2017 Mt. Greylock Trail Races

Yesterday, we were back in Greylock Glen for another go at the Mt. Greylock Trail Races. This was Debbie’s 19th consecutive year at Greylock. That stat explains her trail running career, which started a year earlier in 1998. Her ultrarunning career started in 1999, three months after her first Greylock.

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This race means a lot to her. Back then, the trail running community welcomed her with open arms, and she never looked back. I’m sure that some of the people who welcomed her in 1999 when she was 24 years old, would be surprised to know that she stuck with the sport all of this time.

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Now, our kids are running Greylock with us, and enjoying it the way we have. Most years, Debbie has run the “half marathon” long course, but this year was a bit different. She ran Manitou’s Revenge Ultra on Saturday, so after 54 rugged miles, she opted to join our daughter for the 5K short course race. Our son did the 5K on his own, and knocked five minutes off of his personal best, which made him very happy.

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I did the long course, and though the course has changed a bit over the years, it was my slowest time. I’ve now done the long course nine times and the short course twice, for a total of 11, which trails Debbie’s 19 by quite a bit.

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We always enjoy seeing our friends in the Western Massachusetts Athletic Club. We were joined by a small contingent of Shenpsit Striders, including Tony Bonanno, who warmed up for the long course by running a loop on his own ahead of time. So, it was a 26+ mile day for him. He wasn’t alone. The “double” is a training technique used by Curt Pandiscio, and he did it again yesterday. Unfortunately, neither knew the other was out there ahead of time. Both made it back in time for their “second lap” at the official 10:00 A.M. start.

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I was feeling fast, but ended up running slow, which isn’t a big deal. I carried my iPhone and stopped to enjoy the views, including at the summit, and on Jones Nose, my favorite part of the course. A week of rain left the trails muddy and slippery. The Overlook Trail is known for its sharp and unforgiving rocks. After the four mile climb from the Glen to the Summit, I took it easy on that first descent.

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An old cycling friend, Kurt Hackler, won the race in 1:47:07. Kurt was a junior rider when I first started racing in the early-1990’s. I can’t believe he is now 40+ too! The women’s race was won by 20 year-old Sonya Jampel in 2:13:43. She was only 34 seconds behind me, and I was pushing at the finish. I never saw her, but it was neat to see her cross the line considering that she wasn’t even a year old when Debbie ran her first Greylock! That’s crazy. 63 year-old Rob Higley wasn’t far behind her and he deserves even more credit for hammering the course…again. 10 years ago, he was trouncing me at these trail races as a 50+ Masters all-star. It’s great to see him running strong into his 60’s.

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You may notice from some of the photos that there was more people in the Glen this year. Sadly the race numbers were down (this is an issue for a lot of the classic New England trail races), but the extra people weren’t there for the race. They were there for the MAGICon Enchanted Greylock Harry Potter event. I don’t know the story, but somehow, the Glen got double booked. Thankfully the weather was nice because we didn’t have use of the gazebo and had to share the field with the other guests. I don’t know which crowd thought the other group was weirder.

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They were playing Quidditch and we were running straight up the mountain. Who were the crazy ones? Needless to say, it looked like it all worked out and the disparate groups appeared to coexist. I’ll have to check with friends from the WMAC to see what they thought. Regardless, we are always appreciative of the volunteers. Debbie put on Soapstone three weeks ago, and got a ton of support from our Shenipsit Striders club mates, so we know how much work goes into these races. Father’s Day Weekend came to a close in Northampton. We stopped for dinner at our favorite restaurant, Paul & Elizabeth’s. We also picked up bread at one of our favorite bakeries, Hungry Ghost Bread. They have sweet new amphitheater and community herb garden.

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It’s inevitable. If all goes well, we will be back in the Glen for Debbie’s 20th anniversary Greylock in 2018.

Race Results

2017 Manitou’s Revenge Ultra

Surprisingly, this weekend was the first time we really got to explore parts of the Catskill Mountains of New York. Debbie ran the Manitou’s Revenge Ultra, a 54 mile trail race with nearly 15,000 feet of elevation gain in the rugged Catskills.

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She continues to amaze me with her running exploits. I know. I’m biased. Still, it was only six days ago that she dragged me around the northwest hills of Connecticut for a 34 mile “training run” on the Mohawk and Appalachian Trails. That was the third big run we have done together in 2017. I joined her for Promise Land in Virginia; and over Memorial Day Weekend, we did a big training day in the Green Mountains of Vermont.

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Manitou’s was her last big ultra in her buildup to the Hardrock Endurance Run. In December, she scored a waitlist spot (#7) and on 01 June, she was thrilled to accept an official spot for the start of the race on 14 July. It will take a collective effort to get her to the finish line (and to kiss the Hardrock), but its her legs that will play the biggest role in her San Juan Mountains adventure.

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In the meantime, Saturday’s adventure was intense enough. On Friday afternoon, we drove to Phoenicia, New York to get her bib number and race packet, for this 5th edition of the race. Race Director, Charlie Gadol, was there along with fellow runner, Mike Siudy, who we saw at Hellgate last year. We got there at 6:35 P.M., just five minutes past the pickup window, but they were kind enough to help her out. Afterwards, we headed straight to our campground at Devil’s Tombstone. It was only 15 minutes up the road.

