Posts Tagged 'marathon'

2010 NipMuck Trail Marathon

Today was the 27th running of the NipMuck Trail Marathon in Ashford, Connecticut. NipMuck holds a special place in New England running history, and it is the oldest trail running race in the region. NipMuck has a wonderful tradition and that tradition has been carried forth for its entire history by its venerable Race Director, NipMuck Dave Raczkowski. NipMuck Dave has been at the helm of the race since its founding and he has set the standard for race directors. His quirky approach to grassroots race production has made him a popular figure in the tight-knit New England trail running community.

In recent years, the race has become an increasing challenge for him to direct, and since the 25th running two years ago, he has sought to scale back the production by limiting the number of runners. NipMuck has drawn runners far and wide, and finishing it has been a badge of honor. Today, NipMuck Dave formally announced that in 2011, he will step aside and be succeeded by Clinton Morse as Race Director. Clint is on the board of our running club, the Shenipsit Striders (Debbie is the president), and has helped out with the Soapstone Mountain Trail Races for several years.

He has big shoes to fill at NipMuck, but will likely make some changes so that he can put his own imprint on the race. Look for some positive changes in 2011, including a more open race entry process, and remember that change is good! Both Clint and Dave are excited about the future of NipMuck.

This year’s NipMuck was Debbie’s first big objective of the year. Eight months removed from the birth of our second child, she is still very much in transition mode. As a breast-feeding Mom, it is impossible to perform at the highest level, but she is intent on not just regaining her pre-children form, but on reaching a new level of athletic performance. It will likely take a few more years, but the journey is underway.

Today, she met one objective and fell short of another, but the conditions weren’t suitable for running a fast time. She won the race in 4:11:40 or so. The official results won’t be available for a day or two. She has a couple other NipMuck victories from her seven previous times running the race. We were talking about this on the way home and she honestly doesn’t remember how many she has won, but she has taken home the coveted apple pie at least twice before. When it comes to statistics, we have different approaches. I track my goals and my past results, while she is much more laissez-faire with the whole competitive thing. Nonetheless, she has a burning desire to succeed. Her time goal was to break four hours for the first time. Her previous personal best is 4:03:20, which she ran in 2008. She has broken 4:05 on three occasions, but sub-four remains elusive. For most runners, NipMuck runs at least one hour slower than a road marathon.

It was extremely hot and humid today with the temperature in the low-80’s (Fahrenheit) and the dew point was more than 60%. It was so humid that it seemed as if it would downpour at any moment. Instead, there were only sprinkles. It didn’t downpour until severe thunderstorms rolled through the area around 3:30 P.M., well after most of the runners had finished. However, there were likely some runners still on the course since the cutoff is eight hours and I know that several runners were going to need all the time available in order to finish.

Debbie hit the six-mile turnaround in 50 minutes, the 12 mile aid station in 1:45 and the Boston Hollow turnaround in 3:05, but couldn’t hold it together. She faded a bit in the final six miles, but was still very pleased with first woman and another NipMuck victory to cherish. Only three weeks removed from directing the Soapstone Mountain Trail Races for the eighth time, she hasn’t been able to get the long distance training necessary to build her endurance back as quickly as she hoped. Our Brazil trip allowed for a good taper, but I’m sure the travel took some snap out of her legs.

Regardless, she was excited to spend the good part of a day on the gorgeous Nipmuck Trail, part of Connecticut’s Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail system. The men’s winner was Dave Herr, a talented distance runner who has won many top area races. I chatted with Dave when he finished. He was dripping with sweat and a little groggy after pushing himself in the heat. He too was pleased with his result. Brett Stoeffler avenged last year’s DNF (sprained ankle) by grabbing second spot and he looked fresh at the finish. Matt Estes ran a workmanlike race, passing several people in the second half, to finish third. The second female was Kerry Arsenault, who is a past NipMuck champion. As mentioned, full results will be available in the next few days and I will post a link.

