Amy Hanlon vs the 2016 Manitou’s Revenge 54 Mile Ultra!

Mile 32ish. Somewhere near the top of Indian Head Mountain…lying down on a rock, calling my mommy…texting 2 possible pacers that I wouldn’t be needing any pacing at Mink Hollow since I would be dropping out there. “I will probably drop at mink unless a miracle happens. So don't go to any trouble to get anyone. I am resting at Indian Head and will be a long time getting to mink. Flies are swarming me like I'm dead. ☹” I was 100% sure I wouldn’t be able to achieve a fourth finish at Manitou’s Revenge. From about mile 26 to mile 37, I told anyone who would listen I was going to quit at mile 40. I did get up from that rock. But I sat on many more rocks and whined to many other runners. All of them were encouraging and supportive, but I was steadfast in my plans to quit.

I had had an injury to my rib cartilage (costochronditis) several weeks before Manitou’s. The first week was bad, but after that (and a lot of Aleve) the pain was improving. I had logged some long runs, including the Cayuga Trail Marathon and about 24 or so miles at Mt. Greylock the preceding week. The rib pain affected both outings—it hurt to use my arms for support and my breathing was labored, but it wasn’t enough to make me regret participating.

MPF RNR Teammates that joined me for the adventure!

MPF RNR Teammates that joined me for the adventure!

The first 21 miles at Manitou were wonderful. My body felt good. It was warm but the heat wasn’t bothering me. I was moving at a decent pace (so I thought…I didn’t wear a watch) and I was joyful to be back on trails I love with so many awesome runners and volunteers. I was happy to catch up to Elizabeth Azze and Kathy Hoegler. At the aid station in Palenville I decided to use trekking poles up my least favorite section of the race, Kaaterskill Mountain. I was slow on the ascent and leaned heavily on the poles. My breathing was labored and uncomfortable but I was in good spirits. I got to the top still feeling decent and then my chest wall really started hurting. Although the top of Kaaterskill is pretty gnarly, muddy and rooty and rocky, it is usually a spot I am able to run a little. But I began to struggle with any pace except a virtual crawl. And while the descent is something I have barreled down in the past, now I could only walk and every step and every breath hurt.

My theory is the poles aggravated the costochronditis. I had some conversations with myself. I love the Devils Path section of the trail and even if I was uncomfortable, I could hike it at the slowest pace and just drop at mile 40 at Mink Hollow. I didn’t like the idea of dropping but I started to get used to it. I pictured myself unpinning my bib with tears in my eyes. I pictured myself wistfully watching other runners continue on up Plateau Mountain to finish their 54-mile journey. I even started looking at the bright side--I would be rested for a hike with my coworkers the next day and get to see some of the faster runners finish.

I arrived at Platte Clove at mile 31 feeling very defeated. Even with my grouchy mood - it was good to see my friend Peter Preston and the other volunteers. I felt sorry for Elizabeth who had to drop after a fall injuring her ankle. I told her and Julian and Karl from MPF about my plan of dropping at Mink. But that little part of me that wanted to finish the race hinted at the idea of getting Julian or Karl to pace me for the last 15 miles. Right away, Karl offered.

So after an extended break at Platte Clove, I pressed on towards the Devil's Path portion of the course. It is by far the most challenging section--8 or so miles with nothing but gnarly roots and rocks and ledges and brutal ups and downs and very little opportunity to get into a steady groove. While this is typically my favorite type of trail, today I was truly struggling and found myself having to stop and rest, sit and even lie down many times. My negativity increased to levels I haven’t experienced in a while and that is when I found myself on the top of Indian Head in a pathetic heap. I even gave all of my water to other struggling runners, knowing that I would never finish the race so I was fine to dehydrate myself.

Fortunately other runners on the trail really helped me through this section…getting me out of the “poor Amy” state of mind I had gotten myself into. And things steadily improved after Indian Head. While neither my body or mind were in a perfect place, they both improved and continued to improve until I found myself smiling climbing down Sugarloaf’s technical descent, knowing I felt better.  I couldn’t drop out. And I would finish my fourth consecutive Manitou’s. 

The volunteers and runners at Mink Hollow fed and encouraged me. So onward I traveled, picking up the pace when I could. I felt much more like my usual self.  I had an extra moral boost on Tremper when I discovered that even though I had texted Elizabeth not to send Karl to pace me, she had confidence that I would end up finishing. Karl got into Mink Hollow an hour after I did, chased after me, and finally caught up with me a little after the stream crossing at Warner Creek. His company made the last miles fly by. Seeing my good friends Stewart and Joe at Willow, and Dick at the road junction boosted me even more! We even had a bear sighting during the last mile on the road into Phoenicia!

I was elated to finish my fourth Manitou’s revenge in one piece with a smile on my face. I faced pain and self doubt which made ultimately succeeding all the sweeter. 

Manitou’s Revenge is one heck of a race. Thanks to Charlie Gadol for creating this masterpiece. I feel lucky to be a part of it. Thanks to Mountain Peak Fitness for their support and passion and love for the trail running community, especially Elizabeth and Karl who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. Thanks to all of the volunteers and runners who make this race unbelievably special and amazing. I’ll be back for number 5 nextyear!


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