Showing posts with label muttontown mystery trail. Show all posts
Showing posts with label muttontown mystery trail. Show all posts

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Return to the Muttontown trails

Circuitous run on the Mystery Trail
Today's run (Muttontown Preserve): 3 miles

I took advantage of the weather today and headed over to Muttontown Preserve at noon for a run. Our morning was very busy so I didn't get out as early as I would have liked. Even with that late start the parking lot was less than a quarter full and I was glad to know that the trails probably wouldn't be crowded. The snow is all gone but some of the effects of all that water remain. The dirt roads around the entrance were rutted and the trails have a lot of muddy sections. With the noon day sun, I started my run wondering if I should have picked shorts instead of running pants. As it turned out I made the right choice.

Rough road leading to some rough trails
I followed the same path I originally tracked on my previous run and held my breath as I passed by the place where I fell head first into frozen mud. No such issue today but the condition of the trails was marginal and several times I encountered fallen trees along my path. Some places were completely blocked and that forced me to bushwhack through thorny brush to reconnect with trail on the other side. It was then that I really appreciated having long pants and long sleeves. I'd hoped to make my way south, then west and come back north to the trail-head but my poor navigation kept me contained in the northwest part of the preserve. I actually ended up running part of one loop three times. By the third time, I finally recognized the terrain!

I had MotionX running on my iPhone and even with the real-time mapping and compass I managed to get lost. I could see where I went wrong but I couldn't find an alternative path to correct my vector. Instead of mountain bikers, like I often see at Stillwell, I encountered people riding horses on the trail. Between the mud and horses I needed to do a lot of careful stepping. My Garmin, with its auto-pause set too low, kept stopping and restarting and occasionally not restarting. Of my approximately 35 minutes running, the Garmin recorded only about 25 minutes. MotionX did a better job although I'm not confident in the iPhone's GPS accuracy. At least, by the map,  I have a good idea where I ran.

Altogether it wasn't a very far run but the elevation changes were frequent with a total gain of 220 feet. I came away from the Muttontown Preserve feeling a little ambivalent about the place. I know that MP provides potential for a good fulfilling run but I'm zero for 2 so far. I really wish the trails were better marked so I could spend more time appreciating the experience and less time worrying about direction. Still, it was great to be back on dirt and though my distance was only about three miles they were three hard miles. I'm hoping to cover more distance on the road tomorrow and I'm glad to know that I probably won't get lost when I do it.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hoping to revisit a mystery

Mysteries of the Muttontown Preserve
Today's workout (elliptical) 25 minutes

After resting on Wednesday I was eager to get back to my routine. Predictions of rain in the morning prompted me to prepare for an elliptical session last night. Indoor activities are occasionally welcomed because they involve less gear and give me more time to work out. Today's elliptical workout was pretty straightforward. I always aim to do 25 minutes and the end result is typically the same: I'm happy that I worked out but not entirely satisfied that I worked as hard as I would on a run. But in the end I'm usually soaked with sweat and the muscles that most need help - hamstrings and glutes - are humming.

We're going to get soaked today and the rain should carry over to mid-day tomorrow so I'll likely find myself on the treadmill Friday morning. That's fine. I want to do at least one good base building run over the weekend and I'm also thinking how fun it might be to return to the Muttontown Preserve in milder weather. Knowing some of the mysteries of the Mystery Trail, I could be in for another great adventure. But hopefully this time I won't need to scale any fences.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Catching a break

It's always hard coming back to work after a week away. The luxury of sleeping until 6:00 AM gave way to my 4:00 AM wake up time this morning. I finally gave myself a rest from running today and the timing was good because it's raining hard outside. Looking back on my week of daily workouts I'm pleased with everything I did, but I'm a little disappointed that I had no memorable runs. It would have been fun to go to some new place to run or to get together with a running buddy or two. Still, it was nice to go out each day without too much concern about meeting a schedule.

The weather should stay relatively warm throughout the week and hopefully by Saturday I'll be able to run at Bethpage again. I'm also thinking that it's been a while since I've tackled the Muttontown Preserve and I'd also like to do that. Today it's back to work and tomorrow it's back to running.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Reflecting on a great weekend of running

It was a good weekend for running and I was fortunate to have two new experiences: running with my friend KWL on Saturday morning and taking on the trails at Muttontown Preserve on Sunday. Muttontown pretty much chewed me up and spit me out - the challenge was much greater than I'd anticipated. You'd think after so many rough experiences at Stillwell Woods my going-in position would be less naive. Muttontown is more than twice the size of Stillwell, a fact that surprised me when I read that the Muttontown Preserve has 550 acres of grounds.

As I inspected my badly scraped knee and the various scratches on my body that came from bushwhacking through trees and brush, I realized how lucky I am to have a choice of interesting and challenging trail areas less than ten minutes from my home. My wife looked at my knee yesterday as I changed out of my running clothes and said it looked awful. She then looked at my face and said "You really think this is great don't you? You're grinning like a big kid." My wife was correct, of course. I was thrilled by the workout (I covered about 4 miles yesterday) so I'm progressing well for my March 7th trail race. I'm looking forward to this race and I'm really excited about a delivery we'll be getting in the next few weeks. More on that later!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Great adventure on the Muttontown Mystery Trail

 Warning: Long post!

It was truly an adventure on the trails this morning. In a little more than an hour I managed to take a header into frozen rutted mud, lose the trail at least a half dozen times, get trapped multiple times in thorny brush and trees and scale a barbed wire topped fence. It was great fun except where it was no fun at all.  I'll start from the beginning.