We saw a lot of friends today, which is another reason why we love this race. I hope to be back running the Muck next year, but today, I had my hands full with our kids. I still managed to take some photos, but I only made it to one aid station because the napping schedule didn’t work out. After seeing the runners go through six miles, we returned to the finish so that we could see them pass through at the 12 mile mark and then watch them finish.

For me, the most thrilling storyline of the day (other than NipMuck Dave’s swan song as RD), was Richard Busa’s attempt to become the first 80-year-old to finish the race. Rich is a legend in New England. He is a Korean War Silver Star recipient, airborne trooper, late-life runner, ultramarathoner, and an inspiration for many people. He was out there again today, giving it his all. I saw him at the 12 mile mark, and wished him luck, knowing that we would have to leave before he finished. I’ve been thinking about him all afternoon, especially after the big t-storms rolled through, and I’m anxious to see if his name graces the results. I’m proud of my athletic accomplishments, but if I can run or bike like Rich can when I’m 80, then I’ll be suitably stoked.

Next up for us in the New England Grand Tree Trail Running Series is the Mt. Greylock Trail Race on Father’s Day. I hope to be recovered from Ironman Brasil so that I can give it a go. Debbie should be fine in a week, though I know her legs are sore right now. She has several 50K’s planned for late summer and fall, so today’s 26.4 (yep, just a bit longer than marathon distance) should help her with the preparation.

Race Results

Curly’s (Trail) Marathon & Half Marathon

This past weekend, we traveled to the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts for Sunday’s Curly’s Marathon. Debbie took first place among women in this first time race, with a finishing time of 5:08:08. Ben Nephew took the overall honors in 3:47:47. Promoted by Beth Herder of Berkshire Sports, the race honors her father, Curly Voss, who was a pioneering Berkshires skier. The course was on Pittsfield State Forest trails and also on a four mile section of the Taconic Crest Trail

Most of the runners noted that this was a rugged course, made a tad bit more challenging by the torrential rain brought to New England by tropical storm Hanna. It basically poured non-stop from 5:00 P.M. on Saturday until dawn on Sunday. We camped out and fortunately, had the benefit of our VW Eurovan. The Pop-Top kept us dry, but the pounding of the rain kept us from getting any solid sleep. 

We awoke to drizzle and fog, especially evident at the high points of the course, but by 9:00 A.M., the clouds gave way to patchy sunshine. By noon, it was gorgeous with a perfect running temperature. The course was two laps of a 13.1 mile loop. It was run first counter-clockwise. There was a half marathon option. If you chose to do the full, you went back out on the course a second time in the clockwise direction.

You could tell that a lot of runners were using this race for training towards some of the bigger fall classics. The Pisgah 50km is next week and the Vermont 50 is in three weeks. I figured I would “save” my legs for later and spent the day crewing for Deb, hanging with Shep, and shooting photos. The state forest is very nice. We went to the top of the big climb at the 5 mile/8 mile mark (depending on the loop) to take in the great views west towards Albany, New York. It was chilly and breezy when we first got their moments after the 8:00 A.M. start. You can tell that fall is just around the corner.

Curly’s Marathon results

Curly’s Half Marathon results

Photos from both races

2008 Pittsfield Peaks Ultra Challenge

The second Pittsfield Peaks Ultra Challenge was this past Saturday in Pittsfield, Vermont. Debbie had decided to run this beast again after finishing the Nipmuck Trail Marathon two weeks ago. The first Pittsfield last year was grueling and humbled both Debbie, men’s winner, Leigh Schmitt; and the rest of the brave runners who took a risk on a new race. This year’s race was on a nearly identical course, but all the repeat runners said the route was tamer. In analyzing the times, it seems as if last year’s event was more like 60 miles instead of the advertised 53. The images of the effort are fabulous.

The uphill start.

Leigh Schmitt, men\'s winner.

