The MadAthlete Emerald Necklace 3-Day Stage Race is a grueling 80-mile running race with almost 13,000 feet of elevation gain. Competitors raced as Solo Competitors or in Teams of Two.  I ran with my running partner Shane Vanhoose as Team Trail Ghost.

The race predominantly follows a gem of a 75-mile loop of hiking trails, surrounding Lake Sunapee in Western/Central, NH called the SRKG Greenway (Sunapee Ragged Kearsage Greenway or Emerald Necklace).

We ran a point-to-point trail of 25.5 miles in Stage 1 (summiting Mt. Ragged & Mt. Kearsarge), 23.5 miles in Stage 2 (summiting Mt. Sunapee) and 31.5 miles in Stage 3.

This was one tough race and more adventurous than I had expected. The terrain was technical single-track, double track, fire roads, dirt/gravel roads and very slick rocks and granite.  The trail was muddy in places and the granite and moss covered rocks and roots were slick as ice. The course was tough to follow at times as some of it is lightly traveled with ferns obscuring the path. There are Blazes marking the trail but they were easy to miss.  We did have trail maps and a compass to help guide us.

Day 1 we were all very enthusiastic despite the rain but temps were in the 70s which was cool for us.  Both Shane and I heat trained all summer running in the late afternoon sun with extra clothing on to acclimatize to hot weather conditions.  Running in the rain is generally nice when it’s hot but it made for super slick footing and lots of mud.  Unfortunately I fell pretty hard tripping on a big root covered by leaves.  Nothing serious just the sound of my elbow smacking the ground was unsettling.  I recovered easily with only a few abrasions and powered on.  The scenery was beautiful and peaceful with the sounds of birds, water and nature.   We did summit two mountains that day and the elevation was unbelievably hard but our training paid off and we did well finishing Stage 1 in 7 hours 32 min.  During the summer we also ran stadium stairs at Catawba college to strengthen our “climbing gear”.

Day 2 we summit Mt. Sunapee which was pretty tough as the fatigue from yesterday was still with us.  Again the temps were in the 70s but without rain.  It is amazing to be climbing in a forest of trees and trails and then come out onto an open area and see a gondola and realize you just ran up the ski slope!  Unfortunately I fell again this time crashing my left cheek bone into the ground.  This happened as I was distracted eating M&Ms and stumbled on a rock.  Shane brushed the debris off my face, gave me positive words of motivation and reassurance and we continued on.  Many times during an event like this you start to feel like you can’t go on but if you recognize it as brain fatigue and take in some fuel increasing your blood sugar levels it is amazing how quickly you feel better.  Staying positive, smiling and enjoying the outdoors is so paramount to having a positive successful experience when undertaking challenging situations.  Stage 2 was completed in 7 hrs 16 min.

In the evenings between stages we would eat rice, lentils, soup and visit with the other competitors.  The camaraderie, community and fellowship one experiences in events such as this are a big part of the enjoyment and fulfillment.

Stage 3 was underway with cooler temps in the high 50s but going up to nearly 80 and full sun when not under the canopy of the forest.  This day was suppose to be the “easiest” in that the terrain was less technical.  It was however 31.5 miles and still had nearly 4500 feet of elevation gain.  We summit Bald Mountain which was very rocky not only going up but coming down.  There was a lot of pine needle covered forest which felt wonderful under foot and we had areas we could run hard to make up time.  The last 2 miles were on a rail trail which was flat crushed gravel.  It was amazing to me that after 3 days and nearly 80 miles Shane and I could pick up running at pace of approx. 7:45 min mile.  Stage 3 completed in 8 hours 59 minutes.  Our total time 23 hours 49 minutes putting us in 1 st place in the Team Division.

Surprisingly my recovery has been fairly easy with only tired legs and few scratches.  No injuries, no pain and I’m back to running 3 days after as I prepare for Iron Mountain 50 K Labor Day weekend.  Hard work, smart training, good nutrition, rest/sleep, balanced hormones and supplements help me be the best athlete I am capable of being.