On the second day of our trip to the Italian Dolomites, I decided to head off in a different direction and see how far I could make it toward Piz Boe, at 3,152 meters (10,341 feet), one of the tallest peaks in the region.
The last morning of our stay in Corvara (in Italy’s Dolomite Alps), I had time for a short adventure, 2-3 hours max, before we’d need to pack and leave for the long trip home.
I decided to climb up and then run down the 2,100-foot slope from town to the Piz Boe Alpine Lounge and ski lift, which I had enjoyed two days ago, but with a twist: I’d hike up barefoot, and run down in LUNA sandals.
I had been to the Swiss Alps once before, as a child during a family vacation, but that was almost 40 years ago. This summer it was finally time to repeat the experience, and together with wife and son, we headed to the Dolomites of northern Italy.
I didn’t feel quite right warming up, and by mile 35, I was really struggling.
But as I pulled into Lockport, New York, I didn’t know this was going to happen. I was here to take on Beast of Burden, a 100-mile race held along a section of the Erie Canal a few miles east of Buffalo and Niagara Falls. The event is held twice per year, and in January, I had finished in 19 hours 23 minutes, setting a personal record for the distance and placing third overall. Now here it was in August, a time of year that could be hot and humid, but the forecast was calling for temperatures in the 70s with a light cloud cover. In other words, perfect conditions. I was in an optimistic state of mind and looking to run the race even faster than before.
As I dragged myself out of bed, the main topic on my mind was breakfast — not another bushwhacking adventure in the Catskills.
The day before, my friend Todd Jennings and I had put on the inaugural Ellenville Mountain Running Festival. Organizing the race and ensuring everything went smoothly had taken a lot of effort. That night I went to bed tired and didn’t bother to set the alarm. But once I was finally awake and suitably nourished, there were no other pressing tasks at hand, and in due course I found myself motoring down the Thruway in search of Bearpen Mountain.
Todd and I had designed the Ellenville Mountain Running Festival as a “minimalist format” event, meaning that the course wasn’t marked and runners had to carry maps. Many of the racers missed turns and ran extra miles, and a small number gave up and returned to the start. It was only fitting, therefore, that on the way to Bearpen I would get lost. And this despite having both Google Maps and NY-NJ Trail Conference maps on my phone. It was high noon before I pulled into the parking area, almost two hours later than expected. As they say, Karma’s a bitch.
(Please note, the format for the 2017 event is different from the 2015 event as reported here)
What was remarkable: for all the challenges of racing through the mountains unsupported, there was a 95% completion rate. That speaks volumes about the runners’ skills and attitude.
Ellenville Mountain Running Festival was conceived as an event that would introduce runners to some of the most beautiful but less-used sections of Minnewaska State Park Preserve and Sam’s Point Preserve, which together comprise the largest preserved parcel in New York’s Shawangunk Mountains.