With inclement weather in the forecast, another barefoot hike in the mountains might’ve seemed a questionable proposition. But I had become determined to conquer all 35 of the Catskills’ highest peaks — and with six down so far, I had set my sights this weekend on completing four more — and then growing ambitious and impatient, imagined climbing six or even eight. But upon reaching the trailhead on a very grey afternoon, the car’s thermometer read 45 F, and it was raining. For a system still acclimatized to summer, this would be a shock.
As I drove through the predawn darkness to the start of Manitou’s Revenge, my thoughts drifted and I wondered, could I win this race?
The idea was patently absurd: when it comes to technical trail running, I’ve historically finished in the middle of the pack. But I’ve been getting faster in recent years, even finishing in 3rd place at a 100-mile race earlier this year. Further, Manitou’s Revenge is not a large event. There would be fewer than 100 starters, and for all I knew, the best trail runners might not show up, or they might trip and fall on the rocky paths and drop out. In which case, victory might go to the tortoise, not the hare.
I could hardly wait for the weekend, so excited was I to get back out to the Catskills to run, hike, and explore. When Friday evening finally rolled along, I set the alarm clock for 4:30 AM, determined to get an early start. And I was out the door and on the road in the predawn mist.
But when I finally arrived in the Catskills a few hours later, I was dragging. En route I had picked up a second cup of coffee, but even a double dose of caffeine hadn’t helped.
I dragged myself to the starting point of the day’s adventure, the trail to Giant’s Ledge, and looked up: the path was a tumble of rocks.