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The point to point Manitou’s course is shaped like a reverse “C.” It starts in Windham and finishes at the St. Francis de Sales Parish Hall. It traverses parts of the Escarpment Trail, the Long Path, and the Devil’s Path. All three are crazy hard “rocky and rooty” Northeastern style trails with lots of elevation change. Debbie has been wanting to run this race since it started five years ago. The course includes sections of the famous  Escarpment Trail Run, which she raced only one time, back in 2000, when she was still Debbie Schieffer. She finished 2nd to the legendary Nikki Kimball. The two of them started racing trails together in Vermont in the late-1990’s. It’s been a long time since she was back in the Catskills. The steep ups and downs are tough. The wet spring left these trails damp and very slippery. This past weekend, the weather was overcast with fog, drizzle, and high humidity, though the temperature was mild.

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Debbie got a ride to the 5:00 A.M. start from a fellow racer and campsite neighbor. We were kept awake most of Friday night because of some other campsite neighbors who were rowdy. They were in town for the Mountain Jam concert festival at Hunter Mountain. The same thing happened on Saturday night after the race. That was a bummer, but when you camp out, you take these risks.

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The kids and I got up a bit later and met up with Debbie at Aid Station #3 (17.5 miles), at North-South Campground in Tannersville. It was a sweet spot. After we saw Debbie come through, we went for a mountain bike ride around the lakes. At the aid station, it was great to see so many friends from the Northeast ultrarunning community. There were quite a few runners from the Mountain Peak Fitness – Red Newt Racing Running Team. The team includes old friends, Joe and Elizabeth Azze, Julian Vicente, Ben Nephew, and others. We also saw Scott Berkley, a friend from the Appalachian Mountain Club Hut Croo, who we have seen on a few White Mountain trips, as well as at other trail races. We even met a new friend, Matt Turek, who is also coached by Al Lyman, from Pursuit Fitness. He was there to crew for one of his friends. We also saw Scott and Sarah Slater, who also hail from Connecticut. One other Shenipsit Striders friend, Gaston Fiore, was at the race. He did a two person relay with his friend, Caitlin Cunningham. She ran the first 20 miles and he ran the last 34.

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After we saw Debbie at AS3, we drove to Aid Station #5 (31.5 miles) at Platte Clove. This was a busy spot and we parked on the side of the road. We had our Volkswagen Eurovan and our trailer, so we couldn’t maneuver into tight spots without a little extra effort. Debbie was in good spirits when we saw her. She didn’t have a low point all day long, which was remarkable given how much running she has done lately. The training is paying off. We weren’t supposed to see her again until Aid Station #7 at Silver Hollow (43.5 miles), but we surprised her by showing up at Aid Station #6 (38.5 miles) at Mink Hollow.

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After we left Platt Clove, we had some time to kill, so we grabbed lunch at Pancho Villa  in Tannersville. After lunch, we drove to the Mink Hollow trailhead. Getting to the aid station required a steep climb on a rocky and wet trail. The kids enjoyed it and we got there about 10 minutes before Debbie arrived. She was running strongly at the time, about 50 minutes behind Kehr Davis, the past-winner.

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After she came through, we waited for Gaston, who wasn’t far behind. Then, we descended. We drove to Silver Hollow, which took a bit longer than planned. When we got there, I realized that we would never get to the aid station in time. It was another mile-plus climb up to the ridge. The kids stayed back and played a board game in the van, which I parked at the trailhead. I ran/hiked to the aid station.

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When I got there, I was winded after pushing the whole way. At first, it appeared that I got there in time, but after a brief discussion with the volunteers, and a little confusion, it appeared that she had passed through, three or four minutes earlier. I dropped one of the two bags I was carrying, and ran after her. “Run” is in quotes because it was straight uphill and it took me more than a 20 minutes to catch her. She never slowed down. At this point, she was using her poles. I was soaked to the bone with sweat. She said she was fine, I snapped a few photos, shot a short video, and watched her run off. I worked my way back to the aid station, passing Gaston again, and then descended to the van. It was quite an effort and it turned out that she didn’t need any help, but that is what crews do for their runners!

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The remaining aid stations were even harder to get to, so we skipped them. We had time to kill, but we drove to Phoenicia and grabbed a spot on the lawn in front of the parish hall. When we got there, about 10 people (individuals and relay teams) had finished. Due to the start on the narrow Escarpment Trail, the race had been split into eight waves, each five minutes apart. Debbie was in the first wave. So was Kehr.

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It took some calculating to figure out who was in what place, but by the end of the day, the gaps were so large, that it didn’t really matter. Also in the first wave, was Ben Nephew, who won the race, in a tight finish with Andy Vermilyea, who was only 116 seconds behind Ben, who finished in 10:57:49. Third was Adam Russell, in 12:02:16.

