge. His stories of his past mountain and racing adventures transported me and it was a welcome distraction. I began to embrace the fact that I might be the last runner to reach the finish. I’d be honored to be last, in fact.

Right before Willow aid station I slipped on a wet rock (maybe tumble 25 of the day) and I landed directly on my left kneecap. Pain. Argh. I was muddy, tired, sleep deprived and still have hours of gnarly trail left so it was truly in the nick of time that the tiki torches of Willow Aid Station appeared. The Willow volunteers are great friends of mine and seeing them after such a long, hard day was almost as great as crossing the finish line. Almost. They took great care of me (in between making fun of how I was the muddiest person they had seen all day) and my heart was given a great big boost and soon enough George and I hiked on out of there to the tower. We spotted 2 porcupines, making this the 5th straight Manitou’s Revenge I had seen porcupines on the course.   

After the tower I decided to try to run a bit. I had to take off my headlamp and point it to the ground because the air was relentlessly heavy and the mist interfered with visibility. The descent off Tremper is steep, wet, and rocky. I did stumble a few times during this brutal descent and banged up some already banged up feet. At this point I was done, I moved as quickly as my body would allow and practically jumped for joy when I arrived at the road, with Charlie Gadol, RD extraordinaire there to personally present me with my reflective vest. I did not sprint the 1.5 mile to the finish, but it sure felt like it! I pushed aside everything that had been ailing me over the last 22 hours and just let myself feel thrilled and proud to cross the finish line. 22 hours 22 minutes.

It was great to see some friends at the finish line, Joe and Elizabeth Azze, Jay Lemos, and Zsuzsanna Carlson, friends and teammates of mine, and several other welcoming friends. I got so many hugs! Charlie Gadol presented me with my 5 time finisher shirt and I will wear it with pride! I had been wondering if anyone would have waited up, and they did.  

The Catskills are an incredible place and Manitou’s Revenge is a brutal, but amazing way to experience them. I feel lucky and privileged that my body has allowed me to cross the finish line 5 times. As hard as the day was this year I don’t think I’d change a thing. It was truly hard and truly worth it and I’ll be back next year for another shot at the wall of Manitou.