Today was the 31st annual Soapstone Mountain Trail Race. The joy that Soapstone brings never fades. After 16 years total and 12 or so with Debbie as the Race Director, you would think that the race would be tiresome. There is no question that it is a lot of work, and that it impacts our household during the weeks leading up to the race, but we love it so much. We have met so many people through our involvement in the event. We miss many of the names from the past, but we enjoy meeting new people.
Thankfully, our Shenipsit Striders running club is going strong after more than 35 years. We still have some original members in the club, but it is the new members that are important to keeping both the club and the races, including Soapstone and also the NipMuck Trail Marathon, growing. The course is part of what makes the race so special. 138 runners finished the 22 kilometer race and 70 runners finished the 6 kilometer Soapstone Sampler.
We had summer weather after several weeks of warmer than usual temperatures, so the trail was dry. Unlike the past few editions, there was little mud to be found. It was dusty and the heat made it challenging for the runners. After such a long and harsh winter, many of them looked like they were melting in the sun.
There were a few minor injuries, including the usual falls resulting in cuts and bruises; but no one was seriously hurt. There were also a few cases of dehydration. Notably, the overall leader through aid station three (the last one) was left debilitated by his case of dehydration and he did not finish. That left the door open for Samuel Jurek, to take the win in 1:51:00. He was followed by super master runner, Brett Stoeffler, in 1:52:45. Brett is 20 years senior to Sam, and he was hot on his heels. That brought a smile to my face. The first woman, Kehr Davis, had an awesome result, finishing third overall in 2:00:25. Stanislav Trufanov was the third men’s finisher. Kehr, was followed by Stacia Broderick in 2:21:33 and third was Peggy Horgan.
I ran the Sampler with our son, Shepard. He wanted the company and I’m taking it easy, though I still managed to take a hard file after tweaking my ankle. Oh well. If you don’t fall, it isn’t trail running. Our son had a great time, particularly at the quarry/sand pit, where the dry conditions forced the runners to scramble hand over fist up the loose slope. We had a some folks lose their way and go off trail, but by the afternoon, everyone (in both races) was accounted for.
The first finisher in the age/gender graded (handicap start) Sampler was AJ Fournier. He was followed by Jason Dominick and then by last year’s winner, Luke Stoeffler. This is a very family friendly race. We made it that way years ago and we have kept it that way. The evidence is right here in the results with both Stoeffler’s (father and son) on the podium of their respective events. Brett’s Dad, Dick, was standing at the top of the sand pit taking photographs. I gave him a big hug and apologized for beating him in the Sampler in 2003. I’ve always felt guilty about catching him in this Dipsea Trail Race inspired event that was the brainchild of longtime Soapstone Race Director, the late Jerry Stage. Dick told me, “I’m over it,” which made me feel a whole lot better!’
Further evidence of the family friendly environment is our kid’s race. About 20 little ones lined up and ran either a 1/2 mile or full mile loop that included single track, rocks, roots, and a fair amount of horse “poop.” It was exciting to watch and as our son put it, the course was “rugged.” Nothing like a little challenge to introduce the next generation to the thrill of New England trail running.
The core of Shenipsit Strider volunteers, and also many friends, pulled together to help Debbie with the production. Special thanks go to Dominic Wilson who is Debbie’s right hand man. He helped her mark the course yesterday and stayed with us until the last of the items were packed away in our van and we had returned the Reddington Rock Riding Club to its pre-race status. It is also important to thank Barbara Schieffer and Joe King, who have manned the cook shed for years. They are responsible for serving the post-race vegetarian feast. Barbara, my mother-in-law, does a ton of work in support of Debbie. There were about 30 volunteers total, between the three aid stations and the start/finish area. Thankfully, we don’t have to worry as much about timing nowadays. That was handled by Jerry Turk and Kerry Arsenault at RAT Race Timing.
Soapstone was the third race in this year’s Connecticut Blue-Blazed Trail Running Series and the fifth race in this year’s New England Grand Tree Trail Running Series. Historically, Soapstone has benefited the Connecticut Forest & Park Association and supported the wonder work done by CFPA’s trail volunteers. The next race in both series is on 07 June at the Goodwin Forest Trail Run. Soapstone is also the first race in the Blue Dot Trail Race Trilogy, which is the invention of NipMuck Dave Raczkowski, the longtime Race Director of the NipMuck Trail Marathon. Goodwin is the second race and Southern Nipmuck is the third. There is no shortage of great trail races in New England.
We had everything packed up by 3:00 P.M. It will take a few weeks to clean up all the gear and organize everything in our basement, but it won’t be long and we will be making plans for the 32nd edition of the Soapstone Mountain Trail Race.