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We watched as the sun went down and the runners dribbled in. Kehr Davis was the first woman to finish, in 13:30:07. The last 1.2 miles of the course were on road, which Debbie called, “cruel.” Even still, she hammered the last stretch and finished second behind Kehr in 14:41:32. She gave up a little ground in the last 10 miles, but it was still a very successful day for her. She finished strongly and felt good all day long. She only fell once, and it was a mild fall. Her stomach was good all day long. Her fueling plan was effective.

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The kids and I were pretty tired, but we were having fun, so we hung around for a few more hours, cheering for other runners as they arrived. By the time we left, it was dark, and the runners were arriving at the finish with their headlamps. They were also wearing reflective vests, which were issued to them at the last aid station.

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The volunteers were awesome. We felt welcome at all of the aid stations. Ultras are always a blast when fellow runners take great care in producing an event for their running friends. Other than the Vermont 50, Debbie hasn’t repeated too many of her ultras, but she said that Manitou’s was definitely a race that she would do again. With all of the rocks, roots, and steep downhills, she said, “You would hate it.” I’ll stick to crewing this race and I’ll leave the running to her.

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Race Results

2017 Mohawk Trail Misadventure

Debbie and I miscalculated everything about yesterday’s run/hike on the Mohawk Trail and Appalachian Trail. On Saturday, we envisioned a manageable eight-hour effort with enough elevation gain/loss to qualify as another solid training day in advance of next month’s Hardrock Endurance Run.

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We figured that since were running trails in our native state of Connecticut, that they would be challenging, but nothing like our crazy Memorial Day Weekend run/hike on the Long Trail in Vermont. Earlier in the week, we consulted the Connecticut Forest & Park Association Connecticut Walk Book West. We have the 2006 version. Interestingly, the 20th (and latest) edition is hot off the press, but I haven’t put my hands on a copy yet. We (rather I should say I) consulted the Appalachian Trail Conference Appalachian Trail Guide for Connecticut, but it turns out that it was the 1985 edition. My feeble planning efforts proved costly as these guides/maps weren’t as accurate as they needed to be.

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At a quick glance, we designed a route that consisted of the entire Mohawk Trail and the Appalachian Trail. By my math, if we parked at the Rt. 4/Rt. 7 junction at Cornwall Bridge, we could run the Mohawk Trail counter-clockwise for 23.5 miles until it intersects the Appalachian Trail, and then run 6.9 miles south on the AT back to our car. We had toyed around with the idea of bringing our bikes and instead of running the AT, riding back on Rt. 7. Debbie preferred to run the entire way, so that is what we decided without a whole lot of discussion.

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Saturday was crazy busy with work in the morning,  a soccer game for our daughter in the early afternoon (I took her), and the Bolton Cub Scout Pack 157 Camporee at Camp Johnson near our home in Bolton. Debbie was in charge of the Camporee and built it around a Cubmobile Derby, which we held on our freshly paved street. The Camporee was filled with other games, fishing, dinner, and concluded with a campfire (which I built). By the time we crawled in to bed on Saturday night, we had done zero additional planning for the run/hike.

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The goal was to get up early, pack, get our kids in the car, drop them at Debbie’s parents in Prospect, and then get to the trailhead by 9:00 A.M. On Sunday, we all woke up late, and by the time we packed, and got on the road, it was past 8:00 A.M. After we drop the kids off, and headed north on Rt. 8, it was closing in on 10:00 A.M. We hit Rt. 4 and after passing through Goshen, we crossed the Mohawk Trail and then saw a the sign for Mohawk State Forest. We pulled in to the parking lot and consulted the map. We realized this was several miles from Cornwall Bridge, but since we were running late, we figured this was as good a spot as any to start the run/hike. We figured that we would still go clockwise. The rationale wasn’t any more complicated than that, but nine hours later, it turned to be fortuitous.

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We got ready, and hit “start” on our GPS’s at 10:16 A.M. The plan was to be back at the car by 5:00 P.M. or 6:00 P.M. We really didn’t have a plan. We were sort of just “winging it” which isn’t like us, but given the busy week, was how thing went. Despite our knowledge of trails all over Connecticut, the Mohawk Trail and this section of the AT were all new to us.

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It was the warmest day of the year, with the temperature approaching 90 degrees Fahrenheit and heavy humidity to add to the challenge. We each carried a 70 oz (2 liter) hydration pack plus two 18 oz bottles. Debbie carried a third bottle inside her pack for “extra weight.” Like on our LT hike, she used her UltrAspire Zygos and I used an UltrAspire Epic. We used trekking poles to simulate Hardrock.

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Right away, we realized that the Mohawk Trail was not heavily used, overgrown in spots, and rugged. We made decent progress and covered 14 miles, arriving in Canaan in 3 hours and 35 minutes. I was dragging a bit and concerned about my water. After the climb out of Dean’s Ravine, up and over Barrack Mountain and down the hill to Rt. 7, I needed a break. Debbie was ready to push on, but I spotted a restaurant literally 250 feet off the trail. It turned out to be the Mountainside Cafe. We bought two ginger ales and topped off all our bottles/bladders with the bathroom faucet. This turned out to be a very smart move. We drained our ale’s, and then got moving again.

