The Moosalamoo region is growing a reputation as a great place for hiking, and yes, trail running. A lot of this reputation has been the result of the increasing popularity of three trail races, all of which start and finish at the Blueberry Hill Outdoor Center in Goshen. Over 30 years ago, I started running the granddaddy of these races, the Goshen Gallop, run by Tony Clark and his staff and family, and for many years, this was the high point of my running season, both in terms of challenge (6.6 miles on mostly mountain trails) and scenic beauty. In more recent years, two more challenging trail running events have emerged. The Moosalamoo Ultra, expertly run by John Izzo and his extended family has both a “Big Moose” version (36 miles, but when I ran it I found a way to extend it to 37.5) and the “Little Moose”, “only” covering 14 miles – still plenty challenging, but accessible to mere mortals. The most recent event, the basis of this posting is Andy Weinberg’s Endurance Society Infinitus race. Andy has a long resume both competing in, and running extreme running events. I first became aware of Andy when I met him at the Jay Peak Ultra 13 years ago, and later learned of his then-signature event known as the Death Race. He then went on to become the co-creator of the popular Spartan Race series, and now concentrates on his own “Endurance Society” events, of which Infinitus is the biggest. Oh, and he also has a day job as a college professor at Castleton University.
The Infinitus event is a close to two week long suffer fest with a sense of humor, run on many of the Moosalamoo Region trails. Many of the races are designed with the number 8 in mind, which is, of course, the infinity symbol standing upright, and the race which best follows this theme, covering 888 km in 10 days, with many of the competitors running through the nights. A few people have been able to finish this, but it is way out of my league. I did notice some humorous comments on the race progress board when I was up there today, with some competitors unable to cross the border from Canada due to ongoing Covid rules, and a few others making >PG comments about the challenges forcing them to throw in the towel.
Some of the lesser events include competitors attempting to run 10 trail marathons in 10 days, 5 marathons in 5 days, 250 miles, 100 miles, and the events commencing at 8:08 Saturday morning, the 88 Km, marathon, and the race of my intent, the 8 miler, or as I thought of it, the “Finite Infinitus”. You can guess which race had the most participants! This race was also a special one for me – first of all, I know the Moosalamoo trails about as well as anyone, have run/skied/biked them for 35 years, and frequently describe these routes in this blog. Like a lot of people, this race is my first as we all start to emerge from Covid. Finally, I have been dealing with cancer for about 2 years, and this was my first attempt at a race as a cancer patient, after beginning the gauntlet of surgery, radiation, and chemo about a year and a half ago. Since my current treatment regimen isn’t as debilitating as what I underwent in 2019-2020, and my strength is returning, it was time to get back to what I love. I have been gradually building up my endurance, but still, on many of my runs, I do have to slow down to a walk, so a mountain race was perfect – almost nobody runs the uphills on terrain this crazy! This particular race, in which most of the climbing was in one long ascent of Romance Mountain, would do a good job of masking my current limitations.
Of course, in a May race, you never know what you are going to get for weather, and as I got up early in the morning to head up to Blueberry Hill, I looked on the thermometer, and saw that it registered 40 F! I also suspected, quite correctly that it might even be chillier up at the race, so had to dress accordingly. Arriving at the race site, the in, the outdoor center, and the surrounding fields were buzzing with activity. In addition to plenty of cars, there were RVs and tents set up in a little city of runners – which makes sense given the number of runners in multi-day events.
And yes, it was cold! The weather was just fine for running, but not so good for standing around waiting for a run to start. I had a brief conversation with a running friend who had been there the night before, keeping her daughter company as she ran through the night while competing in the 100 mile race. Apparently, there were snowflakes at the higher elevations last night, although nothing collected! As the race started, a few runners bolted like it was the beginning of a much shorter race, but most of us started off nice and easy, and we all soon funneled into the narrow trails, typically two, and later one runner wide. A lot of the runners attempting the longer races carried hiking poles, so in the crowded early miles people had to be careful to avoid getting accidentally poked, although this as certainly not as challenging as it can be in ski races. At just past the 1 mile mark, the prettiest part of the run was reached, the great views of the Green Mountains from the side of Hogback Mountain, where the greatest concentration of wild blueberries can be found in July.
At about the 2 mile mark, the most intense climbing began, where the trail goes up over 1000 ft in about 3/4 of a mile, and as predicted, nobody was running here, at least mid-pack where I was. The lower level of pysical activity I have been trying to work my way out of was really apparent here; I didn’t have to stop to catch my breath, but the lack of leg and glute strength certainly slowed me down relative to many other runners. At one point, the Blueberry Hill Ski Touring center advertised this trail as the highest altitude groomed cross country skiing in the east, and I have enjoyed skiing up this many times in the past! Topping out at around 2700 ft, not quite at the summit of Romance Mt, the trail did a modest descent for a few minutes, before a short climb, and the long nearly unbroken descent to the finish line. Most of the trail from this point on was all well-trodden single track, running through the dense coniferous forest which characterizes most of the Moosalamoo region.
The long descent from the 3 mile point was even easier than I thought it would be. There were a few muddy patches, and those competitors whose day was going to be a lot longer than mine due to the nature of their longer chosen events took care to avoid wet feet, but I just sloshed on through them, enjoying the playful mess I was making of my shoes and legs. After one last smaller climb up the Stewart trail, the gradual descent to the finish line brought me past a few beaver ponds, and I even mustered enough of a sprint at the finish line to burst past another guy who looked like me might be about my age. It really felt good crossing into the finish line corral – especially since a year and a half ago, I wasn’t sure I would ever get to do this again.
While this race was listed as an 8 mile race (remember, the “8/infinity theme”) it was only 7.32 miles, and that was fine as I had plenty of fun. The total altitude gain was about 1200 ft, most of it in the crunch up Romance!