2021 Run Ragged Last Person Standing Race

It’s not often that I write about one of Debbie’s races while it is still going on, but that is the case this morning. She started the Run Ragged Last Person Standing Race at 8:00 A.M. yesterday and stopped just shy of 7:00 A.M. today after completing 23 five kilometer laps for a total of 71 miles.

When she stopped, there were still five runners headed out for a 24th loop/hour. It’s almost noon, and I know that there are three runners still on course and in contention to be the last woman or man standing. This was Debbie’s first time running an event with this format and it was a good experience.

I won’t describe all of the rules of this event, but you can read about it at the race signup page and in the runner guide. The gist of it is that the race was held on a rugged (lots of rocks and roots) hilly (500 feet of vertical gain) five kilometer loop. The goal was to complete one loop every hour until only one person was left. The race will not stop until one person completes a final lap inside the 60 minute time limit. The win will not go to the fastest runner but rather to the runner who has the most endurance (physical and mental). That runner would arguably run the “smartest race” conserving energy, fueling properly, pacing consistently, and using the best strategy. Mental toughness is a hallmark of this format because you have to have serious grit to keep going.

The Ragged loop could be completed in 40 minutes or less, but on average, runners completed it in 45 to 55 minutes. As the race went on, the remaining runners came closer and closer to the 60 minute limit leaving themselves very little time to rest or prepare for the next loop. Some runners didn’t complete their laps in time and were automatically DNF’d.

Debbie had her own little aid station set up at the start/finish. She brought a big blue tarp to cover all of her gear. On Saturday, it rained most of the day. Overnight, the rain stopped, but the temperature remained in the low to mid 40’s Fahrenheit. It was raw and uncomfortable and unseasonably cold for Memorial Day Weekend. I would imagine that most New Englanders stayed in side yesterday and today. After a few weeks of warmth and very dry conditions, this weekend’s weather is just plain awful, unless you adore trail running (like us). By the time we got home, it was pouring again, which will make it even harder for the hearty runners still on the course.

The Connecticut Trail Mixers did a fantastic job hosting the race. Their volunteers were numerous and helpful. Race Director Stacey Clark barely slept. She got extra help from Karen Prado. The two of them were tracking all of the 42 runners who started when the left for a lap and returned from a lap.

Debbie started the race on her own, but Laura Becker spent the afternoon crewing for her while I was at work. I also spent time shuttling our son to a birthday party and then to Debbie’s parents house where our daughter was spending part of the weekend. I left the Schieffer’s by 6:00 P.M. and was at the venue in time to see her start her 7:00 P.M. lap.

Parking at the trailhead was limited, so I parked at the assigned grocery store parking lot a mile away. I brought my commuter bike and shuttled gear, food, and water to the trailhead with three bike trips. Eventually, I was able to move my car to the trailhead around midnight after there were fewer runners remaining, less volunteers hanging around, and no day hikers at the Ragged Mountain Memorial Preserve.

Debbie and I were in this area last month when we ran the Metacomet – Timberlin Loop, but we hadn’t been on this segment of the Metacomet Trail since our thru-run on last year’s New England Trail E2E Adventure. The Metacomet is likely the toughest trail in Connecticut and is known for numerous rocks and roots.

Debbie felt good about her race. Up until 2:00 A.M., her laps were very consistent. She frequently left herself five to eight minutes to rest, fuel up, and swap gear. Runners were given three minute and one minute warnings. They had to be back in the start corral prior to the start of the next lap. Otherwise, they were disqualified. Most of the runners who dropped out, did so voluntarily or they missed an hourly time cut.

Her roughest lap was the one between 2:00 and 3:00. That’s when she first talked about stopping. Her rnext lap was a little better, and then the 4:00 A.M. lap was better than that. She rallied a bit and decided to keep going. In between laps, I hung out and chatted with volunteers. Several times, I returned to the car to don more clothes, drape myself in a sleeping bag, eat, and rest. I didn’t really sleep at all.

After her 6:00 A.M. lap, I ran a loop in the reverse direction so that I could experience it and take some photos. I cheered for all of the remaining six runners on the course and thanked the volunteers who I encountered. The trails were muddy and challenging. This was a true test for any runner and these were strong runners.

Debbie was very happy with her race. She has been running strong all year and is building towards her “A race” the Bighorn Trail Run, next month in Wyoming. With the race less than four weeks out, it didn’t make sense to thrash her body this weekend. She completed 71 miles, which sets her up nicely to run a mountainous 100+ miles at Bighorn.

Justin Kousky, Lance Reed, and Julie Melanson Fraysier are the last three on course. When the results are posted, check back to see which one of them was the last standing. They are all amazing runners with incredible perseverance. Kudos to them.

Check out the CT Trail Mixers Facebook page for live results/posts.

Race Results (will be posted when available)

2021 Soapstone Mountain Trail Race

About half way through today’s Soapstone Mountain Trail Race, as the heat was rising and the hills were taking their toll, I grew worried about Shepard’s first attempt at running the 15.5 mile long course. This was his longest ever run of any type. A few years ago, he did one lap of the 11 mile Traprock course. He was running on tired legs after yesterday’s Bush Hill MTB Race and Friday’s one-mile time trial (at school). I feared this might be a little too much activity. I was concerned he didn’t carry enough water. I didn’t want him to struggle and have a bad experience.

What I really should have been worried about, was getting caught by him!

I eked out a 24 second advantage, a slim margin over the course of 2.5 hours of hard trail running on the second “hot” day of 2021. Saturday was even warmer. The heat caused problems for yesterday’s mountain bikers and today’s trail runners. I saw a lot of cramping and even some vomiting. Some people suffered, but he had an incredible run. After crossing the line, he grimaced for a moment and then broke into a smile. He wildly exceeded his own expectations and I was even more thrilled than he was, despite the fact that he he nearly caught me.

Debbie was only eight minutes behind him, so the three of us got to share in the excitement at the finish line where Dahlia, who ran the short course (3.8 mile Soapstone Sampler), was waiting for us.

he 2020 Soapstone Mountain Trail Race was cancelled at the start of the pandemic, so today’s race was a fantastic comeback for New England’s second oldest trail race. Only the NipMuck Trail Marathon is older, and only by one year.

The 2019 edition was the 35th anniversary and it also was Debbie’s final one as the Race Director. She was in that role for 15 years, including the first few as co-director with the late (and legendary) Jerry Stage. There are a few old-time Shenipsit Striders still going strong, and we saw two of them at today’s race. Willi Frederich and Tom Curtiss were both there and though time has taken its toll, their indomitable spirit and pride in our “club” has helped keep both them and the club going.

This year’s Soapstone felt very different, and I’m not referring to all of the adjustments and precautions because of COVID-19. I’m referring to the fact that all four of us were just participants. Debbie did a small amount of work in the background, but she had no race-day responsibilities.

Dan Tourtellotte is the new Race Director. He mentored with Debbie in 2019 and got support from other club members to pull of this year’s modified version of the race. I won’t get into all the particulars, but it was a simpler affair with no food, no awards, no kids race, etc. The focus was on the race and the course, and that was fine.

Our kids did miss the days when we had to pack the van full on race morning and you could barely see them behind the piles. They missed Rein’s Deli vegetarian chili. We actually stopped there on the way home to get some takeout, but the line was out the door and we couldn’t stay. Debbie had a good run as Race Director (pun intended), but it was time for her to hand the race off to another steward.

One thing Debbie did organize in 2021 was the Shenipsit Striders supported Bolton Run Club. She coached more than 20 children for a spring running series on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They met each time at the commuter lot in Bolton Notch and did training runs as a group. The culmination of the program was entry into today’s race, and many of them participated in the Sampler. Debbie is justifiably proud of all her kids as many have developed a love of running and fitness. That’s all you can ask for.