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We ran all the way to the AT, and around the fields in Salisbury, before starting to climb again. This fast section of trail lulled us into thinking we would make up some ground, but before we knew it, we were climbing (slowly) again. The AT proved to be equally as rugged as the Mohawk Trail, though the treadway was slightly more used. We pressed on, but appeared to be making little progress on the 6.9 mile section. Neither of us were in the mood to consult the maps, so we kept going.

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Eventually, the day wore on and we became disenchanted. We started to question the math. We had gone all day without seeing anyone on the Mohawk Trail. After six hours, we had only seen one hiker on the AT. We eventually saw five more people in two groups. We consulted both sets of hikers, but neither group really knew when we would hit the Mohawk Trail again. We figured that once we got to Cornwall Bridge, we would have another six or so miles to go on the Mohawk to get back to our car. I was counting on there being another store or restaurant when we got down to the Rt. 4/Rt. 7 intersection. I banked on it and drank more than I would have if I had to make my water last all the way to the finish.

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We had all the gear we needed including the 10 Essentials, and we have been talking about getting a new lightweight water filter/water purification system precisely for trips like this. As it turns out, Debbie ordered one, but it didn’t arrive in time. The 6.9 mile section of Appalachian Trail turned in to be a long 11.6 miles. I still haven’t taken the time to figure out how my math was so wrong. It’s possible that since 1985, the trail has changed. I assume it has moved and my old guide was wrong. It was a rookie mistake.

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We had great views, especially overlooking Lime Rock Park, but we both suffered in the heat. Debbie is running Manitou’s Revenge next Saturday, so this wasn’t supposed to crush her. It was supposed to be an additive workout. I was scuffling and shuffling, as I like to say. I had a hard time keeping up with Debbie on the downhills. I stopped at every stream crossing to splash water on my face and rinse my arms. Eventually, we got to the Pine Knob Loop. We talked about cutting down to Rt. 7 and taking the road, but we kept going on the AT until we finally reached the Mohawk Trail junction. We took the Mohawk down to Cornwall Bridge.

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I finished the last of my water on the descent and was rewarded with a Citgo Station across the street from the trailhead. Debbie was anxious to get moving again, but I took my time, purchased three liters of water, and two iced teas.  We consulted the clerk inside the station. I couldn’t get a cell phone connection. When we told him where we were headed, he said, “That’s 10 miles away…and all uphill.” Debbie and I were both dismissive, thinking, no way. He checked the Internet and seemed to confirm this, though we didn’t know exactly where the car was because there was no address for that spot.

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We went outside and sat on the curb. We drank the tea and refilled our bottles. We stuffed the empty bottles in my pack and made a command decision to run the road back to our car. The trail would have taken too long. We were already at 27 miles and we were hurting. Plus, our kids were still at my in-law’s and it was getting late. We had headlamps, but the trail would have been way too slow. Debbie set the pace on the road. She was still surprised by what we perceived as the snarkiness of the clerk, but we were tired and irritable. I was dismissive of his “all uphill” assessment and we pushed a bit harder. Rt. 4 started out flat, but then we came around a bend and it pitched upwards in a nasty way. Debbie stayed 500 feet in front of my for the next 90 minutes as we each went through our own personal hell. I was shot, but kept moving. I think we put down three miles in 30 minutes, which was pretty good given the severity of the climb. I don’t know if either of us ever gave serious thought to hitching a ride, but by the eight-hour mark, I just wanted to finish the loop on my own power. I thought that the car might have been four miles (at the most) from the gas station, but it turned out to be seven miles, and the road never let up.

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That clerk deserves much more credit than I gave him. He was right. It was more than seven miles and pretty much uphill the entire way. We got to the car and didn’t say much. Debbie hadn’t even brought a change of clothes. I was dealing with some chafe, so I opted to just wear a towel. We were a sight to see. On the drive back to Prospect, we killed a bag of Salt & Pepper Chips. The total time for the trip was 9 hours and 40 minutes. Moving time was 8 hours and 35 minutes and we covered more than 34 miles with more than 8,500 feet of elevation gain, which is pretty big for Connecticut.

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I was disappointed that we didn’t “close the loop” so to speak and finish on the trail, but we vowed to go back and focus just on the Mohawk Trail. Next time, we will start at Cornwall Bridge as originally planned, and run the trail counter-clockwise to Rt. 7. We will use our bicycles to get back to the car. I don’t need to see that section of the Appalachian Trail again (until we thru-hike it). Looking at the profile on Strava, that last section of the Mohawk from Cornwall Bridge to our car would have been nuts. I think if we attempted that, we would still be out there in the dark.

2017 Goodwin Forest Trail Run & Trails Day

Trails Day Weekend is always one of my favorites. Thanks to the efforts of the Connecticut Forest & Park Association, and hundreds of volunteers, our state has one of the best Trails Day’s in the country. More than 235 events were planned for this weekend. IMG_5936

One of those was hosted by Debbie and several of her colleagues from the Bolton Land Trust and BikeWalk Bolton. The Kids’ Bike and Hike on the Hop River State Park Linear Trail attracted 18 kids and 21 adults. We biked from Bolton Notch on the rail trail to a parcel of land owned by the state, and then hiked to retrieve a “treasure.”

