The Bluff 50K

The Bimbler’s Running Club hosted the first ever Bluff 50K trail running race in Guilford, Connecticut today. Race Director, Mr. Bimble (aka Jerry Turk) hosted a very good event. He had more than 30 volunteers, including many runners, who pitched in to pull off one of Connecticut’s only ultra-marathon distance races. There was definitely a hole in the schedule prior to this race. The longest CT event other than The Bluff 50K is the Nipmuck Trail Marathon.

You can see from my GPS data that we got a little extra mileage for our entry fee. My GPS battery died with just under two miles to go, and it already read 33.8 miles. So, at nearly 36 miles +/-, it was longer than the billed 31. I doubt they “wheeled” the course with all the rocks and roots, twists and turns, but it sure felt longer than 50K. My legs felt every painful inch after 31 miles. Truthfully, I was hurting after 16 and was dead by 25, but got second and third winds. Somehow, I managed to finish with some momentum.

The course took many runners by surprise. It was a lot tougher than they expected. Mr. Bimble had been hinting that we were in for a treat. Despite being a Long Island Sound shoreline community, Guilford has a northern section that is basically mountainous. At least it is Connecticut’s version of mountainous. We got a chance to run on some really cool trails on property that is normally off limits. We also tested our legs on two of Connecticut’s best Blue Blazed Hiking Trails. The Mattabesett Trail and the Lone Pine Trail are two “blue”  toughies.

The lollipop shaped course (Mr. Bimble prefers to describe it as a tennis racket) had a relatively mild out and back “stick” on logging roads with a nasty “pop” section over some hilly, rocky, and rooted terrain. We had a wicked storm in Connecticut last night with high winds and heavy rain. You could hear the pitter-patter of rain on the roof with the occasional “bang,” as a branch fell from the wind whipped trees. After midnight, the wind died down as a high pressure system moved in. We awoke to lots of leaves on the wet ground, and brilliant blue skies.

The leaves made the course very challenging. Footing was difficult and it was hard to see the rocks and roots under the slippery wet leaves. The trail system in Guilford is extensive, which added to the challenge. Factor in the bright sunlight and it was a navigators nightmare. We all got lost…even Debbie, and that is rare. Some folks got so lost that they DNF’d because they ended up back on the “pop” section of the course rather than returning on the “stick.” Bob Sharkey was a victim of this mistake. Personally, I was significantly off course at least five times. It had to have cost me 10-15 minutes and a lot of extra running, not to mention anxiety.

The course markings could have been better, but they weren’t bad. Unfortunately, they ran out of the pink and black ribbon and had to work in some orange, blue, and white. That was a bummer and lent to the confusion. Also, there were various blazes on the trees for each of the trail networks. The blazes became a distraction because you should have focused just on the ribbons. Believe me, marking a 31 mile course is no easy task. Some of the ribbons had been blown down or up into the leaves because of the storm. Also, it seemed as if the markings on the “stick” had been put up with only one direction of running in mind. That made the return leg even harder to navigate. It really was a bunch of things that conspired to make the course very hard to follow. There were some lessons learned, but in the end, it was a trail race and navigating the course is a key element of the sport. No whining. 

The men’s winner was Chris Schulten in 4:37:24. Debbie won the women’s race in 5:50:27. With a somewhat miraculous performance, I beat her for 6th overall in 5:47:??. She was just under three minutes back in 7th overall. My usual “hare” strategy paid off. I ran the dirt roads really fast for the first 11 miles or so, made up more time on the uphills, blew up, then hung on for dear life. I walked a lot in the last 10 miles, but kept working in some stretches of running. Amazingly, I stayed in front of her. This is a big Livingston Household victory for me, but I shouldn’t gloat. My legs are shot and she is ready to run another 16 miles tomorrow. I’ll pay the price for pushing through the pain. I heard from both Bob Sharkey and Jeff Waldron that she was chasing me like a heat seeking missile. They had both run the final miles with her and were apparently hanging on for dear life as she chased me.

Alas, she came up short. When she finished, I was already lying down with my legs propped up against a picnic table in a fruitless attempt to drain some lactic acid. Despite coming out on top, I’m still pumped for her. She met one of her 2008 goals today by winning her fourth ultra distance event.

I hadn’t run this long since doing the Six Foot Track (Trail) Marathon in Katoomba, NSW, Australia, back in March. I beat her on that day too! The Bluff 50K was an excellent race. They also had two person “Gazelle” and “Goat” relay division. This added to the day’s fun. I assure you that it will feel really good to put my head on my pillow tonight.

The Bluff 50K Results

4 Responses to “The Bluff 50K”

  1. 1 mrbimble 27 October 2008 at 7:59 am

    Hi Scott, thanks for the comments about the Bluff. The race was intended to be challenging and to fill a gap for in CT where there are few opportunities for ultra events. Navigation did seem to be a problem for some on the day and you’re right that there certainly are lessons to be noted for next year (October 25th, if you interested!). One correction though in you description of the markings. We only used two colors, pink/black and orange. The orange was used on just once section from aid station 3 to Rockland which is about two miles. The rest of the course was pink/black. As I mentioned as the pre-race briefing striped tape was used specifically because other tapes would be noticed that have been left by other people. Was the distance really that far over 50k? It was been measured by several different runners (including yesterday) at 32.5, but maybe they didn’t get lost as much as you seem to have done! 🙂 Also, the technical nature of the course does make the route feel a little longer than you think simply because of the effort expended. Congratulations to Debbie on her victory and hope we’ll see you both back next year.

  2. 2 SL 27 October 2008 at 7:45 pm

    Mr. Bimble’s comment is greatly appreciated. There is no question that I added a fair amount of unnecessary and extra mileage. I was lost a lot. I have to admit that I was late to the pre-race meeting and got some race instructions second hand. That is a major no no. I learned my lesson for the future. Still, it is hard to ignore flagging when you see it, even if it is from the logging company, hiking club, or some other organization not associated with the race. Live and learn. Vive Le Bluff 50K!

  3. 3 labrah 28 October 2008 at 9:30 am

    I had a great time at the 50k, which was my first attempt at this distance. Needless to say, I didn’t finish due to a variety of reasons.. mostly that I lost my endurolytes on the trail and became dehydrated. The trail was challenging with the rocks and the leaves, but mostly keeping my eyes peeled for markers proved to be the most difficult part. Fortunately I only missed one turn.

    Kudos to Jerry for putting all this together I appreciate the huge undertaking this must have been. He was probably more tired than any of us… I will look forward to next year and that one I will finish. Thanks for a great day.

  1. 1 Bluff 50K Aftermath-Why Drive When You Can Run? « Life Adventures Trackback on 27 October 2008 at 8:07 pm

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