We saw a lot of friends at the race, some whom we had not seen since before the pandemic started. Notably, it was fantastic to see Randall Dutton, Tom Ricardi, Joanne Ricardi, and Cole Ricardi. We also saw Bruce Giguere, Paul Funch, and Brett Stoeffler. Carly Eisley came to race. So did Rich Fargo, all the way from northern New Hampshire.

We saw a lot of other friends from the club and the local running community. There are too many to name and thankfully, over the last year, we have seen them on one occasion or another. 62 runners finished the Sampler and 132 runners finished the long course.

As usual, the Shenipsit Striders put on a great event. There was strong volunteer support. The aid stations were simple affairs, primarily with water and chips (in a bag). Shepard said he saw OREO cookies. I can’t confirm that. I didn’t stop once. I ran straight through them because I wore a hydration pack and carried what I needed.

I probably should have stopped at the third and final aid station for some water because I got a 1/4 mile past it, took a sip from my hose, and realized I was empty. That made for a tough final four miles as I was parched. I was hoping there would be a jug of water at the top of the Quarry Trail after the last big climb up Soapstone Mountain, and before the final descent, but there wasn’t. I was thirsty, but I pressed on.

I ran a chunk of the race with Michael Minopoli and Jeremy Beebe. We were joined at one point or another by other runners, but for most of the time, the three of us were within sight of each other. I met them for the first time today and enjoyed their company. I saw Brett early on, but only because he made a wrong turn.

I also saw Neal Leibowitz. He went flying past me, but sadly I caught up to him after he sprained his ankle. He was hobbling and I figured he would call it quits at an aid station, but he pressed on and finished. Kudos to him, but I warned him to ice his ankle. I made a similar mistake 20 years ago, finishing the Savoy Trail Race Sampler (in wicked heat) after spraining my ankle, and it has never been right since then.

The race was won by Benjamin Hearon. He was followed by Adrian Massie, and then Brett was third. Caitlin Roston was the first female. She was followed by Debbie, and Elizabeth Bove was third. I think the standout performance of the day was by Rich. He was sixth overall and about 4.5 minutes in front of me. I couldn’t keep up with him when he passed me. He is 61 and a real inspiration.

You can’t compare this year’s course with past years. It was similar to 2019, but even longer. The start and finish were in the same spot in the field at Reddington Rock Riding Club. That was so each runner could cross the timing mat at start and finish. The race was done on net time so that we could start people in small groups that were spread out. Whether it was necessary or not, it worked. However, the race is now more than 15 miles long. In past years when the times were scorching fast, the race was as short as 13.6 miles with a different mix of trails.

After our finish, we stayed for a short while and watched some of our friends finish. We got to see a few of them cramp, which caused some chuckles. We didn’t stay too long because runners were asked not to linger. Normally, we would have stayed until the last runner finished and everything was packed back into the van. In prior years, that was usually 3:00 P.M. It felt weird to be home by 1:00 P.M. while runners were still on the course. Another issue was the thunderstorm that rolled through just after we departed. I know some runners were caught in this. The temperature dropped quickly which may have helped some, but I’m glad that we finished before the rain started to fall.

This was a different Soapstone, but it still had the best feature…the course. Soapstone will always be a classic. The race is tough and hilly like most Connecticut trail races. That’s how we like them!

Race Results (Long Course)

Race Results (Sampler)

2021 Bush Hill MTB Race

Today’s inaugural Bush Hill MTB Race in Manchester, Connecticut nearly felt like a pre-pandemic event. The vibe was awesome, the weather was awesome, and the competition was awesome. The only thing that sucked was the pollen, which was made worse by the dry conditions and persistent dust. However, my complaints and sneezing are acceptable given how much fun we had.

Team HORST and the CCAP Team HORST Junior Squad were out in force for the second week in a row. It seemed like there were more than 150 kids in the morning junior races, which included beginners and Category 3 racers between the ages of 9 and 17. I’m sure there were some younger ones too.

Dahlia had a great race, completing three laps of the technical and fast course. She was all smiles, which made Debbie and me smile. After her race, we rushed to her soccer game back in Bolton and she had a great game. Eventually we returned to Bush Hill Farm Preserve for the afternoon races.

Joining her in the morning races was Lars Roti and Tanner Pierce, plus many friends from other teams. Both boys had fantastic races and they hung around the rest of the day to cheer on their teammates and to play in the dirt pile/jump.

Shepard and I started at 1:00 P.M. with the Category 2 and Category 1 racers. I was in the last wave, with the singlespeed competitors. Shepard was in the Category 2 Junior 12-17 field. He and his three teammates, Owen Wilson, Boden Chenail, Sean Rourke, and Alexandra Miller-Davey did well. Sean was third in the Category 1 Juniors. Alexandra was also third amongst Category 2 Juniors. Owen, Boden, and Shepard did battle between each other and finished in that order, taking 4th, 5th, and 6th amongst the boys.

Arthur Roti and Brett Chenail were in the Masters field, but Brett’s race ended shortly after the start because of a broken derailleur. I had a decent race, but the steep climbs were hard on my legs. Thankfully after the first lap of congestion, things spread out. I went out with the singlspeed pack (seven of us), but decided to settle into a tempo after the first hard lap. I didn’t want to blow up and fade like last week, but rather wanted to ride consistent laps and ideally pick it up at the end.

My plan worked perfectly. I was happy with my steady heart rate and rode within my limits. I didn’t have to get off on the toughest climb and was pleased to ride it every lap. I ended up in a battle with Sam Veggeberg. I caught up to him with two laps to go and we raced each other all the way to the finish. With one to go, I had about 10 seconds on him, but he surprised me and closed down the gap on the big climb on the last lap. He charged over the top and railed the descent, but I stayed within five seconds of him through the fields and then caught back up on the doubletrack climb before we went into the woods for the last time.

He hammered through the singletrack, but I clung to his wheel. I got in his draft as we weaved our way through the last section of field as we approached the finish. There were several turns before the final right hander on to the gravel straightaway that led to the finish. I passed him before the final turn, flew through the corner, and opened up my sprint immediately hoping to get a gap. I could have drifted right and shut the door on him, but I wanted to play fair and held my line. He started to gain on me and pulled even as we approached the line. It was hard to discern where the exact finish was but I threw my bike at the moment that I though we hit the line and wasn’t sure who got it.

It turned out that the official gave me 5th spot relegating him to 6th, which pleases me, especially because he is half my age. I was toast after the finish and never got to thank him for the battle, so if he reads this, kudos to him for pushing me all the way to the finish.

I was well off of Anthony Vecca’s pace. He won our category for the second week in a row, but I felt better about today’s race and am looking forward to more clashes over the summer and into cyclocross season.

This event hosted by CCAP was a massive success and the Bush Hill Farm Preserve is a great venue with some fun trails. I can’t wait to race here again. The short track (1.8 miles) would make for a great weekly training race course. I’m biased because it is only 15 minutes from home.

2021 Governor’s Guard Roundup MTB Race

Bike racing is back.

It had been a while, a long while, but the 2021 mountain bike season got underway yesterday at the Governor’s Guard Roundup in Avon, Connecticut. Reportedly, more than 150 kids competed in the junior races, which for me, is the highlight.

The CCAP Team HORST Junior Squad had seven children at the event and they were thrilled to be racing. They have been practicing weekly throughout the pandemic but yesterday they got a chance to push themselves while seeing many of their friends. The CCAP (Connecticut Cycling Advancement Program) is responsible for boosting junior participation throughout Connecticut.

Last fall, we did a few cyclocross training races and the Domnarski Farm Mountain Bike Race, but in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, they felt different. Despite the pandemic still having a grip on society, yesterday’s event felt more normal and that may mean we are headed in the right direction.

We hope more events make a comeback. Some organizers are ready to go, while others are still reluctant to host. I won’t delve into the reasons why, but I feel safe doing outdoor events. In addition to our juniors, several of our masters cyclists also took part in yesterday’s race.