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Happening at the same time, was another BikeWalk Bolton event called the “Ride Rolling Museum.” More than 70 cyclists rode from Bolton Notch to Andover and back, exploring the history of the old rail line. It was great to see so many people enjoying the Hop River Trails, which is a true gem, right out our front door.

 

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Today, Debbie, our son Shepard, and I went to Goodwin State Forest for the 4th Goodwin Forest Trail Runs hosted by the Friends of Goodwin Forest. The Shenipsit Striders had a strong turnout for this Trails Day Weekend event that consisted of a 30K long course and 10K short course race on the rocky, “rooty,” and picturesque trails of this eastern Connecticut forest.

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Last year, Debbie ran the 30K and our son ran the 10K, but I just watched. This year, we all ran the 10K while our daughter was at a soccer tournament. We opted for the shorter race so that we could catch one of her matches afterwards. Afternoon rain was forecast, but the morning was beautiful, with sunshine, blue sky, and white puffy clouds.

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Debbie and our Shep each won their age groups and got a nice goodie bag filled with cookies and other prizes. Debbie also score a bottle of maple syrup for being the first woman to reach Governor’s Island in the middle of Pine Acres Lake.

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We had to leave before the 30K runners finished, so I’ll be interested to hear how it went for them. The Friends of Goodwin Forest volunteers had a nice post-race spread. Like I said, this was another great Trails Day event. The race was also part of the Connecticut Blue-Blazed Trail Running Series. The series continues with the Nipmuck South Trail Race next Sunday.

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Race Results

2017 Long Trail Adventure

Saturday, Debbie and I returned to the Long Trail (LT) in the Green Mountains of Vermont. It had been too long since we were back! She and I have a tradition of crafting unique mountain adventures that combine two of our loves, trail running and cycling.

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In 2005, we hiked the Long Trail End-to-End. It was one of our best trips ever. Over the past dozen years, we have been on sections of the LT many times. Last year, we did the Glastenbury/West-Ridge Loop together. In 2015, we did the same loop with our kids.

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In the White Mountains, we have done a couple of Hut Traverses, including one adventure that combined the trail running/hiking and road cycling. We even completed our New England 4,000 footers quest with a trip that concluded with a bike ride through the mountains of Maine. Some day, our kids will join us on these harder trips.

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When she and I first discussed a Memorial Day Weekend adventure in Vermont, I immediately thought of the Monroe Skyline section of the Long Trail. She has several big races on tap for the summer of 2017. In June, she is running Manitou’s Revenge. She is up to 4th (she started at 7th in December) on the wait list for the Hardrock Endurance Run in July, and she is doing the Cascade Crest 100 in August. Hardrock has been a long time coming. She has been in the lottery many times and has never been this close to toeing the start line. Cascade Crest is a Hardrock qualifier, so she has it covered if we end up in Silverton; and only get to volunteer, crew, pace, and watch others tackle the course. Fingers crossed. With those formidable races on the schedule, a super-long day of training in the mountains was perfect preparation.

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My parents agreed to take our kids for half of the long weekend. That way, Debbie and I could “bang out” this trip. So, on Friday night after work, we finished packing, and then drove north. We stopped for dinner in Northampton at Bela. It had also been a while since we dined there, and we were both fueled up after a soup, salad, and entrée.

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We headed for Warren, Vermont. It was late when we arrived, but our friends, Marilyn Ruseckas, and Adam Whitney, had made their driveway available to us. We got there around 11:30 P.M. after they had gone to bed, and our 4:15 A.M. wake-up alarm came fast! We were gone before they got up. We drove up Lincoln Gap and parked at the Long Trail junction. We locked our bikes to a tree and camouflaged a bag under some leaves. The bag had cycling shorts, cycling shoes, helmets, energy bars, bike lights, and reflective vests.

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We drove down the western side of the gap and then north through Huntington towards Duxbury Road. Halfway there, I freaked out when I realized I didn’t have the key to the lock. I pulled over and checked every pocket. It couldn’t be found. We checked all over the van and it was gone. I figured it was lost in the woods. I had run back and forth to the van several times from the spot in the woods where we locked the bikes. I assumed the key fell out and that it would be a nightmare to locate it. I tried to set this awful thought aside, but the idea of arriving at our bikes after 30 miles of trail running/hiking and not being able to retrieve the bikes, was giving me serious anxiety. Debbie said, “Don’t worry. There is nothing we can do about it, so don’t let it worry you. There is no turning back now.” So, we continued on.

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We parked on Duxbury Road made our final preparations, and were on the trail headed south by 6:30 A.M. Other than the key mystery, the only hiccup was related to our hiking poles. One of mine snapped when assembling it in the parking lot prior to the start. A duct tape fix failed, so I went with one pole instead of two. The Camel’s Hump climb started immediately. It was nearly six miles, more than 4,000 feet of elevation gain, and took 2 hours and 45 minutes. That was one heck of a warm-up. The weather was fantastic with partial sun and clouds, but good views and mild temperatures. It was a bit cooler on the summits, but we never had to pull out a jacket.

