2015 NYC Trail Festival 25k

For weeks, I envisioned myself setting a 5k PR this past weekend. I had found a great, flat 5k course relatively close to my home and with a few 4 and 5 mile tempo runs (during Wineglass training) that were pretty close to my 5k pace (~12 seconds/mile), felt that with the shorter distance, fresh legs and flat course, a 5k PR was well within grasp.

But a couple of weeks ago, the desire to race a 5k started to disappear. The logistics of the race were not as easy as I had anticipated plus I realized it fell on the same weekend as the NYC Trail Festival, a local trail race that I participated in four years ago. I LOVED the race, course and entire experience when I ran it in 2011 – and each year, keep it as a possibility on my race/training calendar. Two years ago, I was making a silly attempt at a marathon PR (in Rehoboth) the same weekend. Last year, my husband and I planned to run the 25k together, but the forecast called for rain the day before and on race day – and since neither of us spend a lot of time on the trails, we were both worried about the slippery leaves and the likely chance of an injury for one or both of us.

I treated the first 2/3 of the week like a normal week – regular mileage and a speed workout on Wednesday. And didn’t really make a decision about the race until Friday. I’m hesitant to promise or sign up to do too much on the weekends these days because I’m finding I’m pretty exhausted by the time Saturday rolls around and the thought of waking up really early doesn’t sound appealing after five consecutive 4am wakeups. But, I got a good amount of sleep last week and was able to work from home on Friday, so I felt ready to race hard on Saturday.

Saturday was just so much fun. It was challenging and hilly, but I loved (almost) every second of the race (there were a few points in the later miles when I would curse when I’d see the next hill to climb). Each time I run a trail race, I walk away questioning why I don’t spend more time on the trails – either in training or races. There is so much to love about being on the trails. There’s no specific paces to run – it’s simply just running as hard as you can. One of my best miles from Saturday was one of my slowest – it was a mile virtually straight uphill.

I like the laid back environment of trail racing. Relaxed start line, friendly interaction along course and post-race celebration. And so, I’m throwing around the idea of a trail ultra in the fall rather than a goal marathon. More on that soon =)

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Back to the race. It’s locally organized and run (by the Greenbelt Conservancy and King of the Mountain) in the Greenbelt on Staten Island. This was from my post several years ago:

…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

The 25k was one-loop with over 1,500 feet of gain. It rained earlier in the week, but mild temperatures and sunny skies in the days preceding the race allowed the course to be mostly dry. The biggest obstacle along the way were the full-bed of leaves on the trails – so you couldn’t see the ground (or roots, rocks and other obstacles). Somehow, I made it through the 15.5 miles without a fall – but there were a ton of trips, twists and close calls along the way.

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Race day weather was perfect – upper-30s at the start (8am for 50k, 9am for 25k and 10am for 10k runners) with sunny skies and a calm breeze and low-40s by the end.

Race outfit:

(From now until Dec 31, if you use the code “26STRONG” you will get 20% off your entire order of full-priced items from Saucony.com, excluding the EVERUN and Life On The Run products.)

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For the first time in my running “career”, I almost missed a race start. The start (9am) was only 20 minutes from my house, so I planned to be out the door by 7:45-7:50am to allow time to get my bib, use bathroom and warmup. Despite getting up at 5am with my boys, the time just got away from me (trip to bagel store, “Go Fish”, shower [I needed to desperately shave my legs!]). I didn’t leave until almost 8:10 and then had to turn around after a few minutes of driving to return home to grab my iPod and Garmin. (I started the race with my iPod on, but shut it after 5 minutes b/c I felt like it was distracting me and never turned it back on. Probably the last time I will ever race with music. I felt like I could concentrate more on what I was doing and where I was running with the quiet.)

I got to the park entrance at 8:35 only to realize that something was wrong – there were a handful of cars parked – and no sign of a race start. Really, Michele? I checked the race website, found the park it actually started in (I assumed the start was the same from when I ran it a few years ago), punched it in to GPS – about 15 minutes so I could get there by 8:50. When I arrived, I found that the parking lot was full, so I had to park about 1/4 – 1/3 mile down the road and race to the start area. Wasn’t the worst thing since it was a mini-warmup of sorts. I managed to grab my bib and make it to the start line with about 2 minutes to spare. I pride myself on being prepared and always early, so almost missing the start was incredibly frustrating for me.

