Archive for the 'Sport' Category

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

2020 Mystic CX Week #1

One of the neat things about the intensity of cyclocross is that when you are doing it, you really can’t think about anything else. It is a fantastic release. Today’s course in Mystic, Connecticut was even more demanding than the usual track.

It was short, tight, and very technical. I was loaded with roots and rocks. The race was developed by CCAP and located on the wooded property at the headquarters of Princeton Carbonworks.

This first of two weekly races are basically a continuation of what CCAP did on four September Wednesdays at the Rocky Hill Dog Park. At Rocky Hill, there was a Juniors race followed by an Adult race. In Mystic, there was a Juniors 9-14 race, followed by a B race, followed by an A race. Our kids both have several Scout campouts this weekend, so I went on my own and did the A race. My goal was to stay on the lead lap. I came close, but Ben Stokes and David Thompson, two stellar junior riders, caught me on the last lap.

We were tearing around the Mystic course which was undulating, gnarly, and slippery. I had a good battle with another junior (and even younger) Cade Fravel and another master (even older) Paul Richard. At times we were joined by a few other riders, but in the end, both Cade and Paul distanced me. I was hurting.

I was still pleased with the effort and as I said, this is a great way to blow off steam. The weather was damp and mild. I sweated a lot. I’m looking forward to giving it another go a week from today. Next weekend, we are also doing the Cheshire Cyclocross, which will be at a new venue. And that could be it for cross in 2020. There is no other New England races on the calendar. There are a few in New York, so we could consider traveling. It will depend on how things go with the COVID-19 pandemic. These CCAP events have been small, which is good.

Team HORST and the Team HORST Junior Squad had a good turnout. Our juniors were Boden, Lars, Owen, Ethan, and Alexandra. Our masters racers were Art, Brett, and me. Rich came to volunteer. He was on car parking duty. It was nice to see him and great that he came to help out the CCAP folks.

Mystic is a really neat town. It is an old village seaport with a lot of history. There is also a renowned aquarium. I rolled around town before and after my race, just taking in the colonial vibe and enjoying the fall weather. It would have been nice to see the sun, but I still soaked in the salt air.

Race Results (will be linked when available)

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 CCAP Newtown Cyclocross & The Blue 2 Blue Challenge

The Newtown CX presented by CCAP has become an annual event for Team HORST Sports. I’ve done it seven of the last eight years. I only missed 2014. Last year, my race ended early with a puncture, but this year, I hung in there despite warm weather and the usual dose of hills at the 2nd Co. Governor’s Horse Guard farm.

The course is known for its undulating terrain and horse flops, which weren’t too bad this year. The Newtown CX has been around a while. For many years, it was held across the street at the Fairfield Hills complex, but in recent years, the horse farm has been the venue.

The race used to come at the end of the season in November or December, but again, in recent years, it has been early in September at the start of the season. During this weird COVID-19 pandemic impacted season, it is the first “official” race of the year. Today was actually supposed to be the Vermont 50, but it was cancelled like so many other events in 2020. The VT50 is very special for our family. This is only the second time since 1999 that we haven’t done the VT50.

CCAP has hosted the popular Rocky Hill Cyclocross Series each of the last three Wednesday nights. The finale is this coming week. CCAP has a good formula and so far, their efforts to promote cyclocross in 2020 have been well received. We are hoping for more races to come. We hear that there may be more in the works. The productions appear to be successful with good protocols in place to keep participants healthy. Of course, no one knows for sure, but being outdoors, wearing masks (when not racing), and maintaining social distance are all good ways to “live with” this virus.

The Team HORST Junior Squad had an excellent turnout. In the Junior 9-12 race, Dahlia Livingston was our sole representative. In the Junior 13-14 race, Boden Chenail, Lars Roti, and Alexandra Miller-Davey were our racers. Alex took the win amongst the girls. In the Junior 15-18 race, Shepard Livingston, Owen Wilson, and Ethan Wilson flew the team colors. Eli Skulte did the kids race on his blinged out bike.

I spotted a Dura Ace rear derailleur on his steed and noted to his engineer father (Andris Skulte), that I didn’t have Dura Ace when I was 4 1/2 years old. Andris’ reply was, “I’ve never had Dura Ace.” We had a good laugh about that one. Andris pulled the rear mech out of a scrap heap (of sorts) to upgrade Eli’s bike. All of the kids did great today and they were smiling behind their masks.

