Archive for the 'Family' 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.

Monadnock (Again)

The Livingston Family went back to Monadnock, but this time, in the snow. We love this place. What can you say? Monadnock is a perfect mountain. There are no great distances to cover. It’s got an exposed rocky summit. It’s only a two hour drive from our house. It’s lovely.

We were last there on 17 June 2020. That was during our “warmup” hike to the summit and start of our five-day New England Trail End-to-End Adventure. Unfortunately, our kids couldn’t be with us on that trip. That would have been too much for them, but yesterday, they were leading the way. Back in June, it was sweltering hot in the valley, warm on the summit, and we had 360 degree views for as far as you could see.

Yesterday, we had whiteout conditions and no views, but it was every bit as exhilerating. The wind wasn’t too bad. It was manageable if you stayed warm and protected your skin. As long as you kept moving, you were fine. The kids had tackled Monadnock for the first time, back in May of 2018, when Debbie led a hike for her Cub Scout Den. I’ve been on Monadnock in winter on several prior occasions, but it had been about 20 years since my last winter sojourn.

In May of 2018 when the kids first hiked the mountain, it was a cool but sunny day, which was very different from yesterday’s conditions. This past weekend, our original goal was to go skiing/snowboarding at one of the Connecticut “mountains” but everything was booked. It’s booked next weekend too. Between the reduced capacity at resorts, and decent conditions, the demand is high, so we missed out. Debbie checked some other places in southern New England, but we have decided to lay low and not deal with quarantine rules and other requirements.

Monadnock seemed like the perfect alternative. We have made a few trips around New England in the past month, but have encountered barely any people in doing so. Yesterday, we saw about a dozen folks on the mountain in groups of two or three. It’s the perfect place to distance yourselves from others and enjoy nature.

The kids hadn’t experience a winter mountain hike, so we figured this would be good training. We took our time to educate them on the preparation and execution of a winter adventure. They led the way, and it will be interesting to see if we can keep up when we get to our 50’s. We cobbled together a collection of traction devices from our gear room including vintage Yaktra and, MICROspikes, newer EXOspikes, and various snowshoes. We have crampons, but didn’t pack them. We didn’t need the snowshoes, but carried some as backup. The trail had been “tracked in” on the easier slopes, so it was better to just attach the spikes to our boots. Above treeline and with fresh snow, it was a little harder to navigate, but we knew the route from prior trips and the occasional “white arrow” painted on a rock helped.

One person we did see, was Colin, the ranger who was stationed at the Monadnock State Park trailhead on Route 124. He collected our $15 fee and gave us some helpful tips. Kudos to him for hanging out in his little (heated) shack on Super Bowl Sunday while a bunch of winter hikers explored the slopes of the local mountain.

Minutes after we arrived in Jaffrey, it started to snow. By the time we started hiking, the snow was coming down at a steady rate. It continued to snow throughout the day. Our total elapsed time was 3.5 hours. We made it to the summit in about two hours and the walk down was quicker. On the way up, we took the Old Halfway House Trail to the White Arrow Trail. On the way down, we took the White Arrow to the Old Toll Road, which made the descent even quicker. It would have been fun to explore Monte Rosa or some other trails, but this was a quick trip and we wanted to get home before the weather got too bad.

The drive back to Connecticut took longer and we saw a few accidents, but we stayed out of trouble. Everyone was stoked from the adventure, which set us up nicely for the 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

2020 Manchester Road Race

This morning, I did my solo virtual Manchester Road Race. It isn’t Thanksgiving yet, and the in-person race is cancelled, but participating in the official virtual edition was fun.

The road race committee has done a good job at keeping Manchester at the top of minds during this pandemic year. This race often caps out at 15,000 runners and on race day, the streets are packed with spectators. Add in the legions of volunteers and you have quite a spectacle during a normal year. With social distancing now part of our lexicon, there was no way that this year’s race would be held in person at 10:00 A.M. on Thanksgiving Day.

Late in the summer, the committee announced a limited staggered start in-person version with a maximum of 500 runners in conjunction with a virtual version, but I don’t think the news lasted a week before that modified concept was scrapped. Instead, the committee went with an all virtual edition.

The race is a massive fundraiser for a variety of local charities, so the financial impact of not having the race is huge. HORST Engineering still sponsored Veteran’s Row for the third year in a row, which makes us proud. I’m certain we will also be back in 2022. If we could make a commitment in a year where our family business has been hammered by the recession in the aerospace industry, then we should be able to make a contribution next year too. I’m hopeful that things will get better, even if the airline and travel industry recovery is slow and doesn’t materialize until 2022 or beyond. We will persevere, just like every MRR runner does.

