THIS WAS THE BEST RACE.
Okay, that’s out of the way.
I volunteered at an aid station at the Breakneck Point half/full marathon races last year. It was a great experience and I was blown away by the idea of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at aid stations (yeah trail races!), plus I love hiking in this area, so I used my volunteer credit to sign up for this year’s race. Then I talked my friend T into signing up, too. I’m not sure I explained clearly what we were getting into (or even fully understood it myself) so it was a very good thing that we previewed part of the course last weekend.
The race started at 7 a.m. Perfect weather: partly cloudy, starting in the low 40s and getting up to the 60s midday. I ran a total of 13.3 miles, with 4,489 feet of elevation gain over the course, and finished in 4:28:50. I hadn’t thought much about goals, other than surviving, but I was thinking I’d finish in around 5 hours. I was really happy with how it went and how I stayed strong through four and a half hours of tough trails and grueling climbs. In the results, I landed at #128 out of 202 half marathon finishers, and #32 out of 79 women half marathon finishers.
Training: I went into the race not trained quite as fully as I’d like, but with some solid trail running, hill work, and rock climbing under my belt. I feel like the rock climbing was seriously helpful – both for the hand-over-hand scramble sections (the signature climb on mile 6 and a few others) and for general stability and core strength. It would’ve been great to get up to the Hudson Highlands for more runs in the months before the race, but there just wasn’t time in my schedule so most of my trail preparation was in the “wilds” of Prospect Park.
What went well: Hydration and nutrition! I carried 500 ml of water and 500 ml of Tailwind in my hydration pack, refilling them and grabbing a few pb&j quarter-sandwiches at both aid stations. And that was enough. The Tailwind sits well in my stomach, I didn’t bonk, and I don’t feel like I got too dehydrated (I’d also been hitting the water with Nuun really hard the day before the race, and I think that was good). Running club singlet, sleeves, capris, and running cap were the right outfit for the weather. I wore fingerless biking gloves with a leather palm, which were just perfect for confident hand placement in the scramble sections. I remembered my sunscreen. I printed out the cue sheet and a little map and laminated them. I understood the course pretty well. I went out conservatively and, even though the course was crazy hard work, I still had a little bit left to push at the end.
What didn’t go well: While I was passing the people who were running my pace overall on the uphills and scrambles, I was getting passed frequently on the downhills. I think this was partly me being an over-cautious person, partly a lack of training on rocky hills, and partly my shoes. I wore my newish Hoka Challenger ATR 2s, and while I love them for a lot of reasons – sweet cushioning, good grip, light weight – they didn’t feel quite right for this race. They were a little sloshy. My feet were moving around too much inside them and I didn’t always trust my landings as much as I wanted to. The Hokas are great for long runs but I’m thinking about looking for a different trail shoe (more narrow? tighter?) for really technical trail stuff like this.
Overall thoughts: I’m doing this again next year!
What’s next: The Redding half marathon is three weeks away and I’d like to PR there. So I’m thinking a week of recovery, a week of training, and a week of taper.