I’ve not really run more than a couple of miles on a trail before – Rutgers Ecological Preserve is near home so I have ventured in a couple of times, but it’s pretty small and following the marked trails soon dump you out on a nearby road.
Today I took the day off work to run. I did something similar last month (and you can read about it here). I have ended up with quite a few days to take off this year after I carried over quite a few last year, so I’m going to take off a day every month or two just to run.
My destination of choice for today was Watchung Reservation. When I started getting ready I checked the weather to decide what to wear but I knew it was going to be cold.
I decided to wear the tights I had bought when I was cycling – at the time I had researched to find the best clothing for cold weather and the tights from Col d’Lizard do the job. I also wore my Icebreaker long sleeve half zip, a thicker merino wool cycling jacket, Icebreaker gloves, and a balaclava. I threw some extras into the car in case I needed them.
When I got there, the weather was marginally better:
It had been suggested I park by Seeley’s Pond in the park, and I got there and parked, but couldn’t really tell where I was supposed to go – I was looking for the white trail.
After a quick look around to see if I could spot anything, I got back in the car and drove further into the park. At the next parking area, about a mile up the road, I spotted a white marker on a tree so backup up and parked.
I started off up the path, but wasn’t sure I had the right shoes on – something had made me think I wanted to run in a brand new pair of New Balance Minimus Road Zeros, but after a short run up and down a couple of paths I decided to go back and change into my Merrell Trail Gloves.
The first part of the trail was trickier than I expected – it didn’t help that there were patches of ice, but there were also quite a few rocky sections, and some fairly steep sections too.
After a couple of miles the trail cut back across the road I had come in on, right near the Seeley’s Pond area. The trail seemed a bit easier after that point and I was coasting along for a while.
After running alongside the river for a while, the trail came out in an area that included several old houses, most of which looked decrepit, but a couple looked like they were being lived in. I was going to get more photos on the way back, but my phone shut itself down for some reason right at that point. There was also some sort of historic cemetery (some information about it here if you’re interested).
Back to the running… it didn’t really occur to me until I was running that planning to run further than I have ever run before was probably best not done on a trail. Trail running can be tough going, particularly if it’s a bit hilly. I was doing pretty well though, and only stumbled for the first time at about 7 miles.
I got to the Trailside Nature and Science Center after just over 9 miles, and decided to head back the way I had come. At this point it was almost tempting to try to find my way back to the car, partly to pick up a jacket to protect against the wind, as I was starting to feel a slight chill, but I thought if I did that I would end up cutting the run short. I knew it was going to be tough going, but I also knew that if I struggled I could cut slightly shorter by running up the road to the car when I got back to the Seeley’s Pond area (although I suspected, and was correct, that it would only cut off about a mile).
By mile 13 I was getting tired. I stumbled a couple of times, and my thighs were feeling it, so I knew I was going to need to cut off that last section. Some parts were slippery that I didn’t remember being slippery on the way out, so there were a couple of moments where I slid a bit (right by the edge of slopes). Perhaps it was just because my legs were so tired. I could tell I was tired because a few times I missed the trail markers. Luckily the trails are very well marked, so after a short while without seeing another marker I knew I had to turn back to find the correct path.
When I got back to the road I considered doing the last section briefly but then thought better of it, and set off down the road. Or, rather, that should be “up the road” – my legs were aching and it was uphill pretty much the entire last mile up to the car.
All told I managed just over 17 miles, which is my longest ever run (my prior longest being 16 last month, and it follows a 14 mile run I did on Saturday this week). It took almost 3 hours, but it was definitely enjoyable.
Now, where should I run next month?
EDIT: I forgot to mention, that even though it didn’t seem that cold particularly, the water bottles I carried with me started to freeze. When I tried to take my first drink nothing would come out, so I had to take off the lid, and then had to deal with the chunks of ice that had already formed inside. It only got worse, but at least I was still able to get water out of them.