Matt and I always enjoy the day before the race as much as the race.
On Friday, July 29, we lazily drive up to Goshen, Vermont from Essex, Connecticut. We stop for a first-rate vegan breakfast at the Whistle Stop Café in Deep River, CT. We quest for bagels in Brattleboro, VT. We stretch our legs on Mount Ascutney, a former volcano.
On Mount Ascutney, we peek out at expansive views, gaze on gorgeous green moss, and enjoy the shade of the eastern hemlocks and red spruces.
We even discover a hang glider launch pad! Whoa!
We end the day with delicious beyond burgers and a visit to the Quechee Gorge, a deep canyon with cascading waters.
Finally, we drive to our campsite by the Blueberry Hill Outdoor Center. Our stomachs drop as we move from paved roads to unpaved roads in our little Kia Rio. Lucky, they safely lead us to our destination.
At Blueberry Hill, I gaze with pleasure on the fields. I notice the tall wispy grasses around the edge of the field, a pond, a picturesque inn and barn, bunches of flowers, a small mountain, and a full blue sky above us on this hilltop. I am enamored.
Matt and I park in the field, set up our tent, and then people-watch until bedtime.
At midnight, I walk outside the tent for a bathroom break and looked up at the stars. They enchant me with their numbers. Thousands of stars twinkle at me in this secret magical location.
At 5:50 a.m., the bright sunlight awakens me. I discover that our mutual acquaintance S has parked next to us in the night. I am excited to have another companion on this race!
Time passes quickly as Matt and I drink smoothies, get our bibs, change into race gear, and pack up our tent.
Suddenly, it is 8 a.m., time for the race. All three of us are ready.
We line a gravel road. Matt takes a photo for a couple. S. takes photos of the race. The countdown begins. Ten seconds and then 3 … 2 … 1 … Go!
S takes off ahead of us. Matt and I comfortably trot together on the road. We meet a father and daughter who are racing with their dog. The daughter lives near Inman Square in Cambridge, just like I used to! We both reminisce about how good the ice cream is at Christina’s in Inman Square. Yum!
Together, we jog a couple miles on the gravel road. We finally turn onto a dirt path. I feel great and take off. Matt is now somewhere behind me. The trail quickly empties me out onto a road crossing, and then I move unto Moosalamoo Mountain.
“Here comes the climb!” I shout excitedly. I have been waiting for this moment, training to power walk this incline.
At first, I cannot slow myself. A newbie mistake. Other people walk the initial inclines. I run slowly past the other racers. Then the incline sharpens. Here, I think, I should start walking now. I walk quickly uphill. I invite a pair of women behind me to pass me, but they decline. They are running the 36 miler and have a long day ahead of them. They run behind me. Slowly, a train of five people forms behind me. Together, we take the mountain on.
Up and up, we go. Whenever it flattens out, I slowly jog to the next incline. I listen to the racers chatter behind me. “We are not bothering you with our conversation, are we?” one of the women asks. “No, it is great. It takes my mind off of the race,” I reply. We introduce ourselves. The women have run this race before and are able to tell me what to expect on the mountain.
“Is this the summit, here?” I ask.
“No, not yet,” they reply.
Our quick walking pace allows us to pass other hikers.
The train continues on,
finagling past the slower hikers and staying behind me.
Ahead of me, I see the shirt of S.
Running on the flat ridge,
I follow him until we both empty out on the summit.
He stops to take a picture, and I greet him. Seeing him, he invites me to join him for the photo. Snagging the photo, we run on.
Now, I am the slow one.
Some guy runners, once in the train behind me,
now begin to pass me, sprinting down the mountain.
I baulk at a steep rock slide;
some one runs by me and leaps down it in a second.
S passes me, too.
I gain speed now and
pummel down Moosalamoo mountain
After I rocket down the mountain, the trail flattens out.
I jog on this for a bit.
My watch beeps that I ran eight miles,
the supposed distance to the aid station.
My camelbak has emptied out,
and still I have not found an aid station.
A runner comes up from behind and promises me
that it will appear soon.
There, I fill up my camelback, grab a handful of chips,
and start fast hiking the next incline.
S is still at the aid station when I leave.
That is the last time I see him on the race.
I hike the inclines and run the flats.
I frog hop with the same runners.
This one passes me; I pass that one.
Then, the incline changes to a flat trail above a gorgeous creek.
I enjoy the cascades.
A new runner follows behind me.
This is his first race of this distance.
We run together for a bit.
We empty out onto a gravel road,
where I pick up speed to the next aid station.
This one is on a 300 yard spur trail from the road. It is uphill!
I speed hike to the aid station,
where I double fist watermelon
and take a handful of chips.
Not wanting to waste time,
I run back down the spur trail with my chips in my hand.
Struggling to eat them while running,
I tuck some into my race vest for later.
I will enjoy those on the next uphill.
Very soon, the gravel road goes up, up, up.
I run for part of it, and then decided to walk.
As I walk quickly, I finish my chips and fuel with energy blocks.
I will not squander any moments.
This hill is long.
When it finally ends,
we turn left into the forest.
Two miles, a sign says.
Wow, I thought,
This race is going quickly.
The trail continues to be a mix of up hills and flat.
I walk the hills and run the flats.
My pace feels slow, sleepy,
but no one passes me.
I cross another road, after I run a mile or so.
This time the sign says 1.6 miles left.
The last one was wrong!
I resign myself to the truth of this new sign.
I look at my watch and say to myself,
Well, okay, this means I will finish by 11:45 a.m.
Knowing the mileage always gives me a finish time.
A mile never takes me more than 15 minutes,
so if, for instance, as sign says 2 miles left, I definitely would finish in the next thirty minutes. According to the last sign,
I should have finished at 11:30 a.m. It was a mile off.
Well, I think, I know the last part of the race is downhill,
So only the easy part is left.
This is true,
And still I slowly plod downhill,
tired from something.
From sprinting the downhills?
From overzealously running the uphills?
Surely, someone should run past me.
Surely, someone has reserved energy
And will spring by.
No one sprints by.
Eventually two women gently pass me.
They inspire me to pick up my pace
as I follow the last one down the trail.
We empty out to the grass near the finish line.
I sprint by the last woman, beating her to the finish line by six seconds.
My race has been completed. I finish with a time of 3:25:39.
A lovely day in the woods with my race companions.
I cheer in the racers I met.
I cheer in S and Matt.
I cheer in the Cambridge runner who loves Christina’s ice cream.
The trail run was the best I have done.
The route was more technical than other races that I have done.
It was also the most scenic.
I found the mix of terrain, both trail and dirt roads,
rested my legs enough to make it all feel enjoyable.
The race also offered free camping up to two nights in a gorgeous locale.
I highly recommend this race.
For me, it was a Saturday very well spent.