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Hiking Shark River Park

Hiking Shark River Park

Last week I decided to stop at Shark River Park in Neptune, NJ.  Shark River Park was established in 1960.  It’s actually the oldest Monmouth County Park. It’s just under 1000 acres and located between Neptune and Wall.  There is plenty to do at Shark River Park including, fishing, hiking, and it even hosts cross country races.

It has about 9 miles of trails.  I had planned to just check it out and walk about a mile or 20 minutes.  Even though I brought both a hard copy of a map and a trail app, I ended up getting lost and walking around 5 miles.  Since it was my day off and I had nowhere to be, it wasn’t a big deal, but I was glad I brought water out of my car as well.

Here are a few of the trails I covered.  I didn’t use a Garmin, so I can’t tell you how much of each trail I covered.  I do know I know I covered the entire Pine Hill trail since it was a loop.

Shark river park monmouth nj

Ceder Loop Starts at the center of the loop.

Shark river park monmouth nj

There is a “Fitness trail” which is flat and would be great for running.  It has 20 stations with strength workouts.  You know…workouts I always say I’ll do with running and don’t.

Shark river park monmouth nj

The Hidden Creek trail is about 2 miles long and connects to the Pine Hills Trail.  I only now I was on this one because I did cover Pine Hills!

Shark river park monmouth nj

Finally, the Pine Hills Trail is close to the Garden State Parkway and goes up a few small inclines.  It’s nothing unmanageable.

Shark river park monmouth nj

In all, despite getting lost, I enjoyed the hike. I will say it was “comforting” to hear a few sounds of the Garden State Parkway because I knew I wasn’t “lost forever.”

Shark river park monmouth nj

The take away is…don’t follow your gut…follow the trail map.   Maybe not eat mushrooms on the trail either…

Shark river park monmouth nj

I am definitely going to come back and run, and I bet it’s such a fun cross country course.

Here are other hikes I’ve done this Spring and Summer:

Hiking Turkey Swamp in Freehold
Exploring Cattus Island in Toms River
Exploring Hartshorne Park in the Highlands
Hiking to the Cape May Lighthouse
Hiking Bear Mountain in a Downpour
Hiking through Belleplain State Forest
Hiking High Mountain with a View of NYC

You can see all hikes here.

Questions for you:

When was the last time you got lost? 

Are there any good hikes near you?

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Blueberry Challenge XC 5k (20:01)

On Sunday, I ran the Blueberry Hill Challenge 5k.  Even though I had raced on Saturday, I opted to run.  For whatever reason, I’ve never been able to run this particular race. This year when I had the opportunity I took it.  After racing the day before, I knew it wouldn’t be fast and opted to use it as a fun workout.  The race benefited local Veterans, and as someone with many military ties, I wanted to run for a great cause.

I got to the race around 8 am, warmed up the entire course, and made it back to the start at 8:55.  I was glad I warmed up on the course, so I knew what the “challenge was.”  The course was a mixture of trail and pavement, a lot of hills, plus climbing up stairs around mile 2.5.  I heard it was tough but understanding something is tough versus experiencing it, is two entirely different things.

At 9 am, we were off.  The first mile is net downhill.   It’s a narrow, winding trail, and I felt like I was back running a cross-country race.  There were several people around, including another woman.  We hit the first mile in 6:12 and while it was faster than I anticipated.  I knew what goes down must go up and so I wasn’t looking forward to the next two miles of climbing back.

During the second mile, we were running uphill, as well as through a section of woods that was covered with leaves.  The covering made it challenging to see roots and possible things that could cause you to fall, or create injury.  I told myself: Just take it easy…no need to roll or sprain an ankle.  I was running by myself with a few people in front, so I just focused on the ground.  I hit the second mile in 6:35.

The goal of the third mile was to continue to stay strong.  I knew there were stairs to climb and the course was also still going uphill.  At that point, I was running next to a young kid wearing spikes.  I usually win for “most noisy runner” but every time we would hit the pavement for a second, you would hear the spikes click.  We got to the staircase, and I just floored it.  I figured I would be tired anyway.  My strategy for hills is run fast up because of you’ll be exhausted either way.  After the hill, I found myself as the fourth person overall which I was happy with.

