This is a guest blog post by Jeffrey Adams, an experienced ultrarunner who recently thru-ran the 358-mile Long Path in 7 days, 12 hours, and 18 minutes, establishing a new fastest known time (FKT) record on a supported basis.
By Jeffrey Adams
I’m Jeffrey Adams, born and raised in Albany, NY, currently living in Buffalo, NY. I’m an Orthopedic Surgical Assistant at an ambulatory surgery center. As a runner, I never ran in school. I only used it as a means of warming up before a workout in the gym until 2010. I then ran the Corporate Challenge in Albany for our Operating Room team at the hospital I was working at. I didn’t hate it. And one of the nurses that I worked with, Shannon Getman, was a marathon runner and she said that we could start to run together. I increased the frequency and distances of my runs and then decided to run a marathon. In 2011 I trained for and ran the Marine Corps Marathon. After that I was an inconsistent runner but stuck with it enough to enjoy it. When I moved to Buffalo in 2013 I became more involved. I started training for a marathon and that turned into more. I then started to go farther and run bigger and longer races. Ultra-distances became my favorite type of race. And trails have been the places that I feel most like me. Testing myself against long distance, tough terrain, dramatic scenery just brings me joy.
Discovering the Long Path
I was searching on Amazon for books to read, looking in the running category and I came across “Running The Long Path” by Kenneth Posner. I saw that it was about a trail that ran from NYC to Thacher Park. As a kid we used to go to Thacher Park to walk and sightsee. This sparked an interest in reading it. So I ordered it and gave it a read. I was intrigued by the idea of taking on a trail in a thru-run style. I knew about fkt’s but had never really imagined that I would try it myself, especially something of this magnitude. But it also sparked something in me. I knew that as tough as it seemed, I would want to try it one day. It took a year of thinking it over and then a year of planning to make the attempt a reality. I knew that if I was going to try and run the whole trail that it would be for the record. After I saw that Will and Dustin reset the record in 2018, I figured 2019 had to be the year to try. The pieces came together for myself and my crew to be able to give it a try.
I knew that September was going to be the month for the attempt, so I set up my racing schedule for the year based around that. I had a preplanned number of miles that I would want to hit every month as a minimum. Keeping volume consistent would keep my overall fitness up throughout the year. I was going to run Manitou’s Revenge for the third time in 2019, which I now knew was part of the Long Path, giving me a sense of knowledge of at least part of the trail. There were other races that also gave a good sense of strength and fitness. A few weeks before the attempt, I set my run schedule up to put together a high volume week to see how my body would handle it. I ran 190 miles in that week, after which I felt prepared both mentally and physically. Maura and I also ran the final 25 miles of the LP to give me a sense of what the last day might be like.
To plan for the Long Path, I reread “Running The Long Path” to get an idea about what Ken went through. I contacted Will and Dustin and got some information from them. What their attempt was like, how they planned for it, if they had any tips and tricks. I went on the NYNJTC website and printed out the trail details and created a book to read through and take notes. I tried to study it as much as I could, being a very long trail remembering all the details would be impossible for me, but a little understanding would be beneficial. I purchased the trail map set from them as well knowing they would come in handy for my crew. I gleaned any information and ideas from my other running friends who had more experience in adventure runs and hiking and fastpacking situations.
My support crew was made up of two of the most wonderful people I know.
Shannon Getman was my main crew person. She has crewed me on previous 100 mile efforts over the last couple of years. We worked together in Albany, NY and she is one of the main reasons that I got into running. Coming in from the west coast to help me was one of the greatest things that someone could have done to help make this effort a reality. She was on the wheel for the majority of the attempt. She was also the face behind the lens for the Instagram posts during the run.
My lovely and amazing girlfriend Maura Tyrrell was my other crew person. She is a great runner herself but new to the world of ultra-distances and fkt’s. Due to work schedules she was only able to help on the weekend, which was fantastic. This also allowed Shannon to step away for a second and rest and regroup for the last few days.
I also have a great group of friends here in Buffalo that lent all of their experience, time training with me, and ideas and words of wisdom to get me to the starting line.
The beginning of day 1 did not go as planned exactly. I awoke to my alarm and hopped out of bed at the Airbnb that we had. I started my normal routine for race days. I ate breakfast, 2 hardboiled eggs, some chopped pineapple and banana nut muffins that I had made at home. When I can I like to take a shower before runs in the morning. Then I dressed and we were out the door to get to the starting subway station for a 5am start. When we arrived and took a few pictures, at exactly 5am I was off. Little did I know that the pedestrian bridge was locked and would not open for another hour. I called back to Shannon to let her know this. We then went to a Dunkin close by and grabbed a coffee and waited for the bridge to open. Which was helpful actually because there was a need for a restroom before the start. At 6am we were back at the start and then I was beginning for real.
I was both worried and slightly confident. Not that I felt there was nothing to have concerns about, but that I was prepared as much as I could be and was giving myself the best chance that I could to complete this journey. The worries were that I have never attempted anything on this level, there were hundreds of miles that I had no idea about and that anything could and probably would go wrong.
Day one was a journey in itself. I was super excited to finally be moving and on the Long Path after months of planning, training and waiting. As I put in some miles and got away from the city, I was very pleasantly surprised by the trail I encountered along the Palisades Escarpment. The views of the river were great, I saw a number of animals and it had better trail than I was expecting. As the day wore on the temperature and humidity began to wear on me. It was much hotter than it had been the previous few days and I was not expecting that. I did have a few navigational errors, having to turn back and find my turns. Nothing too dramatic though. My planned crew stops had been working well, I was probably not eating enough though as I would learn as the trek wore on. I still had the thought that each day would be dealt with like a race and I was not looking at it as a week of long runs following each other. I also had never eaten pineapple during a run before and that did not sit well, later in the evening I began experiencing some pain and nausea, something that I had never had a problem with before during a race. I did eventually have to stop and vomit. After which I did feel much better, but it had cost me a lot of time that night. When I was able to see my strava data for the day I was very surprised that I had just over 10,000ft gain. I had not imagined day 1 to be that big.
After 61 miles, we met at the end of section 6 in the Turkey Hill scenic overlook parking area. I had originally thought that we could just park the SUV and sleep there. We had an air mattress and was prepared for that. The day had taken longer than expected and that parking area was less than ideal for that situation so we drove in to Woodbury and found a motel and showered, ate and slept there.
As I woke early on the morning of day 2 I was already off the schedule that I had pre-planned. Due to the fact the start on day one was pushed back an hour, I finished later than I had wanted. I had originally wanted to start every day at 5 am as well, but after just 4 hours of sleep I got back to the trailhead to start at 5:40 am. Physically I was still feeling good, just tired. I knew from the notes that the beginning of the day was going to be a bit of work thru Harriman Park and a steep climb up Schunemunk Mountain. I also knew that there was going to be a number of miles along rail trail and road that would allow me to use my running abilities to make up time and drop miles with less effort.
The weather on the day was much better for the effort needed to throw down a big day. On paper I had another 58 miles to cover before I could stop for the night. Knowing the number of miles that would be more runnable I didn’t think this was too out of my reach.