The app that the committee used for the race is pretty clever. I didn’t spend too much time on it in advance of my planned run, but I got it working last night. I carried my iPhone in a waist belt. Debbie had a few issues trying to load two profiles. She did her official race with Shepard yesterday and then did it again with Dahlia today. Dahlia doesn’t have an iPhone with her own cellular connection, so they had to use Debbie’s phone and that is where the rub was. I guess it took them 30 minutes of troubleshooting prior to the start and they were mildly frustrated, but we aren’t complaining about anything right now. You have to remain positive, especially when running Manchester.

I haven’t really gotten into the virtual thing. This is my first ever official virtual race. The tracking is a key element of the effort. This was my 31st time running Manchester and 26th year in a row, so there was no way I was going to do the virtual race on a course other than the actual course. I live in Connecticut, 10 minutes from the start/finish line, so there was no excuse. The committee is allowing you to do 4.748 miles ANYWHERE, which is great for the fundraising and especially good for anyone out of state who would have to deal with travel, risk, quarantine, and a myriad of different issues in 2020.

The thing I don’t like is the local folks looking to run their fastest 4.748 miles just so their name can appear on some virtual leaderboard as high up as possible. In the end, I’m cool with it because this is all good, and I pay attention to rankings (have you noticed I’m a competitive type?) too.

However, I want an asterisk * next to the name of EVERY runner who did NOT do their 4.748 on the actual course. I want two asterisks ** if you ran on a track and three asterisks *** if you ran point to point downhill on the rail trail! If you live in CT and don’t do the course, that’s lame ATMO. “According To My Opinion” is a great acronym borrowed from my friend Richard Sachs who has executed its use more and better than anyone I know. So, take my ATMO with a grain of salt.

I opted to do my official MRR early this morning. The window to run the race and get an official finish (that will qualify for streaks) using the app is 19 November (Thursday) at 8:00 A.M. through 25 November (Wednesday) at 9:00 P.M. Consult the race website for all the details. The committee consciously decided to close the window BEFORE Thanksgiving because they do NOT want hundreds or thousands of people running the loop on Thursday morning. I’m sure there will be many casual “bandits” out there like every year, but the app won’t work if you want an official result.

I’m counting on a real race in 2021, and doubt they will archive the virtual info on their website, so I’m pasting all the details here and so that they live in perpetuity. As of this moment, 1,880 people have registered for the virtual race. If you are reading this in 2020 and before the 24th, then there is still time. Asterisks aside, if you want to do something fun, be part of a community, and support some great charities, then by all means register, load the app, and walk or run 4.748 miles anywhere. See below.

VIRTUAL REGISTRATION

Please Read Race Information Page before registering

  • Virtual Race Registration opens on October 1 and closes at 9:00pm(EST) on November 24.
  • Registration fee is $20
  • Important Note: Every Virtual participant who plans to use the new MRR app must register with a unique email address.
  • Virtual participation must be completed between 8:00am(EST), November 19 and 9:00pm(EST), November 25.
  • All registered participants are encouraged to use the brand new Virtual MRR app on their smartphones when competing. The app will track each participant’s progress and automatically report their results to the race officials.
  • Those officially registered runners who do not have access to a smart phone, click here for directions
  • Results will be published for everyone who completes their 4.748-mile race during the official time period listed above. Additionally, this year’s race will be added to their longevity streak.

Features of the MRR app

  • The MRR app is a free download.
  • Print a commemorative bib to wear during your Virtual race.
  • Run (or walk) on your favorite local route and compete with your family and friends.
  • Hear audio cues on your progress.
  • The app will automatically stop timing when you reach the “finish line”.
  • Spectators may also download the app and track the progress of their favorite runners.
  • Strava Integration included.
  • Results will be automatically reported to race officials.

Two map views are provided:

  • The actual course being run.
  • The Event Map shows the progress as if the runner is actually running on the Manchester Road Race course.

