National Trails Day and the “Train”ing Run

One of the best NJ running events of the year happened this past Saturday, the “Train”ing Run – it’s a non-competitive run where you can join a train, from the “Express” train (7:30 min/mile)to the “Caboose” train (15 min/mile), in theory timed to reach the final destination at the same time.

Last year I managed to cover 22 miles on this run, but my plan this year was a more modest 17.4 on the Commuter Train (8:30/mile). Unfortunately, on Tuesday I hurt my toe (the nail of my big toe to be more precise) – enough that I couldn’t put on shoes because any pressure on the top of the toe was painful even 4 days later. I could, however, cope with sandals so I set out on my bike and headed out for a ride along the towpath.

The path was in pretty bad shape in places following some flooding a couple of months ago, so it wasn’t easy going on a bicycle at times. At this point I was also thinking about my plan – which was to possibly run the 2.8 mile distance barefoot. I was already wary of this idea because I haven’t run barefoot in a while, and with some of the path covered in large rocks I was even more wary.

I’d had enough of bouncing around on the path on my bike so took to the road to head back to Johnson Park. Once back in the park I decided to try a short jog around to see whether the sandal strap might cause me any issues. It didn’t, so I got on the bus to go to the 2.8 mile station.

While waiting for the train to come in I changed my mind so many times about whether to try it barefoot, but I eventually decided to start barefoot and see what happened. After about a quarter of a mile it got very rocky so I put my sandals on. I briefly took them off again but only managed another tenth of a mile before giving up and putting my sandals back on for good.

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I was starting to feel that I could have run more than I did so I was a little disappointed that I hadn’t. However, when I got to the finish I realized that my toe was hurting a little, so it was probably a smart choice.

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As always, the picnic was fun, with plenty of beer and food. Awards are given to anyone who has a total of 100, 200, 300, 400, etc. miles over the years and to those who completed the full 34.6 mile distance. I didn’t get much closer to one of the total milestones but I definitely had fun again.

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Yes, he is pretending a beer bottle is a microphone.

Add this run to your calendar every year – National Trails Day is on the first Saturday in June every year.

14 miles at Six Mile Run

Six Mile Run is a park less than 20 minutes away from home, yet I have not run there before. I knew about the park because of my cycling friends – I’d heard of it in the context of mountain biking and the thought of fighting over trail space with dozens of mountain bikers didn’t sound like much fun (when out on my road bike one of the parking lots always seems full of people with mountain bikes).

A friend ran there this weekend and that made me think about it again. The timing was perfect because I was taking some time off work today and was planning to run somewhere and I figured that there may not be many cyclists on the trails on a Monday morning.

It was going to be hot so I took some water and some energy chews and I got there before 10am. The parking lot I was looking for was just off route 27 in Somerset county and I knew approximately where it was, but when I got there I had trouble finding the entrance. Luckily google maps was there to help me out and the entrance was a way in to a soccer field and there was a small (very small) sign that just said “Trail” on it.

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You quickly move away from the sounds of the road and find yourself lost in the beauty of the varying landscapes of the trails.

As I got a little way in, where some of the trails were narrow, my mind wandered to those thoughts about coming across mountain bikers. As if on cue, I saw one coming towards me at the same time I heard it skid to an almost stop. I had space to stand aside and let him past, and he apologized which I thought was unnecessary but also very courteous and nice of him – he also made it clear he was alone and there was nobody else with him. On my whole run this was the only one I came across under those circumstances. I did see a few others but they were in places where there was plenty of warning for both of us. I’d be interested to know how much of a problem this could be on the weekends.

The trail is very much set up for mountain biking, with various manufactured bumps and jumps for the riders to take (having to go up and down unnecessary mini-hills did get very slightly annoying especially as I was tiring later in the run).

It always catches me out how much more tiring a trail run can be than a road run. It was also hot and the three small bottles of water I had with me ran out with just over a mile to go so by the end I was parched. Luckily route 27 has plenty of shops and it’s easy to buy drinks in many places nearby. I knew I was tired after I started heading back – a few stumbles (but no falls) within a short space of time forced me to ease back and take it easier on the way back, but the short and, in places, steep climbs on the way back really took their toll on me.

I ran the red trail to the blue trail and all the way through to the other end of the park, and then back again (if I wasn’t so tired I may have taken a detour along the twisty yellow trail on the way back rather than retracing my steps) – at the end I had about 13.7 miles, but there was a short part where I accidentally left my GPS off (I had stopped it to reply to a text and forgot to restart it).