As for our Masters team, I was joined in the Men’s 40+ race by Andris. Racing at the same time in the 50+ race were Wade Summers, John Meyerle, and Paul Nyberg. It was great to see Paul back racing cross again. Brett Chenail was our lone representative in the Category 3/4 race. Wade was our highest finisher with 2nd in his age group.

Despite it being late September, it was warmer than normal for cyclocross, but it has been a hot summer and a hot start to fall. I had a good first four laps of my race, but faded in the final two. I could have used a drink and should have carried a bottle. There was no “feeding” in the race, which means no hand ups. I was mixing it up in the top three for a while, but then fell back to 5th. I had to work hard to hold that spot as Scott Rosenthal (quickly becoming a nemesis!) charged hard on the last lap to come up on my wheel, but I was able to put in another surge and hold him off. We’ve been battling at the Rocky Hill races too.

Shepard and Dahlia were both very happy with their efforts. To celebrate a fun weekend of activity, Debbie and I took them to Foundry Kitchen & Tavern for an awesome brunch. This was our first time at this restaurant. We dined outside and they had fabulous vegan options. There was a fantastic solo singer/guitarist playing tunes on the porch, and the place had a great vibe.

Newtown CX Race Results

It is also worth mentioning that yesterday, Debbie smashed the The Blue 2 Blue Challenge trail race. This was her first official ultra of the year. We have done many FKT’s, but she pinned on a number and pushed hard. The course started at West Rock and went out and back on the Regicides and Quinnipiac Trails. The turnaround was in her original hometown of Prospect. The total distance was 32 miles with nearly 7,000 feet of elevation gain and she finished in a fantastic 6:59:46. The rocky trail is rugged beyond belief, which is just perfect for her. She scored the win and finished 5th overall. I’m pumped for her. She also got to see many friends.

Debbie has been flying. She and I ran the Quinnipiac End-to-End earlier in the year and she is coming off of a win at the Cockaponset Trail Race last week and a bunch of awesome FKT’s including the Mattabesett Trail only two weeks ago.

It’s worth mentioning that Debbie is on a roll and just this week, the Trails Collective posted their interview with her from last month. Another top runner, Ellie Pell, conducted the interview and it is fantastic. It isn’t just about running, but it is about healthy living, nutrition, plant-based diets, teaching kids the value of exercise, yoga, and the mental fortitude that is as important as leg strength. Check it out.

It’s rare that I miss one of Debbie’s races, but I had too much going on and missed Blue 2 Blue. I was juggling the Appalachian Mountain Club Board of Directors Retreat (via Zoom), the HORST Engineering Golf Tournament, and some work.

The Blue 2 Blue Challenge 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 newenglandtrail.org.

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.

Moosilauke Hike

This past Saturday, we returned to the White Mountains for a day hike of Moosilauke. We left Connecticut around 6:30 A.M. and started our hike shortly after 10:00 A.M. It was the kickoff of a fun Labor Day Weekend for our family and the first time that we did a serious hike with the kids since our Grafton Loop Adventure in July.

It had been 18 years since Debbie and I last set foot on this beautiful mountain. We were last there on 30 March 2002. That’s crazy. We have driven by many times, but for some reason, were not drawn back to the trail until now. Back then, it was the third New England 4,000 footers that we hiked as a couple.

We had done Adams and Madison the previous summer (before we were married in October 2001). I recall that it was snowy. The hike up was fun and uneventful, but we looped around and found that even with our snowshoes, the going was slow in the deep and heavy snow.

The weather this time was entirely different. We had a picture perfect day with awesome cloud formations and great views. It was mostly sunny and dry, though a few of those clouds were darker than we would have liked. They ended dup holding their moisture.

On the summit, it was breezy and a lot cooler, but that didn’t deter many other hikers from making the trip. Most of them came from the northern trailheads because we only saw a handful of other parties until we got to the intersection with the South Peak spur trail. Though you don’t get the 360 degree view of the main summit, the South Peak is pretty fantastic too and there wasn’t a crowd on top.

For our route, we took the Glencliff Trail out and back from the trailhead on High Street. Glencliff doubles as the Appalachian Trail. Back in 2002, our loop was more like a lollipop as we used the Hurricane Mountain Trail to return to the trailhead on High Street, which is off of NH Route 25.

Dahlia is getting much stronger. She powered her way up and down the mountain which is awesome considering that she takes two or three steps for every adult step. Shepard is always strong and we end up following him now. They are ticking off their 4,000 Footers.

As noted, Moosilauke was the third one that Debbie and I tackled on our way to finishing the full list of 48 New Hampshire peaks. We went on to hike the five in Vermont and the 14 in Maine. I’ll have to update the kids’ lists and don’t know how many are complete, but they are making progress and having fun too.

