A blog for runners in and about Addison County, VT
August 25th, 2017 at 3:12 pm
Posted by Jeff Byers in Running

I recently had the opportunity to be in Washington D.C. for the American Chemical Society meeting, so I, of course, brought along my running shoes.  Now, Washington D.C. in August isn’t on most peoples’ list of favorite running destinations – let’s face it, it is kind of obvious why most politicians leave town this time of year.  That said, it was already an 80/80 morning (80 degrees, 80 percent humidity), even as early as 7 am when I set out for a Saturday morning run on my first full day in town.  I was staying at a hotel just a few blocks away from The White House, which was unoccupied at the time, so I decided to run through the park in MacPherson Square until I reached the sometimes home of our CEO-in-chief.  There is usually a  crowd of tourists and protesters in front of this famous landmark, and even, of late, the recently famous Trump Chicken, but this early in the morning, there was only a poultry, I mean paltry smattering of runners and early bird tourists.  And it is always a cool sight – I mean it IS the freakin’ White House!

The White House

One of the sad observations about some of our most treasured landmarks in our capitol, apparent over the last decade’s visits, has been the increasingly large security perimeter around everything, as illustrated by this photo. One can no longer go up to the wrought iron fence on Pennsylvania Avenue to get a picture lacking the obstruction – alas, our security needs now have an additional buffer zone, complete with conspicuously placed security guards. And don’t even think about getting anywhere near the South Lawn on the opposite side. Such are our times…..

After skirting the wide periphery around The White House, I next headed towards another famous landmark, the Washington Monument. By this point I realized that, other than security guards, the only folks outside were runners, and the homeless. As I passed one particular vantage point near the obelisk, still closed for repairs, I couldn’t help but notice one particular homeless person asleep, alongside his shopping cart of belongings, but with a small American flag (hard to see from the photo) on top of it all. This seemed to me as an interesting summary of the state of our nation – our pride in our flag and our monuments, juxtaposed with poverty and wealth. At first, I hoped to get a little closer, but decided to set aside my visions of a more photojournalistic shot, and instead chose not to do anything to wake the fellow’s slumber.

America the Beautiful

Turning the corner, I ran by the fountain at the end of the reflecting pools, erected to honor all 50 states and all the American territories. I was amused to note that one of the marble pillars had the name of The Phillipines inscribed – kind of a funny twist on the phrase “etched in stone”. Running alongside the reflecting pool, I quickly reached the Lincoln Memorial. This inspirational site is usually crawling with tourists, but at this hour, it was wonderfully quiet and uncrowded. It also provided the best hill climbing in central DC!

Hill Climb!

From here, I returned to the Washington Monument on the other side of the reflecting pools, before returning to my hotel. It was a rather uncomfortable morning for running, but I decided to take a short side run into the nearby Embassy District, in search of one of my favorite DC monuments. Wandering through this part of town when I was last in DC, 5 years ago, I stumbled upon one of the more curious statues, found in front of the Kazahkstan Embassy, and I was pleased that after only a few wrong turns, I was able to relocate it. After a quick online search, I found that this statue, known as “The Golden Warrior” is a smaller replica of a famous statue in Almaty, Kazahkstan. Legend has it that if you touch the original statue, only once, it will enrich your life with happiness and prosperity. Whew! On my previous discovery of this statue, I only touched it once, and this time, I neglected to do so, so I guess I am set!

Viva Kazahkstan!

Finally, returning to my hotel room after an interesting and reflective 5.5 mile run, I cleaned up, and headed off to my chemical activities.

Google Earth of DC run

August 11th, 2017 at 8:57 pm
Posted by Jeff Byers in Running

By now, readers of this blog have probably read lots of posts in which I sing the praises of the Blueberry Hill Trails, but I can’t help but wonder how many have ever heard of Blueberry Lake?  I make frequent forays onto the trails in the Mad River Valley while visiting family, and had recently learned of the presence of some well maintained mountain bike trails commencing on the shores of this small lake.  Where the heck is Blueberry Lake?  It is a bit off the beaten path, on the plateau above the Mad River, below the Roxbury Mountains, at the south end of the Mad River Valley.  To get to it, heck…..just look up Plunkton Road on Google Maps!

I parked my car at the obvious parking lot on west shore of the lake, and enjoyed the view. The lake itself is modest, but sits below the mountains, and while my favorite summer wildflower, the humble daisy, is long gone from everywhere except for apparently, my yard, the fields around the lake were filled with the bright yellow of Goldenrod, punctuated by Black-Eyed Susans.  Despite the claims of my favorite dwarf, Sneezy, Goldenrod is not a significant allergen, although I am dreading the soon-to-come Ragweed season!

Blueberry Lake

The trailhead itself was well-signed and across the street from the parking lot. So, I started running! From the start, I could see that this was a well-manicured trail that was clearly someone’s labor of love. I haven’t mountain biked much in the last few years, but I can’t wait to come back with my bike! The trail was well packed, and almost miraculously devoid of roots through its duration. A short distance onto the trail, I saw a right turn onto a trail called “Leonard’s Loop” and recognized instantly that it was honoring Leonard Robinson, an aged local icon whose extended family has long roots in this part of the Valley. I had met him briefly on a few occasions while skiing at the Blueberry Lake ski touring area a few miles away, and he always struck me as a classic old-school Vermonter. I knew that Blueberry Lake was man-made, but in writing up this blog posting learned that Leonard himself built the lake from a swampy area 35 years ago. A fascinating article on the origins and short history of the lake are posted elsewhere, and makes for a good read!

I started off the run, by staying to the right, which corresponded to the smaller, northern route.  This led through a scenic mountain meadow, with great views of the Roxbury range.  I also crossed paths with a few mountain bikers, and since they were on the downhill, stepped aside and let them enjoy their descents – after all it really is their trail.

Meadow Views

This loop ran its course in about a mile, and I followed the very ample trail signs onto the more extensive southern loops after a short descent and stream crossing. Curiously, the difference in altitude between the lowest and highest points is only about 200 ft, but it seemed like I was always climbing or descending on gentle grades – excellent running terrain! I did a “figure-8” on the southern loops, and pretty much found myself in the forest the whole way. Since this was clearly well-designed mountain biking terrain, the trails seemed to have endless switchbacks – as a result I didn’t cover much terrain, but the running was gentle and pleasant.


Looking at the GPS trace of my run, it might lead one to think that this is a complicated trail system. It isn’t, actually, and the trails are very well marked with ample signs, although some of them are lacking in the “you are here” notifications which might help a confused biker or runner! Completing the loop, I returned to my car to complete a 5.2 mile run – a nice way to finish a perfect August afternoon. On the way home, I drove by a field I have passed countless times, and noticed this year, that it was filled with sunflowers – a great sight to end the day.


Green Mountain Sunflowers

Google Earth of the run

Altitude Profile

August 7th, 2017 at 1:47 pm
Posted by Jeff Byers 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

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