Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Report from Bear Mountain

On Saturday I ran my first marathon of the year at Bear Mountain, about 50 miles north of New York City in the Bear Mountain and Harriman State Parks. This is one of the races in the North Face Endurance Challenge series, which also includes a 50 miler and a 50K. I had originally signed up for the 50K race a few months earlier, hoping to provide some motivation for much needed, post holiday season fat-burning long runs. Alas, I was not inspired: I barely nudged over 25-30 miles a week of training for the months leading up to the race, and a short trip to Mexico City for a wedding left me with a poo infection and further lack of desire to run. The week before the race, not wanting to waste the registration fee, I downgraded to the marathon and decided to see how far I could go on what would be, at the very least, a very scenic and challenging course.

Well, I managed to finish in the race in my worst ever marathon time of 6 hours 7 minutes, more than 2 hours slower than my best ever marathon time. I think this was also one of the most enjoyable marathons I have run, and even more surprisingly, I placed 3rd out of the 13 runners in my age group. Despite being named the Endurance Challenge, I did not find the endurance aspect of the race to be the most challenging part of it. The real challenge was that the course was "very technical", which is runner speak for saying that it was very hard to actually run on the course. It was a trail race, and for most of the way, the trail was covered with rocks, fallen trees, streams, and discarded GU packets. It was necessary to be very careful where you ran, and there were parts of the race where running seemed to be completely out of the question. Furthermore, the course was quite hilly for this part of the country: I recorded over 4,000 feet of elevation gain (and 4,000 feet of elevation loss). Although the trail was very well marked with pink ribbons, I managed to get lost and run at least an extra mile. This was my fault: I had assumed that we wouldn't be doing any rock climbing, so didn't notice the pink ribbons leading up a vertical wall of granite.

I will definitely do this race again, and hopefully improve my time. So, here are a few things I learnt for the future me to read a year or two from now:

  • It is really necessary to train on the course before the race. Three days after the race, I still have sore muscles in places where I didn't know muscles existed. 
  • It is necessary to carry lots of water. Some parts of the course are fairly remote and the aid stations can be quite far apart (7 miles at one point). Since the afternoon was hot and the progress was slow, this could mean 90-120 mins between water refills.
  • I need to spend more time doing real hill training for trail runs like this. At least once or twice a week. And on a big hill - running hill repeats in Prospect Park is not enough. 

1 comment:

  1. I would also add that a pocket full of wipes might come in handy as one's legs are covered with dirt.