I have not been running the trails with the regularity I would like for a variety of reasons, a much needed break after a 50k in early October , the arrival of hunting season, day-light savings time and a busy work schedule.
A couple of weeks ago my calendar alerted me that one of my favorite races had slipped off my radar was coming up. After the Leaves Have Fallen is arguably the most beautiful run I've ever done. It's a 20k trail run on the carriage roads in Minneswaska Park , one of the most scenic parks in Ulster County, NY .
I knew I was woefully under-trained but given the incomparable beauty of the course and the forecast of perfect weather conditions I had decided I would go out and try to "just enjoy the run".
I arrived in time to familiarize myself with the updated course map, because last year the course had been altered due to damage the park had sustained from Hurricane Irene .
It was a gorgeous morning with a slight haze as the morning cast took it's time burning away.
We made our way to the start that overlooked Lake Minnewaska.and after some pre-race instructions and some entertaining banter from the race director we were off.
The run started with one clockwise loop around Lake Minnewaska and I quickly realized that I was not in top form. I also suspected that there were more than a few anxious runners here that were amping the pace a little because of the NYC Marathon cancellation just last weekend.
I did the best I could to restrain my effort and get my pace under control as we completed the loop and headed out towards the long loop around Lake Awosting.
The gateway trail to Lake Awosting was composed of numerous moderate grade uphills with only brief reprieves from the gradient. I found it difficult to control my body temperature as the sun shone brightly on the open trail.
After the seemingly endless series of short uphills we briefly descended to Awostning Lake. The trail undulated along the side of the lake with some rugged footing strewn with brown pine needles from the scrub pines that lined the trail.
At 5 miles in I was feeling really tired and seriously considering a DNF. But to call it quits would have required turning around and putting in another 4 miles, When I considered that long walk/jog (of shame) back to the start would have resulted in 2/3 of the total mileage, I figured what he hell... push on!
We rounded the far end of the lake and returned on a trail strewn with thousands of blueberry bushes well past their summer prime.
We crossed the stone beach and entered the woods for the climb to Castle Point (the highest point on the course).
I struggled dearly as I made my way to the foreboding Shawangunk Ridge with it's unmistakeable white cliffs looming above.
View from Castle Poin
I made my way past several day-hikers who were enjoying the unseasonable temperatures. I muttered a feeble hello and continued along the final switchback to the top of the ridge.
At the highest point was the Castle Point aid station. I filled up my water bottle and ate my last gel. I hoped that somehow I would extract a reserve of energy to get me through to the finish.
I admired the views and took a few photos and was on my way to the finish.
I shuffled along as best I could trying to make up some ground on the downhills Only 3.4 miles to go..
Most of the final miles were downhill and although downhill running often isn't the easiest thing to do, it was a whole lot better than more up.
The miles passed as I tried to draw motivation from the beauty of the backbone of the ridge rising from the valley below.
I gauged my discomfort against the remaining mileage and paced my way to the finish. -- I handed in my finishers card found myself a warm cup of vegetable soup and called it a day.
Distance: 20k (12.4 Miles) Time: 2:15:42 Elevation Gain: 1,003 ft