A blog for runners in and about Addison County, VT
August 7th, 2017 at 1:47 pm
Posted by Jeff in Running

This past weekend, while many of my friends were keeping themselves amused at a muddy little event known as the Moosalamoo Ultra, I took it upon myself to spend some time away, visiting some family members, and enjoying another mix of earth and water – the mixture of sand and water commonly found on the beach.  In this case, I was staying at the Jersey Shore.  You might thing that there is no trail running on the shore, and strictly speaking, you would be right.  But, just like I decided last summer that I could define my own age groups for races (And from that point on, my age group, which is arbitrary anyways, became myself and anyone older than me), I have now decided that I can call any path I take a trail, so I might as well define my trail as that which was scenic and convenient – the Ocean City boardwalk.  Yeah – I didn’t think I would have to worry about bears or poison plants, let alone mud bogs, but I was just making the best of what I had to work with!

So, I set off on my not-so-adventurous adventure run on a humid morning.  I had hoped that the day would be at its coolest first thing in the morning, but I soon discovered that the early morning was probably the most humid time of the day, and there were few breezes to cool off by.  I guess I know the mountains better than I know the oceans?  After a few short zigzags on town streets, I found myself on the actual boardwalk.  And yes, the running was flat!  As is the case in most ocean resort communities, the homes facing the beach and ocean were among the largest, fanciest, and undoubtedly (to use what I suspect is a real estate buzzword)  “exclusive”.  Hey- I can’t stay in them, but my sweaty middle-aged body can block their otherwise pristine ocean view.

Luxury Homes on the Boardwalk

After a mile or so running through the high rent district, I reached the more heavily used stretch of boardwalk which fits most vacationers’ expectation for a Jersey Shore boardwalk. The next two miles were replete with fudge stores, tchotchke shops, and enough tshirts to outfit everyone on the beach twice over. It also made for great people-watching, even in the early morning. In addition to runners of all shapes, speeds and sizes, there were lots of cyclists out for early morning rides on their beach cruisers, and couples of all ages on bicycles built for two. At one point, I had fun trying to race against a 6-person pedal vehicle – they won until they got bored. Turning around at the north end of the boardwalk, where I could see the remnants of the once thriving city of Atlantic City a few miles further up the coast, I mostly retraced my steps.

Boardwalk Honkytonk

Beach Bum Van

As I neared my base of operations, I left the easy footing of the boardwalk for my real reason for being there – the beach itself and the water. As it was low tide, and the beach had been recently packed by the groomers, the running was easier than expected. Since there were only a handful of people on the beach this early, I could see my footprints in the sand, and also smiled when I came across the occasional heart with initials drawn in the wet sand, perhaps left behind by lovers out for a morning walk with more privacy than one could have in the heat of the day.

Tracks in the Sand

When all was said and done, I ended up covering about 6 miles, and since it was the shoreline, the biggest hill I had to climb was the short set of steps up to the boardwalk! Now that I am home, I will be returning to writing about trails in our corner of Vermont, but it was fun to run and write about a very different sort of running experience.

Google Earth trace of the run


July 17th, 2017 at 10:36 am
Posted by Jeff in Running

The Start/Finish with Hogback in the Background

 

As my recovery from shoulder surgery continues, it was time to take on the next touchpoint in the process – my first race since my injury. Having been warned by my physical therapist to lay off the really long workouts and races for a while, 10K seemed like about the right distance to begin my comeback. What better place to being my comeback than my long-time favorite race, the Goshen Gallop? I also knew that I was still far from the condition that I was in pre-injury, so any visions of glory and podium finishes were clearly out of the question – it was really a question of whether I could even finish this run over challenging terrain feeling good.   Part of my getting psyched for a race involves listening to the right music as I drive to the starting line.  As I punched in various songs on my iPhone, I remembered a song which a friend suggested for the same purpose about 5 years ago, when I was preparing to run a marathon after a long layoff, knowing that I was not in shape for it.  So, I drove up to the race, with Flor-ida blasting from the speakers of my Beetle, trying to will my body to do its best.

I have written up  the Goshen Gallop at Blueberry Hill a few times over the years since I began this blog. most recently in 2011, although I run it most years it seems.   As is the case with most races, entry comes with a t-shirt, having run this race many times, I have a LOT of Gallop t-shirts.  I have made a habit of digging deep into the collection and pulling out a really old race t-shirt to wear on race day, and for this one, I managed to dig up the oldest shirt I have, from the first time I ran this race in 1989, and put it on.  Yeah, it is getting a little threadbare, and it features the name of the race’s sponsor “The Brandon Savings Bank” quite prominently on the back.  Of course, this bank no longer exists, so we’re talking old!  A short time before the race, I headed down the road for a short warm-up jog, and returned just as Tony, the owner and innkeeper of the Blueberry Hill Inn was on the PA system giving the pre-race pep-talk.  As soon as he saw me coming up the road, he announced “And here’s Jeff with the oldest race shirt in existence..” (or something of the sort – at least he didn’t announce me as the oldest runner in existence, right?)

One of the great things about being a regular at a race like this is the camaraderie between the participants – many of the the folks there were people that I run with regularly, some were folks that I know as local runners, and a few are folks I seem to only chat with once a year at this race.  It all makes for good conversation before, during, and after the race.  One of the not-so-good things about the race this year, or at least one of the things which make it interesting, has been the excessive rainfall this summer, which I knew would lead to a very muddy course.  I was not disappointed!  As the race was ready to start, it was a typical sunny summer afternoon, and not too hot given that it was up in the mountains, but there was an ominous cloud to the south.  A few of us wondered out loud as we stood at the starting line, waiting for the race to start, if the rains would come before the race was over.