Well that was last year. This is this year. Word had spread in the past 12 months, and it seems as if twice as many people lined up to run. The race started at 5:10 A.M. and it was fitting that the runners immediately went up a hill. Weather conditions were good in the morning and a bit more difficult in the afternoon. It got warmer and much more humid as the day went on. Just as evening approached, a line of thunderstorms rolled into Vermont, catching some runners in the rain. We weren’t able to stay to see all of the runners finish. Clearly, some were going to be out there for a while. Last year, many finished under cover of darkness.

Leigh Schmitt took top honors again, finishing in 8:29:59, more than 90 minutes faster than last year. He looked strong all day and was never really threatened. He established his lead on the first 12 mile segment, extended it on the next out and back section, then cemented it on the notorious 19 mile Bloodroot Mountain loop. He was chased by Tom Page, Brian Rusiecki, and Courtenay Guertin for most of the race. Tom (2nd in 9:11:25) and Brian (3rd in 9:18:48), kept their positions, but Courtenay was leap frogged later in the race.

Sherpa John\'s leg...it wasn\'t a 100, but...

Debbie won the inaugural race last year, but Nikki Kimball made the trek from Montana to test her legs on some New England terrain. Nikki was returning to home soil since she is a native Vermonter. Nikki took the win in 9:37:36 and finished 4th overall. She was followed by a remarkable masters runner, Bob Mathes in 5th, and the aforementioned, Courtenay Guertin, in 6th. Brennen Wysong was 7th. Debbie stayed with Nikki until the Bloodroot section, but eventually settled into her own pace. She was second woman in 10:38:48, good for 8th overall. She said that only had one bad stretch in the last 10 miles, but recovered after spending a little extra time at the last aid station to hydrate and refuel. Third woman was Brenda Phillips in 11:26:18. Brenda is another Vermonter.

Debbie had a good run.

I’ll add a link when the full results are posted.

Debbie and Nikki.

The Peak Adventures crew and volunteers, led by Race Director Andy Weinberg, did a fabulous job again. Many runners remarked that the course was well marked (there was an issue with vandalism last year). The hospitality was again excellent. Camping was available right at the start line, which made the early wake up a lot easier. They didn’t run the Death Division event at the same time. It is next weekend. So for all you masochists out there, check it out. You better start training…mentally.

Once again, I crewed for Debbie with Shep. We had a great time and saw her five times. We made it to several aid stations via bike/trailer. I also got some great photos.

Vive Vermont!

More North Face Endurance Challenge Thoughts

Well, the results are finally in for the North Face Endurance Challenge at Bear Mountain in New York. My original post on the race generated some feedback and forced me to reflect on both my comments and the event. It seems that I overlooked two aspects of the race. First, apparently, there was a significant controversy over the cutoff times. Second, I neglected to mention that the first two finishers, Leigh Schmitt and Glen Redpath, missed the 3rd aid station. I’ll get to the miss in a moment, but first, about the cutoff times.

My day was very busy, hustling from aid station to aid station with our little guy in tow. I was consumed with the action, but I still noticed that something was not right. By the last aid station, I realized that a lot of the 50 mile runners weren’t going to finish the race. Of course, I sort of knew this as early as aid station three, when it took forever for the first runners to arrive. 

I didn’t analyze the cutoff times for each aid station, but in the case of the 50 mile race, 13 hours for the whole race wasn’t long enough. The last official finisher in 19th place, finished in 12:52. Eight of the 19 finishers ran between 12 and 13 hours! The course was rated on the website with five out of five stars for overall difficulty. Compared to the other four races in the series, this one, the first, was clearly rated as the most difficult in terms of elevation change, technical terrain, and overall difficulty. Again, I don’t know enough about the circumstances, but I do know that I would be disappointed if I had trained, prepared, traveled, and paid to run; and was not allowed to finish. Did all the runners know what they were getting into? I would assume most did if they were committed to running 50 miles, starting at 5:00 A.M. with headlamps. Debbie doesn’t recall that there were any prerequisites (e.g. past ultra experience, etc.) to registering for the event. Our friend, Nipmuck Dave, has a hilarious race application for his race, the Nipmuck Trail Marathon. Cloaked in the humor is a very serious message, that a trail race of that distance (26.4 miles) is a serious undertaking and that you have to train for it and understand that you can get hurt while spending a lot of time in the woods. He has prerequisites for running the race and also has the right to not let you in. Running a road marathon to qualify, will get you nowhere with Dave.

