"Running Scared" at the Cats Tail Trail Marathon by Jay Lemos

Cat’s Tail Trail Marathon, a gnarly run through the beautiful Catskill mountains, and my last chance to have a fun race this year.

This year had gotten off to an amazing start. In fact, I peaked way too early. I didn’t know it though, so I kept having fun, pushing, and racing almost every weekend in the spring.  Unfortunately, the body can only handle so much. Long story short, ITB pain set in. I thought if I just rested for a week or so I’d be ok. Not the case, and I ended up having to sit out pretty much all summer.

Over the summer, besides going crazy, I was also trying my best to be good and get myself back to running. With the help of MPF and running buddies, I learned a lot of massaging and foam rolling techniques that were sure to get me back. All I had to do was to be patient and work on strengthening my weak points.

August came around and it was time to see how things were going. I started “running.” Very slow and very short at first. I had a lot of things going on that month which, in a way, I think helped. My mind was so caught up on other things that I didn’t have time to be paranoid about the injury, so I “ran.”

My main goal for Cat’s Tail was to be healthy enough to make it through this awesome race. I was doing my very best to make sure I didn’t go crazy with running to put myself back to square one before the race. Enough with the boring stuff, now the race!

I didn’t know what to expect, my longest run since August had been 17 road miles. I had been staying off trails to work on a solid form before messing myself up with funky footing which meant, also no climbing. I had become, dare I say? A roadie? Ewww.

Wave 1. That’s where Mike, the RD and mountain badass, had put me. I felt very out of place.  Oh well, no pressure. I always run my own race, against me. Place never usually phases me, and I just run and run and wherever that puts me, awesome!

With MPF RNR Teammates, Ben Nephew & RD Mike Siudy.

With MPF RNR Teammates, Ben Nephew & RD Mike Siudy.

Horn blows and we’re off! Flying down the road to the trail, I thought “wtf am I doing? Oh well. Fuck it.” Not knowing where I stood fitness wise, I didn’t know how to run this, so I thought I might as well just have fun with it until I blow up on a trail somewhere. The plan was to try to stick with Karl Loops who ran an awesome race last year and I thought maybe I could stick to him for a good while. We headed into the trail, fast. It was an instant high, and something I hadn’t felt in a while. Ben and David were gone and it was a group of maybe 5 of us including Karl and myself behind them, way behind, of course.

We started the almost 5 mile climb up Panther, the feeling of death did not hesitate to set in.  Somehow though, the legs remembered that this was something they liked to do not long ago. I was focused and convinced Karl was right behind me along with some other folks. About a mile into the climb, I realized I was in fourth, hurting already with the guy ahead of me looking very comfortable. I was a little worried. Half way up the climb, another guy passed me, and I thought this is when everyone was going to pass me now. We hit one of the little downs on the climb and the guy in front of me allowed me to pass; he was playing it smart on the descents with some foot injuries. Off I went to eventually catch the guy that had passed us half way up the climb.  We started chatting, and I thought, this is awesome, I’ll just stick to this guy until I crash!

When we got to the summit he stopped to tie his shoe, and I went ahead in a slow hike so he’d catch up. That was until I saw a few yards down the trail it was time to descend again. A normal person with ITB insecurities would have probably held back a lot, especially on wet rocks. I said fuck it and had a blast jumping from one rock to the next. I had so much fun that I lost my friend, and was now in third place. Shit!

I had now gotten a taste of some fun fun fun running, and I wanted MORE! My goal was to run “fun” as long as I could hold it. Again, I thought I had “the wall” coming my way. I made it through the aid stations still in third and feeling amazing, and of course, the volunteers are always so uplifting and helpful. At one point, I had some doubts that I had gone the right way and was a little paranoid, but I ended up staying on course. By the time I was through Slide Mountain and onto Cornell something in me clicked that wanted to stay in third. For once, I cared about placing.

Now I was running scared. Not knowing what kind of pressure I had from the runners behind me, made me run things I wouldn’t normally, like up mountains. I wasn’t giving up my third place without a damn good fight!  And I didn’t. I learned a lot from this race and the weeks leading up to it. One, rest is very important and sometimes more beneficial than a run; and two, I can actually run uphill if I really really want to.

Thank you to the RDs, Mike Siudy and Charlie Gadol, for putting on such an epic race and the volunteers who endured the nasty conditions and came out so we could have delicious snacks! Thanks also to our team sponsors, Ultimate DirectionMerrellRun On Hudson ValleyRed Newt RacingGU Energy Labs & Mountain Peak Fitness!