It was hot! The weather yesterday, June 10 2017 was gorgeous. Not a cloud in the sky and brought nice and hot temps in the upper 80’s. Perfect for the beach but not conducive for racing. Thank God it was a trail race and we had the covering of the trees to keep us cooler.
A bunch of us decided to explore trails in Palisades by signing up for an adventure race-Palisades Clifhanger Half Marathon. The course seemed relatively easy (on paper) with the only challenge being the giant stairs. The location for this race was at the State Line Lookout where New Jersey and New York states meet about an hour away.
The race started about a half a mile down closed highway 9W off the State Line Lookout parking lot. It was very basic, very locally inclined, without any “official” start line. We were instructed on the course to follow aqua, red, white and back to aqua trails. Trails were supposed to be marked with pink ribbons and a water station about mile 7. We were told the race is pretty flat and the only concern was the giant stairs. So just like that we were off. Up the closed highway, past the parking lot and onto the trails. Simple enough, right? Once we entered the woods the runners dissipated according to their speed and spread out. I ended up pacing the guy in front of me who informed me he’s run this course 2 weeks before. Mental note: stay with this guy cause he knows where to go. I guess if you ran this course you’d know where to go and which turns to make, which were supposed to be marked. Well, that’s where things kinda went sour. I saw a cool arch and decided to stop to take a pic with the intention of following the trail to the left but as I took the picture I noticed a faint pink ribbon on the other side. Duh, I’m supposed to follow thru that. Shouldn’t there have been a ribbon outside the arch to let me know to go there? Ok. Here I go. Oh great, I caught up to my pacer. I’m on the right track. Following the aqua trail we came out of the woods past the biking check point. I guess that’s where all the bikers meet and rack up their mileage training for an ironman. Made an inconspicuous left back into the trail (btw I would’ve never saw that if I had been running by myself, hence some of my friends missing that turn and getting lost). Pass the lookout point with more spectacular views of Hudson River making a short left onto red trail. We are on the descent now. Hopping on rocks left to right. Oh man, I’m gonna twist an ankle and fall on my face. As we came onto a road, volunteers were there to direct us back onto the trail leading along the river. White trail was nice and flat along the shore line. It was so peaceful and that water looked so inviting at this point. So hot I need to dip myself to cool off. And now I lost my pacer. Yes! Water station! Finally! It felt like I have been running for hours. So thirtsty. Refill my water bottle and back on track. The nice and flat white trail soon yielded these gigantic rugged boulders about mile 10. Now all that was left was strategical climbing for about 2 miles. “Please just don’t fall and wedge your foot in between”. Half way thru climbing boulders I was done. At this point I was tired, hungry, hot and dehydrated. Thank God I took salt tabs with me those really helped. Nearing a huge boulder we were greeted by some volunteers and a photographer taking our “exhausted” pictures. They informed us this is the final boulder and the terrain changes and we have about 2 miles left including the infamous stairs. At this point I took a nose dive but managed somehow to fall softly without any damage. I decided to hike run to catch my breath and refocus my dizzy head. Approaching the stairs was this amazing waterfall. The water was flowing down the rocks and it looked so magical. There were so many hikers there. Up the aqua trail the steps were very challenging especially after running and climbing for 12 miles. Each step was about 2 feet high. The only good thing about it was that we were going up and not down. They were tricky to step on and narrow but I didn’t think they were as bad as the boulders. Climbing up we reach a fork of trails. I’m delirious. Again there was no marking or ribbon to tell us where to go but there was a sign with words “State Line Lookout”. Well, I know that leads to parking lot so I’m going this way. Coming out of the trail I’m back on the closed highway where we started. Ok the finish line is coming up unfortunately for me it’s a bout a mile of straight uphill. Ugh! I want this to be over so I decide to run walk to make this end. Omg! I see ppl. One of the organizers runs with me and tells me the plate crack on the ground is the finish line. Yes! I did it! I finished one of the toughest races I’ve done with time of 3:07 and over 1,000 feet of vertical elevation.
P.S. Got the results today (Monday 6/12). Finished 3rd overall female, 1st in my age group and 1st from SIAC ( my running club).
Now, my feelings about the race.
What I liked:
The breathtaking views of Hudson River
The loop course.
The trails were very easy to run on. It was challenging but nothing crazy (minus the boulders).
Running with my SIAC buddies.
What I didn’t like:
The race wasn’t officially timed. (I was told the results will be entered manually into an app and will be available at a later time). (A note: I was informed that the race was timed but because the app was malfunctioning the results were entered manually-but personally it would be nice to have the results right away so the runners could see their rankings)
No awards. Because the results weren’t readily available there’s no way to tell the ranking. I.e. I don’t know what place I came in at overall or gender.
Only 1 water stop about half way thru was just not enough especially on a hot day.
And the biggest complaint of all is extremely poor marking of the trail. I’ve ran plenty of trail races before with different organizers and without knowing the course you can easily tell where you were going due to abundance of markers. A lot of runners got lost either cutting the course short or extending their mileage and some DNFing. (A side note: one of the race directors did inform me that they spent 4 hrs the day before on the trails placing markers especially on trail forks but someone has been ripping the markers off)
The race organizers didn’t follow thru with their race disclaimer. In the course description they did say that there will be a post race BBQ and there will be prizes. Post finish we were informed that BBQ was switched to pasta and there were no prizes either even for their top 3 gender finishers-disappointing.
In no way I’m trying to sully their reputation by writing this honest review. I hope race organizers take theses comments into consideration and improve their organization to attract more runners to this unusual, fun and exciting race.
As of Monday June 12 I did speak with race directors and they insured me that they will make necessary adjustments for next years race for a better race experience for all.
Go out, enjoy outdoors and keep running!