Just a note, I am writing this three weeks after the race. For some reason I just haven’t found the motivation to write out a report for this one despite writing up a report for this past Saturday’s road race the same day. I think this pretty much epitomizes my attitude towards structure in regards to trails and why I am beginning to love them so much.
Props go to my trail running partner-in-crime, Stinkfoot & Chafe, for encouraging me (read: harassing me) into doing this race. At the time of registration, I had been on exactly one real trail run in the snow which happened two weeks prior and was as challenging as it was fun. I was reluctant to toe the line so early in my trail career (haha, I said career), but after viewing an entertaining video of the course about 10 times and ordering some legit trail shoes I decided I was in. My shoes arrived the day before the race after yet another eventful couple of days trying to actually receive my delivery (#nycproblems) and I was worried that they were going to be a little too big. Other than that, I felt pretty prepared for the 20 degree (12 with wind chill!) run in fresh snow.
The course was just off a golf course on Staten Island. We got there early so we could pick up our bibs and swag (fleece cap and NUTELLA!) and make a pit stop at the clubhouse. The one thing I really hate about winter races is how cold you are in the corrals at the start so I was very happy that we were able to hang out in the clubhouse until just before the start. We made friends with an older fellow who told us lots of interesting history about golf courses on Staten Island. When they announced five minutes to start we started out towards the start line for a course description and then wandered over to the start. No corrals, no colors or numbers dictating pace, just line up and then head out. In less than a minute, we had left the signs of civilization behind for the of the snowy woods.
The course was great. It was fairly packed single track and we had placed ourselves fairly well in the pack so not only were we not getting passed, but we didn’t do much passing throughout the duration of the race. Stinkfoot and I stayed pretty close throughout the course with him getting away from a few times which was expected as he is a faster runner. We eventually ended up behind an older gentleman who I nicknamed “Crazy Tights” because of his graphic print tights. We had picked up another in our small pack, a woman who easily and readily added to my and Stinkfoots meandering convo. At a certain point we all needed to pass Crazy Tights which became interesting as I think he may have been hard of hearing. This was made evident when overly excited snowshoer almost ran him over after making all kinds of witty remarks for him to move on his approach. I ended up finding a little run-off single track and we passed him without incident.
Approaching the half mark and only aid station, I knew I needed to do three things: Tighten my shoes, blow my nose, and eat a Honey Stinger. The aid station volunteers were super nice and luckily one of them had a tissue. She was kind enough to not only give me one, but shove a spare in my hydration vest while I fiddled with my laces. We continued our pause with a quick photo and Honey Stinger then started back on the course. It was around this time that I noticed that my water had was starting to freeze in my hydration pack tube! I tried to keep sipping regularly so it wouldn’t freeze completely.
The second half of the race seemed more challenging than the first. The elevation profile didn’t change much, we picked up the pace by about a minute and my heart rate followed. By the time we got to 5 miles, I was feeling it but pushed through. We managed to pass a few people in the last mile or so of the race which felt oddly satisfying. By the time we got to the final stretch and saw our exit from the woods I was ready for the end, but also bummed it was almost over. The last stretch of the course was covered with patches of ice which made for a pretty anti-climatic finish excluding the man in a gorilla suit that was cheering us on and the other runners who were hanging out in the cold to cheer us in. After our finish we returned the favor for a few more runners.
The finish was the same as the start so we were back by the clubhouse which was awesome. We were able to grab our bags from the car and get some warm gear on and have a beer in the clubhouse! After the beer we headed for our now traditional post-trail run diner breakfast. Hot food after a long, cold run is so amazing!
I ended up placing 7th in my age group out of 17th which translates to front half of pack which I have never been! Not bad for my trail race debut, if I do say so myself. But it’s not about placing or pace for me and it never has been. And that is part of the reason why I feel myself enjoying road racing less and less. It is awesome to do a supported, uninterrupted run in which I push myself for no other reason than to check my training progress, but all that goes along with that–the cost, the crowds (oh dear lord, the crowds), the PR-driven post-race chatter, all of it–is just so unappealing to me. My heart feels free and happy on the trails and the community is so, so wonderful. My “A” race for this year is the NYC Marathon so I will continue to focus on road through 2015, but I fully intend to keep sneaking out to the trails whenever possible!
