Hyner Never Goes the Way You Think it Would...

Hyner Trail Challenge never goes the way you think it would. The race almost always seems to play out as though your level of fitness matters less than an ideal alignment of moon and stars.

I spent vast portions of 2016, 2017, and even 2018 trying to specialize on different areas of the course and understand it better. These preparations included late fall and winter course outings, multiple repeats up and down “humble hill,” training to be strong on the horseshoe bend mile following SOB, repeats down Huff run, and working on making moves at the finishing mile if need be. Those years, training came to fruition and yielded satisfying results.



Fast forward to 2019 - I found myself, three weeks out from the race, in what I considered to be less-than-ideal form. My motivation was lacking, and I hadn’t ran the course since the race 2018. In fact, I hadn’t run more than 8 miles since January and it was already April! Procrastination, as they say, is like masturbation; The more you do it, the better you feel, but in the end you’re still only fucking yourself. So, I decided that I had enough jerking around and got down to business with a plan. Ok, maybe plan is a strong word. In reality, it was a “Hail Mary” thrown from one end zone to the other in hopes, with a bit of luck, somebody would catch it and keep the SuperBowl dream alive. I found a few shorter 10k trail races to help get some speed back in my legs. Next, I threw myself into Breakneck half marathon along the Hudson, which I felt would best prepare me for Hyner (now a mere week away) since it has a ton of vert and should, at the very least, force me to run 13 miles as a final effort. The next four days following Breakneck I put in solid bouts of running and chose to rest completely for two days prior to race day.

Elizabeth Azze, a coach for Mountain Peak Fitness, has instilled in me the importance of full rest and recovery to achieve performance goals. This is a big acceptance move from me, after a long, stubborn period of hammer-heading constant hard running with minimal rest days. I stretched instead, mediated, and focused on aligning my chi in rooms illuminated by pink Himalayan salt lamps and through the application of various essential oils while staring intently with my third eye for existential meaning at the unexplainable, recently captured photo of a black hole in the cosmos.

Nervous and apprehensive, I thought I would pull out of the race and cheer friends/other runners at the top of the signature Hyner View (first climb) if my hodge-podge plan didn’t come together. After some needed console, I realized that no matter what kind of day I had out there, I would most likely regret not giving it a shot. Hyner comes once a year, like Christmas, thanksgiving, and so many other good things. The black hole of self-doubt released me with a saturated squelching sound.


Miraculously, after my last scheduled run of this dastardly plan, I felt the train pull into the station. It might not have had enough coal to get it to its destination, it might have been duct-taped and JB Welded together in important places, and it may not have passed any safety inspections or won awards for appearances... but it had pulled into the station nonetheless and was idling patiently, billowing clouds of steam as it beckoned me to get on and take a chance on destinations unknown.

Perhaps because I had no expectations other than to give it what I had (all you’ve got is all you can give on any particular day, an admiration I try to aspire to in all aspects of life), I felt relaxed and unphased by the usually stressful thoughts of competition or the less-than desirable weather/trail conditions and my own perceived “un-fitness.” Instead, I enjoyed goofing off and rode the thermals of high spirits and friendly faces surrounding me at the start line.

The gun went off, and I ran my race. I can’t describe exactly what happened out there that day, but everything was notably perfect despite all implied imperfections. I felt strong, controlled, and relaxed - all barriers somehow removed or completely ignored. Most importantly, I was having a blast! The mud and high cold water, landslides and torrents that choked every hollow from start to finish amounted to nothing compared to the cheering spectators and sharp sun beams cutting shadows - it was like a dream in which I was a balloon floating happily along.

Photo: Mike McNeil

Photo: Mike McNeil

Unbelievably, despite all odds and preconceptions of the way things should have played out (man-made or Matt-made), I PR’d by about 45 seconds to run a 2:11:31.

The only thing I could think of that could justify comparison to the way I felt and performed on this day was the 1980 “Miracle on Ice.” It shouldn’t have gone the way it did, but it did. This is the important lesson to remember - you can only give all you can give on any particular day. the depth or quality of your “best” may vary from day-to-day, year-to-year, but remember that your best is all that you can ever give and that’s admirable enough for anyone. Roll the dice and take chances, you never know what can happen when you put it all out there.

If you ever find yourself wondering “can this old lion still roar?” or “is that little tin man still swinging his axe?”remember believe in miracles - If they can work for a hockey team back in 1980, then it can certainly work for you!