The new course was on the grounds of the First Company Governor’s Horse Guards. The website explains:

It is the nations oldest continuously serving military unit, provides ceremonial escort to the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and other Elected Officials of the state as well as providing The Adjutant General a supplemental force for supporting the National Guard.

I did not know that. It was neat to see the horses and their grounds. The course was a fast track that wound through fields and woods. There were a few steep hills, some roots, but the dirt singletrack was mostly smooth and lined with pine needles. It isn’t too often that you average 13 mph in a Connecticut mountain bike race. The event had a cyclocross feel to it, which I love.

The kids would have preferred more “gnar” but this was a good course for a a season opener. There are three more events in the CCAP spring MTB series and we are hoping for a strong cyclocross season this fall.

All of the kids had good rides. Alexandra Miller-Davey made that podium (2nd spot) for the Cat 2 girls, which is fantastic. Shepard said he “blew up” on the last lap, but had fun. They were joined by teammates Lars, Tanner, Owen, Boden, and Sean. I did the singlespeed race and finished 4th…out of four riders. 🙂 I had fun too. Amongst the adults, Dave Geissert also made the podium in his category. He and I were joined by teammates Art and Brett. Coach Tim did het lap counting, of which there were many. Without him yelling “stop” some of us may still be out there doing loops in the woods. We are all looking forward to the Bush Hill MTB next Saturday in Manchester.

2021 Traprock 50K

New England trail running came back in a big way today with the Traprock 50K at Penwood State Park. COVID-19 rules were in place and the start list was mostly Connecticut residents with a few Massachusetts and Rhode Island folks mixed in for good measure. Maybe there was someone from New York too.

Most of the runners were on deferred entry from the cancelled 2020 edition. Also, the 17K is being run separately tomorrow. We had wave starts in small groups starting at 7:00 A.M. The race directors and volunteers did a fabulous job with this whole modified affair.

It was awesome to pin on a bib number and run hard. I’m not exactly sure how many starters there were, but as of this post, there were 108 finishers. The fastest time was set by race winner Dan Grip. He was followed by Justin Kousky and Byron Critchfield. The fastest female was Rachael Whitbeck. Notably, she was 7th overall. She was followed by Debbie and then Liz Allen.

After two days of heavy rain and wet snow, we were worried about the trail conditions. Thankfully, much of the course is on the spine of a traprock ridge (Metacomet Trail) so it drains well. There were a lot of soft spots and some mud and standing water in the hollows and other low lying areas. You could skirt it if you wanted to. Some of the stream crossings required rock and log hopping if you wanted to keep your feet somewhat dry.

The weather was good. It was in the high 30’s (Fahrenheit) when we started in the first wave, but warmed up to the high 40’s by late morning. It was overcast and grey most of the time. There were a few moments when the sun broke through the clouds, but they were rare. There was a light breeze and it was definitely cooler on the eastern side of the ridge.

Traprock is run in a narrow envelope. This year, they change the course so that there were no overlapping sections, no out and back, and for the first time ever it was a complete loop. There were points where you could see runners heading back towards the start/finish on the other side of the course because it was so narrow and in a few places, the trails nearly touched. It is worth noting that the course was very well marked. I had loaded the course .gpx file on my Garmin Fenix, but only had to refer to it a few times to reinforce that I had made the right turn. Along with the rocks and roots, there were many turns. Thankfully, I had ZERO falls. There were a few close calls, but I stayed on my feet!

I liked this year’s course. I much preferred the last mile compared with previous years when you finished on the rocky and steep descent of the Metacomet. As noted, the volunteers were awesome, even though I didn’t need much from them. There was one aid station that was at a point on the course where they could serve both outbound and inbound runners as both sides of the course went by this point. I stopped exactly once to fill a water bottle on the last lap. Other than that brief interlude, I used some food and hydration that I stashed at the start/finish and carried everything else.

Once again, I used my UltrAspire Momentum vest. I ate 2.5 Go Macro bars, ingested one Untapped maple syrup packet and used their Mapleaid powdered drink in a flask. I could have used some salt capsule but we were all out. On lap three, I was cramping badly in both calves.

After the race, I had to sit for 45 minutes and work the cramps out of my legs. Every time I tried to untie my laces, my legs (adductors and calves) were pulsating violently. Each runner was given a designated “stall” to set up their own mini aid station. Mine was next to Brian Vanderheiden. He only finished two minutes behind me, so we were hanging out after the race. He loaned me his Hypervolt percussive massage device with me and it worked wonders. after about 10 minutes I was able to get my shoes and socks off, but it wasn’t easy. He even helped me gather some stray items that had rolled away from me, saving me the agony of getting up. Brian gets the hero of the day award. I’m going to have to invest in one of those percussive devices. It really worked!

Liz Allen was sitting on the other side of me. After she and Debbie finished, we had some good laughs.

I didn’t have as strong a race as I wanted, but I’m still happy with the outcome. I just wish that my legs didn’t hurt so bad in the second half. I slowed considerably after going out a bit two hard on the first of three 10.5 mile loops. There were moments during the race, especially early on, where I didn’t see another runner for more than an hour. I was lonely, so it was nice when I started to lap the runners who had started in waves up to 90 minutes after us.

Our kids spent the day with my parents. Their help is appreciated. So, we had a little extra time after the race. We went to Flora in West Hartford for the first time in a very long time. It was fantastic.

The best part of the race was seeing the other runners. There were no spectators allowed, which was sad, but seeing real runners at a race was very cool. Every time I finish Traprock (this was my fourth finish in five tries and it was Debbie’s sixth finish), I swear I will never do it again. I’m swearing this time too, but I doubt I stick to my plan.

Race Results

Metacomet – Timberlin Loop

Today, Debbie and I did our final Traprock 50K tune-up by running the Metacomet – Timberlin Loop. Traprock is next Saturday and we both feel ready. Metacomet – Timberlin is a cool route that includes some of the most gnarly sections of the Metacomet Trail. The loop ends up being 15.3 miles with about 2,400 feet of elevation gain.

We were last on this section in June 2020 for our New England Trail End-to-End Adventure. Today’s conditions were warm and dry, but not as dry as last summer. There were a few muddy spots, but we were able to navigate them without soaking our feet. When we covered this section of trail last year, we were three days into the trip and exhausted.

I remember how awful I felt going up Castle Craig in Hubbard Park. Last year we recovered a bit, eating some dinner near the top of East Peak. After dinner, we called our kids to catch up. Then, things got worse as we descended to the Merimere Reservoir. It wasn’t long before I had successive meltdowns. Anyway, this story is about today’s run. You can refer back to the NET link above if you want to read about all of last year’s drama.

Today, we were running on fresh legs, and it made a world of difference. This is a route first laid out by Stefan Rodriguez, who came out to see us on our NET Adventure. This is one of his “neighborhood” trails. We decided to start the loop on Edgewood Road in Berlin.

That way, we started with the bulk of the climbing. That also allowed us to get the section of the Metacomet with the worst footing (traprock) behind us in the first half of the loop. The second half of the route was much faster. Once we got to Orchard Road in Meriden, we were able to pick up the pace.

Most of the Metacomet Loop Trail (Red/Blue) was winding but fast with good footing. We blasted the last 1.5 miles when we got back to Edgewood Road. This route was a lot of fun and we accomplished our goal of getting in a fast trail run without destroying our legs.

I stayed on my feet the entire time, but Debbie had one hard fall just before getting to the reservoir. She said she caught her foot on a rock and she smashed both knees into the ground. Other than some close calls, that was the only mishap.

We made a few wrong turns, but that’s normal. We noticed one section of the Metacomet around the 7th mile had been rerouted since we were on it last year. Instead of doubletrack, that section was now all single track. It had fresh markings and was easier to follow, so I liked it better.

