Archive for the 'Environment' Category

Metacomet – Timberlin Loop

Today, Debbie and I did our final Traprock 50K tune-up by running the Metacomet – Timberlin Loop. Traprock is next Saturday and we both feel ready. Metacomet – Timberlin is a cool route that includes some of the most gnarly sections of the Metacomet Trail. The loop ends up being 15.3 miles with about 2,400 feet of elevation gain.

We were last on this section in June 2020 for our New England Trail End-to-End Adventure. Today’s conditions were warm and dry, but not as dry as last summer. There were a few muddy spots, but we were able to navigate them without soaking our feet. When we covered this section of trail last year, we were three days into the trip and exhausted.

I remember how awful I felt going up Castle Craig in Hubbard Park. Last year we recovered a bit, eating some dinner near the top of East Peak. After dinner, we called our kids to catch up. Then, things got worse as we descended to the Merimere Reservoir. It wasn’t long before I had successive meltdowns. Anyway, this story is about today’s run. You can refer back to the NET link above if you want to read about all of last year’s drama.

Today, we were running on fresh legs, and it made a world of difference. This is a route first laid out by Stefan Rodriguez, who came out to see us on our NET Adventure. This is one of his “neighborhood” trails. We decided to start the loop on Edgewood Road in Berlin.

That way, we started with the bulk of the climbing. That also allowed us to get the section of the Metacomet with the worst footing (traprock) behind us in the first half of the loop. The second half of the route was much faster. Once we got to Orchard Road in Meriden, we were able to pick up the pace.

Most of the Metacomet Loop Trail (Red/Blue) was winding but fast with good footing. We blasted the last 1.5 miles when we got back to Edgewood Road. This route was a lot of fun and we accomplished our goal of getting in a fast trail run without destroying our legs.

I stayed on my feet the entire time, but Debbie had one hard fall just before getting to the reservoir. She said she caught her foot on a rock and she smashed both knees into the ground. Other than some close calls, that was the only mishap.

We made a few wrong turns, but that’s normal. We noticed one section of the Metacomet around the 7th mile had been rerouted since we were on it last year. Instead of doubletrack, that section was now all single track. It had fresh markings and was easier to follow, so I liked it better.

We stuck together today, but given that this route is a good distance for me, I would like to try it again and see how much faster I could go solo. The challenge with redo’s is that I always prefer to try a new trail that I’ve never done before. That’s the beauty of trail running in Connecticut. We have so many options. After the run, we went back to Debbie’s parents house for a wonderful early supper. Thumbs up for this run.

2021 Hoppin’ Hodges 5K

The Hoppin’ Hodges 5K was back after a one year layoff during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. This Easter Sunday tradition is a family favorite in our household. This year’s edition had a new venue…well sort of.

The race was still held on the Hop River Linear Park (rail trail) but instead of being on the Vernon section, it was on the Andover section farther to the east.

I’m not exactly sure why the venue was moved, but all the normal rules are changed in coronavirus times. The new start/finish did provide for increased parking, and at a private business (Benjamin Franklin Plumbing of Andover). The start/finish line was in their parking lot. From the start, the race went up Lake Road for 100 feet and then onto the rail trail. We ran west, through the covered bridge to a halfway turnaround point, and then back.

Once again Plattsys Timing donated their timing services. They do the same on Christmas Day at the Scrooge Scramble, another event race directed by the remarkable duo of Janit Romayko and Mary Lou White. They get help from a dedicated group of volunteers and we love doing their down-home events that benefit local organizations. .

There were 123 finishers in today’s race and there was no cost, other than a recommended donation to benefit the Friends of Valley Falls, a worthy nonprofit. Valley Falls Park is my hometown park (I grew up in Vernon) and is one of our favorite places to visit. Valley Falls also borders the rail trail and in normal years, the race goes from Vernon Depot to Valley Falls and back.

This was my fifth Hoppin’ since 2011. We live on the rail trail, so it is also a tradition to ride to/from the race. Today it was chilly, but we enjoyed the ride and it doubled as our warmup. They literally waited for us to arrive before starting just past 8:30 A.M. Chip timing makes it simple while mass start events are on hold. We lined up, socially distanced, around the building and then started at 10 second intervals.

Dahlia was our family standout. She beat her 5K personal best goal of 26 minutes. Shepard also had a good run and I kept him in site. he finished third overall (19:10) behind a couple of speedsters. The winner was William Sanders (15:45) who may own every Strava segment on the rail trail. Last year I think he laid down a sub-three hour 50K on this same track. Will is very fast. He was followed by Nicholas Migani (16:52).

Among the women, Sybil Sanders (part of the dynamically fast duo) was first (19:30) just a smidge behind Shepard. She was followed by Jaclyn Sullivan (21:41) and then Hunter Ralston (22:32). Debbie five seconds behind Hunter. A special shout out to Art Byram who did his third Hoppin’ Hodges 50K. You read that right. He started at 1:59 A.M. and finished his 31 mile effort with the 3.1 mile race. That’s cool.

One of the best parts of this holiday race is that we saw a lot of other friends too. After a cool down on our feet, we rode back home as the sun was starting to warm up the day. I had some Divine Treasures Chocolates waiting for me, which was a nice treat.

Happy Easter!

Race Results

Taconic Rim Run

Yesterday’s Taconic Rim Run was truly spectacular. Debbie and I were both in need of a big adventure and as she put it (regarding me) to “exorcise the demons.” To use a computer analogy, a big day in the mountains is my preferred method of hard drive (brain) defragmentation.

The Taconic’s did the job. We hadn’t been up that way since Thanksgiving Weekend 2020 when we took our kids on a trip up Mt. Frissell. Debbie was last on Bear Mt. in July of 2020 when she ran the Appalachian Trail (AT) from the New York/Connecticut border to the Connecticut/Massachusetts border. I crewed her on that adventure.

Amazingly, neither of us had been on the section of the AT just north of the Massachusetts border. So yesterday we trekked to the southwestern Berkshires for a little run. Shepard had his first Scouts overnight campout (much needed) since the start of the pandemic, so we dropped him off at Camp Johnson in Bolton early on Saturday morning. Then we drove Dahlia to Mémère  and Papa’s (my parents) for an overnight visit, also the first since the start of the pandemic.

After the morning logistics, we made it to Catamount Ski Area in Hillsdale, New York, by 11:30 A.M. The South Taconic Trail descends from the ski hill and crosses Route 23 just over the state-line on the Massachusetts side. That was the end of this particular FKT (Fastest Known Time) Route. We locked our bicycles to a tree. Then we drove the 3.5 miles to the the Appalachian Trail trailhead on Jug End Road/Guilder Hollow Road in South Egremont.

The Taconic Rim route makes a big “U” and we chose to run it counter-clockwise starting in Massachusetts, looping south into Connecticut, then back north through New York and then returning to Massachusetts. In the past it has also been referred to as the “Tri-State U.” It crests some amazing peaks and has miles of rugged ridge running. You ascend Mt. Bushnell, Mt. Everett, Mt. Brace, Bear Mt., Mt. Frissell, Alander Mt., and Catamount (Ski Area). There are additional descriptions of the route on the FKT site.

Ben Nephew has the fastest time, set in 2017. At a little more than five hours, the mark is scorching fast. The beauty of an FKT attempt is you choose the day and the conditions. There is no perfect time, especially when running something at the ultra distance. You simply have to deal with the conditions on that day. For us, we had awesome running weather with the air temperature in the high 40’s and low 50’s (Fahrenheit). The challenge for us was the remaining ice and snow. It was worse on the north facing slopes and in the deep hollow of Sage’s Ravine. The descent off of Catamount was also marked by snow (the deep man-made base layer remained). Other rocks were just wet. Mercifully, neither of us fell during the run. We had several close calls, and a fall would have been bloody horribly. I’m glad we stayed on our feet.

The trails were generally in good shape with some loose sticks and dead leaves adding to the challenge. However the biggest challenge was the rocks, of which there were many. I got over 63,000 steps, which was about 3,000 more than Debbie. I have a longer strider, but not when descending. My studder-steps pounded my legs, and particularly my quadriceps. I was strong running south on the AT. The views from the ridge were unbelievably good and we can’t wait to take the kids there for a hike. There were sheer drops to the east side that had to have been 1,000 feet down.

I hung tough through Sage’s Ravine, where there was no way to keep your feet dry. We had to ford the stream, which was rushing with cold water. The falls were lovely. I stayed strong going up Bear Mt., but coming down the southern rocky side was rough, and Debbie ripped that section. I did all I could to keep up. We stayed on Old Bear Mountain Road until we reached Mt. Washington Road as the Bog Trail through the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Northwest Camp was blocked off. The trails were really wet in this section. They were also very wet at the start of the climb up Mt. Frissell. That’s where Debbie was hurting a bit. It is no secret that I’m stronger on the ups and she is better on the downs.

I really started to struggle around the 18 mile mark, on the big descent down from the summit of Brace Mt. That was the most “runable” portion of the route and the hard downhill beat me up. Debbie was cruising. My stomach wasn’t great and the jostling made it feel worse. Things improved on the brutal climb up Alander, but in a cruel sort of way. It was only a mile but it took more than 23 minutes. It stepped a bit at the top with a few false summits and a lot of granite slab scrambling.

