Saturday, September 1, 2012

Stillwell Woods fun: toughest trail run this year

Finally found my way across the full preserve
Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 4.5 miles

Now that the Barclays is over and Bethpage is open once again, I considered heading over to run the bike trail. But I changed my mind on venue and opted for Stillwell Woods instead. A few miles on the wooded trails is a great way to free your mind, body and soul. That is, if they don't beat you to a pulp.

I usually run the same route at Stillwell that starts on the main trail and follows north, and then east, before looping back around to the trail head. I usually run it twice, for a distance of about 4 miles. I like this course because it's primarily hard packed single-track, with a few rocky and hilly sections thrown in. The challenge of getting through this loop is moderate at best, but it's a great experience running among the trees, plants and animals.

This morning's Stillwell run started like usual, and I followed my standard loop until I turned left instead of right, just before the one mile point. This little change quickly turned the dial from easy to difficult. Instead of my familiar paths, I soon encountered the first of many sharp inclines up rock, scree and sand, followed by numerous steep, carved out, drops.

Technical trail running can be fun provided you're wearing the right shoes and have an understanding of your course. I had neither, but I did my best. Thinking I'd run my usual route, I wore a pair of road shoes that performed remarkably well in most circumstances, but barely had enough bite for some particularly steep inclines.

I'd brought a compass and that was very helpful for navigating across the entire preserve. Still, I didn't know what to expect from minute to minute. The route I'd taken brought me up and down, with almost no level sections between the one and three mile points. I began to get frustrated by this pattern because I didn't know what lay ahead. I only knew it would be tough running.

Just when I started to think about taking a break or even walking some of the difficult sections, I found myself on a familiar trail that's part of my normal route. Knowing the worst was over, I happily followed my way around to the trail head and ran the paved drive almost to the street and back. 

Ups and downs through the first three miles
What started as a routine Stillwell run turned out to be an exhausting hill workout with lots of technical terrain and obstacles. I needed to duck under or leap over a lot of stuff and all that sand was irritating. I was proud of myself for meeting every hill challenge head on. But I did need a mid-day recovery nap to get my energy back, so I could play soccer with my daughter.

Tomorrow I'll go back on the road again. Perhaps I'll head to Bethpage for six miles or so on the bike trail. After today's run, that might feel easier than usual.

2 comments:

  1. nice run! stillwell seems like such an easy place to lose one's way (but a lovely place to get lost!). and i was wondering what was up at bethpage.

    you seem to try a lot of different shoes- do you have experience w/the new balance trail minimus? i like the looks of them, but worry i'd feel every rock. they look like they have 'sticky' soles, tho- kind of like climbing shoes. might be good for wet rocks/leaves.

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  2. Hi Carla, nice to hear from you. Yes, Stillwell running is always an adventure. It's not huge but it has many different sections, each with its own challenge.

    Bethpage's wooded trails are less challenging than Stillwell, but really well groomed. I recommend you give it a try. There's one trail that twists and turns about every 20 feet for about a mile. Lots of fun!

    I've tried on the Minimus and didn't like the fit, but every foot is different. The soles have been criticized for their open spots that expose your foot to sharp rocks.

    I'm interested in the Kinvara TR that is similar to the Kinvara 3 but has a lugged sole and a rock plate. Very light but not as flexible as the Minimus or the similar Merrell Trail Glove.

    I hope you get to Bethpage soon. I'm planning to get over there this weekend.

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