Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Throwback: 2013 Wildcat Ridge Romp

The 2013 Wildcat Ridge Romp was supposed to be my first 50K and my New Jersey race for the 50 States Marathon Club. But I only ran 10 miles that day. What happened?

I was looking for a New Jersey marathon to fit into my schedule after having bad luck with that state. I was registered for the 2012 Atlantic City Marathon, but had to defer that due to my grandmother's death. Then I registered for the inaugural 2013 Liberty Run Marathon in Jersey City. This race was canceled only a couple weeks before race day. Turns out the race organizers neglected to secure the permits to hold the race. So, I found the New Jersey Trail Series website and the Wildcat Ridge Romp was an August race that fit into my schedule. I had not run a 50K, and this would be a 50K on a challenging trail course, but there was a 12 hour limit. I had heard good feedback from other runners about the New Jersey Trail Series, so I figured I'd go for it.

Scot had already run a marathon in New Jersey, but he is always up for trying a new race. The two of us drove up to Parsippany NJ the night before the race so we would be ready to go in the morning. We found the packet pick-up and the parking and saw a few folks we knew. There were lots of runners running lots of distances. I believe there was a 10 miler, a 50K, a 50 miler and a 100K all offered that day, the only difference was how many laps a person needed to complete.

Me, Mike and Scot before the start

This was a low-key race and it started with little fanfare. I lined up near the back of the pack. The first short stretch of the course was in an open field and then we ran into the woods. For the 50K, we would do three loops through the woods on what was mostly single-track trail. In parts of the course there wasn't much trail at all, and I only knew where I was going because of the trail markings on the trees. We had several water crossings, including one absolutely ridiculous one where we were climbing fallen trees that were blocking the stream. There was a treacherous section of the course that had medium stones and was very difficult to run on. The rocks weren't small enough for it to be considered a gravel trail, and they weren't even enough for it to be consistent like cobblestones. They were just random and I absolutely hated this stretch. I could have twisted an ankle at any time. I had to walk much of this section. Back in the woods there were some very steep ascents, and scaling of boulders in some spots.

Still going early on

I really wanted to have fun at this race. I'm not a very experienced trail runner, but I do like trails. I expect there to be a degree of difficulty. But I don't expect a trail race to be a full-on obstacle course. That's what this felt like to me. I had plantar fasciitis, so that made me fairly cautious, and I was planning a challenging double the following weekend out west, to check off two new states. I knew that I had to play it really safe at Wildcat in order to be healthy and uninjured (aside from my existing plantar fasciitis). I commiserated with some other ladies on the course who had also planned to run the 50K, but were going to stop after one loop. Eventually, that is what I decided to do as well. It just wasn't worth risking injury to do two more loops of this course. As it was, my first loop was incredibly slow due to the snail's pace I was using to get through this course. It was debatable whether I'd even be able to finish within the time limit. Not worth it.

Where's the trail? Yeah, that's what it was like out there.

There was some scenery

I just scaled a major rock formation and now I'm looking down it

When I finished my first loop I turned myself in. I told the race directer I could not risk another loop of his crazy course. Because I had completed one loop, I was given a finish time for the 10 Miler. The slowest 10 miles of my life! I got into a clean shirt, some flip flops, and got some food. Then I got some beer. This race was very generous with the beer. Then I had to wait for Scot to come back through at the end of his second loop so he could learn that I dropped out. He understood my reasoning. He was also determined to finish his 50K, so he went back into the woods.

With Max

I waited for hours drinking beer (not that much beer) and talking with other runners or spectators. It was a nice day to do this, and I found a spot to sit in the shade. Eventually Max and Mike finished. Scot was taking a long time. It turns out that he had slowed down substantially and was providing some moral support to a fellow runner who was having a bad day. I understood how she might have had a bad day doing three loops of that course! They finished just under the time limit.

It was the right decision for me to DNF this 50K. It was way more technical than I thought it would be, I already had one injury, and I needed to NOT have a new injury before my Utah and Nevada double. I think this is the toughest race that the New Jersey Trail Series offers. If you do it, you need to go into it knowing that it is not an easy course, and the course could change from year to year depending on the whim of the race director. He just might find a new, crazy obstacle and include it in the course.

So, after two New Jersey DNS (did not start) races, I had a New Jersey DNF (did not finish, at least not the distance that counted). Later, I would also DNF at the 2013 Atlantic City Marathon due to plantar fasciitis. Then in 2014 I did not even attempt a marathon in New Jersey. Finally, I got the job done at the 2015 New Jersey Marathon.

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