You’d be forgiven for thinking that Westchester’s youths are wasting away, what with all the teen-driven, late-model SUVs one sees. And while they weren’t SUVs, this wasn’t so different from my days long ago.
But you’d probably be wrong. I posted a couple of days ago about a 5K X-C race at Irvington HS. Its purpose was two-fold. First to show-off the course. Second to raise money to try to keep an assistant coach on board.
Well I’ve run the race and seen the course (and made my small donation). I was impressed. Not just with the course but with the effort that went into it.
The Kids: The course itself is one part nature, one part nurture. Much work has gone into “smoothing” it out, by which I don’t mean it was smoothed (as shown below) but that it has been made a course with rocks and trees and hills and such. And it is a credit to the members of the Irvington HS Cross-Country team, which has put in many hours in pulling this off.
When I was in high school and it snowed, we’d shovel the track and then run on it. Only a lane or two, but all 440 yards. These kids have done more. They’ve created a quality facility right out their back door. I can’t say enough about the effort these guys put into it.
The Course: The closest I can come for comparison are parts of the Leatherstocking Trail in New Rochelle and Mamaroneck and the Northwest Trail in Sag Harbor/East Hampton. After crossing a field, one is launched into the woods and proceeds along a fairly narrow, though never single-track, winding, up-and-down adventure. Unlike Van Cortlandt, in which you have a wide trail that goes up and then goes down, with flats before and after, here one is constantly changing direction and changing altitude. Sometimes at the same time.
I ended up nearly walking down one big hill because of concerns about slipping although I wore spikes — it was wet, but not only had the rain let up, you are also under a tree canopy — which served as a strange mid-race break followed by a determined chase to finish strongly.
This trail suffers from its location, near both the Rockies and the Old Croton Aqueduct. Yet for a particular type of workout, it’s well worth a visit. This is not a course on which you stop and smell the roses. It’s a trail through the woods. It’s got roots, it’s got rocks. This and the hills require concentration every step of the way. I don’t have the measurements, but I’d say the course in the woods is maybe a little shy of 2.5 miles. One could easily make a nice 1.5 or 2 mile loop that could provide a primo tempo run. (Fortunately Sleepy Hollow is up the road a couple of miles so one need not be worried about the headless horseman.)
The Race: The race itself was much fun. Up, down, sideways (almost literally). I ended up running a bit stuttering as I had to address the downhills and turns. At one point I told myself that I had gotten plenty of rest during the race so it was time to haul ass, and I tried to do that for the duration.
The bulk of the entrants — there were about 60 — were Irvington high schoolers but there were some quick guys who disappeared into the woods well before I got there. I came in at just under 20 (my watch has me at 19:59) including a final 300 on the track. The paucity of Westchester Track Club entrants — I think there were two, one of whom I warmed down with — was disappointing, especially since Irvington HS is where its “elite” members train. Their absence — or relative lack of presence — strikes me as peculiar in the Westchester races that I’ve attended.
Afterwards I warmed down with Kate O’Hern-Lyons of WTC, who recalled nights in the 80s at this track in which they’d use their headlights to for illumination. She was the first woman, not far behind me. I also chatted with Frank Colella of RunDangerously, who planned on doing ten later in the day plus the NYRR four-miler at Van Cortlandt tomorrow, and with Bob Glover, who is steaming over developments at the Rockies — described by Tony Portera at his IRunUltras — which will likely be a subject of a later post. I also chatted with Frank beforehand, who expressed dismay about concerns Andy of Westchester Road Runner expressed about being tossed from Scarsdale’s track for being a non-resident, Frank, a Scarsdale resident, never having seen anyone hassled there except when there is a game on-going on the field.
[Edited to Add: I notice from the PDF of the course that the course itself is part of a broader trail system, albeit one fairly hemmed in by surrounding roads. Because of the limited area, however, it would seem tough to get lost there, so exploration beyond the X-C course might be in order]