Tag Archives: Trail Running

Race Recap – Trail Master Killah Race, Aug 16, 2014

Vert Trail Master Killah race sign

Reunited with some former Ragnar teammates!


Today was the 5K Trail Master Killah race in lovely Van Cortlandt Park (just north of Manhattan in the Bronx).  I mostly signed up for the cool t-shirt, but was delighted that two of my former Ragnar teammates joined me in the race festivities.  I say “festivities” because they ran like 7 minute miles while I ran almost double that pace, but they waited for me at the finish line and we all went to the post-race party afterwards for our free beer and bananas (but water was cash only).


Finish line of Trail Master Killah

Pre-race milling about near the finish line.  Tons of cricket players in the background.

Getting a little ahead of myself – the race itself was pretty pleasant.  I had done a trail race in Van Cortlandt Park (through NYRR) years ago and my friends asked me if there were any hills.  I said it wasn’t very hilly, and if there were some hills they were very short.  The first thing my friends said to me after I crossed the finish line, before I even stopped gasping for air, was “No hills?!?  How could you say there were no hills?!?”  I do have a weirdly terrible memory about some things, and apparently the endless hills on the trails in Van Cortlandt Park fall under that category.  In my defense, the hills are not so bad when you walk them (cough cough like I did) versus when you sprint them (like my friends did).


The course starts on a flat, crushed gravel track, then heads into the forest trails featuring a lot of short and sometimes steep up and downs.  The path itself is not rocky but there are some wooden “steps” set into the path that you have to navigate, and occasionally the path got narrow (one or two people wide).  Ample volunteers made sure we didn’t get lost in the woods for eternity.  Despite pushing myself fairly hard for this race, and really, really pushing on the last half mile on the flat path, I finished with an abysmally slow time, but on the upside I have lots of room for improvement.


Van Cortlandt Pond post race

The pretty pond/lake right next to the post-race party.

The post-race party was a short walk away next to the golf course (and a pretty lake, pictured).  We were some of the first to arrive so we got our cups of beer and snacks and sat in the shade enjoying the view and weather.  We had to leave relatively early so we missed out on the DJ dance party and what looked like a big BBQ they were setting up just as we left.  While we only had one cup of beer they wrote your bib number on the cups and it seemed like you could get free refills, so even though it was a bit of a spendy race ($38 for 3 miles?), it was worth it for all the extras (and let’s not forget that great race shirt).


Proudly wearing my t-shirt post-race.

Proudly wearing my t-shirt post-race.

I looked everywhere online for the results (they offered bib chip timing) and couldn’t find them, but I just got them emailed to me directly – good stuff.  Some runners complained the course was .1 to .25 miles too long, but at my pace it didn’t really matter.  I’d definitely do this race again next year, assuming Vert will do it again.  I’d also try to take more advantage of the post-race party next year, and I’ll try to remember those hills.


What’s your weekend running plan?  Are you watching the fascinating train-wreck that is Bachelor in Paradise?  Have you had any really good candy lately?  Share in the comments!

Where to Run in Westchester? Try Ward Pound Ridge Reservation!

Rocks galore at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation.  Mosquitos and biting flies not pictured.

Rocks galore at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation. Mosquitos and biting flies not pictured.

I was exceedingly anxious about my LSR today in Westchester as I was heading into the unknown and running the trails at the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation.  I shouldn’t have been so nervous, because the thing that ultimately ended my run prematurely (only managed 6.5 miles instead of 15) was not the lack of facilities or even the incredibly rocky path but rather the mosquitos and biting flies.