It was the long rocky descent off Alander where I really cracked. At the 18 mile mark near the summit, you hit 2,300 feet and then gradually descend and climb intermittently for a mile before a massive plunge downward to the 21 mile mark where you hit the low point on the route at 800 feet. My legs were toast. This marked the start of the Cedar Brook Trail, which was beautiful. Over the next two miles, we gradually climbed back up to 2,000 feet as we made our way towards Catamount.

I’m sure that Debbie could have run 20 minutes faster, but I slowed us down. Over the final three miles of undulation, I did OK, but then suffered again on the huge final descent down the ski hill. The footing was awful and my stride was about six inches long. It kind of sucked. She encouraged me and we stopped the clock at 7 hours, 3 minutes, and 11 seconds. I really wanted to break the seven hour mark, but we came up short. A few wrong turns, the snow/ice, and wet trails slowed us, but as noted, there are no excuses when running an FKT.

All our gear worked great. We both ran in Altra Lone Peak 4.5’s shoes and Injinji socks. I’m disappointed in the durability of my pair, but they felt good. Debbie used her UltrAspire Zygos 3.0 pack and I used an UltraSpire Momentum. My lungs were strong, but my breathing was labored throughout the day. We covered 27 miles and more than 7,800 feet of elevation gain. Though it was the elevation loss that killed me! Quad pain aside, the route and trails were challenging and amazing. We were thankful for the blue sky and bright sunshine. The wind was light. The trails were filled with smiling hikers. We didn’t see any other runners, and everyone we came across was courteous. There were some tight spots and the trampers always yielded for us.

Our timing was perfect. We finished just before sunset at 7:00 P.M. We unlocked our bikes, swapped shoes, added a layer, and rode the mostly downhill 3.5 miles back to the car at the AT trailhead as the full moon was rising. The ride was chilly but felt like a victory lap.It took about two hours to drive home with a 9:00 P.M. pit stop at Chipotle in Canton to refuel. This was a good adventure.

2021 Colchester Half Marathon

It felt good to pin on a bib number and compete for the first time in a long time. In 2020 we were able to squeeze in a few modified events within the Covid-19 rules (at the time), and today’s Colchester Half Marathon was also a different kind of event, but it seems like things are moving in the right direction. In a matter of months, we may be able to truly hold outdoor events (cycling, running, triathlon, etc.) like 2019 and every year before that.

Today’s race was capped at 500 participants and we started in waves. There was no grand depart, no mingling before or after, and no post-race party. Those missing elements are what make the running community so cool, so it is still sad to go without that part of the sport, but in the end, it’s about you and the course.

Colchester is normally held in late February, but it was postponed this year until Connecticut relaxed some of the rules and permitted larger outdoor events like this, as long as they were run with healthy and safety rules in place. We were happy too run. Last year, it was on 29 February and that was also a good day. We had a huge post-race party with hundreds of people crammed into the Bacon Academy cafeteria, which in hindsight, looks like it could have turned out badly. Luckily, it didn’t.

This year, we skipped the party, but kudos to the organizers for holding the race, which is an important fundraiser. In exchange for the opportunity to run, we had 11 rules to follow:

  1. Registration will be on-line only. No day of registration.
  2. Registration closes on 3/6/2021 at 9:30pm. No exceptions.
  3. The race will be waves of 30, with a max of 500 runners.
  4. Runners will be seeded based on times submitted during the registration process.
    1. Runners must run in assigned wave.
    2. Runners will be assigned waves based on their estimated finish time.
    3. Failure to run in your correct wave may lead to disqualification.
  5. Runners will be given a specific time to when to arrive to the race, to help with social distancing.
  6. When runners arrive, they will be directed to a staging area to keep with social distancing. 
    1. Runners will move to the starting area when the wave before has completely left.
  7. Race bibs will be mailed to runners on 3/8/2021.
  8. NO drafting rules. ~Similar to triathlons, i.e. runners must maintain a 6-foot separation from other runners they pass or are passed.
  9. There will be water bottles at 6.5 miles and at the finish.
  10. Participants are “strongly encouraged” to leave finish area ASAP after they finish the race. ~No congregating in groups pre- and post-race.
  11. Results will be posted on-line only. Results will be posted after the completion of the race.

The weather was pretty good. At the start, the temperature was around 33 degrees Fahrenheit with brilliant sunshine. That sun made a big difference and helped offset the wind, which was whipping. Several sections of the course are exposed to open farmland, including the last two miles (which are notoriously uphill), so the wind was a factor. Mentally, I was ready for both the wind and the hills, but it still wore me down by the end. I faltered a bit in the last three miles, as I usually do at Colchester. It is so hard to hold the fast pace that you start with because some of the early miles have a net loss in elevation.

With about 1,050 feet of gain, it’s not super-hilly, but when you are trying to run fast and steady, that undulation is an an added challenge. Colchester is also known for some lovely dirt roads. Thankfully, this year, they were dry and firm, which helped make for some fast running.

I started in the first wave at 9:00 A.M. after self-seeding in advance based on my prior finish times. I’ve done this race five times: 2020, 2015, 2010, and 2007. My realistic goal was to run 1:28, my fast goal was to run 1:26:30, and my stretch goal was to break my course personal best of 1:25:19 set 11 years ago. I came close, running 1:26:15, but likely had no chance of picking up another minute. It felt like I was 20 seconds slower than I could have been, but that is probably all I could gain if the wind wasn’t in my face and I ran a bit more during the week.

My only complaint was that some of the cars and trucks on the course lacked courtesy. It was an open course, and we knew that, but some vehicles didn’t yield and passed to close and too quickly. That’s normal for any run I do, but with several hundred people spread out on the 13.1 mile circuit with a volunteer and police presence, you would think that motorists would chill out. That wasn’t the case.

I did get a good night of sleep leading into the race, which is always nice. I felt good for a Saturday morning and loved the chilly conditions. I carried my own water (one bottle) in an UltrAspire waist belt. That was a smart decision. There was only one water stop, and they were full plastic bottles, which I intended to skip anyway. I was able to sip a little water every mile and never felt parched.

Debbie also had a good race, beating her goal time and finishing strong among the master women. We did get a chance to see some friends which was nice. The Shenipsit Striders were out in force. On the drive home, Debbie and I stopped at Hurst Farm to pick up some tasty goods. I think the best part of the day was the sunshine.

Race Results

Norwalk River Valley Trail Run & Salmon River Trail Run

Today was a trail running special edition Valentine’s Day for Debbie and me. We started the day relaxing in Prospect with the kids and Debbie’s parents, but then thinks picked up the from there. We drove to Cannondale to kick off an out and back run on the Norwalk River Valley Trail.

This is a hidden gem in Fairfield County. Eventually the trail will go for 30 miles, but the section we ran was a 5.6 miles “U.” It didn’t quite make a loop, so we turned back and repeated the route that we went out on. The trail abruptly ends at Skunk Lane in Wilton. That’s where we turned back.

The trail is a mix of road and trail. It’s hard to tell what the trail is like because it was covered in snow, but I suspect that it a mix of dirt and stone dust. The trail sections meander along the river, which is quite lovely. The road sections are a mix of busy suburban roads and nicer sections that wind through the quaint sections of Wilton. We loaded the course on our Garmin Fenix watches, and we still made a few wrong turns. The signage was sporadic.

Even still, this is a recommended trail. We chose this one because we figured that even with the snowpack, it would be runnable, and we were right. We didn’t use any traction. We enjoyed are run which took us 94.5 minutes for the 11.3 mile round trip. The route was nice and there are some scenic spots. It’s flat, so there isn’t any climbing or views, but for a nice trail close to civilization, this one is a winner.

After our Wilton adventure, we headed back towards home. The kids are spending a few days during winter break with their grandparents. We snacked in the car and scouted another trail to run. Again, we looked for a trail that we hadn’t done before that would be runable, even in the snow.

We chose the Salmon River Trail. It was an 80 minute drive from Wilton to Colchester. We did the Salmon River 5.5 Mile Run in 2007 with Shepard in the jog stroller. I recall arriving at the start late. The gun had already gone off. The race used a section of the Air Line Trail and a little bit of singletrack. So, we had been in the area, but we hadn’t done the complete “lollipop” that starts/ends at the famous Comstock Covered Bridge.

Unlike the Norwalk River Valley Trail, the Salmon River Trail is part of the Connecticut Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail system. Here is the CFPA’s Connecticut Walk Book description.

Towns: Colchester

Trail Overview: The Salmon River Trail in Colchester is within the Salmon River watershed and traverses a portion of Salmon River State Forest and loops through Day Pond State Park. Expect to see mixed hardwoods, beautiful views of the Salmon River, and an enormous glacial erratic. Day Pond State Park is wonderful for picnicking and Day Pond itself (regularly stocked with trout) is a great place for fishing and swimming. The trail’s Comstock Connector features historic Comstock Bridge, the only covered bridge in eastern Connecticut. A side trail, blazed blue/red, will take hikers to a waterfall.

Hunting is permitted in State Forests intersected by this trail. Please use caution and wear orange during hunting season. For Day Pond State Park parking info, a park map, and other park information, click here. Fore more info on Salmon River State Park, click here.

