A Staten Island triathlete and endurance coach ventures into the ultramarathon realm where there are seemingly no limits to human endurance. In 2013, he successfully finished the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning (picture of 2013 Grand Slam finishers above; I'm second from right), becoming only the 282nd person (since its beginnings in 1986) and only the fourth New Yorker to finish four of the oldest and most prestigious 100 mile ultramarathons in the U.S. in only 10 weeks.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Race Report - Chimney Rock 5 Mile Trail Run

I had the privilege of coming back to NJ to run in a small but growing race, the Chimney Rock 5 Mile Run in NJ. The race is touted as a very challenging short distance trail race with over 2000 ft of climbing.

Unique "Rock" Awards from a nearby quarry in the area.

The Raritan Valley Road Runners organized this race and the after-race festivities. Although their primary focus is on, of course, road racing, they often make forays into other aspects of running also, including triathlon and trail running. Organizing this race shows how far they have expanded outside of their normal scope. In my opinion, it's a big plus for the club.

Early spring, like so many times in previous years, turned out to be as cold as a mid-February day. It seems that Spring tends to hit the snooze button every year in the NJ area. When it finally does wake up, it just passes the torch to Summer then goes back to sleep. I cannot count how many times temperatures went from freezing on one day to sweltering on the next.

Race morning was no exception. Temps were about 25 degrees and quite windy the morning of the race. I entertained the thought of shedding my outer heavy jacket for the race, but decided to keep it on instead (me at left in photo, all bundled up like one in a cocoon). Comfort over performance today. Today wasn't as important a race as the Holiday Lake 50k a month ago, when I shed my jacket for a thin long-sleeved shirt and shorts in 24 degree weather. Holiday Lake was the first ultra of 2011 and a key race for me, so I opted for performance over comfort.

The race was about 2 loops of rocks, roots, and hills. The major uphill to the Hawk Watch starts out each of the loops, then meanders along the top of Chimney Rock Mountain until it comes down a rocky descent back to the start of the loop. The second loop is basically the same, but with a small modification that forced us to climb a bit higher up the mountain before descending.

We started promptly at 9AM. I decided to take it easy and mingle in with the middle of the group. It only took about 2 minutes before we hit the real technical hilly section on the first loop.

The only time hills really bother me is right at the start of a short distance race, when I haven't established a rhythm to my running yet. This first hill was no exception as I huffed and puffed up it. A couple of walk breaks near the top enabled me to settle down for the rest of the run.

The descent was technical, but nice for me. I passed several people on the way down the rocky slope to the bottom.

When people ask me how to best get down a rocky hill, I always tell them that they have to lose their fear first. This is very important as fear can put one at a major disadvantage on a difficult downhill. Each step *has* to be sure and true to minimize injury and that can only happen if one doesn't let fear take control of his/her actions.

Believe me, it's tough to swallow fear. It took me a couple of years before I was confident enough to go down difficult hills at a quick pace, but it can be done.

And this led me to gain several places on the downhill section in the first loop.

At the beginning of the second loop I was a bit more ready for the uphill section. Again, some walking was involved, but I was a bit quicker getting up to the top section. I wasn't affected much by the added uphill on the second lap and before I knew it, I was on my way downhill. Again, I passed about 3-4 people coming on down the hill. I did manage to get a bit confused at the end of the second loop and didn't know where the turnoff to the finish was, so I waited for a bit until other runners showed up. After a bit of confusion with the group, we decided to choose what we thought was the best path back. It turned out to be the correct one. I lost about 45 seconds and a place on that confusion, but I finished below the hour mark. 

Official time was 57:53. Good for 25th place out of 64 people (pdf).

Post-race festivities was at Chimney Rock Inn. Their thin-crust pizza was free and the beer hit the spot!

It's a great race that is sure to grow in the coming years as more people take to the trails. It is a great race for all those new to trails as well, since one gets to actually see the added challenges of a trail race over a road race. Hopefully I will be back next year to do this race again.

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