The round trip ended up being eight miles and our total time was just under five hours. That included lingering for a while on South Peak and the Moosilauke summit. We took ample breaks and didn’t push the pace too hard. I’m sure it won’t be another 18 years before we return.

Glastenbury/West Ridge Loop FKT

Yesterday while Le Tour de France was conducting a crash-fest in Nice, Debbie and I held our own crash-fest in Vermont. We returned to Glastenbury Mountain for the fourth time since 2015. More specifically, we ran the Glastenbury/West Ridge Loop for the third time, but this time we really ran it hard. I’ll get to the events of the day, but first, I’ll cover some background.

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We “discovered” this underutilized loop in 2015. At the time, we were celebrating the 10th anniversary of our 2005 Long Trail (LT) end-to-end hike. We wanted to introduce our young kids to the LT with an overnight trip. We found that the seldom used West Ridge Trail connected to the LT just south of the Glastenbury summit. The trail splits from the LT behind the Goddard Shelter. It was overgrown and didn’t have much maintenance, but it was still very cool. While hiking it, we agreed that we would come back and run it.

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So, we returned in 2016 and ran it. We had been crafting do-it-yourself (DIY) adventures for a long time, but we were not active on the Fastest Known Time (FKT) discussion board, so this return trip was never documented beyond this blog. A year later in 2017, Dan Rosenthal finally uploaded the route to the FKT site and gave a nod to the fact that we may have been the first to run it fast FKT style, or at least the first to talk about it. Since we had designed the route as a training run, we hadn’t pushed it. We opted not to go to the summit, which requires a little out and back on the LT (about .3 mile each way). I can’t remember why we opted to skip other than we were running a loop and had just been to the summit with the kids the year before. The official FKT loop that Dan created includes the out and back to the summit, which makes sense.

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In 2017, we went back to the LT for one of our “duathlon” FKT adventures, but this time we made our trip to the northern half on the Monroe Skyline. Then in 2019, we returned to Glastenbury again for a “duathlon.” This time we kept going north on the LT rather than looping via the West Ridge. We continued on to Stratton Pond via the Stratton Pond Trail and then reconnected with the LT until we made it to Prospect Rock. From there we took Old Rootville Road to our bikes. We had thought about doing the Glastenbury/West Ridge Loop, but we were intent on running and riding.

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So, we had unfinished business on the loop. In the meantime, FKT’s have blown up. Even Debbie and I have gotten in on the action. We have had a busy year. With most races cancelled (including all of ours), we have turned our adventuring to these challenges and we are having a blast. It has kept us motivated and fit.

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Of course, you are only fit until you fall! Yesterday, I had three hard falls. They all came on the West Ridge Trail between the 13.5 miles and 17 miles and after my legs had been weakened. On Friday, I was able to take the afternoon off from work, so we drove to Vermont after lunch. We parked at the LT trailhead on Rt. 9 just to the east of Bennington. We arrived in the early evening, and made some dinner. We brought vegan cheese from Divine Treasures to go with crackers. We boiled water and ate a Good to-Go meal. After dinner, we readied our gear and then slept in the van. We had a funny episode after midnight when a critter (probably a squirrel or chipmunk) ended up on the roof of the van. This had never happened before and after lot of clattering and scratching, it took a few “knocks” too convince him/her to get off.

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The next sound we heard on the roof was the falling rain. After a very dry August, the last week has been wetter and we knew that more heavy rain was forecast for Saturday. It started as drizzle but by the time we awoke around 6:00 A.M., the rain had become steady with intermittent downpours. After a little breakfast, we got started. We planned to hammer the route. Since our first time hiking this loop in 2015, it’s definitely become a lot more popular. Appearing on the FKT site will boost the attraction of most routes. The West Ridge Trail is still lightly used, but we could tell that over the last five years, it has become more popular.

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This loop is a tale of two trails. The Long Trail (which overlaps with the Appalachian Trail on this section) is heavily used. The treadway is more rocky and the hardened soil doesn’t drain as well. The West Ridge Trail is much softer. It has fewer rocks, but it has many more roots. The water doesn’t collect as much, but the trail is more narrow and heavily overgrown. It is lined with ferns and other plants and they disguise the hidden obstacles.

