Friday, April 7, 2017

A Weekend on The Ridge

The Springlerack Fat Ass is basically a long, off-road group run through the Mohonk Preserve and Minnewaska State Park on the Shawangunk Ridge. It's a chance to see some pretty cool scenery while completing a challenging route. On a clear day atop the 2,200-foot ridge, one can see the vast expanse of Hudson Valley to the east and the Catskill High Peaks to the west. Runner's can start at whatever time they want, with the goal of everyone finishing around 4 p.m. This was Mike Siudy's fifth year organizing the run.

The trails were closed in the western potion of Minnewaska thanks to a forest fire last summer. That meant this year's Springletrack was a modified, shorter course. We were to run from Spring Farm in the Mohonk Preserve down to the Jenny Lane parking lot on Route 44/55—a distance of about 20 miles. The traditional Springletrack course is about 25 miles, traversing over High Point, through Witch's Hole State Forest, and finishing further east at Berme Road Park in Ellenville.

I ran the fat ass with my friend Adam two years ago, and we ran together again this year. The weather was unbelievably nice in 2015, with some great views from atop the Shawangunk Ridge and trails that were mostly dry. We weren't so fortunate this time around. Temperatures were in the low-to-mid 30s and most of the singletrack was covered in mud or
various amounts of snow. The course wasn't too bad as we followed the Shawangunk Ridge Trail for the first nine miles. (Although I had a scare two minutes into the run, when I slipped on a wet plank and whacked my weenus on the hard wood. After checking that my weenus and olecranon remained fully operational, I carried on while paying more attention to foot placement the rest of the way.) The SRT took us straight to Minnewaska's main entrance on Route 44/55, where Adam had stashed some water the night before. As soon as we left the parking lot to head up the Mossy Glen trail things started to unravel. 

Over the second half of the course many trails looked like a moving stream, with so much water on the path. At other times we had to "bushwhack" our way through through the trail. Some of the trails are narrow as it is. With sagging branches covered in heavy ice and frost, the paths were even more constricted, forcing us to plow straight through and break trail for other runners behind us. Other spots required walking over large, smoothed down boulders covered in water and/or ice. Tens of thousands of years ago, huge, shifting rocks rubbed against one another, smoothing down the surfaces of the boulders that make up the trail today. In Adam's words, it's now a bunch of "glaciated bullshit." The slick, icy boulders made for slow going. I felt a little better when thinking of the 40 poor bastards that were running the Barkley Marathons as we slid and plodded around in The Gunks on a bunch of "candy-ass trails." Minnewaska—hey, at least it's not Frozen Head.

The official Springletrack course requires a rock scramble down from Castle Point—a roughly 500-foot descent over snow-covered rocks using hands and feet. Halfway down the scramble Adam and I decided it was too dangerous—with numb hands and sketchy footing, it wasn't worth the risk. We climbed back up and took the Castle Point Carriage Road down instead. 

Back at the parking lot, Adam's wife graciously waited to pick us up upon finishing. We covered about 18.5 of the 20 miles—not quite the entire route, but a long day nonetheless. I doubt any trail shoe would have provided flawless traction, but the Altra King MT handled the snow and mud very well. (My review of the shoe is right this way.) We finished in the mid-afternoon and at lower elevation, so the air was much warmer and the cold no longer an issue. We hung around for a bit while other runners finished. When Mike came in we signed the finishers book, wrote down our self-recorded time, and received a shiny new sticker for the our effort.

Split rock.

A roaring Peters Kill.

Winter wonderland. This must have been a lame April Fool's joke. 

Your 2017 Springletrackers at the finish. PC: Elizabeth Azze.

Sunday called for some much more agreeable weather up on the Shawngunk Ridge—high 50s and sunny. I stayed over at Adam's house Saturday night, and decided to return to Minnewaska the next day on the way home to run a carriage road loop around Lake Awosting—roughly seven miles. I had very little fatigue or soreness from the day before. A runner's high got the best of me, and before I knew it, I was clicking off the hilly miles at a steady 9-minute pace. A lot of the snow on the carriage roads had melted over the previous 24 hours, and the roads' smooth, groomed surface made for easy going. (A carriage road is basically a 15-foot wide groomed trail, surfaced with smooth dirt or finely crushed stones. The word "road" is misleading, since the carriage roads are closed to motor vehicles. It's very similar to a rail trail or fire road.) In the end, I covered most of the carriage roads within the park boundary for a 23.5-mile day and a very solid weekend of ultra training. I'll be back down to the Hudson Valley for the Breakneck Point 42K on April 15, ready to crush my time from last year.

The following pics are from Sunday's solo run. (The formatting and centering is wonky because Blogger is difficult to deal with.)

A frozen Lake Awosting.

The Hudson Valley.

Lake Awosting, from atop the ridge.

Awosting Falls.

I don't remember killing anything... or opening  a market.

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