Today, Debbie completed the MadAthlete Emerald Necklace 3-Day Stage Race in Andover, New Hampshire. This 80 mile trail running race included all of the 75 mile Sunapee-Ragged-Kearsage-Greenway (aka Emerald Necklace) hiking trail in the Lake Sunapee region of central New Hampshire.
The 80 mile loop course was split into three stages with each stage starting at 7:00 A.M. There was about 13,000 feet of elevation gain and 13,000 feet of elevation loss over the course. The mix of rugged mountain trails, dirt roads, asphalt roads, and rail trail made for a nice mix of terrain. Three major peaks were summited: Ragged Mountain Mount Kearsage, and Mount Sunapee.
- Stage 1, Friday, 25 miles
- Stage 2, Saturday, 24 miles
- Stage 3, Sunday, 32 miles
This was the second year for the race. The SKRG trail is “blazed,” but the markings were a challenge in 2014. This year, they were better, but the format of this race calls for runners to care maps with them and do a bit of navigating. There weren’t a lot of added course markings. 14 one page maps and descriptions were provided and pre-race meetings the night before each stage covered the details. Debbie thrives on this sort of race. Her first multi-day race was last month’s Speedgoat Mountain Races, though she has done several multi-day adventure races in the past.
About 43 runners started the event on Friday. Some did it as two person teams, but most did it solo. Debbie will write her own blog post and likely describe more of the logistics. This was a challenging format to follow, but a very fun format. There wasn’t as much opportunity to crew as traditional ultras, but the race organizers had lots of support. I didn’t arrive with our kids until Saturday mid-day. Debbie had already completed the 25 mile stage on Friday.
We got there just in time and saw her finish the 24 mile stage 2. We had a blast hanging out at the finish yesterday, which was at the Sunapee Middle High School. The school also served as a base camp, where starting on Thursday night, the runners slept in their tents set-up on the Little League field. Runners were required to camp at the venue after each stage. The runners were also required to carry a pack and other mandatory gear.
On Friday morning, they drove their cars to the start on Friday, for stage 1, which was also the finish for stage 3. They were bused back to the base camp after the finish of State 1. On Saturday, they were taken by bus to the start and then finished at the school where their tents were set-up. Today, they started at the base camp and ran to the finish at Potter Place Railroad Station.
This race had a real community atmosphere. It was a small field, which was probably the result of a lack of marketing, the entry fee ($400), and the three-day format requiring at least one day off from work. Our home in Connecticut is 2.5 hours from the SRKG, so Debbie as able to leave on Thursday afternoon and get there in time for the first meeting. I got help from both sets of grandparents to watch our kids on Friday.
I collected them on Saturday morning, spent a little time at work, and then drove up to catch Debbie. As I mentioned, we were fortunate to catch her. Stage 2 turned out to be her toughest day. She won the first stage in 5:54:56 and was 5th overall. I don’t have much detail on the race because I wasn’t there. I know that she had about an eight minute gap to Allyson Koenig. I also know that it rained most of the day on Friday. Ally got the better of Debbie on stage 2, but only by 23 seconds. They were together for quite some time, but Ally pulled ahead in the last mile. Debbie finished in 5:19:49. She ran out of water with three miles to go and faded in the mid-day heat. The weather was much warmer and dry on Saturday. She admitted that not having the proper hydration was a mistake, but it didn’t cost her badly.
Our longtime family friend, Marjorie, joined us at the finish. There were some fun things to do for family members. At the finish of stage 2, there were “kiddie pools” and a dunk tank, which drew a crowd. Marjorie and her husband, Len, moved from Connecticut to New Hampshire several years ago, and they were happy to host us. We were happy to stay with them. The kids and I stayed at their home and Debbie joined us for some afternoon fun on Little Lake Sunapee. I brought her back to the school for the meeting (it was 10 minutes away), then back to the house for dinner, and then back to the school for bedtime. We got to visit our friend’s farm, the Bucklin Farm, which is historic. The farm has not been a “working farm” for years, so it will be interesting to watch its transformation.
Today, the 32 mile stage passed very close to the house. The weather was fine. It was mixed sun and clouds, with a cooler temperature compared to yesterday. I attempted to catch her at Aid Station 1 (11 mile mark), but missed her by eight minutes. She was ahead of schedule. I was able to see her at Aid Station 2 (19 mile mark) and walked with her for a little ways before returning to the house to pack up our gear and grab the kids.
We got to the finish at Potter Place in time to have some fun and hang out. The old train depot was a neat venue for the race. We were surprised and thrilled to be joined by Debbie’s coach, Al Lyman, and his friend Terry. We love spending time with them. We were last at a big race together in May at the Miwok 100K. There was a caboose right at the finish line, which made for great scenery. The kids had a blast playing on and around the tracks.
The last two miles of the race were on the unpaved rail trail that passes through the depot. It may have actually stopped there, but I didn’t notice. Debbie finished strongly in 6:29:38. Her total time for the three stages was 17:44:23, which was faster than last year’s first woman. She felt great today. When I saw her at mile 19, she was pumped to be feeling so good and she picked it up a notch in the last 13 miles. She loved the trails. She got to run with a variety of guys over the three days.
Ally finished the final stage with Kristie Clark, who was third on stages 1 and 2. Ally ended up 2nd overall and Kristie was third. I didn’t get the last names of all the men, but will update their results when posted online.
The race directors, Tom Flummerfelt (who recently set the FKT on the SRKG) and Mike Sarnowski, got strong support from a cadre of volunteers. The post-race spread after each stage was high quality with lots of options for the runners. The aid stations were also well stocked. Proceeds from the race benefitted the Chad Denning Memorial Fund. Chat was a friend and fellow endurance athlete. Along with Tom, he was a co-founder of the event, and tragically died in 2014 after the inaugural race. This year’s event was held in his honor.
Runners got some nice gear prizes. Debbie got some nice items and a cool trophy platter with the map of the course. While I was watching and taking photos, I was wishing I was out there running. It looked like a fun event. One of the only downers was that we had two cars and both had to drive home. That wasn’t as bad for me, but for Debbie, after three days of running, I’m sure she wasn’t happy to drive herself. Regardless, we ended another great weekend in the mountains.