Important Info about Using the MRR app to Run the Virtual Race

  • The new MRR app is available beginning November 1.
  • To learn how the app works, check out this great intro video.
  • After registering, the MRR app must be downloaded to your smart phone (available on both iOS and Android).
  • Upon completion of the Registration process, new participants will be loaded into the app at 9:00pm(EST) on a daily basis. 
  • You will be notified via an email from RTRT.me that you have been loaded into the app. Be sure to check your Spam file if you do not receive your email within 24 hours of registering for the race.
  • After your registration has been loaded to the MRR app, and you have downloaded the app to your smartphone, you will be able to open the app and “claim your profile”.
  • Your email address uniquely identifies you to the app. (Think of your email address as your timing tag that would normally be attached to your bib.) During the “Claim Profile” process you will receive a verification email to confirm your identity.
  • A smart phone can only record one runner at any given time. If you are a family of runners and don’t own sufficient phones for your entire family, please click here for advice on running the race. 
  • You will be able to complete as many training runs as you desire using the app. Spectators can track your training runs. Results are not transmitted to our timer during your training runs.
  • Within the time frame of the virtual race (November 19–25), you will “activate” the app and run your 4.748 mile race on the course of your choosing.
  • Please read the “MRR Virtual App Instruction” page for complete details on the use of the app and corresponding links and videos.

So, if you are moderately tech savvy, then this whole app thing won’t be an issue for you. Go for it!

I used Saturday to get pumped for my time trial. Even though the weather was better on Saturday, I opted to ride to/from work instead and use the day to “rest” before the hard effort. I got all my stuff ready last night, knowing that I wanted a dawn start. I had to get back in time so that I could join the CCAP Team HORST Junior Squad for a mountain bike ride at Hurd State Park.

I got up around 5:25 A.M., made it to Main Street by 6:15 A.M. and did a two-mile warmup. I was feeling pretty good and when my Garmin Fenix 6s gave me a +4 for a “performance condition value,” I was pleased. The max +20 would have been even better, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a number higher than +7, so I’ll take the +4 and be thankful it didn’t say “minus” anything because that would have been a mental buzzkill. Sometimes, when I feel the vibration on my wrist, I don’t even look! This time I did and I knew I was ready to tackle the course.

It was dark during my warmup, but the sun was rising as I approach the start line. The app gave me a five second countdown after Jim Balcome made his famous saying, “This is Thanksgiving in Manchester!” Debbie had warned me that the app “would talk to me” throughout the run. This was the first indication as his recorded voice made the pronouncement. That was a nice touch. I could do without the 1/2 mile pace updates, but it was hard to ignore them as the sound emitted from the front of my waist belt.

I had a decent first mile and missed the chaos of the start with thousands of folks barreling down Main Street, but this is the first year where seeding made little difference. I literally started on the (faded) start line. That’s never happened before! I opted for a Shenipsit Striders sleeveless shirt, shorts, calf sleeves, gloves, and a Striders trucker hat (worn backwards!) and I was a bit chilled for the first half of my run. I probably should have had sleeves only arms as it was only 34 degrees Fahrenheit when I started. I used my Altra Escalante shoes and they were good. I broke out a brand new pair of Darn Tough socks, which was great. Is there anything better than fresh socks? One cool part of the story is that Debbie bought these for me just two weeks ago using the $50 Fleet Feet gift certificate that I got for placing in my age group during last year’s race. It took us a year to use the certificate but it was worth the wait.

Despite the cold, I held it together over the top of the hill and was able to do an OK downhill on Porter Street. That part of the course is my weak spot, and without other runners to chase or pace off of, I struggled to get my legs turning over, but I remained steady. One good thing about having a slower pace up and over the climb is that I had good legs for the last 1.8 miles which have a slight net downhill. I got motoring and banged out a few sub-5:50 miles so that my overall time of 28:16 turned out to be pretty good for a solo effort. I was pleased. I don’t think I could repeat that in the next four days.

The rules of the virtual race permit you to try as many times as you want, but the app will only log your last attempt, so if you don’t think you can run faster, then you should stick with your previous run. I like that approach. I won’t get too bent out of shape if someone in my age group bests my time on a flatter and faster course, but it irks me that our kids might get beat out by someone who doesn’t run the actual course. Alas, all Livingston’s are competitive. That’s a good thing because we will be certain to run Manchester again next year.

After a quick cool down, I got back home in time to pack the van for our next adventure. It was my first time riding at Hurd. Aside from one wicked fall off of a rocky four foot drop that had me upside down with my bike on top of me, Shepard and I had a blast on the trails. It was a nice way to spend a Sunday morning, and I finally got to do a 2020 ride with my dear friend Arlen Zane Wenzel, which was my highlight for the weekend. Headed towards another pandemic Monday, my only wish is that next year, the MRR is once again run on a Thursday.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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


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