2011 Soapstone Mountain Trail Races

It was wet! Really wet! Wow, it was quite a day in Stafford Springs, Connecticut at the 2011 Soapstone Mountain Trail Races. Debbie and I are proud of the show that the Shenipsit Striders put on for a group of great runners. We made it through the 27th edition with no major injuries, a lot of muddy shoes, and many smiles. Debbie has been the Race Director for nearly 10 years now, since taking over from the long-time RD, Jerry Stage. She and Jerry co-directed for several years and she has been solo in recent years, but has the support of a great running club.

Rain had been forecast all week and Mother Nature didn’t disappoint. The start of the race was dry, but about 75 minutes in, the skies opened up, and boy did it rain. It came down in torrents, turning the trail into a stream. It would have been painful to start a race in those conditions, but with everyone on the course, it became a puddle stomping adventure.

Debbie gave me the green light to run today and I had a lot of fun. I got my best Soapstone time, with a 1:55:36 in horrible conditions, so I’m pretty pleased with my 8th place. Jim Johnson repeated last year’s victory and absolutely crushed the course in 1:36:30. He was basically uncontested, though several talented runners gave chase. It is hard to believe that he ran three minutes faster because last year’s race was run in perfectly dry conditions and he had spectacular post-Boston Marathon (2:30:00) form. This year, he came into the race a rough DNF at Boston, so maybe he was more rested. The ever consistent, Ross Krause, was second in 1:49:27 and Tim Cote was third in 1:49:28. Both took a little wrong turn at the end, but it wasn’t a big deal. They held off the charging field but were minutes behind Johnson, who must have floated over the puddles.

First woman was Annie Wyman in 2:29:14, who was followed closed by Jenny Richard in 2:29:40, and Patty Duffy in 2:30:57. There were 162 finishers in the 24km long course race. There were a few DNF’s and a few others who didn’t complete the whole course (wrong turns). Additionally, a handful of pre-registered runners didn’t show up. They must have seen the weather forecast. They are the ones who missed out. After the race, it would have been nice to hang out in bright sunshine, but the rain delivered a challenge that most enjoyed. The spectators were a little waterlogged, but they braved the elements too.

The biggest thanks goes out to all of the volunteers. The Shenipsit Striders, the Northern Connecticut Land Trust, and the Connecticut Forest & Park Association all contributed people to the cause. All of the volunteers were great and special thanks goes out to the aid station volunteers and course marshals who stood in the pouring rain for hours. Putting on a race like this is a lot of work, but it is impossible without the help that Debbie gets. Part of the profits from the race are donated to the NCLT and CFPA, two organizations that take land conservation and trail maintenance seriously. The club also had the support of many other friends, including: the Reddington Rock Riding Club, the Stafford Lions Club, the CT Region 3 Amateur Radio Emergency Services, and Horst Engineering.

There were only two serious glitches: We had a late start because safety comes first and the Lion’s Club timers needed to verify who didn’t show. The volunteer’s access to aid station 2 was blocked by a locked gate. The Shenipsit Striders were issued a master-key for forest gates and this one didn’t work. Apparently, a landowner had put his own lock on the gate and it was formidable. The bolt cutters didn’t scratch it, so the volunteers hiked to the aid station with the water.

Sadly, the Shenipsit State Forest trails are in rough shape. Years of use (hikers, runners, mountain bikers, etc.) and abuse (ORV’s and logging) have done serious damage. I hadn’t run the race since 2007, so it was shocking to see how the trails had changed. I had a strong race, but I did fade a bit in the second half. I was hanging tough behind Brett Stoeffler for quite a while, but he eventually distanced me and gained six minutes, so I know I can go faster. When the rain got heavy and the footing got worse, I slowed a bit. No excuses, we all had to run in the same conditions. The folks that were out there for three, four, and five hours had even more time to slosh around.

The 6 kilometer Soapstone Sampler drew 72 runners. They stayed dry because they were done before the rain came down. 69 year-old Hal Bennett won the age graded race for the second year in a row, which is pretty cool. His adjusted time was 22:52. He was followed by 52 year-old Ned Kennedy in 24:55, and 16 year-old Kyle Hall in 25:49.

I’m sure there will be a 28th edition of the Soapstone Mountain Trail Races, and I guess the planning starts tomorrow as we get feedback from this year’s race. The Shenipsit Striders get a short reprieve from race promotion before the buildup to the Soapstone Assault in July and then the NipMuck Trail Marathon in October. We had a lot of water left over that we can save for the future races. Apparently, the runners weren’t in a drinking mood. They (including me) had enough water on the trails.

24km Race Results

6km Race Results

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