We stuck together today, but given that this route is a good distance for me, I would like to try it again and see how much faster I could go solo. The challenge with redo’s is that I always prefer to try a new trail that I’ve never done before. That’s the beauty of trail running in Connecticut. We have so many options. After the run, we went back to Debbie’s parents house for a wonderful early supper. Thumbs up for this run.

2021 Hoppin’ Hodges 5K

The Hoppin’ Hodges 5K was back after a one year layoff during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. This Easter Sunday tradition is a family favorite in our household. This year’s edition had a new venue…well sort of.

The race was still held on the Hop River Linear Park (rail trail) but instead of being on the Vernon section, it was on the Andover section farther to the east.

I’m not exactly sure why the venue was moved, but all the normal rules are changed in coronavirus times. The new start/finish did provide for increased parking, and at a private business (Benjamin Franklin Plumbing of Andover). The start/finish line was in their parking lot. From the start, the race went up Lake Road for 100 feet and then onto the rail trail. We ran west, through the covered bridge to a halfway turnaround point, and then back.

Once again Plattsys Timing donated their timing services. They do the same on Christmas Day at the Scrooge Scramble, another event race directed by the remarkable duo of Janit Romayko and Mary Lou White. They get help from a dedicated group of volunteers and we love doing their down-home events that benefit local organizations. .

There were 123 finishers in today’s race and there was no cost, other than a recommended donation to benefit the Friends of Valley Falls, a worthy nonprofit. Valley Falls Park is my hometown park (I grew up in Vernon) and is one of our favorite places to visit. Valley Falls also borders the rail trail and in normal years, the race goes from Vernon Depot to Valley Falls and back.

This was my fifth Hoppin’ since 2011. We live on the rail trail, so it is also a tradition to ride to/from the race. Today it was chilly, but we enjoyed the ride and it doubled as our warmup. They literally waited for us to arrive before starting just past 8:30 A.M. Chip timing makes it simple while mass start events are on hold. We lined up, socially distanced, around the building and then started at 10 second intervals.

Dahlia was our family standout. She beat her 5K personal best goal of 26 minutes. Shepard also had a good run and I kept him in site. he finished third overall (19:10) behind a couple of speedsters. The winner was William Sanders (15:45) who may own every Strava segment on the rail trail. Last year I think he laid down a sub-three hour 50K on this same track. Will is very fast. He was followed by Nicholas Migani (16:52).

Among the women, Sybil Sanders (part of the dynamically fast duo) was first (19:30) just a smidge behind Shepard. She was followed by Jaclyn Sullivan (21:41) and then Hunter Ralston (22:32). Debbie five seconds behind Hunter. A special shout out to Art Byram who did his third Hoppin’ Hodges 50K. You read that right. He started at 1:59 A.M. and finished his 31 mile effort with the 3.1 mile race. That’s cool.

One of the best parts of this holiday race is that we saw a lot of other friends too. After a cool down on our feet, we rode back home as the sun was starting to warm up the day. I had some Divine Treasures Chocolates waiting for me, which was a nice treat.

Happy Easter!

Race Results

Taconic Rim Run

Yesterday’s Taconic Rim Run was truly spectacular. Debbie and I were both in need of a big adventure and as she put it (regarding me) to “exorcise the demons.” To use a computer analogy, a big day in the mountains is my preferred method of hard drive (brain) defragmentation.

The Taconic’s did the job. We hadn’t been up that way since Thanksgiving Weekend 2020 when we took our kids on a trip up Mt. Frissell. Debbie was last on Bear Mt. in July of 2020 when she ran the Appalachian Trail (AT) from the New York/Connecticut border to the Connecticut/Massachusetts border. I crewed her on that adventure.

Amazingly, neither of us had been on the section of the AT just north of the Massachusetts border. So yesterday we trekked to the southwestern Berkshires for a little run. Shepard had his first Scouts overnight campout (much needed) since the start of the pandemic, so we dropped him off at Camp Johnson in Bolton early on Saturday morning. Then we drove Dahlia to Mémère  and Papa’s (my parents) for an overnight visit, also the first since the start of the pandemic.

After the morning logistics, we made it to Catamount Ski Area in Hillsdale, New York, by 11:30 A.M. The South Taconic Trail descends from the ski hill and crosses Route 23 just over the state-line on the Massachusetts side. That was the end of this particular FKT (Fastest Known Time) Route. We locked our bicycles to a tree. Then we drove the 3.5 miles to the the Appalachian Trail trailhead on Jug End Road/Guilder Hollow Road in South Egremont.

The Taconic Rim route makes a big “U” and we chose to run it counter-clockwise starting in Massachusetts, looping south into Connecticut, then back north through New York and then returning to Massachusetts. In the past it has also been referred to as the “Tri-State U.” It crests some amazing peaks and has miles of rugged ridge running. You ascend Mt. Bushnell, Mt. Everett, Mt. Brace, Bear Mt., Mt. Frissell, Alander Mt., and Catamount (Ski Area). There are additional descriptions of the route on the FKT site.

Ben Nephew has the fastest time, set in 2017. At a little more than five hours, the mark is scorching fast. The beauty of an FKT attempt is you choose the day and the conditions. There is no perfect time, especially when running something at the ultra distance. You simply have to deal with the conditions on that day. For us, we had awesome running weather with the air temperature in the high 40’s and low 50’s (Fahrenheit). The challenge for us was the remaining ice and snow. It was worse on the north facing slopes and in the deep hollow of Sage’s Ravine. The descent off of Catamount was also marked by snow (the deep man-made base layer remained). Other rocks were just wet. Mercifully, neither of us fell during the run. We had several close calls, and a fall would have been bloody horribly. I’m glad we stayed on our feet.

The trails were generally in good shape with some loose sticks and dead leaves adding to the challenge. However the biggest challenge was the rocks, of which there were many. I got over 63,000 steps, which was about 3,000 more than Debbie. I have a longer strider, but not when descending. My studder-steps pounded my legs, and particularly my quadriceps. I was strong running south on the AT. The views from the ridge were unbelievably good and we can’t wait to take the kids there for a hike. There were sheer drops to the east side that had to have been 1,000 feet down.

I hung tough through Sage’s Ravine, where there was no way to keep your feet dry. We had to ford the stream, which was rushing with cold water. The falls were lovely. I stayed strong going up Bear Mt., but coming down the southern rocky side was rough, and Debbie ripped that section. I did all I could to keep up. We stayed on Old Bear Mountain Road until we reached Mt. Washington Road as the Bog Trail through the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Northwest Camp was blocked off. The trails were really wet in this section. They were also very wet at the start of the climb up Mt. Frissell. That’s where Debbie was hurting a bit. It is no secret that I’m stronger on the ups and she is better on the downs.

I really started to struggle around the 18 mile mark, on the big descent down from the summit of Brace Mt. That was the most “runable” portion of the route and the hard downhill beat me up. Debbie was cruising. My stomach wasn’t great and the jostling made it feel worse. Things improved on the brutal climb up Alander, but in a cruel sort of way. It was only a mile but it took more than 23 minutes. It stepped a bit at the top with a few false summits and a lot of granite slab scrambling.

It was the long rocky descent off Alander where I really cracked. At the 18 mile mark near the summit, you hit 2,300 feet and then gradually descend and climb intermittently for a mile before a massive plunge downward to the 21 mile mark where you hit the low point on the route at 800 feet. My legs were toast. This marked the start of the Cedar Brook Trail, which was beautiful. Over the next two miles, we gradually climbed back up to 2,000 feet as we made our way towards Catamount.

I’m sure that Debbie could have run 20 minutes faster, but I slowed us down. Over the final three miles of undulation, I did OK, but then suffered again on the huge final descent down the ski hill. The footing was awful and my stride was about six inches long. It kind of sucked. She encouraged me and we stopped the clock at 7 hours, 3 minutes, and 11 seconds. I really wanted to break the seven hour mark, but we came up short. A few wrong turns, the snow/ice, and wet trails slowed us, but as noted, there are no excuses when running an FKT.

