FKT: Cole Crosby - Delaware & Raritan Canal Trail (NJ) - 2020-05-16

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9h 51m 10s
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I chose the West to East Route: Starting in Milford, NJ -heading south to Trenton before heading up to finish in New Brunswick, NJ.
The D&R canal towpath is what many might consider something similar to a rail trail. The surface of the trail changes throughout the different sections of the course from gray loose but fine gravel to a more sandy surface in the middle miles before changing to a red and sandy clay gravel surface in the late miles. What the course lacks in elevation, it makes up for in changes in footing from many slick wooden bridges, cobblestone pathways and even tarmac and a slight city street section in Trenton. There are numerous road crossings that break up the pace of the run and it is a popular multi-use trail where weaving in and out of small groups of people is much of the norm throughout the entirety of the run.

The run started right at 8:21 am on Saturday May 16th from Milford, NJ.

I ran the route supported and aided with aid every 4-10 miles with food and fluids. My amazing Wife, Ashlee was in charge of navigation and the overall crew chief and my Father handled the hydration and fuel along the route. I made three navigation errors/adjustments during the run: one at Lambertville where I ran on the wrong side of the trail into the trail parking lot and had to turn around to catch the correct side of the trail. I lost maybe .3 miles here. The second adjustment came in the urban Trenton section where you leave the trail and switch to pavement. The trail runs by a rough part of the city and the trail access was inaccessible for .5 miles By W. Hanover St and Green PL juncture. I had to instead run straight on W. Hanover and then cut up to the Trenton War Memorial. I could not access the trail as the buildings in front of the trail access were under going construction-meaning they had been condemned and everything was chained off. In this section I lost my bearings as I headed south before running back up north following the trail and War Memorial path.

The third was near Carnegie Road near Lawrenceville where I accidentally took the left portion of the trail which dead ends and had to turn back-losing another .5 miles.
I only ran extra on the course and retraced my steps to access the correct portion of the trail. The trail is closer to 70 miles than the almost 71 that was recorded on my GPS.

The Opening Miles: Milford to Washington Crossing State Park: Miles 1-27
* Everything started off well in the run. The temperature was a nice 63 degrees and the sky was overcast. This section has a slight downhill which caused me to clock some very nice early miles. The trail is up on the ridgeline with the Raritan river down below for the entirety of this section. With nice rock outcroppings, abundant wildlife, some really adorable river towns, and decent shade, this section is one that can take your breath away. It was past Bull's Island Rec Area where the trail now has dropped some in elevation and the shade disappears where its just you , the trail and the sunlight hitting you directly. I misjudged the weather as it was forecasted to be overcast the whole day but instead the sun was directly on me until the last hour of the run. After this section, I would not receive aid until about 15 miles after Washington Crossing as the Trenton section is difficult and isolated for proper aid. I finished this section running a low 3 hour marathon. I fueled up and lathered with sun tan lotion at Washington's Crossing as the warm weather and the crowds of park users start to rise. I would rate my execution of this section as an A-

Trenton Section miles 27-41
* This section in the early miles was my favorite. Up to the Trenton Country club, this section was quiet, with almost no one on the trail. It was well-shaded for the most part and you passed by some adorable houses in the Trenton area on either side of the trail. It was after Trenton Country Club where the trail is exposed and I tapped through my 40+ ounces of fluid completely. It was around 12-1pm by this point in the run and it was feeling warm. I navigated through the urban section of the trail where it switches to sidewalk and was not able to access a small section due to the area being fenced and chained off due to the houses in front of the trail were condemned. I instead had to run on the town street parallel to the trail and then turn up to the juncture at The Trenton War Memorial. After that section where I spent about 10 minutes referencing my map on my phone-mind you this is not a fully safe portion of the city, I was able to get back onto the trail. The next few miles go through road crossings and the trail switches from blacktop to hard dirt back to sidewalk and then blacktop. I was in need of fluid to cool myself off but still had 5 more miles to go before my next aid. The final portions of the trail run parallel to Route 1 as you are on a black top trail before crossing the road to the usual towpath trail surface on the other side. On a good note, I split 50k in 3:44! I would rate my execution of this section as a B-.

Princeton Section Miles 41-55
After making the error and having to turn back and then connect onto the trail at Carnegie Road I was so happy to get aid at the next street over. McDonalds French fries, a coke and a half liter of water did the trick to helping me feel like I could keep going on. I spent a lot of time here trying to replenish what I lost in the Trenton section and trying to cool off. I have run this section of the trail hundreds to maybe a thousand times over. This was by far the busiest and toughest section for me. I ran almost this entire section with my face buff up to adhere to social distancing and it was making me dizzy from breathing in all of the hot air. This section runs by Princeton University and is very picturesque which is also why it is by far the most-crowded potion of the trail. By the Kingston section (my house is 1/4 mile from here), I was spent and at 46 miles in, I had doubt about finishing in a decent time, if at all. I was dealing with heat exhaustion and cramping in my legs but took it section by section. I hit 50 miles in near 6:33 which meant I was still on a solid pace if I kept moving forward. This section is marked by beautiful scenery and the trail is a very grainy and sandy texture. Light trail shoes almost work better here than a road shoe. I would rate this section of my execution as a C-.

Six Mile Run/Weston Canal Road/Bound Brook to the Finish-Miles 55-70
I had some walk breaks with some running in this section early on. It was at the Amwell Road aid that eating some hummus started to help turn the corner for me. The fatty foods allowed my cramped quads to relax some and soon I was dropping my pace back to 7:20-7:30 miles. I had an incredible stretch of about 4 miles before I needed more fluids and salty foods. The olives and cheese I had worked wonders. It was then a survival mode of hanging around 8 minute miles into the finish line. This section the trail changes to a red clay which was by far my favorite surface, The trail is very smooth and is not too crowded. It had just the right amount of people to where I was able to keep my pace and pass when I needed to.

I came into the finish line on the peninsula across from Buccleuch park in 9:51:10. I just crept under 10 hours which was the goal and was able to share the last mile via Facetime with a dear friend whose father sadly passed last weekend due to Covid-19 complications. It was an emotional and uplifting way to share that last mile with them and to finish the run.

For future attempts at this course... running this in the off-season: Fall or Winter would allow for less time stopping at road crossings for cars to pass, less foot traffic on the trail and the cooler temperatures would help as this trail is way more exposed than you would anticipate. I lost about 40 minutes of time from a combination of waiting at road crossings to pass safely, adhering to providing proper social distancing on the trail, and having to stop at some of the aid locations just to cool off and hydrate enough to finish the effort.

This is a must-run trail. It is a true runner's trail where aid is easily accessible and the flat nature of the trail make it one that ideal pacing will be rewarded. It was an incredible experience and I am so lucky to have been able to run it!