After the start of the day, I was moving pretty well and knew that I would meet my crew on Estrada road not too long into the day. Little did we know that this was a school bus turn around and in the 10 mins that we were parked and refueling 3 buses arrived and all 3 drivers yelled at us for parking in their way. It wasn’t the greatest way to see that town. I understood that they had a job to do, but we weren’t really in the way so it was a bit of an overreaction in my opinion. Either way I carried on thru the road portion of that section to finally hit the gas-line right of way which was a slightly muddy section but allowed me to move smoothly. It felt like I was making good time for the day and moving well. The climb up Schunemunk Mountain wasn’t too bad and I knew from there it wasn’t far until the runnable sections for the day. As I was coming down off the ridge towards Seven Springs Road I was cruising down the hill and unfortunately missed the turn. I got to the bottom and hit the road with no blazes in view. I went up the road a little and saw that I was off so I went back up to where I knew I had been before the miss and then came back down the right way. I didn’t want to make one wrong turn or miss a single blaze as this FKT attempt was on the line. This would not be my last navigational error. After a brief crew meetup and refuel I hit the road before another brief stint in the woods before the Heritage Trail parking lot. It was sad to see in this small road section the amount of trash that was just piled on to the side of the road.
The next 25ish miles were not very exciting as far as views or nature, as they were mostly flat and paved. But it afforded me a bit of relief from the climbing and allowed my feet to relax in comfy road shoes. I did enjoy seeing the old railway features on the sides, giving me a glimpse into the past. I also had a wonderful vanilla milkshake from a ice cream shop right on the trail which was much needed at that time.
The day ended after 59+ miles and 15 hours. I had made it to Basha Kill as planned. In the DEC parking lot we had planned on car sleeping but it was becoming apparent that it wasn’t going to be as easy to do that as I had imagined. After some quick debate we reloaded the car and decided to find a motel as close as possible. After the drive and getting in, shower and eat, it was nearly midnight again as I passed out for the little sleep I could get. Nearly 120 miles in the first two days had some effect on me, but I was still in good spirits and was just excited to be sleeping.
Day 3 again started a little later than I had wanted. Getting from the motel to the starting area in Basha Kill gave me a start time of 5:40 am. The Basha Kill flats section to begin the day was a nice easy way to get warmed up and moving with ease. There were some nice bridges to cross but the early hours and darkness prevented me from having any good views of the wetlands for most of this section. I was able to snag a neat picture of a boggy area with some fog lingering.
As I made my way to the road at the end I took a left and saw a fantastic front yard display of a skeleton drinking at a table and a large metal dragon wearing a patriotic hat. Absurd to the average city dweller like myself, but out here in the middle of nowhere, it made sense. The next couple of road miles thru Wurtsboro were easy and quick. I met my crew just before I reentered the woods. The trail at this point was great. The flow was nice never really too challenging and slow, allowing me to move well. Shannon was again just ahead and I popped out of the woods onto a road saw her parked just down on the side. I approached the car and apparently was making better time than expected because she was surprised to see me so quickly. After a quick break I was back to climbing to reach the ridge top. After passing a fire tower I was able to move smoothly across the ridge, although the views on the day were spectacular and a clear sky afforded me many opportunities to stop and soak it in. As I had been told many times, don’t rush, enjoy the journey, I knew that although I was trying to “run” as much as possible, I was still making the most of these moments. I began to descend and had a very quick passing hello with a gentleman whom I noticed was wearing a NYNJTC volunteer shirt. Looking back I wished that I had taken the time to chat, what’s 5 min in the grand scheme of something like this. But I continued on. In the col there was beautifully clean and recently groomed trail that was easy to follow. It was great to see the care taken by the volunteers who cared so much about the Long Path and other trails that made up the LP. Along the descent of Old Rt. 52 there was once again a lack of care as there were piles of garbage strewn about. It’s unfortunate to see such disregard for the environment by these people, but nothing new.
Another meetup at the end of Old Rt. 52 was quick and as always nice to see someone. To this point seeing another person on the trail was very few and very far between. Climbing my way up to Sam’s Point Preserve was definitely a chore. At well over 1200 ft of gain in 3 miles I was a little tired when I reached the parking lot to find the car again. I sat and took in some calories as I regained my breath. Previously while reading thru the trail notes we had all wondered what a berry picker cabin was and it was nice to finally see what they were referring to. In Sam’s Point there were a lot of people out enjoying the day. In my mind I just kept thinking, it must be nice to just be out for a couple of hours, maybe covering a few miles, you all have no idea what’s going on here with me. But at the same time it was a fun little secret to know that I was in the midst of such a task. Cruising along the ridge on my way towards Verkeerder Kill Falls I was making an attempt to pass two gentleman hiking. They politely stepped to the side and then said “Jeff??” They had met Shannon in the parking lot and seemed to know what I was doing. They wished me well and said that they knew I was on a mission and didn’t want to slow me down. It was a little pick-me up to be recognized and I continued to zip along the cool single track. Unfortunately I was about to make a big navigational error that would bring down that good mood. At the fork of the SRT and High Point trail I made the error of staying straight and going along the Scenic Trail. I would occasionally see an aqua blaze which gave me the impression that this was a co-aligned trail. After about a mile it didn’t seem right, so I pulled out my phone and got a signal and saw that I had missed the correct turn. I made my way back to the red blazes but I was now angry with myself and the sun and warmth of the day was taking its toll. I was slowing down and losing focus. I reached a high point on the ridge and took a few deep breaths. I looked around and noticed how big everything was, how little I was in this whole world. A short 360 degree video captured this feeling, the past; where I had come from, the present position and the future; where I was headed. I knew I didn’t have long before I got off the ridge and made my way the Berne Rd so I ate a couple gels and tried my best to shake this negativity. Signs of recent bear activity certainly perked me up a bit, as I have never seen a bear on any of my trips. Scat and bent and broken berry bushes let me know that there had been a bear in the area not too long ago but I was not to see one on this day either.
As the day wore on I had started to notice a pain in my left leg unlike anything I had ever had. In all of my running I have never had shin splints but I would imagine that this would be what people felt. Along the anterior shin of the left leg there was some pain and a little swelling around my sock line. I took this as just something that I would have to deal with for the rest of the day and kept powering through. When I hit the road section of Berne road it became increasingly worse. I expected to be able to cruise through these miles and get to the next crew stop with no problems. Instead I was slowed to a walk and each step was painful. It was also now getting dark and on paper I was supposed to cover the next section to the Peekamoose primitive campsite, an additional 9+ miles. I knew I had 3 more miles until I saw my crew at the DEC parking lot and I was barely moving, at least in my mind. Shannon had come down the road to meet up with me and walked in the final half mile or so. I told her what was going on and that I needed to stop for the night. She was reluctant to let me stop, thinking that I was quitting on the day when I didn’t really need to. I knew what she was trying to do by attempting to motivate me to keep moving, but I knew that this wasn’t just some discomfort that I was being a baby about because I was tired. It almost became a full on argument between us. At this time, Maura, my girlfriend and second crew member was here to help for the next day and a half. I finally convinced them that I was through for the night and needed to eat and rest to give myself the best chance to even continue the following day. We started to try and formulate a plan as to where to get food and we knew that we would car camp this night. There was no cell signal so Shannon took off to look for one, but we didn’t know exactly where she was headed. All I wanted to do was eat something and get to sleep as soon as possible. I knew that I stopped early so I was planning on starting early the next day. We finally found food at a pizza shop/convenient store, made our way back to the parking lot, and got to sleep. Just over 50 miles for the day, approximately 7,100 ft of climbing. I was disappointed that I was unable to complete the day that I had planned and knew that this was going to be the start of falling behind on the attempt. The goal that I had was definitely ambitious and probably outside of my physical abilities, but I didn’t want to fall too far behind this early in the week. The hope was that some solid sleep would put me in a good position to start the next day. I would be wrong…
As the alarm in went off I stirred but did not want to get up. It was 3:45 am and I had only gotten about 4.5 hours of restless sleep in the car. We had an air mattress but it was not the most comfortable sleep I could have gotten. After stopping early the night before I knew I had to get moving as early as possible today. I got up and started to get ready. I was sore, my feet were swollen and would be for the rest of the trip. And the pain in the shin was still there. And worst of all I still felt the tension in camp, between myself and my crew which was not giving me a good feeling.
