i finally had a chance to run all four loops of the holiday marathon course at the st. patrick's day edition of this fantastic trail race series. at my first, on thanksgiving, i could only run one loop (6.55 miles) because of time constraints. i had to get home and put the bird in the oven! at my second, the new year's day edition, i only ran 2 loops (13.1 miles) because of the snow packed trail conditions. i basically wimped out at the prospect of running another two loops in the snow. but this time around, a little mud and wind couldn't keep me from finishing the distance.
ironically, the races seemed a bit touch and go at first. shortening a very long story, emmy had forgotten a hard copy of the race permit. the park ranger gave the organizers a bit of grief because he had to "see" a pdf copy of the permit on someones blackberry! thankfully, the file was emailed to a volunteer who lived nearby and printed out a hard copy of the permit to bring over to the race and satisfy the ranger! a triumph of technology to kick off the start!
except for a short delay to the start, the race went off as planned. as with the prior races, there was a decent turnout. most runners did the first loop (10k+) or first two (half marathon). mid-way through my second loop, the field had thinned out significantly. my initial target was a 4 hour finish. i had hoped to run each loop in an hour, even with the muddy stretch on the outbound leg of the rail to trail section of the course. ultimately, it wasn't the mud or wind that slowed me down. the back hills (and some inconvenient calf cramps) can take credit for that.
my first loop went off pretty well, and took 57 minutes. even with a minute plus stop at the start/finish, the second loop took 1:02 and i was still on pace with a 1:59 split for the half marathon. but i stopped a bit longer to drink the first of my two iced teas and eat a gu before kicking off the third loop. that one was still okay, with a 1:05 and 3:04 cumulative split for th 19.6 miles. i stopped for my second iced tea and ate a small bag of pita chips before heading out on the last loop.
lucky for me, emmy ran with me for this one. she had spent the better part of the race as volunteer. not only was her company great (i had run alone for 2 hours), but she kept me upbeat through a series of annoying alternating calf craps that appeared midway through the loop. i walked a decent chunk of the 3 major climbs that make up the back hills, and the entire loop took 1:15 and i finished the marathon in 4:20:40 - an average 1:05:10 per loop, or 9:57 overall pace.
even with the slow last loop, i was very pleased with the outcome. despite the beauty, this is one tough loop. aside from the muddy trail conditions on the outbound leg (and the two decent climbs in that stretch of the course), the bulk of the difficulty is the series of 3 climbs compressed into the initial stretch of the back hills (a short steep climb to the overpass, another climb on the opposite side of the overpass - which leads to the highest point on the course, and a final steep climb - after an intervening series of rolling hills - before we veer off the main xc trail system). it's a fantastic workout!
to put the difficulty in context - last weekend i ran the caumsett park 50k (a relatively flat course) in a relatively waterlogged 4:43 - 9:08 pace. that's an extra 5 miles in 23 minutes! while the comparison is inexact, at best, it's a fairly rough approximation of the difference between trail and road conditions. familiar faces from caumsett who were also at van cortlandt park were phil, mat, and emmy. other familiar faces included chris - fresh from the antarctica marathon (that he ran with his wife, bea), cherie, don, and lucimar.
next up in the holiday marathon series - the easter marathon at the end of april! don't miss it :D
Monday, March 14, 2011
here are some race photos.