Allowed Uses: Hiking (all trails)/ Horseback riding (on yellow diamond trail only)

Partners: Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (CT DEEP)

Lee-Stuart Evans has an even better description on his website.

From Chatham Historical Society website, here is a description of the bridge:

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, The Comstock Bridge, also known as the Comstock Covered Bridge is one of the three remaining covered bridges left in the state of Connecticut – the other two being the Bulls Bridge in Kent and the West Cornwall Covered Bridge overlooking the Housatonic River in West Cornwall, Connecticut.

The course is rugged. It winds its way through Salmon River State Forest for 6.5 miles and gains nearly 1,300 feet in elevation. It’s a leg burner. There was more snow in Colchester than Wilton, so we used our Kahtoola MICROspikes and they helped. This run took just over 67 minutes and it really hurt the legs.

A second hard run with a drive in between is always a challenge, but we wanted to spend a bit more time in the woods, so it was worth the effort. We look forward to seeing this trail when it isn’t snow covered. It only took us 30 minutes to get home from where we parked near the bridge. We have a little bit of Sunday left to chill out before the work week ahead.

Richard H. Goodwin Trail End-to-End-to-End Run

It isn’t often that Debbie and I run a trail in Connecticut that is not a Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail, but today, we did just that. We ran what was a new trail for us, the Richard H. Goodwin Trail. We’ve been on sections before because the path links up trails from several preserves and parks, but we had never done the trail in its entirety.

The trail is part of the Eightmile River Wild & Scenic Watershed that includes parks and forests in the towns of Colchester, Salem, East Haddam, and Lyme. The 13.5 mile Richard Goodwin Trail passes through East Haddam, Lyme, Salem, and East Lyme.

Who was Richard H. Goodwin? Consult the trail map because it explains:

This trail memorializes Dr. Richard H. Goodwin, a Professor of botany and ecology at Connecticut College. He was a founding member of The Nature Conservancy, pioneering the land trust movement, and helping to conserve 10’s of millions of acres of land world-wide. Dr. Goodwin and his wife, Esther, made their home nearby in East Haddam, donating their own land in 1960 to establish the Burnham Brook Preserve. They also inspired neighbors and students to protect thousands of acres of land in this region to save our native plants and animals.

The map also describes the watershed:

The Eightmile River was designated by the United States Congress as a Wild & Scenic River in 2008. The Eightmile River Watershed is 62 square miles with 150 miles of pristine waterways. Approximately 40% of the watershed has been preserved as permanent open space and is home to 160 rare, threatened, and endangered plant and animal species. The Eightmile River empties into the Connecticut River eight miles upriver from Long Island Sound, hence its name.

The trail which was created in 2016, crosses some of my favorite roads, including Darling Road, Gungy Road, and Grassy Hill Road. I love riding my bike in that area and often do so when visiting my parents at their home in Old Lyme. Today, we started shortly after 9:00 A.M. at the western trailhead on Route 82 and ran to the kiosk at the eastern trailhead off of Moslowy Road. Then we ran back. The total distance was just under 27 miles. It’s a twisty and windy trail that was mostly made from preexisting trails. You pass through Hartman Park and Nehantic State Forest.

It is a lovely trail with lots of rocks, stream crossings, and some fun dirt roads. It was pretty easy to follow, but expect to make a wrong turn or two because of the patchwork of crossing trails that it winds through. It’s been a few weeks since we had snow, so the only obstacles (other than the roots, rocks, and leaves) was some icy spots. We had a lot of fun. It took us 4h 40m 16s for our round trip adventure. Our GPS’ show about 3,500 feet of elevation gain for the round-trip, so it is pretty flat. Miles six to nine and 19 to 21 are the fastest sections. Those dirt roads helped our average pace because its quite technical in other spots.

This was our coldest run in a while. It was only 20 degrees (Fahrenheit) at the start and there was a persistent wind that made it feel even colder. Thankfully, there were clear skies (deep blue) and brilliant sunshine. We were adequately dressed. I wasn’t as sure-footed as recent runs, and had several hard falls. The worst one came with less than two miles to go. I tripped and slammed my left quad into a rock and then drove my left shoulder into the ground. It was a stinger for sure. The worst part is a ripped my favorite tights. A word of advice: if you are ever chasing Debbie at the end of a long run, take it easy. What I mean is that if you are trying to follow her down a steep and rocky descent, you are taking a risk. I wasn’t sure if I should close my eyes or keep them open.

Even though it was chilly, we saw a lot of walkers, hikers, and cyclists. There were several families enjoying the sunshine. Everyone was courteous, including the cyclists. With two miles to go, we came across a dog and his master. Cody wouldn’t let us go and it took a while for the owner to corral him. We didn’t want to keep running because every time we moved, he chased us and they were going in the opposite direction. Eventually, we had to get moving (because we were pushing to finish) and he turned back after the 100th or so time that his master yelled, “Cody!!!!”

It was a solid effort and we were back at our car by 2:00 P.M. From there, we drove to Prospect to meet up with our kids and Debbie’s parents. We were thirsty and hungry, but Mrs. Schieffer came to the rescue with a wonderful meal. The Richard Goodwin Trail is highly recommended for walkers and runners. On some sections, it is suitable for mountain bikers and gravel riders. I’m certain we will visit again.

Finch Brook Trail Loop & Scrooge Scramble (Bolton Edition)

The Finch Brook Trail Loop is a little gem in Wolcott, Connecticut. It’s a 12 minute drive from Debbie’s parents’ house in Prospect, which makes it the perfect post-Christmas location for a run. After yesterday’s deluge, the wind blew through, and the temperature plummeted overnight.

We woke up to brilliant blue skies, lots of sunshine, but a temperature of only 25 degrees Fahrenheit. It was chilly! We took our time getting ready, had a full breakfast, and then made the short drive to the trailhead on Barbara Drive.

The Connecticut Forest & Park Association Walk Book and website have a simple description of the 2.6 mile trail (note our Garmin GPS’ registered 2.4 for each loop. We chose to run it in the counter-clockwise direction.

Towns: Wolcott

Trail Overview: The Finch Brook Trail is an easy loop trail.  The sole access point is the trailhead at the end of Barbara Drive in Wolcott.  The trail meanders through a combination of wetlands and gently rolling hills, almost completely under a forest canopy dominated by oak species and interspersed with hickory, maple, and birch.  A stretch of the central wetlands of this preserve is crossed by a lovely 125-foot-long bog bridge, affording the hiker an intimate wetlands experience.  Further to the north, the trail follows a section of the Old Finch Road, a very old woods road said to have been once walked by Abraham Lincoln.

The Finch Brook Preserve, totaling just over 64 acres, has been permanently protected by the Wolcott Land Conservation Trust.

Allowed Uses: Hiking Only

Partners: Wolcott Land Conservation Trust

I love the historical reference and the chance that I ran on the same trail/road that Abraham Lincoln explored. Lee-Stuart Evans has an expanded description on his site. You can also read about this trail on the FKT site.

Debbie ran it for the first time back in November, but I was seeing it for the first time today. We decided to do two loops with the goal of running moderately hard while scouting the trail on the first loop, and then running all-out for a negative split on the second loop. Despite yesterday’s heavy rain on top of a foot of melted snow (it is nearly gone) the trail was in good condition. Lee-Stuart warned about doing this trail the day after a heavy rain. However the overnight freeze helped firm things up and there were only a few squishy spots.

There were also a few slippery spots, lots of leaves, some blowdowns, loose sticks, and some rocky sections, but we were still able to blast it. We met our goals and were back at the Schieffer’s house by noon. That meant we could join family for a nice big lunch.

I felt pretty good despite doing a hard effort yesterday. For the first time in 16 years, the Christmas Day Scrooge Scramble 5K in Rockville was cancelled. We had done the race 14 times since 2004, so it was only fitting that we recreated our own version at 10:30 A.M. in our Bolton neighborhood. Scrooge benefits the Cornerstone Foundation soup kitchen/shelter in Rockville, which is an important institution/nonprofit to support. The race organizers established a virtual version and you can do that to help raise funds, or you can just send a direct donation. To make it even easier for you to donate, here is the link too their site.

Debbie mapped out a 5K route through town on some of our regular roads. She put the invitation out to the Shenipsit Striders, and despite the rain, we got three runners to join the four of us. Catherine Koehler, Christopher Duffy, and Todd Brown (nemesis) ran with the four of us. The kids tried to come up with a good name. One suggestion was Rudolph’s Rampage. Another was Bolton Blitzen. I’ve taken to calling it the Scrooge Scramble (Bolton Edition). We hope and expect to be back in Rockville for the real race on Christmas morning in 2021.

Debbie and I also did two loops yesterday with the first one being a warmup and the second one being a hard effort. So, we may not have run long in the last 24 hours, but we did run hard, and it was fun.

Flashback: 2007 Death Race/Pittsfield Peaks Ultra Challenge

I tuned into this week’s episode of the Rich Roll Podcast featuring Joe De Sena. I listen to my podcasts through Apple’s app on my iPhone and this was a good one. Joe is a husband, father, accomplished endurance athlete, entrepreneur, businessman, and the founder of Spartan. You can listen to the podcast and you can find a ton of other info about Joe on the Internet, so I won’t be recounting his story.

