If not for the challenging hills, it is my favorite because it is one of the most beautiful courses in NJ for a road race. The Middletown/Atlantic Highlands area of NJ provide some great scenery, including horse farms, rustic dirt roads, and, of course, a great view of Staten Island and Manhattan from across the New York Harbor and the Raritan Bay.
You'll only get that view AFTER you climb the 3 big hills on the course though.
Picture of the first hill from the Sandy Hookers Website
But it's definitely worth the pain. And yesterday was no exception. The day was sunny and clear with temps in the 40s at the start. Which means there is nothing hindering that magnificent view over the water at mile 8.5 of the race.
I was coming off a recovery week in my training regimen, so my legs definitely felt like coiled springs ready to jump into action. I was part of a 9 person Staten Island contingent ready to invade New Jersey and tangle with the best of the runners they have to offer. That's because this race is a USATF-NJ State Championship race for Open Men and Women.
Our nine person group arrived at Croyden Hall, the start/finish of the race, comfortably more than an hour before the start. The temps were slightly chilly, but this week I chose to dress in just the singlet and the shorts. It was just last week when temps were only in the 20s for the Chimney Rock Run; the weather here is very bipolar in the spring. We have to constantly watch the weather predictions here to determine what to dress for our runs.
After meeting some old friends from NJ and doing a small warm-up, we lined up for the start of this race. I was situated next to CC, who will be crewing/pacing me at the Leadville 100 later this year and a runner of similar ability as me.
The race started smoothly and both of us went out together. The first 2 miles were not bad at all. There is a small hill at about mile 1, but the downhill at mile 2 was a real treat. As soon as we got to the mile 2 marker, I shout to CC, "here comes the first hill!"
And true to form, there it was. I was hoping that 5 years of erosion would whittle it down a couple of feet, but alas, I had no such luck. The hill was just as steep as I had remembered it before.
Once we topped the first part of this hill and started to climb the second part of it, I felt my "gears" kicking in and was settling in for a good run. The downhill at miles 3 and 4 were nice on the legs too. Both CC and I were still together when I saw the right turn into the second hill. Again, I shouted to him, "hill 2 coming!"
The second hill at mile 5-6 was a steep, but very short hill. Once at the top we were back to going downhill for a bit again. CC asked if that was it and I told him yes.
The relative downhill section between the second and last hill was the last I saw of CC until after the race. I managed to barely pull ahead of him, but was too tired to turn my head to see where he was.
All I remember about the third and last hill was it was a real bitch to climb, especially at the end. It was also very twisty so that you cannot see the top until you were almost upon it. What I forgot about the hill was that it was really a series of two hills. The first hill basically tires the runner and sets him up for the second, more steep hill. It was the one-two punch that can fell a runner in this race.
Topping the first part of the hill, I kept focus on the last part of the the hill at mile 7.5. There were several spectators cheering at the top as I was struggling the last few feet up the hill and back onto the paved road on the top.
At the top, the view of the New York Harbor were stunning. We had the fortune of a nice, sunny, clear day and it made the painful climbs worth it. I almost regretted descending the screamer downhill section at mile 8.5.
The beginning of this downhill section is so steep that it just jars your insides if careful steps are not taken. It levels out at the lower section enough to get back into smooth cruise control as I hit the main road back to the finish line.
The last section was a little uphill, but it didn't bother me as will power and the desire to finish took over. I finished the race in 1:09:48, a 7:29 min/mile pace. I was satisfied; I couldn't have asked for any better performance here.
As for CC, he finished the race only about 40 seconds behind me. He was coming off a viral bout I think and he raced the day before, so he was on tired legs. Had he been healthy and rested, I think he could have finished ahead of me.
Everyone from Staten Island raved about this race. Enough to come back next year? You bet.
As for me, my recovery week is over. I've suffered no adverse effects from the race and was fine for my run this morning (10 miles). I might not have the speed anymore, but I do have staying power. So even though I ran this race hard, it was only 9.3 miles and probably could have gone out for a second loop at the same pace as the first had a second loop existed.
This SUNDAY (note the day) April 10 is the Greenbelt Group Run at High Rock Park. Same place as always (High Rock Parking Lot, end of Nevada Ave. off of Rockland Ave.). But remember it's Sunday at 8AM this time, not Saturday. I will be in the Greenbelt on Saturday, but unless you're willing to run 20 miles with me on the Greenbelt White Trail, you won't see me. If you ARE willing to run 20 miles, or maybe even part of it, let me know, I can definitely use the company.
Tomorrow I'll be posting my Vermont 100 Mile Ultra Race Report here from another blog. Some people are interested to see what I've felt throughout the race and how the heck I was able to finish this undertaking. So be it. :-)
Pete, your play-by-play description of each mile in this course tells me that this is not your typical road race, but a beautiful, breathtaking and dramatic course. I now want to run it because of your blog entry; I'm sold!ReplyDelete