The staircase causes the mile to feel a lot longer than it is.  I felt as though I should almost be done, but we still had over half a mile.  I began pushing a little too early, and by the time I knew it, it was only mile 2.75 and I felt exhausted.  I just pushed towards the end and crossed in 20:01.

Like the day before, the goal was 20 minutes, and it all evened out.  On a difficult cross country course, I am happy with that.  In all, I had a great time and would do the race each year it works out.  It’s by no means a fast course, but it’s a lot of fun.

Questions for you:

Have you run up stairs before?  What are your techniques?

Do you like trails or pavement better? 

 

Cross Country 5k (19:20)

The morning after running a mile track race, my husband convinced me to do a cross country style race.  He’s into the trail and cross country races, and I’m more into the road races.  It worked out well since with cross country terrain; you can’t compare yourself to anything. If you are running through a giant mud pit, you won’t run as fast as the road.  So I was easily able to throw my expectations right out of the window…

Cross Country Race running

We arrived at the start around 8 am and warmed up. Not surprisingly, I felt tight and sore after racing the evening before. I had no goals and wanted to run.  Something I haven’t been able to do much of since running last week…

Once the race started, I found myself as the third person overall.  I stayed there the entire time. The race was smaller because there were so many races that weekend. My husband and another male were further up front, and I lingered behind.  During the first mile, I felt tired.  The mud allowed me not to worry about pace, and I thought about how beneficial spikes would have been.  I hit the first mile in 6:15 and thought, oh geez if I can maintain this it would be a miracle!

During the second mile, we went into a wooded trail section.  The course was well marked in the woods, but there were a lot of roots. Knowing my track record with falling, I knew it was better to be safe versus sorry and focused on not falling.  Around the halfway point, we went out on extremely muddy and grassy field. It was like running through a swamp.  I preferred the less muddy trails.

I hit the halfway point in 9:45. I knew it was slower than most races I had run, but I didn’t care. It was a hard course; I was tired, and mentally I wasn’t upset.  I saw my husband fly by.  He had taken the lead.

Since the race was out and back in the woods, after the turnaround got crowded.  We headed back into the woods and while it wasn’t a single lane track, it was narrow.  It was great to see other runners working hard, however, at a few points some runners were running side by side, and there was no room for me to run the other direction.  I was pushed a couple of times into actual trees.

I ran the second mile in 6:49.  To give you perspective, that’s much slower than a half marathon paced mile for me.  You have to race the terrain you are given.

The third mile left the woods and did a loop around a large hill.  I had lost track of my husband but saw the second place male about a minute in front of me.  There wasn’t anything interesting during the third mile, and my focus was to finish.  I finished the 3rd mile in 6:11 and ran a 19:20.

When I got to the finish, I noticed my husband was not there.  I knew he had a great race, and I was concerned.  I went over to the car, and he told me a volunteer had directed him the wrong way, and he only ran about 2.5 miles.  It’s a shame because he was having a great race. He ended up running a tempo run and finishing his workout while I cooled down.

Thoughts:

I’m happy with my race after running the mile.  I am, however, jaded by the disorganization of the entire race.  While it’s typically the race participants responsibility to know the race course, being told to go a certain direction by a volunteer is unacceptable.  They should have had a lead cyclist.

It was fun to get out and run on terrain I don’t normally get too.  I’m happy with my effort during the race.  I got my fill of college style racing (a mile on the track and cross country).  Eventually, I’ll hit up the roads again.

Questions for you:

Have you ever run a cross country race?

Have you ever been directed the wrong way during a race?

Training: Track Miles, XC Races and 78 Miles

Last week, I did a lot of unique training that I don’t normally do.  I raced on the track, ran a cross country style race and even did my long run on the trail (side note: I don’t normally even do 2 hour long runs!).  Since I’m not actively training for anything now, I’m enjoying doing other things with no major focus.

Monday: Easy Run
Tuesday: Easy Run
Wednesday: 6.5 Tempo Run
Thursday: Rest
Friday: AM: 11 Mile Easy Run
PM: 1 Mile Race (5:40)
Saturday: Cross Country 5k (19:20)
Sunday: Trail Run 13.6 mile run
 Total:  78 miles

Thoughts:

My easy runs were just that, easy.  I don’t have any complaints, and they were all uneventful.

