Usually when I go on holiday I leave the running shoes at home. But this year I was keen to pack them for two reasons.
One I want to keep ticking over more than usual so that I’m not starting from scratch when I get back home. Looking at my training diary from 2014 I got home from a two week holiday in Austria and my training was pretty poor in terms of the mileage level I was operating at and it gives me a lot of confidence that this year will be a better xc season again. That’s key as I will be running from Fast pack and need to up my game.
Second, I’m keen to do the obligatory run around Central Park but also I’d seen that Phoenicia, a hamlet in Ulster County New York, would be ideal for running.
And so it turned out.
Phoenicia is surrounded by the Catskill Mountains. The village itself is 250m above sea level. There are amazing relatively traffic free roads to run on and also some extremely challenging trails although I didn’t realise how challenging until I gave one a go!
The Romer Mountain Trail would be challenging to walk let alone run but I found a 1.8 mile segment on Strava that I felt I could nab as the course record was 28 minutes.
So I set out from our cottage and did a 2 mile warm up onto Main Street and then backup to the trail head.
One of the things that was playing on my mind was the thought of black bears and rattle snakes! That didn’t help as I started to negotiate the first part of the trail.
Almost immediately I realised how technical it was, almost going over an ankle within the first few minutes. Also, the elevation gain was quite rapid and my heart rate was quickly into the 180s and at threshold level. Of course I can maintain that intensity for 30-40 minutes in normal circumstances but the taxing ground and elevation gain meant I was forced to adopt a fell runner walking style to keep from blowing up.
My plan was to run for 2 miles and turn round but as I struggled to ensure I was keeping to the trail (sporadic blue signs on trees) I started doubting myself. The humidity and heat was a factor. Sweat was pouring and I was thinking of turning back.
I kept going a little longer. Running on the flattish spots. Hands on knees on the more difficult climbs. I was painfully aware that I was nowhere near completing the 2 miles.
I decided to throw the towel in and turn back. Heading back down was much more fun! My heart rate got back into the 160s and I got into concentration mode, totally focused on where the next foot was landing, arms out to keep balance. This reminded me about what I love about xc. I was able to smile and enjoy.
Still I was a little relieved to get to the bottom and off the trail. I was dripping with sweat!
When I got back to check the run out on Strava I realised how lame an attempt at the segment it was! Still, about 400ft of climbing in maybe 10-15 minutes.
I’ve always fancied a go at fell running but runs like this one remind me how tough it must be. I’m not sure whether I could get really competitive as a trail runner but it would surely be great to develop a tougher mental outlook and also good training.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get back onto the trail. Beer and shots led to a hangover on Friday.
I got out for a road run but it was a painful “recovery run”.
Felt much better today but decided a hard trail run would be unwise as we are heading back to the city. Got out for another easy run on the roads.
Next stop Harlem!