It was 17 degrees early in the day but showed that the temperature would begin to rise by mid-morning. I decided that I'd wait until after 9:00 AM, when the Muttontown Preserve opens, and go for an easy trail run. I eagerly anticipated this run because I was zero-for-two in terms of successfully getting into the place. The first time I simply couldn't find the entrance and the second time I was there too early. Today it was easy getting in. The gates were up and the parking lot was empty.

The trail head is inviting and the trail out looked perfect for a scenic and pleasant run. I took off along this wide path and rounded a few lefts and rights. The elevation was slowly rising but I was fresh and I figured I may out-and-back the trail so I'd have some nice downhills to enjoy on my way back. Soon the track narrowed and I encountered some icy snow covered patches. I had on my NB trail shoes which can handle some technical terrain but the trail had frozen and rutted making it hard to find many flat spots to land on.

I was worrying about turning an ankle when, at around the 1 mile mark, I caught a root and flew forward, landing on my left knee and wrist. I decided to double back to a section of the trail that branched off about a quarter mile before this point. The branching trail seemed better groomed and I was looking to avoid a repeat of my fall.

As I made my way there I stopped to take a couple of pictures some fallen trees that had caught my eye.  One was covered with whorling branches that gave it a view from the front like a wheel hub and spoke.

There were two other trees that had fallen in opposite directions, their roots and trunks prominently displayed, that opened enough room for the path. I wondered if the trees were felled to allow passage along the trail (unlikely) but I'm curious what it looked like when those trees were still standing.

I eventually made my way to the southern end and though there was lots to see and very different terrain to explore I did not see the relics of old mansions that made this the "Mystery Trail." I used my iPhone compass to help reorient me north but I found so many switchbacks I didn't know what to follow. Worse than that, some trails seemed to close up until they disappeared so I needed to bushwhack my way over to new trails when I could find them. Eventually, with further help from my compass and the direction of the sun I was able to head north on a clear trail. I even passed by the remains of an old mansion but didn't stop to explore because it was getting late and I wanted to finish the run by 11:00 AM.

The north trail terminated at a point where I needed to take a perpendicular trail either east or west. I guessed west and was rewarded to see it bend north so I stayed on course. This happened two more times. I eventually reached the most northern point in the Preserve but I needed to make my way west to the exit point. Easier said than done. There were chain link fences with barbed wire tops that obstructed me from getting out in any easy way. I bushwhacked my way west until I got trapped between a fence and a shallow frozen river but at that point I could see the building that sits next to the trail head.

I tried to find my way past the fence but the tree growth was becoming more dense. There were lots of branches on the ground and thorny branches snagging my clothes as I attempted to find a break along the fence. I was standing twenty feet from my car that I could see through the chain link fence but I had no easy way to get there. I decided to make my way south instead. I figured the fence would eventually end or I'd come to an open gate (after all, how did I end up on the other side?). Before I found that I saw a section of the fence that was bent down at the top with the barbs facing frontwards instead of straight up. Helping that were some logs and branches piled along the fence and I decided to climb up and jump off to get back inside the Preserve. The drop was about four feet and I was careful to avoid landing hard on my recently bruised knee. I landed well but my running mitten got snagged on the top of the fence and came off. I was able to reach up and snag it back. I was very happy to run the last quarter mile back to my car.

It was quite an adventure and now I know some of the mysteries of the Muttontown Trails. I'd like to run it again but I think I'll do it with a more user friendly compass and perhaps a running companion to give me a boost over the fence because I know I'll eventually get us lost.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Mystery solved in Muttontown

After purchasing the book "60 Hikes within 60 Miles: New York City Guide Book" I made another attempt to run at the Muttontown Mystery Trail. I headed out to the Muttontown Preserve this morning anticipating the experience. The trail is a 3.3 mile loop with (per "A vast network of trails and old estate lanes [that weave] through swampy swales, miniature savannas, a rhododendron jungle (that transforms in July into a fairyland of pale pink blossoms), some glacial deposits, and even a few ghostly ruins." They had me at "vast network of trails." When I arrived at the location I was very pleased because, in my last attempt to find this preserve, I was unable to navigate to the entrance. I didn't see anything marked for parking so I drove past the entrance on a very muddy road that led to the adjacent Chelsea Mansion and parked in that lot. I ran back to the Muttontown entrance only to see that the entrance gates were locked. I decided to run back to the parking lot to see if I could get to the trails from the grounds of the Chelsea Mansion and I saw a trail that I followed as far as I could. As I approached the Muttontown woods I saw a tall chain link fence that prevented me from going any further. I ended up running about 3/4 miles on the Chelsea grounds before I found that I'd circled back to the parking lot. I saw later, when I went to the website that the preserve opens at 9:00 and I was there too early.

I decided to head over to my old friend, the Stillwell Woods Preserve, that never disappoints. With the weather hovering around 40 degrees I was concerned about mud so I stuck to the dirt trail that loops around the open field that abuts the wooded part of Stillwell. I was glad to have my Helly's because conditions were rough with some frozen grooved mud and patches of snow on the trail. The other weather condition that affected my progress was a stiff wind that came from the west that made it feel a lot colder. All the same it was very manageable and I was able to try the "Tarahumara" technique on both dirt and uneven surfaces for the first time. I worked hard to maintain my cadence and averaged 84 SPM, not too bad for the trail. Overall (If the Garmin is accurate) I averaged 9:23/mile which again is not a bad pace for me at Stillwell. After I finished my run I drank a can of Goya coconut water with a couple of electrolyte capsules I got at the Runner's World booth at the NY Marathon Expo in November. The water was interesting with small chunks of coconut in every sip. It was too sweet (22g of sugar per the label). I'm going to look at the performance brands of coconut water to see if they have less sugar.

It was great to get back on the trails after a day off. I'm still a little fatigued but I won't spend the rest of the day wishing I had run.

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