The race starts off on the Goshen-Ripton road, on a slight downhill, leading most of the adrenaline-charged runners to start off at way too fast a clip. Then, the first slow, relentless climbing climbing begins, before a sharp left turn back into the woods to begin the more challenging climb up to blueberry meadows on the flanks of Hogback Mountain.  In true Goshen Gallop form, we, the runners, were greeted by a country fiddler at the high point of this section.  On a posting a few weeks ago, I reported that there weren’t any wild blueberries up there anymore, but I am happy to report that I was very wrong in this.  The hillside was full of pickers, who probably wondered why all the people were in such a hurry today.  I did not bring my camera with me during the race, but a race photographer took some lovely shots as the runners crested this section and posted them on the Blueberry Hill Outdoor Center Facebook page.

After a short descent down to the forest service road and a water stop, the climbing began again, and headed into the woods at around a mile and a half, beginning the second major climb of the race on forest trails.   Already, I was beginning to seriously feel my lack of conditioning, and even slowed down to a walk for a few seconds, atypical for me this early in a race.  But – the idea was to finish and feel good, so I listened to my aching legs before picking up the pace again for the plunge down to the halfway point behind the Inn and the second water stop.  At this point, the 5K races went left to finish their race, and the 10K racers took a right turn up the longest hill of the race.  I was hoping that a lot of those around me were so exhausted that they would call it a day at this point, but alas, they were on the mission to complete the longer race, and blew by me on the next ascent.

At this point, the skies started to get ominously darker, and my running got even slower.  At the 6K mark we reached my favorite section of the course – the infamous mud bogs on the trail!  Now THIS is trail running…..I must confess that I am disappointed on drier years when this short section is dry and fast.  At the 7 km point, I was past most of the mud, and finally got to enjoy the last long descent down to the forest service roads.  After a few moments of drizzle, the sky opened up with the long-threatened downpour, which conveniently washed off most the mud from my legs and shoes.  The last mile in, on the Goshen-Ripton road is usually my least favorite part of the race, as it can be sunny and hot, and the numerous “false summits” on the road trick you into thinking you are about to hit the finish line, only to see another hill in front of you.  The cold, driving rain was a refreshing contrast however.  Chugging up what I realized was the final hill on the course, I looked down at my watch, not at all surprised to see my slowest time ever for this race, but hey, I finished, and it was fun as always.  And – there was even an ambulance at the finish line in case my confidence was misplaced.

Once the downpour subsided, the post race party and feed began, and was delicious as always, made even better by the company of a few friends who are rather accomplished home brewers.  This party is held in a small meadow of domestic blueberries, which didn’t seem to be ripe quite yet, and of course the feast is only complete after the dessert of blueberry cobbler and ice cream.

Not quite ripe blueberries

 

For the first time in a few years, I didn’t win my age group, so I couldn’t bring home my prize, a box of chocolate chip cookies, but fortunately I came up lucky, not once, but twice, in the post-race raffle bringing home two bags of really good coffee. Sometimes karma works for you! I was looking for a way to get a picture of my mangy old t-shirt without doing a typical selfie pose, so I chose this reflection in my car window before driving home, satisfied with my first race in far too long.

Reflective Selfie

Google Earth of the Race

Altitude Profile


June 24th, 2017 at 10:12 pm
Posted by Jeff in Running

OK – how is that for a random name for a running blog entry? What on earth could a love of meatloaf have to do with a fun trail run?  Read on, and you will see the origins of this seemingly non sequitor blog entry title! A few days ago, John, the “Chief Moose” announced an opportunity for a guided run on the last 7-10 miles of the Moosalamoo Ultra, a local 36 mile race in its sixth year.  Last year, due to conversations with the Forest Service, John, who is also the race organizer (and an accomplished “slightly above” middle-aged ultra runner himself) was required to reroute the original ultra course, which I ran a few years ago, to some new trails.  I was looking for a good weekend run as I slowly ramp up my mileage post-surgery, and this sounded like it would be a fun group run. Most of my group runs are with mere 10K-marathon runners, and in my current condition the running pace of my cadre of relative sprinters can be daunting.  I suspected that a group of ultra runners – runners who understand what it takes to run 8-10 hours or more – would be a good match for my current limitations over more casual distances.

The group met up at the Blueberry Hill Inn for this saturday run.  The previous 24 hours had been characterized by incessant downpours, but the high humidity had broken an hour or two before the run, giving us a cool sunny afternoon for the run.  We also suspected that the trails would be very muddy, and we would not be disappointed.  Looking up from the parking lot, we saw the day’s goal – Romance Mt, touted as the highest point with groomed cross country skiing trails in the east.  In fact, several years ago, I described a route very close to what we were doing today as a cross country ski tour, and I remembered that we were facing a challenging climb.

Romance Mt. from Blueberry Hill

 

 

We started off on the trail behind the Inn for a short distance before angling up the side of the hill, before reaching the best view of the day, or almost any day for that matter, the view of the Green Mountains from the side of Hogback Mt. In previous years, this has been the prime blueberry picking spot that gave the Blueberry Hill Inn its name, but apparently a controlled burn was carried out a few years ago, so I suspect there will be slim pickings for a few more years until the berries grow back.

Group Picture on Hogback

After a short descent from Hogback, we joined the dirt road, and followed it uphill to the crux of the day’s run, the steep mile ascent up the taller Romance Mt. This is a very steep trail, climbing close to 1000 vertical feet over the ascent. It was also frightening to realize that most of my fellow runners today would be facing this steep climb at Mile 31 of the Ultra in early August. Good Luck folks! At this point, the trail went from kind of wet to very muddy. Not a few puddles here or there- not a “get the soles of your sneakers dirty” muddy. This standing water and mud was incessantly over the ankles for almost the rest of the day’s run, and frequently threatened to rip my shoes off my feet. But hey – it’s trail running, so what’s a little extra adventure, right?