Workout Wednesday: 6.5-mile tempo run (6:42 pace)

On Tuesday I received ART, so I knew I would be sore.  My goal was to run the tempo faster than the week after Broad Street and I did.  While it’s not my fastest tempo, I’m pleased with how it went.

Friday Mile: 5:40

Long story short, I didn’t know I would run this until later in the day. If I did, I wouldn’t have run 11 miles that morning.  After running and then working, my coworker asked if I wanted to race a mile with her.  I thought: “why not”?  5:40 isn’t my fastest time but after my week of training, plus running earlier, I’m happy with that time.

road mile running

Cross Country 5k: 19:20

The next morning, I ran a 5k with my husband.  I was operating on minimal sleep. Once again, I had no time goal for the race.  I could feel the effect of the mile, and I was both sore and tired.  There was a section of the course that was an “out and back” on a giant muddy field.   It reminded me of collegiate cross country running. I could have worn spikes and been better off.

I attended a wedding in Frederick that evening.  I was exhausted from racing and lack of sleep as well as driving.  We stayed the night in Chambersburg and ran at Caledonia state park.  Even though it was pouring rain, I had a beautiful run.  Plus, I beat my Fitbit “steps” high score from the elevation change.  138 flights in a single run HAHA.

me running 1 trail

Next week I don’t have a lot of plans.  This month I’m taking my training week by week.  As the summer approaches, I’ll make some training goals, but right now I don’t have a lot.  I’m jumping into races most weekends and just running for the beauty of the sport. 

Running Related Posts from Last Week: 
Quick Strength Tips for Runners
Saucony Ride 9 Review

Questions for you:
Have you ever run a mile on the track?
What was your best workout last week?

Run the Vineyards 5k (20:30)

The day after running the Panther Prowl I decided to run an XC course. Last month I raced the Run the Vineyards Grapes and Peaches 10k.  The race was well put together and one of my favorite races so far this year.  I knew that eventually I would want to do another Run the Vineyards Race.  I haven’t been fond of doing long runs on Sundays lately, so I decided to do the Run the Vineyards 5k instead.

I arrived at the race around 8:20. It was further than anticipated, but I was able to sign up, warm up and then make it to the race start. At the starting line, I noticed a younger kid with a GoPro attached to his head. He looked pretty serious, and I assumed he would win (Spoiler: he did).

The race went off with no issue.  I immediately found myself as the second person overall. After .1, I stayed at that position the entire time. I could always see the GoPro kid in front of me, but I didn’t have the energy or speed to catch him. Immediately into the race, we made a hard turn into the Vineyard. It was grassy, muddy and wet. It was the typical cross country terrain. The first mile weaved in and out of Vineyards and through a wide open field. I found the open field to be the muddiest. We crossed over some soft sand, and my watch beeped a 6:20 first mile.  That was actually faster than I anticipated.

The second mile went through more of the field and passed over a road into another Vineyard. During the crossing I noticed there were wild turkeys ahead. Thankfully one of the volunteers began chasing them away because I was terrified. During the second mile, my legs started to feel the effect of the course. I haven’t run on trails or grass in a while, let alone mud or flooded terrain. I felt myself drastically slowing, but I wasn’t surprised. I ran the second mile in 6:36.

The third mile went back towards the start. It was an out and back course, so we ran by people running the opposite direction. I was slowly becoming more tired, and my legs were fatigued. I felt like I was running through quicksand! The third mile of any 5k is frequently boring and uneventful. I focused on finishing. We did a giant loop through 2 Vineyard trails and all of a sudden I could see the finish line. I ran the last mile in 6:56 and finished in 20:30.

Awkward photo of the day goes to me...

Awkward photo of the day goes to me…

Thoughts:

It’s impossible to compare cross country times to road race times. I had a great race, and I have missed running on open fields. I plan to look for several more cross country style races before Winter.  This time is closer to my previous road 5k times from earlier in the summer.  That shows a huge improvement because this course was much more difficult.

I had a great time and had no regrets.  I even won a bottle of wine. I enjoy the Run the Vineyards races, so I am hoping to do the last couple before next season. I recommend them to anyone in the NJ/PA area.

Questions for you:

What is your favorite type of wine?

Do you like cross country races?

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