All our gear worked great. We both ran in Altra Lone Peak 4.5’s shoes and Injinji socks. I’m disappointed in the durability of my pair, but they felt good. Debbie used her UltrAspire Zygos 3.0 pack and I used an UltraSpire Momentum. My lungs were strong, but my breathing was labored throughout the day. We covered 27 miles and more than 7,800 feet of elevation gain. Though it was the elevation loss that killed me! Quad pain aside, the route and trails were challenging and amazing. We were thankful for the blue sky and bright sunshine. The wind was light. The trails were filled with smiling hikers. We didn’t see any other runners, and everyone we came across was courteous. There were some tight spots and the trampers always yielded for us.

Our timing was perfect. We finished just before sunset at 7:00 P.M. We unlocked our bikes, swapped shoes, added a layer, and rode the mostly downhill 3.5 miles back to the car at the AT trailhead as the full moon was rising. The ride was chilly but felt like a victory lap.It took about two hours to drive home with a 9:00 P.M. pit stop at Chipotle in Canton to refuel. This was a good adventure.

2021 Colchester Half Marathon

It felt good to pin on a bib number and compete for the first time in a long time. In 2020 we were able to squeeze in a few modified events within the Covid-19 rules (at the time), and today’s Colchester Half Marathon was also a different kind of event, but it seems like things are moving in the right direction. In a matter of months, we may be able to truly hold outdoor events (cycling, running, triathlon, etc.) like 2019 and every year before that.

Today’s race was capped at 500 participants and we started in waves. There was no grand depart, no mingling before or after, and no post-race party. Those missing elements are what make the running community so cool, so it is still sad to go without that part of the sport, but in the end, it’s about you and the course.

Colchester is normally held in late February, but it was postponed this year until Connecticut relaxed some of the rules and permitted larger outdoor events like this, as long as they were run with healthy and safety rules in place. We were happy too run. Last year, it was on 29 February and that was also a good day. We had a huge post-race party with hundreds of people crammed into the Bacon Academy cafeteria, which in hindsight, looks like it could have turned out badly. Luckily, it didn’t.

This year, we skipped the party, but kudos to the organizers for holding the race, which is an important fundraiser. In exchange for the opportunity to run, we had 11 rules to follow:

  1. Registration will be on-line only. No day of registration.
  2. Registration closes on 3/6/2021 at 9:30pm. No exceptions.
  3. The race will be waves of 30, with a max of 500 runners.
  4. Runners will be seeded based on times submitted during the registration process.
    1. Runners must run in assigned wave.
    2. Runners will be assigned waves based on their estimated finish time.
    3. Failure to run in your correct wave may lead to disqualification.
  5. Runners will be given a specific time to when to arrive to the race, to help with social distancing.
  6. When runners arrive, they will be directed to a staging area to keep with social distancing. 
    1. Runners will move to the starting area when the wave before has completely left.
  7. Race bibs will be mailed to runners on 3/8/2021.
  8. NO drafting rules. ~Similar to triathlons, i.e. runners must maintain a 6-foot separation from other runners they pass or are passed.
  9. There will be water bottles at 6.5 miles and at the finish.
  10. Participants are “strongly encouraged” to leave finish area ASAP after they finish the race. ~No congregating in groups pre- and post-race.
  11. Results will be posted on-line only. Results will be posted after the completion of the race.

The weather was pretty good. At the start, the temperature was around 33 degrees Fahrenheit with brilliant sunshine. That sun made a big difference and helped offset the wind, which was whipping. Several sections of the course are exposed to open farmland, including the last two miles (which are notoriously uphill), so the wind was a factor. Mentally, I was ready for both the wind and the hills, but it still wore me down by the end. I faltered a bit in the last three miles, as I usually do at Colchester. It is so hard to hold the fast pace that you start with because some of the early miles have a net loss in elevation.

With about 1,050 feet of gain, it’s not super-hilly, but when you are trying to run fast and steady, that undulation is an an added challenge. Colchester is also known for some lovely dirt roads. Thankfully, this year, they were dry and firm, which helped make for some fast running.

I started in the first wave at 9:00 A.M. after self-seeding in advance based on my prior finish times. I’ve done this race five times: 2020, 2015, 2010, and 2007. My realistic goal was to run 1:28, my fast goal was to run 1:26:30, and my stretch goal was to break my course personal best of 1:25:19 set 11 years ago. I came close, running 1:26:15, but likely had no chance of picking up another minute. It felt like I was 20 seconds slower than I could have been, but that is probably all I could gain if the wind wasn’t in my face and I ran a bit more during the week.

My only complaint was that some of the cars and trucks on the course lacked courtesy. It was an open course, and we knew that, but some vehicles didn’t yield and passed to close and too quickly. That’s normal for any run I do, but with several hundred people spread out on the 13.1 mile circuit with a volunteer and police presence, you would think that motorists would chill out. That wasn’t the case.

I did get a good night of sleep leading into the race, which is always nice. I felt good for a Saturday morning and loved the chilly conditions. I carried my own water (one bottle) in an UltrAspire waist belt. That was a smart decision. There was only one water stop, and they were full plastic bottles, which I intended to skip anyway. I was able to sip a little water every mile and never felt parched.

Debbie also had a good race, beating her goal time and finishing strong among the master women. We did get a chance to see some friends which was nice. The Shenipsit Striders were out in force. On the drive home, Debbie and I stopped at Hurst Farm to pick up some tasty goods. I think the best part of the day was the sunshine.

Race Results

Norwalk River Valley Trail Run & Salmon River Trail Run

Today was a trail running special edition Valentine’s Day for Debbie and me. We started the day relaxing in Prospect with the kids and Debbie’s parents, but then thinks picked up the from there. We drove to Cannondale to kick off an out and back run on the Norwalk River Valley Trail.

This is a hidden gem in Fairfield County. Eventually the trail will go for 30 miles, but the section we ran was a 5.6 miles “U.” It didn’t quite make a loop, so we turned back and repeated the route that we went out on. The trail abruptly ends at Skunk Lane in Wilton. That’s where we turned back.

The trail is a mix of road and trail. It’s hard to tell what the trail is like because it was covered in snow, but I suspect that it a mix of dirt and stone dust. The trail sections meander along the river, which is quite lovely. The road sections are a mix of busy suburban roads and nicer sections that wind through the quaint sections of Wilton. We loaded the course on our Garmin Fenix watches, and we still made a few wrong turns. The signage was sporadic.

Even still, this is a recommended trail. We chose this one because we figured that even with the snowpack, it would be runnable, and we were right. We didn’t use any traction. We enjoyed are run which took us 94.5 minutes for the 11.3 mile round trip. The route was nice and there are some scenic spots. It’s flat, so there isn’t any climbing or views, but for a nice trail close to civilization, this one is a winner.

After our Wilton adventure, we headed back towards home. The kids are spending a few days during winter break with their grandparents. We snacked in the car and scouted another trail to run. Again, we looked for a trail that we hadn’t done before that would be runable, even in the snow.

We chose the Salmon River Trail. It was an 80 minute drive from Wilton to Colchester. We did the Salmon River 5.5 Mile Run in 2007 with Shepard in the jog stroller. I recall arriving at the start late. The gun had already gone off. The race used a section of the Air Line Trail and a little bit of singletrack. So, we had been in the area, but we hadn’t done the complete “lollipop” that starts/ends at the famous Comstock Covered Bridge.

Unlike the Norwalk River Valley Trail, the Salmon River Trail is part of the Connecticut Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail system. Here is the CFPA’s Connecticut Walk Book description.

