Trail Falling

I’ve been on a bit of a blogging break, so I apologize to my dedicated follower(s?). I’ve still been running, but I haven’t trained for anything nor raced in quite a while, so not much went on while I was busy not blogging anything.

Though I haven’t raced recently, I’ve still had some interesting runs. One that comes readily to mind is a trail run at Bear Mountain with my brother. Well, trail “run” might be a bit of an exaggeration. It was during one of the snows in NY this winter (so that limits it to what, two days?), and my brother and I drove up to Bear Mountain planning a three hour trail run.

By the time we got there there was about half a foot of snow on the ground, but we headed up the mountain anyway. The first part of the trail isn’t too technical, but we eventually saw that running would be utterly impossible. Roots and rocks were invisible under the snow, and we were slipping everywhere. We made it to the top of Bear Mountain, somewhat disheartened that our run was obviously going to have to be cut short.

However, instead of taking the hike of shame back down the way we came, we decided to take a fairly technical way down, one with lots of bare rock faces. We had no illusion of running anymore, and figured we might as well have some fun, having driven all the way out there. Well, fun we had. I am not exaggerating when I say we essentially slid on our butts more than half the way down the mountain (more accurately, we were doing a sort of backward crab walk to control the sliding). We got in maybe 20 minutes of actual running that day, as opposed to the planned three hours, but I don’t know if I’ve ever had more fun on a run. I think we should dub what we did “trail falling;” it definitely wasn’t running and calling it hiking is a stretch too.

Anyway, I do have a couple of races coming up. I’m racing the Cherry Tree Ten Miler in Prospect Park this Sunday, which I’ve done before and is a fun race. I just hope the water at the water stops stays liquid this year. I suppose it’s a sort of twisted incentive to run fast- reach the water stops before the water all freezes.

More excitingly (in my opinion), I’ve signed up for the Bear Mountain Half Marathon (part of the Northface Endurance Challenge). Granted, it’s the race for us wimps who don’t want to train for a 50k or 50 miler, but it should be pretty tough regardless. I run there a fair bit, but I’ve never raced there, so it should be an interesting experience.


Trail Running Fiasco: The Lost Car Keys

Perhaps it was a bad sign when we got lost about 6 minutes into our run. Maybe we should have turned back then and avoided the entire situation. But, unfortunately, we had no way of knowing what was to come.

My brother and I set out for a trail run up in Bear Mountain State Park (in New York) early this past Sunday morning. The run itself was great. Besides getting terribly lost every 15 minutes or so (we had to sit over a map for 10 minutes after the run just to figure out where the heck we went), it was a nice route. We climbed ‘The Timp,’ a very steep ascent which provided a rewarding view of the Hudson River and Manhattan in the distance.

And then, while we were about 10 minutes from where my car was parked, I checked my water bottle for the keys.

As you may have guessed already, they were not there.

We were, to put it bluntly, screwed.

We ran past the car until we found someone who worked for the park, and he called the police. They broke us into the car and we decided to call a locksmith instead of towing the car back to Long Island (over an hour away). While this was happening, the police officer who was helping us got a call from a hiker who actually found our keys. Incredibly lucky as that was, nothing came of it; the hiker must have walked out of cell phone range and we couldn’t get through to him again.

I won’t put you through the same agony my brother and I went through, so I’ll summarize briefly.

Four hours, $500, and quite a bit of frustration after the end of our run, a locksmith managed to create a new key and start the car.

An hour and a half later I was home. And already planning our next trail run.

Collapse on the Trails

Complete. Utter. Exhaustion.

I’ve had my fair share of bad runs, but last Sunday had to have been one of the hardest of my life. Of course, I say the same after every difficult run, but usually I reconsider once my breath comes back. Not for this run, though.

A few weeks ago my brother (a much better runner than myself) and I conquered Bear Mountain (upstate New York) for the first time (see the post The (Epic) Trail Running Adventure for more on that). Last Sunday, emboldened by our previous success, we decided to start with the rather hard climb before continuing on the rest of our run.

Well, I read afterward in a running magazine (probably Runner’s World) how starting a run with a tough hill can make the rest of your run more difficult due to lactic acid buildup in your legs. I laughed out loud. Difficult does not even begin to describe that run.

My brother and I started by running up and over Bear Mountain, and I was feeling great. I didn’t have to walk at all (only a few steps in the extremely technical areas), and I was full of energy. I even impressed my brother with the energy I had even half an hour from the climb. Bear Mountain still had my adrenaline pumping.

But then my adrenaline seemed to abruptly run out. It may have been related to the sight of a climb that to my eyes looked at least as large as Bear Mountain. And at that point, I was so mentally and physically fatigued from Bear Mountain that there was absolutely no way I could do a climb like it again.

Afterward, my brother maintained that the climb was much shorter than Bear Mountain. I’m still not so sure.

All I know is that it was hard. And it knocked the wind out of me. Not just physically, but mentally as well. And when we reached the top and my brother pointed into the distance and said, “look, there’s Bear Mountain,” I knew the run was going to be considerably more difficult than I had anticipated.

But I managed to survive the second climb, albeit with some walking breaks, and was beginning to regain some energy. We ran by a sign for Timp Mountain, which I knew my brother had run by in the area, so I pointed it out to him. Then he started musing if we had to run over it to get back, and my mental strength gave out.

Every turn in the trail I was filled with dread that I would come face to face with the dreaded Timp Pass, as it’s known. After a few nerve-racking minutes (it felt like half an hour but was probably no more than ten or fifteen minutes), I ventured to ask my brother if he thought we were going to have to climb it. To my great relief, he confidently assured me that we would not.

Things were looking up.

And then we got lost.

We were supposed to take the yellow trail all the way back to where our car was parked, but suddenly I heard my brother casually remark, “Hmm, how did we get onto red?”

The next half hour of running was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. Physically, I was shot. But the knowledge that we had absolutely no idea where we were, in the middle of a forested, extremely hilly area, was mentally excruciating. For all we knew, we could have been running in circles as I drank up the last of my water and started on my brother’s.

Finally, though, my brother managed to find the right trail again. He claimed he knew where we were going, but I was entirely disoriented. I started walking up some of the hills, I noticed an odd pain in my toe (which I later discovered was probably a popped blood blister that bled through my sock), and my brother was not sure how far we were from the car. I was close to crying.

The trail crossed a road, and we stopped to discuss our options. I looked at the trail; it went uphill. I looked at the road; it sloped down.

It will not surprise you that I strongly advocated that we take the road, wherever it may lead. Hesitantly, my brother acquiesced. The downhill was nice, and I was feeling better. We saw a biker heading toward us and asked him where the Bear Mountain Inn was, where the car was parked. He gestured over his shoulder and said it was “down at the bottom.”

I could have kissed him.

I limped back to the car a little while later, completely drained. My brother informed me that the run had been a little over two hours. My body, on the other hand, was convinced it was at least five. My brain would have calculated a similar estimate, had it been functioning at that point. I gave my brother a hearty thanks for pushing me through the run. If he hadn’t been there it probably would have been closer to five hours. Assuming I would have finished it at all.