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Fathers’ Day Moosamaloop

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Sunday of course, was the Y-chromosome version of the two “family holidays”, namely, Fathers’ Day.  So, after enjoying a pile of blueberry pancakes in bed (lovingly prepared by my daughter), complete with maple syrup which dripped off my fork and onto my t-shirt, followed by a few chores, I chose to spend part of the day on my own adventure before a planned evening of activities back with the Trailrunner family.  For this weekend’s run, I chose a loop over the top of Mount Moosalamoo, including one section of trail I had never previously explored.  To get to the trailhead,  I drove up Rt. 125 towards the Snow Bowl, but took the right turn onto the Ripton-Goshen Road a short distance past beautiful downtown Ripton.  A few miles down this well maintained dirt road, I took the right turn onto the road leading to the Moosalamoo Forest Service Campground.  A few short weeks ago, I did a run from this same parking lot, but instead of the first bits of Spring greenery, I was treated to full summer foliage, replete with the first glimpses of roadside daisies, my favorite flower.

Arriving in the parking lot immediately before the campground loop I could see that the weather was getting a little bit gloomier, but short of an immediate downpour, I saw no reason not to enjoy the run!  The first third of a mile or so meandered through the woods behind the campground, and joined an old lumber road for a short (and well marked) turn to the right, followed almost immediately by a left turn with a short steep descent down to the North Branch stream crossing bridge, the low point of the run.

Stream Crossing

Stream Crossing

From this point on, it was a relentless, but rarely steep uphill run for the better part of the next two miles.This particular climb features prominently in The Moosalamoo Ultra, a MUCH longer trail run which I featured in this blog last year. The trail angled along the side of Mt. Moosalamoo for most of the way, and the low ground cover combined with the mature hardwood forest accentuated the sloped appearance.

Sidehill Running

Sidehill Running

At the two mile mark, the road splits, with the right turn constituting the long descent of the Oak Ridge Trail, and the left turn heading towards the Moosalamoo Summit.  About a quarter mile from the summit, my head turned ever-so-slightly and out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a large and rather bold creature who burst out of the trees and over the grass, edging its way towards me. Holy mother of god! What is it? No, the words that were being screamed inside the crowded confines of my busy mind were not ones I would chose to print. So much for peace and quiet, right? Anyway, I turned and strained my eyes (I leave my glasses behind on runs) to confirm the status and stature of the intruder. A squirrel? A stray dog? Nope! It was a fully grown bear, coming rapidly towards me. I have seen bears a handful of times in my life, but this one did not turn and run away as all the others had – it was coming right at me.

Anyway! I wanted to just watch her (I am guessing it was a she/sow guarding cubs), and even briefly reached for my camera until I realized she was coming at me, fast! I made a noise and waved my arms on purpose to see what would happen. Death wish? I don’t think so. She stopped maybe 10 yards away and probably not interested in eating me. Right? As she reared on her hind legs, I figured it was time to get out of there, so I backed off slowly, facing the bear, shouting and waving my arms, and when I disappeared over a ridge a minute later, I resumed my run, admittedly at a much faster pace.

Reaching the first of the twin peaks a few minutes later, I warned a family out for an afternoon hike to make plenty of noise on their descent. I offered an alternate route which bypassed the bear-infested trail, but they decided, probably correctly, that they would be more likely to come to harm getting lost in the woods than they would meeting up with a bear. I haven’t heard of any missing or eaten persons, so I presume they got out just fine. In addition to a few minutes of good conversation, I came across another treat – there, lying in the trail, was a live Luna Moth! I had never seen one of these graceful behemoths of the insect world before, and didn’t even know that they were native to Vermont! Entymologists claim that they are actually pretty common, so I wonder why they are so shy?

Luna Moth

Luna Moth

Moving from the first summit, to the second summit which actually has better views, and after a short steep descent, I came to the trail which would complete my loop, the left turn onto the Keewaydin Trail. This trail, appearing on most of the maps of the region, is one which I had never hiked or run on previously, but looked like a convenient means of returning to my car in a loop run, rather than a simple “out and back” on the same trail. While the Keewaydin trail was very well marked, it had the wear more characteristic of a herd path or hunter’s trail, rather than a maintained trail. In some places, the trail was covered in soft spongy moss – a sure sign that it is almost never traveled on! While it was fine for hiking, as long as you don’t mind wet feet, it was very slow going from my runner’s perspective. Nonetheless, it is always fun going through new terrain. After about 2 miles of descent, I came to the road connecting the Moosalamoo campground with the Voter Brook overlook, and took a left turn for the easy run down the dirt road, returning to my car in what was now a drizzly afternoon. A few soggy campers huddled around smoky fires, but the campground was mostly empty.

