2009 Breakneck Trail Race

“I once was lost, but now am found.” So go the lyrics to the song. After six tries, I finally finished the 20 kilometer Breakneck Trail Race without getting lost or injured. The first time I did the race, I ended up (after DNF’ing) at the emergency department of Rockville General Hospital with eight stitches in a severely damaged knee that grew to the size of a pumpkin. That was the year that I renamed the race Breakknee. The next four times, I ended up hopelessly lost in the woods, on a course, that is notorious for claiming directionally challenged victims. The sixth time, today, was a charm. One reason why I stayed on course: Race Director Karl Molitoris took the unprecedented step (he was under pressure) to mark the course. It was the 13th time that Karl has put on Breakneck at Bigelow Hollow State Park, in Union, Connecticut, and one of the only times that he has used ribbons to mark the way.

These guys were all lost in 2008.

In past years, this race has been run under spartan conditions with no course markings (other than the hard to see blazes on the trees), no aid, and no numbers. Today, we had no aid and no numbers, but there were lots of blue ribbons; if you are a believer, they must have been sent from heaven. The competition came down to who was fastest, though some folks still got lost. If you are one of those folks who somehow wandered off trail, my sympathies are with you. I can’t see how you did it, but I still feel for you. The race started with many of us in a somber mood. RD Karl made a passionate speech at the start line. He reflected on 13 years of Breakneck, before launching into a rant against the State of Connection Department of Environmental Protection. The DEP manages the state park system and they are suffering a budget crunch like never before. Thus, one of the reactions, at the behest of our governor and our state legislature, has been to jack up the fees charged to park users. In addition to the fees, there are more rules, more restrictions, less indemnity, and contracts with more legalese.

Race Director Karl Molitoris

Karl said that he had enough and that this year would be the last year that he is the race director of Breakneck. It is always sad to witness the demise of a good race, but he said that after 13 good years, he was done. I immediately started worrying about the Soapstone Mountain Trail race and all of the other events that depend on the support of the state park system. Time will tell if the State’s new approach will hurt the trail running scene. One thing that is for sure, is that the runners appreciate what Karl and all of the other race directors do. They don’t get thanked enough. After the finish, I filled in Debbie. She missed the speech, but got the gist of it. She is going to start planning for Soapstone soon and let’s hope that the new rules can be dealt with.

2008 and 2009 Grand Tree Champ's Amy Lane and Deb Livingston.

As for today’s race, I was thrilled to take nearly 17 minutes off of my personal best time. Part of that was staying on course, but I was also on. I felt great, despite still feeling stiffness from last Sunday’s 50km race in my legs. I took the counterclockwise option (you choose which way that you want to circumnavigate Breakneck Pond) again this year and used part of the old dirt road in an effort to make up ground. I only twisted my perpetually damaged right ankle once, and I only fell once. My fall was more of a cart-wheel, but I still got nicked up. I also slammed my shin into a log during the extremely wet beaver dam bog traverse. I’ve missed the traverse the past few years (note my comments about getting lost), but this year, I nailed it. It saves a few seconds, but it gets your feet very wet. I passed a woman on the return leg who was inquiring as to whether or not she had to go back through the bog to return to the finish. Poor girl, she was whimpering. I said, “Yeah, of course.”

Amy Lane carved up her hand.

The wet section of trail on the west side of the pond was thigh deep (for me) thanks to last night’s heavy rain. I would have paid to seen “Miss I don’t want to go through the Beaver Bog again’s” reaction to that watering hole! All of the trails were wet and slippery, but they were still very runable. Most of the runners that I saw took the counterclockwise direction too. I think it saves a minute or two and it is preferable to me, though I’ve gone both ways in the past. The overcast and muggy weather cleared by the end of the race and the warm sun made the post-race festivities so much more fun. Everyone lounged around the finish, enjoying the spectacular feast that Karl, his Mom, and the other volunteers had prepared for us.

The Shenipsit Striders had a strong contingent.

First place went to Brian Rusiecki in 1:41:08, who was fresh off his Vermont 50 Mile Run win and apparently not feeling much ill effects after last week’s muddy epic. He was cautious about staying on trail, so he didn’t trounce the rest of us by the usual margin. I had an all time Grand Tree Series personal best second place finish in 1:47:51. Stanislav Trufanov was third in 1:48:58. For women, Amy Lane continued her Grand Tree Series dominance, winning in 2:08:31, despite a beaver dam bog injury to her hand that looked like she had been attacked by a slasher. Second place went to Grace Jensen in a fine 2:14:21. Third place was Michelle Hammond in 2:17:14. Click here for full results.

These runners had a blast.

Judging from the smiles, everyone was enjoying themselves during the first trail race of October. It look like 75 people came out for the race, which is around 25 more than normal. We saw a lot of friends and got to introduce them to our daughter for the first time. Some folks expected to see Debbie running on the trails. She is feeling good, but it is still too soon. This morning, she reminded me that she has the rest of her life to run. She did get in a good hike with one kid on the front and one kid on the back, so clearly, she isn’t slacking. We both love Bigelow Hollow. I think it is the jewel of the Connecticut State Park system. It is the one park that makes me feel like I am in Vermont or New Hampshire. The trails are as rugged as anything in the north country and the forest is thick.

Professor Doug Casa ran his own experiment.

The season is winding down. Next week is the classic finale of the WMAC Trilogy, Monroe/Dunbar Brook. I hope to keep the good forming rolling right through fall. I had considered a fall Ironman, but I’m not that fit. I’m also not getting the rest that I would need, thanks to the new addition to our family. Work has also been very demanding, so a second IM will have to wait until 2010. I’m going to have to think of a new challenge to get me through winter. In the meantime, I’ll do a few more trail races and then I will break out the cyclocross bike for some short but intense efforts.

Running in style!!!

As a note, we stopped off at the Coventry Regional Farmers’ Market on the way home from the race. It was Squashtober Fest. We made one loop of the market before it closed and scored some fresh salad fixin’s. It was the right way to conclude a fine October weekend.

Breakneck Race Results

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