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The section of trail between the summit of Camel’s Hump and Appalachian Gap is the most rugged and difficult on the LT. In 2005, heading north, this section of trail was super-challenging. I wrote about it in the 2006 Summer/Fall issue of Appalachia, the journal of the Appalachian Mountain Club. The AMC’s counterpart in Vermont and maintainer of the Long Trail is the Green Mountain Club. It is through the GMC that we annually help 30-50 other Long Trail hopefuls with advice and encouragement about their End-to-End plans. Mount Ethan Allen, Mount Ira Allen, and Burnt Rock Mountain are very difficult. In 2005, the logbook at Montclair Glen Lodge said, “Beware of the Allen’s.” That statement remains true today!

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It was slow going on this section, and after five hours on the trail, we knew that this adventure was going to take longer than anticipated. However, we were prepared for this. We had the gear we would need to safely finish the bike ride at night. We were a little short on food and water, but we knew we could stretch what we had if necessary. It wouldn’t be enjoyable, but it was doable. Throughout the day, we traded hard falls. We both used Altra Lone Peak 3.0 trail running shoes, and they were fantastic, but it was so wet and slippery, that no amount of grip would have made a difference. It’s worth noting that we both had great socks. I’m a big fan of Darn Tough socks and Debbie alternates between Darn Tough and Injini socks. On Debbie’s hardest fall, she whacked her chin on a rock after going face first. My worst fall bent my left wrist backward, straining my forearm. It was a suffer-fest, but to quote Debbie, “”We are at a point (in our lives) where being miserable makes us happy.”

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We kept pushing, over Molly Stark Mountain, Baby Stark Mountain, and all the way to Appalachian Gap. Debbie was a little concerned about our food and fuel, but I nudged us along. The climb up to the Stark’s Nest at Mad River Glen on General Stark Mountain, was slow and arduous. We met a young couple on the deck of the warming hut. There was a rain barrel on the deck, but it had a warning sign about treating the water before drinking. In hindsight, we should have carried our purifier or some tablets, but it was an oversight. After some idle chatter, they offered to treat a quart of water for us. We each refilled a bottle and that turned out to be a real difference maker. We would have made it without any issues, but the extra water was thirst quenching.

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Mercifully, the ridgeline from the summit of General Stark over Mount Ellen, Nancy Hanks Peak, Lincoln Peak, and Mount Abraham, is much more moderate. The LT weaves around Sugarbush Resort. The few times we popped out on to an open ski slope gave us energy and allowed us to run a bit. Those little bits of running make a dramatic difference. By this point in the trip, I was shuffling more than running. Debbie had recovered and seemed to be gaining strength.

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We saw a little snow remaining in the deeper hollows, but the trail was clear. However, you could tell that the snow had recently melted because all of the vegetation was matted down. The trail had been closed since mid-April after the heavy snow melt, during mud season. It officially opened for Memorial Day Weekend despite a week of heavy rain. We did our best to tread lightly on the wet trail by staying on the treadway, hiking straight through existing puddles, and sticking to the rocks as much as possible. It was so beautiful; the ferns and Trillium were in bloom, and the Balsam smell was amazing. A trail crew must have come through earlier in the week because there was evidence of “brushing” where they trim back the vegetation that overhangs the trail. Even still, there were numerous blow-downs that contributed to our slow pace. A crew will have to go back through with an axe. This is a good time to give all trail maintainers a big shout out of appreciation!

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As we approached Mount Abraham, we were able to push the pace and make up some time. We were monitoring our minutes/mile progress on our GPS devices (I use a Garmin and Debbie uses a Suunto) so we knew that we were on track to break 12 hours. That’s still a long time to be on the trail. One hiker, Eric, was on the summit of Abraham. He took a great picture of the two of us. We had 360 degree views with Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks to the northwest, the Green Mountains to the north and south; and the White Mountains to the northeast. It was spectacular. It would have been great to linger until sunset, but we had to get to the bikes ASAP. We said our goodbyes to our summit companion, and finished the run/hike in 11 hours and 43 minutes. Debbie was a few minutes ahead of me. I gave her the green light to drop me on the descent. Depending on what you believe (GPS vs. guide-book/map), we covered around 30.4 miles with more than 11,500 feet of elevation gain and more than 8,500 feet of elevation loss on the point to point route.

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Just as I got down, she was getting to our bikes. I heard her let out a “whoop” as she discovered that I had left the key in the lock. That was a huge relief. As I came down from the Battell Shelter, I was devising my plan if we didn’t find the key. We didn’t want to call Adam and Marilyn. I figured I could break the lock. Before the start of the hike, when I realized the possibility, I grabbed my Leatherman tool and carried it with us with the thought that I might have to “hack” through the steel cable or pry off the head of the lock. Thankfully, that wasn’t required.

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Lincoln Gap was inundated with flies. They attacked us with vigor, so we didn’t linger. These were the only insects that bothered us all day. We changed shorts, swapped shoes, and mounted our lights. The sun was getting low in the sky. We figured that the ride would take 2.5 to 3 hours, getting us back to the van between 9:00 P.M. and 10:00 P.M. Debbie was ready sooner, so she mounted her steel Seven Tsunami and started down the steep, winding, and treacherous descent. We had recently tuned her brakes, so she was in good shape. I remembered this downhill well. A year ago to the day, I did a Vermont Six-Gaps Ride. Marilyn and Adam were also helpful on that prior trip. Before Debbie took off, I warned her to take it easy and told her I would catch up.

