Service is not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of running. Sure there are race volunteers and race directors who give a lot to produce events, but when it comes to basic grass roots running, the running should just take care of itself. That may be true for a self contained, unsupported solo trek, but anytime a group of 5 or more gets together to do something epic, the rules change and help is needed.
For the last four years a few members of The Shenipsit Striders running club have gotten together to run the entire length of the 47 mile blue blazed Shenipsit trail End 2 End. The initial group of us numbered four, and each year our numbers have grown. So has the responsibility of logistics and coordination. Since this is a point to point run, cars must be dropped at trail heads, seats must be reserved, water and food must be dropped along the trail and most of this logistic calculus must be figured out ahead of time.
This year there were around 20 folks involved in the run. Some ran the first 10 miles, some jumped in at 10 miles, some ran a few miles further, many ran from the Somers CT trailhead to the 23 mile mark at Bolton Notch, some jumped in for the second half, and four of us made a 47.5 mile End 2 End run. Sound confusing? Somehow it all worked.
Shenipsit Stiders President Clint Morse and Hector Morera put in a lot of time, coordinating the masses, and setting up several food and water drop areas.
My morning started at 2:50 AM as I woke up 10 minutes before my three alarm clocks were set to go off. After a quick bowl of oatmeal and a cup of coffee, I headed out to meet Hector at the Southern end of the trail in Cobalt (East Hampton). We met at 4:00AM and headed out to meet the others at Bolton Notch to car pool to the Northern trail head in Somers near the Massachusetts border. Once again Clint Morse stepped up to shuttle the runners to the start, and he was not even running!
We arrived and met several others at the trail head and after a few quick photos, our group of 11 runners headed out onto the trail. At this point it was still dark and the trail was very leafy and rolling, with a few climbs over fallen trees and boulders. I hung at the back of the line of headlamps, mindful of the big mileage that was ahead. One of the really cool things about this run is that it was starting in the dark, would continue all day and would most likely end in the dark. I just love stuff like this.
The temperature was a near perfect 40 degrees; a perfect temperature for running, but not for standing around or walking. The route took us through many areas. The first was Soapstone Mountain where we climbed and went up the fire tower at the top of the hill. We were treated to a nice glowing sunrise and a gusty wind that would not allow me to set my camera on the tower railing without knocking it over. Then we headed on to some very scenic areas around Shenipsit Lake. This area was reportedly a former trolley line and was great for running.
The early group really hit our stride during this portion, and the running and company was great. We heard tales of 100 mile races, and adventure races by several of the runners. Talk of Grindstone, Hardrock, Ghost Train, and Western States along with tales of 20 foot waves during adventure races kept us entertained. This was clearly a tough crowd!
We worked our way past Valley Falls and finally up to the Hop River Trail. After a climb along a ridge, we stopped off at the Great Notch Parking lot for a major fluid and fuel refill. At this point we were nearly 24 miles into our journey, and were about halfway. I was feeling really good, with just a little Achilles pain in my right heel. I was pleased that up until this point no one had gotten hurt or even really taken a spill. We did however have an eye injury as one of our runners caught a stick to the eye that tore his contact lens and left him in a bit of pain.
As the wind picked up and the temperature dropped, the final group headed away from the parking lot to continue our journey. At this point we had Scott Slater, Hector Morera, Dave Sutherland and Jeff Woods along with 2nd half runner Brian Talon.
Jeff and Dave had never run further than marathon distance before, so it was a very exciting time for them, as we were soon setting new records for them with every step.
In years past, the trail was poorly marked and overgrown, and we had to spend a lot of time searching for the proper route. The CT Forest and Parks has really stepped up and cleaned up this trail, I was amazed and somehow felt that it was just a little to easy to navigate our way from one blue blaze to the next.
At this point, some of our crew began to fade a bit, and hit some rough spots. I was really impressed by adventure racer Jeff Woods as he put his team racing experience to work and led the group from the back, quietly encouraging each of us to press forward. Although David Sutherland had never run this far in a day, he pressed on without complaint. Scott and Brian led from the front and made sure we were moving along. At around 50K into the run just as things were getting quiet, Todd Brown joined us for the run to the end. Todd in his usual style kept up a constant chatter, calling out the blazes, offering political opinions, and making sure the trail was clear of wildlife. He was also helpful in the later darker miles in leading us through some of the treacherous trail. We where well stocked for the last part of the journey, as Hector had placed several drop packages along our route. Hector had also previewed and thought through every turn of this run. As a result our group was very prepared.
In years past, we had crossed over route 2, a very busy highway. This year we opted to cross under Route 2 via “The Tubes” a set of concrete culverts. This option requires getting your feet wet, but for most of us this was no big deal. Download DSCF1022
And so the race against the sun began, and we ran when we could and walked when we had to.
We stayed on trail, and had a blast. I felt really good for the entire run except for a brief period where my broken shoulder began to act up. We pressed onto the end, then celebrated on Great Hill before making our way down the steep trail to the final terminus. My wife was waiting with her warm car, and we all headed on our own separate ways.
Starting in the dark; finishing in the dark. End to end. Full phase.
A race against the sun. Ultimately the sun won this year. Wait till next year!