If I had to sum up my experience participating in the inaugural Staten Island Trail Festival this weekend in a few words, it would be:
I. Love. Trail. Running
I would never leave the trails if I could. But since I also enjoy road racing, I can’t get on the trails as frequently as I would like. I am known to be somewhat of a klutz and find that “hitting the trails” often has two meanings for me (Thanks, Doug for this!). Therefore, I usually wait until after my racing season ends to get on the trails.
The night before the race, I received an email with the course description: The 50 K and 25 K are technical courses with exposed tree roots, rocks and lots of ups and downs. There is approximately 2,300 feet of gain for the 25 K course. The trails, as of November 20, are in great shape. 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.
The weather could not have been more perfect. Although the forecast initially called for rain on Saturday, we were blessed with clear skies and a calm breeze. The 25k and 50k runners started at 8am with temperatures hovering around 40 degrees. I opted for shorts and my new Saucony Transition Sportop II with gloves and headband (with my Sparkly Soul headband underneath).
Prior to the start of the run, one of the race organizers asked the 150 or so runners attempting either the 25k or 50k distances if any of us would have guessed we could run a 25k in the city of New York without repeating the same route. Even though I was born and raised, and now live, on Staten Island, I would have said no. I know of plenty of little parks and trails around the island, but had no idea that many of them are actually connected!! After the race, I came home and did a little research. I’m embarrassed to say that I did not know that the SI Greenbelt is a system of contiguous public parkland, containing an extensive system of over 2,800 acres of trails and is the 2nd largest group of parks owned by the City of New York.
Click here for more information on the SI Greenbelt
One of my favorite things about small trail races is how casual the start is. Everyone was standing a good 10 feet back of the official start line while the final instructions/safety guidelines were given. We were warned about the mud and water on the course – although it didn’t rain during the race, NYC experienced torrential downpours on Tuesday and Wednesday which resulted in a good portion of the course falling victim to mud and water.
We started just after 8am. After a quick 1/2 mile around the pond, we entered the trails. We were immediately greeted with our first water/mud crossing. There really was no way to cross it – the only option was to run through. I’ve run with wet feet before (mostly when it’s raining), but I was concerned with how cold the water was. We were barely a 1/2 mile in and my feet were already freezing.
THE COURSE WAS FANTASTIC.
Mostly single track (which made passing very, very difficult), lots of ups and downs, some major hill climbs, and overall a very technical course. There were sections where we actually had to climb up the hills – and at one point, I had to slide/scoot on my butt with the assistance of a rope due to the steepness of the inclines/decline.
I had no expectations for this race. I haven’t been on the trails in a while – and despite knowing I could run the distance, I wasn’t sure what my pace would be like – running on pavement doesn’t prepare you very well for 2,300 feet of elevation gain over 15 miles!
I ran most of the race with 3 runners (see photo below). Right before the race started, I realized I recognized two runners – from West Point! The other female runner (in the photo) and her boyfriend (also running) were still in the Army and were stationed / teaching at WP. She was a few years ahead of me during our time at WP, but we remembered each other (her boyfriend and I were in the same company). We chatted about our running careers, teaching at West Point, and my family during the last few miles of the race and I didn’t feel it was the type of race to try to pass her on the single track. I was enjoying the company and the camaraderie that makes trail running so enjoyable.
My feet managed to hold out – they were cold for most of the race, but I was able to forget about them once we started running on the technical parts of the course.
I took a few pictures of my legs/shoes post-race.
**Couple of Notes**
- I was in first place by close to 2 minutes around mile 5 or 6. Unfortunately, I missed the course marking and made a wrong turn. After running for a bit (30-60 seconds), I realized I was no longer on the course, so I ran back to where I saw the last marking. By this point, the 2nd place female had passed the point I was returning to.
- The race was extremely well organized. There was an abundance of safety personnel along the course and on the street crossings, the course was well-marked and easy to follow (I just completely missed the turn), we were given an awesome long-sleeve tech shirt (race entry was under $50!), and there were countless and well-stocked water/fuel points along the course.