Shenipsit Trail End-to-End Run

Lately, many of my trail adventures have been with Debbie. That wasn’t always the case. In the past, many of her races, and particularly the ultra distance events, were solo affairs for her. She was the runner and I was the crew.

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Over the years, and on many occasions, our children joined me on the crew. When they were young, it wasn’t easy for both of us to compete at the same time, so I was on “Daddy Duty” too, but a weekend with the kids can’t be compared with ALL week with the kids.  If you have crewed at an ultra, then you know that there is a lot of downtime. The moments of quietude are interspersed with bursts of activity when your runner arrives at an aid station. Crew chiefs are good at managing logistics. I love that role and look forward to playing it again. Debbie has done more than 100 ultras and I crewed most of them.

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Yesterday, she ran the Shenipsit Trail End-to-End with our friend Laura Lindquist Becker, and the experience brought back many of the good vibes from ultras past. There was no crew as this was a self-supported effort by the two of them, but that didn’t stop us from helping out with some of the other logistics and showing up at the end to cheer their finish.

Debbie and I met Laura last year when she joined the Shenipsit Striders. She helped out at the NipMuck Trail Marathon and then ran half of the Shenipsit Trail End-to-End the weekend after Thanksgiving.

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The two of them have been running together ever since. At some point, they hatched a plan to do the entire trail as an FKT attempt. Debbie knows the trail like the back of her hand, and she took Laura out several times in recent months to scout different sections. A few weeks ago, they ran the top half north to south. Yesterday, they did the whole thing south to north. I actually think it was Debbie’s first time doing the whole trail at once. It cuts right through our hometown of Bolton and we are on it all the time, so it is probably the most special trail for us.

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The Connecticut Forest & Park Association Walk Book description is excellent:

Towns: Portland, East Hampton, Glastonbury, Manchester, Bolton, Vernon, Tolland, Ellington, Somers, Stafford 

Trail Overview: The Shenipsit Trail system extends from the Cobalt area of East Hampton north to just shy of the Massachusetts border in West Stafford. The trail traverses the Meshomasic and Shenipsit State Forests on trails that are primarily woodland paths and offer several outstanding views. The Shenipsit also connects to the trail systems in Gay City State Park in Hebron, Case Mountain Recreation Area in Manchester, and Valley Falls Park in Vernon. Points of interest along the Shenipsit Trail include spectacular views of Great Hill Pond and the Connecticut River, excellent views of Hartford from the summit of Case Mountain, a junction with the Hop River Rail Trail in Bolton, scenic sections on the banks of the Tankerhoosen River in the Belding and Tankerhoosen Wildlife Management Areas in Vernon, and excellent views to the west, north, and southwest from the fire tower on Soapstone Mountain in Somers. The trail also crosses conservation lands protected by the Kongscut Land Trust and the Manchester Land Trust.

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Given our 20 years association with the Shenipsit Striders, this trail has a lot of meaning. Debbie has been part of Striders leadership for a long time and was Race Director of the Soapstone Mountain Trail Race which uses sections of the trail. Laura is a very strong endurance athlete with a multi-sport background, but she is relatively new to trail running. She and Debbie make a good team.

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They started in Cobalt at the southern terminus of the trail on Gadpouch Road around 6:13 A.M. Their effort was self-supported which means no outside aid, and no accompaniment outside of your team. You can read about FKT definitions and guidelines at this link.  I provided more background in a post from last month. They left a car in Bolton Notch with extra food and water. The commuter lot is about 30 miles into the 50 mile total distance. It’s a trail, so these numbers are approximate. They reached the Notch around 11:15 A.M.

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Shepard was at Case Mountain riding with friends from the Team HORST Junior Squad. His teammate Sean was doing 6,288 feet of climbing for his CCAP Breakaway Benefit Ride, and he (and Alexandra) joined him for 30 miles. Of course, the Shenipsit Trail goes through Case. They didn’t end up seeing each other, but Laura and Debbie saw many other Shenipsit Striders friends throughout the day.

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Dahlia and I were hanging out at home to start the day. We took a walk and watched Launch America on YouTube. Then, around 9:00 A.M., I rode to Lake Terramuggus for a swim. I stopped at Case on the way, but only bumped into Junior Squad coach Tim Rourke. He is Sean’s dad. After my swim, I continued south to Cobalt to fetch the car. I returned home to have a snack with Dahlia and pack the car. Then we went to Case to pick up Shep. During this entire time, Laura and Debbie were making their way north.

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The kids and I drove to the northern terminus on Greaves Road in Stafford. They ate lunch onto way. When we got there, we hiked the trail south for two miles before turning back. Our timing was perfect as Laura and Debbie arrived when we were about 1/4 mile from the end. It was about 4:40 P.M. We cheered them loudly as they sprinted to the finish in just over 10 hours and 27 minutes. Laura’s husband, Steve Becker, was on Old Stafford Road and it was great to meet him and have him join the celebration.

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The kids and I have spent hours in the woods waiting for Debbie to arrive. With ultra races cancelled, this felt good. There was a lot less downtime as we got to do our own thing on a Sunday and then show up for the best part at the end. Congratulations to Debbie and Laura for their great run on a classic trail.

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5 Responses to “Shenipsit Trail End-to-End Run”

  1. 1 Marc Woodard 1 June 2020 at 10:24 am

    Thank you Life Adventures for your post. I’m sharing this on our FB Group page Ageless MirrorAthlete… a fit healthy lifestyle change group. For those who want to learn more about ultra running and the logistics involved. If you’d like to join and share directly, I know our members would appreciate reading about your adventures and learning from you.

  1. 1 Full Report: New England Trail End-to-End Adventure | Life Adventures Trackback on 27 June 2020 at 8:12 pm
  2. 2 Appalachian Trail (a Connecticut Story) | Life Adventures Trackback on 19 July 2020 at 12:09 pm
  3. 3 Shenipsit Trail Duathlon | Life Adventures Trackback on 23 August 2020 at 8:28 am
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