When we need a change from our regular running trails we drive a few hours south to New York’s Adirondack State Park for a training weekend. This huge park has the largest hiking trail system in the United States, with 2,000 miles of trails. For a weekend adventure it is limitless. We spent a few days in early August there, and as usual, had a blast.
We usually HQ at South Meadow, a first-come-first-served primitive camping location at the very edge of the High Peaks, close to the famous Adirondack Loj. We like South Meadow because it’s no-hassle and free, the way that camping should be, but usually isn’t.
Arriving in early evening, we had time for a quick 90 minute run before dark. Having heard how great the cross country ski trails were on Mt Van Hoevenberg, we decided to check it out. The initial few miles consisted of the sweetest smelling pine needle trails ever. We then hit a huge wild raspberry patch where we grabbed a whack of nature’s energy snacks before starting to climb. While this isn’t a very high peak, we were feeling the grade quickly. This is the mountain where the Lake Placid Olympic Bobsled course starts. We were hoping to take in a view of the bobsled run, but we decided to turn around shortly after reaching the top, to get back to camp before dark. Our pace increased on our way back down as we were looking forward to another feast of berries before getting back to camp. This ended up being a perfect run for the evening, and whet our appetite for some longer runs over the next few days.
After a good night’s sleep we headed to Keene Valley early the next morning for a run up Giant Mountain. With all the rain this summer, the trail was very muddy and made the steep climbing tough. There aren’t many switchbacks on these trails, so even the slow pace feels like a tempo run. It was raining off and on, but there were a few good views on the way up. We’ve heard that the summit view is one of the best in the area, but when we got there it was completely clouded in. Bummer. We went down via another route, which was a lot nicer and more runnable over large flat rocks. We stopped a few times to take a good look around as the skies cleared up. I wore Raceblades and Sara wore Fireblades, with both shoes being great on this fairly technical route.
After lunch and a quick stop at The Mountaineer shop, we switched it up with a flatter run along the Lower Ausable River trails. This route was a recommendation from Drew Haas, a trail runner who works at the store. Jan Wellford, the new holder of the ADK 46 Speed Climbing record also works there. (I ran part of the Stone Cat 50 miler last fall with Jan – nice guy.)
After so much rocky climbing in the morning, it was nice to get on some soft pine needles. We also met a new friend (see video). The trails were great for running and we eventually came across a beautiful waterfall. Unfortunately we got a little turned around and began climbing and not winding up where we intended, at a lookout called Indian Head. Sara gets antsy (or is that cranky, she says) when she can’t find herself on a map, so we thought it best to turn and go back the same way. We’ll definitely check out this area further next time we’re down here.
After an almost 6 hour day of running, back at HQ we were happy to put our feet up and fuel on Saranac Lake Ale and pasta…a meal we call ”The Usual” when camping.
The next day, I wanted to get in another longer run, so we set off for the High Peaks. Sara’s knee was pretty sore from hitting it on a protruding branch coming down Giant, so she kept to the lower trails for a shorter run. I was hoping to get a 4 hour run in, so decided at the last minute to make a dash for the summit of Mt Marcy (5344 ft, highest in NY). The trail was very muddy and there were a few sections where I thought I would lose my shoes in the deep muck. The rocks were once again very wet and I had to be careful, but my Raceblades gripped really well.
The last time we ran up Marcy was a couple of Novembers ago. Conditions were cold and icy then, very different from now. I was able to make much faster time even with all the water and mud, and I had fun jumping from rock-to-rock over streams. Indian Falls was a beautiful view with the water running down the flat rock overlooking the peaks in the distance that were too numerous to count. Just before the final push to the summit, I was surprised to see that a boardwalk was completely submerged in water. I had wet feet for pretty much the entire run. Getting close to the summit, it was fun scrambling up the final few rocks. Right up until then I thought I was going to have a great view, but once there I was totally engulfed by cloud. Bummer again.
I popped a few Clif Blocks, then started heading back down. It was great fun, with some sections where you could really open up and run hard, even though I had to pay close attention. I refilled my bottle at Indian Falls with the best tasting water ever. My feet were a little sore after finishing from all the rocks, but overall I felt great.
All in all, some great training for Haliburton Ultras in September.
Drew’s website is a great resource for trail running in the Adirondacks – www.adktrailrun.com. Three well-known trail and mountain races are held in the park: Damn Wakely Dam (32.6M), The Great Adirondack Trail Run (11.5M), and Whiteface Mountain Uphill Race (8M with 3,500 ft gain).