2021 Monroe Dunbar Brook Trail Race

Today’s Monroe Dunbar Brook Trail Race brought back amazing memories for Debbie and me. The schedule worked out that we were able to make the drive to the Berkshires for this classic Western Massachusetts Athletic Club (WMAC) event.

I was a little sad to see how few people participated. The WMAC trail races have shrunk considerably over the last 10 years. The club doesn’t do much marketing, hasn’t embraced social media, and has struggled to develop a new generation of volunteers/members. We hadn’t been at the race since 2017 and we were happy to return. I remain appreciated of all the work of the WMAC volunteers and their passion for trail running is unmatched. They have been hosting races for a long time. Back in the early 2000’s, the Grand Tree Trail Running Series was hugely popular and the runners were fast. Take a look at some of those early results. The fields were stacked with talent.

Debbie and I have been affiliated with WMAC for more than 20 year. She ran her first Monroe Trail Race on 10 October 1999. Thats’s 22 years ago to the day. My first time at Monroe was a year later on 08 October 2000. It must have been a Leap Year.

This event used to be part of the WMAC Trilogy, which was made of the Greylock Trail Race (June), the now defunct Savoy Trail Race (August), and Monroe Dunbar Book (October). 1999 was Debbie’s first year of trail running. Of course, we met a week earlier at the 1999 Vermont 50 and hadn’t had our first date, so I didn’t know about Monroe. However, a year later, in 2000, I made the trip as her boyfriend and ran the 2-mile “sampler,” while she was out running the 10.5-mile race.

I’ve done both the short and long courses for a total of seven times. I bet she has done the race between 10 and 15 times. We would have to go through all of the records to find out. In 1999, the VT50 was the first Sunday in October. The race eventually shifted to the last Sunday in September, so there is now a two week gap between the VT50 and Monroe. After that first trip to Dunbar Brook and the Deerfield River, I fell in love with the area. The roads, dirt roads, trails, and views are amazing. In a normal year, the foliage is spectacular. This year, it was even better.

The original plan was for today to be a family trip. Well, it was still family trip, but minus one. Shepard remained home after being out all day yesterday and running the Wickham Park Invitational. Even though tomorrow is a holiday (no school), Bolton House School Coach Paul Smith traditionally holds the hardest workout of the year on the Monday following Wickham as he builds his athletes towards a peak. Shepard has a bit of dread coming off a big block of training and racing, so we let him chill today rather than dragging him along to join me on a bike ride while Debbie and Dahlia ran.

We got up around 7:00 A.M. and made the two-hour drive which included the section of Route 2 from Greenfield to Monroe. This is known as the Mohawk Trail. You pass by Zoar Gap on River Rd. and make your way along the Deerfield River until you get to the race start near Dunbar Brook. The Deerfield is very popular with paddlers (kayakers and rafters).

Even though it was a small turnout, it was great to see some old friends. Of course, Todd Brown was there. He is running the Boston Marathon tomorrow, so he only did the three-miler. That was nice because Dahlia was able to ride with him. Runners in the the short race carpool to the start by getting rides with race volunteers because it is a point-to-point course. It’s actually the last three miles of the 10.5 mile race. Many of the WMAC volunteers that we saw this morning were there when Debbie ran her first Monroe in 1999.

Debbie said her goal was to run under 1 hour and 45 minutes and she met her goal, coming in just under that target. Her best time is around 1 hour and 33 minutes. It’s the third fastest female time behind Kehr Davis and Nikki Kimball. Come to think of it, Kelsey Allen has also smashed that course and could have the fastest time. I’ll have to check. Debbie set that time when she was 28 years-old. She was 24 when she ran her first Monroe and will be 47 in January. She ran 1 hour and 35 minutes in 1999, so to lose only 10 minutes in 22 years isn’t bad.

Dahlia was the first “woman” in her race (4th overall) and got a pint glass to commemorate the achievement. She said there was some “shoe sucking” mud on the course. She also said the trail along Dunbar Brook was very pretty. She had fun and was rewarded with snacks and a Coca-Cola, which isn’t her normal fare.

While they were running, I did the River Road/Zoar Gap loop on mixed surface. I first did a version of this loop with Debbie in May 2016. It includes the vicious road climb up from the dam in Monroe. The descent back towards River Rd. is on dirt and it is super-sketchy. Back when we first did it, I used an old cyclocross bike with cantilever brakes. Today, I had my Seven Evergreen XX with disc brakes. I used my 650B wheels with 42c file tread tires. It was a great ride and the foliage was awesome. The loop was about 18 miles and it took me 90 minutes. I was back in time to hang out with Dahlia and then we both saw Debbie finish.

On our way home, we stopped for a late lunch at Pulse Cafe in Hadley. It was quality time in the Berkshire and quality time spent with Little D.

1999 Race Results

2000 Race Results

2021 Race Results (will be posted when available)

3 Responses to “2021 Monroe Dunbar Brook Trail Race”

  1. 1 benkimball1 11 October 2021 at 7:00 pm

    Awesome ride route!!! emailed you some more pics, btw (via FB Messenger)

  1. 1 Ultramarathon Daily News | Tue, Oct 12 - Ultrarunnerpodcast.com Trackback on 12 October 2021 at 8:15 am
  2. 2 Ultramarathon Daily News | Tue, Oct 12 - Yeovil Marathon Trackback on 12 October 2021 at 8:57 am

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Thursday’s NCCC Cross Country Championships at Bolton High School were pretty awesome. I love seeing kids run…fast! #crosscountry #xc #running #trailrunning
@_alexmd_mtb and I represented #teamhorstsports at the Keene #PumpkinCross in NH. It was a good day to test @horstcycling #crossspikes #cyclocross #crossisboss #teamhorstjuniorsquad @the_ccap
They let me drive!!!!
I did my 19th @vermont50 in the last 23 years. I’ve been to 21 of them and one was canceled (2020). It was great to be back. I’m pretty sure that the only race I’ve done more times is the @manchesterroadrace with 30 total. @horstcycling #horstcycling #teamhorstsports #shenipsitstriders #mountainbiking #mountainbike #trailrunning #ultrarunning
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