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I was pretty knackered after 12 hours on my feet, but I’m at home on my bike, so I shot down the hill in hot pursuit. I didn’t make it far. I was riding my Titanium Seven Tsunami and on Friday afternoon, I had just swapped out wheels with cyclocross tires for wheels with road tires. I immediately gained too much speed, and had underestimated how hammered my arms were. I had no strength to brake, totally botched the second hairpin turn, got way out of control, and had to make an evasive maneuver. I was out of control and headed for the woods with a steep drop-off to the left, so I decided to ride into the soft stuff (leaves, branches, sand, etc.) at the edge of the road and lay it down. Thankfully there was no oncoming traffic. It all happened very quickly, but sliding into the ditch was better than crashing into the trees or on the asphalt.

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It all worked out. I wiped out, but came away with only a few scratches on my left knee. My bike was OK. I only had to bend my brake hoods back into place. I was covered in leaves and dirt, but that was better than blood. It took a few minutes to get going again, so I didn’t catch Debbie for nearly five miles, until she was off the descent. She was wondering where I had gone, so I explained the story while we swapped lights. Despite a recent charging, one of the headlights was dead.

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We took a mix of paved and dirt roads. When we were going up Quaker Street, Debbie suggested that I push ahead. She was concerned about how long it would take, did the math in her head, and figured that if I went to get the van, I could get there quicker. She wanted me to go ahead, and then drive back to intercept her. That worked out. We split up, and I was able to increase the pace. I took Rt. 17 to Gore Road to Main Road, to Bridge Street, and then Pond Road. By then it was pitch black. The plan was for Debbie to stop and wait at the Rt. 17/Gore Road junction. I eventually got back to the LT trailhead/parking lot on Duxbury Road. It took me 2 hours and 4 minutes to cover the 30.8 miles.

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I loaded the bike and immediately headed back towards Debbie. I tried to call a few times, but assumed that in the shadow of the mountains, she had no cell signal. When I got back to the meeting point, she was sitting on the side of the road, wearing every piece of available clothing, and draped in her emergency blanket. She said that several Good Samaritans had stopped, but she had a little food, water, and was warm enough; so she waited. Once back in the van, we were both tired and thrilled with the success of our adventure.

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We drove over Appalachian Gap, and headed for Marilyn and Adam’s house. It was finally great to see them. They fed us and we washed up, before retiring for the night. Our route was inspiring, and on Sunday, they did a “junior version” taking an alternative route up Camel’s Hump via the Burrow’s Trail, hiking to their bikes in Appalachian Gap, and then riding back to their car.

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Another key gear choice was our UltrAspire packs. We shared tech tips with Marilyn and Adam before they departed. Debbie used her Zygos and I used an Epic, which was a fitting name for this trip. We lingered a bit at the house, before heading for Connecticut. We stopped at the East Warren Community Market. Farther south, we stopped in Putney to visit both the Co-Op and Farmers Market for more provisions. We stopped again in Northampton, or rather Florence, and had brunch at Cafe Evolution. By 2:45 P.M., we were in Old Lyme, and reunited with our kids. Despite the sore legs, we are already plotting our next adventure. Oh, and from the start of writing this blog post to the finish, she moved up to 3rd on the Hardrock wait list. She still needs more luck to get to the start line, but between now and 14 July, she also needs a few more training days like the one we just had in the Green Mountains of Vermont.

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2017 Soapstone Mountain Trail Races

The 33rd annual Soapstone Mountain Trail Races are in the books. Once again, the Shenipsit Striders did a fantastic job organizing these classic races. It was Debbie’s 14th year as the Race Director, which is both a great honor and a big responsibility.

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Thankfully, we have the support of a great running club and a cadre of wonderful volunteers. The joyous feeling of pulling into the driveway after another successful Soapstone never gets old. We have lots of cleanup ahead, but even before we got home, the accolades were flowing in via social media and email.

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Safety is always the first priority and aside from a few twisted ankles requiring ice, and a scrape or two, the race was incident free. We only had two DNF’s out of 144 starters in the 22 kilometer long course event, and all 78 runners in the 6 kilometer Sampler finished.

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This was my 14th time running Soapstone since 2001. I’ve done the Sampler five times and have now done the 22K nine times, including today. This wasn’t my fastest, but it wasn’t my slowest either. It was my slowest since 2006. I didn’t have good legs. After the 9  mile mark, I slowed considerably and despite pushing hard, couldn’t keep my pace high.

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It sucks to lose ground like that, but my legs were blown. Still, the weather was awesome for running and I had a great time in the woods. Back at the finish line, it was a festive atmosphere with so many friends to greet and catch up with. It was great to see cyclists teammates and friends, Tom Ricardi, Randall Dutton, Anthony Eisley, and Jonathan Tarbox, out running trails.

