Monthly Archives: April 2013

High Rock Challenge 2013

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(UPDATE: Looking for more photos? Links to Facebook albums can be found at the end of this post)

Back before I became a software developer who daydreams about being a competitive runner, I was a software developer who daydreamed about being a street photographer. It was fun for a while, but lack of self-confidence in my skills meant this hobby eventually waned. Running ability can be measured in hard numbers. The former scientist in me appreciates that.

However, I’ve recently been able to pick up my camera more frequently, by fusing my old passion with my new one, and offering to photograph road and trail races.

Today I had the opportunity to volunteer at the High Rock Challenge adventure race, a fixture of the Staten Island running calendar since 2001. The event combines running, physical strength, mental acuity and teamwork to provide a unique challenge that draws close to a thousand runners to the Greenbelt each April.

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It’s a mix that’s a little reminiscent of Spartan and Tough Mudder races, but HRC’s distinctiveness is the emphasis on fun (many run in costumes), inclusiveness (events designed to be difficult but manageable for all ages and levels of athletic ability) and most of all, mystery. You never know where you’ll be going or what you’ll be doing: under the twisted direction of Race Director Matt Lebow, no part of the Challenge is as simple as it looks.

Today I was stationed half-way up Moses Mountain, the manmade overlook created as part of the never-built Richmond Parkway in the ’60s. There’s a (fairly) easy way up the mountain, and a hard way. Naturally, the runners would be sent the hard way.

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But that’s not enough for High Rock. They would be required to carry a single strand of uncooked spaghetti up the climb, without it breaking, or face an unknown penalty. A fiendish twist when both arms are needed to maintain balance and grip onto any available rope, tree or rock to avoid slipping back down the slope.

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The most competitive runners of course charged up the hill, showing remarkable strength and balance. The real fun was to be had in observing the remaining teams first joking about the situation (“Where’s the sauce?” … “Use your noodle!” etc), and then tackling the task in many different ways.

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Should you try to hold the spaghetti? Grip it between the teeth? Convert it into a primitive hair-pin? All these methods and more were tried. They all worked. Some of the time. At least a half-box of Ronzoni must have been snapped or spilled on the climb, and yet spirits remained high, knowing this challenge would soon be over, to be followed by yet another diabolical creation of Matt Lebow’s mind.

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I’m still not sure whether I’ll ever run the HRC myself, but it’s an event that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being a part of as a volunteer. Thanks to the Greenbelt Conservancy for inviting me to be a part of it!

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The full set set of photos is available on Facebook:

Set 1 (8:40am-9:20am) Album on Facebook

Set 2 (9:20am-10:00am) Album on Facebook

Set 3 (10:00am-10:40am) Album on Facebook

Set 4 (10:40am-11:20am) Album on Facebook

What This Is (And What It Isn’t)

Just what the world needs, another running blog…

I know. Sorry. I’ll be honest, part of the reason I’m putting this site together is to scratch an itch. I find myself with a lot to say on running topics, but there’s often a lack of a suitable outlet for it. My running friends are almost exclusively on Facebook, but then so are my non-running friends, and I’m sufficiently self-aware to know that we can be a little insufferable when we DON’T. STOP. TALKING. ABOUT. RUNNING.

But on a broader level, I think of how much valuable information I’ve read on running sites on the web. If I have something good to share, then it’s a shame to keep it locked up in the Facebook walled garden.

Here’s what you’ll get here:

  • The ups and downs of my preparations for the 2014 Boston Marathon. There’ll be stories about training runs and races and injuries and shoes (I love my shoes) and everything you’d expect from the blog of a semi-competitive runner.
  • But that’s not all! Because if this were all about my running, it would be boring. 17 months is a long time. A non-marathon year provides opportunities to try new experiences. Vary my training. Be a spectator and cheerleader, return some of the support that I’ve received in the past. I’ll write about that too.
  • Commentary on the pro running scene. I’m been a fan of the sport of track and field ever since I was a child, watching Coe, Ovett and Cram battling it out on the track, with David Coleman, Ron Pickering, Brendan Foster and company doing the BBC commentary.
  • A focus on the Staten Island scene. This is a great borough for running, with a number of long-standing road races, a thriving trail running community, and several active clubs with growing memberships. Yet despite this, the sport finds itself increasingly squeezed out of the local media coverage. I’d like to use this site to bring attention to the great opportunities we have as Staten Island runners.

What this won’t be:

  • A training advice manual. I’m not a certified trainer or coach. I’ve had some success as a new runner, I feel like I’ve learned a few secrets which I’m sure I’ll share, but I have no illusions about my level of experience. I’ll frequently link to those whose advice I respect and trust.
  • A reliable source of positive daily inspiration. There are many fine running blogs that have that area covered, but it’s not my natural personality. I’ll do my best to keep things light, but you’re probably not going to be thanking me for getting you out the door for your daily run.
  • All about me. I promise.