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Castorland resident completes 50 miles and takes 4th overall in race

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CASTORLAND — Cheryl Steiner had attempted the Rock the Ridge 50-mile endurance race once before.

She lasted just half the race.

“Needless to say, I was devastated and couldn’t hold back the tears,” said Steiner, the Beaver River girls cross country coach.

But undeterred, Steiner tried the event, which takes place in Gardiner and runs through the Mohonk and Minnewaska State Park preserves, again this spring — and completed it.

Braving sore muscles, blisters on her feet and back pain, Steiner covered the course on May 4 in 9 hours, 3:40 minutes, and finished 13th overall and fourth among women for the 104 people who entered the race. Steiner took first place in the masters female category.

“I know some people finish a race like this and say ‘never again!’” she said. “All I could think is ‘how can I have this feeling every day of my life?’”

The Ridge race welcomes runners, walkers, hikers and ultramarathoners. Competitors are invited to walk, run, or use some combination of both, to complete the course.

When she first attempted Rock the Ridge a year ago, things were moving along well.

“The first 10 miles felt pretty good,” Steiner recalled in a journal of her experience. “As I went on, more and more pain, more and more walking.”

It was at about her 25th mile that she had to give up — her knees were bothering her too much. The course travels through forest paths and ridgelines along the preserve and although the race website says the course is manageable, elevation is a factor. Steiner was taken off the mountain and left for home.

Under doctors orders, she rested. She then took to bicycling until she felt confident enough to return to running.

Fast forward a year and Steiner was once again braving Rock the Ridge.

Again, she said, the first 10 miles went easily. By mile 15, her knees bothered her again. She determined the problem was the soles in her shoes and intended to change them at the 24-mile marker.

“I made it to the check point, opened my bag and found every pair of insoles but the (needed) green ones. I was devastated,” Steiner said.

She took some pain relief gel and forged on.

“From there I headed out on some of the toughest of the climb, a 9-mile loop that would bring me to the highest elevation and back down,” Steiner said.

She suffered from a stomach ache, which she eased with ginger candies, then the pain in her knees returned at mile 37.

“Just maybe a half mile later, I was running downhill when the outside of my right knee felt like a spring under great pressure popped,” she said. Steiner began walking until the pain subsided and started off again.

At mile 40, she reached her husband, Jay, who encouraged her to take a rest. She refused.

“I’m like, ‘No! I can’t sit or I’ll never get up! Just spray it,’” she said.

With 10 miles left, she encountered an uphill climb, which she walked. Her inspiration came from an elderly man who passed her.

“I said, ‘if he could do it, so could I,” and I tried to stay with him. He was moving fast!” she said. “I knew we had about four miles to go, but it was all downhill and I was starting to get emotional, knowing I would finish.”

Steiner finished well under her goal of 10 hours.

After finishing the race, it took her three days to resume physical activity, but said it was worth it.

The race takes place on the state’s largest nonprofit nature preserve and is a fundraiser for the preserve.

The race was open to three divisions, including individual, team relay and team 50-miler. For more information visit www.mohonkpreserve.org/rock-the-ridge.

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