Just a little mud here!

After the steepest part of the descent, which should be much more passable in August, we came up to the big decision point. To the left, was a sign saying “7” and to the right one said “10”. I have become more accustomed to taking the shorter route, or shorter race more and more frequently as I mature, but still, it rankles me to take the shorter distance. Here is where the meatloaf analogy comes in: I like meatloaf, but when there is a longer route available, especially on a nice running day, taking the shorter route is kind of like going to a really classy restaurant, and ordering meatloaf. Sure, it tastes really good, but shouldn’t I be ordering the New York Strip? A few of the group started to mention some interest in the longer route, the New York Strip option, and I was tempted… but I was just warned yesterday by my physical therapist to not push too hard, too soon, so I chose the shorter route. So it was a good day for meatloaf!

Decisions, decisions…….

The rest of the group also decided to go for the shorter route as well today, so we enjoyed the long gradual descent down the Sucker Brook Trail before taking one last short climb up Stewart. The trail leveled off for most of the last mile before one final descent to the back of the Inn. After a round of high fives, we got together for one final group photo, showing off our muddy feet. The foot at 6 o’clock is mine, and those brown socks were white at the start of the run!

Trailrunner feet

At the end of the run, this was about 7.5 miles – my longest run since my injury, and it felt great. I also got to meet a fun bunch of runners with a great sense of comaraderie who are in training to accomplish some really amazing things this summer. I am going to stick to shorter races for now.

Looking east, from Blueberry Hill Inn

Google Earth of the run.


Altitude Profile


June 15th, 2017 at 9:21 pm
Posted by Jeff in Running

A little more than 6 months ago, December 7th, 2016 – a date that will live in infamy – The Middlebury Trailrunner suddenly, and lacking in any sense of deliberation found himself attacked by the ground forces of the steep road incline of Frog Hollow…..The Middlebury Trailrunner was at peace with himself and the cold dark night, and was in pleasant conversation with his fellow runners, looking forward to a beer at the conclusion of this run.……It will be recorded that while the distance from where this middle-aged runner deliberately pulled himself up off the pavement and walked it in to a stool at American Flatbread was just a few hundred yards, the aforementioned fall required many months to recover from. The attack on his body by the forces of pavement caused severe shoulder damage……

You may have noticed that it has been some time since my last posting. As luck would have it, an evening run on Pearl Harbor Day, Dec. 7, ended with a fall on an ice patch. This in turn, led to rotator cuff surgery and put me out of action as a runner for the better part of 6 months. The above paragraph was my attempt to channel FDR’s famous speech, twisted to introduce my story. In any case, as my recovery continues, I am starting to hit the trails again, and hopefully resume my posts on a more regular basis.

Given that it is almost exactly 6 months since my injury, and my runs are still of modest distance, I decided to describe one of the easier trail runs in town, the section of the TAM going around the golf course. This is a run which lots of people run, not necessarily noticing much. For instance, there is the often-seen gravestone at the 11th tee – but how many people actually stop to read it? The story of the poor gentleman interred here has been described elsewhere, but in a nutshell, William Douglas survived the French and Indian War as well as the Revolutionary war, and died when he got home when a tree fell on him. Sometimes life sucks, huh?

11th tee Gravestone

Continuing further, shortly after emerging by the 10th tee, I enjoyed the sight of a modest bed of flowers, with the Green Mts forming the backdrop. These look a lot like the Phlox that grow in my garden (no thanks to me), but mine bloom in August rather than June. Am I correct in my identification of this pretty little flower patch?

Phlox Patch

I was still feeling good when I hit Rt 30, just uphill from the Fitness Center, so I decided to continue this short run on the Class of 97 trail. Heading back into the woods, I came across a curious sign, which I knew was leftover from last year, warning runners of the resident attack birds. And yes, on one occasion last summer, I indeed felt the wrath of the avian kamikaze. I wonder if he/she will be back this summer?

Kamikaze Bird Warning

Entering into the fields just west of campus, I turned right, past the parking lot which until recently was the site of the college apartments known as “the mods” and followed the paved walkways up to campus, finishing with the shortcut through the town cemetery. I took a short detour past the famous mummy stone before finishing at the Fitness Center. This was a very short run for me, only 3 miles, but it feels good to be back on the trails. Here’s to more healing!

Google Earth of the Route


December 4th, 2016 at 8:18 pm
Posted by Jeff in Running

It’s been a while since I last posted to this blog – a very busy fall, and a nagging injury which kept me to shorter runs have diminished my ability to blog new runs. And of course, over the last few weeks, the woods have been full of hunters for deer rifle season. I have nothing against hunters – in fact, they are in most ways, the natural allies of trail runners and hikers, as they do a lot of lobbying to maintain public access to private lands. That said, I have had a few scary situations in the woods over hunting season, and as a result I am more than happy to let them have their few short weeks in the late autumn.

That said, as my leg injury recovered, I was eager to get out for a longer run. One of the great things about this time of the year in Vermont, is that there are no tourists around at all (and who can blame them – stick season is one of the low points of the year), and as a result, the roads serving summer tourism are pretty empty. So, country roads in pretty places, which might be busy during the summer, become good places to duplicate at least some of the pleasures of trail running. One of my favorite runs in the deep of winter, when many of the trails are difficult to access on foot, is the loop road around Lake Dunmore. This is a 10 mile loop on mostly paved road, but with the leaves long gone from the trees, it offers many more vistas of the lake itself than can be seen from the road during the summer.