If someone were to ask me this question, I would immediately respond “Road.” But deep in my heart lies a burning desire to be on the trail. In my heart, I am a trail runner. And I hope that one day that will be all that I run. In the meantime, I will have to be satisfied with weekend jaunts to the hills and mountains just North and West of the city.
Sunday morning on the trails
This morning I got to take a lovely jaunt up to Pound Ridge, New York to Ward Pound Ridge Reservation with my friend, Mike. We had planned to do NYARA’s Hike-a-Thong today, but with it postponed because of trail conditions we decided to head out on a different trail. I am still coming back from my injury and my mileage is pretty low so we decided we plan for a 3.7 mile loop with a 4.5 mile option. I don’t have trail running shoes and I didn’t feel like making the hike into the city yesterday to buy some so I opted to wear my road running shoes with Yaktrax that I bought last Winter, but never ended up using. Mike had scouted the trail for us yesterday and thought that would be okay with some good wool socks. So at 7:30 am this morning he picked me up at the Dunkin’ Donuts and we headed out for the hour or so ride to Pound Ridge. By 8:45 am we were at the park and ready to head out on the trails.
As soon as we hit the trail I realized that my shoes were going to end up wet. The snow on the trail wasn’t packed so we were sinking with every step. I had worn my heart rate monitor and within the first .15 miles my alert was going off. I shut it off and ignored the fact that I am supposed to base training right now.
The first 3 miles of this run were all an incline so it definitely had our hearts pumping. The loose snow made for unstable footing and there were spots where we were doing more power hiking than running. Around 2.5 miles we had an option to head back to make it a 3.7 mile run or extend to 4.5 miles. We were feeling good and having fun so we opted for the 4.5 miles. As soon as we turned on the trail though, things began to change. The trail was about 6 inches wide, 6 inches deep, and a few inches of powder. We were slogging along, hiking for about .75 miles before we hit the next trail we were supposed to take. It was even worse than one we were on! So Mike pulled out the map and figured out a different route for us. It was around this time that I decided to just jog a bit. To my surprise, running was better than walking! It was definitely shaky and we were head down the entire time, focused on not rolling an ankle, but it was definitely much more fun than the slow slog we had been on. The elevation at this point had leveled out a bit, too, so we were able to jog at a decent clip for awhile. Still, the footing was unstable so a good clip was really a 14 min/mi. At any rate, this is probably why we missed the blazes for our next trail.
At about 4.5 miles, Mike pulled out the map to figure out why we were still in the middle of the woods and not at the car. Somehow we had screwed up and turned right instead of left. I was leading and reading the blazes, but somehow there was a miscommunication and I had turned on Red Yellow instead of just Yellow. We had been jogging at a good clip as it was all decline at this point so we decided to just keep with it. It turned out to be a happy accident. The last mile was our fastest and before we knew it, we were back at the parking lot. Other highlights from the run included me spotting a deer track and us being passed on the trail by a cross country skier being pulled by a husky with a little husky-like pup bringing up the rear. Such an awesome day!
Moving Time: 1:27:27
Avg Pace: 17:54 min/mi
Avg Moving Pace: 16:07 min/mi
Best Pace: 8:29 min/mi (Not sure I trust Garmin here. I would say it was more 10mm at the end of our run.)
Weather: Hazy/Overcast, 30º w 25º WC, 80% humidity, 5mph wind
Garmin distance: 5.57 miles
GPSies distance: 5.45 miles
After the run
I headed to the port-a-john and then we headed back to the car. My shoes and two pairs of wool socks were soaked through. No blisters, though! We changed into dry socks and shoes and headed out for brunch. We stopped at the same diner that we had stopped on the way out (so I could pee) and it was PACKED. The wait was short though and before we knew it, we had tons of food and boozy drinks in front of us. A well-deserved reward after an almost 700 calorie workout! At this point some of my digits were still numb and I was chilly from still being in my damp run clothes so the warm restaurant and food was amazing. We practically inhaled our food then headed back to the city.
My calf was bothering me a bit this morning, but I felt okay running if we took it easy. I stretched a bit and once we started the run, I didn’t notice any pain. My right ankle/achilles did start to bother me pretty early on though and then my right knee started to act up a bit. After a couple of miles, though, they seemed to be okay. I was surprised when we got back to the cars and I took off my shoes and my feet are sore! I know that tomorrow all kinds off places that I don’t typically work will be yelling at me, too. Looking forward to the wonderful post-workout pain. Break it down to build it up stronger!