The Bear Mountain race winner, Leigh Schmitt, has run the same distance on different courses, at least two hours faster. Debbie’s fastest 50 mile time is 7:54 at the Vermont 50 Mile Run. That is also more than two hours and twenty five minutes faster than her time in this race. The VT50 is no slouch of a course with a lot of climbing, less singletrack, and a little more dirt road, but still tough. Would Nikki Kimball have run the Bear Mountain course faster than Debbie? Probably, but again, times are relative and every runner has different strengths that are suited to certain terrain. Bear Mountain was just about perfect for Debbie. Nikki did run the 1/2 marathon on a bum ankle and commented that it was challenging.  Debbie says Bear Mountain was less than 10% dirt road and that it was rugged dirt road. The rest was singletrack and doubletrack with a little bushwhacking. April is early for a nasty 50 miler in the Northeast. Debbie was concerned about running that long this early in the year. If it wasn’t for our trip to Australia, where we ran the Six Foot Track Marathon (45km) last month, she may have opted not to run this far so soon. Our original plan was for her to run the Zane Grey Highline Trail 50 mile race in Payson, Arizona at the end of April. We backed out of that one because of our busy travel schedule, race logistics, and childcare challenges. Zane Grey is often regarded as the hardest 50 mile race in the country. I guess she has to run it next year or in 2010 to see if it is harder than Bear Mountain, a different kind of course, but seemingly a worthy challenger for the toughest title. I would be curious if any of the 19 Bear Mountain finishers has a Zane Grey finish to compare it with. So, I guess the cutoff time debate is exactly that…a debate. Most people run ultras for the fun and thrill of finishing. I’m a mid-pack guy myself, so I know that just getting across the line is a challenge. Runners like Debbie and Leigh are usually finished, showered, and on their way home long before the back of the packers end their day. The cruel irony is that the last finishers run the same distance, but technically spend a lot more time on the trail. Is their effort harder? I’ve said many times that I wouldn’t want to be out there that long. Well, that is what makes those folks heroes in my eyes. They deserve as much, if not more credit for being out there, as the champs do for crossing the line first. 

As for this tricky little third aid station issue. I was reminded by a reader of this blog that Leigh and Glen did not “complete the course.” I don’t know if there times were adjusted, but they did not run the out and back section to aid station three (15.7 mile mark). I was at three, so I know it. I think that the first runner to arrive was Marc Gravatt, who ended up finishing fourth. Debbie was the second to arrive and she finished third. We suspected something was up because it was taking too long for Leigh. He was the heavy favorite and we never saw him. I ended up trying to catch him at several other aid stations, but I kept missing him. I only missed him by seven minutes at the last aid station, but that cost me any chance of getting his photo on the trail. You would have to piece together the facts, but apparently, this one section of the course leading to aid station three, was not marked very well. The 50 kilometer was blue ribbons and the 50 mile was white. The course came down the trail to the aid, where the blue continued and the white returned to where the out and back started. Debbie says it was confusing and even one of the race organizers said it could have been marked better. He ended up going up the trail and re-marking it, but not until Leigh and Glen had passed. 