Part of his life philosophy, approach to fitness/wellness, and business resonates with me. I don’t agree with everything he espouses, and I have my own approach, so I don’t need to adopt his style. However I did enjoy the podcast and I recommend that others dig into Joe’s story because aspects of it are motivational.

The point of this post is that the podcast brought back some great memories. Joe and Spartan are credited with playing major roles in the explosion of obstacle course racing as a worldwide participation sport. Spartan’s origin story is nuanced, but an important chapter is the 2007 Pittsfield Peaks Ultra and the inaugural Death Race. Both were first held on 09 June 2007. My blog was young in 2007 and my posts were simple. I was just getting warmed up. I wrote about the 55-mile ultra but didn’t really mention the Death Race.

The last line of my brief post was, “Others have covered the race and I’ll follow up with more detail in the future.”

Today is the future, it’s Thursday, and perfect for a throwback. I had only a handful of images from the event. Life was super-busy at the time (it hasn’t slowed down yet) and I never wrote the extended post that I promised. I did cover the 2008 edition when Debbie returned and the Death Race continued its evolution. This was also a brief post.

I mentioned the Death Race again in 2009 with a dedicated post after reading about the race in The New York Times. By then, the Death Race had really blown up and was getting international attention. It all started back in 2007 and it’s cool that Debbie, Shepard, and I were there to see it.

I think the Pittsfield Peaks Ultra (Peak Ultra) and its various incarnations remain some of Debbie’s toughest and favorite trail races. She won that first edition, besting two amazing runners (Kate Pallardy and Mary Fagan Churchill), earning a hammer as one of her best ever trophies. She finished third overall behind Leigh Schmitt and Courtenay Guertin. She also beat the equally amazing David Goggins who we met for the first time at that event. He inspired me then and he inspires me now. Speaking of Rich Roll, the most listened to and impactful (my opinion) RRP episode (#266) of all time, featured David. That one is also worth checking out.

In 2008, Debbie finished second to the amazing Nikki Kimball. In addition to 2007 and 2008, she returned to do (and win) the race in 2014, and I wrote about it again. The Death Race finally got a little coverage in my story and I posted some good photos.

2014 was also the year that there was a 500-mile version of the ultra, which had evolved from 2007 and was getting tougher and tougher. Debbie “only” did the 55 (or so) mile division. Later in 2014, she went on to do her only ever Spartan, completing the Beast at Killington.

I always thought that the Death Race would have suited me. I’m not even going to describe it, but assume it is difficult. You can listen to Joe talk about it, you can Google it, etc. Many others have chronicled their experiences. Joe has several books. Even at that first edition in 2007, I thought that I should have done it, but I literally had my hands full. That day, top alpine skier Doug Lewis took the Death Race honors. I wish I had the full results.

I was fully committed to crewing for Debbie as she was coming back from her pregnancy year of 2006. I was looking after 10-month old Shepard and that was my primary responsibility. Over the years, I remained an observer of the Death Race. Hearing Joe talk about it this week with Rich Roll made me smile. That June day in 2007 turned out to be a pretty significant date for a lot of folks. It made an impact on me, and many others.

Paugussett Trail End-to-End-to-End

Today Debbie and I ran the Paugussett Trail out and back. We went south to north and back again. We had spectacular weather for mid-December. It was nearly 60 degrees Fahrenheit with lovely sunshine, which was quite a change from yesterday’s gloomy conditions.

We picked the better day for a half-day adventure. Our kids stayed with Debbie’s parents in Prospect, so we were able to drive to Shelton for a mid-morning start. If you read Lee-Stuart Evans’ overview, you might be scared away. I didn’t think it was half as bad as his description. I actually like it. Sure, you are never far from civilization, and you pass through many neighborhoods, but it was kind of neat.

I guess you could be sad about the fact that this trail was probably a bit more rural in the old days. Many of the houses were new, so I guess we are fortunate that the trail is still accessible. It likely crosses a lot of private property.

The Connecticut Forest & Park Association’s official description from the website and Connecticut Walk Book is more basic:

Towns: Monroe, Shelton

Trail Overview: The Paugussett Trail meanders along Boys Halfway River, through Webb Mountain Park and Indian Well State Park, with occasional views of Lake Zoar and the Stevenson Dam along the way. Parts of this trail are challenging, with steep slopes and the occasional rock scramble or boulder climb. Keep a lookout for long abandoned mill foundations and the entrance to an old silver mine. Numerous side trails in Webb Mountain Park, Indian Well State Park, and the Shelton Lakes Greenway connect with the Paugussett Trail to offer loop opportunities. Camping is allowed at Webb Mountain Park. 

Thanks to the work of the Shelton Conservation Commission and Trails Committee, the Paugussett Trail has been restored south to Buddington Road on a corridor of land that was gradually acquired over time. Constructed by the Shelton volunteers the new trail route from Indian Well State Park to Buddington Road restores an historic trail connection in the City. The trail also provides a critical link to the Shelton Lakes Greenway offering extensive recreational opportunities.

For parking info, hours, park map and amenities at Indian Well State Park, click here.

Allowed Uses: Hiking Only

Partners:  Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (CT DEEP)Shelton Land Conservation TrustShelton Trails Committee

Consult the FKT site for additional info. Our GPS’ registered 13 miles each direction for a total of 26 miles with about 5,000 feet of elevation gain. The trail is mostly singletrack with some old roads, power lines, and a little bit of asphalt. There are several rugged sections with rocky scrambles. It is quite undulating and there is a lot of hillside off-camber running. The leaves were plentiful, wet, and slippery after yesterday’s rain.

Debbie and I were both feeling good. We got to the turnaround in 2h 34m 43s and finished in 5h 18m 17s, so we were a bit slower in the second half. We thought we were on track for a negative split, but unfortunately it didn’t work out. We had a lot of fun. This trail is definitely worth checking out.

We rewarded ourselves for burning nearly 3,000 calories by going to Claire’s Corner Copia in New Haven. I hadn’t been there since last year. I tried to go in June on my way back from a business trip to Long Island, but it was closed for renovation. When I called, Claire answered the phone herself. Founded in 1975, this amazing establishment is celebrating its 45th year. We sat at one of the tables that was crafted by our friends at City Bench.

Our New Haven walk was good for stretching the legs. After our late lunch, we visited Prospect to pick up our kids and help Debbie’s parents set up their Christmas Tree. With more snow in the forecast, outdoor (road) cycling looks a little questionable for this week and possibly the rest of the year. Let’s see how it goes. We can still run on snowy trails, but it might make a more FKT attempts difficult. There is always 2021.

Mount Frissell Hike

Debbie and I had never been to Connecticut’s highpoint until yesterday. Many people mistakenly think that Connecticut’s tallest summit, Bear Mountain in Salisbury, is the highpoint. This is not the case.

There is a point on the south slope of Mount Frissell at 2,380 feet that is higher than the 2,323 summit of Bear. It’s a bit of a buzzkill that our stat’s high point is on the slope of a mountain that peaks out in another state.

The summit of Frissell is in neighboring Massachusetts. Actually, on the Mount Frissell Loop, you walk through three states: Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York. At one point, there is a marker that indicates the intersection of all three.

Interestingly, Connecticut is not listed on the marker. I heard from my friend Todd Brown, a dedicated highpointer, that Connecticut disputed the border and that is why it isn’t listed on the stone marker which is dated 1890.

Though we have hiked Bear Mountain on several occasions (Debbie last did it in July), we hadn’t been to this highpoint on Frissell. We also did the short out and back to the summit of Mount Brace. From the top, there was an excellent view of the Taconic Range and the valley below. It was the perfect Black Friday activity to do with the kids. We headed for the northwest corner of Connecticut after lunch and the five mile walk took a little more than two hours.

It was overcast and cool with occasional drizzle, but otherwise mild for late November. We had a fun time exploring these trails and then had a really good meal at Picante’s in Salisbury.

When we got there, we had the entire rear of the restaurant to ourselves. Eventually another couple arrived, but there was ample space for all of us. The trip required some time in the car, but it was worth it.

List of all 50 High Points

Even More FKT’s: Tunxis and Pachaug Trails

For me, the best part of my run was the bike ride. What am I talking about? Read on. This weekend, Debbie and I were back running on Blue-Blazed Hiking Trails. Her run was on the Tunxis Trail on Saturday with her partner Laura Becker. My run was on the Pachaug Trail on Sunday, and it was solo.

We just couldn’t pass up this amazing November weather. The temperature climbed into the low 70’s (Fahrenheit) on both days and the sky was a brilliant blue with awesome sunshine. It was very uncharacteristic for this month, and it was likely record (or near it) warmth for New England. It was quite a contrast from the late-October snowstorm 10 days ago.

Debbie and Laura have had the Tunxis on their to-do list ever since running the Shenpsit Trail together back in June. They have tackled several other BBHT’s together this year including the Menunkatuck and Nehantic trails. They are regular running partners and make a good team.

The Connecticut Forest & Park Association calls the “mainline” section of the Tunxis 38.5 miles. Their actual GPS results read closer to 34 miles, but who is counting? The trail is rugged in the north on the Massachusetts border where they started, and eases up a bit as it goes south where there are more dirt roads in the second half.

