Yesterday was the 4th Annual Staten Island NYC Trail Festival at the Staten Island Greenbelt. The events were a 10K, 25K and 50K trail run. I have wanted to come back to the single track trails of Staten Island ever since the 50K in 2011. This event was only two weeks after my 2014 JFK50 Mile Ultra, but I could not resist another opportunity to explore after I noticed a course change from 3 years ago. My recovery after the JFK50 was minimal and I was comfortable getting back out there for a long event. I registered only 36 hours before even though the forecast was for extended rain the night before and possible rain on race day. The last time I ran these trails, race day was clear but the trails were a mess from rain the day before. It will be fun, they said …
Here is a brief event description from the website:
“Presented by King of the Mountain Events, the Greenbelt Conservancy and NYC Parks, this is a great trail run for all abilities. There will be a 10K, 25K, and for the hearty, a 50K course – all in the beautiful Staten Island Greenbelt. The trails are tight and technical. As you climb (yes there are some killer climbs in Staten Island) you can see views of NYC and New Jersey. You can travel for miles and miles through the Greenbelt and forget that you’re in NYC. All trails are completely marked so all you need to worry about is running …
Aid stations with water, cola, sports drink and snacks will be located throughout the course. Several of the aid stations will have restroom facilities. There is approximately 1,600 feet of gain for the 25 K and 3,100 for the 50 K course. There are several street crossings, some of which will be monitored by volunteers. It will be the responsibility of each runner, however, to ensure a safe crossing.”
Although I am very comfortable running technical single track trails and hills, I hesitated to register knowing the course can be very wet and was also waiting to fully gauge recovery — and then just decided to go do it anyway in spite of the forecast. How bad could it really be? … well, more on that below.
The course is three loops; first a ~10K loop, then two times on a larger 12.5 mile loop which uses part of the 10K loop. The start is in the upper right, then the course runs clockwise to the inside loop point at High Rock Park, then back to the start/finish, and then continues out onto the outer big loop twice. Here is a rough map from my GPS watch:
Here is an area map to show where this relative to the rest of Staten Island, Brooklyn and New Jersey:
The day started at 5:30AM with two big glasses of water and about 6 oz. of ASEA(*), then at about 5:45 I had a small shake of Vega Protein and green powder. Then out the door to the start about 6AM for the 45 minute drive. About 60 minutes before the start I had a mix of UCAN fuel powder and Vega Pre Workout mixed with water. UCAN is a low glycemic fuel source designed to manage blood sugar and aid in the burning of fat. The Vega Pre is a energy boost.
The weather was about 44 degrees and overcast with a high expected to be around 50; there was a chance of rain all day. I settled on short pants, a long sleeve tech shirt, light vest, gloves, visor (and a thin hat stashed in my vest), water bottle, a fuel belt with UCAN/Vega Pre + vFuel gels + Hammer Endurolytes, old old socks and my oldest Inov-8 F-Lite 195 (aka. the mudders) minimalist shoes. There was a drop bag area at the start/finish where I had backup clothing and fuel. I ended up not using any of it.
As above the course is three loops; first a ~10K loop, then two times on a larger 12.5 mile loop which uses part of the 10K loop. The 50K group starts first, then the 25K group starts about 30 minutes later, then the 10K group is last. The good news is the 50K group get first dibs on fresh trails. The bad news is that they deteriorated quickly after the first pass of runners.
The course was almost all single track, some very technical spots and generally up or down. The biggest challenge was the water/muck/mud combined with leaves on the course. In many locations the only choice was to run through 4-6″ of water/muck/mud. At the start, no rain … yet.
First 10K Lap:
Start time: about 8:10AM … In the first mile there was a section of standing water through weeds and pricker bushes; as if this is a race day trail only … , and the cold water between my toes woke me up completely. I was within the first 10 runners or so; although still a very damp mush with frequent puddles and bog-like “thank you for your shoe” mud.
Lap Fuel: vFuel at the end at the start/finish loop point.
At the end of the lap the clock said ~46 minutes which seemed fast given the trail conditions.
