by Nathan Laing
Lacing up the morning of November 5th, a mild and slightly humid air mass lingers over Moreau State Park, located in what is known as the Palmertown Mountain Range. As the sun breaks over the treeline across the lake, the excitement builds before the climb for those of us participating in the third Moreau Half, organized by Mountain Dog Running.
Having only run at Moreau twice before the race, the only expectation I had before the race was to limit my expectations, run under 10-minute pace when able, walk on steepest of grades, be extra careful on downhills and most important, keep moving forward!
Trail running provides solitude and scenery in a world where maximum decibels of sound and sight may interfere with our ability to truly listen and “calibrate” our senses. Moreau’s varying forests cast deep shade under darkened hemlock stands, beech-maple mesic (meaning moist soil) forests line the ridgelines above the Hudson River, with mixed maple-oak-hemlock woodlands providing a tapestry of color on the forest floor. The ruggedness and winding nature of the course is in part due to the bedrock outcrops that are embedded in the landscape.
Back to the race! The first three miles involve steady grades ascending to the eastern crest of the Palmertown Range, which is capped off with the Staircase of Death, where participants are aptly greeted by a friendly skeleton at the top. My legs needed less than a mile to recover, and I was dipping into the mid-9:30’s and feeling fast in the forest!
With the trail wrapping around Lake Bonita, my spirit remained strong and focused as we made the downhill (ugh) trek, knowing that what came up next will require some walking to save my energy for the western ridge trail.
Upon descending and ascending to the scenic outcrops at the crest of the western ridge trail, a got a glimpse towards the north of the wildlands of the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest and the mighty Hudson River below. In my hiking tradition, I briefly took in the views but thought of the view of a sandy beach that awaits at the finish line (and perhaps an Athletic brewing?)
Remember what I said about expectations? Well, let me introduce you to maple and beech leaves. Enough leaves to not only make a seasoned hiker like myself question where the heck I was going, but also to hide every root, rock and crevice for the next several miles. Adjustment. Adaptation. Forward.
Upon reaching the Spier Falls parking lot, I received the next lesson of the day. Intense seizing and locking of the muscles under my knees reached a level so high that I couldn’t move my leg. Fortunately, a spectating friend had extra pretzels that provided some relief to muster up the motivation to finish. Not finishing was not an option.
I would later learn that this muscle seizing may be the result of too little sodium, and admittedly I was not paying attention to that specific input. Lesson learned, especially being new to trail racing/pacing.
My first double-digit trail race reinforced my desire to experience more challenges like this (I’m open to suggestions)! I encourage everyone to find a challenge to break apart into manageable goals to keep you on track, and determine what you want to achieve as a result of the undertaking.
Nate can be found identifying plants in wetlands, working (playing) in the yard and forests, and finding time to run and enjoy the quiet moments to balance out the rush. Summited the ADK 46 and the Catskill 35, in addition to five marathons.