This weekend kicked off the start to my racing season. I would represent the Mountain Peak Fitness team at The North Face Half Marathon at Bear Mountain. I'd never run this race before but was familiar with the course since I had the opportunity to run all the trail sections. Earlier in the week the NYC/NJ metropolitan area received quite a bit of rainfall. This resulted in sloppy trail conditions and ankle to shin deep water puddles. The races the day before also impacted the trail creating deeper mud and slicker areas. I really had to watch my footing on the rocks and be mindful of the down hills because I knew they were going to be hairy. Besides the trail conditions, race day was beautiful with mild temperatures and amazing blue sky.
North Face placed me in wave 2 which I was fine with. I made sure to get up front to avoid any entanglements being mid-pack and in the rear. It was a good set up because I wanted to play catch up to wave 1. My racing kit included my 20oz amphipod water bottle, hammer gel and trusty Salmon S-labs XT-6. As the countdown was underway I cherished the excitement that filled the crisp morning air.
As the horn let out I put myself with the lead runners. Our group lead wave 2 onto the 1777 trail and not far ahead was the tail end of wave 1 tip toeing around water and mud. I didn't understand why these runners were doing this because it involves more effort and energy. This left me with a clean running lane through the wettest and muddiest spots and I made the most out of it.
By the time I got to Anthony Wayne (mile 4) I felt that I had to be close to mid pack of wave 1. I think my race was good to this point and moderately aggressive. I didn't push too hard because I knew the real fight was on the backside of the course.
Almost through Anthony Wayne I knew the first significant climb was fastly approaching so I mentally prepared myself and took the time to fuel up on the run. Anthony Wayne was a great spot to fuel because it’s the only time you're off the trail system and don’t have to focus on footing.
As I approached the climb for The Pines I took it one step at a time rather than think about the whole up. I planned to fast pace hike and hopefully run any bit I could. Fast pace hiking is definitely a key component to trail running because it allows you to tackle a climb just as fast as running, sometimes even faster. Over the year of being dedicated to mostly trail running I feel I'm starting to acquire good hiking legs. I definitely look at hiking in a different light and now add it to my training. I have a lot more work ahead of me but practice makes perfect.
Then I got to the top my legs felt heavier and I knew that was from running the first part hard and pushing the climb. I dialed past the discomfort and focused on the steep descent.
I'm not a good downhill runner especially on technical terrain. Its definitely an element of trail running I’m working on when I’m on the trail. When I see other trail runners take a technical downhill effortlessly it makes me want to work a little harder during my training to improve toward that direction.
As the downhill started I simply let my body flow freely. I didn't think about it then but once I finished the race I knew I handle those rocky descents well. I think over a course of the year of running at Harriman and other technically areas close by made me confident in my ability to take on technical descents in a race setting. I ended up passing a good number of folks going down. I patted myself on the back for that one after the race. Once I got to the bottom the free speed was over, time to get moving.
I speed through Queensboro aid station and slid around the corner. That was probably one of the most chewed out spots on the course, I had no control going around the turn. I felt like a car that lost control that somehow managed not to end up in a fatal wreck. After the spin around I knew I was over half way to the finish. If I could keep up my effort I would put myself in really good shape for a nice first half finish.
After running through some beautiful single track I forgot about my surroundings. I took a moment to leave the race atmosphere and enjoy the woods. I always feel very privileged to be running especially on the trails because they are my escape from the day to day grind of the suburban and city life.
Well, I was finally at Timp Pass! This climb was the biggest climb of the day. It was challenging because of the loose rocks and steepness. I had some trouble going up due to the pushes throughout the race. My legs were really getting heavy at this point. I tried to look past it but I couldn't. However not far into the climb I had probably 100 nasty bugs swarming my face. They were getting into my ears, mouth and nose. I pushed it a little harder so I can just get past them. Mother nature sure works in funny ways.
After reaching the top I took the downhill descent and the rock gods were with me. I was pushing past more runners.
I was coming into the final miles of the race and I had to force myself to run these rolling hills. The temperature had risen a bit and I started to feel the heat. This made running these rollers unpleasant. One of the hills got me and forced me into a fast pace hike….so much for running this whole section I told myself. No big deal, I kept pushing forward. At this point i was also sharing the course with the 5 and 10kers so the trail was getting pretty congested.
I picked it up pushing through more mud and rocks and passing a couple more half racers on the way. I ended up finishing with a time of 2:16. What a great start to my season!! I knew I pushed a good race and definitely felt my effort was high. I couldn't have asked for a better day to race. Thank you to my family, friends and teammates for your support not just on race day but every day.