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First male was Neil Clauson. He was followed by the amazing master runner, Brett Stoeffler. Third was Andrew Baird. On the women’s side, the victor was Kehr Davis. She was followed by Bonnie Lathrop and Caitlin Cunningham. I see-sawed with Kehr for a while, but around the 10 mile mark, she just took off and I had no response. From there, I got caught by a few other guys and then faded.

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The Sampler was won by Charlie Grillo. He was followed by Luke Stoeffler, and then Bruce Christensen. Melissa Emmerich was the first woman.

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I’ve got my usual nicks and dings, including sore ankles, but you won’t get any complaints from me. Our son did the Sampler and our daughter did the Kids Race. It was fun to see so many other families enjoying the day together.

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Much appreciation to our hosts the Reddington Rock Riding Club. We got great support from Horst Engineering, Tailwind Nutrition, the Northern Connecticut Land Trust, and Nature’s Grocer. It’s also worth noting that Debbie’s Mom, Barbara Schieffer, did another fantastic job in the cook shed. For $25, you get an awesome race with a great meal afterwards.

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Look for other great Shenipsit Striders races that are part of the Connecticut Blue-Blazed Trail Running Series and the New England Grand Tree Trail Running Series.

Race Results

2017 Mother’s Day Dash

Today, I ran my 11th Mother’s Day Dash since 1999. My first “Dash” was run even before I met Debbie. This  year, it was a family affair, with Debbie and both of our children racing this classic 5K in Vernon/Rockville, Connecticut.

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11 races is a pretty good data set. The course has changed slightly, but it is still 3.1 miles. This year’s course was the same as last year.

Mother's Day Dash 5K Chart

Last year, I ran my fastest time (17:33) and this year (18:15), I ran my 5th fastest time. So, it was about the middle of my range which peaked (18:49) in 2007. That was a slow year!

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I’m happy with my run given the 39 degree Fahrenheit temperature and cold rain. The field wasn’t that fast, so I had no one to chase and no one to push me either. The Livingston’s did pretty well, coming away from the race with three medals, and four gift certificates.

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The star of the show was our 7-year-old, and she wasn’t even one of the award winners. She gets an award from Debbie and me for being “tough” and running on her own in grim conditions. After I finished, I donned a jacket and ran back to see her. She was just trucking along.

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The flat and fast course suited our 10-year-old son, and he is getting faster by the race. It was great to see some of our Shenipsit Striders friends. Tom Curtiss is a fixture at this event.

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Jessica Willis was our cheering gallery and she got some fun photos and videos. She was there to cheer on Matthew Davis, which was good fortune for us!

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We celebrated by eating lunch at a restaurant (Simply Thai) that we didn’t have a gift certificate for. That’s just how it goes.

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I know that Debbie loves running on Mother’s Day, and there is no better place to do it than at our former hometown race.

Race Results


Horst Engineering

Thread Rolling Inc.

Sterling Machine

Horst Spikes

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Start of the @root66raceseries #DomnarskiFarm Junior 12-18 year old race. #root66raceseries #teamhorstsports #teamhorstjuniorsquad #mountainbiking #mountainbike Beautiful June day in #Massachusetts For me, the #westrocksuperprestige highlight is always the youngest junior girls and boys. Here is the start of last night's Junior 9-11 year old Short Track #mountainbike race. This is the next generation of #cycling enthusiasts. @the_ccap #teamhorstsports #teamhorstjuniorsquad #horstspikes #mountainbiking 🚵‍♀️🏆❤️ Not bad. Third place in the series for #singlespeed division after doing two of the four #westrocksuperprestige #mountainbike races. Fun just to ride strongly. #teamhorstsports #horstspikes @horsteng #mountainbiking @seven_cycles #sevencycles Incredible June night. One day after the #solstice for the #westrocksuperprestige finale. @the_ccap @horsteng #teamhorstsports #teamhorstjuniorsquad #mountainbiking #solstice #railtrail ride:  #teamhorstjuniorsquad #teamhorstsports #hopriverstateparktrail #mountainbike The second (our first) #windingtrails Summer Off-Road #Triathlon Series race of the year was a big success. Three Livingston's raced including @trailrunningmom and the first "Grand Feast" of the season with the Schulz Clan helped us refuel. #teamhorstsports #mountainbiking #trailrunning I ran the #greylocktrailrace on #fathersday and @trailrunningmom loosened her legs after #manitousrevenge by running the 5K with Little D. Shep took 5+ minutes off of last year's time. #mountgreylock The Western Massachusetts Athletic Club had to share #greylockglen with the #harrypotter festival, which was kind of crazy. It was a weird combination of people. I'm sticking with he  #trailrunning community. @trailrunningmom finished #manitousrevenge 54 miles in 14:41:32. Fantastic! She is pumped and primed for #hardrock100 next month. #teamhorstsports #shenipsitstriders #pursuitstrong #pursuitfitness #trailrunning @ultraspire #ultraspire @altrarunning #altrarunning #ultrarunning #catskillsmountains 🏃🏻⛰ Ben Nephew took the 54 rugged mile #manitousrevenge in 10 hours and 57 minutes. He said it was super slippery. @mountainpeakfitness #mountainpeakfitness #trailrunning #ultrarunning #catskillsmountains

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