I ate and dressed and got ready to leave the lot. I knew that this day was going to be a huge day as I entered the Catskills so I needed to be on my game and have my crew on theirs as well. Shannon would be leaving to head to Albany for a short break while Maura took over for the weekend so I needed them to work out a hand off and an understanding as to what I was needing and doing over the next 36 hours. I left the parking lot and headed down the path onto the snowmobile trails. I had not looked over the details of this section so in the dark I was slightly unsure as to where I was supposed to be going. I realized that I would be following the blue DEC disks, but they were difficult to see in the dark. With the wide smooth snowmobile trails allowed me to move easily but this also allowed me to miss the first few turns and I was getting frustrated and angry with myself for not knowing the course better. As I continued through the forest I soon felt like I was off course again, I had not seen a disk in a little while. I once again had my head down and was moving along the trail and missed another turn and eventually ended up on a road. I knew this was wrong and I pulled out my phone. I had no signal. For a minute I felt lost. I wasn’t sure if I should carry on across the street or return to a spot where I could see markers. I stood on the side of the road and took in some deeps breaths. I started to backtrack and finally saw where I had missed my turn. I came off the snowmobile trail and entered the woods trail, relieved. Finally feeling like I was moving in the right direction, having daylight again, and knowing I would get closer to the areas that I had some familiarity with was very helpful. Going forward I would also be taking pictures of the trail details so I could at least look at the turn directions when I couldn’t get signal to look at a map. I couldn’t get lost anymore because it was taking a lot of time and energy to continue making these errors.
I made it to Peekamoose Road. From this point on for the rest of the day I knew that I would have a lot of work to do. There was coffee and warm oatmeal waiting for me. This would also be the point where Shannon was going to leave. So she walked me a little bit down the road to say goodbye. There was concern that in her absence that I may lose focus but I reassured her that there was nothing that I wanted more than to keep going and finish this trek and that I was in good hands with Maura. I just needed to keep moving and put down the miles.
I made it to the trailhead of Peekamoose Mountain. I looked at the trail sign and passed three guys in the parking lot gearing up with huge packs for their own adventure. A few head nods and “heys” and I was on my way up. It began to sprinkle but the canopy was keeping me from getting really wet but the wind and moisture in the air was showing that this day was not going to be easy. It was a great climb and I was happy to be in the Catskills again. Having run the Manitou’s Revenge 54 miler three times I knew what I was getting in to for the next 90 miles. After making my way up to the peak and moving on to Table Mountain I was carrying through to meet up with crew at the intersection of the Peekamoose-Table trail and the Phoenicia East Branch trail. When I arrived at the intersection there was no one there. I assumed that they got caught up and were on their way to me so I followed the trail towards the parking lot. Coming towards me finally was Maura with the bag of resupply. I was so happy that we found each other. Turning around we went back to the intersection and sat down for a bite of food and to refill bottles and my pack. We met a group of hikers that were heading down to the Neversink flood plain for the weekend. The leader of the group knew about the Long Path and wished me luck on my endeavor, while the group of young ladies that were hiking seemed less than interested in not only my story but being in the wild at all. I hope they enjoyed their time out in the wild.
A second large climb for the day was ahead and I just kept moving as best as I could. Slide Mountain turned out to be one of the hardest segments of the entire trail in my opinion. It was due to a number of reasons, but I think that even on fresh legs it would have been a challenge. At the summit I was able to grab a quick video of the wind blowing clouds through the trees. The wet rocks on these mountains made for very slow descents as the danger of slipping and getting hurt was constant. I was descending down the mountain getting closer to the intersection of the Phoenica East Branch trail and the Wittenberg-Cornell-Slide trail. It began to rain heavily and I was passing day hikers in both directions. A young lady let me pass and as I did I was able to open up and fly down the trail ahead of them. I heard her yelling to her friends “he’s a trail runner….” I thought that was kind of funny as I had not been doing much running that day at all.
The newer section 19, Wittenberg to Phoenicia turned out to be quite lovely. It was wet and rainy this day, but I could see the work put into this area and again it showed the love of the trail by the volunteers and trail conference and trail stewards.
Making it to Phoenicia was a big step in the journey. It was past the halfway point, it was place I was familiar with and it began the Manitou’s Revenge course, albeit in reverse. I had built this up in my mind as being something that I was going to be able to handle well and efficiently and effectively. Little did I know that by the time I got there that I would be battling shin pain like I have never felt before. The pain in my leg had increased as the day went on and I was now seeing swelling along my sock line. After another stop we made our way through the streets of Phoenicia to get to the trail at the base of Tremper Mountain. Maura said goodbye and made her way back to the car, knowing that we would meet up again at Silver Notch Hollow in a few hours.
I knew that the climb up Tremper would be a haul. It was getting dark and I was not getting any faster. The pain was not terrible as I climbed but on the flats and downs it was bad, which wasn’t good. Making my way to the top I had been excited about climbing the fire tower and taking some pictures. This was not to be as it was dark. All I had to do was cover 5 more miles and I would be able to stop for the night. I was having more trouble moving with the pain and this distance was feeling like it would never end. The deep darkness in the forest was not helping me and my attitude and energy were in the toilet. I felt like garbage and I wanted nothing more than to just lay down where I was and stop moving for the night. I knew that I couldn’t do that obviously so I slowly kept crawling along. I was supposed to have about 2 miles to go but I had to stop. The pain and swelling was awful. I took my shoe and sock off and looked down at a monster ankle. It always seem like an exaggeration when one says “it was twice as big as the other ankle” but I really think it was. I knew I had to leave the sock off and put my shoe back on to finish the night. I was now worried about creating huge blisters on my foot with a wet shoe rubbing all over it. This slowed me down even more, I was not even moving 2 miles per hour for the final four miles of the day. I got to the intersection of the trail and made my way out to the car. Maura was quite relieved when I made my way out as I was way later than I should have been. I wanted to fall to the ground and just crawl into a ball. I climbed into the car and we headed to the motel that she had found for us. It was not as close as I hoped but I knew there would be a shower and a bed so I just sat in the car and collected myself.
When we got to the motel I waddled into the room and took my shoes off slowly. I had abrasions on the tops of two toes and blisters under most of them. I took a shower and forced myself to eat a cold hamburger and then a little bowl of ice cream. Propping my leg on as many pillows as I could I passed out for the night. It would have been fine if I didn’t know that I only had about 4 hours until I would be doing it all over again. 52 miles and 12,654 ft of climbing for the day.
The hardest day of the whole fkt attempt.