At 9am, we were off. I immediately jumped towards the front with a small group of guys (5-6) and basically stayed in that position for the rest of the race.

The course was beautiful. There were sections of flat, wide track, switch-backs up the side of a hill, single track hugging a cliff, technical sections (where I swore I was going to fall), uphill, downhill and street crossings. It had a little of everything – which made the miles fly by.

Sometime in the early miles, Kenny passed me but he stayed within eye sight. I caught up to him at the next water/aid station and we then spent the remaining 11-12 miles together – chatting, laughing and cursing (when we would see another hill to climb up ahead!) together. It’s funny how much you can learn about someone when you run together for 90 minutes! He’s a super endurance athlete – from back-to-back Ironmans this past fall (two in 4 weeks!) to 100ks. He’s from Long Island and gave me some good info on Long Island trail races which I plan to try to work into my racing calendar for the year!

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Having way too much fun!

I pushed myself so incredibly hard on Saturday and could not be more pleased with the outcome. The first half the miles were mostly in the 7:30-7:45s (mostly downhill/flat) and then we ran mostly mid-8s in the second half (couple of 9 minute miles). We ran from start to finish with a couple of brief 30 second stops at the water points in the later miles.

My legs are trashed. I’m three days removed from the race and I still am hobbling and need to hold on and walk side ways down the stairs. I’m more sore from this race then I was post-Wineglass in October!

Official finish time: 2:03
Pace: 7:57
1st Overall Female
Kenny and I finished together as 5th/6th overall.
Official Results can be found here

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If you are within driving distance of Staten Island and are looking for a trail race next fall, don’t hesitate to sign up for this gem. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Well-marked course: For someone who is constantly missing turns and getting lost, a lot can be said for the fact that I didn’t get Kenny or I lost on Saturday. Each turn was brightly marked with a white arrow on the ground and the route had easy to see and follow markers along the way.
  • Numerous well-stocked aid stations: For the 25k race, there were 3 very well-stocked and manned aid stations – featuring water, sports drink, soda, clif bars, brownies and other food and an additional water station along the way (the 50k is two of the 25k loops, so runners would have double the aid stations)
  • Volunteers: There were volunteers along the route at potential places where we could make a wrong turn, along the road crossings to help us cross safely and at the aid stations.
  • Photos: King of the Mountain had a couple of volunteers/organizers along the course and at the finish snapping photos and a local runner/photographer was at multiple points along course (with his daughter who was an amazing cheerleader) taking photos. The best part? They are all free! 25k
  • Fun Start/Finisher Area: As a mom of two young boys, I loved that the start/finish was in a family-friendly area with a playground. My boys were able to hang out at the finish and have a good time while I finished and caught up with local runners afterwards.IMG_6423
  • 3 distance options: The race offers a 50k, 25k and 10k option – so there is a little something for everyone.

King of the Mountain organizes several other awesome events throughout the year, so make sure you follow them to stay in the loop for upcoming events!

Congratulations to everyone who participated in Saturday’s race – hope to see you all out there (including you, Kenny!).

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    10 thoughts on “2015 NYC Trail Festival 25k

    1. Congratulations on an amazing race, you can see the joy on your face!
      I really want to get into trail racing. I have done a trail 50K and a half marathon and think there is definitely something said for getting off the roads. I find it hard living in NYC with no car though!
      Gianna @ Run, Lift, Repeat recently posted..Crohn’s RemissionMy Profile

    2. Well done on a great race. This looks like a lovely course to do and I love the idea of a 25k distance. I’ve only ever done 1 trail run and I really enjoyed it and your recap makes me want to do more. Hope your legs are feeling better soon :)
      Fiona recently posted..Washing Bathroom WallsMy Profile

    3. Congrats! I love this and it’s great motivation for me for this weekend! I’m running a 10 mile trail race Saturday with about 2600+ feet of gain throughout the course (2-5 mile loops at 1300+ each). I love how relaxed and happy you look in the photos!!! Now onward to training for Boston, because you are SOOOOO going to break 3:10 by a landslide!
      Laura recently posted..Freezeroo #1 Don Curran Memorial 5k 2015My Profile