They eventually realized that they missed the aid station because they inquired about their status at aid station four, and were both told to continue running after volunteers radioed the base for guidance. In this case, the way the course was laid out, there was no way to indicate that they were headed the wrong way. Little out and backs like that are tricky. Even the map wasn’t detailed enough to really show this. So, in my opinion, it is hard to fault them. I spoke with both of them after the race and they expressed regret. Even if it saved them 10 minutes between the downhill, fueling at the aid, and uphill, they had a healthy cushion over Debbie, the next finisher. I’m sure that they may have even slowed a bit after realizing the mistake. That kind of stuff messes with your head. Do you run another 33 miles only to be disqualified? 

I’m sure that others have a different opinion. If there was more competition, there may have been a bigger controversy. The rules posted on the website clearly state that you must check in at every aid station. Well, it is ultimately the race organizers who make the rules, so they can change them too. Leigh and Glen were OK’d to finish the race and claim their spots on the podium. I’m sure they understand that cutting the course and missing an aid in other races could result in a DQ. It isn’t a simple matter because marking a course is an imperfect science. Nature and sabotage have caused runners to lose their way in the woods many times in many races. 

Do the cutoff time and course marking issues make the race a bad one? That is for the runners to decide. They each have their own perspective. Do these issues reflect poorly on the race and the North Face brand. Probably, but that is how things go. It was their first race in the series this year. Hopefully the lessons learned will transfer to the folks promoting the other regional events. Every course is different and according to the website, the remaining four race courses are going to be a lot easier. The bigger concern in my mind is if a first time race like this has “legs.” Will it last 24 more years like Nipmuck, Western States, and some of the other great ones? North Face and their co-sponsors have clearly pumped a lot of dollars and marketing might into their series. Brands like the North Face don’t often last 25 years and marketing budgets shrink. Think back to one of my more infamous race reports after the HERC Open last year. I think the company behind HERC and the $25,000 prize list, Unither Nutriceuticals, Inc. is bankrupt. I know their website is down. The races that are now legendary all have great courses (like Bear Mountain) but they also have great race directors and/or running clubs who have had long tenures putting them on. They also tend to have no or very small prize lists. It is the honor of finishing that is significant. 

Three cheers to all of the racers who ran on Saturday at all four of the race distances, and kudos to everyone who toed the start line, not just those who crossed it heading in the other direction hours later. 


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My daughter chose the hair piece, so I proved to her that I do have a sense of humor. #selfportrait
Great fun at today’s @minutemanrdclub #Cyclocross in Lancaster, MA. @horstcycling #horstcycling #teamhorstsports #teamhorstjuniorsquad @zanksscx @the_ccap
Great day at the #vermont50 🚵‍♂️🍁
Good morning! 🚴🏽
I got to sample the fun activities at Boy Scouts @troop25ct Camp Kirkham. I slept under the amazing stars. We had a full agenda of geocaching, archery, cooking, disc golf, and paddling. I even squeezed in a run to the top of Silver Mountain where I had a 360 degree view. #boyscouts
It was great fun cheering for the Bolton Center School XC Team and their coach @trailrunningmom at The Panther Fest. Go Bulldogs! #crosscountry #trailrunning 🏃🏽‍♀️ 🏃🏿
#carfreecommute #wickhampark
It’s easy to love the infamous water (muck) crossing at the Trails to a Cure (Cockaponset Trail Race). We felt like sea monsters! I can’t believe how out of breath I was after fetching my camera at the finish and running the 1/4 mile back to catch @trailrunningmom and Shepard make their crossings. Either hey are getting faster or I am getting slower! Maybe more swim-run is in our future. 🏊🏽‍♀️🏃🏽‍♀️ #shenipsitstriders #teamhorstsports #teamhorstjuniorsquad #blueblazedtrail #trailrunning
Good fun kicking off the 2019 #cyclocross season at the #QuadCross It was also the launch of the 2019 @zanksscx which is my prime CX objective. #crossisboss @horstcycling #horstcycling #teamhorstsports #teamhorstjuniorsquad #crossspikes #sevencycles

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