A full year has elapsed since I push myself through the trails of Naples NY. Twisted Branch 100k has undergone a few course modifications and is now a brand new member to the Western States qualifying race family. The question I ask myself is,”Can I possibly finish as well as I did in the past years”?
I step from my vehicle and make my way across the parking area to check in. A beautiful Friday afternoon with a few clouds in the sky. Forecast for the weekend mid to high 70’s with possibly rain by late Saturday afternoon. But who are we kidding, if you know this area of NY anything is possible.
This year I didn’t bring a tent to sleep in, car camping was in my future plans for the night. I did the normal walk around after receiving my bib, greeted many of my trail family, and I embraced in the usual conversations of ultra running. Remembering the 4 a.m. start can creep up very quickly.
Crawling into my truck, my eyes begin to close and I fell into an immense dark space. Relaxed and comfortable my body is ready for sleep.
My pack is all ready filled with the essential fuels and liquid that with keep my body in motion for the next 65ish miles. My body well rested and ready to tackle the unforgiving course of Twisted Branch. My mind in a state of euphoria, as thoughts dance around never holding on to just one for a few moments. I look at the lit arch that signifies the start. I bend down and retie my shoes one last time. There is it! My mind captures and focuses on a very strong sound. It’s the sound of my breathing as I take a few deep breaths.
The count down begins as I hear the chirping of the race watches getting ready to consume the vast amounts of data for the day. The racers gathers closer to the arch as the signal to Go is heard throughout Ontario County Park. I propel my self forward and start my journey for the third year in a row. Let’s get Triple Twisted!
Along the tiny gravel soaked path, headlights illuminate the blackness of morning that incapsulates each runner. I make my way along to the stretch of single track that signals my brain that the course began. Silhouettes of outlined humans buzz by me on both sides and the only thing I could think of is,” I’ll see you again real soon”. I remain focused and get into my running mojo. My thoughts start to wonder as my body settles in for a day of ultra racing.
The trail is damp from the morning dew and a slight rain from the over night. The vegetation slap-jacking my lower body, enough to dampen your soul. My headlight beamed along rolling fog-outs that made it difficult to see the trail at times. But I’ve been here, I know how this works. I understand the directional flow and recognize the tiny reflections that twinkle from the sides of the trail. I have no worries about where I’m headed. I just wanted to keep my feet dry as long as possible.
I managed to push through the early morning feeling completely composed. The sun just started cresting over the horizon. Packing my headlamp away I was making great time. Stoping at each aid stations to rest even if it was for just a few seconds. I found through my past races, that each stop was a value to my performance later in the day.
The trail was tranquil, I found myself alone very early in the race this year. There was no grouping of runners. I could hear no voices in the distance. Just the sounds of my pack rustling with each movement of my body. My feet as the struck the ground with every preplanned placement, as if I was playing a live chess game. The roots spread across the ground overlapping one another like interlocking fingers. Green engulfing the forest as I continue my adventure.
My legs where covering ground pretty quickly and I crested the peaks and removed the miles behind me. Running away through densely populated pine trees that made you feel as if I where running on clouds. Their needles softening the earth beneath me. The sunlight flickering through the tree tops. I was alone but exactly were I wanted to be.
I felt unstoppable running into the later part of the day. The course sucker punching with any chance it could get. Definitely keeping me aware with one wrong mistake I could jeopardize everything I have worked so hard for. This course has chew up and spit out even the seasoned ultra runners. I could see the sky darkening with anger. You could smell it coming. The air dense with moisture.
I made my way up the final climb. The rain was pounding my all ready fatigued body. I focused on the runner ahead of me. Driving my legs deeper into the muddy soil. Slowly I moved closer to the thick clouds as my feet splashed wildly through the puddles. The finish was so close.
Descending through the final switchbacks, I could hear the cheering of the crowd. The rain clearing at this point, only lasting enough to completely ruin all your electronics. Jumping root and rocks, I screamed through this portion of single track. There it was, the Twisted Branch wooden arch signifying the finish. I sprinted the final fifty yard to the end of my adventure. I definitely was Twisted.
Three years and three 6th place finishes
Thank you RD Scott and Patty
Thank you trail steward Jeff
Thank you Twisted Branch race committee
Thank you volunteers
And a special thank you to Ashely for all that you did for me that day. You are an amazing person!