I met up with a bunch of running friends on Sunday afternoon, meeting up at the Waterhouses Marina (with its ample parking) and we set off on a leisurely run around the lake during peak stick season.  The marina, which always seems so busy during our far-too-short Vermont summers was empty, and most of the gear was stashed away for the soon to come snows.

Waterhouses Marina

Waterhouses Marina

We headed south, taking the left turn skirting the less developed southwest shore of the lake, before taking the next left turn onto Rogers Road, past the south shore of the much smaller Fern Lake, before turning back north along VT 53. As a rule, I avoid running on roads which are busy enough to warrant a double yellow line down the middle, but only a handful of cars passed us as our run continued. On our left a series of short access roads led to some of the summer homes that line the lake. Some of these names are descriptive, such as Isthmus Road, which crosses the narrow ridge between Lake Dunmore and Fern Lake. Some are generic, with names like “Indian Trail”. And then there are some, which are probably some sort of inside joke or Easter Egg, such as the private road shown in the picture above, which I snapped as my friends sped off into the distance.

Curious Road Sign

Curious Road Sign

As we got approached the Silver Lake Trail, we made the decision on the spot to add a few hilly miles to the run, with the 3 mile round trip to the shores of this higher altitude lake. While being respectful of hunters, I realized we hadn’t heard a shot all afternoon – not prime time for bagging a buck, so we decided to go for it. As we got higher and higher, we saw slowing increasing snow, but still nowhere nearly enough to impede our running. As expected, the lake level was low, due to the dry summer and the fall drawdown in preparation for spring thaws in a few months.

Early Winter at Silver Lake

Early Winter at Silver Lake

Descending back to Rt 53, we enjoyed the now brilliant sunshine, as the clouds from the start of the run had apparently melted away. I enjoyed a quiet moment, looking at some cottages reflecting in the still water from the Kampersville Beach, before completing my run with a left turn down the homestretch of the West Shore Road.

North Cove Dunmore Reflections

North Cove Dunmore Reflections

As I finished the run, I checked my old faithful Garmin GPS watch which registered at just over 13 miles for this Sunday afternoon jaunt. I usually post the GPS trace on Google Earth when I do these posts, but this time, as I got home to sync up my watch, it no longer turned on, and I realized that its 9 year life-span had come to an end. So – no more GPS traces until I get its replacement. Good thing it is the Christmas season!


September 14th, 2016 at 9:13 pm
Posted by Jeff in Running

Here it was, the last Sunday of my summer vacation, on a spectacular, cool, clear Sunday afternoon. I knew I had some class prep to get ready, but I also knew that if I didn’t get out for at least a short run, I would be kicking myself. So, I headed for one of my favorite trailheads, the Falls of Lana trail just south of Branbury State Park, and decided to try and run up to the prominent cliffs behind the state park, known as “Rattlesnake Point” or “Rattlesnake Cliffs“.

The name of this prominent landmark undoubtedly brings up rather scary connotations for some hikers – I mean who wants to climb a cliff named after a poisonous snake? Curious as to the presence or absence of these reputedly dangerous vipers, I contacted Jim Andrews of Salisbury, and herpetologist extraordinaire, and asked him “Are there really rattlesnakes up there?” His response was, as follows:

“…that is a definite historic site with solid documentation of collection of rattlesnakes for snake oil by local families. However, we have no proof that rattlesnakes continue to exist in that area. It has been many decades since anyone has provided solid evidence of rattlesnakes there. That said, there have been a few reports over the last few decades from people who believe they have seen rattlesnakes in that area, but none of them took photos, or even described the snake well enough to confirm the sighting.”

There you go – I think it is safe to say that you can hike or run on the Rattlesnake Cliffs without your snakebite kit!

Comforted by this information,  I headed up the hill on the Silver Lake Trail, as I have done countless times on my runs up to equally well-visited Silver Lake, but at the switchback to the right after about a half mile, instead of following the main trail, keep going straight, taking the bridge across Sucker Brook, following the Rattlesnake Trail.  This trail climbs pretty steadily, but fortunately, never particularly steeply.  A lot of mountain trails, particularly on the Long Trail, or in the Adirondacks get either too rocky or too steep for running, but this trail was runable, at least to me, for about 90% of it’s length.

After climbing about 2 miles, a left turn to the actual cliffs comes up, and is easily recognizable by a warning sign, warning hikers and runners to stay away from the cliffs from April until the end of July while the peregrine falcons nest.  But, since it is September, the coast is clear, and I finished my ascent heading straight on the trail to the west facing cliffs overlooking Lake Dunmore.

Lake Dunmore View

Lake Dunmore View

I hung out at this overlook for a few minutes, chatting with a couple from North Carolina, before following a weak herd path to the viewpoint facing south towards Silver Lake and the southern end of Lake Dunmore – another stunning late summer view. In the picture below, Silver Lake is the small body of water in the left center of the photo, while Lake Dunmore and Fern Lake are on the right.  On the way back towards the Rattlesnake Trail, I met up with the North Carolina folks – apparently they had tried to follow me on the unmarked path I had followed, and had gotten a little bit lost before backtracking and reaching this place on more established trails!

Silver Lake View

Silver Lake View

The descent was fast and fun – since the trail makes a broad switchback on the south side of the mountain, it rarely gets too steep to run on the descent. Returning to my car, I saw that this was “only” a little over 4.5 miles, but with a 1200 ft vertical climb, and a great way to end the summer.

