2018 Traprock 50K (and 17K)

We had glorious weather for yesterday’s Traprock 50K at Penwood State Park in Simsbury, Connecticut. After a spring with less than stellar weather, yesterday was a welcome respite. I’m wrapping this post up on Sunday morning, and I’ve already been out for a bike ride. The temperature is back in the low-30’s (Fahrenheit), the wind is whipping, and snow is in the forecast. So, was Saturday’s awesome weather an anomaly? The temperature was warm, the deep blue sky was cloudless, and brilliant sunshine shined through the still leafless trees. We want more of that.

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Our family hadn’t been to Traprock since 2014, a rare four year layoff from a race we love. Debbie first did this one back in 2010 when it was founded by friends Kevin Hutt and Steve Nelson. Kevin remains the Race Director, and he has a good team of volunteers to assist him.

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The Shenipsit Striders have always helped, whether it be directly or indirectly. Today, our club had a sizable turnout for both the three lap 50K (more like 33 miles) and one lap 17K (more like 11 miles).

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The hilly course got some modifications since we last ran it. Now, it has more singletrack, more hills, and it’s a bit longer. There is about 6,500 feet of elevation gain and 6,500 feet of loss. The changes mean that the course is quite a bit slower than it used to be, but it is still very runnable. This is the second year since the course was modified, and it was the first time running this version. for Debbie.

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We saw so many friends today. I think the sunshine drew them out. Some even came south from snowy New Hampshire. Great weather has a healing effect as evidenced by the shorts, short sleeves, and smiles.

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Traprock kicked off the 2018 Connecticut Blue-Blazed Trail Running Series.

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It was a long day for the kids and me. Dahlia helped out at the finish line aid station, and had a lot of fun sharing stories with her fellow volunteers. Shepard brought his mountain bike and explored the park. I took a lot of pictures.

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Debbie didn’t need a whole lot of support, but we remained near the finish line to cheer her on during each of her laps. A few times, I walked up the Metacomet Trail to get a better vantage point.

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After a while, Charles Merlis joined me and we had a fun conversation about running, acting (another one of his passions), and life. Earlier in the day, Charlie had run a 5K race in Avon, and came out to Penwood to cheer on his son Josh, and Josh’s girlfriend Michelle Pratt. Charles always makes me smile. He is a member of the Run 169 Towns Society, joined Debbie for her 40th birthday run, and is a regular at Shenipsit Striders races. It’s hard to miss Charlie. He is usually shirtless, wearing a tutu, and wearing wings.

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It was nice to chat with friends new and old. Kevin’s Dad, Ernie Hutt, was the official starter. He got a nice ovation at the start, and revealed a surprise, that Kevin’s Mom was going to run the race. It was a joke, and he made everyone laugh.

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Brian Rusiecki took the win in 4:58:25. He was pretty toasted at the finish and took a few minutes to relax before he returned to chat about the race. He said that on his third and final lap, he was hot. I’m sure everyone was hot. The race claimed quite a few victims and the DNF rate was high. There were 68 finishers with the last person finishing in 9:54:43. That’s a long day on the trail! Brian was followed by Koby Nelson and Brandon Baker, but with a 16 minute difference between first and second, he was never seriously threatened.

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The women’s race was much tighter. Coming into the end of lap two, the aforementioned Michelle Pratt had a narrow lead over past winners  Kristina Folcik, and Stacey Clark. Kristina left the aid station first, but Michelle and Stacey were within a minute of her, but she extended her lead on the first major climb, and the gap grew from there.

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All three of them were running strongly, but things sorted themselves out over the last 11 miles, and Kristina took the win in 5:48:16. Michelle finished in 6:02:35. Stacey was only four minutes behind her, and looked strong despite the heat. Debbie had a decent race, finishing in 6:52:27. This was her second 2018 ultra, after last month’s Mt. Tammany 10 in Delaware Water Gap.

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Kevin and the Traprock crew have been strong supporters of the Connecticut Forest & Park Association, with a history of generous contributions to CFPA and other conservation organizations. CFPA is the nonprofit that created and maintains Connecticut’s 825+ mile Blue-Blazed Hiking Trails system, including the New England Trail, of which the Metacomet Trail is a key piece.

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Traprock lowered their fees for 2018, with entry only $35, a relative bargain in the fast-growing ultra segment of the running world. It was no frills with three adequately stocked aid stations, post-race pizza (including the vegan variety), and no swag. Nearly 300 runners registered for the sold-out event.

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Next up in the Blue-Blazed Trail Running Series is the Soapstone Mountain Trail Race on Sunday 20 May. This will be Debbie’s 15th year as Soapstone’s Race Director. It is also a great value, so if any Traprockers want to experience a race that is another great value ($25 pre-registration for the 24 kilometer long course and $12 for the 6 kilometer short course Jerry Stage “Sampler”), join us in Somers. The post-race feast features food from Rein’s Deli, and “cooking” by my mother-in-law, Barbara. How can you beat that?

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Soapstone isn’t an ultra, but it is one of the legendary New England trail races. This is year number 34 for the event, a stalwart in the New England Grand Tree Trail Running Series. Only the NipMuck Trail Marathon (which turns 35 in October) is older, and still continuously running.

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The Shenipsit Striders also promote NipMuck, and this year, to honor the 35th, there will be a 35 mile version of this classic. Sadly, this year, NipMuck conflicts with the Vermont 50 Mile Ride & Run, which is prone to happen every six years or so.

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I won’t lie. I’m partial to east coast trail running, and particularly biased to the northeast, and New England where we have the most challenging terrain in the country. Yes, I said I was a fan.

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We have a great community, great races, and awesome trails. The season just got started, and it’s already been memorable.

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Race Results

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