Towns: Colchester

Trail Overview: The Salmon River Trail in Colchester is within the Salmon River watershed and traverses a portion of Salmon River State Forest and loops through Day Pond State Park. Expect to see mixed hardwoods, beautiful views of the Salmon River, and an enormous glacial erratic. Day Pond State Park is wonderful for picnicking and Day Pond itself (regularly stocked with trout) is a great place for fishing and swimming. The trail’s Comstock Connector features historic Comstock Bridge, the only covered bridge in eastern Connecticut. A side trail, blazed blue/red, will take hikers to a waterfall.

Hunting is permitted in State Forests intersected by this trail. Please use caution and wear orange during hunting season. For Day Pond State Park parking info, a park map, and other park information, click here. Fore more info on Salmon River State Park, click here.

Allowed Uses: Hiking (all trails)/ Horseback riding (on yellow diamond trail only)

Partners: Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (CT DEEP)

Lee-Stuart Evans has an even better description on his website.

From Chatham Historical Society website, here is a description of the bridge:

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, The Comstock Bridge, also known as the Comstock Covered Bridge is one of the three remaining covered bridges left in the state of Connecticut – the other two being the Bulls Bridge in Kent and the West Cornwall Covered Bridge overlooking the Housatonic River in West Cornwall, Connecticut.

The course is rugged. It winds its way through Salmon River State Forest for 6.5 miles and gains nearly 1,300 feet in elevation. It’s a leg burner. There was more snow in Colchester than Wilton, so we used our Kahtoola MICROspikes and they helped. This run took just over 67 minutes and it really hurt the legs.

A second hard run with a drive in between is always a challenge, but we wanted to spend a bit more time in the woods, so it was worth the effort. We look forward to seeing this trail when it isn’t snow covered. It only took us 30 minutes to get home from where we parked near the bridge. We have a little bit of Sunday left to chill out before the work week ahead.

Monadnock (Again)

The Livingston Family went back to Monadnock, but this time, in the snow. We love this place. What can you say? Monadnock is a perfect mountain. There are no great distances to cover. It’s got an exposed rocky summit. It’s only a two hour drive from our house. It’s lovely.

We were last there on 17 June 2020. That was during our “warmup” hike to the summit and start of our five-day New England Trail End-to-End Adventure. Unfortunately, our kids couldn’t be with us on that trip. That would have been too much for them, but yesterday, they were leading the way. Back in June, it was sweltering hot in the valley, warm on the summit, and we had 360 degree views for as far as you could see.

Yesterday, we had whiteout conditions and no views, but it was every bit as exhilerating. The wind wasn’t too bad. It was manageable if you stayed warm and protected your skin. As long as you kept moving, you were fine. The kids had tackled Monadnock for the first time, back in May of 2018, when Debbie led a hike for her Cub Scout Den. I’ve been on Monadnock in winter on several prior occasions, but it had been about 20 years since my last winter sojourn.

In May of 2018 when the kids first hiked the mountain, it was a cool but sunny day, which was very different from yesterday’s conditions. This past weekend, our original goal was to go skiing/snowboarding at one of the Connecticut “mountains” but everything was booked. It’s booked next weekend too. Between the reduced capacity at resorts, and decent conditions, the demand is high, so we missed out. Debbie checked some other places in southern New England, but we have decided to lay low and not deal with quarantine rules and other requirements.

Monadnock seemed like the perfect alternative. We have made a few trips around New England in the past month, but have encountered barely any people in doing so. Yesterday, we saw about a dozen folks on the mountain in groups of two or three. It’s the perfect place to distance yourselves from others and enjoy nature.

The kids hadn’t experience a winter mountain hike, so we figured this would be good training. We took our time to educate them on the preparation and execution of a winter adventure. They led the way, and it will be interesting to see if we can keep up when we get to our 50’s. We cobbled together a collection of traction devices from our gear room including vintage Yaktra and, MICROspikes, newer EXOspikes, and various snowshoes. We have crampons, but didn’t pack them. We didn’t need the snowshoes, but carried some as backup. The trail had been “tracked in” on the easier slopes, so it was better to just attach the spikes to our boots. Above treeline and with fresh snow, it was a little harder to navigate, but we knew the route from prior trips and the occasional “white arrow” painted on a rock helped.

One person we did see, was Colin, the ranger who was stationed at the Monadnock State Park trailhead on Route 124. He collected our $15 fee and gave us some helpful tips. Kudos to him for hanging out in his little (heated) shack on Super Bowl Sunday while a bunch of winter hikers explored the slopes of the local mountain.

Minutes after we arrived in Jaffrey, it started to snow. By the time we started hiking, the snow was coming down at a steady rate. It continued to snow throughout the day. Our total elapsed time was 3.5 hours. We made it to the summit in about two hours and the walk down was quicker. On the way up, we took the Old Halfway House Trail to the White Arrow Trail. On the way down, we took the White Arrow to the Old Toll Road, which made the descent even quicker. It would have been fun to explore Monte Rosa or some other trails, but this was a quick trip and we wanted to get home before the weather got too bad.

The drive back to Connecticut took longer and we saw a few accidents, but we stayed out of trouble. Everyone was stoked from the adventure, which set us up nicely for the week ahead.

Richard H. Goodwin Trail End-to-End-to-End Run

It isn’t often that Debbie and I run a trail in Connecticut that is not a Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail, but today, we did just that. We ran what was a new trail for us, the Richard H. Goodwin Trail. We’ve been on sections before because the path links up trails from several preserves and parks, but we had never done the trail in its entirety.

The trail is part of the Eightmile River Wild & Scenic Watershed that includes parks and forests in the towns of Colchester, Salem, East Haddam, and Lyme. The 13.5 mile Richard Goodwin Trail passes through East Haddam, Lyme, Salem, and East Lyme.

Who was Richard H. Goodwin? Consult the trail map because it explains:

This trail memorializes Dr. Richard H. Goodwin, a Professor of botany and ecology at Connecticut College. He was a founding member of The Nature Conservancy, pioneering the land trust movement, and helping to conserve 10’s of millions of acres of land world-wide. Dr. Goodwin and his wife, Esther, made their home nearby in East Haddam, donating their own land in 1960 to establish the Burnham Brook Preserve. They also inspired neighbors and students to protect thousands of acres of land in this region to save our native plants and animals.

The map also describes the watershed:

The Eightmile River was designated by the United States Congress as a Wild & Scenic River in 2008. The Eightmile River Watershed is 62 square miles with 150 miles of pristine waterways. Approximately 40% of the watershed has been preserved as permanent open space and is home to 160 rare, threatened, and endangered plant and animal species. The Eightmile River empties into the Connecticut River eight miles upriver from Long Island Sound, hence its name.

The trail which was created in 2016, crosses some of my favorite roads, including Darling Road, Gungy Road, and Grassy Hill Road. I love riding my bike in that area and often do so when visiting my parents at their home in Old Lyme. Today, we started shortly after 9:00 A.M. at the western trailhead on Route 82 and ran to the kiosk at the eastern trailhead off of Moslowy Road. Then we ran back. The total distance was just under 27 miles. It’s a twisty and windy trail that was mostly made from preexisting trails. You pass through Hartman Park and Nehantic State Forest.

It is a lovely trail with lots of rocks, stream crossings, and some fun dirt roads. It was pretty easy to follow, but expect to make a wrong turn or two because of the patchwork of crossing trails that it winds through. It’s been a few weeks since we had snow, so the only obstacles (other than the roots, rocks, and leaves) was some icy spots. We had a lot of fun. It took us 4h 40m 16s for our round trip adventure. Our GPS’ show about 3,500 feet of elevation gain for the round-trip, so it is pretty flat. Miles six to nine and 19 to 21 are the fastest sections. Those dirt roads helped our average pace because its quite technical in other spots.