CFPA’s Walk Book and website description are as follows:

Towns: Southington, Wolcott, Bristol, Burlington, New Hartford, Canton, Barkhamsted, Hartland

Trail Overview:The Tunxis Trail is the backbone of a larger trail system that consists of 19 trails and totals just over 83 miles of interconnected hiking adventure.  The trail system generally traverses the western ridge of the scenic central Connecticut valley.  The southern trailhead of the Tunxis Trail is in Southington and the trail runs north to the Massachusetts state line. The trail is interrupted near the Wolcott/ Bristol line and resumes in Plymouth. The Tunxis Trail and its myriad of adjoining trails offer a wide breath of loop hiking options and traverse a variety of terrain and landscapes.

The southern end of the Tunxis Trail is typified by woodland paths that travel through the top and sides of the Central Valley’s western wall.  The trail offers several outstanding views, including Julian’s Rock and Norton Outlook. The side trails in this southern region vary in length from a half-mile to just under five miles and travels over diverse terrain.  The mid-region of the Tunxis is primarily in the Town of Burlington. Features of the trail system in this region include the challenging Mile of Ledges, the historic Tory Den, connecting trails to other trail systems in Sessions Woods Wildife Management Area and Nassahegon State Forest, and opportunities to explore lands protected by the Burlington Land Trust. There are ample opportunities for loop hikes, longer distance hiking and shorter family rambles.

The northern section of the Tunxis Trail traverses some of the most beautiful woodland that can be found in Connecticut. Highlights include the Indian Council Caves and Pine Mountain, where 180-degree views provide prime hawk-watching during spring and fall migration. The trail crosses and sometimes follows several woods roads and old fire roads, passing along picturesque mountain brooks. Located primarily on Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) lands and Tunxis State Forest, the trail in this region climbs steeply near its northern terminus to meet the Connecticut-Massachusetts state line and crosses for a short distance into Granville State Forest in Massachusetts.

Lee-Stuart Evans’ site has an even better description with other helpful details, so be sure to check it out. There time of 7h 33m 33s knocked nearly 45 minutes off the previous best female FKT. They had another great run. Debbie was pretty knackered afterwards and has proclaimed that she is ready for some “offseason” rest. It’s been quite a year for her. This was her 17th FKT of the year of which at least six were ultra distance. Check out her list.

When Sunday’s weather looked even better than Saturday’s, I had to get out for my own adventure. However, I was slow to plan and didn’t decide until 9:00 A.M. on Sunday. I didn’t feel great and was lacking some motivation, but I knew that I could be passing up the last (and one of the best) good weather days of the year.

So, I announced my intention after breakfast and hastily pulled together the necessary gear. Debbie did the Pachaug Duathlon two weeks ago, so she had the lowdown. All I needed was a quick debrief and a few minutes with some maps. I loaded the courses on my Garmin Fenix 6s, threw my bike in the back of the car and headed east for Voluntown.

I dropped my bike at the western trailhead (the run route is shaped like a horseshoe), locking it to the steel gate at the end of the trail. By the time I got everything sorted and made my way to the eastern trailhead, it was past 11:00 A.M. I actually had a “false start,” missing the first left hand turn off the dirt road at the start. I had only gone 1/4 mile or so, so I turned back to start over. My official start time was 11:14 A.M., which is really late for me. Most days, my run is finished by 6:30 A.M. Starting close to noon is not playing to my strengths as an early riser.

The CFPA description of the Pachaug Trail follows:

Towns: Voluntown, Sterling, Griswold

Trail Overview: Primarily a woodland trail, the Pachaug Trail extends from Green Fall Pond in Voluntown to Pachaug Pond in Griswold. It passes ponds, streams, rock formations, travels through stands of conifers and hardwoods, and features a rhododendron sanctuary. It is almost entirely within Pachaug State Forest. There are side trails, connecting trails, and crossover trails that provide many options for further exploration. The crossover trails connect the Pachaug Trail to the Nehantic, Quinebaug, and Narragansett Trails allowing for great loop hiking opportunities.

Longer backpacking trips can be achieved by linking the Quinebaug, Pachaug, Nehantic, and Narragansett Trails. Four overnight shelters in the State Forest can be used by backpackers on a first-come, first-serve basis. For more info on the backcountry shelters and to reserve a space, click here.

Again, Lee-Stuart Evans’ site offers a helpful guide to the Pachaug Trail.

I started strongly running the first five miles in around 45 minutes, but it didn’t take long for me to slow down. Miles six through 10 were tough, but then things improved for me again. I picked up the pace from 11 through 15, but partially because the terrain was more runable. Then, I really fell apart and miles 16 through 22 were a humbling experience culminating with the “walk” up Mount Misery. You couldn’t have scripted it better. I died three deaths on that hike up the aptly named hill. It’s one of the high points on the trail at 441 feet. You read that correctly. My house is at 590 feet, nearly 150 feet of elevation greater than Mount Misery, but at the 22 mile mark of this so called run, I was dead on my feet.

I survived the descent and was able to pick up the pace a bit in the last few miles with a modest sprint that helped me just beat Debbie’s time from two weeks ago by 51 seconds. That gives me bragging rights in the household. I was hoping to go so much faster, but yesterday this was all I could muster. I still had to ride my bicycle back to the car, and since I hate running, it st be a surprise that the bike ride was my favorite part of this run!

Seriously, I do like these duathlon creations, so after a moderately quick transition, I pushed it hard on the 7.3 miles back to the eastern trailhead. Half of the distance was on busy roads in the fading daylight, and half of the distance was on rough gravel (dirt road). My ethic with these duathlons is to carry everything on the bike that I finish the run with. I don’t leave any gear behind even though one could drive back to fetch shoes, packs, etc. I like my runs to be unsupported when possible and my bikes to be self-supported.

I ran the Pachaug Trail in 4h 32m 38s. My bike leg was 29m 41s. The total time including transition was 5h 08m 41s. Debbie’s total time was 5h 16m, so now I really have bragging rights in our household!

More FKT’s: Pachaug & Naugatuck Trails

2020 is definitely the year of the FKT (Fastest Known Time). I’ve been reading about them all year long, I’ve been listening about them (podcasts) all year long, I’ve been writing about them all year long, and I’ve been doing them all year long.

My partner in crime for many of these adventures has been Debbie. She returned to the FKT game last week with a record on the Pachaug Trail. She made it a complete loop by also setting a Pachaug Duathlon “first known time.” I wasn’t there, so you will have to rely on her report. She hasn’t submitted her duathlon entry yet, but it’s in the works. Her run was 23.5 miles in 4h 33m 39s. The bike ride back to the start was a little over seven miles of mixed road and gravel, and it took her about 40 minutes. She was pleased with her solo effort on this moderately challenging trail. There isn’t a lot of elevation gain given it’s location in eastern Connecticut on the Rhode Island border, but it still isn’t flat.

The Connecticut Forest & Park Association description is concise:

Towns: Voluntown, Sterling, Griswold

Trail Overview: Primarily a woodland trail, the Pachaug Trail extends from Green Fall Pond in Voluntown to Pachaug Pond in Griswold. It passes ponds, streams, rock formations, travels through stands of conifers and hardwoods, and features a rhododendron sanctuary. It is almost entirely within Pachaug State Forest. There are side trails, connecting trails, and crossover trails that provide many options for further exploration. The crossover trails connect the Pachaug Trail to the Nehantic, Quinebaug, and Narragansett Trails allowing for great loop hiking opportunities.

Longer backpacking trips can be achieved by linking the Quinebaug, Pachaug, Nehantic, and Narragansett Trails. Four overnight shelters in the State Forest can be used by backpackers on a first-come, first-serve basis. For more info on the backcountry shelters and to reserve a space, click here.

She has been running super strong all year and especially since her smashing effort at The Blue 2 Blue Challenge last month. You can learn all about it on the CULTRA Trail Running Podcast. She was a guest on a post-race episode along with four of the other top finishers. She had the itch this week to do another FKT and recruited me for a team effort. With the likely abrupt end of the cyclocross season after the COVID-19 related cancellations of Mystic CX (yesterday) and Cheshire CX (today), I was game for some competition. So, after last night’s low key Halloween festivities with the kids, we all went to her parents’ house in Prospect around mid-morning. We had the benefit of the extra hour of rest since we set the clocks back last night. This gave me a little extra daylight in the morning, so I did one of my favorite bike loops that includes a few of my favorite roads. This 15 mile jaunt was a warmup for what was to come.

She selected the Naugatuck Trail which is very close to where she grew up in Prospect. CFPA’s description is short:

Towns: Bethany, Beacon Falls, Naugatuck

Trail Overview: The Naugatuck Trail is located within the Eastern Block of Naugatuck State Forest along an uneven east-west ridge.  To the east, the trail winds narrowly through laurel groves along contour lines with the occasional natural trailside rock bench upholstered in moss.  Several balds throughout feature seasonal wildflowers. Westward beyond a gorge, there are straighter, flatter sections through open forest with ephemeral ponds. The steepest elevation change is along Egypt Brook near Route 8 and marks the eastern slope of the Naugatuck River Valley.

