2018 Soapstone Mountain Trail Races

After 34 Soapstone Mountain Trail Races, 20 of which Debbie has run and/or directed; and of which, at least 10, that I’ve blogged about…I’m thinking of something interesting or provocative to write that wouldn’t be redundant.

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I guess the best thing I can come up with is that my eight-year-old daughter, affectionately known as Little D, had to use the potty (yep, #2) for the entire length of the 6 kilometer Jerry Stage Sampler. I knew this because we discussed her, or rather our, options; and I think the feat of the race was that she insisted she could “hold it” to the finish. And she did. However, it made her miserable, (and slow) and it pained me to watch.

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If any runner has suffered a similar intestinal malady, then you know. This is not something that can be described. Only the shared experience of doubling over as you inch your way towards the finish, or your destination, is enough to comprehend what she went through. The gift certificates and cow bells (our new unique age group awards) may have went to others, but she gets my “run of the day” award.

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“I don’t have to go,” she declared before the race, which is typical of her morning regimen. This sounds like one of our ordinary every day conversations, but this time it had consequences, and she paid the price. She vowed to not make the same mistake next race. Time will tell whether or not her prognostication holds true.

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Hopefully, none of the other 207 finishers shared her misfortune. From the looks on the faces of those finishing the 24 kilometer main event, they were suffering, but it wasn’t from bowel problems. It was the new, longer course; the humidity, and the muddy trails that took their toll on the legs (and bodies) of these runners.

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For the first time in several years, the 24 kilometer course had significant changes. Last year, the Shenipsit Striders noticed that a landowner whose property the course traversed, was posting “No Trespassing” prior to the race. We set a plan to reroute the course so that it would avoid the controversial property.

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This meant that we had to introduce a longer (more true to the stated distance) route that had a short overlapping section, more hills, and more singletrack. It also allowed us to make the first 5 kilometers (or so) of the course, the same as the “Sampler.” One of the key features of the Sampler has always been the infamous “sandpit.”

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This meant that all runners got to do the sandpit with its 45% gradient and loose footing. One improvement for next year is that we will increase the time between the two race starts. 10 minutes didn’t prove to be enough, as the front-runners in the 6K caught up to the back of the packers in the 24K. Still, everyone appeared to enjoy the challenge of the sandpit whether it was their first time or not.

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Last year, the Sampler was renamed to honor the late Jerry Stage, the only other Race Director that Soapstone has ever had. Debbie was Jerry’s understudy for several years, and she gradually assumed more duties, eventually taking over the race from him around 2003.

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She ran her first Soapstone in 1999, the same year that we met, and she has been a devoted trail runner ever since. In addition to succeeding Jerry as Race Director, she inherited the club presidency from him too, and with the help of others, revived the Shenipsit Striders to welcome a new family friendly generation of trail runners.

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Debbie kept the Soapstone gig, but passed the leadership of the club to John Agosto. John led the club for several years and then was succeeded by David Merkt. This new version of NipMuck Dave (the younger), is still the dedicated Race Director of the NipMuck Trail Marathon, having taken over from the original, NipMuck Dave Raczkowski.

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Dave subsequently passed the torch of the presidency to Emma Palmacci, who is doing a fantastic job leading our club. Yesterday, she was at the finish line congratulating all of the runners.

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Truthfully, Soapstone, like all Shenipsit Striders races, has always been a team effort, and this year, our beloved running club supported her more than ever. It is not a secret that she is in the early stages of a succession planning process to ensure that this legendary race continues long into the future. Only its sister race, the aforementioned NipMuck (currently at 35 years and counting), has more seniority amongst New England trail running races.

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In addition to all of our club mates, thanks goes to race sponsors who offered varying levels of support: Horst Engineering, Tailwind Nutrition, Rein’s Deli, Bevin Brother’s Manufacturing Co., HAE Now, and Nature’s Grocer.

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There were many volunteers, especially our fellow Shenipsit Striders, and some stalwarts from the Northern Connecticut Land Trust. In recent years, proceeds from the race have benefitted the land trust, the Reddington Rock Riding Club, and the Connecticut Forest & Park Association (CFPA).

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This was race number two in the 2018 Connecticut Blue-Blazed Trail Running Series.

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The race saw many top performances. Check out the results link for details. Tim Van Orden was the first male finisher of the 24K. Bonnie Lathrop was the first woman. First place overall in the 6K was Mary Johnson, which is pretty cool.

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Once again, we held the kids race and had some eager participants. Like our kids, many of them are sure to graduate to the Sampler as they gain the stamina and confidence to run longer distances.

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Our son, Shepard, was 5th in the 6K. He was only 33 seconds off the pace of his uncle, Steve Simko, (my sister’s husband), which is a gap he should close by 2019. If it wasn’t for a wrong turn, he may have closed that gap this year. Steve actually thought Shep was in front of him because he didn’t see him go the wrong way. While Shep and Steve were waging their battle up front, I was at the back, with Dahlia, enduring her “epic” struggle.

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I can’t imagine a year when we aren’t at Soapstone, but that day is bound to come. It won’t be in 2019, as Debbie accelerates the succession plan, but some day, maybe. In the meantime, we will continue to thrive off of the community that we have built.

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The feedback has been mostly positive. There were some wrong turns. There were bumps. There were bruises. There were a lot of muddy shoes. I even saw some muddy faces, but that mud wasn’t hiding the smiles. They shown through.

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If you love your trail running, then show up for race number three in the Blue-Blazed Trail Running Series, the Goodwin Forest Trail Runs on 03 June. Goodwin also happens to be race number four in the New England Grand Tree Trail Running Series.

Lastly, registration is almost full for the Livingston Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run Adventure at REI in West Hartford this Thursday the 24th of May, which will recount  Debbie’s amazing run in the San Juan Mountains.

Race Results

Race Photos (SmugMug Gallery)

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My daughter chose the hair piece, so I proved to her that I do have a sense of humor. #selfportrait
Great fun at today’s @minutemanrdclub #Cyclocross in Lancaster, MA. @horstcycling #horstcycling #teamhorstsports #teamhorstjuniorsquad @zanksscx @the_ccap
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I got to sample the fun activities at Boy Scouts @troop25ct Camp Kirkham. I slept under the amazing stars. We had a full agenda of geocaching, archery, cooking, disc golf, and paddling. I even squeezed in a run to the top of Silver Mountain where I had a 360 degree view. #boyscouts
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It’s easy to love the infamous water (muck) crossing at the Trails to a Cure (Cockaponset Trail Race). We felt like sea monsters! I can’t believe how out of breath I was after fetching my camera at the finish and running the 1/4 mile back to catch @trailrunningmom and Shepard make their crossings. Either hey are getting faster or I am getting slower! Maybe more swim-run is in our future. 🏊🏽‍♀️🏃🏽‍♀️ #shenipsitstriders #teamhorstsports #teamhorstjuniorsquad #blueblazedtrail #trailrunning
Good fun kicking off the 2019 #cyclocross season at the #QuadCross It was also the launch of the 2019 @zanksscx which is my prime CX objective. #crossisboss @horstcycling #horstcycling #teamhorstsports #teamhorstjuniorsquad #crossspikes #sevencycles

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