Saturday, August 15, 2009

Trail trial

Despite feeling a bit fatigued from yesterday's bridle trail run in Central Park I ventured over to Stillwell Woods Preserve for a little more training for next week's race. When I arrived there were tents set up at the trail head and I saw lots of mountain bikes and trailers. I walked over and asked if there was a bike race today but they said the event was a demo by our local bike place, Bicycle Planet. They were going to show some riding techniques and then provide people a chance to take bikes out on the trail. I said I was relieved because I didn't want to deal with 100 mountain bikers racing through the paths as I ran. One of the guys suggested that I try biking today instead of running but I really needed to train. As I stood at the beginning of the trail another runner came by and asked me what was going on and I told him what I knew. He smiled and said we'd best get on the trail before we get mowed down by test drivers.

Every time I've run Stillwell I've intended to cover the wide northeastern set of trails but the trail diversity is confusing when you're running and it's often hard to know just exactly where you are. I used the compass function on MotionX and followed the trails that led east and north. Some of it looked familiar and some was definitely new discovery. There are some formidably treacherous segments within these trails and some seem to go up forever (see above photo that I took after reaching the top of one). Others go down a long way but it's easier when gravity helps you along. I wore the Helly Hansen Trail Lizards and they worked great on those steep challenges. It was extremely exhausting going from one steep climb to another. I eventually reached the end of a trail that led to a road and I thought I had reached the northern part of Stillwell. After looking at the route I ran via Google Earth I saw that there's more to run if I cross that road but I turned around at that point looking to go southwest and cover other parts yet unexplored.

After a few more steep inclines, carve-outs that were typically the width of one runner or biker, I found myself in the back yard of a large house. I was totally confused because there was nowhere to go except to turn back. I ran a little in the woods behind the house hoping to pick up a trail but I feared I would only pick up Poison Ivy so I made my way back the way I came. In the course of the run a made a couple of stops, each about three minutes. I was very tired from the hills and wilting from the humidity. I re-pointed my direction based on the compass and took off west to complete the circle I thought I was making. I was listening to another Podrunner Podcast (160 BPM) that was usefully innocuous until, at the 40 minute point, there was another repeated phrase that JUST WOULD NOT STOP. I pulled the headphones out of my ears and listened blissfully to the sound of my footfalls for a while.

I eventually came back having navigated around the edge of the open area of the Preserve for a while and when I was done I noted that I'd covered 3.76 miles. The MotionX was way off and from the GPS path view I saw that the signal was lost a few times. So the Garmin 50 wins again. That was a rough 45 minutes and possibly the toughest run I'd ever done in terms of physical exertion. Next week's race course is fairly flat and I'm hoping that this weekend's training on tougher terrain will help condition me to be competitive. AG is running the race as well and this will be the first time we'll compete together. I have no illusions of matching her pace but I'm hoping to achieve a credible time.

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