Google Earth projection of the Rattlesnake Cliff run

Google Earth projection of the Rattlesnake Cliff run

Altitude Profile Rattlesnake Cliffs

Altitude Profile Rattlesnake Cliffs


September 5th, 2016 at 8:27 pm
Posted by Jeff in Running

On the Sunday night of Labor Day weekend, seeing the weather report which called for perfect weather on Monday, I was trying to decide to do on Labor Day. Should I go hiking, or should I go for a run? Then I realized that a run in the Adirondacks would sate both wishes, and late Sunday night posted a message to the local runners’ Facebook group, seeing if anyone else was interested, and found out that my running friend Dean was also interested.  Our goal?  It was Labor Day, so I decided it was time to go big or go home – we decided to go for a run up Mt. Marcy, the tallest peak in NY, a 14-mile round trip with 3200+ feet of vertical climbing to its 5344′ summit on rugged Adirondack trails.

We left Vermont early in the morning, arriving at the Adirondack Loj (no, I did not misspell it) trailheads, just outside of Lake Placid (site of the 1932 and 1980 Olympics) at around 8 am after about a 1:45 drive from Middlebury.  We wanted an early start, fearful that the parking lot might fill early on a perfect Labor Day, but were pleasantly surprised to see that the lot had plenty of parking spaces.

I am not going to describe the details of “which trail and turn to take” – after all Mt Marcy is one of the most heavily hiked peaks in the northeast, and the trail is so well marked that only an idiot could take the wrong trail.  Oh wait – the first time I attempted Marcy 30 years ago, I took a wrong trail and ended up on the summit of Algonquin.  In any case…..the first 2 miles or so were pretty easy, barely climbing on trail which was really amenable to to running, before bringing us to the site formerly known as the Marcy Dam.  I used the word “formerly” because there was a log dam there, which created a very scenic lake mirroring the local mountains, but it was badly damaged by Hurricane Irene.  While it is still a lovely location, the lake is now more of a muddy fen.

Mt Colden and former Marcy Dam Lake

Mt Colden and former Marcy Dam Lake

It seems that most Adirondack runs have three phases – the approach, which is usually the best for pure running, then the transition, which is partially runnable, followed by fast hiking as the steeper rockier sections near the summit are covered. This run was no exception – not long after passing “Marcy Notdam” the trail started to get a little bit rougher as it got steeper and rockier. The running at this point, becomes more like a mix of parcour-like hopping, skipping and shuffling, which isn’t nearly as graceful-looking as it sounds, especially when practiced by two guys in the their 50’s.  One of the more scenic spots in the “skipping section” was a clearing where a small stream goes over a cliff, called Indian Falls, which gives great views of Mt. Algongquin, the second highest peak of the ‘Dacks.

Indian Falls

Indian Falls

The last section of the run was the steeper terrain, approaching the bald, above timber line summit. It was pretty much impossible to run terrain of this sort, although there was one short section, high on the mountain, near the summit.graced by nice raised platforms. Excited by the possibility for a few decent yards of running, I made my best parcour leap onto the platform, snagged my toe and did a complete faceplant. After a few stunned moments, realizing that my suddenly aching jaw was NOT broken, I got up and made it to the summit. I have been to the summit of Marcy a few times, and this was the first time I haven’t found the need to put on some sort of jacket – once again, perfect weather, with seemingly infinite views in all directions.

Mt Marcy Summit Views

Mt Marcy Summit Views

After enjoying the summit for a few minutes and chatting with the few hikers who were actually at the summit this early in the morning, we turned and ran back for a tiring but uneventful return. I have found that on the most challenging terrain the descending time is comparable to the climbing time, and this was no exception – about 2 and 1/2 hours each way, or about half the time that most hikers take.

I have included the google earth projection of the run, as always. The route heads south from the Adirondack Loj, but I re-oriented the map to make it look cooler.

Google Earth of the Run

Google Earth of the Run

Altitude Profile Mt Marcy run

Altitude Profile Mt Marcy run


August 26th, 2016 at 2:56 pm
Posted by Jeff in Running

Over the years, many of my blog postings have described runs on, or including sections of the Trail Around Middlebury, aka, “The TAM”. And why not? The TAM is the most frequently traveled trail in Middlebury, and the blog is, after all, “The Middlebury Trailrunner”. If the TAM is the gold necklace around our town, Chipman Hill is its diamond pendant. This gem, right at the edge of town, offers a roughly 500 ft vertical climb – making it a convenient place for local endurance athletes to train.

When I first moved to Middlebury, in the mid-1980’s, Chipman Hill was only minimally developed as an outdoor resource. The old paved road over its twin summits, which was closed to vehicular traffic 30 years ago, a trail along its base on the east side, and a smattering of rarely used mountain bike trails constituted the “development” of this refuge. Over the years, many more, well constructed trails have appeared, many of them laid out by mountain bikers. The rise of the the Middlebury Land Trust has led to some further trail improvements, and somewhat heavier use than in the past.  But that said, on a pleasant late August evening, I passed about 8-10 other people, enjoying the hill as runners, walkers, or mountain bikers, and there is plenty of solitude up there still.

Some Chipman Hill newcomers might find the maze of trails, some maintained, and some not, confusing and daunting.  The old road over the top is easy enough, starting from High Street (the street running behind the Swift House Inn), and ending on Spring Street (the highest driveable point on the south side of Chipman Hill).  The trails, on the other hand can be somewhat confusing in places, some of them even confusing me, even after three decades of exploration.  There is no need to worry about getting lost however.  My usual rule of thumb when I get disoriented, is to simply hike to the top of whatever mountain I am on, and get my bearings back – most mistakes in route finding happen on descents (as some of my hiking and running partners will attest).  Fortunately with Chipman Hill, if you don’t know where you are, you can always run away from the hill, and surprise – you will be somewhere in Middlebury when you hit a road.