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Our run was “all business.” We only took a handful of photos. Our “A goal” was to break 5 hours. We also wanted the FKT for a Mixed-gender team and if we met our goal, Debbie would likely get the fastest documented time for any woman. We made it to the summit in about 2 hours and 31 minutes. The LT was soaked and the deep puddles were punctuated by tons of rocks. Debbie was very strong and she led most of the way. She distanced me on the downhills, but I caught back on the climbs. I was definitely feeling fatigue in my legs from last weekend’s Shenipsit Trail Duathlon. She also had a big Saturday last week. While I was on the Shenipsit Trail, she ran the Pemi Loop in NH with Laura Becker.

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There were no views at the top of Glastenbury, so we tagged the tower, took a few photos, and quickly turned back. There was a group of hikers holed up at the Goddard Shelter, and they didn’t look excited to venture out into the rain. We wished them a good day and then left the white-blazed LT for the blue-blazed West Ridge Trail. The rain continued, but as noted, the trail soaked in more of the moisture. The challenge was that it was hard to see the roots. This part of the loop has more descending so we were able to run even faster. The entire loop is gnarly and technical, which is a real advantage for Debbie, and a real disadvantage for me or any normal human. She is skilled at navigating trail obstacles and she is a fearless descender.

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I was doing my best to keep up, and ironically, my first fall (and the hardest) occurred when I was running in front of her. I caught my toe on a hidden root and did a “superman.” I jammed my left wrist, banged the heel of my right hand, and smashed my left knee into a rock. The impact cut my knee, but oddly, it didn’t bleed much. The laceration was across the bone. The real pain came from the impact. I sat there for a minute assessing my injuries. After a few more moments, I got up and started walking to test out my leg. Eventually, I was able to start running slowly again and then picked up the pace. A crash like that can end a run in an instant, so I was thankful to be able to keep moving.

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About 1.5 miles later, I was still running in front of Debbie (I think she was monitoring  me from behind!) and I caught my toe on a rock. Once again, I didn’t see it below the ferns. This time, I ended up off the trail in the wet brush, and I smacked the same knee. It wasn’t as bad as the first fall, but it was still discouraging. We made our way over Bald Mountain without further incident, but I was wisely fearful of the steep and rocky descent. That section of the West Ridge Trail is more trafficked and it exhibits some of the characteristics of the LT. It’s more eroded, and therefore more rocky. I’ve had trouble on it before.

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The lichen-coated rocks were slick as ice with the rain and within a minute of cresting the summit, I had a wicked fall. I planted my left foot on a rock and it just slid off. That resulted in another hard fall on my left knee. I hit a different spot a little higher up, and it was quite painful. There was no blood, but this time, it immediately puffed up. Debbie and I had agreed that she would run down at her own pace and that I would hang back before closing the gap on the flatter bottom section and then meet up with her on the dirt Harbour Road. She knew I fell because I yelped. I yelled for her to continue on as I shook off the pain. I think she backed off a bit to make sure I was OK.

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I got going again and just focused on the finish. When the trail started to flatten out, I could see her about 30 seconds ahead. When I finally got past the worst of the rocks and dumped out on the dirt road, I could see her up ahead. I slowly pulled her back and as we got to Rt. 9, we were together again. The final asphalt section is not pretty, but it is the price you pay for completing the loop. It’s safest to run on the left side facing traffic, but the shoulder is narrow, and periodically, you are pinned up against a guardrail. The vehicles come towards you at a high rate of speed as they are descending into Bennington. The road had just been paved, so the speeds seemed even higher. There are a few spots where you can run just off of the edge of the road on the gravel shoulder, but it is still unnerving. It’s not a nice stretch of road. You definitely want to be visible to the oncoming traffic. The road winds uphill for a mile or so until you get back to the LT trailhead.

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We pushed it hard all the way to the parking lot. We finished in 4 hours 53 minutes and 2 seconds. Even though speedsters including Josh Ferenc, Dan Grip, Neil Clauson, and Ben Nephew have lowered Dan Rosenthal’s original time to an incredibly fast 3 hours and 19 minutes, we were happy with our time with more than a few miles on our legs.

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Other than a few LT backpackers, including those at Goddard, we had the loop to ourselves. We didn’t see anyone on the West Ridge Trail until we got to the dirt road where a few day hikers were headed towards Bald Mountain. We were back at the van by noon, and after a quick rinse in City Stream, we drove back to Debbie’s parents’ in Prospect. We stopped twice to stretch our legs and we were reunited with our family by 3:00 P.M. I like it when I can get my weekly running goal (20 miles) in one run. I’ll be stiff and sore for a few days, but after a good night of sleep, my body is already making the necessary repairs so that we can keep on running.


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