A better summary of the trail and what it has to offer can be found on Lee-Stuart Evans’ site. We used that as our guide. The trail is about 5.6 miles including the out and back to the summit of Beacon Cap. Debbie got 10.4 for her round trip and I was 10.55 thanks to a wrong turn that I made (while leading her). I recovered to catch up, but I had to climb an extra bit as well since my missed turn sent me down into a “hole.” I got 1,923 feet of elevation gain which is stout for a short run. There was a lot of up and down. The trail was rugged in most spots with lots of loose and wet leaves that had recently fallen. They were still falling! They hid lots of rocks and roots, making for some tricky footing.

I had two epic falls. The first came when I was chasing Debbie on a downhill. Thank goodness the trail was smooth in that spot because I plowed all the leaves off it with my chest. A rake would have worked better. I did a total Superman and slid about 10 feet. I was lucky to get up after that one. I yelled, “keep going,” but apparently, she had no idea I had fallen and didn’t hear me clearly. Regardless, she kept going and I had to catch up over the next 1/2 mile.

The second fall came about 1/3rd of a mile from the finish when she was absolutely hammering the gradual descent to the trailhead along Route 8. I tried to come up on her left with the intention of leading the final stretch, but I got into some overgrowth that caught my left foot. I went down in a heap and that one hurt. I cut up my left knee and left hand. I’ll be sore tomorrow. I was able to gather myself and catch up to her right before the finish. We had not been tracking our time, and we got a bit of a surprise after we hit the gate marking the start/end of the trail.

The big bummer for us was that we came up 18 seconds short on the out and back FKT. Jeff Grant and Mary-Louise Timmermans ran 1h 46m 4s. We stopped our watches at 1h 46m 22s. They did their FKT from the opposite direction. They ran east to west from the Route 42 trailhead. They tackled the Beacon Cap Trail spur to the summit first, then ran to the Route 8 trailhead, and back. We did the reverse. We started at Route 8, in the west, and ran east. We did the Beacon Cap Trail spur out and back, then ran to the Route 42 trailhead, and then ran back to Route 8. The FKT only required one out and back to the top of Beacon Cap. On the return, we bypassed it. We hit the turnaround in 58m 29s. That was for 5.59 miles or so. Then, my Garmin Fenix 6s measured the “straight shot” return at 4.96 miles.

I could study Jeff and Mary-Louise’s data a bit closer to see where we lost the 18 seconds, but since they went a different direction and ran in March of this year, the trail conditions were likely different. I won’t surmise how different. The point of these FKT’s is to go faster and we didn’t. I’m cool with that. We will try again next year with the goal of doing it on a day where there are less leaves and drier conditions. We saw very little snow on the trail, but that area got several inches a few days ago, and nearly all of it had melted.

Good job to Jeff and Mary-Louise. We were pushing very hard, so I know they must have been too. If we went any faster on the last descent, there surely would have been another fall for me, and after 10+ miles, I probably wouldn’t have gotten up. I know my limits, especially when chasing Debbie on terrain like that. You plunge nearly 400 feet in a half a mile and it is all loose rocks, leaves, and gravel. As it is, when we got to the flatter section along the highway, I hit the ground anyway.

This was a lovely trail and would make for a great hiking route to do with the kids. We were pretty knackered after this one and Mrs. Schieffer had a nice lunch for us when we got back to the house. It was great to spend time with the kids and their grandparents. When we pulled up the driveway, our son was driving the tractor, which he enjoys very much. Our daughter also contributed by helping with various chores. Just as we got to the house, the skies opened up and the deluge began. It’s still raining hard now, but we are home for good and putting the final touches on a nice weekend. With November here and two months left in this crazy year, we still have some adventure left in our legs.

Debbie’s FKT’s

Scott’s FKT’s

Domnarski Farm, White Mountains, & Ascutney Trails

The long weekend (including Indigenous Peoples Day) that just passed was full of New England adventure. Our family got a little work done on Saturday morning before heading to the Ain’t No Cyclocross At Domnarski Farm Mountain Bike Race in Ware, Massachusetts.

We were last on the farm in 2017. I thought I swore never to return to this rugged course, but I must have forgot. The kids refer to this track as “old school 90’s rocks and roots.” That sums it up. It was hardcore on my rigid singlespeed and was no surprise that I was the only one in my category. I recall that I wasn’t alone three years ago, but either the other singlespeeders learned their lesson, or the COVID-19 pandemic really has changed the world.

All kidding aside, it was great to see our teammate Matt Domnarski, and convene with some mountain bike/cyclocross community friends. Several of them were from our own team. Debbie, Shepard, and I all started at 11:30 A.M. within minutes of each other. Dahlia hung out while we raced. She made some friends and explored the horse barn and other surroundings. Social distancing was in order, and once you headed into the woods, you were even more spaced out.

Shepard and Debbie did the one lap 10 mile event and I did two laps. I was slow but steady. I only had one fall, but the steep ups and downs combined with all of the rock made for a sore back, neck, shoulders, and arms. My legs were fine. This course beats you up.

After we packed up and said our goodbyes, we headed north into New Hampshire, stopping in Concord for dinner at Col’s Kitchen, a new plant-based restaurant. The tables were sparse and spaced, but the food was decent. From there, we headed north again until we reached Tripoli Road at the southern edge of the White Mountains. Tripoli goes from I-93 in the west over a pass until it reaches Waterville Valley in the east. Tripoli is the site of the legendary Pemi Valley Road Race, which I did six years in a row from 1993 to 1998. There are no blog posts from that era, which was a time of classic New England bicycle racing. However, the memories are vivid in my mind.

After we packed up and said our goodbyes, we headed north into New Hampshire, stopping in Concord for dinner at Col’s Kitchen, a new plant-based restaurant. The tables were sparse and spaced, but the food was decent. From there, we headed north again until we reached Tripoli Road at the southern edge of the White Mountains. Tripoli goes from I-93 in the west over a pass until it reaches Waterville Valley in the east. Tripoli is the site of the legendary Pemi Valley Road Race, which I did six years in a row from 1993 to 1998. There are no blog posts from that era, which was a time of classic New England bicycle racing. However, the memories are vivid in my mind.

Tripoli Road is about seven miles end to end and from west to east, it climbs steadily to its peak, with most of the climb on rough dirt. After the summit, the descent to Waterville is a patchwork of broken asphalt and dirt that has only gotten worse over the last 22 years. It was treacherous then and would be ridiculous now. Back then, we raced on traditional steel or aluminum road bikes with 22 cm tubular tires and 39 x 23 gearing. That setup is nothing like a modern gravel set-up and Pemi was long before gravel was popular. It was just a hard race with a dirt road. The distance ranged from 42 miles to 60 miles depending on the layout and laps. In the early years, it finished with a mostly downhill sprint on the west side of the course, but in later years, it finished at the Waterville base lodge.

Tripoli is known for “dispersed camping.” We experienced some awesome heat lightning on the rive up 93, but it didn’t rain until we reached the road. Then, the rain came in torrents as a massive thunderstorm blew through. We had no desire to pitch a tent in the dark storm, so we found a good spot near the Mount Tecumseh trailhead, and slept in our van. In the morning, Debbie and I got up early, found a good spot near Eastman Brook, and set up the tent. After the kids got up and we established camp, we drove around to the trailhead near the base lodge, parked, and hiked the Tecumseh Trail one way back to our campsite. It was about 5.6 miles over the top of 4,003 foot Tecumseh. It was chilly, but the sky was brilliant blue and we had a decent view from the top.

The roots were slippery from the prior night’s rainstorm, but the trail was in good shape and quite crowded. The hike took less than three hours. Our kids are keeping up with us now, which is awesome. That gave us all afternoon to relax, goof off, and hang out around camp. I rode back to the van on my mountain bike. It took less than 40 minutes. I drove back and we made an early dinner. We retired early, played some cards in the tent, and chatted about 2020, shared our highlights, and talked about our challenges. We were asleep in no time. The temperature dropped even more overnight and it was in the mid-30’s Fahrenheit when we awoke. It was cold, but inside our sleeping bags, everything was cozy.

Debbie and I got up early again, but not too early. We ran the East Pond Loop, which started only 0.2 mile from where we were camping. This turned out to be a five mile run with the first half all uphill. Little East Pond was the pretty spot on this route and the water level was amazingly low. We chatted and enjoyed each other’s company. We returned to camp and the four of us packed up for our departure.

I had taken Monday off from work, which was a welcome opportunity to spend some extra family time in the woods. We took a circuitous route to get to Brownsville, Vermont where we unpacked all the bikes and spent 90 minutes exploring Ascutney Trails. The Vermont 50 Mile Ride & Run may have been cancelled, but we were happy to be at Ascutney in the fall as we have been nearly every year since 1999. We have more of the trails to explore, but we covered some good ground. We spent a little extra time exploring the village before packing up again to head south in the direction of home. Once again, we had a pit stop at Pulse Cafe in Hadley. This has become a favorite place to dine. The tables and customers were spaced out as it was a quiet Monday afternoon. After our meal, we hit the road again and were home by 6:00 P.M. after a three days of fun.