This loop would make for a fun half day hike for most hikers, and took considerably less than that as a trail run, although the Keewaydin Trail section wasn’t great for runners. The run was only about 5 and a half miles, but did have close to 1200 vertical feet of climbing and descent. This was definitely one of the most exciting runs I have been on in a long time!

Google Earth of the run, which began in the lower right hand corner

Google Earth of the run, which began in the lower right hand corner

Moosamaloop altitude profile

Altitude profile

 

The Moosalamoo Ultra

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Over the last year or so, I have become increasingly interested in taking on longer, more challenging runs.  After reading the book “Born to Run” by Christoper McDougall, I was fascinated by the world of the elite ultrarunners – they are a very quirky and adventurous bunch who find ways to push their bodies to physical extremes.  As I was learning more about ultramarathon racing, I stumbled across the podcast entitled  “Running Stupid”.  This podcast, published every few weeks by a 40-something, self proclaimed “back of the pack” (that’s the nice way of saying “slow”), overweight, but joyously funny ultrarunner named “Coach Ken” regularly describes the challenges, successes and failures of an average Joe runner, and provides a window on the world of the more elite runners from his perspective.  In short, reading this book, and listening to these podcasts had me hooked – I had to try an ultramarathon.

There was a problem with this dream, this check box on my bucket list – running long races requires a LOT of training.  My life is pretty busy, and I knew from past experiences that my body almost always breaks down if I attempted to train for long or ultralong events.  Over the last year, however, I discovered that I could do, and enjoy regular road marathons with far less training than is usually prescribed, as long as I got in one very long run (at least two hours) every week, and as a result was successful in completing and actually enjoying two marathons in the last year.  Could this same regimen work for an ultramarathon?  Could I finish?  Could I feel good enough that I actually enjoy the race?  Ultramarathons typically range from 50 km road races (about 31 miles) to 100 miles on road or trails, or even more.  I knew I had better look for one on the short side, for obvious reasons.

A few months ago, I noticed an announcement for the “Moosalamoo Ultra a 36-mile race to be held on the trail network of the Moosalamoo region on August 18.  This seemed like a great one to try – readers of this blog will know that I am quite familiar with the trails here, and it had the added convenience of being close to home.   In fact, looking at the race course, I had previously run almost all of the trails on the course at some point or another, and I described the course as “four or five great runs – all in one day!”  The race was being organized by John Izzo, a Salisbury resident and avid local runner, with the Blueberry Hill Inn as its base of operations and start/finish area.

So, I lined up at 8 am on Saturday with about 100 other runners, about half of whom were doing the still very challenging 14 mile version of the race.  Usually, in this blog, I go into a fair amount of detail on the route, but this particularly elaborate course pretty much defies a detailed description.  I am going to include a Google Earth projection as I usually do, and also make a link to the course map.  John clearly put a lot of thought into mapping out a great piece of running which covered pretty much every corner of the Moosalamoo region, with some very challenging climbs (the first loop up and over Mt Moosalamoo), an out and back section in the first half of the race, so that runners could have a feel for where they stood in the pack, some very muddy sections (yes, there is plenty of mud out there, even in this dry summer), and some particularly drop dead gorgeous sections of trail (the Chandler Ridge/Leicester Hollow loop comes to mind).  The course was also well supported with volunteers, many of whom were John’s family, at aid stations throughout the course.

In any case, as a first time ultrarunner, I brought the following with me on the course:

  1.  A 20-ounce water bottle that fit a waist belt.  Hydration, of course, is the single most important concern in a long, midsummer race.  With aid stations typically 3-5 miles apart, I usually tried to make sure that my water bottle was empty as I entered an aid station.  The one time I neglected my hydration, I paid dearly for it – the terrain between the aid station at mile 21 (on the Goshen Ripton Road) and mile 25 (Silver Lake), was almost entirely easy downhill, so I neglected to drink enough.  When I hit the next aid station, I topped off my water bottle without any extra drinking, and as a result ran out of water on the next segment – the arduous 5 miles on the Chandler Ridge.  I got rather severely dehydrated there, even feeling for a short while like I was not entirely in control of myself, so I took it slow, and took a much longer than usual break at the next aid station where I made rehydration a top priority.  Also, the two women (one of whom I found out later was John the organizer’s wife) had actually hiked in a mile carrying all the food that morning, so they deserved to have someone stop and chat for a while!
  2. Food – In almost all long workouts and races, I depend on the nasty, slimy, but wonderously rejuvenating little packets of Gu as my main source of sustenance.  I always ingest one packet after every hour of running, so I went through 9 Gu packets over the duration of the race.  Yup, I WAS out there a very long time – you do the math!  I am no longer feeling the love for the “Espresso Love” flavor!  The aid stations were supplied with lots of other calorie rich treats as well, and I found myself drawn to foods which otherwise would have made a typical 10 year old boy happy at lunchtime – PB+J sandwiches and potato chips.  I always eat PB+J when I go on day hikes, but had no idea potato chips would taste so good in the middle of a very long exhausting day.  I must have eaten a few bags worth.  In retrospect, it makes sense that a body would crave the chips – they provide a lot of calories (a typical ultrarunner probably goes through 5 or 6 thousand calories), and have a ton of salt to help that replaced through sweating.  I had one of the volunteers take the following picture at the last aid station on the shores of Silver Lake at mile 33, as I prepared to inhale a massive fistful of chips to power me to the finish line.  I also brought along some granola bars and these did not work very well!  While they are appropriately caloric, they are also very dry, so eating them required stopping long enough to catch my breath so I didn’t cough and choke.  They were also reduced to crumbs very early in the race making them even harder to eat.  Nope – granola bars are off the list!