Second 12.5 Mile Lap:
The second lap starts with part of the 10K route, then continues onto the bigger loop as in the above diagram. I quickly realized I was running part of the 2011 course in reverse and starting picking out different landmarks from memory. I was again within about the first 10 runners on this part of the course so the trail was still in decent shape.
Lap Fuel: vFuel at about mile 12. (2) Endurolytes at mile 16. vFuel at about mile 17.
At the end of the lap the clock said ~2:47 minutes for 18.5 miles which again seemed fast given the trail conditions.
(Thanks to Andy Cross for this pic from about mile 18, before it started to rain …)
Third 12.5 Mile Lap:
After the start/finish aid station, I was was walking mixing my UCAN + Vega Pre in water; and at that moment it started to pour. I keep walking taking the fuel in slowly and then started to run out on the loop. It was still pouring until about mile 21, then again from mile 22-24; in all out downpours. At this point I am soaked completely; but I was warm moving in about 50 degrees. I kept moving noting the trail conditions had deteriorated significantly since the first time on this longer loop; due to a combination of the runners and the additional water. I took two hard falls.
The first one was at about mile 22. There was a slippery trail sidehill that flipped my onto my arse in a instant. Luckily I landed in mud and not rock. It kind of had me pause mentally for a moment. One, I needed to reset on safety and consistent forward progress. Two, it jolted me to the point of a brief chill which had me worried for about 10 minutes about hypothermia. I put on the thin hat from my vest pocket under my visor which helped significantly. If I did not keep moving, keep my energy up and stay positive I could easily get cold. I knew it was about 50 degrees so I just needed to keep moving.
The second fall was at about mile 24. It was one of those falls where you are on the ground, but you are not sure what happened. Again, luckily I landed on something soft. At this point many of the trails were streams and it was safer to run through the stream than to try and run along the edge. For the rest of the lap, the rain alternated between a light rain and a steady heavy rain.
Lap Fuel: UCAN + Vega Pre mix at the start of the lap at mile ~18.5. vFuel at about mile 25. (2) Endurolytes at mile 28. vFuel at about mile 30; which was late – I should have had it a mile earlier.
At the finish the clock said 5:23:09; or last lap split of 2:43 which shows how much the trail conditions changed. 8th Overall, 2nd in Age Group. 66 registered, 54 finishers. Afterwards I had some water, a cup of hot soup and then about 6 oz. of ASEA(*) for a fast recovery.
- Physically: balance, balance, balance through a short step and a quick cadence; always opting to step in front of an obstacle than reach beyond it. Hill technique, side hill technique, using arms to help relax the legs, …
- Mentally: every trick in the book to stay focused and positive, mostly relating outcomes to cadence … safe-2-3, safe-2-3, … tall-2-3, tall-2-3, … re-2-3, lax-2-3 … yes-I-can, yes-I-will.
- Souvenir: scratch across my left cheek from a pricker bush.
- Injury Report: tweaked my left hip on one of the falls, seems OK now after a loosening/moving today. Otherwise my feet feel a little beat up but should be OK also.
Remember the outcome; BUT keep your focus on the next step. In this case, experience/enjoyment/mental test was the outcome. Taking efficient, balanced steps to lower risk was the focus.
What is next?
For now, r.e.s.t. and finish out to year reaching my total mileage target of at least 2080 (40 miles per week). Short term: run short tomorrow to/from the gym, then a few more light runs this week. Back to normal runs next week.
A big thank you to the RD and all the volunteers. The event was extremely well managed and the course was very very well marked, almost OCD marked. A very hearty group putting on a event in these conditions.
[Day After Update: Body feels good but a little fatigued. To the gym to loosen up and walk a bit.]
[* Please contact me if you would like to learn more about ASEA, an overall health plus athletics resource that has resulted in numerous benefits to my energy level, sleep quality, endurance and recovery. If your body has cells in it … I highly recommend taking a look at this resource.]
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David Stretanski is a holistic health, fitness and wellness coach and Certified ChiRunning®/ChiWalking® Master Instructor. For more information on David, please see his About Me, Contact page or his website at http://www.eChiFitness.com.
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