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.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Thoughts - April 13 - Trails in NJ Worth Mentioning

Although I am quite glad that  I have a variety of options when if comes to trails on Staten Island (Greenbelt, Wolfes Pond Park, Clay Pit Pond Park, etc.), my sense of adventure has me leaving Staten Island for different scenery.

I do take frequent trips into NJ and run in the various parks there. After all, I did live in NJ for 7 years.

But why go to NJ? Aside from coaching there, the cheaper gas is an incentive to go. It'll offset the tolls a bit when filling up on cheaper gas in NJ. With that offset, I can definitely make multiple errands to get some stuff I need as well as make the excuse to run in some of their parks.

I would definitely go even more frequently if there are other Staten Islanders who are interested in going to trails outside Staten Island and are willing to carpool and share costs.

Most of the trails I do are only about 30 minutes from the Staten Island bridges.

So where do I go and how good are the trails there? Well, the following is a short list of available parks in the NJ area that have great trails.

Watchung Reservation

This park is only about 20 minutes from the Goethels Bridge. Like the Greenbelt it is a great tract of land in the middle of a suburban environment. Their signature trail, the Siena Trail (with white blazes), traverses the outer edge of the park in a 10 mile loop. This trail has a combination of everything: rolling hills, some technical sections, great scenery, and even a ghost town (Feltville). One loop of this trail can be pretty tiring to the runner or hiker. Fortunately, there is a winter ultramarathon in January that does this lap 3 times, usually in packed snow and ice.

Round Valley Reservoir

This beautiful place in the western part of Central New Jersey is a great place to run if you want more "mountain" in your running or hiking. It's signature trail, the Cushetunk Trail (red blazes) traverses the western and southen part of the reservoir and is extremely technical and hilly. This trail is not for the beginning trail runner! Various vantage points offer great views of the reservoir from both the lower part and the upper part of the trail.

South Mountain Reservation

This is another great tract of land in the middle of a suburban environment. The various trails here range from beginner to intermediate and offer pretty good views of the NYC skyline as well as waterfalls, bridges, etc.

Hartshorne and Huber Woods

South of Sandy Hook is a nice gem of Monmouth County. The trails here are well groomed, somewhat hilly and technical, and also offer great views of the Atlantic Coast. Between the challenging Rocky Point and Grand Tour Trails, you can easily do a 7 mile loop within the confines of Hartshorne Woods. If you want a bit of variety, you can also run down the road for a few minutes to Huber Woods and do the trails there.

Allaire State Park

Also in Monmouth County, the multipurpose trail section is accessible from the Hospital Road Trailhead. Although predominately sandy, the Blue, White, and Orange Trails offer a great variety  of trails to train on.

Jockey Hollow and Lewis Morris County Parks

Both of these parks in Northern New Jersey are part of one large tract of land. Although Lewis Morris County Park is, of course, owned by Morris County, Jockey Hollow (Morristown National Historical Park) is a federally owned park. The trails are interconnected and you can go from one park to the other without even knowing it if you're not careful. The signature trail of Jockey Hollow is the Grand Loop, a very hilly, lung busting trail that can have you doubled over at times, especially after 1 loop (7.5 miles). You can easily mix it up and take one of the interconnecting trails into Lewis Morris County Park and do the various trails inside that park. The big difference between the two parks, besides jurisdiction, is that mountain bikes are allowed in Lewis County Park (yellow trail), but not Jockey Hollow.

All these parks are within reasonable distance from Staten Island. I'll be offering those runners on Staten Island who are interested in going a chance to carpool so that we can enjoy the trails on the other side of the border while sharing the costs of the travel there.

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Don't forget that Saturday AND Sunday at 8AM, we will be having the Greenbelt Group Training Runs for the rapidly approaching High Rock Challenge. And again, on request, I will take everyone up Moses Mountain to see the great views from the top.

I will be going up to the North Face Endurance Challenge on May 7 to volunteer my time at an aid station for the race. If anyone wants to witness an ultramarathon and how an aid station is run first-hand (the Anthony Wayne Aid Station), I will be interested in hearing from you. There are two shifts on this rest stop; one is real early (4am) and the other starts at a more reasonable time of 10am. If you are interested in running an ultra and don't know what the race entails, this give you some great experience in how it's run. Let me know and I'll relay your interest over to the organizers so that they can expect you when you come. Last year I did both shifts and turned out to be a great day!

Lastly, April 23 are the Scholarship Trail Races in the Greenbelt. For those doing the High Rock Challenge the next week, it's a great final tune-up for the race. Races start at 11am and is for a great cause, as the money raised for this goes into the Buck Scholarship for High School Track and Field Athletes.

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