Friday, March 21, 2014

Lenape Trail

March 1, 2014.

The day started out pretty cold, about 20 F, and with no heat in the truck I was pretty cold as I met the other runners at the Locust Grove parking lot of South Mountain Reservation in Millburn NJ. Thankfully one of the guys let me sit in his truck with the heat turned up high so I could warm up. After warming up, I got out of the truck and the pack made its way to the Millburn train station. We were taking the train to Newark NJ where we would begin running the Lenape trail.

The run is 33 miles long starting in Newark, wending through Belleville further north and west back to Millburn NJ. The day started at 20 F and warmed to the low 30's. It was a pretty good day for a run. The temperature was comfortable with what I wore, and the sun was out for most of the day; but there was still a lot of snow and ice on the trail portions of the route. I also had not been running long enough due to the cold I contracted and the crappy weather we've had this winter. For the first several miles through Newark I was running with Sean. But I was soon alone. And would continue the rest of the run by myself. Some of the marks were difficult to find in the park in Belleville, but I knew where I needed to be. I think I may have cut a bit off but I was needing a bathroom break. And luckily for me trail actually passes right in front of my condo. Stopped at home, got a few swigs of Gatorade and a couple of cookies and the much needed bathroom break.

Trail continued through a park through Nutely, that I hoped would have been free of snow & ice but wasn't:

Lenape Trail through Nutely NJ
 The trail is a mix of everything - streets, paved bike paths through parks and trails. Running through Mills Reservation was beautiful - except for the icy trail - and at the top of the hill afforded me some nice views:

I was really regretting not bringing my Microspikes. It would have been a pain to have to take them off and put them back on but I probably would have moved easier through the snowy & icy parts of the trail. I got a bit turned around in the reservation after taking some advice from a hiker but I called up Chris and he was able to set me on the correct path. At this point, I was mostly walking with a little bit of running. The legs & knees were sore and I still had quite a ways to go before the first aid station at mile 16. After Mills Reservation trail eventually took me around the Cedar Grove Reservoir. With all the ice and snow, it was a bit tough going and ended up running on the street with a narrow shoulder. Thankfully there weren't too many cars and I was able to make my way to where the trail turned back into woods.

This was an interesting section of trail as you end up running along this narrow ridge which is a path for deer. There was so much deer poop and urine in one area; it was a deer bathroom! I was also alone with about 6 deer. Since I wasn't running, I didn't really spook them much and we were traveling in the same direction. If you look really closely you can see them in the trees:

Finally I made it to mile 16. Chris and a couple of volunteers were there with clementines, bananas, water and snacks. I took a clementine and some peanut M&M's. Chris gave me a few pointers of where to go and I was on my way. Trail continued on a rail-to-trail until I made it to Verona. Thankfully there were port-a-johns at Verona Park for another pit stop. I was still trying to eat and drink still at this point. However, t some point I stopped eating and drinking since I didn't want to deal with bathroom issues and just wanted to finish. This was probably a bit of a mistake as I probably slowed down. And I was getting cold. Clouds started to cover the sun and sometimes the wind picked up.

But I was still appreciating the beauty of where I was. Trail went through Eagle Rock Reservation. I've run through this park during warmer seasons and this was the first time I was in the park during the winter. There was no one really on the trails and of course, trail went up to afford a hiker some nice views:

It was after this that was the lowest point of the trail for me. I hadn't been eating or drinking for a while and it was a very long trail and uphill along the by-pass route after I-280. Eventually I made it to the second aid station, which was at mile 26.  The two volunteers drove me back to the start/end in Millburn. I was able to finally warm up after sitting in Doris's car (with heated seats!) for a while. Marcus was kind enough to let me have one of his Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPAs. Much appreciated after my longest run (in miles and time - 9 hrs!) of the year. I hung out and chatted with everyone for a while but then it was time to get home, have a shower, and head to the pub for some dinner and a well earned beer!

A few things that I took from this run is that (i) there are some pretty beautiful areas of northern New Jersey; (ii) I was still able to appreciate the beauty despite being tired and very sore; (iii) I have a lot of strength & determination and can keep powering through a run/hike. This is something that I need to remind myself the next time I have a low point in a long race or run. Of course, it helps that I really didn't want to call Chris, the guy who arranged the run, and see if I could catch a ride earlier. and (iv) I was likely going to be able to finish the 50K at the NJ Trail Series Ultrafest later in the month**.

Here's one link to the Lenape Trail.

**Actually the race is tomorrow! Better late than never with this race report!

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