Sunday, April 26, 2015

Springletrack Recap

A couple of weeks ago, I returned to the Shawangunk Mountains in the Hudson Valley for another fat-ass trail run. Now in its third year, the Springletrack Fat-ass Trail Marathon is a sister run to the Wagathon, again traversing the Shawangunk Ridge, but this time on the North side of the ridge and heading in the opposite direction. With no aid stations or course markings, Adam and I were left to our own devices to complete the run and earn the highly coveted Springletrack Finisher's Medal.

Castle Point, atop the Shawangunk Ridge

What is a springletrack you may ask? Well the obvious answer is a play on the words "single track," as in running single track trails during the Springtime. I've yet to confirm the origin of the word, but my inner-nerd wishes to believe it is a derivative of "springle-ring," a "a pretty dance, but rather vigorous," performed by the Shire hobbits at Bilbo Baggins' farewell party in Fellowship of the Ring. Yes, that must be it! We were expected to dance like hobbits across the ridge while singing Shire songs and smoking those hobbit pipes.  But I digress. (More on the springle-ring here.)

A group of about 12 of us met up at the Spring Farm parking lot in the Mohonk Preserve shortly before 9:00am on Sunday, April 12. Saturday the 11th was the originally scheduled date for the event, but it was moved to the next day because and official, organized race was set to take place on Saturday near the same starting area, which would make parking and logistics difficult. Apparently, several people had run the Springletrack route on Saturday anyway, so turnout on Sunday was lower than expected.

Mike, the fat-ass organizer, started us off and we began a jog through the woods. I was surprised to learn that Mike, who of course was running with us, had also run the entire route the day before. A Springletrack double!!? That's over 50 miles of this rocky terrain in two days! (I later learned that he was at the peak of his training plan for the Massanutten 100.)

I struggled for the first few miles, thinking it would only get worse, making for an extremely long day on the trails followed by a three hour drive home. Perhaps some hobbit songs and dances would have helped me through this funk, but fortunately it never came to that. Eventually I began to feel better. In retrospect, I think the early sluggishness had something to do with a lack of training on the trails throughout the winter plus the cumulative mileage on my legs over the last several weeks. I actually began to feel much better as the day progressed and day's mileage piled up. For the most part, the group split up due to different paces. Adam and I ran together as planned; we were just out for a good time and besides, I would have gotten hopeless lost if I wasn't running with someone immensely familiar with the area's trails.

Around mile nine, we came to a parking lot at the entrance of Minnewaska State Park. We had stashed a gallon of water here the night before, as it was the last place on the course where it would be possible to do so. For the next 16+ miles, we'd have no access to water aside from what we could carry, and no bathrooms. With nowhere to refuel and no reasonable spot to drop out, mile nine was the Springletrack's point of no return.

View of the valley from Castle Point

High Point, still on the ridge.
We cruised on through the park, up and down rock scrambles and along the exposed rocky roof of the Shawangunk Ridge, occasionally stopping to take pictures of the valley and mountains on either side. I was naive enough to think that I was immune to sunburn in New York in early April, but several hours in long sections of exposed terrain proved me wrong, as I'd learn later that evening. The fact that my shoes got soaked early on, and continued to get soak every time they were nearly dry, made the run that more challenging.

Another runner told us early on that the last few miles of the Springletrack were a gradual downhill along the Smiley Carriageway. Our legs were pretty trashed by the time we reached this carriageway around mile 22, but the downhill was nothing to smile at. Some parts of the path were so covered in water that we had no choice but to plow right though, while other parts rocky enough that it looked doubtful even a four wheel drive horseless carriage could make it up the carriage road. Eventually the terrain went easy on us and turned into a much more forgiving dirt road. We cruised the last mile down to the finish area to find Mike waiting at the bottom of the hill.

As "official finishers" of the 2015 Springletrack Fatass Marathon, Adam and I were granted the privilege of signing the prestegious Finisher's Log with our names and self recorded completion time. Mike then presented us with the most coveted award in all of trail running, the Springtrack Finisher's Medal...

The Finisher's Medal. May or may not constitute
copyright infringement, but who really cares?

It was a good day in all. The weather was close to ideal, scenery was beautiful, and it was a challenging but rewarding day on my feet. The Springletrack made for a nice training run as the Northface Endurance Challenge 50K at Bear Mountain and the Cayuga Trails 50 both draw near.  Thank you to Mike Siudy for organizing the run, and to Adam's wife Erica for dropping us at the start and picking us up at the finish!

Peterskill at Minnewaska State Park
Gratuitous selfie in front of Peterskill, because why not?

Castle Point
Castle Point