Running 50 miles of undulating hills, in sweltering heat and humidity, with blisters growing their pimples…that’s hard enough. Participants in the recently completed 50-mile Rock The Ridge Ultramarathon faced many challenges while traversing the impossibly beautiful terrain of Shawangunk Ridge in Ulster County.
After hours and hours of continually moving forward, however, with weather conditions and the sheer difficulty of covering that great distance so nerve-wracking… the last thing you have to face is an angry mother bear protecting her young. But alas, this is the forest and these are the Catskills, so an impromptu meeting with the bears will happen!
Such was the case for athlete Christina Haas, the ultra-endurance Poughkeepsie athlete. She finished the Rock The Ridge 50-miler race with pride and satisfaction of the achievement, supported by her friends, with the aforementioned sore feet…and by another unplanned–a stick to fend off bears!
Hers is one of several stories of local super racers who conquered Rock The Ridge that we’ll be sharing over the coming weeks. Long races beget long stories. As a result, we’ll allow these trail warriors time and space to let us know how their races went – even if it means some facts about bears!
the term: Fleet Feet’s “The Big Run” aims to restore camaraderie after the race
the term: Want to transition from “aerobic running” to running? How did the Hopewell man make the jump?
the changes: Dutchess County Classic gets a new 5K course, kids’ racing is back
Haase’s adventure lasted all day and night (when, FYI, it is not recommended to meet bears that can hardly be seen). Her final time was 16 hours 34 minutes 32 seconds. It was, she said, a long and hard road on the tracks–starting at 6am, and finishing shortly before today was tomorrow.
“It was disgustingly hot and humid, especially for a day full of running,” Haas, 38, wrote in her post-race email. “Honestly, I turned into walking a lot more than expected. I felt like I was dying a slow, agonizing death. Between the heat and humidity, massive blisters on my feet and rage on my arms and thighs, I thought I wasn’t going to make it. But I kept crossing paths with friends and beautiful familiar faces, and met With new friendly people I pushed my body to its limits. There were times when I felt like giving up, but I pressed and I’m proud of myself to do it.’
Haase has made it through this long day – buoyed by texts from her daughter Teijan, her mother, and countless others who use her phone all day. She also had loyal friends dropping snow, ramen noodles and eating mid-course in the middle of a long day.
Encouragement was not prevailing from the four bears she encountered. The first, about 13 miles into the race, wasn’t interested or interested in the runners. the last three? They were a bit of a challenge.
Haas, with about five miles still left, said she tried to speed up her pace “to get run over.” “I really wanted to cross that finish line because the blisters had blisters in them, and darkness had already crossed them.”
However, she also continued to hear things along with the corridor, which made her remember the bear from very early in the day. With that in mind, I grabbed a “pretty stick” all the way down at about 44 miles, in case she needed protection. After a few miles, I did!
Here’s how I described it:
“At about mile 46.5 I saw my eyes looking at me off the driveway, and as I turned my light I saw two little teddy bears climbing into the tree. Mother seemed to come after me, but I made myself big, loud and began to back away. Hoping to leave as soon as I receded, I kept I talk loudly to myself. I tried to pass again, but she didn’t budge and stood on the ground near the driveway protecting her children in the tree. I called my friend to see if we could get the ranger’s help, knowing I wouldn’t push my luck.
While waiting for the ranger’s help, Haase was caught by several other runners. This gave her a little relief, knowing that she was not alone in the woods, but everyone agreed to wait for her for professional help.
At this point in the day, this patience was not readily available. “To anyone who runs 50 miles, you know it wasn’t easy to stop and wait, knowing that the clock was still ticking and our bodies already had it,” she said.
“Once the ranger got there, it was a bit awkward,” Haas added, “and since he seemed to be bothering the bear, we nine riders decided to stick around his truck and go on together for the last three miles or so. With about half a mile left, I could hear friends cheering, which gave me such an amazing boost and I ran to cross the finish line with my new bear cane!”
Fortunately for Haase, after all those miles, she didn’t need to use that wand. It turned out to be an unexpected souvenir from a long and satisfying 50-mile effort.
Pete Colaizzo, Mid-Hudson Road Runners Club member and track coach at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, writes about running each week. He can be reached at [email protected] For more club information, go to www.mhrrc.org