Date: May 6, 2018
Location: Bear Mountain, New York
Weather: 57 Degrees and Raining
Distance: 10K Trail Race
Finish Time: 0:46:29 Place: 8th out of 574
The North Face Endurance Challenge is a series of trail races that take place in different parts of the country. The distances vary from 5K to 50 miles! I’ve never done a trail race before so I chose the 10K distance, which is about 6.2 miles.
The weather on race day was temperate with a light drizzle. I wore my Solomon Speedcross sneakers, which are lightweight yet sturdy with great traction. This is probably the first race where I was actually excited that it was raining. It felt like perfect conditions for a run through the woods.
The drive to Bear Mountain from northern New Jersey was 45 minutes. They made everyone park at Anthony Wayne Recreation Area and then we had to take a shuttle bus to the race village, which was located next to Bear Mountain Lodge.
The race village was awesome – so many different vendors and activities. There were even a few bon fire pits. I got there pretty early and was glad that I brought a poncho because it kept me dry while I waited for my race to start. The waiting around didn’t help my nerves, as I kept glancing up at the big mountain we were about to climb.
I didn’t have a particular goal heading into the race. My primary concern was to not get injured because Chattanooga 70.3 is in two weeks. Initially I was just going to run it for fun and not race it, but the competitor in me decided on the latter.
The course start was flat for the first ¼ mile, which was a major tease because the trail suddenly diverged upward. My lack of preparation for the race showed, as my legs burned during the climb in elevation. Trail running is much different than regular road running – it uses different leg muscles and requires incredible strength, balance and power. Additionally, trail races are very varied in terms of terrain (grass, dirt, crushed stone, rocks, etc.). Typically, they are rated on a scale and difficult trails are given a higher technical rating.
After the initial climb there were a few more flat sections, but the first couple of miles were mostly uphill. My lungs were screaming and I was breathing very hard. In a typical road race, I am constantly monitoring my watch to make sure I am on target pace, but I could have left the watch home in this race. Due to the changes in elevation, my pace was all over the place – from 5:30/mile to 12:00/mile. If this was an ordinary 10K road race, my pace would have probably been a steady 6:15/mile.
Navigating the trail was something I didn’t think about before the race. You had to pay very careful attention to the markings, which were difficult to spot at times. It didn’t help that there were other races simultaneously going on simultaneously, so you had to follow your designated color carefully. At one point, I thought I took the wrong trail and panicked, but fortunately it turned out to be the right one.
Running through the woods was a blast. The trail was extremely muddy from the rain – several inches deep in some parts, with colossal puddles and water flowing like streams. Not to mentioned many downed trees and branches that you had to hurdle over. There were also moments with huge rocks and boulders – I twisted my ankles several times, but thankfully it didn’t result in an injury. In hindsight, it wasn’t worth the risk of getting injured and I should have been more careful. Toward the end of the race my shoes felt like bricks due to accumulation of mud and water. Fortunately, the last few miles were all downhill.
The finish line was great and the announcer called everyone’s name as they crossed, along with where they were from. After the race everyone received a complimentary beer from Sierra Nevada! I dropped my medal off at the Paragon Sports tent, who were offering free engraving to all participants. They said that I can pick it up in 10 - 14 days at the store in the city.