I swear that I had just shut my eyes minutes prior when the alarm went off. The sleep over the last few hours was not good. With the pain and discomfort in my ankle and shin, it was so difficult to find a comfortable way to sleep. I had my leg propped on all the pillows I could grab. But sleeping on my back is not normal for me so I was miserable. I tossed all night and woke a number of times. I did not want to get out of bed because I knew it was going to hurt to try and walk and move at all. My feet finally hit the floor and it was everything I expected, my foot was so swollen and my ankle so tight I couldn’t take a step without pain. And both feet were now covered with blisters making it even more unpleasant. On top of all of this, my stomach still felt full and slightly upset from the heavy dinner that I just ate a few hours ago. I knew I should eat something before I started again today but I hardly wanted anything. I forced a little food in my mouth and some fluids and took it for what it was, hoping to make it up later in the day when I felt a little better.
I slowly got dressed, dragging as I did not want to get started. I knew that I still had a lot of the Devil’s Path to cover and the Escarpment as well. It was supposed to be a huge day of not only miles but climbing and descending. I was struggling with motivation this morning, but deep down I knew there was no quitting. I was hurting, I had all the reasons in the world to call it off but I couldn’t let myself go there, not yet. I had put in a lot of time and effort to get to this point and many others had as well and I just couldn’t stop now. It hadn’t gotten that bad yet.
I was finally able to get everything together, my left foot had barely fit into my shoe. I very slowly limped out to the car and we took off for the trailhead at Silver Notch Hollow. I was once again behind schedule with my morning and by the time I hit start on the watch and GPS it was 5:45 am and I had to still get back to the Long Path from this trailhead. I hit the turn and was back on the LP. With this portion being the Manitou’s Revenge course there was a lot that felt familiar. The climbs and descents being in reverse made it feel so different though. It was setting up to be a much nicer day than the previous two so I just waited for the sun to rise. As I was working my way up Plateau Mountain it did start to light up and with that so did my spirits. I wasn’t moving fast but I was still moving. My shoes felt just a bit looser than they did when I put them on, so I felt good that I was starting to push out some swelling and move easier. An opening to the right presented a view out into the wilderness. I took a moment and looked out over it all. A few moments later I was on the summit and moving on towards Sugarloaf and beyond. I began to feel as if the day was going to be another strong day.
Being in the Catskills brought more hikers, and seeing other people out on the trail was great. There wasn’t a lot of interaction with them, but not being totally alone out there felt better. I did say hello when I passed and took just a moment to chat with a young lady who said she was hiking the entire Devil’s Path today. That was cool to hear that she was putting in a big effort too. I wasn’t the only one out there working hard. I dropped down off Sugarloaf and started back up Twin Mountain. At the top of Twin I came out to an opening on the slab, sitting down to take a few minutes to rest the ankle and also to eat some food and drink. The view was spectacular and I could see forever to the south. Looking at a map later I could see that I was looking at the previous 50+ miles that I had covered the day before and probably the day before that also. I continued on making my way to Platte Clove and my first visit with crew of the morning. Maura had found a restaurant and got me a breakfast burrito and huge fluffy pancakes. It was so delicious and I stuffed myself. I knew that I just had to take my time to rest and eat and make sure that I was taking care of body at these crew stops. I had probably not done so in the first couple of days which led to me being behind with rest and calories. There was no way to make up for that now but I could keep it from getting worse.
After this first stop I was able to pump out the best miles of the entire day. The next crew stop wasn’t going to be that far so I was feeling strong and making up some time. Just after leaving the parking lot I had a climb on a fire road. There was a lady with her dog and a group of three hikers that had started out ahead of me. It felt amazing to catch and pass all of them knowing how crappy I felt when I woke up. Covering the ground to get to Palenville seemed like it was going well. I was hitting points that I knew from my time racing there and eventually made it to the descent down to the short road section. Getting on to the old unused road along the creek felt great. I had always found this road interesting, seeing the way that nature was taking it back by growing back over the asphalt. I hopped the guardrail and turned on Route 23A towards the parking lot where Maura was waiting. When I got there I was tired and warm from pushing over the last 10 miles. I told her when I got in that I needed to sit and rest my feet for at least 15 mins. I sat down and covered my eyes with my buff and tried not to fall asleep but at least rest and shut down. Sleep eluded me but it was a nice rest. It was now early afternoon and Shannon met us in the parking lot.
When I left and headed up, I knew that I didn’t have long before I would see them again. North-South Campground was less than five miles away and that would be where Maura would leave from, as she needed to return to Buffalo for work the next day. After N-S Campground it was also a long gap to the next spot that Shannon would be available so it would be a quick gear pickup and refueling spot.
I made pretty quick work of these miles and found Maura making her way towards me on the trail. We got to the car and grabbed more fluids, extra food and gear to get me through the next 15 miles or so. Knowing it would be the last time we saw each other for the next 5 or 6 days Maura headed out with me on the trail for a little while. We passed a few hikers that told us there was a chance of a bear in the area. As I have never seen a bear in the wild I was excited by the chance to see one finally but it was not to be this time. We did however see a girl carrying her chubby Pug who seemed to have no interest in being out on a hike at that moment. As we made our way along it felt good to have Maura see some of the difficult rock sections to see what I had been dealing with. We also had a couple of vistas that gave great views for her to see the beauty of the area, even giving off a rainbow to the east. When she turned around I was alone again and that felt like a loss. I had no time to wallow though and pressed on, I still had a long way to go before the night was over.
The sun soon set and I was back under the cover of night which not only slowed me down but drained energy and spirit. I was still moving along but it was starting to feel like everything was taking longer and longer. I was becoming exhausted and my legs were hurting again. The plan was for me to make it to Route 23 before we ended for the night, which was around 13-14 miles. It was going to be a late night but I needed to make up a little for the lost miles from the previous two days. Unfortunately I was about to make a huge navigational error. I made my way along the ridge to Stoppel Point. After the descent to the col I came upon the trail sign at the intersection of Blackhead Mountain and two side trails that lead off the Path. From there I would need to cover 11 more miles. So I started the climb and just kept moving. At the top I felt a small victory, it was not an easy climb. I was following the trail and took a left which just led to a small lookout. I turned around and followed the first blaze that I saw. I then began a descent. I thought nothing of it as there had been plenty of climbs that went right into a descent. After a little while I hit a flat area. Up ahead I saw what seemed like a sign. My stomach began to drop. I made my way over and saw that I was right back to where I just came from. I was devastated. I sat down on a log and felt the energy drain right out of my body. I reached into my pocket and pulled out my phone and turned off airplane mode to see if I could catch a signal. Thankfully there was just enough and I was able to get in touch with Shannon. I told her what happened and that there was no way I could finish this section tonight. At the speed I was moving it wouldn’t be until after 3 am by the time I was done and I did not have that in me at that point. We tried to figure out where I could get out and saw that if I took the Storks Nest trail it would eventually get to a road where she could pick me up and find me a place to sleep. To make matters worse the way out was just as difficult as anything else I had done that day, which also meant that the start of my day tomorrow would be difficult just to get back to the starting point. That too sucked some of the life out of me. I felt so stupid for not paying attention to the trail better, to making this error and the amount of time and energy that it was costing me.