More Chips at mile 33

  1. Camera.  I am writing a blog, so it made sense to bring it.
  2. Music.  I frequently run with an iPod, but never listen to it during a race – half the fun of racing is having conversations with people you meet along the way, and wearing an iPod tells other racers and organizers that you don’t want to communicate.  That said, given the paucity of runners and length of the course, I knew that there would be long stretches of solo running, perhaps many hours in duration, and musical motivation might keep me going better.  So, I put together the “jbr mix” (Jeff B running)  and brought it with me.  I ended up never listening to the music however – I had pretty steady company for the first two thirds of the race, and by the last third of the race, I was so depleted that I felt like I needed to pay full attention to my feet, my surroundings, and my general well-being in order to finish the race safely.
  3. Electrolytes.  I always drink Gatorade during long races, and since the organizers were only providing water, I purchased some powdered Gatorade, and filled about a half dozen plastic bags with just enough for the 20 ounces of water in my bottle at refills.  I used most of it, although by the end I was really sick of the stuff, and got my electrolytes from the aforementioned chips and from some salt tablets I had brought with me, and popped once in a while.

At Mile 1

 

The race itself seemed to have 3 distinct phases – the first third, including the run up and down Moosalamoo had the most challenging terrain, and I had other competitors in sight nearly the whole way, since the short race (14 mile) and long race (36+ mile) runners were all together.  This part went by pretty quickly.  Curiously, one of the few sections of trail that I had never been on before here was the “dimple” between the two summits of Moosalamoo, and this was the only time I got off course – I probably wasted about a half mile and 5 minutes getting my bearings back there.  I also saw two gentlemen hiking carrying what looked to be 100 pound bags of sand without the benefits of a backpack.  At first I was mystified, but then I recognized one of the two as someone training for another local ultra-endurance test – the even more masochistic “Death Race”.  Although this event had already taken place earlier this summer – perhaps they were training for next year already?

Moosalamoo Summit Views

 

The second third had what was probably the gentlest terrain in the race, and it was here that I met and ran with a few far more experienced ultramarathoners who kept me company, and answered my stupid questions.  We ran together for a few hours, and they did a very good job of mixing in running and walking so that we could maintain appropriate pacing for finishing.  Thanks Josh and Grant from NH!  I also knew that in the “long run” I would not be able to keep pace with these two experienced ultrarunners who were 25 years my junior.

 

The last third of the race ended up being, not surprisingly, the hardest part.  As well it should – prior to this race, I had never run longer than 4 and half hours, and I went into the last dozen miles already on my feet for over 6 hours.  I also bonked for a while due to dehydration, and the technical running on the Chandler Ridge also sucked a lot of the remaining life from my legs.  Curiously, at around 4:30 in the afternoon when I was coming up Leicester Hollow – I had one final surprise burst of energy, and was able to muster some real running for about a half hour.  I am not sure where this came from, but maybe my loved ones were thinking of me and sending some positive vibes my way right then!  However, other than this too brief reprieve, the last 12 miles were walked – I tried in vain to get my legs to turn over quickly enough to muster a slow jog across the finish line, but they couldn’t respond.  With one mile to go, even my GPS and camera were rebelling.  My watch proclaimed that it was “Low on Batteries”, and when I went to take a picture of this “No kidding” moment, my camera had a hard time opening its iris! Nonetheless, I did finish, and I wasn’t in dead last place (although closer to last than first!)

Well, Duh

 

What did I take from this race?  First of all – my modest training regimen is enough for a road marathon, but it really isn’t sufficient for a trail ultra.  I did finish, but I need to put more miles into my legs in training to keep a longer race like this fully enjoyable.  No surprise there!

