Willowbrook Park, Staten Island
8 December 2012
It was a perfect day for a long trail run: in the 40s, overcast, and slightly drizzly. I got to Willowbrook Park about half an hour before start time. Bib pick up was fast and it got pretty cold waiting around after that, but I chatted with a really nice woman for a bit before getting last minute directions from the race director. About a hundred runners lined up at the start line; only about a fourth were signed up for the 50k.
Packet pick up:
Most of the first mile was pavement, then we were in the woods. We had been warned to expect mud and there was mud almost right away–sticky, swampy mud. It wasn’t terrible. Messy, but not terrible. The course ran through some of the parks that make up the Staten Island Greenbelt: Latourette Park, High Rock Park, and Manor Park. I’ve run in the Greenbelt before in summer, when it was lush and green, but running in the fall is unbelievable. It was a feast for the eyes; I couldn’t stop looking at the sparse beauty of it. I want to go back and run again–more than once–before the winter is over.
Underfoot there were a lot of different trail surfaces. There were a few short sections of pavement and one of packed grass (my least favorite). There was a stretch of cinder trail that was part of a multi-use path. There was a great deal of leaf-covered trail (with rocks and sticks underneath). And then there was the mud. The swampier parts had nifty wooden walkways:
The course is mostly single-track and there was a good deal of climb and descent. In fact, I was surprised at the elevation change. I expected to climb, but I didn’t expect to climb as much as I did. There were both short, steep (slippery) climbs and long not-quite-as-steep climbs. I was impressed with the trail markings, although I still did manage to run off the trail twice in nearly the same spot. That happened around mile 26 (I think) on the second loop and I was starting to get really tired then and just missed a turn. And then right near the end I panicked because the volunteers that had been pointing us in the right direction were gone and I thought I was repeating a section of trail and I backtracked and then decided I was probably going the right way. I was very disoriented for a little while.
There were aid stations at the start (loop) and three other points, just about four miles apart. There was a good variety of food available (although I would have killed for apples and oranges instead of bananas). They also had Coke, water, PowerAde, and Red Bull. (I discovered something delightful called a Bagelful at the last station. mmm I tend to get very hungry after mile 20, so the Bagelful might not be as delightful under normal circumstances.)
Heading back into the woods:
My only complaint was traffic, which is the fault of whoever laid out the park, not the race coordinators. There are roads that cross through the park periodically and 50k runners were faced with crossing those roads 14 times. Most of them were okay, but there were at least four that had a lot of traffic. I am estimating 15-20 minutes were added to my time from waiting on cars.
Overall, I had a really great time. It has been a long time since I’ve run a race and really been anxious to sign up again. I will definitely keep running this one each year and recommend it to others. Big THUMBS UP to the New York Adventure Racing Association!