Domnarski Farm Race Results

2020 Trails to a Cure (Cockaponset Trail Race)

It was a quiet return to the Trails to a Cure (Cockaponset Trail Race) for the inaugural COVID-19 edition. The Livington’s visited Chester, ran 8+ miles (4 in the case of Dahlia), and got out of town.

It was great that the organizers (Charlie and Becky Iselin + the SNERRO volunteers) put this classic race on in 2020 despite all of the challenges. This is the first trail running race we have done this year. Along with the two CCAP Rocky Hill Cyclocross Training Series races that I’ve done the last two weeks, the Bolton Road Race in March, and the Colchester Half Marathon in February, these are the only events I’ve done in 2020. For contrast, I did 38 races in 2019. That’s 38 vs. five.

The good news is there are still three months to go and now that we are “learning to live” with the virus pandemic, I gather there may be a few more socially distanced races added to the calendar. The New England Bicycle Racing Association (NEBRA) published results of a survey that we participated in, and there is a good chance that some promoters/race directors will step up and produce more cyclocross events before the year is over. The general consensus is that if organizers follow state guidelines, if health is the primary consideration, and if races are produced, there will be strong demand.

For Debbie and me, this has been the year of the FKT with lots of solo and tandem trail running, but we were still excited to toe the line at an actual race. Today’s race was done with wave starts (30 seconds apart) to minimize traffic on the narrow trails and spread people out. Everyone wore a mask before and after, including the volunteers, and with limited field sizes, we had no concerns.

We got a basic goody back that included our bib numbers and some baked breads. There were no t-shirts, no prizes, and no instant results which is fine with us. We didn’t socialize before or after. We were late to arrive, so we didn’t even have a warmup. I eased my way into the race, pushed hard for a few miles and then realized that I was not feeling good. My ankles and calves (a persistent 2020 problem) were bothering me and I was winded, so I backed off. This was a bit of a rest week for me. I got less than 12 hours of total exercise time for the first time since April. That’s nuts! This week, I didn’t even get nine hours, which is fine. Like I said, I needed a break.

Debbie nearly caught me at the finish. She was within a minute of me and started a wave behind me so we need to see the official results (promised in a day or two) to figure out who “won.” Shepard wasn’t feeling too hot (must have been a guy thing!) but he finished the race only a few minutes behind Debbie. Our hope is that there will be some sort of middles school cross country season. Debbie is the Bolton Center School coach and both of our kids are on the team. They started practice and are having a lot of fun, but both want some meets to train for. So far, there are none scheduled, but they are being planned.

We didn’t make it back to the water crossing in time, which means Shepard wasn’t too far back. Both Debbie and I did the crossing, but he opted to stay dry and ran the long way around. I wish I had some photos, but like I said, we were in and out. Becky may have gotten some photo or video of my at the crossing. All I can say is I was very wet and that I looked like the Swamp Monster with all of the weeds hanging off of me. It was kind of yucky, but that’s what makes Cockaponset special.

Today was the first real cold day since spring. It may still be summer until tomorrow, but it felt like late fall. In Bolton, we saw 38 degrees Fahrenheit on the thermometer early in the morning and in Chester at race time, it was no more than 45. It warmed up into the low-50’s after the 9:00 A.M. start, but there as a cool breeze. Unlike last year when everyone hung out and went for a “second” swim in Pattaconk Reservoir, we had to change up and get warm. Since Dahlia did the short course and had to wait for us to finish, she was shaking like a leaf when we got back. After we changed our wet clothes, we had a family picnic in the car, and then we took off.

It was kind of sad to not be able to hang out and chat with friends, but today wasn’t the day for that and 2020 isn’t really the year for that. It was nice to spend time on the trails of Cockaponset State Forest and it was nice to support a good cause.

New England Trail Adventure “Again”/Mattabesett Trail E2E

Yesterday, Debbie and I finished the job that we started back in June. The goal back then was to run/hike the entire New England Trail (NET). In June, we added a little spice by first running the New Hampshire Metacomet-Monadnock Trail from the summit of Mt. Monadnock to the start of the NET on the NH/MA border. We did the M-M, and then continued on the NET all the way until we reached Long Island Sound. It was a 242+ mile journey.

The Connecticut section that goes from the MA border to the Sound is also known as the “Connecticut Ultra Traverse” or the CUT112. The CUT is made of three trails, the Metacomet Trail, the Mattabesett Trail, and the Menunkatuck Trail. One of the quirks of the NET in CT is that it has a spur. That spur is the rest of the Mattabesett Trail and it goes from the intersection with the Menunkatuck in North Guilford to the Connecticut River in Middletown. So, it is impossible to do a self-supported thru-hike without backtracking.

So we returned to run that last section of the Mattabesett. I was only up for a half adventure, but Debbie wanted the full experience, so she actually ran the entire Mattabesett from Meriden to Middletown, which is no easy feat. I had no desire to repeat the first half of the Mattabesett that I painfully experienced in June. I only wanted to run the part I hadn’t seen, so I met her in Guilford after dropping her off at the start of the trail.

The Connecticut Walk Book description of the Mattabesett Trail described in the reverse direction from where she ran it:

Length: 60.8 miles

Towns: Guilford, Durham, Madison, Haddam, Middletown, North Branford, Wallingford, Middlefield, Meriden, Berlin

Trail Overview: The Mattabesett Trail (Mattabesett is the Indian name for Middletown) roughly forms a large horseshoe beginning at River Road in Middletown and extending to the Berlin Turnpike in Berlin. The trail begins traveling in a southerly direction, gradually becoming more westerly and finally, assumes a northerly direction. The trail is one of the first trails conceived of by early Connecticut trail builders and remains a popular and highly visited trail today.

The eastern sections of the Mattabesett Trail contain high ledges and bald knobs with vistas of the Connecticut River. A picturesque terrain of tumbled ledges, frequent brooks, shallow bogs, vernal pools, mountain laurel, and hardwood forest add to the trail’s beauty. The western sections offer some of the finest ridge walking and cliff views in the state as the trail traverses the southern end of the traprock ridges that extend north into Massachusetts. Some of the notable features hikers will encounter include the Chinese Wall in Middletown, Pisgah Mountain in Durham, Bluff Head in Guilford, Beseck Mountain in Middlefield, Mount Higby in Middletown, and Chauncey Peak and Lamentation Mountain in Meriden.

The trail connects incredible open space across its length. State forest and parks, land trust preserves, municipal parks and important conserved land are all linked by the trail. The Reservoir, Bear Hill and Seven Falls sections at the eastern end include 5 miles of loop trails. The trail intersects other major trail systems and offers additional loop opportunities in Millers Pond State Park and Mica Ledges in Durham, the Rockland Preserve in Madison, Braemore Preserve in Guilford, and Giuffrida Park in Meriden.

The Mattabesett Trail is part of the 215 mile New England National Scenic Trail (NET). The NET was designated as a national scenic trail in 2009 and connects from the Long Island Sound to the MA/NH border. The NET is comprised of the Menunkatuck, Mattabesett, Metacomet and Metacomet-Monadnock Trails. A detailed resource for hikers is the NET Map & Guide. For more info about the NET visit

I wasn’t up for running 60+ miles, but I figured that 30 was doable. I opted to mix in a little cross-training and speed work instead. So, after dinner with the kids and her parents, we spent Saturday night at the Schieffer’s in Prospect. Mr. and Mrs. Schieffer had a bunch of Sunday chores lined up for the kids, so they were also in for some hard work. Debbie and I got up at 3:15 A.M. I drove her to the northwestern terminus of the Mattabesett, which is at the intersection with the southern terminus of the Metacomet Trail at Rt. 15 and Spruce Brook Rd. It’s a nondescript spot on a normally busy road, but we had it all to ourselves early yesterday.

She started running at 4:03 A.M. and didn’t stop until 7:16 P.M. when we reached Middletown. That was about 15 hours and 13 minutes of elapsed time. It was about an hour slower than her goal, but that can partially be explained by a number of wrong turns, a significant trail reroute (that we didn’t know about and had us running confused in circles), and less road running. Regardless, she set the Fastest Known Time (FKT) for a woman and mostly had fun doing it. I think that when she finished, she was knackered and momentarily questioned why she puts herself through so much pain. I guess we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t question the rationale of our endurance sports. She has had one heck of a year. She hasn’t raced one ultra (they were all cancelled), but her list of FKT’s is impressive. Most of those efforts have come on the amazing Connecticut Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail system.

For extra fun, she has been participating in The Connecticut FKT Challenge. It’s a somewhat arbitrary “competition” meant to draw more interest to Connecticut’s awesome trails and to support the Connecticut Forest & Park Association (CFPA). I can’t object to that worthy goal! The challenge, made of a list of 16 tough CT trails is self-described this way:

Everyone will receive a medal for their efforts even if they don’t complete all 16 of the trails. Those who complete all 16 in their entirety, which is almost 600(!) miles, will receive a specially designed Connecticut FKT Challenge Buckle from Ragged Cuts. In addition, to make it easier for you to complete or do as many of these trails, you can signup with a partner or teammate or you can simply run them all as an individual. Both you and your teammate have to signup, but can split up the trails however you like during the challenge. We will also be awarding a prize to the runner who we feel has overachieved and gone the most out of their comfort zone on a single FKT push.

