What started out as an opportunity for fraternity brothers to hang out together in the late 1980s has blossomed into a community event.
When East Hampton residents Mike Bahel and Ed Cashin were Pau Kappa Epsilon fraternity brothers at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania from 1985 to 1989, they would go up into the woods at Hyner Mountain with the rest of their fraternity brothers and hang out and have a few brews. But now the Hyner trails are used for races, particularly the Hyner View Trail Challenge, and Bahel and Cashin have been bringing about 30 other East Hampton residents to Hyner for the past three years.
The Hyner View Trail Challenge, which is in its seventh year and was run back on April 20, is a race that spans almost 16.5 miles and brings participants to an elevation of more than 4,225 feet. There is also a 50K race.
“It’s pretty neat,” said Bahel, the owner of Body Tech in Amagansett and Montauk. “It’s an eight-hour drive, and having 30 people go out there is pretty cool.”
Bahel finished the 25K race with a time of 3:05.36, an 11:21 mile pace. He said, for him, that’s about his average time. “I don’t get to train on large hills out here, so it’s a little tough to prepare for,” he said.
Christopher Reich, the varsity track and field coach at East Hampton High School, had one of the best finishes among the group that went to the race, placing 23rd out of 960 runners in 2:55.50 (10:45 pace), which put him fifth among his age group (20- to 29-year-olds). Reich’s assistant coach, Luis Morales, finished in 3:10.52 (11:40).
Sag Harbor resident Sinead Fitzgibbons ran the 50K race and finished fourth among women runners, 32nd overall, in 6:28.10 (12:07).
“The race is known for how much climbing you do,” Reich explained. “But for me, the toughest part was the downhills, because you end up descending the same distances with similar grades, which puts a beating on your quads. And it’s very technical. You’re running much of the downhills on loose rocks and slate. I was accidentally kicking a few rocks, and they don’t stop rolling for a long time, because it’s so steep.
“After going so slow climbing, you expect to make up time on the downhills,” he continued. “But it’s so steep you just need to keep yourself from falling down. So you don’t get to open up your stride like you would do on a normal downhill. It’s real mountain running.”
Reich said that Fitzgibbons passed him at one point during the race and could tell he was struggling. “I said to her as she passed, ‘I consider myself a good runner, but this is killing me!’” he said. “She replied with, ‘This isn’t running, it’s billy-goating!’”
Reich added that the trail is extremely dangerous. The first three miles are run around cliffs, and if a runner isn’t paying attention, he or she could easily fall and get seriously injured. Not to mention the rocks on the trails. Reich said he wouldn’t be surprised if someone broke or sprained an ankle.
Because the race is so challenging, Reich said it’s an accomplishment just to finish it. “[It’s] one of the most accomplishing feelings I’ve ever felt in sports,” he said. “It’s great to compete well in a 5K, complete a half-marathon, or finish your first triathlon. But, to me, this is different. It’s a type of distance and terrain that you can’t find anywhere on Long Island, and a grueling task that, once you’re done, it just makes you appreciate your hard work and passion of being physically fit. And it hurts so bad when you’re done that, no matter what, you know you’ve pushed yourself to the limits.”
Bahel, who said he plans on continuing making Hyner an annual event, enjoys the comradery that comes with the race. He could recall a number of stories in the three years he’s been going. One was the first year the group went in Kevin Harrington’s 35-foot RV. It was raining so bad, Bahel said, that at one point they had to pull over into a parking lot and stop, even though they had no idea where they were. The next morning, they woke up in the same spot they had stopped—and it just so happened they were in the middle of Hyner View.
“We opened the doors, and there were about 1,500 people around us, a ton of cars,” Bahel said. “We found the spot and we didn’t even know it.”