On most of my posts, I give a somewhat detailed trail description, but other than the simple run on the road over the top, which I actually did describe once a few years ago, the whole point of running on Chipman Hill is to try new trails, and see where they take you, and what points of curiosity you might see along the way.  So, I am going to set up this route, by simply telling you where I started (In the Marble Works, and getting onto Chipman Hill from the end of High Street) and how I got back (the same way), publish the contorted and complicated route map on Google Earth (more for the sake of humor than actual direction) and show a few pictures from along the way.

Some of these pictures are of locations on the hill which are well known, and others, on more obscure trails, are a little harder to find.  I am putting them up in the order in which I took them, making a bit of an easter egg hunt for friends who might want to explore the hill a little bit more than they may have in the past.  I apologize for the general darkness of the pictures – a 6 pm run in late August can get that way, even on a clear day!

Ye Olde Ski Jump Hill

Ye Olde Ski Jump Hill

The first well known landmark I came to, was the old ski jump hill. It is easy to see, as the runout is still mowed a few times each summer. Chipman Hill was used as the site of the Middlebury College Winter Carnival races during World War II, and a small ski facility was built on Chipman Hill to accommodate the racers and jumpers. I suspect that the road over the top may have once been a ski race trail, but I have no proof of this.

Wildlife sign

Wildlife sign

A little later, I came to this curious sign, generated by the “Leave no Trace” organization, on a relatively obscure side trail. What was curious about it? Well this was the only sign of its type I saw, and it seems odd that the only “trace” on this part of the hill, was the actual sign.

Western Overlook

Western Overlook

On the western side of the hill, there is a park bench with views of the Adirondacks, carved out of a small clearing. Curiously, starting right behind this seat is a concrete pylon, and 8 more of these pylons extend up the side of the hill, in a straight line, more or less evenly spaced. I have always been curious of these pylons – at first I suspected that they might have been used as part of some sort of ski lift in ages past, but why would they need so many of them, for what could not have been more than a pulley for a rope tow? And besides, descriptions of the ski trails used during the war never make mention of any lifts, although one friend claims to have seen a photo or sketch of Chipman Hill with a rope tow in it, although I have never seen this. If anyone knows what these pylons are for, I would be intrigued to hear.

Summit Communications Tower

Summit Communications Tower

This is another easy find, as it can be seen from almost anywhere in town – the tall communications tower, on top of the highest point in town. I was also curious, on this run, to see if I could find any sign of the old, much shorter tower just to the east of the summit, but all the hardware associated with the older installation has apparently been removed.

Old Gravel Pit

Old Gravel Pit

There is a rather substantial abandoned gravel pit on the lower, eastern slopes of the hill. This was much more pronounced in the 80’s, but has become somewhat overgrown in the last 30 years. Then, as now, it appears to be used for campfires (and presumably illicit outdoor underage parties), much like it was 30 years ago, as evidenced by at least 3 different fire pits. The gravel pit can be easily made out in the Google Earth projection of Chipman Hill at the end of this posting.

Dumped Fridge

Dumped Fridge

Here was an unpleasant surprise near the gravel pit – For the first time in my life, I noticed a long abandoned refrigerator, which was surprising in light of the fact that most of the hill is completely litter free, and it must have been there for a long time, as it has been decades since the gravel pit had routine vehicular traffic needed to dump off an abandoned appliance.

Crooked Tree

Crooked Tree

This tree just looked cool, and was on a lesser used trail, so I guess this will be one of the more challenging Easter Eggs!

Lonely Fire Hydrant

Lonely Fire Hydrant

This fire hydrant, which I had never noticed before caught my attention, as it was on a closed, seemingly abandoned stretch of road. Who knows, maybe there were once plans to build homes on this part of the mountain? It also looks like it has unexpectedly grown since it was planted, as the hydrant itself was well above the ground line. I also noticed a bunch of bunny rabbits with their little white tails running around nearby – appropriate for a blog on Easter Egg hunting. They did not pose for pictures however.

Old Reservoir

Old Reservoir

This muddy, algae-infested pond is what I have heard referred to as the old village reservoir. I don’t know the full history, but I for one am glad that we aren’t currently drinking from it.

New Reservoir

New Reservoir

Just uphill from the old reservoir is – surprise – the new reservoir! I am comforted by the fact that it is actually enclosed.

Trail Sign

Trail Sign

Coming up from the Springside Rd. access point, this well-designed map was posted – I am glad that I saw it at this point, after running for roughly and hour – who knows, I might have been lost all along and not known it? A copy of this map, which has the road, and most, but not all of the heavily used trails marked out, can be found online at the excellent MALT website.

Cairn

Cairn

Finally, shortly after coming off the trails, and onto High St to conclude my run, I noticed this small cairn in a yard by the road – I have always rather enjoyed these little rock piles for some reason, and once again, in keeping with the Easter Egg theme, one can imagine a stack of chocolate eggs and jelly beans forming them?

Concluding the run, I returned to my car in the Marble Works, finishing a slightly more than 6 mile run, where I basically didn’t do anything other than run around in circles. Although the altitude gain between the Marble Works and the summit is “only” about 500 ft, with all the ups and downs, I estimate I climbed and descended close to 1200 ft in the course of this run, making for a rather substantial hill climb run, without having to leave the village. If you are a newcomer to running on the local trails, and want something a little more challenging, give this hill a try. If you are an experienced runner, see if you can explore the trails more thoroughly, to see if you can find any of the sights mentioned here that you are not familiar with. There are quite a few more trails, that I never even got to on this run, so perhaps in a year or two, I will include those to find some new Easter Eggs to share.