I finally hiked out to the road and was walking down to meet her. After a few minutes I just sat down. I didn’t want to move another inch. Shortly after I sat down headlights came up the road towards me and it was the Buick. I climbed in and we made our way to the hotel that she found for us. Shannon had picked up some dinner for me and I ate the soup in the car in a matter of mins, it was so good. Of course the room had to be on the second floor, I wobbled and groaned as I slowly climbed the stairs. Thankfully I didn’t see any other guests as I was a mess. I took a shower, ate my dinner and climbed into bed. I’m pretty sure I fell asleep the moment my eyes closed. After a slow start the day seemed like it was going to be a strong day. The end was definitely not what I could have imagined and not at all how I wanted it to go. It was tough to swallow but I was not going to let it wreck the journey. Tomorrow would be another chance to keep moving, making my way to Thacher Park.
Days total, only 39 miles in almost 17 hours. Over 10,000 ft of climbing.
As with each of the previous mornings, the alarm went off way faster than real time moves. With the unexpected stoppage last night I wanted to get back to the trail early again. I slowly and painfully got out of bed and got myself dressed and ate what I could get down. The first section of the day was going to be a long slow one so Shannon knew she would be able to come back to the motel and sleep a little before packing up to meet me.
It was quiet in the car as we headed back to the trailhead, I was still feeling a sense of disappointment from the night before. I knew that I had a big climb just to get back to the starting point, from there the climb would continue. It just had to get done though, so as we arrived, I just had to psyche myself up a little. The sun would come out and like the other days my spirits would lift and I would be loose and moving again.
At just around an hour, I was back at the trail intersection from the night before. I turned right and headed back up the Black Mountain climb. It hadn’t felt as daunting as I imagined so I was in pretty good spirits at this point. The breaking of dawn was going to have to wait though as the mountainside was covered in fog. This bothered me a little because the darkness is what led to my navigational error. As I reached the plateau and moved along the trail I saw the short side trail that led to the lookout. Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t notice a blaze to indicate a right turn, but I knew that turn was there and I was going in the right direction this time. I had not been on these sections of the Escarpment before and it was great. It made me wish that I was in better shape and was able to run it more, but I was slowly making my way through towards Route 23 and I was grateful for that.
As I made my way through the last bit of the Escarpment and was only a few minutes from exiting the park, I took a few pictures of some plants and also a bridge on my way out. Thankfully I was now out of the Catskill Mountains and I had less than 100 miles to go until the finish. This of course meant nothing because I still had to cover those 95ish miles and anything could still happen.
We met in the parking lot on Route 23 with relief on my face and in my attitude. I was greeted with a hot egg and cheese sandwich and some coffee was to be made momentarily. An interesting young lady had pulled in to the lot a few moments before Shannon, blasting the Grateful Dead. She was wearing a summer dress and cowboy boots and out of her car pulled a huge walking stick with a large bend at the top. It must have weighed a lot. I guess we all enjoy the outdoors in our own way. I sat in my chair out of the sun, eating, drinking and looking over the notes for the next section.
All fueled up and ready to go I headed out once more. I made my way through a short wooded area and came back out onto Jennie Notch Road. I turned around once more and looked at the mountains that I had just traversed. It was unlike anything I had done before and I got a little choked up thinking about it all. I was still moving and although I had a long way to go, I had come even further to get here and I almost shed a tear at all of these thoughts. Being out here on the trail this long can be an emotional experience and for those that know me, emotions are not exactly something I express with regularity or ease.
The middle portion of this day is escaping me. There were a number of climbs and descents, but nothing is standing out as particularly memorable. Looking back at my photos and Strava data, I made decent but not spectacular time and I saw a few interesting trees and a small garter snake.
At mile 28 for the day I remember coming out of the woods onto a fire road. I knew that I had a descent that was leading me to Shannon and a rest period. Although it was only a 15 min mile it felt like I was almost running again and that was good. I came out to the road and saw the car and was excited. I was going to change out into road shoes for the rest of the night and also consumed a large bowl of broth with potatoes and tortellini. It was delicious and exactly what I needed. My feet were raised on the chair and ice on my shin as I laid on the ground. After about 15 mins I started to get myself back together. Sliding my fat foot into a fresh sock and shoe was difficult but I managed to squeeze it in.
There was a road section ahead and I thought that would help me get moving again to finish the night with some power. I was not able to move as well as I wanted though. I power hiked these roads as best I could. The views were absent and a lot of the houses along the way were nothing to get excited about. One thing that did make me smile was a small farm and beside the road was a pen with a family of pigs. As I passed they thought I might be feeding I guess because they all got up and followed me along the fence, making little oinks and grunts. They all seemed so happy, even the giant hog got up and came over. It was the largest pig I had ever seen in person.
After turning off the road in Conesville I reentered the trail for a few miles as I got closer to Gilboa. This was exciting because I was getting closer to the end of the day. As I passed through the town of Gilboa I kept seeing glowing eyes on the side of the road, they would disappear and then turn and look at me again. Not sure if it was a fox or a cat but it was fun to watch them glow in the dark. The temperature had dropped and with my slower speed I was getting a little chilly. I knew I didn’t have too far to go to get to camp and get some clean warm clothes and dinner. Passing over the Schoharie Creek I made the slight climb and turned on Stryker Road which was the road that would lead to the campground. It seemed like it took forever to get there but I finally arrived at the entrance of Nickerson Campground and followed the road in to find Shannon and the car.
Shannon had set up the air mattress in the back of the Buick, but the SUV did not turn out to be as spacious as we had originally thought. Half of the gear and food tote were going to have to stay outside the car during the night and to let me have room to sleep my best Shannon was going to sleep in the front seat. She had some more soup warmed up and spicy chicken bites. I changed into some clothes to sleep in and ate as quickly as I could. I just wanted to get into bed as soon as possible. I brushed my teeth and laid down. I’m pretty sure I passed right out, knowing that I was going to be up in just a few hours.
Total for the day: 40.77 miles, 9,423 ft gain. 17.5 hours from start to end. A very long day without the gain that I was wanting. But I was still making progress. I made it out of the Catskills and was nearer to Albany with every step.
It was cold and I hadn’t slept very well, but I still did not want to get up. The alarm went off and I hit the snooze for just a few more minutes of rest. The idea as always was to get moving as early as my body would allow. I finally began to wake enough to know it was time to get out of the car. It was only 3:40 am, so dark and quiet. I rummaged around in my bag to grab some clean running underwear and socks. Shorts and a shirt had been picked out the night before. It’s quite difficult to get dressed on a mostly inflated air mattress in the back of an SUV but I figured it out eventually. The hardest part once again was smooshing my feet into my shoes with as little discomfort as possible.
A quick bit of food to get me started for the day and I was finally ready to get moving. I started my watch and Spot tracker at 4:17 am, the earliest day of the whole trip. The campground was eerie at this time of day, knowing that everyone was still asleep just a little distance from me. As I made my way along the blazes I passed the outdoor arcade and play area which seemed like a lot of fun, if I only had the time to stop and play a bit.
