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This was a so-so week and, more importantly, I had some injury/twinge issues. Hence a stop at 4 on Wednesday when I felt a pain in the right knee, the type of pain that usually, disappears, and in this case disappeared, and doesn’t bother me again. But then a pain in the bottom of my right foot, and so I skipped Thursday.

On Friday I met up with someone nearby with whom I’d not run before, and I had a pain-free eight even as my foot hurt when I wasn’t running. Yesterday the right foot was sore and the left Achilles tendon (plus we were doing a yard sale) so no run.

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Folks awaiting the start of the Preview Run

The no-run was in part because today was the annual Paine-to-Pain preview run, in which people run the course. I did not know whether the foot would hold. If it went out at, say, five miles, I’d have a long walk back. I figured, though, that if it went it would happen early.

The weather was not cooperative. Suddenly we were heading back into the 90s. But the trails are mostly in the shade and, well, there was nothing I could do about it. Eric Turkewitz, the RD, asked me whether I wanted to be the leader for the “fast” group, but I declined because I do not know how the course goes through Saxon Woods Park, which has a myriad of trails and numerous trails, and then someone who knew the course appeared, and he was the group leader.

So we started. Not where the race starts but about 3/4 miles later, where the race hits its first trail. (The race covers a number of independent trails. Hence there is a stretch at the very start and one at the finish that is on a road (plus a brief period to connect the Leatherstocking and Saxon Woods Trails).) I had forgotten just how rocky the Leatherstocking. I got to the back of the six-person group and navigated through, at times having to walk over rocks. The pace, accordingly, was not fast. Then the leader did something to his ankle and we slowed more.

After it became clear that he would not last much longer, I somehow found myself at the point and the pace picked up. I did not want to be there when we hit Saxon Woods. I figured I could get us through it, but I doubted whether it be on the actual course. In fact, I ended up navigating for the group, telling them “I don’t know whether we’re on the course” but assuring them that on raceday it would be well marked. (In fact, only one of group is doing the race this year.)

We did pretty well in Saxon Woods until the very end when I had us go right at a T when we could see the golf course then turn-around to go left only to turn-around to go right and then to turn-around yet again to go left and finally find the trail that got us to the course, where we stopped for much-needed water.

From there, the course has only a few turns and they are at Twin Lakes and Nature Study so I know them very well. I was getting tired but was able to control the pace from the front. With me were three guys from Google and a woman from the Upper West Side — on the street where I lived but at its other end — who’s from the area and was staying with her folks and who — and this is just crazy — is running the race and it’s her first race. Rachel, good luck on that.

I suddenly realized that by starting at the trail head it meant that there would be a mile of running, much of it uphill, when we exited the trails. This was with about three miles of trails ahead of us. I was hurting and decided that it was good enough for me to get out of the trails. That would be about 12. I hadn’t run that far since I ran (and walked) P2P in 2012. I had planned on 12 last week-end, after 11 two weeks before (with Tuckahoe in the middle), but died.

So after falling back a tiny bit at about 11, content the just finish, I somehow ended up in the front on the final stretch of Nature Study, and at the end of Nature Study I did stop and we waiting briefly for a couple who had fallen slightly behind. I was hot and humid and very tired. The other four then started up again, and after they were gone I started as well, but then my left Achilles Tendon got angry so I stopped, and walked (with an occasional jog) the remaining 3/4, hoping without success that someone on Broadview had her sprinkler on. So I drank a ton of water when I got to my car.

Right now, at about 3:30, I’m a bit tired. I had 1 1/2 Nuuns since getting home. But my foot does not hurt and I’m a little stiff. So it was a good run. Indeed, while I only ran 12.1, a last 8-minute mile would have me several minutes ahead of where I finished P2P. 12.15 in 1:42:45. Splits: 10:16, 9:22, 9:16, 8:53, 7:29, 8:35, 8:11, 8:10, 8:17, 7:48, 7:36, 7:44.

I don’t know whether I’ll try the Westchester HM next Sunday. It may depend on the weather. I was disappointed that I did not see many New Ro Runners. I was hoping to have further interaction with them to see whether I wanted to join that Club. Perhaps I’ll try to join it for another week-end run.

 

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I’ve not raced much recently. Part of it is in my body. Part of it is in my head. A few months back, while doing a great run that included the Nature Study Trail, I decided I’d do Paine to Pain.