Google Earth of Chipman Hill Run

Google Earth of Chipman Hill Run

Altitude Profile

Altitude Profile


August 4th, 2016 at 8:51 am
Posted by Jeff in Running

OK – the first thing you have to be wondering is “What the heck is Pie and Beer Day?”  Having lived many years ago in Salt Lake City, Utah, I always found the celebration of “Pioneer Day” on July 24 a rather curious holiday which pushes the notion of separation of church and state almost as hard as Christmas.  It is a state holiday in Utah, celebrating the arrival of Brigham Young and the rest of the Mormons into the Salt Lake Valley on that day in 1847, and as a result made for a curious day off for those of us who lived there and did not follow that faith.  Apparently, a few years ago, a tradition arose among the heathens (also curiously known as “gentiles”)  of Salt Lake, celebrating the parallel holiday of “Pie and Beer Day” , which is generally interpreted to involve drinking beer (3.2 beer of course, as it is Utah) and eating pizza, instead of sitting in the hot sun watching a parade and eating lots of green jello salads.  It sounds like a good counter-culture holiday to me!

That said, the official reason for my arrival in Salt Lake was to run the Deseret News Classic Marathon, a road marathon through the mountains following the course of Brigham Young’s arrival into Salt Lake.  So, while this was a road race for most of its length, it was on lightly-traveled roads in some very scenic mountains, and as such, it was a road race attractive to a Vermont runner accustomed to mountain trails.  This Pioneer Day race is usually held on July 24, but since that fell on a Sunday this year, the holiday celebration was postponed to Monday, July 25 so as not to conflict with traditional Sunday activities.

Since I probably wasn’t going to be taking many pictures during the course of the actual race, I scouted out the course on the day before in order to get a few shots for this blog, as well as to visit some roads I had not seen since the mid-1980’s when I used to bicycle up and down these passes after work.  The start of the race is at Big Mountain Pass, the point where the Mormon Pioneers got their first glimpse of the valley of the Great Salt Lake.  Of course, the view is equally intimidating to a runner, who can see how far away he or she has to go!

Big Mountain View

Big Mountain View

While standing at the summit of the pass, I spied a historic marker I had never seen before. As it turns out, the Mormons were not the first to use this pass. That “honor” fell on the ill-fated 1846 Donner Party, attempting to follow the poorly described “Hastings Cutoff” on their way to California. The Donner Party took two weeks to cover the terrain from the top of Big Mountain Pass to the Salt Lake valley, constructing a makeshift road as they went, and this delay added to their delay in reaching the Sierras in time to beat the winter snows, and the rest, as they say, is history.

On the actual morning of the race, the view was quite different from the above picture, for obvious reasons when one considers the big challenges to the marathon – heat, height, and humidity (as in lack of). While the race started high in the cool mountains at around 7400′, it finished in the searing mid-summer valley heat. In fact, on the day of the race, the weather report called for 102 degree afternoon temperatures – clearly unfit for running. So, the race started at 5:30 am, ensuring that the temperature at the finish line would “only” be in the 80’s for all but the slowest runners.   The view was considerably different when we arrived at the start line at 4:30 am – dark, except for a well-lit area for the runners, and the glow of the city in the distance.  And like almost every race I have ever attended, there were not enough portapotties at the start.  So, it was dark, and being ever-chivalrous, allowing the female competitors to have first dibs at the limited resources, I headed for the dark woods to relieve my pre-race hydration issues.  As I was quietly doing my business in the shelter of a few aspens, I suddenly found myself in a spotlight, and heard over a bullhorn “Please use the porta-potties”.  Ok – I got busted by the Salt Lake City water authority police, who were so concerned about the urination of a mere 300 hundred runners shivering atop a mountain pass 26.2 miles out of town, that they actually sent an officer on urine patrol!  I laughed it off….and shouted back “Busted – too late” and stepped back into the crowds, hearing laughter and mild applause from the few runners who caught my little drama.  But, I didn’t hear another bullhorn, so either the crowd was cowed enough to follow the rules, or perhaps the watershed authorities decided they had better things to do than to monitor the bladders of well-hydrated runners.

Starting Line

Starting Line

By the time that the starting gun went off, it was barely bright enough to see, but I saw no sign that any of the 300+ runners fell off any cliffs on the tight, steep switchbacks at the top of the pass.  I have done long races with long descents before, but this one was particularly hard on the legs, dropping 1500 ft in the first 4 miles, with no opportunity to warm up.  I knew I would be paying for this later in the race no matter how fast I ran it, and I was correct.  Within a few minutes, the glow of the sun illuminated the road, and the next challenge of the day presented itself, the only climb on the course, a short ascent to the top of Emigration Canyon, which then led directly into the city.  This climb was only 350 ft, between miles 6 and 8, but the altitude was high enough to get me a little more winded than I usually would be on a modest climb like this.  However, reaching the top of this second pass, I knew it would be all downhill from there until the last few miles on the valley floor a few hours later.  The next 8 miles descending Emigration Canyon went very quickly, as well they should – the middle third of any marathon is usually the fastest part, and the long gradual descent made the miles go by even faster.  I could start feeling my legs tightening at around mile 10, however, paying the price for the early steep descent, and I knew that this would be an issue as I approached the finish line.