On the event page, they are listed in order from least difficult (still hard) to most difficult (wicked hard):

1. Menunkatuck
2. Natchaug
3. Saugatuck/Aspetuck(combo)
4. Nehantic (out and back) 
5. Pachaug 
6. Quinnipiac
7. Mohawk 
8. Nipmuck 
9. Tunxis 
10. Mattatuck
11. Mohawk/AT Loop 
12. Shenipsit 
13. Metacomet
14. Connecticut AT 
15. Mattabesett
16. Connecticut Section of NET

She needs to complete as many as possible during the official summer season from 20 June to 22 September. She has a week to go and I wouldn’t put it past her to knock another one off the list. She did several of these in 2020, but before the official start, including the NET. She even did a few before 2020. Regardless of this recent “competition,” all told she has done 12 of the 16 (counting overlaps) and set FKT’s on 10 of them. Bravo.

Yesterday’s weather was perfect for running. She started with a light jacket, removed it after an hour, and didn’t need it again. She started with her UltrAspire Lumen 600 waist light as planned, and sadly, finished with it (the last 15 minutes) too. I didn’t want to start my own adventure until daylight, so I spent the first 2.5 hours crewing for her. Since her run was “supported,” I was able to provide aid. After seeing her off at the start, I drove south to Guida’s on Rt. 66 where I dropped off two bottles of water and an energy bar just before the trail crosses the road. Then I continued on to Rt. 68 where I left three bottles of water and a bar right before the trail crosses the road.

From there, I returned to meet up with her on Bell Street around the nine mile mark. I waited for a short period of time before she popped out of the woods after about two hours. The sun was coming up. She ran the asphalt section up Country Club Road. I went ahead in the van and parked at the dirt turnout where the trail goes back into the woods. She dropped her light, filled her hydration pack, grabbed some food, and then took off. She planned to make use of the two subsequent “aid stations” and then continue to Guilford where I planned to meet back up with her. She was in good spirits and moving well.

Once I said goodbye, I drove to CFPA headquarters in Rockfall, just a few miles away. Behind CFPA is the Highlawn Forest Trails.

The Connecticut Walk Book description is:

Length: 3.5 miles

Towns: Middletown, Middlefield

Trail Overview: Situated behind CFPA’s headquarters, the Highlawn Forest is a gem on the Middletown/Middlefield town line. The trail system winds through a second growth forest, on what were once open farm fields, and features conifer plantations, mixed hardwood forest, and red maple swamps that support a diverse array of wildlife species. The trails follow many old fire lanes from the time the property was a tree farm and offer multiple loop opportunities.  These flat and gentle trails are great for young or beginner hikers. The property also features an outdoor amphitheater, pond, large vernal pool with an observation platform and a universal access trail.

The Highlawn Forest is protected and will never be developed thanks to the Camp family who placed a conservation easement (held by CFPA) on the property in 1987.

I’ve hiked there before and yesterday, I went after the FKT on a two mile section of trail called Camille’s Loop. Since I was planning to run sub-7 minute miles on a rocky trail, I opted to scout it first by jogging a loop while listening to a podcast. Unfortunately, my hardest fall of the day came on that warmup when slightly distracted, I caught my toe on a rock. The sun had just come up and it was still darker than I would have liked, but I had an aggressive agenda in order to get to Guilford in time, so I gave it a go and paid the price. I cut up my left knee (for the fourth time in a month) and cut up both hands. I stopped the bleeding on my right hand by wrapping it in leaves.

I was still up for the FKT attempt, so despite the bleeding, I gave it a go and was pleased with the outcome, covering the loop in 14:41. It wasn’t quite sub-7 minute miles, but it was close enough. Back at the van, I changed my shirt, and headed to the intersection of Wiese Albert Road and Foot Hills Road in Higganum, where the Mattabesett crosses. I dropped off two large bottles (3 liters) of water and a 550ML bottle of pickle juice. It thought this would be more than enough fluids for the two of us, but I miscalculated.

From there, I drove to the eastern terminus of the trail on River Road in Middletown. I scoped the finish, switched to cycling gear, and packed my UltrAspire Epic XT full of water and more food for both of us. I had my own emergency gear, plus my running gear. I locked the van and rode 10 miles to Coghinchaug Regional High School in Durham which borders Field Forest. I had been in touch with Debbie by text message and was also tracking her by monitoring uploads from her Garmin inReach Mini GPS, so I knew that if I pushed it, I could squeeze in another run of my own.

I locked my bike to a fence at the edge of Field Forest and went after an FKT on the short Field Forest Trails. I won’t create FKT routes on such short trails, but my policy is that if the route exists, I’ll go after it, especially if it also helps me knock off another Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail. I have the goal of hiking all 825+ miles of them. I’m well on my way.

The Connecticut Walk Book describes the trail:

Length: 2.2 miles

Towns: Durham

Trail Overview: Towering tulip poplars, shaded woodland trails, a vernal pool brimming with aquatic and amphibian life, streams harboring fish, wild turkeys, red-eyed vireos and pileated woodpeckers, views of the traprock ridge, and magnificent trees- you may be lucky enough to encounter all of these on your visit to the 152-acre Field Forest owned by CFPA.

This property was given to CFPA by Howard Brigham Field, Jr after his death in 1999. Mr. Field was a conservationist and longtime resident of Durham who loved the property and wanted it to be protected in perpetuity for the community. Members of the Field family still maintain an important connection to the property today.

Stone walls, cedar posts, and remnants of wire fencing indicate that the property was once agricultural land. Abandoned at the end of the 19th century, the farm fields subsequently grew into forest. Today, the dominant ecological process is forest succession. The wooded property consists of a variety of mixed hardwood trees which provide important wildlife habitat. To learn more about management of the Field Forest, click here.

The FKT is on an 1.5 mile point-to-point route. I didn’t have time to scout it, so I saw it for the first time as I was running it. I wasn’t that fast, but posted a 10:16. I jogged back, briefly getting lost (how did that happen?) and switched back into my cycling gear. I was cutting it close to meet up with Debbie on time. I flew down Rt. 17 and then onto Rt. 77. It was 5.6 miles and with about a mile to go, I got a text from her that she was coming down the Bluff and would be at the road crossing soon. I messaged back that I was close. A minute later she said she was at the road, and then she called. I answered from the bike and told her to get moving and I would catch up. She decided to wait until I got there so that I could fill her hydration pack and transfer some food.

Once she got what she needed, she headed up the trail. I had to change my shoes again, lock the bike and my gear bag (cycling shoes and helmet) to a tree, transition to running again, and settle down after pushing to get there in time. It took me more than five minutes to sort this out and I figured I would catch her quickly. It turned out that it took me nearly two miles to catch up to her. She was running strongly, and I was hurting. When I caught up, we were happy to see each other and chatted about our respective morning adventures.

As noted, this Mattabesett run was marked by some wrong turns, course confusion, extra mileage, and a lot of suffering. It warmed up and I consumed my water quicker than planned. Our worst turnaround/confusion came after Mt. Pisgah when we didn’t realize we were on a newly marked section of trail.

It wasn’t until we backtracked and reviewed a posted trail notice that we were in fact ON COURSE, but thought we were off because the new route didn’t match our physical map OR the digital maps (including GPX files) online.

I guess no amount of preparation is ever enough. We should make it a habit of researching the latest trail conditions. I had loaded the GPX file on my Garmin Fenix 6s and it was wrong, even though we were right. An encounter with four hikers/dog walkers resulted in further confusion. We saw them once, and then again 45 minutes later and it made us think we had gone backwards on the course, or just gone in a big circle. The course does double back and the hikers insisted that WE were NOT on the Mattabesett Trail. Well, they were right, because they also didn’t know the trail had been rerouted.

Anyway, those challenges are all part of trail running, especially this version of it where you have to find your own way on marked (sometimes) trails. The last water drop turned out to be short of what we needed to make it to the finish. She was fine nursing her water, but I had to fill two bottles in one of the only running streams we saw all day, and thankfully we had some chlorine tablets to treat it. After waiting 30 minutes, I was able to quench my thirst. Even with this extra supply, I still had to mooch water off of her to make it to the finish. At times, I was dragging and she was pulling me along. At the end, I think it was my encouragement that helped her make it to the finish. We are a good team.

The up and down nature of the course was relentless. She gained more than 11,000 feet and that is with a high point of just over 900 feet. Those stats prove just how undulating Connecticut trails are. In addition to the vert, the Mattabesett is loaded with rocks and roots. It is a true New England trail. Heck, that is probably why it is called the New England Trail!

When we got to the finish, we changed clothes, wiped down, and hit the road. We had a convenience store stop for a post race supply of chips and Fritos, and then headed back to Guilford to get my bike. We were back in Prospect before 9:00 P.M. and in need of some rest. The kids were happy to see us. We decided to stay the night. Today, we got up early so that they could drop me off at work in East Hartford by 7:30 A.M. and then get home to start the kids’ “virtual” school day soon after.

This was just another normal 2020 weekend for the Livingston Family.

HORST Engineering Family of Companies

Cross Spikes™ by HORST Cycling

Follow me on Twitter



Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 427 other followers