Elizabeth's 2008 Escarpment 18.6 Mile Trail Run "Mountain Goats only!"

On July 27th I participated in a 30km (18.6) mile trail run in Windham, NY.  I’ve was feeling  a little sick prior to the race so I knew this was going to be more of a challenge for me. I haven’t raced in a while but I have been training consistently so I was eager to feel the energy of pushing myself a little harder than if I were on a training run. My client Paul, who I’ve been training and coaching for 5 years, would be participating in his 4th Escarpment. He has completed 5 NYC marathons, three 50 milers and one 100k, under my supervision. I was excited to see him finish another epic Escarpment Race. The trail is described as a treacherous hiking trail designed for “Mountain Goats Only”. The runner is negotiating over rocks, roots, 7ft tall brush, and scrambling over cliffs for the entire length of the course.

The night prior to the race it rained about 2 inches or more, which made the trail even more technical and dangerous. Some areas were completely flooded, almost knee high in depth. The already extremely steep rocky descents became extremely slippery which required your full attention and extreme skill if you wanted to make it down with speed.

At 9:00a.m the weather was beautiful, sunny and a bit humid but cool, while 200 runners bottled necked onto a single track trail, heading up the first of 6 climbs. The first climb was 3.5 miles up Windham High Peak which stands at elevation 3,524ft and is home of the first aid station. From here the descent is extremely steep and I was looking forward to this descent. Downhill running is one of my strengths so I was eager to start flying but instead I was caught behind 8 male runners who were not as eager as I.

Finally I was able to get passed some of them but I think ego got the best of the rest and they didn’t want to let a girl get by.  I was battling nausea most of the way so it was pretty hard for me to run to my full potential, I did the best I could given the circumstances and I was proud of that. I always like a challenge and the nausea sure added to it.

Burnt knob was next 6 miles in and is a smaller climb, the terrain was extremely technical and we were all soaked from head to toe from the mud and the moisture on the bushes so trying to avoid mud puddles didn’t make any sense. I was so happy I went with my Gore-Tex Asic Trabucos. Just before the start of the race I was battling over whether or not I should run in the Asics, which are a stiffer, heavier shoe with more traction & has Gore-Tex protection or a lightweight non-Gore-Tex Nike Trail Pegasus. The Asics were fantastic, while everyone was slipping, sliding and falling on there faces I maintained an upright position the whole time.

Made it to Acra point 8 miles in and my attitude was still upbeat considering how I was feeling. Going into the race given my illness I knew I was not going to be competing but my mind would occasionally wonder what place I was in. Mentally I was getting ready for what I had considered the hardest climb of the course, Black Head Mt. at 3,942 feet and about 10.2 miles into the course.  It’s hand over foot climbing for 1000 ft and it really is so much fun that I can’t wait until next year to climb it again. I get excited just thinking about it and thats why I do head up occasionally every year to tackle the climb.  

I’m learning to embrace the up hills mentally, as for my legs and heart are on a slow learning curve but the pace has picked up.  During the entire climb up Black Head, thunder was in the background with lightning fast approaching.  The sounds of the storm approaching became the soundtrack for many miles to come. We were all waiting for the rain, the thunder kept getting louder and louder.

I caught up to this giant of a man climbing up the course. I was following him so closely I had to back up for if he were to fall I would follow with him so I dared not to pass. Eager to get to the top knowing once I reached the summit I had only 8.6 miles left and the hardest climb would be behind me. I knew that I must have been close because as we were approaching the top I heard music and so I thought to myself finally another aide station and indeed it was.  Somehow they managed to carry a radio and all the necessary provisions to the top of the mountain in order to aid the runners.

The 10th hour was the calm before the storm and as I started the descent from the mountaintop the rain started to come down. I have never heard thunder so loud, we were definitely in the heart of the storm. Suddenly it was as if the lights turned off, darkness prevailed around me.  I was thinking its only 11:30 or so but it felt as if the sun was about to set. I was really excited, with my adrenalin rushing a sense of urgency came over me as the lightning started striking all around us and then dime size hail began to fall.

Ben Nephew on his way to another win in 2:59:48!

It was raining so hard that the trails became streams; I literally had to slide down on my bottom in some areas to safely get down. At this point I knew I had one more climb to go and it was Stoppel Point. From there it was 3 miles to the finish. I embraced the rain and began to laugh at the adventure that stood before me, I even yelled out with excitement. From there I turned on the engine and ran through the puddles of mud and leaped off cliffs like I was a child again. I was enjoying the ability to move freely up and down the cliffs and through the streams without any fear.  I was confident in my training and ability and it felt like the clock was turned back and I was a naive child running wild through the wilderness.

Its moments like these that give the answers to why we train as hard as we do and enter races such as these. It’s to test our physical and mental limits on a course that would break most people down but its what we thrive and excel in. Sometimes when your mind gets caught up in fear and negative thoughts of injury or failure, you can do more harm than good and miss out on the freedom of your true being. So without stopping I flew to the finish line feeling more alive than ever and looking forward to the where the next epic adventure takes me.

Paul Morris refueling after a great run!