I soon left the road of the campground and entered the woods to begin working my way along the trail. The moon was still bright and shining off the water to my right. As I worked my way along something felt off. I hadn’t been going long before I thought that I may have turned around. Something that I had learned on a previous day was I could look at the map screen on my watch and see the path that I had already laid down. The arrow showed that I was moving back in that direction so I stopped, found my bearing and continued along the trail in the correct direction again. That could have been another costly error but I was glad to see that I was able to use the skills that I was beginning to develop as a trail navigator. Unfortunately these skills would not hold on for too long. I was hiking along towards the Mine Kill State Park and feeling pretty good about the pace I had and clicking off a few miles. While quickly reading over the trail notes I saw that there was a white blazed section that could be utilized when water levels were low, cutting a short distance off so when I saw the first blaze I began to follow it along the water and saw where I was to cross on the large rocks. Once on the other side I saw an LP blaze ahead of me and began to follow the trail up the hill. I exited the woods onto the road and continued with the blazes until I turned into the entrance of the park. I began down the road and was soon at the bottom of the hill. Something seemed very familiar about all of this and soon right in front of me was a white blaze again. I wanted to scream!!!!! Since I was unsure of what to do with that white section I didn’t want to follow it again, so I turned around and headed back up the hill to exit the park and follow the road back to where I had come from. Once I was back to the water I saw the LP blaze where I should have taken a right and climbed the hill and front of me. It was so frustrating that again I had not understood the course I was supposed to be following and wasted a fair amount of time and energy.
Heading north I left the Mine Kill State Park and only had a short distance before I would meet with Shannon. The ground was soaking my feet as I passed through the open fields on my way to the Lansing Manor. There was a beautiful view of the hills to each side of me with mist covering them. Deer were running about in the area which was always fun to see as much wildlife as I could. I hadn’t had a lot of ground to cover before we met, so the stop was as quick as I could make it. It was nice to have a cup of hot coffee though, as I normally have at least 3 or 4 cups a day. I hadn’t had much during this journey so far.
Continuing on the next few miles were nothing that stands out in my memory. The temperature was rising and the sun was out which was nice coming off the chilly morning. I exited the trail on to West Kill Road and saw the car pulled over just up the road. As I got closer I didn’t see Shannon and when I got right up to it she wasn’t in the car at all. I thought she might be sleeping in the front seat but she was not. She had gone down the road looking for the trail where I would be coming out but missed it so I was standing at the car for a moment before I started to yell her name to let her know I was there. She came running from the direction that I just came from. I had to chuckle a little as I thought of what a disaster that could have been.
The trails through the Burnt-Rossman Hills State Forest were nice. The miles were just adding up and they were all starting to blur together. We met again on the logging road Cole Hollow road. I needed to rest so I had my feet up on the back of the car while I laid on the ground. The sun warming my face was comforting. I kept moving from there and was heading around Looking Glass Pond, I stopped to take a few pictures and when I did this I missed my turn and went about a tenth of a mile before I noticed there were no blazes. A big sigh exhaled as I turned around to find my way again. This was a really annoying reoccurrence. On Sawyer Hill Road it was nice to be off trail for a few minutes to not have to climb and descend, but I was still in a lot of discomfort in so I wasn’t able to run like I would have wanted to. Just before I made it to West Fulton a local in his driveway saw me and asked if I was hiking the Long Path. It was nice that he knew what was right outside his front door, even if it was a short road section, he must see the hikers all the time and probably has a lot better interactions than what I had the energy to give. Just a little up the road from here I met up with Shannon for a quick sit and break. A cold Pepsi in the shade hit the spot, but she wouldn’t let me get too comfortable because she could tell that I was low in energy at this moment. I was getting excited by the fact that I was getting closer to Middleburgh, which I knew was only 30 miles from the finish. It wasn’t a given that I was getting there without work and effort though.
I had looked over the notes before I started and saw that it referred to pleasant reforestation areas. What I saw was stripped down hillsides covered with new growth and few remaining trees. Maybe I wasn’t in the right mind to see the beauty in that but I was tired and hot so it was just something I wanted to get through as soon as I could. We had planned on meeting up at a small parking lot that required me to leave the trail to find it. Shannon had taken the effort to come to the intersection and leave a sign for me to show me where to go. Unfortunately it had either been pointing in the wrong direction or I just wasn’t looking at it right, but I passed by the off-shoot trail and just kept moving, totally missing the lot where she was parked. After I had run about a mile I thought there was no way that she had gone that far in and realized I missed the meeting. I tried to get a cell signal but I couldn’t so I just kept moving. I eventually made it to Hard Scrabble Road and hoped to see her around there. Knowing I would be on the road for a little bit I just kept running down the road and watched every car that passed. Just before I made it to Vrooman’s Nose she pulled up behind me. We argued a little over who made the error and how we could have missed each other. I realized it didn’t matter so I said I would just meet her at the next spot in a little while. I remembered reading that the climb up the Nose was a super steep one and I was looking forward to it. I reached the start of it and just went for it. As I kept going I could only think of how difficult the southbound hikers might feel trying to descend this instead of climbing it. I made it to the top and felt so pumped up. It was such a beautiful view. I took a few minutes to catch my breath and take some pictures. There was cell signal so I took a moment to text Maura to say hi and send her the picture of the view. It was a wonderful moment. To be as high up as the soaring buzzards just off the cliff was something I will remember forever. At the bottom of the cliff Shannon was waiting for me with some chicken fried rice and I was starving so I made my way down.
It was a good rest stop, getting to eat, drink and get some gear to ready me for the rest of the night. There were a lot of cats hanging around a house just up the road a little which was fun to watch them run around. The plan was to make it through Middleburgh and just go as far as possible to leave just a short run for the last day, hoping to have 25 or fewer miles. Passing through the town of Middleburgh I noticed how cute the area was, with such a great small town feel. The trail follows the roads into town and heads into a residential neighborhood. I headed up the trail towards the Cliffs but once again missed my turn. This was a much shorter miss this time, only a few hundred feet. Once I started up the right path I realized this was going to be a steep climb. I had started this section with a long sleeve and pants on thinking that the sun would set and it would cool down, but the climb was so much work that I was sweating heavy and getting really worn down. I took the pants off and stuffed them in my pack. It helped but I was still really warm as I kept moving so I soon took off the long sleeve as well. Darkness had set in and I was starting to struggle again. It seemed like the climbing in this section was relentless and I hadn’t expected that. I think that wore down what was left of my reserves for the day. I was nowhere near the point that I wanted to be for the night, but I pulled out my phone and let Shannon know that when I got to her at Treadlemire Road that was going to be it for the night, I wouldn’t be able to move any further. She was understanding, being exhausted herself from a bad nights sleep in the front seat of the car. It was also an extremely stressful night for her as her phone had not been working properly and the map app was not responding correctly. It had taken her a while to get that straightened out, worrying the whole time that she wasn’t going to be able to navigate to find me. I eventually climbed my way out to the road and saw a set of car lights. I limped my way over and fell into the passenger seat. There were no words for the first few minutes, while I tried to catch my breath. She had looked around the area to find a hotel and we made our way there. It seemed like an hour before we finally pulled into the parking lot. We grabbed some food and clothes bags and headed inside. After a shower I laid in bed eating soup and chicken things that she got me. Once I was done I fell asleep immediately. It was not the way I wanted to end the day, but I knew that there were only about 30 miles left, so barring some disaster I would definitely finish tomorrow. It was comforting to have that feeling.
Total for the day: 40.64 miles, 17 hours, 8,114 ft gain.
The Final day!
I couldn’t be totally sure but when the alarm went off I was hopeful this was the final day. I had over 30 miles to cover but I knew that the record was still well within range. It wasn’t going to be the time that I had imagined when this all began, but the record should still be mine when all was said and done.