The run started on a sour note because I had forgotten my Camelbak at home, so I had to carry a water bottle by hand.  I hate hand-carrying water, but I barely noticed the bottle during the run because there were about 5,000 other more annoying things occupying my attention.  The first, most obvious difference on this run compared to my cradle that is Central Park were the rocky trails.  They were rockier than I expected and I was unprepared both physically (as a road runner) and equipment-wise (my soft road shoes were equally not up for the challenge).  The rocks varied from large, softball sized rocks to smaller slippery, shale pebbles to giant, half-submerged boulders.  Oftentimes the trail was partially washed away, creating gullies and exposing yet more rocks.  Rocks are not kind on the knees.  Neither is having to dodge them and change direction, making sure not to roll an ankle or trip and fall.  After about 2 miles, I thought about turning around and calling it a day, but I pushed down my discomfort because today was my LSR, danggit, and I wanted to cover at least one 5.7 mile red-blazed loop.  When the bugs started fiercely attacking at mile 3, I realized I had made a huge mistake.


Typical scenery at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation.

Typical scenery at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation.

My knee started complaining more vociferously after mile 3 but every time I stopped to take a walk break the bugs would be whining right by my ears, sometimes actually landing inside my ears, and I’d flap my arms and swat at my head like a crazy person.  The rocks were relentless, the bugs equally so, and I still had 3 more miles (at about an 18:00 min/mile pace at this point) to go.  I tried to tell myself the experience would make me a better runner, but really it just made me re-think my romantic plans to hike the Appalachian Trail or even attempt any sort of trail race anytime soon.


The “Pound” in Ward Pound Ridge Reservation is derived from the animal pounds the Indians kept in the area – keeping deer “on the hoof” until they needed them for food.  I felt like a trapped deer myself, swatting at the ceaseless onslaught of insects.  The bug spray I applied before the run did nothing to keep them away, although it might have helped against the highly probable ticks in the area.


Here is the most scenic spot along the red loop in WPRR.  Enjoy it.

Here is the most scenic spot along the red loop in WPRR. The irony that it is a giant pile of rocks is not lost on me.

I stopped to take a few photos here and there, so you could see all the rocks and the non-beauty that I enjoyed.  There was one semi-scenic area along the red trail loop, and I made sure to get a photo of it to save you the bother of ever trying to see it yourself.  At some point the red/green trail I started on turned into red/yellow, and eventually I came upon a major fork in the road that clearly indicated red was to the left.  I double-checked the map I was carrying and headed to the left, thinking I was less than half a mile from the parking lot.


More rocks on the red and yellow trail at WPRR.

More rocks on the red and yellow trail at WPRR.

After heading along the yellow trail for a while I came across a group of hikers and asked them if the parking lot was just ahead.  The leader in the group told me that the parking lot was in the opposite direction!  He showed me where I was on my map, and the group agreed the navigation in the park “wasn’t intuitive.”  I thanked him and told him my run had been pretty miserable because of all of the biting flies.  He said, “Yeah, that’s funny because they all died off a couple of weeks ago, but they’re back now.”  I wanted to say, “you knew about the biting flies and yet you hike here anyway?!” but since he had just saved me from another fruitless three mile loop in the wrong direction, I just thanked him and trotted off.

Which direction is the red trail?  Yeah, actually opposite of that.

Which direction is the red trail? Yeah, actually opposite of that.

When I reached the signpost again I took a picture to document the red-trail left turn it indicated, then went the opposite direction and found the parking lot not more than 50 yards down the path.  I had never been so happy to hit a parking lot and felt like I had just survived a Bear Grylls challenge.


There’s no simple “equivalence” formula of a mile on a trail to a mile on the road, but it definitely felt like more than 6.5 miles on my legs.  I’m still disappointed I didn’t get in a solid 15 today, but at least this LSR wasn’t critical to my marathon training (versus, say, my 18-miler would be), so I’m trying not to sweat it.  Needless to say, I would not recommend WPRR as a running destination, although I did encounter about 5 other runners during my almost 2 hour slog through the woods, and none of them seemed as miserable as I was.  It was “interesting” to try the WPRR trails for the first time, but I’m going to give an extra big kiss and hug to Central Park when I return.


Do you run on trails?  Do you have problems with bugs?  Share in the comments!