While my primary goal with this blog is to introduce fellow runners to new running options, I also recognize that from time to time, those of us who run the trails like to pin on a race number and push it a little harder. One of the best places to do this is at the Goshen Gallop, now in its 31st year. This is primarily a trail race, with all but about a mile and half on trails, the rest on a quiet country dirt road. It is also VERY hilly, with two major climbs adding up to about 700 ft of climb and descent, earning it the reputation as the “toughest 10.2 K in New England”. And yes, even in dry years there is always plenty of mud, but more on that later. You might guess, with a reputation like this, that it would be populated by the most hardcore racers, but nothing could be further from the truth. This is a friendly race which tends to generate addicts who come back year after year, and while many are first rate runners, people run this race for the scenery and the adventure. Given that the course record was about 38 minutes last I checked, and that was set by a former olympic biathlete, most of the elite runners bypass this for more reasonable courses. Most avid recreational runners add 10-12 minutes to their typical 10K time when running this one!
The race is held at the Blueberry Hill Inn (http://www.blueberryhillinn.com/), a plush country inn which is literally in the middle of nowhere. While it is far too pricey for me to consider staying at, I have always loved the location and its events. The Goshen Gallop is run on trails which serve as part of the vast network of the cross country ski trails, which are part of the ski touring area in the winter. The area used to host one of the cross country ski races in the Great American Ski Chase, the national marathon series, but now the legendary Pig Race (a race lacking in rules, ending with a pig roast and a keg) is the only “major” ski race hosted here.
To get to the start of the race, head east on Rt. 125 towards Middlebury Gap. On the outskirts of Ripton, take the right turn on the Goshen-Ripton Road, a fairly well maintained dirt road. The road heads into national forest, and it feels like it! After a few miles of driving through the near-wilderness, a few meadows open up, and a few homes become apparent signifying the entry into the town of Goshen, home to a few hundred hardy souls up in the mountains. About a mile later, the Inn, sitting at the foot of Hogback mountain will be apparent. Take a look up at this small peak, as in a short while you will be climbing much of it.
This year’s race was made even more interesting by the extreme rainfall which has plagued us this summer – days without rain have been rare, and most days end with thunderstorms and downpours. The day before the race had an inch and a half of rain, and just as I pulled into the parking lot, the skies opened up with a massive downpour. I just sat in the car laughing until the rain let up, and noticed that other racers sitting in their cars shared the humor of the moment. Fortunately, the rains subsided before the race, and the sun came out, making for a rather pleasant late afternoon.
Race start photo courtesy of Blueberry Hill website
Most years, this race seems to have about 150 runners, but with the conditions, the race only had about half that number this year. Their loss! The race starts with about a km on the dirt road, before making a sharp left turn onto the trails, weaving its way up the side of Hogback Mountain, before coming out into the open meadows of the Blueberry Management area. This open area on the flanks of the mountain is almost entirely wild blueberry bushes, and by mid-July most years, is full of pickers filling their freezers full of wild berries for the upcoming year. Not this year, however, as the rain has apparently postponed the harvest. A short descent ensues leading to the first water station, followed by more climbing back in the woods. At around the 4 km mark a short steep descent leads back to the Inn. On most years, this is a good place to make up time, but with the very slippery footing this year, that seemed foolhardy. The course half way point point serves as the finish point for the mostly younger racers competing in the 5K race, and after another water station, the course bears right, back up the hill again for another long, steep climb.
The course section between the 6 km and 7 km marker is quite muddy, even in dry summers. As you might guess, the recent rains on top of an already saturated ground surface, combined with the footprints of runners created the anticipated quagmire. Oh well, mud may be slow, but it can be fun. After a few ups and downs, the race switchbacks its way down to a forest service road where the final water station awaits, descends, turns left onto the Goshen-Ripton Road for the final mile to the finish line. The last mile is surprisingly tough with a series of short climbs and descents before the final climb up to the finish line. A detailed description of all the turns in the race course would be futile, given the complexity of the trail network. A rough map of the course is available online, however. (http://www.blueberryhillinn.com/course.pdf)
There is always a good post-race party, complete with a picnic dinner, awards (not relevant to me!) and on some years, even live music- a great way to finish a run with a great vibe.
The Race Profile
Now while I usually don’t show the results of the heart rate monitor, I can’t resist this time, as if you look carefully, it shows that I did give better than 100%! And they said it couldn’t be done……
Heart rate as a % of max