This was our coldest run in a while. It was only 20 degrees (Fahrenheit) at the start and there was a persistent wind that made it feel even colder. Thankfully, there were clear skies (deep blue) and brilliant sunshine. We were adequately dressed. I wasn’t as sure-footed as recent runs, and had several hard falls. The worst one came with less than two miles to go. I tripped and slammed my left quad into a rock and then drove my left shoulder into the ground. It was a stinger for sure. The worst part is a ripped my favorite tights. A word of advice: if you are ever chasing Debbie at the end of a long run, take it easy. What I mean is that if you are trying to follow her down a steep and rocky descent, you are taking a risk. I wasn’t sure if I should close my eyes or keep them open.

Even though it was chilly, we saw a lot of walkers, hikers, and cyclists. There were several families enjoying the sunshine. Everyone was courteous, including the cyclists. With two miles to go, we came across a dog and his master. Cody wouldn’t let us go and it took a while for the owner to corral him. We didn’t want to keep running because every time we moved, he chased us and they were going in the opposite direction. Eventually, we had to get moving (because we were pushing to finish) and he turned back after the 100th or so time that his master yelled, “Cody!!!!”

It was a solid effort and we were back at our car by 2:00 P.M. From there, we drove to Prospect to meet up with our kids and Debbie’s parents. We were thirsty and hungry, but Mrs. Schieffer came to the rescue with a wonderful meal. The Richard Goodwin Trail is highly recommended for walkers and runners. On some sections, it is suitable for mountain bikers and gravel riders. I’m certain we will visit again.

Finch Brook Trail Loop & Scrooge Scramble (Bolton Edition)

The Finch Brook Trail Loop is a little gem in Wolcott, Connecticut. It’s a 12 minute drive from Debbie’s parents’ house in Prospect, which makes it the perfect post-Christmas location for a run. After yesterday’s deluge, the wind blew through, and the temperature plummeted overnight.

We woke up to brilliant blue skies, lots of sunshine, but a temperature of only 25 degrees Fahrenheit. It was chilly! We took our time getting ready, had a full breakfast, and then made the short drive to the trailhead on Barbara Drive.

The Connecticut Forest & Park Association Walk Book and website have a simple description of the 2.6 mile trail (note our Garmin GPS’ registered 2.4 for each loop. We chose to run it in the counter-clockwise direction.

Towns: Wolcott

Trail Overview: The Finch Brook Trail is an easy loop trail.  The sole access point is the trailhead at the end of Barbara Drive in Wolcott.  The trail meanders through a combination of wetlands and gently rolling hills, almost completely under a forest canopy dominated by oak species and interspersed with hickory, maple, and birch.  A stretch of the central wetlands of this preserve is crossed by a lovely 125-foot-long bog bridge, affording the hiker an intimate wetlands experience.  Further to the north, the trail follows a section of the Old Finch Road, a very old woods road said to have been once walked by Abraham Lincoln.

The Finch Brook Preserve, totaling just over 64 acres, has been permanently protected by the Wolcott Land Conservation Trust.

Allowed Uses: Hiking Only

Partners: Wolcott Land Conservation Trust

I love the historical reference and the chance that I ran on the same trail/road that Abraham Lincoln explored. Lee-Stuart Evans has an expanded description on his site. You can also read about this trail on the FKT site.

Debbie ran it for the first time back in November, but I was seeing it for the first time today. We decided to do two loops with the goal of running moderately hard while scouting the trail on the first loop, and then running all-out for a negative split on the second loop. Despite yesterday’s heavy rain on top of a foot of melted snow (it is nearly gone) the trail was in good condition. Lee-Stuart warned about doing this trail the day after a heavy rain. However the overnight freeze helped firm things up and there were only a few squishy spots.

There were also a few slippery spots, lots of leaves, some blowdowns, loose sticks, and some rocky sections, but we were still able to blast it. We met our goals and were back at the Schieffer’s house by noon. That meant we could join family for a nice big lunch.

I felt pretty good despite doing a hard effort yesterday. For the first time in 16 years, the Christmas Day Scrooge Scramble 5K in Rockville was cancelled. We had done the race 14 times since 2004, so it was only fitting that we recreated our own version at 10:30 A.M. in our Bolton neighborhood. Scrooge benefits the Cornerstone Foundation soup kitchen/shelter in Rockville, which is an important institution/nonprofit to support. The race organizers established a virtual version and you can do that to help raise funds, or you can just send a direct donation. To make it even easier for you to donate, here is the link too their site.

Debbie mapped out a 5K route through town on some of our regular roads. She put the invitation out to the Shenipsit Striders, and despite the rain, we got three runners to join the four of us. Catherine Koehler, Christopher Duffy, and Todd Brown (nemesis) ran with the four of us. The kids tried to come up with a good name. One suggestion was Rudolph’s Rampage. Another was Bolton Blitzen. I’ve taken to calling it the Scrooge Scramble (Bolton Edition). We hope and expect to be back in Rockville for the real race on Christmas morning in 2021.

Debbie and I also did two loops yesterday with the first one being a warmup and the second one being a hard effort. So, we may not have run long in the last 24 hours, but we did run hard, and it was fun.

Flashback: 2007 Death Race/Pittsfield Peaks Ultra Challenge

I tuned into this week’s episode of the Rich Roll Podcast featuring Joe De Sena. I listen to my podcasts through Apple’s app on my iPhone and this was a good one. Joe is a husband, father, accomplished endurance athlete, entrepreneur, businessman, and the founder of Spartan. You can listen to the podcast and you can find a ton of other info about Joe on the Internet, so I won’t be recounting his story.


Part of his life philosophy, approach to fitness/wellness, and business resonates with me. I don’t agree with everything he espouses, and I have my own approach, so I don’t need to adopt his style. However I did enjoy the podcast and I recommend that others dig into Joe’s story because aspects of it are motivational.

The point of this post is that the podcast brought back some great memories. Joe and Spartan are credited with playing major roles in the explosion of obstacle course racing as a worldwide participation sport. Spartan’s origin story is nuanced, but an important chapter is the 2007 Pittsfield Peaks Ultra and the inaugural Death Race. Both were first held on 09 June 2007. My blog was young in 2007 and my posts were simple. I was just getting warmed up. I wrote about the 55-mile ultra but didn’t really mention the Death Race.

The last line of my brief post was, “Others have covered the race and I’ll follow up with more detail in the future.”

Today is the future, it’s Thursday, and perfect for a throwback. I had only a handful of images from the event. Life was super-busy at the time (it hasn’t slowed down yet) and I never wrote the extended post that I promised. I did cover the 2008 edition when Debbie returned and the Death Race continued its evolution. This was also a brief post.

I mentioned the Death Race again in 2009 with a dedicated post after reading about the race in The New York Times. By then, the Death Race had really blown up and was getting international attention. It all started back in 2007 and it’s cool that Debbie, Shepard, and I were there to see it.

I think the Pittsfield Peaks Ultra (Peak Ultra) and its various incarnations remain some of Debbie’s toughest and favorite trail races. She won that first edition, besting two amazing runners (Kate Pallardy and Mary Fagan Churchill), earning a hammer as one of her best ever trophies. She finished third overall behind Leigh Schmitt and Courtenay Guertin. She also beat the equally amazing David Goggins who we met for the first time at that event. He inspired me then and he inspires me now. Speaking of Rich Roll, the most listened to and impactful (my opinion) RRP episode (#266) of all time, featured David. That one is also worth checking out.

In 2008, Debbie finished second to the amazing Nikki Kimball. In addition to 2007 and 2008, she returned to do (and win) the race in 2014, and I wrote about it again. The Death Race finally got a little coverage in my story and I posted some good photos.

2014 was also the year that there was a 500-mile version of the ultra, which had evolved from 2007 and was getting tougher and tougher. Debbie “only” did the 55 (or so) mile division. Later in 2014, she went on to do her only ever Spartan, completing the Beast at Killington.