 

I would also like to thank John Izzo and his extended family (as well as other volunteers) for the great job they did putting together this new race.  I would also like to thank Tony and the crew at Blueberry Hill for use of their facilities as a base of operation and start/ finish line.  I think the rest of my blogged runs this summer will be much shorter…..

Finally, my GPS measured the course slightly longer than advertised, at 37.5 miles (although about a half mile was spent off course) or about 60 km.  I agree with the estimation of about 3000 vertical feet of climbing and descent.

Google Earth Projection of The Moosalamoo Ultra

Moosalamoo Ultra altitude profile

A Midsummer Evening on Mount Moosalamoo

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Over the last few summers, I have blogged quite a few running  routes through the Moosalamoo region, but somehow never managed to work in a run over the region’s eponymous peak, Mt. Moosalamoo itself.  So why the sudden urge to actually ascend this rather gentle peak?  First of all, I love the way the name rolls off your tongue – is it possible to say the word “Moosalamoo” without smiling?  I didn’t think so!  Secondly, looking at the Forest Service map of the area, I realized that I could…so why not?  In the course of my hiking, I had climbed Moosalamoo from the Lake Dunmore (west) side – the summit can be easily reached by hiking another mile or two past the popular Rattlesnake Cliffs lookouts.  This route takes a different approach, from the East side on the Goshen – Ripton Road.

Looking to try a point-to-point run, I had my daughter deposit me at Moosalamoo Campground Road, where it meets the Goshen-Ripton Road at about 5 in the afternoon on a sunny, but not too hot afternoon.  After a short time on this dirt road, I took the Mount Moosalamoo Trail heading off to the right immediately before entering the campground area.  You will know you are on the right trail, as it is pretty well labeled!  This trail zigzags behind the campground for a few minutes, before reaching an old dirt road.  At this point, take a right turn for about 50-100 yards before the well marked left turn descending down to a wooden footbridge over a small stream.  At this point, the serious climbing begins!  The Moosalamoo Trail angles along the northeast flank of Moosalamoo before reaching the Oak Ridge Trail, an easy half mile or so from the summit.  Taking this left turn brought me to the “true summit” of Moosalamoo, which has only limited views through the trees. I knew from previous hikes that the slightly lower, southern summit, has some decent cleared overlooks, but since I had a pretty long run planned in the opposite direction I chose to forego this diversion and save my legs for a lot more miles planned in the opposite direction.  It is easy to find the true summit however, as like everything else in this run, it is well labelled!

The Well Labelled Moosalamoo Summit

Retracing my steps back to the trail junction, I set off on a very wild stretch of trail, the rarely traveled connection between Moosalamoo and Rt. 125 on the Oak Ridge Trail. The good news – this trail is well marked (What in the blue blazes! They are everywhere!) and almost entirely downhill. This did make for a very challenging trail however – it is very narrow, and in many places pretty rough going since not many footpads of hikers, let alone trail runners have beaten down this trail.  So, while the terrain itself was not particularly severe, the true single track nature of the trail made this slower going than one (that one being me) might expect. I really felt that I was out there, by myself on this one.  Passing by a few high altitude puddles which looked like ideal moose wallows, and even noticing some fresh bear poop got me so nervous that every Hyperactive squirrel in the woods made my heart beat faster!  Nonetheless, this was a gorgeous stretch of forest.  Most of the run was through mature hardwood forest, with the relatively little ground cover.  In quite a few sections I felt that there would be excellent views to the north in the fall.  I will have to come back and report on this.

With the slower than expected pace, and the late start, the forest started to get pretty dark, even though sunset was still some time away.  The sun got to be too low in the sky to permeate the forest, leading me to run cautiously, especially at the lower elevations, rather than attempt to shave a few minutes off my time.

Somewhat suddenly, after what seemed like an eternity of downhill running, the trail broke out into the diminishing sun, as the narrow single track trail joined the Old Town Road. This “Road” is only used by motorized vehicles for logging operations at present, and has never borne vehicular traffic in my 25 years in Addison County, but its level of development and the fact that the power lines leading up to Ripton following this route seem to indicate that it was once a real road. Does anybody know anything about the past use of this road? Did it always run parallel to Rt 125, or did Rt 125 supplant it at some point? Finally, reaching this broad easy former road did allow me to stretch my legs out a little and really run, however, without worrying about tripping over stumps and rocks, and it brought me after about a mile and a half of easy descending to Rt 125, where I caught the now setting sun, before descending into East Middlebury, ending the run at the playground parking lot on Schoolhouse Hill Road.

Roadside Sunset

This long and challenging run ended up at about 11 miles in length, with 1000 feet of climbing, and 2000 feet of descent, most of it at a slow jogging pace.

Google Earth of the run

Altitude Profile