Friday, September 12, 2014

Moreau Lake trail 15K: 09/07/2014

Beach starting area at the Moreau Lake trail 15K.

The Saratoga Skier and Hiker, first-hand accounts of adventures in the Adirondacks and beyond, and Gore Mountain ski blog.
Beach starting area at the Moreau Lake trail 15K

Chalk it up to training (doubtful), experience (maybe) or just good luck (more like it), I ran a successful race at Sunday’s Moreau Lake 15K trail race, put on by Green Leaf Racing. By successful, I mean that a) I didn’t get lost, b) I didn’t get hurt or suffer any spectacular falls, and c) I beat my time from last year’s race by 6 minutes, finishing in less than 2 hours. Not getting lost or hurt might seem like odd criteria for “success” in a race, but this is no ordinary race, even by trail running standards. Featuring lots of rocks and roots, big vertical, downed trees and the infamous “staircase of death,” the Moreau Lake 15K course is known as one of the toughest around.

Pre-race check in

Just like last year, about 30 runners lined up for the start. Having gotten off course (I hate the word “lost”) in last year’s race, I was really focused on following the route carefully. Unlike a road race, it’s not a case of simply putting one foot in front of the other. There are no course marshals to keep runners on route, and there are frequently no other runners in sight. While the course is marked with orange flagging, it’s extremely easy to miss a marker and make a wrong turn. At times, the trail even seemed to temporarily disappear beneath my feet, causing me to stop, backtrack, re-find the route and get going again.

Beautiful views of the Hudson from the ridge (I took this photo last summer on a hike, no time for photos during the race!)

The toughest part of the course comes just a mile and a half into the race, where the “staircase of death” climbs 700 vertical feet to the Moreau Overlook at the top of the Palmertown Range. I got to the top somewhere in the top 10, with one runner pacing closely behind me and two more just ahead but out of sight. Before long, we caught the two in front when they lost the trail. I found the route and took the lead. Apparently the other three runners were happy to let someone else do the route-finding, because I stayed in front for the next 4 or 5 miles. One of the three took a fall and dropped behind, and the other two shifted into high gear for the last two miles of the course, leaving me solo to finish out the race with a time of 1:54:35 and ninth place overall (results).

A finisher crossing the line

It’s surprising to me that the field is so small for this race. Obviously a race like this isn’t for everyone, but there’s pretty strong interest in trail running in the Albany – Saratoga – Glens Falls area. Hopefully this race will not only continue but grow as well. The challenge, terrain, beautiful scenery and overall fun factor put this race high on my list of favorites.

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