Friday, February 24, 2012

Reconnaissance Runs

Everyone keeps telling me the only way to train for The North Face Endurance Challenge at Bear Mountain is to get out and run on the trails of Harriman State Park. And I've been told more than one time that Bear Mountain is one of the harder Ultras around.

Course Description: Runners can expect terrain changes from packed dirt to loose rocks, from tree roots to leaf-covered trail. The Bear Mountain Endurance Challenge course cuts to the chase, with some trails heading steeply uphill rather than zig-zaggin at a gentler grade. Descents end in wooded hollows before the next rapid climb ending with breathtaking views. Make no mistake: this will be a tough test of off-road endurance.

Elevation Change: 4 out of 5 stars
Technical Terrain: 5 out of 5 stars
Overall Difficulty: 5 out of 5 stars
Scenery: 5 out of 5 stars

2012 Bear Mountain Elevation Profile

I completely agree and don't want to be dismissive about the difficulty of the course terrain, but I've been taking on some pretty challenging Hudson Highlands runs over the last couple of months.

I've recently completed unsupported trail run/scrambles over most of the trails on Schunemunk Mountain and some very challenging single track and fire road combo runs at Black Rock Forest.

2012 Participant Guide
Fortunately, I live in the area, only 22 miles from Bear Mountain and Harriman State Parks, so I've decided it's time to check out the course for myself

The Participant Guide for TNFEC at Bear Mountain outlines the course with an overview map and turn by turn directions for navigating the trails.

I've converted the directions to my NY/NJ Trail Conference map and highlighted the entire route on a real trail map that I can bring with me this weekend when I set out to do some reconnaissance.

The course overview looks kind of like a damaged butterfly (or a really crooked figure-eight) with two wings that fan outward. One to the east and the other to the west and intersecting at near the center.

Interestingly, along the division of the east and the west wings runs the Palisades Parkway (which also comes pretty close to dividing Bear Mountain and Harriman State Parks). The Anthony Wayne Recreational Area which will be the location for both Aid Station #1 and #4. is located right on the Parkway.

2012 North Face Endurance Challenge - 50k Course
From the Anthony Wayne parking lot, I can follow the western or Harriman portion of the course (from aide station #1) in the same direction as the TNFEC returning to Anthony Wayne (aide station #4) 17 miles later.

This is the reconnaissance route I intend to take on weekend. I hope I'm not wrong about my training and the 17 miles is similar to what I'm anticipating. I know it will be hard miles, but I think I'm  prepared.

If all goes well, next up.... the eastern wing.

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