Thursday, February 20, 2014

Race Report: Cold Feat 10K

2014 is the Year of the Trail. I've signed up for several trail races, which will be my racing focus. (I will toss in a few road races for good measure.)

My first trail race of the year was the Cold Feat 10K Trail Race in the Staten Island Greenbelt on Saturday, February 15. It's part of a series of races held in the Greenbelt and organized by race director Matt LeBow of King of the Mountain Events. The start/finish are at La Tourette Golf Course.

Back in November 2013, I ran one of LeBow's other races, the Fall Flat 5K, and really enjoyed it so I decided to sign up for a few more in the series. LeBow is a bundle of enthusiasm at the races. He clearly enjoys what he does. The two races I have run have been small, fun, well-organized, and welcoming. (Note: the labeled distances of the races seem to be more like "winks" than actual precisely measured distances.)

With all the snow that has slammed the area in recent weeks, including a storm just 2 days before the race, I knew the trails would be a huge challenge -- and they were.

Here's the race video. (I shot this using a Fuji FinePix XP60 mounted on an iPole Mini.)

Yeah, it was hard. The 6-mile-ish lollipop course took us on a beautifully scenic jaunt through the woods along some pretty narrow singletrack (made even narrower from the snow). And don't let anyone tell you New York City is flat. The course had some rolling ups and downs; nothing too hard but coupled with more than a foot of snow... I noticed railroad-style ties under the snow on one of the hills. I ran over a few small wooden planks and remember at least one small bridge. A small stream alongside part of the trail was frozen in parts and was probably the source of a few easy muddy wet crossings.

I wore Montrail Fairhaven OutDry trail shoes with YakTrax. "OutDry" is a brand of waterproofing technology, analogous to GoreTex. I must say I think the shoes held up pretty well given how deep some of the snow was. Indeed, my socks did get somewhat wet -- but I blame that on snow getting inside the shoes from my ankle area when I had to step off the singletrack a few times to let runners pass.

Verdict on the YakTrax? Not sure. I know they do a great job on icy or hard-packed snow paths, but the snow on the trail was softer so I found my feet simply pushing around in the snow, and I don't think the metal coils of the YakTrax matter much in that scenario. So I may have been better off without the added weight.

Back to the race. It had one water stop at about 3.5 miles, which was fine for a cold weather race. I always carry fluid on me (Nuun), so that was not a problem for me. The table had water and snacks, including brownie bits (!) and energy bars. The volunteers, who were standing in the cold and snow for two hours, were supportive and cheerful. That was so cool, and I really appreciated it.

Photo via King of the Mountain Events

Anyway, the final few miles were tough because I was running out of steam from pushing through the snow. I will work hard to be better trained for the next race, that's for sure. For much of the race, I could see a runner ahead of me... a tall guy who seemed to be keeping a steady pace. I closed in on him, and he told me to pass him. I probably could have summoned some energy to overtake him, but I decided that he had earned the right to finish ahead of me. I had struggled to keep up, so I decided to be at peace with being last.

Soon I cleared the woods and saw the parking lot and golf house ahead, and I knew I was almost there. Yes, I finished last, with LeBow high-fiving me as I crossed the timing mat. (The race is indeed chip-timed.)

My Garmin recorded 5.62 miles, although LeBow said it was more like 6. Given the clouds and trees, I imagine he's right and my Garmin was off.

All in all, an amazing morning on the snowy trails. I would definitely love to run this race again. I imagine that it'd also be really cool to run it one year when snow isn't a factor. Now that I have run two races in the Greenbelt, I am really interested in running there much more -- both for some races and for some solo training/exploration runs. Indeed, the Greenbelt will be my go-to location for my planned "Five-Borough Staged Ultra" when the time comes... (More on that and the Greenbelt in future posts.)