At about mile 16, the race entered the benches on the hillsides of Salt Lake City proper, and the sun started to arise above the mountainsides.  I also started looking at my watch more seriously, as the race organizers had mentioned that all runners who reached mile 24 at 9 am would be allowed to run along the downtown Pioneer Day parade route, and those who arrived later would be routed down an alternative route.  Pushing as hard as I could as my legs got tighter and tighter, I passed the cutoff point with 4 minutes to spare, and had the pleasure of running past tens of thousands of folks out there for the holiday festivities, before finishing in Liberty Park – a location only a few blocks away from where I lived when I worked at the U. of Utah!  My legs definitely felt the agony of the long descent in these last two miles however, as I was forced to walk much of it.

All in all, this was a fun mountain race.  While the marathon was modest in scope, I was impressed by the fact that the organizers managed to pull off a marathon, half marathon, 10K and 5K race simultaneously, making this a much bigger event than just a mere marathon, with thousands of runners participating more or less concurrently. And as I limped back to my hotel room, after a shower and nap, I feasted on pie and beer!

Deseret News Marathon Course

Deseret News Marathon Course

 

Altitude Profile

Altitude Profile


June 26th, 2016 at 6:07 pm
Posted by Jeff in Running

The Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe has long been among my favorite places to cross country ski – with lots of challenging climbs and breathtaking descents. It is also in a stunningly beautiful location – one can understand why Maria and the captain chose it as their home when they escaped to the US. I had often thought that it would be a great place for trail running as well, so when I learned of the Catamount Ultra a race with a 50 Km and 25 Km option, I immediately registered for the challenging, but hopefully not injurious shorter distance event. So, on a sunny Saturday that promised to get blisteringly hot before the day was though, I arrived at the starting line for what promised to be a fun event.

Morning Mountain Meadow Views

Morning Mountain Meadow Views

The starting line was set up right by the touring center building, and after getting my bib and race swag, I had some time to look around, and I was amazed at how the Trapp Lodge complex had grown over the years to become a rather extensive resort on the side of the mountains. It even has its own Von Trapp microbrewery now, which I knew I would be looking forward to at the end of the race. I was also amused by the oversized inflatable mammoth (perhaps a shark would have been better, since the race did indeed occur during the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week”), clearly related to one of the race sponsors, and briefly considered means of tying it to the roof of my VW Beetle to take it home, but then came to my senses and left it for others to enjoy.

The mammoth inflatable mammoth

The mammoth inflatable mammoth

The participants in the longer, 50 Km race had apparently started their two lap trek at 7:00, and start time for those of us who had chosen to only take one time around the daunting looking course lined up at around 8:30 for our start. Looking around at those lining up, I thought to myself that this bunch did not look at all like the “B-team” – they were as ectomorphic a bunch of distance runners as one would expect at a race like this, which promised 2500 vertical feet of climb and descent over the 25 Km distance. In the moments before the race started, the opening guitar riff of “Sweet Child of Mine” started blasting over the PA system, which seemed a good omen, as it has always been one of my favorite “get psyched” songs.

When the gun went off I stayed comfortably in the middle of the pack, as the group of runners, 150+ strong headed up the backside of the first hill “Telemark”. It was interesting comparing running styles with other competitors. I have always been gravity prone, climbing at a steady but slowish pace, but able to cut loose on downhills. I had fun chatting with another runner who joked that she was just the opposite – and as a result she passed me on every climb, as I roared off into the distance on the descents, only to be caught again on the next short climb. After coming down off of Telemark, there was a short flat section before the major climb of the race. The next few miles, with most of the climb coming on the Lower Parizo Trail and Chris’s Run (for those who know the ski area) followed by a short mild climb up to the high point of the race, the cabin. While the cabin has wintery snacks and hot chocolate during ski season, the water station, after the early challenging climb was just what the doctor ordered. Most, albeit, not all of the next six miles were descending, and this is where I made up most of my time – I found myself passing a fair number of competitors, some of whom caught me later and some didn’t.

By this point, the heat of the day was starting to kick in – while most of the run was in the thick forest, the second half, at lower altitude, had several large open meadows which had great views, but were starting to get pretty hot.  I also found myself walking more and more of the climbs, the closer I got to the finish line.  Many of these uphill sections were of the pitch that would not phase me had I been running at a normal workout pace, but in the later stages of an actual race, I had to get through them at a slower pace.  Alas, I saw several men with grey hair pass me by at this point, which ended up costing me a few places in my age group place at the finish  line.  Finally, I came to a flat section which I recognized as the home stretch, and I picked it up a little until I ran under the banner signifying the finish, meeting up with a few friends who had finished before me, and waited, cheering on those who finished after me.

I don’t make a habit of talking about how well I actually did in races – I mostly want readers to learn about the pleasures of running trails in new places.  But as I approached the finish line, knowing that while my race was less than perfect, it felt darn good to be out there and running well, I realized that I needed to think about the competitive component of these races with my own set of arbitrary age groups.  So, I have decided from this point on, I will compare myself against the “Jeff age group” which only consists of runners my age, or older.  Measured against this group, I did quite well, thank you!

Most races of this sort, have a post-race feed, and the Catamount Ultra was no exception.  Besides finish line snack, the sponsoring microbrewery had a freebie for everyone (YES!), but the main course was pizza, which I am sure was delicious, but I passed on, as it wasn’t what I wanted at the moment.  As I sat down in my car to drive home – I knew exactly what I wanted:  Since my trip home passed through Waterbury, I knew that I would pass by Ben and Jerry’s old headquarters, so I stopped by there and treated myself to a generous (and frankly, pricey) cone of my favorite flavor, Cherry Garcia, and that energized me for the ride home!

All in all, this was a seamlessly run, fun race.  The trails at Trapps are generally broad and fast, with good footing, and the scenery is spectacular.  I would run it again in a minute…..or at least a lot of minutes.

google earth of the run

The starting point at the “bed” icon, running clockwise

altitude profile