P2P is the creation of my friend and former clubmate Eric Turkewitz. He engineered the conceptual and to some extent physical binding of three discrete trails with the relevant municipalities and Westchester County into what is known as the Colonial Greenway. It happens to be a 13-or-so mile loop, one mile of which is on roads. I’ve been running on some of these trails since high school, over 40 years ago and have done certain stretches hundreds of times. To celebrate the creation of the system, Eric came up with the idea of having a race, and it has grown until it sells out. Today’s was the 6th edition.

The course itself is interesting because it consists of different trails. After a half-mile uphill and a quick down, one enters Leatherstocking Trail in New Rochelle. (Named for the series by James Fenimore Cooper, who lived nearby.) This trail exists because someone wanted to build a bridge across Long Island Sound and wanted an entry road. The bridge was not built so the road was not needed, and New Rochelle and the Town of Mamaroneck converted it into a trail.  For the swampier parts, Mamaroneck built boardwalks. This trail grew up as a path through the woods and that’s what it is. So it’s narrow, it goes up and down short hills, it requires traversing rocks and trees. It is, in short, “technical”. It takes you to about mile 3.5. When I’ve run it as a work-out, I’ve always found it brutal. One can’t relax on a trail like this. This would be my downfall.  I’ll get to that. Then onto Saxon Woods, a County Park. It begins with similarly technical stretches, but not as dramatic as Leatherstocking. Then it eases up and the final trail stretch, which takes one down the Hutch, to the west of Twin Lakes, and through Nature Study, is relatively placid, with one big uphill.

So much for my course description.

So those months ago I was getting longer and longer runs in. Some were struggles, but more and more were crossing that chasm into smooth-relaxed-fast. This is when I decided to do P2P. Then injuries — I’ve been struggling as to my shoes and have now gone back to Brooks Pure Flows — but P2P was out there.  I entered about a month ago. I then found myself in a stretch where I was having difficultly soloing past 30 minutes. This is the brain part. No matter how fast, or slow, I went, I struggled. So I headed down on Saturdays to run with the Van Cortlandt Track Club, and that helped enormously. I’m not an official member yet, but will join shortly. I lost some training while on vacation in the Bershires but last Saturday ran 8 miles, mostly with VCTC’s Kevin Shelton-Smith, on flat trails at Van Cortlandt and felt very strong followed on Sunday with 7.3 at the Rockies with Charles Scott (who I met via some interesting but irrelevant internet stuff). I gave blood on Sunday and missed running because of my schedule until Friday.

I was, naturally, more than a little nervous as raceday approached. I had a plan. I’d take it real easy through mile 5. Then I’d have only an 8-miler about which to be serious. Piece of cake. Go through 5 at 40 and then 1:40 would be a snap.

This was the plan. It did not work. I had not run on anything like Leatherstocking in a very long time. Up/down, right/left. Avoid this root and that rock. As I said, you can’t take this trail “easy”. By mile 2 I knew I was in deep trouble. On the longest mid-race paved stretch I stopped for the first of many times. There are those who say it’s mental. It wasn’t. My legs were screaming. It was humid, and my shirt and shorts were already soaked.

I went into survival mode, determined to finish. Wearing my Garmin, I’d commit to running a certain distance before stopping. I started feeling a bit better on a flat, smooth stretch of Saxon Woods, but it was a cruel illusion. As soon as we hit a bit of hilliness, I collapsed anew. I kept passing people who’d pass me when I stopped only to be passed again, etc., etc., etc. I felt bad and something of a jerk about it.  I was trying to find the least-uncomfortable pace. So it continued down to about a half to go. I had not blown up, but I was getting close. Far worse than the marathon or a later leg of RtB. Far worse.

Somehow I made it out of Nature Study Trail and onto the road to New Rochelle HS. The race ends on its (350-meter) track. I finished. I saw Eric afterward. The race, I said, was a ring of hell. Not the innermost, perhaps, but not very far out.

A while back during a run Bobby Papazian and I spoke about how some people seem hard-wired to be unable to take it easy in races. Have fun/smell the roses. I’m one of those people. I know I can do this thing a lot faster. I must adjust to the reality of Leatherstocking — a few runs there would not be amiss — but I think that if I’m in shape for it, I can do it pretty well. Not the 1:52/14th AG of this morning. As I also told Eric, “I’m pissed”. Not about today; I don’t think I could have done it much faster. But about the fact, and it is a fact, that this beautiful course got the better of me. In my defense, though, it wasn’t a fair fight. I hope next year that it will be.

