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!
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.
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.
Last October, as a long season of trail running came to a close, I pondered the semi-unthinkable: Would it be possible to compete in and complete a marathon without the single-minded training regimen that is inevitably recommended by “the experts”? Training for marathons by traditional methods (60-90 training miles per week, for many many weeks) had only accomplished one result for me- injuries before I ever reach the start line. Well, I found the answer for this, when I raced in a marathon, and completed it, feeling great most of the way – the description of that race has already been described in my post entitled “Questioning Conventional Wisdom – A Marathon Story”.
So far this season, I have done a fair number of longer runs (up to 13 miles), but let’s face it – one’s conditioning can’t be as advanced in July as it is in October. Add the loss of training time due to a nasty cold, and worse than usual allergies, and well, my legs have definitely felt better. Nonetheless, I have always wondered if I would be able to enter, and complete a marathon, treating it as “just” a very long training run. Why did I think this was even possible? For one, there are a fair number of older athletes (*ahem* like me) who run in large numbers of marathons each year, and while they don’t compete for prizes, they appear to have fun chugging along at a more leisurely pace than the younger thoroughbreds. These people have to have day jobs right? An early summer marathon also might be a springboard to more, and maybe longer races later in the season. So, I set out to find a mid-summer marathon to test some new questions about physical limits.
It didn’t take me long to learn of a race in Waitsfield VT called “The Mad Marathon“, and I thought that with a name like that, it would be a perfect venue at which to attempt this latest experiment. There was one slight problem with this plan – a marathon with truly minimal training should probably be undertaken on a flat course, and this race has 1000 vertical ft of climbing and descent. Yikes! Nonetheless, there I was at 7 am Sunday morning…lined up with about 1200 runners (most of whom seemed to be running in either the half marathon, or as members of marathon relay teams) for the starting gun.
I knew I had to do things differently if I was going to survive this race. I tend to start of long runs slowly, and accelerate as the run or race proceeds. In this run, however, I knew that I was cutting it awfully close in terms of my abilities, so I picked a pace which I knew I could maintain for long distances, and stuck to that pace, no matter how good I felt at various times in the race. I also knew that for a sunny summer run, even in comfortable weather (and nature obliged with high temperatures in the low 70′s by the end of the morning race) hydration would be even more critical that usual. With this in mind, I forced myself to take water at EVERY water station, and walk through the station so that I could drink the full cup. As a curious aside, at the first water station, only about a mile into the race, the volunteer offering me my hydration seemed shocked when I drank the gatorade, and poured the water on my head! This is another old runner’s trick for staying cool on long runs, but apparently this particular volunteer had never before witnessed the practice. And speaking of the volunteers – they were great! Water stations were abundant, amply staffed, and I don’t think that I have ever seen a more enthusiastic bunch.
I am not going to go into the particulars of the race course, as it is well described on the race website linked to above. In general, it started in the village of Waitsfield, climbed up to the roads high on the east side of the Mad River Valley (where a few past runs, including one a few weeks ago have been posted), did a loop to the north towards Moretown, and reversed its course into East Warren, before plunging back into the valley for the finish line. I am going to share a few fun quirks of this well run race. At about the 9 mile mark, I approached a woman who seemed to be struggling on the second of many climbs in the race. She also had a sign on her back saying “Today is my birthday”. So, as I pulled alongside her, I inquired if anyone had sung the Happy Birthday Song to her yet that day. Hearing that nobody had, I asked her name, and sang her the song before passing her by. I hope you finished the race Barbara! Another fun little semi-surprise was……free beer! The catch, was that in order to get the beer for free…..you had to drink it at mile 24 of the race – beer at the finish line cost 3 bucks a cup! I loved the novelty of this, and despite the fact that I knew it would cost me a few minutes, I was running this as a “Timeless” race, so I couldn’t resist the temptation for at least a few sips of delicious cold beer, even with a few painful miles to go. I also thought it was funny, that due to Vermont liquor laws, I had to go stand inside the roped in area to enjoy this treat. Many thanks to my new friends from the Sam Adams distributor! Finally, the finish line had a little barn structure to run under as one crossed the finish line, and the race announcers went out of their way to welcome each and every finisher by name over the PA system, and say something about where they were from. The race participants also seemed to come from a lot of different places, for such a small race (only 271 finishers in the full marathon!) It seemed that a disproportionate number of the entrants were striving to complete a marathon in each of the 50 states, and they found this marathon appealing, since it was a mid summer marathon, a rarity, in a cool climate.
So, here I am, a day later, and I really don’t feel too bad! The legs are a bit tight, but I suspect I will be able to resume at least short runs in a day or two. I think I will call this experiment a success! Thanks to the organizers for putting together a challenging (hence slow) fun race. I don’t have any pictures of the race, but the race web page has a lot of nice shots up from the 2011 race, which will give one a great feel for the great scenery accompanying this race.