North Face Endurance Challenge Bear Mountain Race Report, Half Marathon
Last Sunday I rented a car and drove about 60 miles north of the city to Bear Mountain State Park. At 4:00am race day, the temperature was already in the 50′s and it was forecast to reach the 70′s with abundant sunshine. Traffic was light on the hilly, tree-lined highway. As the world came into view and the sun crept up, I spotted a doe and her two baby deer eating breakfast. This is why I appreciate leaving the asphalt behind every few weeks.
Second time I’ve had a Kia Soul Rental
The half marathon distance is one of several offered in this race series. On Saturday, ultra runners hit the trails for the 50-miler, the 50k and the marathon. Sunday was the day for the shorter distances, the half marathon, 10k and 5k runs. Trail running has its own special flare and appeal. Mile markers are replaced by colorful ribbons, concrete replaced by single-track trails, river rock, and tree roots. Did I mention lots of climbing and descending? Quad killers, those downhills. I ran my longest run since the March marathon last weekend, a nine miler. I knew I had a lot of miles in my legs from a winter of training, and was prepared to walk when needed. My race day goal? Breathe in the fresh air, zigzag on the mountain, and if lucky, ease my mind. No time or pacing goals. Just run.
Runners left the parking lot, loaded into yellow school buses and traveled to the race start/finish line.
Bear Mountain S.P. Administrative Building
Flowers in bloom
I arrived nearly two hours before the race start and had time to walk around the park. The race expo site sat in the middle of a large grassy area between the administration building and a lake. Paddle boats and canoes for rent. Lots of hiking trails and picnic areas surround the lake. When I took a closer look at the tree branches, I noticed dozens of turkey vultures sunning themselves. An early morning woodpecker provided the beats on my short pre-race walk.
Here is the link to the North Face Endurance Challenge website: http://www2.thenorthface.com/endurancechallenge/races/2011/ny/index.html
Saturday & Sunday, May 7-8, 2011
Start / Finish Location
Bear Mountain State Park
Bear Mountain, NY 10911
Traversing a newly-designed, faster course for 2009, runners can expect terrain changes from packed dirt to loose rocks, from tree roots to leaf-covered trail. The Bear Mountain Endurance Challenge course cuts to the chase, with some trails heading steeply uphill rather than zig-zagging at a gentler grade. Descents end in wooded hollows before the next rapid climb ending with breathtaking views. Make no mistake: this will be a tough test of off-road endurance.
Section 1 & 2 – Start to 10K Aid Station to Anthony Wayne Aid Station (3.9 miles)
Description: Sections 1 and 2 is 3.9 miles and mostly trends uphill. Racers will have 2.7 miles to sort themselves out before the trail turns to single track.
This part of the race was really crowded as runners warmed up and found their legs. Some took off really fast and used up a lot of gas quickly while others took a more conservative approach and walked often. The first mile most of us ran a few steps and then ended up coming to as stop as runners clogged up the trails. It was in the low 60′s at race start – perfect.
Section 3 – Anthony Wayne Aid Station to Queensboro Aid Station (4.4 miles)
Description: This section retraces the route of the British Army as they marched to take over Ft. Montgomery. It is mostly flat and downhill with the exception of the climb over The Pines Mt. Runners must be mindful of the leaves and loose rock on the descents.
This section consisted of rolling hills and our first climb of the day. It flew by and we popped out at the bottom, grabbed a drink and ran on a flat stretch of pavement for about a half mile. The aid stations were well stocked with sports drink, water and gels. Volunteers were really friendly and plenty of first aid was available. Lots of people stumbled and took some serious falls during the run.
Allen Wayne Aid Station, mile 4.4
Section 4 – Queensboro Aid Station to 1777 Aid Station (2.5 miles)
Description: This section is the most difficult of the Half Marathon course. It features several climbs including the hardest ascent up to the Timp Pass. The Timp Pass Road descending from the Pass turns very rocky.
I’ve ran on several trails in the Pacific Northwest and in California but I do not consider myself a seasoned trail runner or an expert. I will admit that I was surprised when the trail went straight down the steep hills and rocks. It made me deeply appreciate the switchbacks from out west. My quads were blown by this point; my feet began to catch on the twigs and roots, the dry leaves and dirt seemed more slippery, and the highly technical course caught up with me. My first serious fall happened during this section; thankfully I slid head first into a pile of dry leaves and came away with a few minor scrapes.
A peek at some of the rock formations
I am not ashamed to say that I walked up several of the hills. The amount of loose river rock made it very difficult to get any kind of rhythm on the trails. If only I were a more graceful and confident descender – the true sign of a really good trail runner.
Section 5 – 1777 Aid Station to Finish (2.8 miles)
Description: Two smaller climbs await you on your way to the finish. Leave something in the tank!
The last section featured wider roads, a little concrete, much less river rock and a scenic bridge. The three race distances (10k, 5k and half marathon) came together during this part of the race so paces and fitness levels of the runners varied.
One of the things I find challenging on trail runs is the need to maintain focus because one lapse could mean a serious tumble, a twisted ankle, more road rash. It is tiring and can become mildly annoying as the miles add up, but I dig it.
I began to get a stitch in my side with about one mile to go and I decided to run through it. The desire to get to the finishing chute won out and once I could hear the race announcers in the distance, I knew we were close. I ran to the finish line in one piece and even though the photo shows a grimace on my face, I was VERY happy. What a great run and day in the woods!
Canadian Geese and their fluffy yellow babies
Race Expo – Endurance Challenge Stage
Lots of cold water stations, ice baths, sponges, healthy snacks and vendors filled the expo. The mood was upbeat, friendly and runners relaxed in the sunshine.
Runners chilling out post race
Finishing shoot in the background.
Pug’s name is Edie. She’s a gem.
I’m eyeballing the San Francisco North Face Challenge run in December 2011. Anyone?