I also saw how hard everyone in these races works. Everyone near me was busting their butts, focusing on the business at hand — and that they were was reason I felt bad about my frequent passing. It was an object-lesson for arrogance I may sometimes display.

A final thought. I know the folks who put this on — in addition to Eric and Greg Stern and other former SSRMC-mates Steve Lastoe’s NYCRuns did the scoring — but I think objectively they did a fantastic job. Eric was livid [edited to add: Eric dropped me a note to say he was more “perplexed” than anything, including livid, since he too took notice of the course markings] afterward when he learned the the 2 lead runners missed a turn late in the race (and the guy who had been third stopped right before the finish line to let them get ahead of him). He and his team, including guys who ran the course beforehand to ensure that it was properly marked, did a fine job of marking the turns and there were tons of marshals and volunteers — thanks Iona College — on the course, plus cheerleaders on the opening and closing stretch. I think though that in the later stages one’s faculties can be less than ideal. I knew where I was going, but still confirmed that the small yellow flags were properly set-up and they were. Racers, though, can miss things like that and I’m sure Eric will make sure it doesn’t happen again.

I was put into the fourth (of four) wave (presumably because I had no recent marathon or HM time to put in). I emailed Eric last night, and within an hour he and members of his and Steve’s teams assured me that  I’d be put into wave 1. A few years back, I ran part of the course the day before and saw a fallen log across it. I emailed Eric. Within two hours he emailed me back, “What tree?” with a photo of his son holding a saw and pointing to a gap in that fallen log through which the course ran.

One reason I bitch about NYRR is that it doesn’t seem to care about things in its races. Not so with this race director. Who could, were he not a lawyer, make a pretty good living as a stand-up comic (“The New Rochelle Army” indeed).

Colonial Greenway

Colonial Greenway

In my post of yesterday, I referred to the Paine to Pain trail race. (The “Paine” is Thomas Paine. New Rochelle gave him a cottage after the Revolution, and it sits at the bottom of Paine Boulevard. Paine Boulevard is a wonderful road on which to do hill workouts; it almost is too steep to run normally, i.e., a little steeper and you’d have to get up on your toes, and my old club did hill repeats there. That hill appeared twice (at 2 and 12) in the old New Rochelle Half-Marathon, and for those keeping score the New Rochelle HM was the race in which I finished second to John Treacy in 1984, which is the race I mentioned in my “From Last To First” review.)

Anyhow, the trail race starts one block over, up a decent enough hill. That stretch and the final half mile are the only paved portion of the Colonial Greenway course (except for road crossings). So I decided to drive over to see the start and then do my own trail run. And that’s what I did.

View from Twin Lakes Trail

View from Twin Lakes Trail

The race had a very nice turn-out, with over 200 entrants (the race was capped at that). Since one of my former clubs, Sound Shore, is a sponsor, I saw a bunch of my old teammates, either working the race or running it. A musket was fired (in keeping with the colonial theme) and the race headed out, and it was interesting to watch the mass of runners heading up the hill.

I then put in my run, discovering that work had been done on the Twin Lakes trail, including the removal of a bridge (to be replaced) that led me to cross the Hutchinson River (really a small stream at that point) on a plank. The course was nice and wet from yesterday’s rain, but it was in good shape and I ended up getting in 50 minutes or so with lots of mud on my shoes, socks, and legs.

I watched the race finish, although the absence of a volunteer at a key point led me to head out to the course for race-direction purposes. This was interesting. With our humidity, the top finishers were bathed in sweat. And the various running styles was educational as you had your super-smooth guys and those who looked like they couldn’t run twenty yards, let alone 13 miles.

Afterwards, I was tempted. Maybe next year? That would in part depend on the Grete HM, which I would do if I had to choose. But if this race is a week earlier, I might well take it on.

Special kudos to Eric Turkewitz who is the driving force behind this event, as well as the SSRMC members who worked the course and the other volunteers. Last year had a smallish field, and I wondered whether it would expand on its toe-hold. This year it may have crossed the threshold, and the suggestion is that the field might be expanded to 350. Given the paucity of trail, as opposed to cross-country, races in the NYC area, with the others being in the Spring, this may become a quite popular event. These are wonderful, varied trails of which the communities through which they pass are justly proud. This race can become one of the highlights of the Westchester running world.

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