I always thought that the Death Race would have suited me. I’m not even going to describe it, but assume it is difficult. You can listen to Joe talk about it, you can Google it, etc. Many others have chronicled their experiences. Joe has several books. Even at that first edition in 2007, I thought that I should have done it, but I literally had my hands full. That day, top alpine skier Doug Lewis took the Death Race honors. I wish I had the full results.

I was fully committed to crewing for Debbie as she was coming back from her pregnancy year of 2006. I was looking after 10-month old Shepard and that was my primary responsibility. Over the years, I remained an observer of the Death Race. Hearing Joe talk about it this week with Rich Roll made me smile. That June day in 2007 turned out to be a pretty significant date for a lot of folks. It made an impact on me, and many others.

Paugussett Trail End-to-End-to-End

Today Debbie and I ran the Paugussett Trail out and back. We went south to north and back again. We had spectacular weather for mid-December. It was nearly 60 degrees Fahrenheit with lovely sunshine, which was quite a change from yesterday’s gloomy conditions.

We picked the better day for a half-day adventure. Our kids stayed with Debbie’s parents in Prospect, so we were able to drive to Shelton for a mid-morning start. If you read Lee-Stuart Evans’ overview, you might be scared away. I didn’t think it was half as bad as his description. I actually like it. Sure, you are never far from civilization, and you pass through many neighborhoods, but it was kind of neat.

I guess you could be sad about the fact that this trail was probably a bit more rural in the old days. Many of the houses were new, so I guess we are fortunate that the trail is still accessible. It likely crosses a lot of private property.

The Connecticut Forest & Park Association’s official description from the website and Connecticut Walk Book is more basic:

Towns: Monroe, Shelton

Trail Overview: The Paugussett Trail meanders along Boys Halfway River, through Webb Mountain Park and Indian Well State Park, with occasional views of Lake Zoar and the Stevenson Dam along the way. Parts of this trail are challenging, with steep slopes and the occasional rock scramble or boulder climb. Keep a lookout for long abandoned mill foundations and the entrance to an old silver mine. Numerous side trails in Webb Mountain Park, Indian Well State Park, and the Shelton Lakes Greenway connect with the Paugussett Trail to offer loop opportunities. Camping is allowed at Webb Mountain Park. 

Thanks to the work of the Shelton Conservation Commission and Trails Committee, the Paugussett Trail has been restored south to Buddington Road on a corridor of land that was gradually acquired over time. Constructed by the Shelton volunteers the new trail route from Indian Well State Park to Buddington Road restores an historic trail connection in the City. The trail also provides a critical link to the Shelton Lakes Greenway offering extensive recreational opportunities.

For parking info, hours, park map and amenities at Indian Well State Park, click here.

Allowed Uses: Hiking Only

Partners:  Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (CT DEEP)Shelton Land Conservation TrustShelton Trails Committee

Consult the FKT site for additional info. Our GPS’ registered 13 miles each direction for a total of 26 miles with about 5,000 feet of elevation gain. The trail is mostly singletrack with some old roads, power lines, and a little bit of asphalt. There are several rugged sections with rocky scrambles. It is quite undulating and there is a lot of hillside off-camber running. The leaves were plentiful, wet, and slippery after yesterday’s rain.

Debbie and I were both feeling good. We got to the turnaround in 2h 34m 43s and finished in 5h 18m 17s, so we were a bit slower in the second half. We thought we were on track for a negative split, but unfortunately it didn’t work out. We had a lot of fun. This trail is definitely worth checking out.

We rewarded ourselves for burning nearly 3,000 calories by going to Claire’s Corner Copia in New Haven. I hadn’t been there since last year. I tried to go in June on my way back from a business trip to Long Island, but it was closed for renovation. When I called, Claire answered the phone herself. Founded in 1975, this amazing establishment is celebrating its 45th year. We sat at one of the tables that was crafted by our friends at City Bench.

Our New Haven walk was good for stretching the legs. After our late lunch, we visited Prospect to pick up our kids and help Debbie’s parents set up their Christmas Tree. With more snow in the forecast, outdoor (road) cycling looks a little questionable for this week and possibly the rest of the year. Let’s see how it goes. We can still run on snowy trails, but it might make a more FKT attempts difficult. There is always 2021.


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@trailrunningmom scorched the final 10 miles. I made the 90 minute drive back to the finish and then ran out to meet her with six or so to go. We hammered the final rocky descent and then accelerated on the infernal five miles of dirt road that led to the finish. Time was about 27h54m @bighorn100 @bighorntrailrun #bighorn100 #shenipsitstriders #teamhorstsports @ultraspire #ultraspire #trailrunning #ultrarunning
@trailrunningmom is in the homestretch. She is on the last 17 mile segment coming down from the Dry Fork Ridge Aid Station. She came through around 9:15 A.M. after another grueling climb. It’s blazing hot. @bighorn100 @bighorntrailrun #bighorn100 shenipsitstriders #teamhorstsports @ultraspire #ultraspire #trailrunning #ultrarunning
66 miles down as of 3:15 A.M or so. Second trip over Sally’s Footbridge. This time after 18 miles mostly downhill (all in the dark). I’ll see her at one more aid station. She perked up a bit and is on the last big climb now. She says her “quads are not working.” @bighorn100 @bighorntrailrun #bighorn100
In and out of Jaws Trailhead Aid Station at 8,800 feet @bighorn100 @bighorntrailrun #bighorn100 Nearly 5,000 feet of vert in 18 miles of relentless climbing was not @trailrunningmom ‘s jam. She suffered and slowed but she got moving again at the 48 mile mark. Long night ahead and now she is running the same 18 miles back DOWN the mountain. #shenipsitstriders #teamhorstsports @ultraspire #ultraspire #trailrunning #ultrarunning
The good news is that @trailrunningmom was flying coming into Sally’s Footbridge Aid Station at 30 miles and some big descending. The bad news is I missed her after a three hour drive. It’s now a three hour drive back to the next AS. I feel terrible but a wrong turn was costly. You would think this was my first crew job! AS volunteers said she looked good and was running near the front. @bighorn100 @bighorntrailrun @shenipsitstriders #shenipsitstriders #teamhorstsports @ultraspire #ultraspire #trailrunning #ultrarunning #bighorn100
I saw @trailrunningmom at the Dry Fork Ridge Aid Station at 13.4 miles. She had a little under 4,000 feet of climbing to get to this AS at 7,480 feet. She was running in third but it is so early. As you can see, she was smiling. The scenery for crews is amazing. For runners it is even better. @bighorn100 @bighorntrailrun #bighorn100 #shenipsitstriders #teamhorstsports @ultraspire #ultraspire #trailrunning #ultrarunning
Start of the @bighorn100 @bighorntrailrun in #Wyoming @trailrunningmom is ready to rock it. About 300 runners started at 9:10 A.M. Depending on connectivity I’ll update every 4-6 hours. It’s remote! @shenipsitstriders #shenipsitstriders #teamhorstsports @ultraspire #ultraspire #trailrunning #ultrarunning
@trailrunningmom pulled the plug at #RunRagged Last Person Standing Race after 23 hours/laps and 71 miles. Five intrepid runners were still going when we departed. She is happy with her distance and was pleased to stop before the rain returned. Congrats to all who ran and kudos to the volunteers from the #cttrailmixers @bighorntrailrun is less than a month away and it’s her A race. She wanted to stay within her limits this weekend. Thanks to @laurab_312 for being on our crew. @shenipsitstriders #shenipsitstriders #teamhorstsports #trailrunning #ultrarunning @ultraspire #ultraspire
I arrived at the #cttrailmixers #RunRagged Last Person Standing Race in time to see the end of lap 11 and start of lap 12. Judging the quality of the field, this could easily go to Monday or Even Tuesday. The rugged 5K loop is running 40-55 minutes/lap with some moisture and mud for added challenge. @trailrunningmom says she feels good but it’s early. They started at 8:00 A.M. this morning. It’s been in the mid-40’s F and raining on and off all day. ☔️

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