Firstly, I had to get out of bed and get dressed. Shannon had brought in some microwave pancakes and she forced down two cups of that, with peanut butter and Nutella. Although delicious it was a lot. It should help me get the day started. We packed everything back into the car and headed back to where we finished up last night. I climbed out of the car and stood there, trying to motivate myself to get moving. If I could only take the first step I knew that I would get this day over with. My feet were so swollen and painful that it felt like fire with each step, but I just had to push on. I knew from the last couple days that after an hour or so the swelling would go down a little and the pain would diminish enough to let me cover some ground.
The darkness of the early morning kept the trail indistinguishable from any other, I just moved as well as I could. But the sun was going to rise like every other morning and I couldn’t wait, it had made me feel better each day. I made my way through a field and out on to Canaday Hill Road. I was supposed to meet up with Shannon but there was a long line of dump trucks and a paver. Construction was going on right where she was supposed to be so I just moved along to find the next entrance to the trail. I waited for a few minutes while trying to find a cell signal to see where she was, but I had no luck, so to not waste any more time I just continued down the trail. I didn’t think I had long before I would see here again so we would just meet up again soon.
I was getting closer to the segments that I had run earlier this summer as a recon trip with Maura and that was giving me a lot of confidence. I knew what was remaining and I knew that the technicality of it was nowhere near anything I had dealt with this trip. The trails through the Partridge Run State Forest were nice and flowy. I started to jog a little because it hurt no worse than just walking or trying to power hike and figured this would help me get this day done. The sound of mowers and weed whackers filled the air as I got closer to Tubbs Pond. There was a DEC crew doing some clean-up and maintenance. Unfortunate for me all of this work had stirred up a bee and it stung me in my calf. I didn’t know what it was for a second and looked down and saw the bee on my sock. I brushed it off and rubbed the area. I hadn’t been stung by a bee in a really long time and forgot that it wasn’t fun. Thankfully the sock was there and didn’t let it get a real good sting on me. I moved down the road to the Fawn Lake parking area hoping that Shannon would be there but once again we did not find each other. I had enough fluid and food to keep moving so I wasn’t worried about me but I knew that she was going to be getting nervous and worried that we keep missing our meet up points. This parking lot was where I started this summer, so I just took a minute to remember that day and the fun I had. And also that I only had about 25 miles left and was very excited by that.
Ravine Road was not far away and that could have been another spot for Shannon to easily find me but as I got closer I heard more construction. I got out to the road and saw a large digger pulling rock out of a huge hole in the middle of the road. Both sides were closed to traffic and I knew that there was no way she was going to be here. As it was I had to climb through the bushes and brambles on the side of the road to get past the vehicles and carry on along the LP. I kept on going along the trail, jogging the best that I could. Knowing these segments were very helpful and made it seem like I was moving well. I stopped for a minute to eat and drink and took my phone out to see if there was a signal. I caught one, so I let Shannon know that I was ok and making progress and that we would see each other soon. She was relieved to hear from me and also very upset by all the construction and the inability for us to communicate. I was feeling good though so I just carried on. Not far away was going to be a couple of farmers’ fields and soon after that the car. And just as expected there it was. I came over with a big smile to try and ease the tension. It was just nice to see her and know we were getting closer. I had some broth, a ginger beer and a sandwich. I wasn’t exactly flying down the trails and road but I was moving a little better than the previous day, but the pain and swelling in my left leg was forcing me to rely heavily on my right side. My quad was beginning to really get sore. This was not good as I still had 19 miles to go. The final areas would be easy for Shannon to navigate so meetups would not be as difficult and that helped us both feel better about the rest of the day.
With some road ahead of me I jogged along up the hills. On Willsie Road I stopped to take a couple of pictures as there was a gorgeous view to the South and West. It is such a lovely view that I had actually seen other Long Path hikers put the same picture up on Facebook earlier this summer. I made my way through Cole Hill State Forest and back to the roads. In the distance I saw the Doppler tower and smiled. I have a friend that loves watching the weather and knew she would love a picture of the tower. Just a few miles away was going to be one of my favorite parts of the entire trip. I pushed through a field and came across a road, into a yard and through the backyard of another house. Shannon was there waiting with some drinks and snacks. As we sat there for a minute we heard a voice yelling in our direction. It sounded like it was getting closer and when we shut one of the car doors he yelled “Wait, don’t leave!” Then from the house that I just passed an old man came up the grass waving at us. He introduced himself and let us know that he has lived in that area for 94 years and he loved the Long Path and enjoyed when people stopped to say hello. The fact that he was able to let the Path go through his land made him so happy and wished that more were able to enjoy it. I let him know what I was doing, trying to set the speed record and bring some more attention to the LP and hoped as well that many more would come out and utilize such a wonderful trail system.
He would have loved if we stayed for a lot longer and talked but I had to keep up the momentum. My right quad was really starting to ache so I knew that I couldn’t stand around for long. Moments later after leaving the car behind me another first for me happened. Right in front of the blaze that was to send me into the field sat a crusty looking porcupine. I had never seen one in the wild before and only took a quick picture from a safe distance.
I had a few more road miles before I finally made the turn onto Beaver Dam Road; they weren’t very exciting but I did get to see a sheep in a sweater, which was bringing me to the entrance of Thacher Park.. The sign said that I only had 7 miles to go. I took a deep breath, let out a huge sigh of relief and made my way into the park. I knew that I still had around two hours to go at the paces I was able to hold but I just dug down and kept running. I can’t recall how much I appreciated Thacher Park as a child, or if I did at all, but running through it now I was able to look around and see the beauty of the trails and the trees. It was quiet and peaceful. It was a Wednesday afternoon and I knew that not many people were going to be there, but I was curious how much the trails were used, hoping that it was utilized and loved. The parking lots on the cliffs of the escarpment allow for amazing views of the area and although I have seen them before I still kept looking over my shoulder to take them in.
For the last time before the finish I found Shannon waiting for me. I had some water left and didn’t need anything to finish, so we took a second to just give it a little thought about what the hell we just went through. She had a little tear in her eye, and if I wasn’t an emotionless robot I probably could have cried too. But instead I said my body was killing me and I had to keep moving before I locked up. I was still trying to set a record after all. These final miles felt like they were going on forever. Every time I saw a sign showing remaining distance the number hardly went down. I was now starting to fear that I was going to slow down and get stuck in the dark and I had no headlight with me. This pushed me to run harder but the body did not care what I wanted, I was only able to move so quickly. I thought I was running at least 9-10 minutes per mile and would look down at my watch and see 16-18 minute pace showing. I screamed at nothing! I couldn’t mess this up now with so little left to do. Finally the sign for Old Stage Road showed 0.8 miles to go. I was so sore and so depleted but so ready to finish that I ran as hard as I possibly could. I heard a voice of a woman who sounded a lot like my brothers girlfriend Meghan, but when they came into view it was not them. I kept pushing. The dirt ended and the gravel of the beginning of the road started. I saw the fence and passed by into the parking lot and saw cars and people. I looked around quickly to see who was there and noticed my brother, mom and Shannon but then fixed my eyes on the sign for the end of the Path. I ran right for it and placed my hands on it to finally finish! I looked at my watch to get a finishing time and then closed my eyes and tried to catch my breath. Shannon and my mom were taking pictures and came over to see if I was ok. Through gasping breaths I told Shannon the finish time and told her to write it down. I just stood there trying to compose myself, I was so exhausted I wasn’t sure what was happening. I saw smiles and balloons and an attempt at having a finishers tape with the roll of toilet paper tied to a tree. I hugged everyone there then made my way to the tailgate of the car and sat down for a minute. My mom let me know that my dad had tried to find me on the trail to come in with me but apparently was unable to do so. He returned shortly to say that he had turned onto the yellow blazes and had missed my finish. For fun and a picture moment I pretended to break the finishers tape then fall to the ground.
I had done it! 7 days, 12 hours, 18 minutes after leaving New York City I found myself in Thacher Park. I covered over 360 miles, with around 135,000 feet of elevation change (67k up, 68k down). Nothing in my life had even come close to this in difficulty and challenge. Now that I had stopped moving my body really started let me know how mad it was at me. I was getting cold so we got in the car and headed for my parents’ house. It was difficult to think or compose thoughts. Everything was just depleted. We got to the house and unloaded the car. I very slowly got into the house and went to take a shower. My right knee was now so swollen I couldn’t bend it more than a few degrees and my quad was so sore. The feet were covered with blisters and hurt no matter how I tried to stand on them and the left shin was so red and painful that I had to promise Shannon and my mother that I would go see a doctor the next day. I took a shower and put some warm clothes on and climbed into bed. I propped my foot up on a pile of pillows and put an ice pack on the shin. My mom made me some pasta and brought it into the bedroom for me. I ate and watched the ipad blankly. I had a lot of messages on my phone but didn’t have the energy to answer them. I talked to Maura for a little bit. I was almost too tired to want to sleep, but then it caught up to me and I finally went to bed. Little did I know that even though I was done on the Long Path it wasn’t exactly done with me….
The next few days.
It was only a few hours after I fell asleep that I awoke in a drenching sweat. The long sleeved shirt that I was wearing was stripped off, but I was still so hot. I had a short sleeve running shirt on under that and it was stuck to my torso. I struggled to get it off as it was so wet and tight that I could barely get it over my shoulders and arms to pop it off. I laid back down and fell asleep but it was so difficult to get comfortable that I tossed and turned the rest of the night.
As morning arrived I woke up but didn’t get out of bed until around 10am. I was starting to get hungry so I painfully made my way to the kitchen for some breakfast and coffee. It hurt to stand and walk and I was still in a bit of a haze. The mental and physical fatigue was unlike anything I had encountered with my other races. After food I made my way to the couch where I would spend most of the day. I watched two of my favorite movies; Dumb and Dumber and Spaceballs, and took a nap at one point. When my mom came home I got dressed and went to the orthopedic emergency clinic to have my leg checked out. After a quick exam and x-ray the physician’s assistant confirmed Shannon and my pre-diagnosis of cellulitis. I picked up the prescription antibiotics and headed home to rest some more.
Over the next few days as I took the antibiotics the swelling in the shin came down gradually and the redness began the clear up. It was still extremely stiff and painful and my left foot was very swollen and both feet were still sore from the blisters. The swelling in my knee reduced quickly and the range of motion in the right leg returned to normal in just a few days. The night sweats would remain for the following three nights. And what I was really surprised by were the dreams that I was having. Night after night I was having dreams about being out on the trail and most seemed to be about me not being able to find my way or forgetting some gear to let me continue. I remember on where I could see the tail light of the car where my crew was waiting for me, but I couldn’t get to them as the trail kept moving away from it. I could see the light in the distance but never get any closer. That light was actually a light coming from the bedroom that I was sleeping in and when I had turned over I must have opened my eyes and it made its way into my subconscious or unconscious mind and into my dream. It was a little bit freaky that although I was done and had completed the Long Path I was dealing with feelings of potential failure and whatever other negative thoughts I might have had during the trip.
Thankfully those dreams and the sweating subsided and I returned home to Buffalo. It was good to finally be home and in my own space to try and get back to a feeling of normalcy. I knew I had a lot of recovering left to do but I was starting to feel better every day.
It has now been almost 6 weeks since I finished the Long Path and it feels like a lifetime ago. Much like the races that I have run, when done it goes into the memory but I move on. I’m a little disappointed with myself that I seem to be looking at it so simply. This was not just an ordinary ultra-distance race, this was a huge undertaking, something that I could not have even imagined or comprehended doing just a few years ago. I am extremely proud of this accomplishment and want to make sure that it stays with me for the rest of my life. I learned so much out on the trail, not only about what it takes to run a multi-day FKT but also what I am capable of both physically and mentally.
A successful FKT depends on so many factors and there are a great deal of things that are out of your control. So proper research, scouting and planning are paramount. I feel that I did a fair job at this. Being my first time I now see that there are things that can be done for the next one to tighten that up. Having a great crew for a supported attempt is crucial as well. And I had an amazing one. Although Maura was only able to help for a short time she did a great job and was able to not only help me but provide a much needed break for Shannon and allow her to rest and get ready to finish out the trip. There are not enough good things that I can say about how much Shannon did for me. Not only could I not have completed this without her, I wouldn’t have even be able to start it. She was the reason that I was able to get to NYC, she also gave me the confidence knowing that I would have crew the whole time to think I could go as fast as possible. Not only did she fly across the country to be here but she used her vacation time to do so. I am so grateful to have such a wonderful friend and I will never be able to repay her for what she did for me.
The lessons learned to run multi-day events were sometimes hard ones, but all solid. Knowing the trail, having directions on hand at all time, making sure the proper gear is on hand, staying on top of nutrition and fluids are all valuable. And most important is to take care of the body, without thinking that it can be done at a later time or that it isn’t that necessary. Although I was able to finish it certainly wasn’t as smoothly as I had hoped. I suffered out there for a number of days because I overlooked things because it would be time consuming to address it in the moment. What I didn’t take into account was that the time I didn’t spend then cost me even more later on. If only “Dr.” Mark was around to take care of my feet, things could have gone very different, with an even faster finish.
I know that trail running is not in favor by everyone and that Fastest Known Times on these trails can be seen as silly or unnecessary. But nature is there for everyone to enjoy in their own way. I love trail running, it is where I feel most at ease and where I can be happy and express my purest self. Pushing myself to find my limits has allowed me to really find out who I am. I never knew that I could be this strong physically and mentally. To have to power to push on for 3.5 days when any reasonable person would have stopped, knowing that I was in pain but looking past it to the bigger goal and continue to move. Each day I would find a moment to give thanks for having this ability and be able to experience everything that I was going through, good and bad. It was a little strange when I first read about the Long Path but the connection that I felt right away and the desire to make this attempt was so strong that I didn’t know where it was coming from. But now I know why. I was supposed to be there. I don’t really subscribe to the notions of fate, destiny or things like that, but when my feet were on that trail there was a connection. I went to Thacher Park as a child, I was on the Long Path during the Manitou’s Revenge race and didn’t realize it at first, but I kept wanting to go back. It just seemed like I was supposed to run the whole thing eventually. And now that I have I feel such a deep sense of accomplishment. My short time in the sport of running has been pretty amazing and this has just been the cherry on top. I’m certain that I have a lot more to do and see and this has given me a great deal of confidence that the sky is the limit.